After an exciting Sunday of action, we have one more opportunity to wager on professional football if we so choose. So which plays do our analysts?
Betting analysts Joe Fortenbaugh and Anita Marks, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings, ESPN analyst Jason Fitz, ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth Walder and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz provide their top plays.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
The Giants enter Monday night’s game against the Cowboys at 2-0 for first time in six years. What are your thoughts on the spread and the total for this game? Who do you like?
Schatz: Well, I wrote last week about the Giants as one of the worst 2-0 teams in the past 40 years. We also had them ranked dead last in our preseason projections at Football Outsiders. On the other hand, we project the Cowboys as the worst offense in the league now that they have Cooper Rush as their starting quarterback. Nonetheless, I favor Dallas in this game because of defense. The Cowboys’ defense ranked second in the NFL in DVOA last year and they are sixth so far this year. The Giants’ defense ranks 20th so far this year. The Giants are also 29th in pass rush win rate and have no cornerback depth — a problem with Michael Gallup returning for Dallas in this game.
Snellings: The Giants are not as good as their 2-0 record, as illustrated by their 27th-ranked FPI score of -4.7. Even so, they rank ahead of the Cowboys’ -6.2 FPI without Dak Prescott, which ranks 30th in the NFL. The Giants have emphasized their run game this season, keeping games close until they can win at the end. If they’re able to replicate this on Monday, the run game could minimize the Cowboys’ pass rush and keep the pressure on Rush to have to produce. The FPI projection has the Giants with a 56.1% chance to win outright and an expected margin of 1.8 points. I tend to agree, and lean toward the Giants here.
Fitz: Expectations entering the season have really influenced the tone of our conversations about both of these teams. Because not much was expected of the Giants, the hype is starting to grow for 2-0. However, not every 2-0 team is built the same. The sky was falling for the Cowboys going into Week 2 but their ability to get a win over Cincinnati quieted the doubt … for now. The Cowboys are never as good as expected because the expectations are unreasonable. That being said, they’re still a better team than the Giants. The Dallas defense and superstar Micah Parsons can handle the Giants. Rush will have enough time to throw to do what he needs to. The Cowboys win a close one.
Moody: Despite having to go with Rush at quarterback, the Cowboys still beat the Bengals, indicating they might be just fine without Prescott while he recovers from his thumb injury. The Giants may be 2-0, but it’s been against poor competition. The Cowboys tend to shine in primetime. Dallas is 5-2 against the spread in Monday night games since 2015. The Cowboys have hit the over four times. I like Dallas to cover and exceed the total.
Fortenbaugh: I lean to the Giants, here, but it’s just a lean. I understand the fact that not all 2-0 teams are as great as their record appears, but you can’t deny the fact that Big Blue is a competent, organized football team this season (as opposed to what we have seen in recent years). Furthermore, this is a cheap price for a home divisional matchup on Monday Night Football. Dallas was impressive in last week’s win over Cincinnati, but don’t forget the fact that the Cowboys blew a 17-3 lead and had to win it at the buzzer. This is also Mike McCarthy and company’s first road trip of the season, so keep that in mind as well.
Marks: In Daniel Jones I trust. Through the first two weeks of the season, Jones has been pressured more than any quarterback in the NFL. Despite that, he is sporting an over 80% completion percentage and has been the most accurate passer in the NFL. Marinate in that — along with the fact that his leading receiver is … Richie James. Who??!? Jones has been able to move the chains with his legs in key spots to help the Giants get to 2-0. Giants DC Wink Martindale gets both Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari back on the defensive line and will have a lot in store for Mr. Rush. I will lay the points with the G-Men!
Saquon Barkley entered Week 3 leading the league in rushing (236 yards). He currently has the third-best odds (+600) to finish the season with the most rushing yards, behind Nick Chubb and Jonathan Taylor. What are your thoughts on Barkley’s chances to win the rushing title?
Schatz: Even if Barkley is back to his old self, I don’t think he’s going to get the blocking he needs to win the rushing title. The Giants rank 20th in adjusted line yards and 30th in Run Block Win Rate through two games. Barkley has gotten most of his yardage on his own, and he can’t count on getting too many 68-yard runs over the course of a 17-game season.
Moody: Barkley has a good chance of winning. Before the regular season began, he was a dark-horse candidate. In addition to looking healthy and determined, Barkley is running powerfully and aggressively. This season, Barkley has averaged 19.5 rushing attempts per game, and head coach Brian Daboll has shown a willingness to feed him. With the Giants’ much improved offensive line, bettors should take Barkley seriously.
Snellings: Barkley is off to an excellent start toting the rock, and he has the talent to lead the league, but questions about his offensive line and his history of durability would keep me from betting on him at +600. I like both Taylor and Chubb better to win, and I also like Derrick Henry +1400, Joe Mixon +2000 and Javonte Williams +2500 at their odds more than Barkley at his.
