Week 3 NFL Picks

photo by Rusty Odom

As the NFL moves into Week 3, the outline is starting to get shaded in a bit. There were some significant course corrections in Week 2. The Patriots dismantled the Saints, the Rams and Jags looked a lot less like world beaters and Seattle looked like the class of the NFC. Wait, no, one of those isn’t right. The Seahawks, widely picked as the NFC champs this season, barely eked out a win against San Francisco for almost exactly the reasons I laid out here last week. Even with the victory, there is still a lot of work to be done in Seattle, though they should still win the NFC West, as bad as the Cardinals looked in a win over Indianapolis. Seven of the eight 2-0 teams reside in 3 divisions, and both Miami and Tampa opened their seasons with wins after their Week 1 matchup being postponed due to Hurricane Irma.

As promised, I’m going to devote the rest of my intro this week to explaining how to choose football games. Last week, I talked about money line picks and against the spread picks. A money line bet is simply placed on the team you pick to win the game. You’ll find higher variations of odds on money line picks than you will on against the spread bets, as the spread is designed to make the teams even for betting purposes.

Let’s look at a couple examples from last week’s picks. In the first example, Houston at Cincinnati, the line was CIN -5. What this means is that Cincy were five point favorites. To pick the Bengals against the spread, you were betting that they would win by more than five points. Many times, you’ll see a line at X.5, which prevents a push. If Cincy had won by exactly 5 points, all bets on the line would be pushed, and the money would be returned to the bettor. My pick was for Houston to win the game outright. Since they were 5 point underdogs, a money line, or straight up, bet on Houston returned very good odds. The app I use to bet, which can be used for real money or play money, had Houston ATS at +315 or 3.15/1. A $100 bet on Houston paid me $315, a nice return. When you are picking an underdog to win a game outright, the money line bet will always give you better odds than betting the spread.

Now, let’s look at the aforementioned San Francisco at Seattle game. The line was Seattle -13.5. While I picked the Seahawks to win the game straight up, I picked the 49ers to win Against the Spread, saying that they would lose the game by less than 13.5 points. Since they only lost by 3, this was another winning bet ATS. The line is always given for the home team, so a bet on the 49ers would have been SF +13.5. The final score was SEA 12 – SF 9. With the spread, this becomes SEA 12 – SF 22.5. With the extra points, the 49ers win.

I write this explanation because, even as an avid sports fan, it took me a long time to understand how the lines worked. Hopefully, if you have questions about sports betting, this helps you a little. Without further adieu, BLANK’s Week 3 Picks.

 

Los Angeles Rams (1-1) at San Francisco 49ers (0-2)

Line: SF +2.5

The Rams came back to earth in week 2. QB Jared Goff played poorly, and the still Aaron Donald-less defense looked mortal after dismantling Scott Tolzien and the Colts in their first game. The offense has seen good production from running back Todd Gurley so far, a very welcome sign after his sophomore slump last season. Once (if?) Donald returns, the defense should be consistently above average, but the offense has to keep up for them to have a chance. The 49ers battled their rival Seahawks tooth and nail last Sunday, but still lost by three points. They have a rookie head coach, a journeyman quarterback, and no stars anywhere on their roster. That’s a steep hill to climb, but I expect them to get better as the season progresses. Rams 23 – 49ers 16

 

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) in London, UK

Line: JAX +4

Baltimore’s defense is, as always, their biggest strength. Unlike the past few years since Ray Lewis retired, though, they look like they are among the league’s best. Running back by committee is working alright for them so far, and QB Joe Flacco has not been asked to do anything crazy so far. If that formula remains successful, the Ravens are a shoe-in for the playoffs. The Jags have many of those same components – good defense, solid running game behind rookie Leonard Fournette, and a questionable quarterback in Blake Bortles. They’re much younger than the Ravens in all of those aspects though, so they certainly could be a team on the rise. As much as I like the Jags D and Fournette, it’s hard to bet on Bortles. Ravens 30 – Jags 20

