Monday Night Football Betting: Can Ian Book End the Dolphins' Win Streak in His NFL Debut?

Ian Book is drawing the start for the Saints. Will he be able to end the Dolphins' win streak?

The Monday nightcap to the Week 16 slate may not be a high-scoring affair, but it can still be a close, fun game between two teams with playoff aspirations.

The total -- 37.0, per FanDuel Sportsbook -- is the lowest total of the season. However, the spread is just 3.0 points (in favor of the Miami Dolphins on the road).

The New Orleans Saints will be starting fourth-round rookie quarterback Ian Book after attempts to lure Drew Brees and Philip Rivers from retirement proved unsuccessful.

Which team has the edge, and which side should we be betting?

Game Overview

The Dolphins are on a hot streak. They are 6-0 in their past six games, a stretch during which they played a pretty soft schedule.

That ends now -- even with Book at quarterback.

The Saints rank 12th in the NFL in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), our opponent-adjusted expected points model at numberFire.

Against teams that rank in the top half against the pass and in games in which Tua Tagovailoa started and finished, he has averaged just 212.3 yards and 0.7 touchdowns.

However, his personal Passing NEP per drop back (0.12) is better than the overall NFL average (0.09) in this sample. In fact, his 0.12 against top-half pass defenses is 0.13 points per play better than expectation. So, the opponent-adjusted efficiency is there even if the raw volume output is not.

What about for Book?

There are reasons for optimism -- within the context of a spot starter in the NFL.

Book finished ninth in college football in ESPN's Total QBR, trailing mostly big names in a star-studded class.

In the preseason, he completed 9 of 16 attempts for 126 yards (7.9 per attempt) with an interception and no touchdowns. He tallied 0.00 EPA per drop back, per NextGenStats, but did stand out when not pressured. On plays without pressure, he was 8 of 11 for 123 yards (11.2 yards per attempt).

The Dolphins' defense is 16th overall by numberFire's adjusted metrics and 20th against the pass. He can keep this offense afloat if he plays at that type of level.

Trends and Takeaways

Since 2012, home teams that are 1.0-to-5.0-point underdogs in games with totals under 40.0 points are 31-25 outright (56.4%) with an average point differential of 1.8 points.

In those games, the total has stayed under by an average of 3.5 points, as well, and the under has been 31-24-1 (56.4%).

Our model favors the Saints despite the quarterback and overall injury news.

It values the Saints +3.0 as a three-star recommendation, meaning the model suggests a three-unit wager on the Saints plus the points. Their moneyline (+138) is also a four-star suggestion.

Across the 25 most comparable games to this one in numberFire's database, teams representing the Saints were 17-8 (68.0%) and covered in 17 as well (with 3 pushes). The over is also 17-8, bucking the trend of comparable games long-term.

My model sees the expected spread as 3.1 points in favor of the Dolphins and as 60.3% likely to win. numberFire's model views the Saints' win odds at 60.1%. Given the overall tightness here, leaning toward the Saints seems like the right play.

Take the points primarily, but back the Saints outright if looking for a bigger return.