We get two matchups this coming Monday after the NFL went away with the traditional opening Monday double header. We’ll have staggered start times for this one with the Saints and Panthers kicking off at 7:15pm and the Browns and Steelers starting at 8:15.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
I won’t have an official play in the Browns and Steelers matchup with all the unknowns here. The Browns defense looked like a top five unit under new DC Jim Schwartz holding Joe Burrow and the Bengals to just three points in their opening weekend matchup.
That being said there were some obvious weather conditions in that matchup as well as question marks surrounding the health of Joe Burrow who missed most of training camp and all of the preseason with a calf injury. Further, the Browns lost starting RT Jack Conklin to a season ending ACL injury.
DeShaun Watson still has yet to look like the star quarterback the Browns thought they traded for a few years ago. The Browns revamped defense is going to need to solidify themselves as that top five defense I alluded to in order to support the offense in this current state.
On the Steelers side injuries are a big issue coming into this matchup. They are expected to be missing WR Diontae Johnson for a few weeks with a hamstring injury. Their starting LG and LT have both been limited participants in practice but should be active on Sunday, albeit banged up.
I don’t want to downgrade the Steelers too much for their poor performance against the 49ers, just because I think the Niners can be that good. The 49ers are elite on both sides of the ball, and I think the Steelers defense should still be a top ten unit, despite losing star DT Cam Heyward to a groin injury.
With a total at 38.5, the home Steelers find themselves as +2.5 point underdogs, which would make them eligible for a “Wong” teaser. Personally, I’m leaving the matchup alone, but there are plenty of viable teaser options on the board (Bills, 49ers, Colts) should you choose to tease the Steelers up to 8.5 on Monday night.
** Pro-tip: Don’t feel like you NEED to use one of Sunday’s games as a teaser leg with the Steelers. You can bet a soft opening line on Sunday night and pair it with the Steelers before that line eventually moves. There’s options!
With the Browns and Steelers expected to be a low scoring matchup, I can’t say we fare much better in this NFC South matchup between the Saints and Panthers. The Saints sneaked out a victory against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, winning 16-15 and only scoring one offensive touchdown.
Carr was not overly impressive in his first game as a Saint but did connect with Rashid Shaheed in the third quarter for the teams only touchdown. I’m not ready to upgrade the Saints defense as quickly as I am to criticize the play call and performance by Ryan Tannehill.
Still, the Saints sacked the quarterback three times and recorded three interceptions. Against a weaponless Panthers offense, I think the Saints defense should have another strong performance.
Bryce Young and the Panthers could only muster 10 points against a stingy Falcons defense, turning the ball over three times on two interceptions and a fumble. Bryce Young had an additional fumble that he was able to recover. The Falcons did little to stop the Falcons strong rushing attack.
While the Saints don’t have the rushing ability that the Falcons do, they at least have some semblance of a passing offense. The Panthers lost star CB Jaycee Horn to IR this week and could struggle mightily in the secondary despite having a relatively strong front seven.
The Panthers main struggle is the fact that they don’t have any weapons to surround Bryce Young. This years #1 overall pick wasn’t particularly accurate, falling in the bottom five of quarterbacks in terms of On Target throws and Bad throw percentage. That being said, the only one getting open on this offense is TE Hayden Hurst.
The Panthers wide receivers were unable to generate any separation and the offense looked very out of sync. DJ Chark is still expected to be out, but even if he plays, I’m not sure if that moves the needle enough for this offense.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
I expect the Saints to put up more points in Week 2 after settling in and I expect the Panthers offense to continue to struggle until one of their wide receivers shows some life or Bryce Young takes a serious leap in ability.
I’ll happily lay the -3 here with the Saints for a 1% play. The line flirted with -3.5 at points this week but has held firm at -3 -110 across the market. I’d lay that number and add to the position if any late Panthers money comes in.