1-2 again last week, taking us to 2-4 on the season. Hopefully, as teams start to carve out their identities we can start to find our groove and pick some winners. Let’s check out last week’s picks and see if we can learn from our mistakes:
Nelson Agholor over 3.5 Receptions: Mac Jones had 22 completions but checked down far too many times for Agholor to really get involved. I’ll try to take my Patriots blinders off and stay away from New England for at least a couple of weeks.
Buccaneers -7.0 1st Half: The Falcons are bad. That offensive line can’t block anyone, and Matt Ryan looks washed up. Don’t be surprised if I go back to this well and keep picking against the Falcons if the books don’t catch up.
Chargers over 29.5 Points: Yuck. The Chargers killed themselves with penalties all game and only put up 17 points. They moved the ball well but turned it over twice and kept killing drives with unforced errors. Way off the mark here.
Now, let’s get to some picks.
Cardinals @ Jaguars 1st Half Spread
The Jaguars and Cardinals square off in week three in a matchup of teams headed in different directions. The Cardinals have been a surprise so far to many, coming out of the gate with two straight wins while looking incredibly dynamic on offense. The Jags, on the other hand, have dropped their first two games without looking particularly competitive in either. But don’t worry Jags fans, they’re going to get better. Riiiiight. Let’s just hope this isn’t the week they suddenly figure it all out.
Last week, the Jaguars held the Broncos to 23 points, which may not seem like a big number, but the Broncos moved the ball freely through most of the game, racking up just under 400 yards of offense. The Broncos play slow, ranking 30 out of 32 teams in terms of seconds per play, sustaining long drives that suppress their point total. The Cardinals aren’t the fastest offense either, but their explosive play rate is much higher than Denver’s, helping keep their possessions shorter. The Jaguars are also first in plays per minute and second to last in time of possession while averaging just 17 points per game. Talk about going nowhere fast.
While the pace of play certainly favors the Cardinals in this one, the personnel also gives the Cardinals an edge. 1st overall pick Trevor Lawrence hasn’t lived up to his draft status yet, going just 14/33 last week against Denver and leading the league in uncatchable pass rate at 36%. Lawrence has a 59.4 PFF grade in a clean pocket this year (not good), and a just a 30.4 grade against pressure (really not good). Lawrence’s average depth of target is one of the highest in the league at over ten yards; he’ll have to find new targets or face the consequences with Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt on the defensive line. Lastly, Kyler Murray and the Cardinals have scored touchdowns at a very high rate, while the Jags are allowing touchdowns at a high rate. The Cardinals will likely be a very public play this week and fading the public is never a bad idea but the public has to be right sometimes, right? I’ll lay the points and take the Cards here.
Pick: Cardinals -4.0 1st Half (-110, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Ty’Son Williams O/U 58.5 Rushing Yards
In my week one post, I picked a Raheem Mostert prop because of the Lions’ terrible run-stopping personnel. The pick lost immediately when Mostert got hurt, but the analysis was solid as Elijah Mitchell had a great day on the ground. I won’t repeat myself for the sake of time but you can see that analysis here. On top of everything mentioned in the last article, Jamie Collins is likely out this week as the Lions shop him around the league. He’s no longer the player he once was, but he’s a capable run defender. This week, I’m going back to a running back against Detroit. If Ty’Son Williams leaves the game due to injury, I’ll stop picking against the Lions for the sake of your fantasy teams.
I absolutely love Ty’Son Williams as a runner. He’s risen to the top of the Ravens’ running back room due to injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, and he’s ran (no pun intended) with the opportunity. He only has 22 carries on the season, but he’s made the most of each of them by averaging 6.4 yards per attempt, including 81 yards after contact. The Ravens are completely committed to the run; last week they ran the ball on 41 of 68 offensive plays despite playing from behind for the majority of the game. Lamar Jackson carried 16 times and is obviously the focal point of the offense, but I think John Harbaugh will try to lean on Jackson less this week, especially if he’s dealing with a sore hip from his flip into the endzone on Sunday night. The Chiefs sold out to stop the run last week; Detroit may do the same, but their talent isn’t miles ahead of Kansas City’s, it may even be worse. Against Detroit, Baltimore should be playing with a lead; look for Williams to get the ball often to give Lamar a break from hero ball for a week.
Pick: OVER 58.5 Rushing Yards (-115, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Browns @ Bears 1st Half O/U
Justin Fields quarterbacks the Bears this week in place of Andy Dalton, who’s out with a bone bruise. He entered the game in relief last week, going 8/15 for 70 yards with an interception. He did throw the ball downfield consistently with an average depth of target over ten yards, considerably greater than Andy Dalton. Head coach Matt Nagy has always had a more conservative playcalling style for someone who’s supposed to be an offensive guru. I don’t expect him to come out of the gate by opening up the playbook for his dynamic young quarterback, particularly because he insists that Dalton is still the quarterback when healthy.
Aside from the Bears’ coaching tendencies, three things jump out at me in this matchup: pace, playcalling, and injuries. First up, pace; Chicago is ranked 26th in seconds per play and Cleveland is dead last at 32nd. Neither team is in a hurry to push the ball down the field and score quickly. Both teams will also commit to running the ball; each of them ranks in the top 10 in rushing percentage. The offenses should take their time and bleed the clock with long possessions if they stay true to form. And lastly, both offenses are dealing with injuries to their receivers, which could lead them to even further lean on the run game. Jarvis Landry is out for the Browns, and Darnell Mooney is dealing with a groin injury for the Bears. Odell Beckham Jr. may return for Cleveland after missing the first two weeks, but a full workload is unlikely. One name to keep an eye on is defensive lineman Akiem Hicks who’s dealing with illness; if he misses out for the Bears it leaves a hole in the middle of the defense. Overall, I see this as a slow-moving contest without a ton of scoring, especially early on in neutral situations.
Pick: UNDER 23.5 1st Half Points (-115, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Featured Image by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)