Monday Night Football features the Patriots a long way from home against the Cardinals, but New England is still the road favorite coming off of a horrendous performance against the Patriots last Thursday. Arizona is coming off of the bye, so we’ll see if Kliff Kingsbury used the extra prep time to his advantage.
Our own Michael Lombardi recently talked about the Patriots’ offensive issues and also about the latest Kyler Murray drama with the Cardinals. What do our other VSiN analysts think about this game? Here are their best bets.
Odds are from DraftKings (unless noted) as of Sunday night.
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Matt Youmans: While almost all NFL head coaches attract criticism from time to time for game-management and play-calling blunders, Bill Belichick stays above the fray. Well, that was accurate until now, because Belichick is no longer untouchable.
For the first time in the Belichick era, which dates to 2000 in New England, the Patriots appear to be poorly coached.
Of course, most of the weak coaching is happening on the offensive side of the ball, and Belichick deserves the blame for putting a defensive coach, Matt Patricia, in charge of calling the plays. New England ranks 20th in scoring offense (20.8 PPG) and is tied for last in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on just 12 of 32 trips inside the 20-yard line. There are an assortment of numbers that show how bad the Patriots are on offense and the numbers are not lying.
It’s wrong to throw the blame at quarterback Mac Jones, who has not played especially well in his second season yet has not been put in a position to succeed. Jones is still developing and is not good enough at this early stage to overcome coaching shortcomings.
Is there any hope for Belichick’s seemingly hopeless experiment with Patricia and his dull pencil? The answer will be revealed Monday night.
Jones and the Patriots get to take their shots at a poorly-coached Arizona team that ranks 31st in scoring defense (26.8 PPG). The Cardinals have lost four of their past five — beating only the hapless Rams — while allowing an average of 32 points in the losses.
Arizona does have a mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray, an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins and the type of speed that can give Belichick’s defense a lot of problems. Murray is elusive and similar to the Bears’ Justin Fields, who embarrassed the Patriots on Monday in late October.
For those who still believe in Belichick and his defense, which ranks No. 7 by allowing 18.8 PPG, it’s tempting to play the Patriots as short road favorites. With his back to the wall and facing a far inferior coach (Kliff Kingsbury), Belichick would always win this type of game in the past.
Of course, the Patriots of the present are stuck with an offensive coaching predicament that Belichick should have fixed several months ago, but his ego got in the way.
It’s not easy to bet on the Patriots and expect positive results, but I’ll try it one more time because it’s also an anti-Arizona play.
Pick: Patriots -1.5 (widely available)
Adam Burke: I'm going to agree with Youmans here. The Cardinals are coming off of the bye, so Kliff Kingsbury had plenty of extra prep time for this one, but Bill Belichick had some as well. The Patriots were embarrassed by the Bills on Thursday night in Week 13, so The Hoodie should be taking this game about as seriously as he possibly can.
While the Patriots were completely shut down by the Bills, they did have 7.4 yards per play just two weeks ago against the Vikings and outgained Minnesota by two full yards per play. The Bills and Vikings are really good. The Cardinals are not.
For all of the focus on what the Patriots don’t do, how about some things they do well? They are a top-five defense by EPA/play, Success Rate, Dropback EPA, Dropback Success Rate and rank in the top 10 in Rush EPA and Rush Success Rate. The Cardinals are below average in every one of those categories. The two offenses are basically even. Give me the better defense and the deserving road favorite here.
Pick: Patriots -1.5 (widely available)
Dave Tuley: NFL home underdogs are 43-30-4 ATS (58.9%) this season, but at Cardinals +1.5 or +2, I can’t pull the trigger on them as I agree with Youmans and Burke that the Patriots should win this game outright, However, we can tease the Cardinals up through the key numbers of 3 and 7 in a 2-point, 6-point teaser.
I expect Bill Belichick to try to grind out a win with the running game led by Rhamondre Stevenson with Damien Harris doubtful for the game. The Patriots average only 20.8 points per game, so I don’t expect them to pull away in a rout even though they are going against a Cardinals defense that allows 26.8 points per game.
The Patriots’ strength is its defense allowing just 18.8 points per game, but in a relatively low-scoring game – and primetime Unders are 23-18-1 (56.1%) on the season – we feel that’ll allow Arizona QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins to keep this to a one-score game.
The point spread is Patriots -2 at DraftKings, so tease that up to 8, though if your book has Patriots -1.5, teasing up to +7.5 is still acceptable.
Pick: Cardinals +8/Under 50 Teaser