Beating the Spread: Week 3 Picks

Our Week 3 Beat the Spread column is ready to go for your consideration as you put in your weekly bets!

Well, we’re two weeks into the first 18-game season and three of us have managed to be at .500 or better.  Both Brennan and Justin went 4-1 last week while I posted a second consecutive 3-2 week.  Erik?  Well, he got our first push of the season.  That has to count for something, right?  Erik finished last week 0-4-1 and he’s assured me he’s turning it around this week.

Looking ahead to this week’s picks, Justin is looking to continue his streak of successful “under” picks.  He went 3-for-3 last week and has two more on tap this week.  Brennan is betting on big favorites this week as the Titans as 5.5-point favorites are his lowest spread on the week.  I think we’re going to see points in a couple of games that have low totals and I like some home favorites this week.  Erik found a mix of underdogs and favorites he likes this week, so tail at your own risk!

Gamblers know that 60% is the magic number to come out ahead, so that’s the goal again this season.  We didn’t make it last year, which just motivates us, even more, this season.  Every week the four of us will pick five games against the spread or on the over/under.  We’ll track the picks every week and see where we end up.  Feel free to play along in the comments or find us on Twitter!

Let’s get to the lines and picks for Week 3!

The following lines were captured on Tuesday. Betting lines can vary by site and move throughout the week so check yours to make sure that you have similar information.

Week 1 Betting Lines
Away Home Line O/U
Colts Titans Titans -5.5 48
Chargers Chiefs Chiefs -6.5 55.5
Football Team Bills Bills -9 46
Bears Browns Browns -7.5 46.5
Falcons Giants Giants -3 48.5
Bengals Steelers Steelers -4.5 44
Ravens Lions Ravens -9 49.5
Saints Patriots Patriots -3 43
Cardinals Jaguars Cardinals -7.5 52
Dolphins Raiders Raiders -4 45.5
Jets Broncos Broncos -10.5 41
Buccaneers Rams Buccaneers -1 54.5
Seahawks Vikings Seahawks -2 55.5
Packers 49ers 49ers -3.5 47.5
Eagles Cowboys Cowboys -4 51.5
Staff Picks

 

Analysis:

Justin Dunbar: Justin puts together an article analyzing some of his picks in more detail.  Check out his Week 3 Betting Preview for more! Here are some snippets from his first two picks for this week.

Then, there’s the game script. Should the Cardinals get out to an early lead, you can expect them to slow the pace down. With a lead in their Week 1 blowout victory against the Titans, they ran 50% of the time, per PFF, and failed to score a point in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars, meanwhile, may be a fast-paced offense, but, in a similar potential game script, still had just 21 points against a subpar Texans defense. ARI/JAX Under 52

Heck, in Seattle’s shootout with Tennessee last week, it took a last-second touchdown for that game to go over the total, which is lower than it is in this game. Consider this an overreaction to both teams, particularly Minnesota, exceeding 30 points last week; the original over/under was 51 points.  SEA/MIN Under 55.5

I know, I know; why would anyone in their right mind bet on the Falcons right now? Honestly, that’s the question I’m asking myself right now. Yet, I try not to overreact to the beginning of the season, and you figured it would take time for quarterback Matt Ryan and head coach Arthur Smith to mesh together. Unless Ryan is on the decline in a hurry or Smith just forgot how to call plays, there’s still reason to be optimistic long-term. Ryan has been able to stretch the field due to the team’s poor offensive line, but facing a bottom-ten pass rush, per PFF grades, should help. Based on his track record, I’d expect Daniel Jones’ performance under pressure (77.9 PFF passing grade) to eventually regress, as should the Falcons’ poor third-down luck. If anything, consider this a fade of the Giants being a three-point favorite more than anything else. Smith has been one of the league’s best play-callers in the initial “scripted” first 15 plays or so, which has continued to this season. It’s hard to not have trust in Smith over a Jason Garrett-led offense, and I simply don’t trust New York to win by more than three points. ATL +3

This season, the Seahawks have dominated when it comes to explosive passes, ranking in the top-five in that stat, per Sharp Football Stats. Meanwhile, the Vikings, who have an older secondary and defense altogether, have had issues allowing chunk plays this season- they’re in the bottom ten in that metric. Then, there are the other factors. Do you know how Minnesota will likely respond to Seattle allowing 200 rushing yards to the Titans? By establishing the run with Dalvin Cook, which promotes an inefficient style of offense. Despite their warts, Seattle ranked #1 in PFF run defense grade last year and still rank 7th this year; this is a team you want to open up the passing game against, and failed early-down rush attempts could force them into uncomfortable third-down situations. That would not be ideal for Kirk Cousins’ efficiency, which hasn’t been great as is; they rank 12th in yards/play, which is fine, yet it’s pretty clear Seattle (1st) has the advantage here. I’ll take the better offense, better quarterback, and more versatile (less affected by game script) to win this game, especially when I don’t even have to lay three points. SEA -2

