Nobody should have been rooting for more Monday afternoon and Tuesday NFL football after last season. But here we are.
COVID-19 has again caused massive disruptions across sports, and last Friday the NFL finally decided to push back three games due to outbreaks. The first of those rescheduled games is the Las Vegas Raiders at the Cleveland Browns, which was initially going to be played on Saturday.
Let's discuss that game before the regularly scheduled Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears contest, because there's a lot to unpack with Raiders-Browns. The line has moved all over the place with the news of the past week, and was Browns -3 at BetMGM on Monday morning.
The line opened at Browns -6.5 last week, then the COVID-19 news started coming for Cleveland. They lost offensive linemen and receiver Jarvis Landry. The line moved to Browns -3. Baker Mayfield hit the COVID-19 list and the Raiders took over as favorites. Then backup quarterback Case Keenum and others were put on the COVID-19 reserve list and the line moved toward Las Vegas again before the game was rescheduled.
It's not like the Browns will be getting everyone back. Monday will be an interesting day in the news cycle. Here was their list as of Sunday afternoon, via Hayden Grove of Cleveland.com.
Cleveland COVID List:
— Hayden Grove (@H_Grove) December 19, 2021
This isn't a revelation, but all of the COVID-19 uncertainty makes this game hard to bet on. Taking the points with the Raiders, not knowing who the Browns will have available or how mentally into the game they'll be after the ordeal of the past week, sounds like the only way to go. The Raiders are also upset that they were robbed of a competitive advantage they had nothing to do with thanks to the game being rescheduled (honestly, the complaints are probably a window into why the Raiders never make the playoffs), and perhaps they have a little extra edge on Monday.
It'll be some bonus football, but it might not be pretty.
Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Monday:
How about the regular MNF game?
Unfortunately, the normal Monday night game isn't a great matchup. That's what the NFL gets for scheduling the Bears for prime time in Weeks 14 and 15. It's not like they were unaware the Bears might be bad.
The Vikings are 6.5-point favorites at BetMGM, and that line has gone up with the news of COVID-19 affecting the Bears' coaching staff. All three of the team's coordinators were put in the protocol. The line has moved three points from the opener of Vikings -3.5.
The original line seemed low. The Bears aren't a good team. Sometimes bad teams get a bump from being on prime time, but it's not like any burst Chicago had from being on prime time last week helped. They lost by 15 at Green Bay. The Vikings have had a weird season, but they're still in the NFC wild-card race. They're the better team and while it would have been better to grab them last week when the line was closer to a field goal, betting them at -6.5 still seems right.
Wait, midweek bowl games?
We're at that time of year in which you'll find some random college football on during the day. On Monday, Old Dominion and Tulsa have a 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. Tulsa is a 9-point favorite at BetMGM. Both teams are 6-6 so it's not a great matchup, but maybe we'll get an entertaining game. Both teams rallied after bad starts. Old Dominion won five in a row to end the regular season and Tulsa is on a three-game winning streak. It'll be a nice opener for Browns-Raiders.
What else is on the schedule?
There are six NBA games on the schedule with one (Orlando at Toronto) postponed. The NHL had five games on the schedule but three were postponed. The best game of the college basketball schedule, St. John's at Seton Hall, was canceled.
COVID-19 is affecting games in all leagues. If you're betting, it might be best to wait as long as you can. Lineups could change with little notice.
The best non-football game still on the schedule is probably the Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics. The Celtics won 88-87 on Dec. 1, but Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is questionable for Monday's game. If it's played.
What's the best bet?
It seems like we're in a new, or at least throwback to 2020, era in which everything could change before any game starts. No pick on Monday morning seems too safe. We'll go with the Vikings, who are the better team, and hope they don't blow a winnable game against a bad Bears team.