Week 2 of the NFL finishes up on Monday night with a pair of games with the Buffalo Bills (-10, 47.5) hosting the Tennessee Titans at Highmark Stadium (ESPN/ESPN2 at 7:15 p.m.) and the Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5, 50.5) hosting the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field (ABC/ESPN+ at 8:30 p.m.).
After an exciting Sunday of action, we have a rare two more opportunities to wager on professional football if we so choose. So what plays to our analysts like in Week’s 2 two Monday night games?
Betting analyst Joe Fortenbaugh, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings, ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth Walder and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz provide their top plays.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
The Titans, reeling off their close loss to the Giants last week, head to Buffalo to face the 1-0 Bills. Caesars currently has Buffalo as a double-digit favorite. What are your thoughts on the line and who do you see coming out on top?
Schatz: Ten points seems like an absurdly big line considering that the Titans were the AFC’s No. 1 seed last year and beat Buffalo during the regular season. But, right now, the Bills look like the best team in the NFL and we need to consider all of the players the Titans lost since last year — not just offseason losses such as Rodger Saffold, but the preseason injury to Harold Landry III (maybe their most important defensive player). I feel like a line this big suggests taking the underdog, but my projection system has the line as being right on. The best wager might be the under, as the Bills defense is strong enough to keep the Titans offense contained and the Bills might be running out a healthy lead in the fourth quarter (which would help keep their own score down). The Titans were one of the NFL’s slowest-paced teams a year ago and both of these teams used a slow pace in Week 1.
Moody: A Titans secondary featuring three young cornerbacks will have trouble slowing down the Bills’ explosive passing game. In most cases, I steer clear of double-digit spreads, but in this case I will make an exception. The Bills have gone 6-2-2 against the spread in games favored by double-digits since December 2016. Buffalo is a safe bet to cover. During the Titans’ last nine road games as road underdogs, the over has gone 7-2. This trend is likely to continue. I’d bet on the over. Bills 34, Titans 21 is my score prediction for this matchup.
Snellings: I like the under here. The Bills were able to move the ball at will in their opener, going the entire game without having to punt and putting 31 points on the board, but the total in that game was still only 41 points because of what their defense was able to do to the Rams offense. The Titans offense lacks the playmakers that the Rams have in the passing game, and the Bills defense should be able to keep them at bay as well. Even if the Bills offense put a big number on the board, I think the defense keeps the overall total under 47.5.
Walder: I’m not on either side, but am here to say that 10 points isn’t an unreasonable number at all, despite it seeming harsh to last year’s No. 1 seed. If we just look at who the Titans are on paper, they just aren’t a particularly good team. They rely on a run-first attack with an aging and declining RB behind a weak offensive line. And their best pass rusher is out too? Facing arguably the best team in football? If I had to choose, I would lay the 10 with Buffalo.
In Tennessee’s last two wins over the Bills, Derrick Henry has averaged over 100 yards per game with five total touchdowns. Can the Bills slow Henry down on Monday or is another big game on the ground inevitable?
Schatz: The Bills’ pass defense is better than their run defense, but Henry had the best game of any running back against them in 2021. The Bills had a couple of these outlier games — against Henry and Jonathan Taylor — but otherwise were generally strong against the run last year. And, in Week 1, they shut down the Rams’ running game. Meanwhile, Henry had less than 100 yards against a weak Giants run defense. I think the Bills can keep Henry’s totals down, especially if they win the game by at least two scores and thus take away the run in the fourth quarter.
Moody: Henry can be slowed down by the Bills defense. Since A.J. Brown is no longer on the team, the Titans have become even more dependent on Henry. As a result of the Bills’ defensive line overhaul that includes the offseason addition of Von Miller, they should be able to capitalize.
Snellings: I agree that the Titans’ lack of a proven passing game hinders their run game, allowing the Bills to load up against Henry. Last week, after allowing Henry to rush for 56 yards in the first half, the Giants tightened up in the second half and only allowed him to rush for 26 yards the rest of the way. The Bills defense is stronger than what the Giants have to offer, and will likely be playing with a lead for most of the game. A Bills lead, combined with their ferocious Miller-led pass rush, could prevent Henry from getting his typical workload and production.
The second MNF matchup features two teams who won in Week 1 as the Vikings travel to Lincoln Financial Field to face the Eagles. Caesars currently has Philadelphia as 2.5-point favorites with the O/U set at 50.5. Who do you like for this matchup and why?
Moody: My score prediction for this game is Vikings 23, Eagles 20. New head coach Kevin O’Connell’s offense was rolling in Week 1 and Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson were clearly calibrated. Dalvin Cook also ran for 90 yards and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had more against the Eagles, especially since Philadelphia gave up 6.5 yards per carry against the Lions. These teams combined for 58 points in their last meeting (October, 2019). History could repeat itself on Monday night.
