Monday Night Football 2016 – Week 1 – Preview and Prediction
After Sunday of Week 1 is the in books, we move to Monday Night Football. Week 1 is especially fun for MNF as ESPN’s features its only doubleheader of the season. This week, the Steelers open the season at Washington at 7:10 EST and the late night game is the Rams at the 49ers, which begins at 10:20 EST.
At BetOnline, Pittsburgh is a small favorite at –1.5 points with the standard -110 vig on both sides. The total stands at 49.5. Los Angeles is also just under a field goal as a favorite. The Rams are -3 (+100) over the 49ers +3 (-120) and the total is a low 42.5 points.
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Pittsburgh’s season was inconsistent last year, but they did finish with a 10-6 record, which was good enough to make the playoffs in the AFC. This led to a Wild Card matchup with division rival Cincinnati. The Steelers beat the Bengals, but ultimately fell to the Denver Broncos in the divisional playoffs, a team they beat earlier in the regular season.
However, in that game, the Steelers were without not only without wide receiver Antonio Brown, but they were down two starting running backs, with both DeAngelo Williams and Le’Veon Bell.
Pittsburgh will have Brown and Williams this week, but they will be without Le’Veon Bell who is serving suspension under the NFL’s drug policy. Wide receiver Markus Wheaton missed practice all of the last week and his been ruled out as well.
Cameron Heyward was initially thought to miss this season-opener after suffering a high ankle sprain in the preseason but is no longer listed on the injury report. He is expected to play with no restrictions.
The Steelers will need him to slow down Kirk Cousins and the Redskins high-powered offense. Pittsburgh has one of the best offenses in the league, if not, the best, but their defense has been a sore spot in recent years.
Washington finished last season with a 9-7 record, but luckily for them played in one of football’s worst divisions last season. They won the division with that record but ended up losing badly to the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card game.
The Redskins have a potent offense, with weapons all over the field, including tight end Jordan Reed and now fully healthy, DeSean Jackson. The defense was their biggest issue last season, and they went out signed former Carolina cornerback Josh Norman to a monster deal in free agency. He teams with Bashaud Breeland to form one of the league’s most underrated duos.
Washington has a few injuries on defense, including ends Kendall Reyes and Kendric Golston, but both players should suit up. Running back Matt Jones hurt his shoulder in the preseason but is expected to play. He declared himself 95 percent healthy the other day.
As I was writing this article, the line kept going down for the Redskins. They were +2.5 as I begin writing this article and +3 for the weeks leading up until the season and Sunday night. Luckily, I did get a bet in at +3 before the odds moved.
However, with the line as it is, it’s a much tougher call. I do believe that the Redskins will win outright, but right now the price is the worst it has been in weeks. It’s up to you if you want to take them at +1.5, the moneyline at +105 is probably the better bet if things stay the way they are.
Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t quite the one that was second in scoring last season. Wide receiver Martavis Bryant is suspended the entire season. He opened up their offense quite a bit, and the Steelers averaged more passing yards and points per game without Bryant.
They’re also without Bell, as I mentioned above. DeAngelo Williams filled in excellently last year, but he’s the oldest running back in the league and a year can mean a lot to someone at 33 years old in the NFL.
Defensively, Pittsburgh has no one who can match up with Jordan Reed or DeSean Jackson. Their best pass rusher is 38-year-old James Harrison, who is still a great player, but that’s not exactly ideal for an NFL team. Their secondary is a mess.
Yes, they still have Antonio Brown, but Washington’s defense is much improved. Even though the odds are far from +3 now, they shouldn’t have much issue scoring against Pittsburgh. It’s a dream spot, with the public betting heavily on Pittsburgh. A home dog on Monday Night Football is as good as it gets.
Pick: Redskins -1.5 -110
The Rams at 49ers
I find this one a lot tougher to dive into compared to the Steelers and Redskins so that this breakdown will be shorter. Both of these franchises have been major disappointments in recent years. Jeff Fisher has been riding teams to mediocrity for years, and I don’t see that changing. Chip Kelly has taken over in SF after being fired in Philadelphia. Apparently, his offense last season was one of the easiest to prepare for among defensive coordinators.
There’s some appeal here on the 49ers side due to public betting on the Rams and them being home dogs like the Redskins in primetime.
With that said, the Los Angeles does have maybe the best defensive player in football in a defensive tackle, Aaron Donald. The 49ers offense looked horrible in the preseason and Blaine Gabbert is a terrible quarterback. The Rams might be able to run Todd Gurley all game and let the 49ers make mistakes.
I’m not huge on any play in this game, but I tepidly endorse Los Angles.
Pick: Rams -3 (+100)