I’m a little worried that these are two slow-paced offenses, which might be why the initial total was slow. Yet, it’s easy to see why this number has moved up so quickly; these are two of the better offenses in the NFL, and that wasn’t being represented. I wouldn’t expect the Packers to continue to rank in the bottom-five in third-down offense,  nor do I believe in a 49er secondary that is hampered massively with injuries to slow down Aaron Rodgers and last year’s top-scoring offense. At the same time, Green Bay’s defense allowed 6.1 yards/play to the Lions, of all teams, and it’s fair to say San Francisco is a step up from them. I know both of these offenses have a game where they’ve struggled, but here’s to an entertaining Sunday Night game where two offenses projected to be top-ten units show why there’s no reason to be worried about them. You generally want to fade sudden market reactions, yet the people are correct when it comes to this line shift. GB/SF Over 47.5

 

Brennan Rampe: The Titans had a huge, much-needed win against the Seahawks last week after getting destroyed by the Cardinals in Week 1. They will now host the Colts, who will most likely be without Carson Wentz after he sprained both ankles in the Colts’ loss to the Rams last week. Second-year quarterback Jacob Eason will most likely get the start, and he has only a couple of snaps when it comes to NFL experience. The Titans’ offense should do well, while the defense, which has struggled, should have their best performance of the season.  The Titans will cover while the Colts fall to 0-3. Inside the Numbers: Indianapolis was 2-4 in division games against the spread last year.  TEN -5.5

The Browns got their first win of the season against the Texans on Sunday. The offense performed well, while the defense took care of business, especially after rookie quarterback Davis Mills entered the game after Tyrod Taylor suffered an injured hamstring. They will face another rookie quarterback in Justin Fields, who replaces Andy Dalton after he suffered a leg injury in the Bears’ win over the Bengals. The Bears offense has struggled in the past two weeks, and in general under Matt Nagy. This Browns defense is a tough assignment for a rookie. The offense should do well, while the defense should be able to shut down the Bears. Inside the Numbers: Cleveland is 8-4 against the spread in non-conference games since 2018. CLE -7.5

The Ravens got their first win of the season in a thriller against the Chiefs, a game that nobody gave them a chance to win. Lamar Jackson, despite two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six, carved up the Chiefs’ defense with his dual-threat ability. The defense, which hasn’t been as good as usual, had a huge play late in the game, forcing a key fumble to seal the victory. They now travel to Detroit to face the Lions, who haven’t been able to stop anybody’s offense. They gave up 41 points to the 49ers and 35 points to the Packers, and they stand almost no chance of being able to stop Lamar Jackson. The Ravens will score a ton, and they should cover. Inside the Numbers: Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens are 26-23-3 as away favorites since 2008. BAL -9

The Cardinals are 2-0, thanks in large part to Kyler Murray. He has been very impressive so far, and the defense, although it struggled last week, is loaded with playmakers. The defense should have a great game against the Jaguars, who have a rookie quarterback in first overall pick Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence has struggled in his first two games, and another rough game is likely to happen Sunday. The Cardinals, who have scored over 30 points in both games, will do so again while the defense should have a game similar to Week 1, where they only gave up 13 points. The Cardinals will cover. Inside the Numbers: Arizona is 5-4 in non-conference games against the spread under Kliff Kingsbury.  ARI -7.5

The Broncos are unbeaten thanks to the quarterback play of Teddy Bridgewater. The offense is loaded with playmakers, and the defense is probably the most talented defense Vic Fangio has ever coached. Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson has had a really rough first two weeks, especially last week, where he threw four interceptions against the Patriots. The Broncos’ defense is most likely going to be one of the top defenses in the league, and the Broncos are finally at home after opening the season with two consecutive road games. The Broncos will cover and improve to 3-0.  Inside the Numbers: Denver is 7-5 as home favorites against the spread under Vic Fangio. DEN -10.5

 

Erik Smith: It’s scary going against Tom Brady right now with money on the line, but playing at home as an underdog makes this Rams team an appealing bet. After squaring off against two sub-par defenses in Dallas and Atlanta to start the year, Tampa Bay gets their first big test against a stout LA defense. Stafford can keep up with Brady, and I expect this to come down to the wire. But the Rams have a road win against a desperate Colts team under their belt, while the Buccaneers play their first game of the year on the road. I’d expect Brady to lose a game at some point this season (he will, right?), and this could be the one to end their winning streak. LAR +1

Seattle jumped out to a 24-9 lead last week before Derrick Henry took over, and Tennessee needed every bit of their 182 yards rushing to eke out an overtime win. While the Vikings will certainly look to repeat the Titans’ formula from last week, I see this more as a bad half from Seattle than the start of a season-long trend. I’ll take my chances with Russell Wilson as opposed to Kirk Cousins, and the fact that a field goal wins it is even better. SEA -2

