Monday Night Football betting preview. A huge double-header

Dropping Dimes

Just when you think you have the league figured out, it goes ahead and throws a curveball at you. The Giants and the Falcons were both able to get their first win of the year. The Bucs came back from an embarrassing loss vs. the Bears by absolutely stomping the Packers. The 49ers looked like the worst team in football vs. the Dolphins but managed to beat the Rams by eight points.

Take that as a reminder that anything can happen in the NFL on any given Sunday. I spoke about the Bucs and 49ers as classic bounce-back teams on the Thursday Line Movement stream since the lines moved too far against them after one poor showing. Keeping a long-term view and exploiting recency bias is one of the easiest ways to get an edge in sports betting.

We have two more Week 6 games on tap on Monday Night. It starts with the Buffalo Bills vs. the Kansas City Chiefs at 5:00 p.m. ET and concludes with the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Arizona Cardinals at 8:15 p.m. ET.

Let’s break down both contests to try and identify some potential betting value.

Kansas City Chiefs (-5) @ Buffalo Bills — 57.0 total

Moneylines: Chiefs -230/Bills +195

This is an interesting matchup between two teams that disappointed last week. The Chiefs were massive favorites at home vs. the Raiders but ended up losing by eight points. Their defense was the big culprit, allowing Derek Carr and the Raiders’ offense to put up a whopping 40 points.

On the Bills side, they played in one of the weirdest games in recent NFL memory. They played on Tuesday night against a Titans team that had been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. The Titans were without a few key contributors and hadn’t been able to practice in basically two full weeks, but they were still able to record a resounding victory over the Bills. The Bills defense was arguably even worse than the Chiefs’, with Ryan Tannehill leading the Titans to 42 points.

Both of these teams still profile as good overall — with the Chiefs being arguably the best team in the league — but they’re facing a few additional questions after last week.

With that in mind, I find this line to be interesting. The Chiefs are favored by five points on the road, which suggests that they are at least seven points better than the Bills on a neutral field. I am just as high on Kansas City as everyone else — they’re No. 1 in my personal power ratings — but seven points is a lot to give to a team as good as the Bills. I think the gap should be much closer — probably around 4.5 or 5.0 points — and after adjusting for home field, that brings this line closer to 2.5 or possibly even 2.0. That’s in line with where the oddsmakers originally opened this line (Chiefs -3).

That said, this line has been pounded by sharps and squares alike to start the week. 65% of the spread bets and 90% of the spread dollars have landed on Kansas City, and they figure to only be more popular as casual bettors get their bets in. They almost always side with the favorite, particularly when the favorite is as good as the Chiefs.

So what are the sharps seeing? It’s possible that they’re playing the rest advantage with the Chiefs, and that is definitely something to consider. Underdogs with less than seven days of rest have posted a cover rate of just 46.9% dating back to 2004, which results in a return on investment of -8.2%. The Bills are better than the average underdog, but it’s concerning nonetheless.

The sharps might also be tempted to wager on Patrick Mahomes coming off a loss. Mahomes has only suffered seven regular season losses in his professional career, and he’s 4-3 against the spread the following week. It’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions off such a small sample size.

The final factor — and probably the most relevant — is that the Bills might just be overrated after a hot start to the season. They were widely considered one of the best teams in football after the first four weeks, but Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics tell a different story. The Bills rank just 15th in total DVOA heading into Week 6, which puts them behind juggernauts like the Texans, Dolphins, and Panthers.

There’s still plenty of time left in the season for the Bills to move up on the DVOA leaderboard, but they’re going to need to fix their leaky defense to make that happen. They rank just 27th in defensive DVOA, including just 24th in pass defense DVOA in particular. That could spell trouble vs. the Chiefs’ dynamic offense.

One positive for the Bills is that the Chiefs will be without Sammy Watkins, who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. The Chiefs are obviously talented enough to overcome his absence, but Watkins has already had two games with seven catches through the first five weeks.

Overall, I’m going to side with everyone else and back the Chiefs in this contest. I do worry that this spread is slightly too high, but it’s tough to ignore some of the advanced stats and the short rest week for the Bills. I also like the angle of betting on Mahomes coming off a loss. Even though he doesn’t have a huge track record in that department, betting on elite QBs in that situation has historically been a wise investment.

The Pick: Chiefs -5

Line Movement NFL: Island Games!

Arizona Cardinals @ Dallas Cowboys (pk) — 55.0 total

Moneylines: Cardinals -102/Cowboys -112

The main theme of this game is offense. The Cowboys have been an over machine to start the year, hitting combined totals of 79, 69, 87, and 71 over their past four games. You read that correctly — the lowest combined score for a Cowboys’ game over the past four weeks has been 69. Those aren’t just overs, those are WAY overs.

On the other side, the Cardinals have the makings of a strong offense. Kyler Murray continues to improve in his second season, and he owns the 12th-highest grade at the position according to Pro Football Focus. That may not be as high as some of his supporters wanted this season — I’m looking at you Joe Holka! — but it’s still impressive for a second-year player.

Murray has leaned heavily on DeAndre Hopkins, who was essentially acquired for a bag of peanuts during the offseason. Wide receivers typically struggle after changing teams, but Hopkins has been nothing short of the best receiver in football through the first five weeks. He leads all players in receptions and receiving yards to start the season.

