This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Odds Assist CEO Dave Rathmanner share their opinions on five games that will kick off over Week 2 of the NFL season, including the Vikings traveling to Philly to take on the Eagles on the second Monday Night Football telecast.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5, O/U 44.5) at New Orleans Saints
A compelling matchup because…other than the Seattle Seahawks (1-2), there is no team in the NFL that Tom Brady has a losing record against in the regular season. Brady is 4-5 against the Saints and has lost all four regular-season games he’s played against New Orleans with the Bucs. To put that in perspective, Brady’s regular-season record against his former divisional foe the Buffalo Bills is 33-3. Favored in this spot despite playing on the road, Tampa winning in this spot would be a major reversal of recent history.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with Tampa Bay listed as a 3-point road favorite. The public is rushing to the window to lay the short spread with Brady and the Bucs. However, we’ve seen this line fall from 3 down to 2.5. This signals sharp action on the Saints, with pros grabbing the points instead of laying them. Divisional underdogs are roughly 55% ATS over the past five seasons. New Orleans also has value as a buy-low dog who didn’t cover the previous week against a favorite who did cover. Brady has struggled against the Saints’ defense since joining the Bucs and Tampa Bay also has a bunch of wide receivers questionable with injuries. I’ll take the points with the Saints at home.
Gable’s Guess: All of Tampa’s losses to New Orleans since Brady joined the team have been by more than one score, including one last season when the Saints shut the Bucs out 9-0. The game may not really be totally up to Brady. I think it might fall more on Leonard Fournette’s shoulders. He had a nice Week 1 with 127 yards rushing and the Saints allowed more than 200 rushing yards to the Falcons last week. New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara seems to have some sort of rib injury, but I think the big positive for the Saints was wide receiver Michael Thomas. He missed all of last season and now looks great physically and seems to be in the right mindset. I expect a defensive battle, so I’m looking to take the under in this one.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Saints got off to a slow start in Week 1 but managed to come back for a 27-26 win against the Falcons to open the season. The Saints had to rely on the passing game to come back from a 26-10 deficit but look for a more balanced offensive approach this week. The Bucs managed to score only one touchdown in Week 1 despite all the weapons they have on offense. These two teams are very familiar with each other and the Bucs didn’t show enough last week to make me think they can go on the road and beat the Saints. Look for the Saints to make it eight of nine against the Bucs as they grab a win this week.
Our Pick: Even banged-up, Tampa by a field goal seems reasonable. Laying the points with the Bucs.
Carolina Panthers (+2, O/U 43.5) at New York Giants
A compelling matchup because. Both Baker Mayfield and Daniel Jones are slated for free agency and neither one is guaranteed to start at quarterback for their respective team for the rest of the season should they stumble. Neither has great weapons to work with as the best offensive player on both teams is a running back, Saquon Barkley for the Giants and Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Giants opened as a short 1-point home favorite. Pros seem to think this line was a bit low and they’ve steamed New York up to -2. Some shops even briefly reached -2.5. Reading between the lines, all liability and sharp support seems to be on the G-Men. I think the head coaching matchup is a big edge for New York as Brian Daboll has his team buying in after a gutsy two-point conversion to beat the Titans late while Matt Rhule is just 14-20 ATS (41%) in his career with the Panthers. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield is just 23-36 ATS (39%). I’m not going to mess around with laying the short points. Give me the Giants on the moneyline.
Gable’s Guess: Daniel Jones was actually fourth in quarterback rating last week, which is good to see for Giants fans. Baker Mayfield struggled for a large portion of the game in Week 1. He continues to have passes tipped at the line due to his height and still can’t seem to find the correct angles to get the ball through. He came alive in the fourth quarter, and the Panthers put up 17 points and 211 total yards of offense. I believe the interior of the offensive line for the Giants is going to be a lingering issue for them all season. While Week 1 was a feel-good win for them, they also got plenty of help from the Titans, so don’t get trapped into thinking this team is fixed after one game under coach Brian Daboll. This is another game where I think the defenses could rule the day. I’m going to take the under.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Giants managed to get out of Tennessee with a 21-20 victory to start the year. The biggest reason for the Giants’ success was running back Saquon Barkley and, other than a bad pass that led to a Titans’ interception in the end zone, Daniel Jones looked like a quarterback who is improving from last season. He completed 17 of 21 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. As long as the Giants rely on the same formula they did last week, which is to make Barkley the centerpiece of the offense and have Jones manage the game, they should be able to get past a Carolina team that still has not figured things out with Baker Mayfield at quarterback. Lay the points with the Giants.