I’m not sure that I’m ready to call the 49ers the better team at this stage of the season, as their wins over the Lions and Eagles may not look all that impressive eight weeks from now. The Packers also beat up on the Lions and are still looking for their first quality win of the season, but the difference is that this team was a play or two from the Super Bowl last year. With a beat-up backfield and a receiving corps minus the 2020 version of Brandon Aiyuk, the Packers can win this game outright if they can put up enough points. The +3.5 also gives us a nice shot at a backdoor cover, and while this feels a bit like one of those classic traps by the betting markets, I’ll take the superior quarterback here. GB +3.5

The Bears were able to eke out a win at home against the Bengals last week against an opponent that was content to slow the game down and play conservative offense. Now Chicago goes on the road and plays a team that thrives in those game scripts, as the Browns possess one of the league’s best ground and pound offenses. The spread is high, and the talent of Justin Fields is a worry. But Cleveland is the superior team, and I would expect a rout against a Bears team still searching for its identity. CLE -7.5

I wish this line was lower, but as I searched for one final pick I kept coming back to this matchup. Sure, the Ravens just left it all on the field to beat the Chiefs last week, and this is a classic letdown spot. But I don’t expect the Lions’ defense to be able to slow Lamar Jackson and company on the ground, putting the pressure on Jared Goff to come through against this proud Ravens defense. The poor Lions have faced a brutal schedule to start the year, but it took a wild rally to lose by eight to the 49ers, and they were stomped by the Packers by 18 points last week. Baltimore can’t take any games off playing in the tough AFC North, and I expect them to take care of business in Detroit this week. BAL -9

 

Bryan Sweet: Do I think the Raiders are bound for the Super Bowl after a somewhat surprising 2-0 start?  Absolutely not.  I don’t even think they’ll win the AFC West.  But Derek Carr and that offense are running a peak performance and get to host a good Miami squad that just lost its starting QB for the near future.  Is Jacoby Brissett a step down from Tua?  Probably not as much of one as might be expected but I do think it will shrink the playbook enough to make it an uncomfortable day.  Toss in a raucous home crown in the newest stadium in the NFL and I think the Raiders can cruise to 3-0.  LV -4

America’s Team at home in primetime on a Monday night against a team that many thought would be looking down at only the Giants in the NFC East and I don’t have to give a TD?  Sign me up for that!  Dallas has one of the best offenses in football with a trio of talented WRs and a backfield in which Ezekiel Elliott might be the second-best RB.  Philadelphia has yet to face an offense that is as capable of putting up points through the air as Dallas is and I think Dallas builds an early lead and coasts to victory on the legs of Tony Pollard and Zeke.  DAL -4

I’ve fallen into the “two bad teams will result in a low scoring game” more than once in this column, but not today!  Atlanta’s defense is laughably bad this season, surrendering the most points in the league (80 points) and 21st in yards allowed (775).  The Giants have allowed even more yards (827) but have been better in the points allowed department (57 – 25th in the NFL).  It looks like Saquon Barkley is at or near full strength and the rapport between Daniel Jones and Sterling Shepherd should continue to flourish.  The Falcons were able to put up 25 points last week against a very good Tampa Bay defense, so they should be able to move the ball this week as well.  I don’t know who wins, but I think it’s going to take 28 points for that to happen and that should push the game over this total. ATL/NYG Over 48.5

This selection is more about the opponent than the team that I think will cover the spread.  Carson Wentz somehow managed to spring BOTH ankles during last week’s loss to the Rams, and reports making the rounds indicate the Colts might not even know who they’re going to start at QB.  Jacob Eason filled in for Wentz last week but Brett Hundley took the majority of first-team reps in practice this week.  Tennessee has struggled this season but I think this might be a “get right” game for them given the flux at QB with Indianapolis.  If Tennessee can score a few TDs, I think they easily cover.   TEN -5.5

My first thought when looking at this game was, “A team with a dominant running game versus a team with an effective short passing game.  Fewer possessions, fewer clock stoppages, and fewer points.”  Then I looked at the game logs for these two teams. The two Ravens games totaled 60 and 71 points and Detroit has games of 74 and 52 points.  All four games exceeded this total.  I think the Ravens’ closest comparison for their style of play is the 49ers – Detroit’s Week 1 opponent.  Granted, the Lions needed an onside kick and a less-than-enthused San Francisco defense to pile up  16 fourth-quarter points, but it still would have easily topped 50 points without that late scoring surge.  I think the Ravens win this easily and might approach 40 points themselves, so the over is an easy call for me in this one.  BAL/DET Over 49.5


 

What are your favorite picks of the week? Put in your comments below to play along. We’ll be updating our records all season!

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

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