Those two players should have no problem finding success vs. the Cowboys, who have struggled mightily on defense. They rank just 24th in defensive DVOA, including 20th vs. the pass and 23rd vs. the run. They’ve played a tough schedule, but even the lowly Giants were able to put up 34 points on them last week.

Of course, this isn’t going to be the same Cowboys’ team this week. They lost stud QB Dak Prescott for the year following a gruesome leg injury, which means Andy Dalton will take over at the position.

Dalton is obviously a downgrade, but just how big of a downgrade is it? He’s had some excellent seasons in the past, but he didn’t appear to be the same player towards the end of his tenure with the Bengals. His adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) of 6.0 in 2020 was the lowest mark of his career and the fifth-lowest mark among all qualified quarterbacks.

Still, Dalton was playing behind a terrible offensive line and had very little talent to lean on at the skill positions. That will obviously not be the case with the Cowboys. Their offensive line may not be the same dominant unit that they have been in the past, but the Cowboys feature arguably the best pass catching corps in the entire league.

It starts with Amari Cooper, who is a bonafide No. 1 option at the position. He struggled last week vs. Ray Bradberry — who has surprisingly been a lockdown option for the Giants this season — but he’s recorded at least six catches for 81 yards in each of his other four games. Rookie CeeDee Lamb has also been very impressive, and he’s tied for the team-lead in receiving touchdowns. Michael Gallup has been the forgotten man this year, but he’s averaged more than 20 yards per reception and would be the No. 1 option on a handful of other NFL rosters.

Dalton looked more than capable of throwing to these guys in relief of Prescott last week, completing 9-11 passes for 111 yards. I see no reason why he can’t keep these guys on schedule moving forward.

The bigger concern might be the team’s pace with Dalton under center. They’ve averaged 23.58 seconds in between plays in neutral game scripts to start the year, which is the top mark in the league by a considerable margin. If they slow down to a more average pace with Dalton, it’s going to impact the scoring.

Luckily, that shouldn’t be a huge issue this week vs. the Cardinals. They have also played fast this season — they rank third in situation-neutral pace — so they should keep the tempo brisk even if the Cowboys slow down.

Ultimately, this total feels too low to me. Games involving the Cowboys have easily cleared the 60-point threshold this year, so the initial line of 52.0 seems like an overreaction to the Prescott injury. It has since come up to 55.0, but I still think there’s some value with that number.

As for the game itself, I would also lean towards the Cowboys. This line is saying that they’re slightly worse than the Cardinals on a neutral field, and I don’t agree with that statement. They have a better DVOA rating than the Cardinals through the first five weeks, and I would still have them favored at home even with Dalton at QB. My favorite bet is still the over, but a same-game parlay with the over and the Cowboys pays out at approximately +255 on FanDuel Sportsbook, and I think those odds are pretty tempting.

The Picks: Over 55.0, Cowboys ML & Over 55.0 parlay (+255)

Player Props

Chiefs WR Mecole Hardman

  • Under 55.5 receiving yards (-130)
  • Under 4.5 receptions (-165)

Hardman should definitely see more action today with Watkins out of the lineup, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a boom-or-bust type player. That said, there has historically been more bust than boom in his range of outcomes. He’s never had more than four catches in a single game, and he’s recorded more than 55 receiving yards in just five of 21 career contests.

Additionally, the injury to Watkins doesn’t mean he’s going to turn into an every-down player. He’s been outsnapped by DeMarcus Robinson this season, and I would expect Byron Pringle to work in at the position as well. Hardman is a favorite of the DFS community, so it’s not surprising to me that these lines are juiced up. I’m willing to take advantage with the under.

Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds

  • Under 25.0 rushing yards (-130)

Edmonds may be on the verge of overtaking Kenyan Drake in the Cardinals’ backfield, but that clearly hasn’t happened yet. Drake still had a significant advantage over Edmonds in snaps last week, and he actually outcarried Edmonds 18 to three. Edmonds has thrived as a receiver more than a runner when on the field this season, so this line feels high.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald

  • Under 40.5 receiving yards (-157)

Larry Fitz is one of the best to ever do it at the WR position and is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer when he eventually hangs up his cleats. That said, even he can’t defeat Father Time.

Fitzgerald has taken a major step back in the Cardinals offense this season. Hopkins is commanding a massive target share, and guys like Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella have promising outlooks. Fitzgerald is still getting some looks each week, but he’s recorded 35 yards or fewer in four of his first five contests. This line is probably juiced a bit due to the matchup, but a good matchup doesn’t necessarily mean additional targets.

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

  • Under 33.5 receiving yards (-115)

Five prop bets and five unders for me this week. It may not be the most fun, but unders have historically been far more profitable than overs.

Zeke has had some success as a receiver this year, but this line definitely still feels high. He’s gone for 33 receiving yards or fewer in four of his first five games despite the fact that the Cowboys have thrown the ball for approximately one million yards per game. I’m sure the Cowboys would like to be more balanced with Dalton under center, which should mean more opportunities as a runner and less as a passer moving forward.

Dropping Dimes