 

Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (0-2)

Line: IND +1.5

What do you know? The Cleveland Browns are favored in a football game! And, as bad as Indy has been, it’s probably well-deserved. Chuck Pagano, the Colts head coach looks like he’s got the hottest seat in the NFL. In fact, I’m surprised he hasn’t been fired already. They really should have beaten the Cardinals this week, and if they lose to the Browns, it ought to be the last straw. I’ve said that about Pagano before and he still has his job, though. Cleveland has looked competitive in two games against good teams. If Myles Garrett returns for this one as he’s been expected to, it will be fun to watch him against the flimsy Indy offensive line. Browns 19 – Colts 17

 

New York Giants (0-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)

Line: PHI -6

No team has been more disappointing so far than the Giants. After making the playoffs last year, most expected they were on their way up. Instead, they have come crashing back to ground. A healthy Odell Beckham, Jr. will make a difference, but the Giants running game has done nothing and Qb Eli Manning looks old. At 36, that isn’t surprising. Across the field, sophomore quarterback Carson Wentz seems to be enjoying his new toys. The Philly offense has been fun to watch for the most part, and looks as though it should improve a lot this year. Eagles 31 – Giants 19

 

Miami Dolphins (1-0) at New York Jets (0-2)

Line: Jets +6

There are a lot of home underdogs this week, including the winless Jets. Especially after missing week 1, this basically amounts to a preseason game for the Dolphins. With a dozen years of evidence on Dolphins QB Jay Cutler, that means this could very well be a trap game. Dolphins 20 – Jets 16

 

Denver Broncos (2-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-1)

Line: BUF +3

Trevor Siemian is playing like a veteran Pro Bowl quarterback for the Broncos. Only in his second season, he is showing more than just flashes of greatness so far this year. It’s still hard to read too much into two games, but I don’t see it letting up anytime soon. The Bills were never able to get their running game moving last week against the Panthers. Perennial Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy failed to get to double digit rushing yards against one of the strongest defensive fronts in the league. Denver, unfortunately for the Bills, is, if anything, stronger than the Panthers in the defensive front seven. The Bills will have to establish their ground game early, and even that may not be enough. Broncos 34 – Bills 23

 

New Orleans Saints (0-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-0)

Line: CAR -6

This is a scary game for Panthers. They’re 2-0, but the offense has done practically nothing. The defense faces its toughest test so far in Drew Brees and the Saints, but the Saints really haven’t been inspiring on offense. Brees is still a great quarterback, but they’ve been playing from behind in both games so far, which is perhaps inflating the stats. Their three-headed running back monster has been bad. Receivers have dropped open passes when the games have been close. They have been unable to move the ball until the game was already decided. This week’s game will come down to whether the Carolina offense can wake up and make the Saints play from a couple scores down again. Panthers 35 – Saints 20

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (0-2)

Line: Chicago +7.5

Just after I talked about how well the Bears played in Week 1, they lay a massive egg against the Bucs. My confidence is shaken. Less so on the Steelers, who are undefeated and haven’t even gotten LeVeon Bell going yet. His dynamic playmaking ability moves the Steelers into another gear, and it’s coming. It’s probably coming this week. Steelers 41 – Bears 24

 

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Detroit Lions (2-0)

Line: DET +3

Our only matchup of undefeated teams this week pits the defending NFC Champs against a playoff team from last year who has improved over the offseason. Detroit got running back Ameer Abdullah back from injury, drafted well, and made a couple smart, if not flashy signings. The defense is solid, the offense is hit or miss, but when it’s on, it’s a beauty. The Falcons have not missed a beat since last season. Their balanced offensive attack chews clock and scores frequently. Matt Ryan distributes the ball generously and accurately, with at least four viable receiving threats on every play. The Falcon’s defense took a major blow in Week 2, however, losing last year’s NFL sack leader Vic Beasley for two months. How will the D-line fare without its anchor? Falcons 37 – Lions 31

