Last night was packed full of divisional games with all but two of the division leaders facing off against some of their closest rivals. It went well for the Ravens, Bills, Chiefs and Eagles but the Vikings and Titans will both be grateful that they have multiple game leads in their divisions after losing to the Lions and Jaguars. The only divisional leaders not to face a rival were the Buccaneers and 49ers who played each other in a game that saw Brock Purdy become the first quarterback ever to beat Tom Brady in their first career start. Purdy and the 49ers destroyed the Bucs who are almost certainly headed to a Wild Card round exit to the Cowboys if they hold on to the NFC South.
This week’s Monday Night Football is between two teams that were beaten handily by divisional rivals in last seasons Wild Card round.
New England Patriots -2.5 @ Arizona Cardinals: 43.5
The Patriots are visiting a Cardinals team that has won just once in their last ten home games stretching back to last season. A win for the Patriots keeps them in the playoff fold in the AFC, while a loss for the Cardinals will guarantee that they cannot win the NFC West and likely condemns them to missing the playoffs for the third time in four years with Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray.
Despite back to back losses on Thursday nights, the Patriots are still on the bubble in the AFC playoff race. Their final three games are all against teams above them in the AFC standings and so they must win tonight and against the Raiders next week to stand any chance of making the post-season. They have done a pretty good job of beating the teams they are expected to beat and being terrible against teams with winning records, the Jets are the only team above .500 they have beaten this season.
Mac Jones has not shown the sort of progression that Patriots fans would have been hoping for this year but his current four game run without an interception is the longest in his career (he has lost two fumbles in the last two games though). He has yet to really put the team on his back to win a game and all six of their wins this season have been when their defense has held the opposition to 17 or fewer points and the only times the Patriots scored over 28 points were with Bailey Zappe as QB.
Top receiver Jakobi Meyers is out with a concussion so a mixture of Devante Parker, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne will have to step up tonight and we might even see rookie Tyquan Thornton be involved. Although last week the Patriots single receiving touchdown went to DB Marcus Jones, so who knows. The matchup to exploit for the Patriots this week is at tight end, with the Cardinals allowing the most yards (880) and touchdowns (nine) to the position this season. Take your pick of Hunter Henry at 16/5 or Jonnu Smith who is as high as 5/1with Paddy Power. Henry is my pick as Smith is yet to score this season (Hunter Henry anytime TD 16/5 with Paddy Power).
Rhamondre Stevenson should have the backfield pretty much to himself again tonight and it should result in more than the 39 yards he has averaged on the ground in the last three weeks. But I do think his lines of 77.5 rushing yards, 34.5 receiving yards and 118.5 scrimmage yards are a little too high to take and I’d lead the under on them all. 4.5 receptions is more realistic though and I’ll take the over there given he’s had at least five targets in each of his last seven games and Mac Jones may not have many other reliable options to target tonight (Stevenson o4.5 receptions).
Prior to this season the Cardinals had 24 wins and 24 losses (with one tie) under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, but this year has been a mess and they are coming out of their bye week at 4-8. Perhaps the biggest concern is that through his regime they have always started the season well (17-11-1 pre-bye week record) and ended it poorly, I guess it can’t really get any worse for them this time around though.
Some may point to the injuries as a reason for the decline, particularly on offense where they have barely managed to get all the skill position players on the field at the same time. As soon as DeAndre Hopkins returned from suspension, Marquise Brown got injured and both Kyler Murray and James Conner have missed multiple games each. But the reality is that Kingsbury has not been good enough and should be out the door in January despite both him and general manager Steve Keim singing extensions to 2027 in March.
Kyler Murray has had plenty of public disagreements with his head coach this season and it’s clear to see why when you look at his production. Despite a career high in passing attempts per game, he is on course to record almost 35 yards per game fewer than last season and is throwing a career low touchdown rate of just 3.6%. He has been running the ball slightly more than last season to make up for the passing numbers somewhat, but is nowhere the 51.2 yards per game mark he hit in his breakout second season. A matchup with the Patriots isn’t exactly what you want to see when you’re struggling, so I am leaning the under on his passing line of 238.5 yards and his 35.5 yard rushing line.
If there was one reliable element of the Cardinals offense this season, it was DeAndre Hopkins getting 12+ targets. But with Marquise Brown back for their last game in Week 12 against the Chargers, Hopkins only had six targets to Brown’s eight. Prior to getting injured, Brown was averaging over 10 targets himself and with just a one game sample size of them on the field together I think I will steer clear of both when it comes to props tonight. The Patriots are the only team Hopkins has faced four or more times in his career without scoring a TD, he is 13/10 to get one tonight in his eighth matchup with them (six with the Texans).
James Conner had his best game of the season last time out against the Chargers, which is not a surprise given they are the worst team in the league when it comes to yards allowed per carry at 5.4. The Patriots are top ten in that stat, allowing just 4.2, so this should be a tough matchup for Conner who is averaging 13.4 carries at 3.9 yards on the season. Conner to go under his line of 61.5 is my favourite prop for the Cardinals, he has gone above that line just twice this year and will likely need 20+ carries to get there tonight (Conner u61.5 rushing yards).
I am happy taking the Patriots tonight even though they have disappointed us before in prime time games this season, particularly in Week 7’s Monday Night Football against the Bears. But the Cardinals have been more disappointing and only one of these teams has something to play for, so the Patriots should take it. I’ll take the under on the total of 43.5 as neither offense is really functioning as it should.
A Patriots win, under 43.5 and Stevenson touchdown is 11/2 with William Hill if you fancy that as a bet builder.
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