Week 1 of the NFL finishes up on Monday night with the Seattle Seahawks hosting the Denver Broncos (-6.5, 44) at Lumen Field in Seattle. After an exciting Sunday of action, we have one more opportunity to wager on professional football if we so choose. So what plays to our analysts like in the season's first Monday night game?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Joe Fortenbaugh and Anita Marks; fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings; ESPN Stats & Information's Seth Walder, ESPN analyst Jason Fitz and Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz provide their top plays.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
The storyline for this game is the Seahawks having traded franchise QB Russell Wilson to the Broncos in the offseason. How do you see Wilson's approach to this game and who do you like in the game?
I've never been a big fan of the narrative that players perform better because they want to win certain games more than others. These are professionals and I think they generally come into every game well-prepared and hungry to win. Any chance that Wilson is going to come into this game playing better because he badly wants to beat the Seahawks is balanced by the idea that he might come into this game playing worse because he's a little too excited and therefore inaccurate because of improper mechanics. The emotions related to the Wilson trade are a great story for pregame coverage but should not play a role in wagering. (I'm not a big fan of wagering on this one anyway, as I feel this line is spot-on.) -- Schatz
During his time in Seattle, Wilson was ultimately constrained by Pete Carroll and his staff's obsession with establishing the run. Wilson still found a way to thrive. For a Seahawks offense that was 31st in total passing attempts (3,124), since 2016, he ranked eighth in completions (1,956), sixth in passing yards (23,085) and third in touchdowns (186). As Wilson returns to Seattle, the Broncos' coaching staff will let him cook and prepare a feast. Two bets I like in this game are for Wilson to go over 1.5 passing touchdowns (-157) and KJ Hamler as an "anytime touchdown" scorer (+220). I'd be shocked if the Broncos don't lean heavily on Wilson as a passer in the red zone this season. Over the past six seasons, they have failed to finish higher than 19th in red zone touchdown rate. From the slot or outside, Hamler poses a vertical threat to the Seahawks secondary. -- Moody
Wilson doesn't have to do anything other than be himself. The real pressure here isn't on Russ, it's on Geno Smith, who now has to replace the quarterback he will be looking at on the opposite sideline. Because we love drama, the concept of Carroll vs. Wilson is a fun talking point, but once the game kicks off this is all about which overall roster is better. There is no question that the Broncos are a better team top to bottom, so anything short of a Broncos win would be a huge surprise given the expectations surrounding Russ and the Broncos, overall. I look for both quarterbacks to play exactly as most of us would expect, which means Russ will be good and Geno won't. -- Fitz
I look for Wilson to take what the defense gives him because, on the Broncos, he has the tools to tailor his attack to the opponent. The Broncos have a strong set of receiving threats, but they also have two excellent running backs. Whichever the Seahawks scheme to try and limit, I anticipate that Wilson will lead the Broncos' offense in the other direction. I don't buy into the narrative that Wilson will look to hang a big number on the board just because he's facing his old team. Instead, I expect Russell to lead the Broncos to a big scoring output, whether the numbers come directly from him or not. -- Snellings
Let Russ cook! And I expect him to do so against a young Seahawks secondary. They'll be adding two rookie CB starters in Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant to a unit that (along with Sidney Jones IV) allowed a 62% completion percentage last season. This offense will be too much for Seattle to handle, and Geno Smith will be trying to play catchup all night long. Lay the points with Denver! -- Marks
Speaking of Wilson, his player props are 255.5 passing yards, 1.5 TDs (-157), 22.5 completions, 33.5 attempts and 12.5 rushing yards. Do you like any of those to play Monday night?
I obviously like Wilson to go over 1.5 touchdowns, given my answer to the first question. However, I also like for Wilson to surpass 255.5 passing yards. Since 2016, he has averaged 245.6 passing yards per game. In light of Wilson's rocky relationship with the Seahawks coaching staff and front office, anything less than 300 yards would be considered disappointing. This is his chance to make a statement on a national stage. -- Moody
Last season, the Seahawks ranked either last or 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed (280.4 per game), passing attempts allowed (38.7 per game), and passing completions allowed (26.1 per game). Yet they tied for the seventh-fewest passing touchdowns allowed per game at 1.4. On the flip side, the Seahawks defense ranked 20th in rushing yards allowed per game and tied for 23rd with 0.8 rushing scores allowed per game. I therefore like Wilson to go over in attempts, completions and passing yards. I'm not as confident in passing touchdowns, however, as the Seahawks were stingier against passing scores but weaker against rushing scores. -- Snellings
With the addition of Wilson, the Broncos are 16-1 to win the Super Bowl (eighth-shortest odds) while just behind the Chiefs and Chargers at +260 to win the AFC West. What do you make of the Broncos' chance of contending this season?