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

Line: No Line

Tampa looked great in their season opener. The offense ran well when it needed to, but benefitted significantly from a defensive touchdown and four takeaways and had the game well in hand by the early second half. Minnesota, after opening with a dominating win, was without quarterback Sam Bradford, who, to the shock of many including myself, was ruled out early Sunday due to an injury. As a result of ongoing questions about whether he will play in this game, Vegas has the game off the board until further notice. If Bradford plays, expect a hard-fought game between two very good teams. If he doesn’t, expect another dominating performance by the Bucs. With the assumption that Bradford plays, Bucs 27 – Vikings 24

 

Houston Texans (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1)

Line: NE -13

Rookie quarterback in New England? Not a recipe for success. Deshaun Watson may be that rare rookie who isn’t fazed by the pomp and circumstance of playing in Foxborough, but the Texans just haven’t showed enough this season for me to believe they can beat the Pats. Patriots 28 – Texans 17

 

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)

Line: TEN -3

Vegas seems to be catching on to the whole “Seattle can’t score” thing. Two weeks, a grand total of 21 points scored. But they’re 1-1. The Titans have played alright so far. The offense hasn’t been clicking on all cylinders, but it has got most of them humming. The defense is average to slightly above, but that was expected. If the offense can find that little extra gear, this team is going places. Seattle usually isn’t the opponent you want to face when you’re trying to rev up your offense, though. The Seahawks put the “offensive” in offensive line, perhaps even more than the Panthers do. They have to give QB Russell Wilson enough time to create. Titans 24 – Seahawks 19

 

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1)

Line: GB -9

The Bengals are not very good. It’s starting to smell like A.J. McCarron time at quarterback in Cincinnati. I’ve been an advocate for McCarron over Dalton since 2015, when the Alabama product got his first NFL starts and filled in magnificently while Dalton was hurt. McCarron even won a playoff game, right up until Vontaze “How Do I Still Have a Job?” Burfict gave it away. Dalton has never been an above average QB. McCarron could be. You know who definitely is? Aaron Rodgers of the Packers. That’s pretty much all you need to know for this game. Packers 42 – Bengals 14

 

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-2)

Line: LAC +3

Along with many other people, I am still having trouble getting used to calling the Chargers the Los Angeles Chargers. Wherever they’re from, they’ve been in both of their games. Rookie kicker Younghoe Koo, the first Korean player in NFL history, has been spotty. He’s had kicks to tie or win both games. While one of them was blocked, neither has gone through the uprights. KC has looked like the class of the AFC so far. Don’t expect that to change much this season. Chiefs 31 – Chargers 17

 

Oakland Raiders (2-0) at Washington (1-1)

Line: WAS +3

Oakland is here to stay, ladies and gents. Many expected them to come back to earth after their coming out party last season, but they don’t seem to be going anywhere. Marshawn Lynch has added a bruising back to their arsenal of offensive weaponry, and it’s making a big difference so far. Washington, shockingly, hasn’t been able to get it’s air game working. After throwing for 4000+ yards each of the last two seasons with good TD to INT numbers, QB Kirk Cousins has looked only mediocre the first two games. This game could be a shootout, or an Oakland blowout. Raiders 38 – Washington 34

 

Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-1)

Line: ARI +3

The Cards really should have lost to the Colts last week. The Cowboys got thoroughly beaten by the Broncos. Both teams should be looking to rebound. Unfortunately for Arizona, Dallas is much more talented. Reigning first team All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott got called out by his coach last week after showing a lack of hustle and having an overall bad game. I expect he’ll be running with a little extra purpose this week. Cowboys 33 – Cardinals 23

 

Last Week ML: 13-3

Season: 23-8

Last Week ATS: 10-6

Season: 17-14

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