MNF best bets: Double the plays for another pair of prime-time games
Somehow, last week's best bets for Monday Night Football only went 2-1-1. The Saints allowed the Panthers to artfully perform a backdoor push on -3 despite Carolina never threatening to win the game. Meanwhile, Deshaun Watson somehow got over his passing yards total despite barely completing more than 50% of his passes and having a run game that averages over 6 yards per carry.
Like it or not, the MNF doubleheader is back again this week with a pair of interesting matchups from a betting standpoint.
For the second straight week, the Eagles opened at around a touchdown, but their opponent has taken money, pulling the point spread down. That mattered on Thursday Night Football against the Vikings, but we're hoping it's moot this time around.
The Buccaneers have been underrated since before the season, as evidenced by comfortable covers in both their games and a move from +800 to +450 to win the NFC South. More importantly, they match up well with what the Eagles want to do offensively. Unlike most of last season, the Bucs' veteran defense is still healthy. With Vita Vea clogging the middle, Tampa Bay should get back to its roots of stopping the run. The secondary can also defend the deep bombs Jalen Hurts seems most comfortable throwing.
Baker Mayfield has been secure with the ball, and if Tampa Bay can avoid turnovers, it can do what Minnesota couldn't - pull off the prime-time upset of the defending NFC champions.
Pick: Buccaneers (+5)
Jalen Hurts: Under 45.5 rushing yards
Vea's dominance in the middle gives Buccaneers linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David freedom to fill the gaps and contain the outside. They just held Justin Fields to 4 yards on three carries. Both of the Eagles' opponents this season appeared to have been ready for Hurts' keepers, as the Patriots and Vikings held him under 40 yards. I expect Tampa to do the same.
The betting market has expected Joe Burrow to sit all week, and even Ja'Marr Chase thinks the quarterback shouldn't play. Maybe a hobbled Burrow would inspire the 0-2 Bengals' market rating to plummet, but I doubt it. This line dropping sharply from an open of -6.5 to under a field goal suggests that the Bengals are merely a league-average team without Burrow.
So what if Jake Browning plays? Once the team confirms Burrow's absence, I'd expect the line and moneyline price to drop further. At that point, backing a desperate Bengals team is the value play. It's understandable if you're squeamish about that, but Cincinnati has a league-worst 3.8 yards per play. A further price drop indicates a dip in the Bengals' rating. However, the Rams have been rated below average since they were assigned a season win total of 6.5.
The Bengals were considered a Super Bowl contender, and that can't be just on the back of Burrow. There should be enough left on the roster for Cincinnati to win a home game it badly needs to.
Pick: Bengals moneyline (-130 or better)
Matthew Stafford: Under 254.5 passing yards
Burrow's uncertainty has limited the options in the prop markets, as oddsmakers were unwilling to commit to various totals on Bengals players. We'll turn to the Rams for a player prop.
Lou Anarumo is one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, and the Rams can be very one-dimensional, relying on Matthew Stafford to throw. That might seem like a reason to play the over, but it allows the Bengals to employ a focused game plan to cut off what L.A. wants to do. Though Stafford's played well against familiar, in-division defenses, he won't know what Anarumo has planned - especially since the Bengals extensively prepared for Stafford before Super Bowl LVI.
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.