I think the Broncos are a good team, just as all the AFC West teams are good teams, but last year's Denver's defense is a bit of a statistical mirage. I've talked about this a lot in the preseason -- for example on the Mina Kimes and Lenny podcast. (ESPN shoutout!) Short version: The Broncos ranked third in points allowed, but 20th in yards per drive and DVOA. They allowed very few points because their offense played at a very slow pace and they were strong both punting and kicking off. This meant that opponents had the ball for fewer drives and had to go longer to score when they did get the ball. With a new head coach and a new, better quarterback, I can't imagine the Broncos will continue to play at a similar pace. They will score more, but their defense will also be on the field more and give up more points. While Broncos fans think they are adding Wilson to a top-five defense, they are really adding Wilson to an average defense. That defense could be better this year -- certainly there's a good amount of talent and Randy Gregory is a nice add, but overall I think the Broncos are a bit overrated because their defense is overrated. -- Schatz
The Broncos are definitely contenders. We have seen numerous examples of veteran quarterbacks surpassing 10 wins in their first season with a new team in the past decade, including most recently Matthew Stafford (2021) and Tom Brady (2020). With their new teams, Stafford and Brady won Super Bowls. Wilson could follow a similar path. This Broncos team is built to contend for a championship. That said, they will have to compete with the Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers in the AFC West, which will be difficult and could ultimately take the wind out of their sails. -- Moody
The Broncos have a talented team but there are too many "leap of faith" predictions needed to put them in that status. Russ has to gel with a new offensive system and new receivers, Jerry Jeudy has to step up to become the receiver I thought he would be when he was drafted, first time head coach Nathaniel Hackett and his incredibly young staff have to seamlessly transition into an elite staff, and the rest of the AFC West has to have things go wrong for the Broncos to win this division, not to mention a Super Bowl. I'm out on this one, even though the talent is obviously there. -- Fitz
The Broncos have the talent to contend, but I think there are too many hurdles for them to have the eighth-shortest odds to win the Super Bowl. In addition to the need for everything to mesh (and to do so quickly), the Broncos find themselves in arguably the toughest division -- and unquestionably the tougher conference. Even if everything meshes perfectly for them, they'd still be hard-pressed to make the playoffs, let alone win the championship. There are several teams with longer odds that I think have a better chance to win the Super Bowl this season, so I'm out on the Broncos at these odds. As for the division, I could see the argument that all four teams have a similar chance to win, so the Broncos having the third-longest odds could provide some value. Still, I see them as having just under a one-in-four chance to win the division, and their odds are right in that range, so I don't see value. If anything, their division-winning odds might be accurate. -- Snellings
Does anything else grab your attention from a betting perspective on our first MNF game of the season?
I know some fairly sharp guys who played over 43. It's undoubtedly a low total in this current era but I still would not want to bank on points from Seattle. But I can also see Geno Smith suffering some bad turnovers and creating easy points for Denver. (Or perhaps they agree with Aaron and believe Denver's defense is average.) Either way, I would not touch the total or the side. Wilson is as robotic as they come, but I imagine even a guy who has played in Super Bowls might be a bit off or out of his element. I expect Seattle to muck this game up, and I would grab the points if Drew Lock were starting. Remember, this is Hackett's first game and you want to lay a touchdown on the road? As bad as Smith and Seattle might seem, Pittsburgh needed OT to beat them last year and the Saints won by only a field goal. -- Kezirian
Courtland Sutton over 55.5 receiving yards. As Wilson's go-to receiver in pressure situations, he has developed some great chemistry with him this offseason. In his career, Sutton has averaged 53.2 receiving yards per game with suboptimal quarterback play. With Wilson, he could do wonders. Against a Seahawks defense that ranked 31st in pass defense last season, Sutton could easily surpass that number. -- Moody
I played Denver at (-6.5) because I think the market moves to (-7) by kickoff and, frankly speaking, I want a slice of action on this game without getting the worst possible number. This game will be decided by a Broncos defense that ranked second in scoring and 10th in opponent yards per play last season, despite missing pass rusher Bradley Chubb for 10 contests. I don't see Geno Smith & Co. sustaining enough consistent drives to keep this game within a touchdown. -- Fortenbaugh
The Broncos' front seven, coupled with a superstar like Pat Surtain II, will make points particularly hard to come by for Geno Smith. As much as I like Seattle's wide receivers, I don't trust Smith at all in this situation. Give me the under-18.5 total points for the Seahawks, which is part of why I like the (-6.5) line for Denver as well. -- Fitz
Reports are that Sutton has become Wilson's favorite target and the Broncos will face a very young and inexperienced secondary. Last season, Sutton had a 12% red zone share (compared to Jeudy's 5%). I'll take Sutton over 4.5 receptions (-110) and anytime TD (+135). I also like Javonte Williams over 57.5 rushing yards (-120). Williams led the NFL in broken tackles last season with 31. He's incredibly solid and should receive the lion's share of the backfield carries for the Broncos (say, a 65-35 split). Seattle's defense will definitely miss Bobby Wagner (now with the Los Angeles Rams), Carlos Dunlap (now with the Kansas City Chiefs) and Rasheem Green (now with the Houston Texans). One last pick: Melvin Gordon III for an anytime touchdown (+160). For his career, Gordon has averaged nine TDs per season. Might we call him a "touchdown vulture" in 2022? We will soon find out. -- Marks
I think even looking at other prop lines, there are clues that Sutton under 4.5 receptions (-123) is a little high. Wilson's passing-attempts line is 33.5. Last season, Sutton recorded a 19% target share and caught 58.6% of his targets. If you assume Wilson's prop is accurate and Sutton's numbers from last year hold steady, that would equate to just 3.8 receptions. Of course, Wilson's accuracy is exceptional and will complete passes at a higher rate. But even if we bump up Sutton's catch rate to 65%, that still gets us to only 4.2 receptions. It's possible Sutton takes on a higher target share this year, but I'm not sure we can bank on that. -- Walder