Monday Night NFL Doubleheader
by Matt Severance - 09/08/2008
For the only time this year there are two NFL games scheduled on Monday night, so bettors have twice the chance to add to or recoup some of their Sunday NFL wagering dollars.
The Minnesota at Green Bay opener (7 p.m. EST) is the Brett Favre Bowl: Favre, of course, forced his way out of Green Bay, with Minnesota his preferred destination. However, the Packers refused to trade him within the division, especially with the Vikings having a Super Bowl-quality team. So once Green Bay sent Favre to the Jets, the Packers and Vikings could focus on whom they had in house: Aaron Rodgers and Tarvaris Jackson, respectively.
Rodgers, despite being in his fourth season, will be making his first NFL start - he only has 59 career pass attempts in the league. One big change from Favre is that Rodgers will run more. He has told coach Mike McCarthy he's comfortable tucking the ball away and running on short-yardage situations; in those same situations, Favre often would do play action.
Green Bay could be missing a few key players tonight, as starting center Scott Wells and linebacker A.J. Hawk are both questionable. In addition, No. 3 receiver James Jones is very unlikely to play and top running back Ryan Grant dealt with a hamstring injury all through training camp and has barely played, although he'll start tonight.
For the Vikings, Jackson is their biggest injury worry. He suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee against Baltimore on Aug. 16 and did not play in the final two preseason games. He has been practicing, however.
Jackson said his right knee is not quite 100 percent, but he insists it's not far off.
"I'm playing Monday regardless," he said.
Don't expect Jackson to have his same mobility, and remember that star left tackle Bryant McKinnie won't be in the lineup as he serves a four-game suspension.
I could tell you that Green Bay has beaten the Vikings four games in a row and that they are 3-1 ATS in that time, but past stats in this series are somewhat useless now that No. 4 is no longer under center for the Cheeseheads. In addition, the Vikings' Jackson didn't play in either Green Bay game last year, so this game has perhaps more unknowns than any in Week 1. Oddsmakers at Bookmaker favor the Packers by 2.5 points but expect a defensive game with the over/under only at 37.5.
Meanwhile, the nightcap on Monday has the Broncos as 3-point road favorites on Bookmaker for their matchup at Oakland (10:15 p.m. EST).
From a betting perspective, this series has been dominated by Denver on the field, as the Broncos are 8-2 straight up in the past 10 meetings (Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is 20-6 overall against his former team), but one of those losses came in last season's final meeting between the teams, a 34-20 Oakland home victory. In fact, the sad-sack Raiders have been great value against Denver in the past two seasons, going 4-0 ATS.
Perhaps the under line of 41 on Bookmaker is the best bet on this game, as both teams feature stellar cornerback combinations (Denver with Champ Bailey and Dre Bly and Oakland with Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall) but question marks at receiver. Denver's top wideout is Brandon Marshall, but he is suspended for tonight's game. Oakland's top wideout is Javon Walker, but he is questionable with a hamstring injury and almost retired during training camp.
So expect both teams to run the ball plenty. Oakland gouged the Denver run defense last year, gaining 200 yards on the ground in last September's meeting and 175 in December. And now the Raiders have Darren McFadden.
"If you look at it, they averaged 185 yards against us last year, so if I was them, I'd try to run again, too," Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams said.
The Broncos' defense gave up an average of 142.6 yards rushing per game in 2007, worse than all but two teams in the NFL - one of those being Oakland. The Raiders ranked 31st in rushing defense, gave up 4.8 yards per carry, the most in the league, and surrendered 24 rushing touchdowns, the most in the NFL since 2000. Ten opposing runners went for more than 100 yards against Oakland in 2007.