Week 3 Edition
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*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
**Note – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider
***Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records Entering Week 3
Straight Up: 24-7 (.774) Last Week: 14-2 (.875) Total: 188-108-2 (.634)
Spread: 20-10-1 (.661) Last Week: 12-4 (.750) Total: 169-119-10 (.584)
Over/Under: 22-7-2 (.742) Last Week: 11-4-1 (.719) Total: 164-132-2 (.554)
Locks: 4-1 (.800) Last Week: 3-0 (1.000) Total: 36-7 (.837)
Best Bets: 12-2 (.857) Last Week: 7-1 (.875) Total: 141-102-1 (.582)
*Note: Total records date back to 2016 season.
*Prediction for TNF: Los Angeles 24, San Francisco 20 (One Best Bet was placed: LA vs SF OVER 39)
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)
Spread: BAL -3.5 Over/Under: 39.5
DVOA: BAL (2) vs JAC (25)
Public Betting: BAL 66%
The Ravens’ defense, which has ten takeaways through two weeks, must be licking its chops ahead of its matchup with Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium. Main reason why: since 2014, no other quarterback has turned the ball over more than Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. Thus, it’s reasonable to expect Jacksonville to use a run-heavy game plan featuring impressive rookie Leonard Fournette (6th in the NFL in rushing). The problem with that plan, however, is that Baltimore’s defense is a top-five unit against the run, as well. In short, don’t expect the Jaguars to light up the scoreboard.
Fortunately for Jacksonville, however, it has a stingy defense of its own that currently ranks 6th in opponent yards per play. And it’s not like Baltimore’s offense is anything special–they rank just 24th in yards per play through two weeks. With Baltimore banged up at multiple positions as well, the Jaguars should keep this game close. Nonetheless, the Ravens have a decided edge thanks to their outstanding D. They’ll make life miserable for Bortles and move to 3-0.
Baltimore 16, Jacksonville 13
Cleveland Browns (0-2) vs Indianapolis Colts (0-2)
Spread: CLE -1 Over/Under: 42
DVOA: CLE (32) < IND (29)
Public Betting: IND 59%
Can someone explain to me how the Browns are favored, on the road no less? As you can see, Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric suggests that Indianapolis is a tad better than Cleveland; and since the common betting odds adjustment for home field is three points, you would think that the Colts, as bad as they are without Andrew Luck, would be favored by roughly three-four points.
I also liked some of what I saw from quarterback Jacoby Brissett in his starting debut for Indianapolis last week. He should take advantage of a mediocre Cleveland defense that that will be without arguably its two best players, linebacker Jamie Collins (concussion) and number one overall pick Myles Garrett (ankle).
Indianapolis 19, Cleveland 14
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) vs Chicago Bears (0-2)
Spread: PIT -7 Over/Under: 44
DVOA: PIT (1) > CHI (26)
Public Betting: PIT 76%
This matchup is a relatively simple one to breakdown. The Bears’ pass defense is atrocious: through two weeks, it has allowed a 102.2 opponent passer rating (26th in the NFL) and 8.2 yards per attempt (27th). Sure, Chicago played two good quarterbacks in those matchups, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston. But guess who is coming to Soldier Field on Sunday? Big Ben. The Steelers, led by their offense, will cruise.
Pittsburgh 34, Chicago 18
Miami Dolphins (1-0) vs New York Jets (0-2)
Spread: MIA -6 Over/Under: 43
DVOA: MIA (24) > NYJ (31)
Public Betting: MIA 71%
Miami’s certainly the better team, but here are a few reasons–and I can’t believe I’m actually doing this–why I’m picking the Jets to win. Let’s look first at what this Dolphins team has to offer offensively. Their best players are running back Jay Ajayi and wide receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. All three, however, are dealing with injuries that significantly limited them in practice leading up to this game (in Ajayi’s case, he hardly practiced the whole week). Though they are all projected to play, I hardly expect they’ll be anywhere close to 100 percent healthy. Also, we can’t forget about Jay Cutler. He looked solid in his Dolphins debut, completing 72.7% of his passes without a turnover. But can we really expect Cutler to go two weeks without turning the ball over? It’s highly unlikely.
Moreover, Miami was lucky to hold San Diego–ahh, I mean, Los Angeles–to only 17 points last week, seeing as it allowed a horrific 6.8 yards per play. Jets quarterback Josh McCown hasn’t looked that bad through two weeks, so I think New York’s offense can have some success against this average unit that will be without a key player in linebacker Lawrence Timmons (suspension). Call me crazy, but…OK, fine, you can just call me crazy.