Snellings: I like the over in this game. These are two high-powered offenses and the Eagles showed in their Week 1 win over the Lions (where a whopping 73 total points were scored) that their defense has some vulnerabilities. I look for big days from the skill players of both teams, with both scoring well into the 20s or higher. I expect the game itself to be competitive, but I pretty much agree with ESPN’s FPI estimate (Eagles 66% chance to win, with an expected 4.7 margin). I’d lean Eagles on the money line (-130).
Fortenbaugh: I’ll lay the points with Philadelphia. Minnesota looked fantastic against the Packers in Week 1, which has led to the assumption that this Vikings team is the real deal. Perhaps, but I’ll need to see it on the road before I buy in. Minnesota’s defensive home/road splits over the last few years are the stuff of legend and, with this game taking place outdoors at Lincoln Financial Field for Philadelphia’s home opener, I’m wondering if this unit will be anywhere close to as effective as it was against Aaron Rodgers. Throw in the Kirk Cousins “prime time” narrative and I’ll play the Birds at less than a field goal.
Jalen Hurts currently has the fifth-best odds to win MVP (+1400) ahead of Lamar Jackson and behind Tom Brady. How do you like his MVP chances this season compared to the other QBs on the board?
Schatz: I am the driver of the Eagles bandwagon this year. For details, you can read Football Outsiders Almanac 2022 or see any podcast or video interview I’ve done over the last two months. And yet, it’s hard for me to imagine that Hurts is going to put up the numbers required to win the MVP award. He’s just not going to have the passing numbers, even if his rushing numbers are super impressive. I think the Eagles are going to challenge for the NFC’s No. 1 seed thanks, in large part to an easy schedule and an improved defense. (Yes, they tried to show in Week 1 that I’m obviously wrong about the latter.) Still, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles offense outperforming Buffalo, Kansas City, Tampa Bay or the Chargers, not to mention Baltimore and Cincinnati. Some other quarterback is going to win MVP.
Moody: Here’s why I’m a big fan of Hurts’ MVP chances at those odds. The Eagles positioned the young quarterback for success during the offseason by acquiring A.J. Brown. Hurts displayed his dual-threat ability in Week 1 against the Lions, showing a similar skill set to what captivated voters and positioned Lamar Jackson to win the award in 2019. This is a make-or-break season for Hurts. Voters could rally around him if he delivers. Dak Prescott’s thumb injury has also improved the Eagles’ chances of winning the NFC East. Hurts is shaping up to be a nice value.
Snellings: I liked Hurts as a longshot MVP candidate with a path to victory, but with shorter MVP odds than Jackson (+1500), Joe Burrow (+1600) and Rodgers (+1600), I don’t know that Hurts can be considered a longshot for much longer. Hurts’ path to the MVP would reside in the Eagles dominating their division with one of the best records in the NFL. That’s possible, in what could be a very weak NFC East. If Hurts were to lead the team to one of the league’s highest win totals, I do believe he would get serious MVP consideration. However, while I do have him on my radar, at this point I would rather bet any of the three quarterbacks I mentioned above at longer odds.
Fortenbaugh: No chance. He beats up on bad competition, doesn’t complete a high percentage of his passes and still has trouble getting through his progressions quickly and efficiently. Never forget the fact that Philadelphia went 0-6 against playoff teams last season. And when they actually made it to the playoffs, Tampa Bay wiped the floor with them as Hurts threw two interceptions in a 16-point loss.
Walder: I’m not buying at that price. That’s not really a longshot and, while if you can squint you could see a Hurts path to an MVP it really is a longshot and should be priced as such. The chances that Rodgers (also with longer odds than Hurts!) turns it around after a rough Week 1 and leads the Packers to a runaway NFC North without any viable receivers – narrative is important here, too, and Hurts does get to play with a pretty stacked roster – seems like a much better bet.
Does anything else from either game grab your attention from a betting perspective?
Moody: One prop from the Titans-Bills game immediately caught my eye. Kyle Philips may have led the Titans in targets, receptions and receiving yards in Week 1, but now he’s questionable for this game with a shoulder injury. This sets the stage for Treylon Burks to make a huge impact. While Burks played on only 24 snaps in Week 1, he accounted for 32% of his team’s air yards and had five targets. This week, he will likely be more involved with the Titans offense, so I like Burks to exceed 28.5 receiving yards.
Walder: Give me Dallas Goedert under 48.5 receiving yards (-128). It’s important to remember that for a team like the Eagles, there’s 40-or-so fewer receiving yards to go around compared to a team like the Vikings, simply based upon the relative passing yards totals for Hurts and Cousins. Goedert is a solid tight end, for sure, but he’s competing with Brown and DeVonta Smith for targets. While he generated 60 receiving yards in Week 1, that came on just four targets. My projections go way under here, forecasting just 33.2 receiving yards for Goedert in Week 2, so I don’t mind the -128 juice.
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