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Behind the Numbers: Monday Night Football


Ever since 1970, Monday Night Football has been the quintessential NFL programming staple. With 730 games on its long history, a move from NBC to ESPN, and a multi-billion dollar contract that has it tied to cable until at least 2021, football fans can still turn to the primetime event every Monday to close out the football week, hopefully with an exclamation point.

After ESPN took over, each season now includes 17 MNF games in the schedule, with two on opening week and one each up until Week 16. They all start at 8pm ET, and feature the weird broadcasting tandem of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden.

Unlike what we saw that happens in Sunday Night Baseball, another prized ESPN franchise, the NFL has made it a priority to spread the MNF exposure evenly amongst its teams. Even as it understandable that some rivalry games have been more present, virtually all of the league has gotten its shot at appearing on Monday games.

Much like we covered with Sunday Night Baseball, today we take a look at the past five years of Monday Night Football games to check out some of the most interesting trends, stats, and memorable moments we have seen.

Appearances and Home Dates

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Many of the numbers are to be expected, as many of the successful teams of the modern NFL have gotten many chances to be showcased on Mondays. The Saints, Giants, Falcons, and Patriots share some of the highest totals with big-market squads such as the Bears, Jets, Redskins, and even the Dolphins. Other teams you would expect to see a lot are closer to the middle, such as Dallas, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh, but they’ve made up a lot for it with many Sunday Night appearances.

At the bottom, small-market teams that haven’t fared well lately occupy the final spots. I guess that seeing the Jaguars or Buccaneers isn’t particularly exciting when planning for an evening of football.

The 85 total games during this span have been well distributed, though it still seems kind of weird to see the Jets and Redskins as the top 2 squads. Here, things do get a bit more top-heavy with the NFL’s glamour franchises, even with low totals from the Seahawks, Colts, and Steelers.

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If you can glimpse through both tables, you can notice that they include only 30 out of the 32 NFL teams. Well, the schedule-makers and ESPN have completely left out two franchises: the Browns and Bills. Cleveland last appeared on MNF on November 16, 2009 when they hosted the Ravens (of course, they lost 16-0).

On the other hand, the Bills also appeared last in 2009, losing 25-24 on Opening Week to the Patriots, and their last game MNF game as a host came on November 17, 2008 losing to none other than the Browns 29-27. However, at least the Bills know that they are scheduled to play on Monday, November 23 against the Patriots in Foxborough. The Browns must wait another year before they can rejoin the MNF brethren.

Betting Trends

Home Teams SU: 46-39 (.541)
Home Teams ATS: 44-41 (.518)
Favorites ATS: 46-39 (.541)
Over/Under: 44-40-1 (.524)

Well, MNF games have given us no clear trends to take advantage of systematically. In fact, 2010 was an outlier for road teams and underdogs, and then 2011 balanced it out with a big year for favorites and home teams. After that, it has sided with parity and all near the .500 mark.

This tendency towards the middle has also appeared in terms of points per game, as the variety of teams featured on MNF has helped to produce all types of games. Here is a chart of MNF points per game compared to that season’s league average.

Year

League PPG

MNF PPG

2010

44

47.6

2011

44.4

44

2012

45.6

40.4

2013

46.8

45.4

2014

45.2

52.1

Again, we have one big outlier in 2014, when the over hit on 12 of the 17 games played. Let’s see if it is a trend that will carry towards 2015.

Feats and Milestones

  • The third highest-scoring game in MNF history occurred during this span, with the 87 combined points on November 15, 2010 put up by the Eagles and Redskins. In fact, the Eagles’ 59 on that night have been the highest ever scored by a single team on a Monday game.
  • The lowest-scoring game during this span only totaled 19 points, as the Jaguars beat the Ravens 12-7 on Week 7 of the 2011 season.
  • No team was blanked on MNF during this span, with 4 teams tied for the lowest output by scoring only a field goal.
  • All teams playing on MNF during 2014 scored at least 10 points.
  • Only 4 MNF games during this span went into overtime.
  • The highest point spread during this time came on Week 3 of the 2013 season, as the Broncos closed as 16.5-point favorites over the Raiders (and they won by 16).
  • The lowest spread came via a couple of pick’ems, both featuring the Chargers.
  • All double-digit home underdogs covered, while all double-digit favorites as a whole went a combined 2-9 against the spread.
  • The most lopsided win took place when the Patriots beat the Jets 45-3 on December 6, 2010. It remains the second-biggest margin of victory on a Monday game in history.
  • 17 games (20%) were decided by 3 points or fewer.

 



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