New York 24, Miami 17
Denver Broncos (2-0) vs Buffalo Bills (1-1)
Spread: DEN -3 Over/Under: 39
DVOA: DEN (18) > BUF (20)
Public Betting: DEN 81%
After their resounding 42-17 win over the Cowboys, is this a trap game for the undefeated Broncos? I think it could be. The majority of bettors have hopped all over Denver due to recency bias despite the fact that sharp money seems to be on the Bills with the spread. Moreover, the Broncos are traveling to the Eastern Time Zone to play a 1:00 game that will feel like an 11:00 kickoff, a task that has usually proved difficult for other western teams.
Nonetheless, this is still a tough matchup for the Bills. Denver’s defense should stifle Buffalo’s anemic passing attack, which ranks 29th in yards per game. And if the Broncos’ run-defense can contain LeSean McCoy like it contained Ezekiel Elliott last week, Denver may end up covering the spread.
Denver 17, Buffalo 16
Houston Texans (1-1) vs New England Patriots (1-1)
Spread: NE -14 Over/Under: 44
DVOA: HOU (28) < NE (3)
Public Betting: NE 76%
The Texans were able to frustrate Tom Brady in their playoff meeting with the Patriots last season, holding him to just a 47% completion percentage while generating eighteen pressures. The good news for New England in this matchup, however, is that its receiving corps don’t project to look as depleted this week, as Rob Gronkowski (groin) and Danny Amendola (concussion) have stated they will suit up.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Dont’a Hightower is also expected to return to a Patriots defense in desperate need of its most valuable player, as defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s unit ranks dead last in defense through two games, according to Football Outsiders. Yet after facing two quality offenses to start the season, at least the Texans’ attack doesn’t possess anywhere near the same firepower as Kansas City or New Orleans. Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is averaging just 4.8 yards per attempt–that’s the second-worst mark of all qualified starters. Count on Belichick to tell the defense to keep Watson in the pocket, allowing for New England to overcome a strong Houston defense and move to 2-1.
New England 24, Houston 16
New Orleans Saints (0-2) vs Carolina Panthers (2-0)
Spread: CAR -5.5 Over/Under: 46.5
DVOA: NO (27) < CAR (9)
Public Betting: NO 65%
Trend of the week: in recent years, teams that are 0-2 against the spread through the season’s first two weeks, like the Saints, have been extremely profitable in Week Three games. Combine that with my love for divisional underdogs, who covered the spread at a roughly 56% rate last season, and I love New Orleans to upset Carolina. Let’s not forget that the Saints have the far superior offense in this matchup: they’re ranked 6th in yards per play this season, while the Panthers rank 30th. Even against New Orleans’ sorry defense, I don’t have confidence in a Panthers offense that is without Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil (neck injury) and has a banged-up Cam Newton (he’s dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries) under center.
New Orleans 28, Carolina 23
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) vs Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Spread: TB -2.5 Over/Under: 39
DVOA: TB (17) > MIN (19)
Public Betting: TB 72%
The public is going to be wrong about this game. Minnesota will be without Sam Bradford (knee) once again, but backup quarterback Case Keenum is competent. He deserves a pass for his weak performance against Pittsburgh last Sunday, as he was thrusted into the starting role on very short notice. I also like Minnesota’s running game, which ranks 7th in the NFL in yards per rush attempt this season and is led by electrifying rookie Dalvin Cook.
The Vikings should have success against a hobbled Tampa Bay defense that will be without a number of players, including starters Kwon Alexander and Chris Baker. There are also questions surrounding the health of star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (questionable due to an ankle injury) and cornerback Brent Grimes (also questionable). If Minnesota’s defense can keep Tampa’s offense in check–which I think it can–the Vikings will pull off a quasi-upset with relative ease.
Minnesota 26, Tampa Bay 21
Atlanta Falcons (2-0) vs Detroit Lions (2-0)
Spread: ATL -3 Over/Under: 50.5
DVOA: ATL (11) < DET (8)
Public Betting: ATL 69%
I’m not entirely sold on Detroit. The Lions’ 24-10 victory over the Giants wouldn’t have looked as impressive if not for a ridiculous punt-return from Detroit rookie Jamal Agnew and plenty of careless drops from New York’s receivers. They also benefitted from four turnovers in their comeback win over Arizona in Week One. Picking off multiple Matt Ryan passes, however, won’t be easy, especially considering how dominant Atlanta’s offense (6.5 yards per play, third in NFL) has looked to start the season. Facing a Detroit defense that’s rather pedestrian, the Falcons will remain undefeated.
