NFL odds, betting: Why this particular under makes sense in Saints-Bucs 'MNF' matchup

Most 4-8 teams aren't fortunate enough to be within striking distance of a playoff spot, but that's precisely where the New Orleans Saints find themselves Monday night against Tampa Bay. While fans have suffered far too much this season to complain about a meaningful prime-time game, the new divisional rivalry between Brady and New Orleans doesn't pack the same punch as years past.

The division-leading Buccaneers (5-6) have been a massive disappointment and a big reason is that Tom Brady's offense has yet to find any consistency. Entering Week 13, Tampa Bay ranked 27th in scoring offense, averaging only 18.2 points per game — one point less than the Carolina Panthers (19.2). Carolina's quarterback carousel of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and P.J. Walker outscoring Brady has to be one of the biggest surprises of the 2022 season.

The Buccaneers have been a horrible bet with a league-worst 3-7-1 record against the spread and have yet to cover as a favorite of more than three points this season (0-4 ATS). All signs point to the Saints as the right side catching 3.5 points, but I can't get comfortable backing a team with a -14 turnover differential. So rather than betting on either of these teams changing their behavior, I decided to target the total as my best bet for "Monday Night Football."

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 18: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks for an open receiver during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints regular season game on September 18, 2022 at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has historically struggled against the Saints. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

First-half under 20 (-115)

Neither offense has moved the needle this season, and I don't see either getting any better against each other. Todd Bowles' defense does an excellent job of getting after the quarterback while eliminating the running back as a receiving option. The Bucs' ability to limit Alvin Kamara's effectiveness as a receiver will make life difficult for Andy Dalton. In the last two games in which Kamara has faced the Bucs, they held him to 13 and 15 receiving yards. The full game under has value, but here is why isolating the first half gives us an additional edge.

Both offenses are notoriously slow starters this season, especially Tampa Bay. Brady's offense ranks 28th in first-half scoring, with only 8.5 of their 18.2 points per game coming in the first half. New Orleans isn't lighting it up either, averaging only nine points and ranking 29th in EPA per play before halftime, so the advanced metrics aren't much kinder. You can trace the Saints' game struggles back to early downs, where the offense dips to 31st in EPA per play. They are going to have to do a much better job keeping Dalton ahead of the sticks, considering how strong Tampa is on third downs. As a result, I expect it will be tough sledding early for the Saints against a defense that surrenders the third-fewest points in the first half.

When these two teams faced each other in September, the Saints shut out Tampa Bay in the first two quarters and went into halftime with a 3-0 lead. New Orleans also blanked Brady for an entire game for a 9-0 win in 2021. So there is plenty of familiarity between these two divisional rivals, and the defenses reap the benefits.

Lastly, let's look at the pace of play and how that favors our first-half under bet. Tampa Bay gets to the line of scrimmage and runs plays faster than any team in the league. Tampa's pace drops from first to sixth in the first half, so it's a positive that we are isolating the half where the Bucs are likely to run down more clock. Much of that has to do with them not having early offensive success and looking to find a rhythm. If you are trailing in a game, you will have more urgency naturally.The Saints aren't nearly as likely to run tempo, especially in close games. When the margin is within six points, the Saints operate their offense at the eighth-slowest pace in the league. The under is a likely scenario for the first half, considering both teams should struggle to put points on the board.

Betting unders might not be the most exciting way to spend your Monday night, but we have to grab our edges where we find them. The good news is that we will only have to sweat it for the first two quarters before enjoying the rest of the game with a winner in our pocket.

Stats provided by teamrankings, rbsdm (based on 90-10 WP), Football Outsiders.