Monday Night Football betting preview. Buccaneers vs Giants

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Week 8 has been a wild one so far. We saw a few blowouts, a few close contests, and a few teams blow big leads. The Chargers blew a 21-point lead vs. the Broncos, and they’ve now blown a lead of at least 16 points in each of their past four games. The Saints blew a 10-point lead with less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter to Nick Foles, although they were able to squeak out a win in overtime.

Other notable highlights included Tua Tagavailoa’s first career win, the Steelers winning a fierce rivalry game vs. the Ravens, and the Bills exorcising their demons vs. the New England Patriots.

That said, the NFL wrapped up Sunday in one of the worst ways possible: An NFC East divisional battle. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Cowboys featured a seventh-round rookie QB making his first start in Ben DiNucci. That game went about as well as expected, and I’m really starting to consider a petition to have the NFC East forfeit their playoff spot.

Will Monday Night Football help us get the bad taste out of our mouths? It doesn’t seem likely on the surface. The New York Giants are massive home underdogs vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so this isn’t expected to be a very competitive contest.

Of course, nothing makes a potentially boring game more exciting than wagering on it. Let’s break this contest down and try to identify some potential betting value.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-13) @ New York Giants — 45.0 total

Moneylines: Buccaneers -680/Giants +480

This is an absolutely massive spread. It may not open many eyes after the Chiefs were favored by 20 over the Jets, but those spreads aren’t as different as you might think after adjusting for home field. This line basically suggests that the Bucs are 15.5-points better than the Giants on a neutral field while the Chiefs are 17.5-points better than the Jets.

It’s pretty rare for a team to be favored by nearly two touchdowns on the road. There are only 33 previous instances of a team being favored by at least 12 points on the road during the regular season, and the favorites have gone 16-17 over that sample. That doesn’t give us much of an edge in either direction from a historical perspective.

The Bucs have unsurprisingly been the preferred side for the public in this contest, receiving 66% of the early spread bets. That said, it appears that the sharps are also on the Bucs. They’ve received 77% of the spread dollars, and there have been a few steam moves tracked on the Bucs as well.

However, it should be noted that most of those moves occurred earlier in the week when this line was more reasonable. It was as low as Buccaneers -10.5, but all of the betting action has pushed this line to 13.0.

So the big question becomes has this spread gotten too high? My initial thought was yes. The Giants are bad, but they’re not LOL-level bad like the Jets. They’ve managed to win a game this season and have lost three others by four points or less. They’ve only actually been blown out once, and that was on the road vs. the San Francisco 49ers.

Overall, the Giants have a pythagorean win expectation of 2.1-4.9, which suggests they’ve been a bit unlucky. They also rank 29th in DVOA. That’s not great, but it reinforces the fact that this team isn’t a pushover. This spread suggests that this team is basically the same as the Jets while the Bucs are the same as the Chiefs, and that felt like a reach.

After digging into the numbers, I came to the conclusion that the Bucs are indeed not the Chiefs. They’re actually better than the Chiefs.

I still have some reservations about Tom Brady, but the rest of this team is an absolute juggernaut. They have been particularly impressive on the defensive end, ranking first in overall DVOA, first in pass defense DVOA, and third in adjusted sack rate.

Their pass rush in particular could be a huge factor in this game. The Giants have been below-average in terms of pass protection, so they should be able to make life miserable for Daniel Jones. If that happens, expect Jones to struggle mightily.

Jones has actually been solid when not under pressure this season. He’s posted a Pro Football Focus grade of 85.9 in that situation thanks to a 70.5% completion percentage. However, Jones sees a massive dip in production when under pressure. His PFF grade drops to just 50.8, and he’s completed just 47.1% of his passes.

Turnovers also remain an issue for Jones. He’s thrown seven interceptions and lost four fumbles, which makes him one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in football. Those issues only get amplified when he’s under pressure.

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On the offensive side of the ball, the Bucs rank second in the league with an average of 31.7 points per game. Brady has increased his adjusted yards per attempt by a full yard compared to his mark in his final year with the Patriots, and he’s also racked up 18 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions.

Brady is surrounded by an excellent collection of skill players. Chris Godwin will be unavailable for this contest, but Brady will still have Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski to lean on. Scottie Miller also gives Brady the prototypical slot receiver that he likes to target in the short passing game.

In the backfield, the Bucs have a 1-2 punch in Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette that would make most teams jealous. Jones has been operating as the starter recently, but both players have put together big games this season.

The Bucs should have no problems moving the ball vs. the Giants, who rank merely 19th in defensive DVOA. They have specifically struggled vs. the pass, ranking just 27th in that department.

Ultimately, I’m a bit torn on this contest. I definitely would have grabbed the Bucs at the initial number, but I’m not 100% sold on them as 13.0 favorites. I do think they are arguably the most complete team in the league at this point, but the Giants have shown some scrappiness.

The fact that Godwin is out also worries me a bit. The Giants haven’t done much well this season, but James Bradberry has been one of the best cover corners in the league. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue for the Bucs — one of Evans or Godwin would always be covered by someone else — but now Bradberry can focus 100% of his attention on Evans. Brady should still be able to find success throwing to some of his other weapons, but this offense might be operating at less than 100%.

Ultimately, I think I would side with the under if forced to make a pick. The Giants will struggle to score the ball in this contest, so the Bucs will have to do the majority of the heavy lifting. Even if they score 30 points, I’m skeptical that the Giants can get the other 15 necessary to hit the over.

That said, there is no rule that we have to bet on this game. That may sound obvious, but one of the biggest mistakes that casual bettors make is wagering on games when they don’t believe they have an edge. My ultimate goal is to finish the year as a profitable bettor, and that means picking your spots instead of firing whenever possible.

The Pick: Pass

Player Prop Bets

Giants WR Darius Slayton

  • Under 48.5 receiving yards (-112)

Slayton has had some solid games for the Giants this season, but I don’t like his chances tonight vs. the Bucs. For starters, he saw just three targets last week in an exploitable matchup vs. the Eagles. The Giants’ pass catching corps was essentially at full strength with Sterling Shepard back in the lineup, and that had an impact on Slayton. He’s going to serve more as a field stretcher than a go-to WR in that situation.

Additionally, he has a brutal individual matchup this week vs. Jamel Dean. Dean owns a PFF coverage grade of 89.9, which is the second-highest mark among all cornerbacks this season.

The Bucs pass rush should also hurt Slayton in this contest. Jones is going to need to get the ball out of his hands quickly, which shouldn’t give Slayton much time to get behind the defense.

Giants RB Dion Lewis

  • Over 12.5 rushing yards (-112)

The Giants will be without Devonta Freeman for tonight’s contest, which opens the door for Lewis and Wayne Gallman to see some additional playing time. Gallman is expected to operate as the starter, but Lewis is definitely still going to factor into the equation. Gallman led the team with 10 carries after Freeman got hurt last week, but Lewis still finished with three carries for 23 yards.

Lewis’ skill set also bodes well for him this week. He figures to operate as the Giants’ primary pass catching back, and the Giants could be forced into a lot of passing situations if they fall behind early. That means Lewis could be on the field more than expected.

Buccaneers WR Tyler Johnson

  • Under 34.5 receiving yards (-132)

The injury to Godwin means Johnson should see a solid handful of snaps tonight, but there’s no guarantee those snaps lead to production. Johnson did finish with four catches for 61 yards back in Week 5 — which was the last time that Godwin was out of the lineup — but that is his only game this season with more than seven receiving yards. I still expect him to be behind Evans, Gronk, Miller, and possibly the RBs in the pecking order for targets.

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