Our Pick: Not convinced of Jones or Barkley based on one week. Going with the Panthers and the points.
Miami Dolphins (+3.5, O/U 44.5) at Baltimore Ravens
A compelling matchup because…first-year coach Mike McDaniel got a win to open his career last week and will have his work cut out for him to get a win in his second week. The last time Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson started a game against the Dolphins in September, Baltimore crushed Miami 59-10 and the former MVP threw five touchdown passes and had a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Of course, both teams are vastly different now than they were in 2019 when that game was played, but Miami would be wise to look at their gameplan against Jackson last year when they held the Ravens to 10 points in an upset win.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Ravens listed as a 4-point home favorite. We’ve seen this line fall from 4 to 3.5, signaling some respected money grabbing the points with the Dolphins. We’ve also seen some shops juice up the Dolphins +3.5 to -115, signaling a possible fall down to the key number of 3. Short road dogs +6 or less are 158-102 ATS (61%) since 2019. Tua Tagovailoa is 7-3 ATS (70%) as a dog in his career. Currently, 51% of the bets but 61% of the money at DraftKings are on Miami, indicating an undecided public but a sharp money discrepancy on the Dolphins. I’ll be sweating Miami +3.5.
Gable’s Guess: The Ravens were in total control of last week’s game against the Jets. Lamar Jackson threw for three TDs, including a 55-yarder. They got some bad news to go along with the good as they lost their starting left tackle Ja’Wuan James and starting cornerback Kyle Fuller to season-ending injuries. The Dolphins took advantage of three New England turnovers and scored a defensive touchdown in Week 1. I think Tua Tagovailoa was serviceable, but I don’t think he played fantastic. Their defense was the difference-maker in the game, but I would give a slight lean to the Ravens in this one. They really weren’t able to move the ball on the ground against the Jets and I expect them to make some adjustments. The Baltimore defense should be able to get to Tua. But, given the spread, I’m going to take the under in this one as well.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: This game will come down to the quarterback play and, simply put, Lamar Jackson is a better playmaker than Tua Tagovailoa. The Ravens’ strength defensively is their secondary and that should make it more difficult for Tagovailoa to find his best receivers (Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle) on a regular basis. The Raven defense looked great against the Jets, allowing only a field goal until New York scored a touchdown in garbage time. Other than one long touchdown drive against New England last week, the Dolphins’ offense struggled mightily to move the ball, especially on the ground. In the run game, the Dolphins averaged only 2.8 yards per carry on 23 rushing attempts. This is also a revenge spot for the Ravens. Look for the Ravens to get some payback Sunday and cover.
Our Pick: The Ravens at home with a healthy Jackson are a tough team. Lay the points with Baltimore.
Arizona Cardinals (+5.5, O/U 51.5) at Las Vegas Raiders
A compelling matchup because…residing in the NFC West and AFC West, respectively, neither the Raiders nor the Cardinals can afford to lose this week and fall to 0-2. For Las Vegas, first-year Raiders coach Josh McDaniels is likely desperate for a win with his new team while his counterpart in Arizona, Kliff Kingsbury, could find his seat in the desert getting pretty hot given the way his team performed down the stretch last season. This is former Cardinal Chandler Jones’s first game against his former team so taking the over on sacks of Kyler Murray could be a smart play.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Raiders listed as 3-point home favorites. Pros have absolutely hammered Vegas, steaming the Raiders up from -3 to -5.5. At DraftKings, the Raiders are only receiving 45% of bets but 60% of the money, indicating a wiseguy bet discrepancy on Vegas. The Raiders have a big edge in the passing game due to several key injuries in the Cardinals’ defensive backfield. I’m wary of laying the worst of the number, but I’ll take Vegas -5.5 as long as the line stays below the key number of 6. Vegas has value as a favorite in a high total game (51.5). With more expected points scored, it will be easier for Vegas to cover the number.
