After Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19, the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots was postponed until Monday.
Our experts -- Wes Reynolds, Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans -- give their best bets for that game, as well as the Monday Night Football matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons.
New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5, 49)
Tuley: The Chiefs cashed for me last Monday night against the Ravens and Patrick Mahomes led my fantasy football team over Mitch Moss in the Fans of VSiN league on Facebook, but I knew all week that I was going to be on the Patriots as live underdogs against the defending champs.
The original line was Patriots 7 (and I still have that in Point Spread Weekly and in the Westgate SuperContest), but with Cam Newton testing positive for COVID-19, this game is now being played as the first game of a Monday night doubleheader. Even with the line now adjusted to Chiefs -10.5 with journeyman (and three-time Patriot) Brain Hoyer replacing Newton, I’m still on the Pats for the same reasons I liked them before: Bill Belichick went with more of a running attack last week to get New England back on the winning track and I expect that to be the case here in order to keep the Chiefs’ explosive offense off the field. And I can’t help but believe Belichick has some defensive tricks up his sleeve as well, so even if they don’t pull the upset (as Belichick did the last time he was an underdog of more than a touchdown), the Patriots should be able to keep this game within single digits.
Pick: Patriots 10.5
Youmans: Belichick has rebuilt a New England defense that was decimated in the offseason, and Newton’s running ability has reinvented the offense. With Newton sidelined, the offense must be changed to fit Hoyer’s talents, which are few. Hoyer has a 16-23 record in 39 career starts, including 10 consecutive losses -- soon to be 11. I doubted the Patriots could look this good this early in the season. I’m more impressed with New England at 2-1 than with Buffalo at 4-0, and 1 yard in Seattle is all that separates the Patriots from 3-0. Belichick knows the key to containing Mahomes is keeping the Kansas City QB on the sideline, something New England could do with Newton and the running attack. Is Belichick’s defense legit? The Patriots rank 12th in the league in total defense, one spot behind the Chiefs.
The obvious difference between these teams is that Mahomes appears unstoppable, and it’s difficult to bet against him after watching Kansas City bash Baltimore last Monday night. But betting against a team off an impressive Monday win is a longtime winning angle, and so is betting on Belichick, who’s rarely an underdog. Belichick can scheme his way into a competitive game and maybe Hoyer can do enough to cover. However, it would be no surprise if Hoyer plays like a joker and this turns into a blowout, so this is just a half-unit play and I’ll look for 11 before kickoff.
Pick: Patriots 10.5/11
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers (-6, 56.5)
Reynolds: Outhouse meets penthouse in Week 4 of Monday Night Football as the 0-3 Falcons travel to Lambeau Field to face the 3-0 Packers. Atlanta has blown a 15-point fourth-quarter lead two weeks in a row. Two weeks ago, in Dallas, Atlanta led 39-24 with 7:57 left to play. Last week, the Falcons led the 26-10 over the Chicago Bears with 6:21 to play and once again could not make the lead stand up.
It does not get any easier for the Falcons having to go and face Green Bay, who leads the NFL in yards per play (6.9). The Packers also sit atop the NFL in scoring offense (40.7 ppg) and are second in rushing offense (171.7 ypg). The balanced Green Bay offense has been a machine in the first three games as they have become the first team in NFL history to score at least 35 points and have zero turnovers in each of those games, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Both teams are dealing with their own injury issues, especially in the receiving corps. Julio Jones missed last week for Atlanta with a hamstring injury and Calvin Ridley led the Falcons with five catches for 110 yards in the loss vs. Chicago but has been dealing with a bum ankle this week. Meanwhile, Green Bay was without Davante Adams (hamstring) in its 37-30 win in New Orleans last Sunday night. Allen Lazard was also put on IR this week with a core muscle injury. All receivers, except Lazard, have been listed as questionable for Monday night.
The injuries do not stop for either club at the receiving corps. Atlanta could be without as many as three starters in the secondary with safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal already ruled out and rookie first-round corner A.J. Terrell out with COVID-19. Green Bay also could be without starting linebackers Rashan Gary and Za’Darius Smith.
Nevertheless, the line has moved towards Atlanta’s favor as 7.5 showed earlier in the week and has since come down to a consensus 6 at most books.
This looks like a mismatch on paper, but Green Bay is off a big win on Sunday Night Football in New Orleans and has a showdown looming in Tampa next week with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. The Falcons are also 0-3 as the seat continues to get warmer for head coach Dan Quinn. This could end up being the proverbial “Pros vs. Joes” as the professional bettors are giving the “Dirty Birds” one more shot while the betting public will be all over the Packers on straight bets, parlays and teasers.
The total opened as the highest number on the Week 4 board at 58 and remains with that distinction despite the number coming down to 57 and even as low as 56.5. This is likely due to the injuries to so many skill position players on both rosters. The trends indicate an Over series between these two as the last five meetings with these teams, dating back to 2014, have all gone over the total with an average combined score of 64.2 ppg. Both clubs have also gone over the posted totals in each of their three games this season.
Lack of spectators due to COVID-19 has, of course, reduced the crowd noise. That reduction in crowd noise has also benefitted the offenses more than the defenses as there have been less false start penalties (1.8 per game vs. 2.2 in 2019) and an increase in defensive pass interference penalties (1.5 per game vs. 1.2 in 2019). The offensive holding penalties have also dropped from 2.7 per game in 2019 to just 1.6 thus far this season as a lack of crowd noise allow the guys up front to hear audibles better from their quarterbacks.
Eventually, the oddsmakers will adjust the totals upwards enough to attract more bets on the under but it certainly has not happened thus far in three weeks of NFL action. As for this game, the Packers' 13-3 record in 2019 was seem by most as a mirage, but Aaron Rodgers and Co. have started their middle-finger 2020 tour 3-0 and Atlanta started it’s season 1-7 before late 6-2 surge saved Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff’s jobs for another year. They may not get that luxury this time around as tonight’s trip to Green Bay could be the Falcons' final stand in 2020 unless they can finish games better than they have the last two weeks.