Fitz: I’m not ready to give up on Taylor. The Colts have had injury issues and terrible play from the left tackle position but the Colts know their best path to winning games in a bad AFC South is to establish the run. Taylor may not have the huge highlight reel runs so far that Barkley does, but I believe less in those and more in consistency. We know the Colts identity and that will only benefit Taylor as the season moves on.
Fortenbaugh: Pass. I love the way Barkley is running, but he hasn’t exactly faced the cream of the crop in regards to NFL run defenses. You also have to factor in the injury concerns, as the Penn State product has appeared in just 17 of New York’s last 35 contests.
Walder: No thanks. I agree with Schatz about the blocking, but also I just don’t think the Giants are very good. They’re going to be behind in games and that’s going to limit Barkley’s opportunities. Plus, Barkley has always been a bit of a boom-or-bust runner. The fact that he’s had a 68-yard carry thus far is nice, but I anticipate there will be some fallow periods ahead.
The Cowboys come into Monday night with the third-most sacks (8) in the NFL, led by sophomore sensation Micah Parsons. Do you like Parsons to win Defensive Player of the Year this season?
Moody: Parsons is the frontrunner for the award, and it’s his to lose. This guy is powerful, quick and attacks from all angles and from all positions. Nevertheless, teams know they must plan for Parsons. He hasn’t been figured out yet. Parsons has 15 pass-rush wins this season, the most by any player in the league. One of his goals this season was to surpass the NFL sack record of 22.5. Parsons currently has four sacks entering Week 3.
Snellings: Yes, I do. Parsons is just different. It was apparent as a rookie, and the fact that he was a rookie may have been the biggest factor in him not winning last season. This season, he’s off to an even better start, last year’s DPoY T.J. Watt is injured, and Parsons’ ability to play defense at an All-Madden level while opposing offenses seem set to “easy” bodes well for his chances.
Fitz: Yup. Without a doubt. These awards are part play and part hype. When you are getting the hype every single day that he is getting right now, it feels like it becomes his award to lose. Given the fact that the Cowboys always get eyeballs, people are seeing a great player who is playing incredibly well. When momentum meets greatness, it’s a no-brainer to me.
Fortenbaugh: I’d nibble at +325. He’s an absolute monster playing for the most popular franchise in the NFL. Say what you want, but when it comes to the Cowboys, even a 6-11 season gets plenty of air time. Parsons will be in the spotlight all year.
Marks: Yes. I said it and put the ticket in before the season began. Parsons is a once-in-a-decade player, and already has four sacks this season. The Cowboys are finally using him correctly — as an outside linebacker (not inside), allowing him on occasion to put his dirt in the ground and get after the quarterback.
Walder: I do. Check out the win rate chart at edge through two weeks. Parsons is dominating the position in a way we’ve really only seen from the likes of Aaron Donald. Only a two-game sample? Sure, but it’s on the heels of a rookie season in which he led the league in pass rush win rate. So yeah, I’m fully buying. Parsons is special.
What is your best bet for Monday night’s game?
Schatz: It’s Barkley over 22.5 receiving yards (-137). Linebacker is not a strength of this Giants defense, and I think Barkley can get into open space a couple of times to rack up receiving yards. I expect a game closer to his six catches for 30 yards in Week 1 against Tennessee.
Snellings: I like Noah Brown to go over 37.5 total receiving yards (-113). Gallup and Dalton Schultz are both listed as questionable for Monday night, but even if both play, Brown just has clear chemistry with QB Cooper Rush. Brown has averaged five receptions for almost 80 yards in the first two games, with the vast majority of that production coming with Rush under center. I expect Rush to look Brown’s way early and often on Monday night.
Fortenbaugh: Give me Daniel Jones over 18.5 completions (-135). He’s averaging 20.8 completions per game for his career and 19.5 completions per game on the season. Beyond that, Dallas is permitting an average of 21 completions per game through the first two weeks of the 2022 campaign. I think the Dallas defense takes a hit playing in their first road game of the season and, with this line currently sitting with Big Blue as 1-point favorites, it looks like we should be treated to a competitive matchup with both teams throwing the ball late into the fourth quarter.
Marks: The two props I like the most are Rush throwing an INT (-115) and Kenny Golladay scoring a TD (+450). As I wrote earlier, Wink Martindale now has the talent to get uber-creative, and tee up a few exotic looks that Rush will have a hard time deciphering. Also, call me crazy (and I’ve been called worse) but the squeaky wheel gets the grease this week! The Giants are paying Golladay too much (4 years, $72 million) for him to only play on two snaps per game. Daboll will get him involved this week.
Walder: This is just a “gut feel” play here but I like under 19.5 in the first half (-110). I think both teams will figure that this is a winnable game if they can avoid mistakes, look at their quarterbacks, and think the best way to avoid errors is to keep the ball out of their hands. A heavy ground game early on from both teams would produce some inefficient offense — and keep the clock moving.