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NFL Picks: Monday Night Football DraftKings Sportsbook Pool Predictions

Matt LaMarca dives into the questions for the DraftKings Sportsbook Pool contest for the Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader.

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There is a $10K MNF Prop Pool with a $25 entry fee available for the Monday Night Football doubleheader in Week 1, featuring the Giants vs. the Steelers at 7:15 p.m. ET and the Broncos vs. the Titans at 10:10 p.m. ET.

Let’s take a look at the questions for this contest and try to identify some potential value.

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Questions 1 & 2: Who will win these contests?

Let’s start with the first game. The Giants will be playing the Steelers in New York and they’re currently listed as six-point underdogs in that contest. The Steelers are -245 on the moneyline, so they appear to have a sizable advantage.

The Steelers are built around a dominant defense. Pittsburgh ranked third in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA last season and the Steelers were first in “weighted” DVOA (which measures the later games in the season more heavily than the early ones).

They ultimately finished the 2019 season at 8-8 but they did that with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges starting a combined 14 games. They were two of the worst QBs in the league, so the fact that the Steelers won eight games is actually pretty impressive. Ben Roethlisberger is back at QB for 2020, which gives the Steelers a massive upgrade at the position.

I love the Steelers’ prospects this season and I’m banking on them starting the year with a win vs. a mediocre Giants squad.

The second contest should be a little closer. The Titans are listed as 2.5-point favorites in Denver and Tennessee is currently -137 on the moneyline. The public clearly believes in the Titans in this spot: They’ve garnered 77% of the spread bets and 72% of the moneyline bets at the time of writing.

I think this is an excellent opportunity to employ a DFS philosophy in this pool and go contrarian with the Broncos. With most people picking the Titans, you’ll get a nice boost in the standings if the Broncos can secure a win.

Playing in Denver is also not an easy task. The Broncos have been frisky as a home underdog since 2006, posting a record of 15-17 on the moneyline. That includes a mark of 2-2 in 2019, which made them the fourth-most profitable team in that situation.

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Questions 3 & 4: Will these games go over or under the total?

It’s hard to get a feel heading into the 2020 season. We’ve never had an offseason like this, with no preseason games and very few padded practices.

The closest approximation is probably the 2011 season following the lockout. What happened in Week 1 of 2011? The over went a ridiculous 12-3-1. The offenses were clearly ahead of the defenses, who were asked to play competitive games without getting the opportunity to do much live tackling before then.

Will the same hold true in 2020? It’s definitely possible. The Chiefs and Texans hit the over on Thursday night, although it was by a very slim margin.

Ultimately, I’m going to back the over in both of these contests.

Question 5: Which quarterback will throw for the most passing yards?

This one is a pretty easy choice for me. Roethlisberger is not only the most accomplished QB of the group but he also has the best matchup vs. the Giants. They ranked just 30th in pass defense DVOA last season and didn’t do a ton to improve their defense during the offseason. New York did sign James Bradberry, but he was merely the 54th-ranked corner in terms of pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.

The Giants also played at the eighth-fastest pace in 2019, which makes this a solid pace-up spot for the Steelers. Pittsburgh had the second-highest pass rate in 2018 with Roethlisberger playing all 16 games, so he has excellent upside in this spot. I’m willing to eat the chalk here and look to diversify at other locations.

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Question 6: Who will have the most receiving yards – Juju Smith-Schuster, A.J. Brown, Sterling Shepard or the field?

This is an interesting prop bet question that ultimately comes down to “ownership” for me. Most people will likely select either Smith-Schuster or Brown. Those are the two best receivers on this slate and most people are probably familiar with them from their fantasy drafts. They were typically selected in the top four rounds and none of the other pass catchers in these games went in that range.

With that in mind, I’m fine with selecting the field for this question. The field obviously gives us a lot of potential outs to win this wager. Maybe Courtland Sutton suits up and dominates for the Broncos. Maybe Diontae Johnson or James Washington has a couple of big plays for the Steelers. Maybe Evan Engram leads the way for the Giants.

Smith-Schuster and Brown probably lead the way on this slate more often than any other specific player but the field might have the edge overall.

Question 7: Who will finish with the most rushing yards – Saquon Barkley, James Conner, Derrick Henry or the field?

In this question, I think we want to cross the field off the list. The Denver RB combo of Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay feels like a timeshare situation and the other three guys should dominate the rushing attempts for their teams. That doesn’t leave a lot of outs for the field to get there.

I’m also going to cross off Conner. It’s not that I don’t think he can do it but I’m already banking on Roethlisberger to lead the slate in passing yards. Every yard that Conner gains on the ground is one that Roethlisberger can’t get through the air and I don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul. Is it possible that Roethlisberger can lead the QBs and Conner leads the RBs? Sure, but I ultimately think the chances of that happening are slim.

That leaves Henry and Barkley and Henry has the superior matchup. The Steelers ranked fourth in rush defense DVOA last season, while the Broncos ranked 15th in that department. The Titans also have the better projected game script – they’re the favorites, the Giants are the underdogs – and we know that the Titans love to pound the rock whenever possible.

Henry is another player that should be chalky in this contest but I think he’s the best choice. That said, I wouldn’t hate going with Barkley if you wanted to go a little more contrarian.

Question 8: Which team will score the most points?

The final question is a simple one and this is another question where I’m eating the chalk. The Steelers’ current implied team total is 4.25 points higher than the Titans, 6.0 points higher than the Giants and 7.25 points higher than the Broncos.

If you are going to go with someone other than the Steelers, just make sure that answer correlates with your other answers. In other words, if you didn’t pick a team to win in question 1 or 2, make sure you don’t pick them to score the most points. If you only picked one game to go over and the other to go under in questions 3 and 4, you’ll probably want to select whoever you picked to win the over game.

This sounds simple enough but correlating your answers is an easy way to get an advantage over some of the other players in the field.

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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is mlamarca) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.

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