Gable’s Guess: Kliff Kingsbury blames Arizona’s loss to the Chiefs on the team’s practice habits which is just a weird thing for the head coach to say. The Cardinals were down by 30 at one point and only managed 282 yards of offense and converted three of 12 times on third down. Meanwhile, for the Raiders, Davante Adams delivered in a big way, but Derek Carr had an absolutely awful game against the Chargers. He threw three interceptions, fumbled twice and was sacked six times. That last stat is troubling because the offensive line was really the biggest question mark for the Raiders coming into this season. They really need to shore that up, but I think over time this offense will start to click. They have so many weapons. At this point, I think the line has just moved too far to lay the points with Vegas. I think both of these offenses should be able to perform so I’m going to take the over.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: Believe it or not, the Cardinals have been a much better team on the road than at home recently. They had only one road loss last season compared to five losses at home. The Raiders did not have a huge home-field advantage last year and were just 5-4 at home with only one of those wins coming by more than six points. This is a chance for Kyler Murray to get back on track against a Raider defense that forced no turnovers and only eight incompletions last week against the Los Angeles Chargers. I’d look for this to be a close game between two evenly matched teams and will take Arizona with the points.
Our Pick: The line seems tough to swallow on both sides. Hoping for points with the over.
Minnesota Vikings (+2, O/U 50.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
A compelling matchup because…while neither of these teams was quite ready for primetime last season, the Vikings and Eagles will take centerstage on Monday Night Football to close out Week 2. Both trendy picks to win their respective divisions, both of these teams got star performances from their top receiver in Week 1 as A.J. Brown was on fire for the Eagles while Justin Jefferson looked like the best pass-catcher in the NFL for the Vikings. It’s a primetime game in Philly, so the crowd is bound to be pumped up and could certainly be a factor.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Eagles opened as a 3-point home favorite for this Monday Night Football showdown. We’ve seen respected money take the points with Minnesota, dropping the line down from 3 to 2. Some shops even touched 1.5 briefly. Primetime dogs are 61-44 ATS (58%) over the past three seasons. Short road dogs +3 or less are 73-54 ATS (58%) since 2019. Kirk Cousins is 34-27 ATS (56%) as a dog in his career. Jalen Hurts is 3-5 ATS as a favorite. I’ll grab the points with Minnesota. Another option would be to play the Vikings in a teaser (+2 to +8), which goes through the key numbers of 3 and 7.
Gable’s Guess: When the schedules came out for the league this year, I had this game circled because I think the Eagles can really be vulnerable in this spot. I expected the Vikings to have a big year before the season started and they certainly didn’t disappoint in Week 1 against the Packers. Jefferson had a phenomenal game and the amount of separation he was able to achieve was astounding. He had a monster game and Kirk Cousins did a great job getting him the ball. Philly quarterback Jalen Hurts really did nothing in Week 1 against the Lions that showed signs of improvement. They had a big lead and almost let it slip away. I think playing at home will be an advantage for the Eagles, but this is too high of a number. I’m going with the Vikings on the moneyline. I think the Vikings will win this outright.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Vikings looked much more impressive in their win over the Packers than the Eagles did in their win over the Lions. The Eagles’ defense allowed a lot of big plays and had trouble stopping the run, allowing 144 yards and a whopping 9.6 yards per carry to Lions running back D’Andre Swift. It won’t get any easier against Dalvin Cook of the Vikings. The Eagles will also now have to contend with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. While the Eagles’ offense looked good against the Lions, they relied too much on Jalen Hurts in the ground game. They will not find it so easy against a tough Viking defense that allowed only seven points against the Packers. The Vikings seem like the better team at this point. Take them with the points on Monday Night Football.
Our Pick: The Vikings covered last week and the Eagles did not. Taking the points with Minnesota.
Last Week: 1-4-0; This Season: 1-4-0
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.