Atlanta 30, Detroit 23
New York Giants (0-2) vs Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
Spread: PHI -6 Over/Under: 46.5
DVOA: NYG (21) < PHI (14)
Public Betting: PHI 61%
Everyone has been ripping the Giants for their sluggish 0-2 start. But here’s my question: what happened to that defense everybody was so high on before the season? Oh, wait, that defense is doing just fine! The Giants’ defense held each of its two opponents, Dallas and Detroit, to under 20 points (excluding a Lions’ special teams TD). The same unit that finished 2nd in defensive DVOA last season should frustrate Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia offense.
However, the deciding factor in this game will be the Eagles’ front-seven, which is ranked 4th in sack percentage, feasting on New York’s leaky offensive line, which has Eli Manning on pace to be sacked 64 times this season. I’m taking Philly to win, but the Giants to cover.
Philadelphia 18, New York 17
Seattle Seahawks (1-1) vs Tennessee Titans (1-1)
Spread: TEN -2.5 Over/Under: 41
DVOA: SEA (5) > TEN (13)
Public Betting: SEA 61%
Have Seattle’s woeful offensive showings (10.5 points per game through two weeks) been a fluke or a sign of something more worrisome? I’m leaning toward the latter, but that doesn’t mean I think Seattle’s offense will continue to be this bad. Regression to the mean, anyone? Tennessee’s defense isn’t great, so I think Russell Wilson and company will have some success.
However, let’s not sleep on the Seahawks’ recent struggles away from home. Since 2014, they are just 12-13-1 on the road; and dating back to only last season, they have been even worse (3-6-1). Tennessee may struggle against Seattle’s formidable defense, but I think it will make enough plays to grind out a tight win.
Tennessee 23, Seattle 21
Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) vs Los Angeles Chargers (0-2)
Spread: KC -3 Over/Under: 47.5
DVOA: KC (6) > LAC (16)
Public Betting: KC 72%
Kansas City’s stock is practically at an all-time high right now. This isn’t an overvaluation, either: the Chiefs, first in yards per play, are legit. However, I’m not abandoning faith in my Chargers, who I predicted would make the playoffs this season! Sooner or later, Los Angeles’ horrible luck in close games (4-16 in their last 20 one-score contests) will even out. Come on you Chargers, don’t keep making me look bad!
Los Angeles 24, Kansas City 23
Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) vs Green Bay Packers (1-1)
Spread: GB -8.5 Over/Under: 46.5
DVOA: CIN (22) < GB (7)
Public Betting: GB 69%
Remember this week’s key trend: teams that are 0-2 against the spread are usually successful in Week Three. The Bengals’ offense has been putrid through two weeks; but in fairness to them, they played two of the best defenses in the NFL, Baltimore and Houston. Green Bay’s defense, which will likely be without stud defensive tackle Mike Daniels, isn’t nearly as good as either of those two units. And speaking of injuries, it’s also worth mentioning that both Jordy Nelson (questionable) and Randall Cobb (doubtful) may be inactive.
As evidenced by the sharp action on this game, which has caused the spread to drop from -10 to -8.5 despite heavy public action on Green Bay, the Bengals have a chance at Lambeau. But you don’t think I’m actually going to pick Andy Dalton’s team to upset Aaron Rodgers and company, do you?
Green Bay 30, Cincinnati 24
Oakland Raiders (2-0) vs Washington Redskins (1-1)
Spread: OAK -3 Over/Under: 55
DVOA: OAK (4) > WSH (15)
Public Betting: OAK 75%
Probably the toughest game of the weekend to call. I’m confident that Washington’s offense will exploit Oakland’s weak defense. But can the Redskins’ defense keep Derek Carr in check? Carr’s off to a sensational start, as he’s third in the NFL with a 126.5 quarterback rating. There are many more questions than answers in this matchup, so I guess we’ll see how it plays out. When in doubt, however, I think it’s always smart to side with the home underdog, particularly in a primetime tilt.
Washington 27, Oakland 23
And lastly, here are my best bets for Week 3…
- Baltimore vs Jacksonville UNDER 39.5
- TEASER: Baltimore vs Jacksonville UNDER 46 & Denver vs Buffalo UNDER 45.5
- PITTSBURGH (-350) over Chicago
- Pittsburgh vs Chicago OVER 44
- HOUSTON (+14) over New England
- TEASER: NEW ORLEANS (+12) over Carolina & New Orleans vs Carolina OVER 40
- TEASER: MINNESOTA (+9) over Tampa Bay & Minnesota vs Tampa Bay OVER 32.5
- NEW YORK (+6) over Philadelphia
- New York vs Philadelphia UNDER 46.5
- CINCINNATI (+8.5) over Green Bay