Just when you thought Week 1 gave us some excitement, Week 2 was a whole different animal. A Chiefs/Ravens showdown, three afternoon games decided within minutes of one another, and absurd wizardry from some of the game’s top quarterbacks; in terms of entertainment value, Week 2 had it all!
Today, let’s take a look at the Week 3 slate! Every week, I’ll be providing my personal projections on the outcome of each game, and then contextualizing what to do with that information: best bets, teasers, parlays, survivor picks, and much more!
These projections started with me using projected PFF grades to decipher the true talent of every team. From there, I utilized those projections to establish each team’s offense and defense rank, which allowed me to derive how talented each team is compared to the average team with a neutral field; as the season goes, I’ll be analyzing PFF data and other key metrics to continue to update each team’s offense and defense ranking. Adding in an adjustment for home field, and, what do you know, each game had a projection! The combination of the foundation of it starting objectively, and then the mixture of subjective analysis to make it less of a “blind” projection, will hopefully lead us to where we want to go. You can consider these, based on the subjective touch, predictions instead of pure projections, but, hey, it gets us in the same place!
Enough rambling; it’s time to get to the point of this article! Let’s completely preview Week 2 from a betting perspective! Right now, the Texans are in first place in the AFC South! Is it time to stop the count? Nope. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this week’s action.
All Stats via Pro Football Focus
Week 3 Personal Projections
ARI at JAX (Under 52.5)
As a Kyler Murray enthusiast, picking the under here definitely hurts. However, this is simply too high of an over/under total to not take the “under” on. The Cardinals have performed tremendously early on by ranking 4th in yards/play, and although they did that against inferior defenses, they’ll face a struggling Jaguars defense this week. Yet, they’ve been quite reliant on big plays, and it’s unlikely Murray maintains his 12.9% big-time throw rate, in addition to his 12.4 yards/attempt under pressure; they’ve also been one of the best third-down offenses.
Yet, my main faith in this pick comes from the Jaguars’ offense, which isn’t a unit to bet on right now. Through his first two games, Trevor Lawrence is averaged just 5.8 yards/pass attempt from a clean pocket, with just a 46 PFF passing grade overall. Jacksonville ranks 25th in yards/play and have been quite dysfunctional thus far, so it’s hard to bank on them on such a high over/under total.
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. My point? It’s unlikely they score enough to compensate for Arizona slowing down the pace with a lead. Simply put, there’s no way this total should be the same as it was when the Cardinals played Tennessee, a far superior offense, in Week 1.
SEA at MIN (Under 55.5)
Picking under makes me feel like a “party pooper”, so I hope that’s not the tone being displayed here. I am really excited to see these two offenses go at it on Sunday in what should be a very close game. That being said, 55.5 points is a lot! Let me explain.
While the Seahawks and Vikings are two very efficient offenses, that doesn’t always translate to an abundance of points scored. See, both are led by defensive-minded coaches, and for that reason, aren’t afraid to run the ball:
The Vikings, in particular, tend to rank near the bottom of the league in neutral down pass rate and pace, while the Seahawks have been reliant on big-plays from Russell Wilson (8.8% big-time throw rate) for most of their production. Now, both of these offenses, especially Seattle’s, are efficient units that should be counted on to move the ball down the field. If the Seahawks’ deep shots miss, though, it just may come in a much more methodical fashion than we are expecting.
Even if Seattle’s offense continues its absurd pace, the Vikings aren’t the type of team to help cover this high total. After the Seahawks just allowed 212 rushing yards, do you really think their strategy is going to be anything other than feeding running back Dalvin Cook with an abundance of carries? Not only is that promoting a less-efficient style of offense, but Seattle is also a strong run defense that ranks 7th in PFF run-defense grade; Derrick Henry just happened to dominate them after contact, as he does to pretty much every team in the NFL. Inefficient early-down runs lead to obvious passing situations on third-down for Kirk Cousins, which, as we’ve seen, is a situation this offense would like to avoid.
I know this is more of a fantasy take, but in my research in expected points based on weighted yardage, Wilson and Cousins each showed up as two quarterbacks exceeding that number by a considerable margin. I’m sure the Seahawks can hold up their end of the bargain to a certain point, but can Cousins? Thus far appears to be showing a lack of trust in his offensive line with a time-to-throw of just 2.37 seconds and an average depth of target of just 6.2 yards. 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. With that in mind, it would behoove us to take advantage of this opportunity.
KC (-0.5) vs LAC
BUF (-2) vs WSH
BAL (-2.5) at DET
We had success with the Giants/Bengals underdog teaser last week, but this week, we turn our attention to the favorites. Anytime you can get the Chiefs in what is essentially a pick-em, you have to take advantage of that, while the Bills and Ravens face soft opponents that should lead to a margin of victory of at least a field goal. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that!
Parlay (Four Games and Eight Games)
ARI at JAX (Under 52.5)
SEA at MIN (Under 55.5)
ATL (+3) at NYG)
SEA (-1.5) at MIN
CHI at CLE (Over 46)
TB at LAR (Under 56)
GB (+3.5) at SF
GB at SF (Over 49.5)
For the rest of the season, I’m forcing myself to deliver an eight-game parlay, but the four-game parlay is the most exciting this week. Whereas the Seahawks rank 5th in explosive passes, per Sharp Football Stats, the Vikings rank in the bottom-ten in explosive passes allowed; with an older secondary, facing Seattle’s lethal offense is a terrible fit for them. In addition to expecting a lower-scoring game from their offense, I’m confident in the much better team securing a victory here. Meanwhile, the Falcons have been atrocious to start the year, but you have to expect Matt Ryan and head coach Arthur Smith to mesh better over time, right? Really, do you trust the Giants as a three-point favorite? Personally, I do not. The other four games also offer intrigue, particularly with Justin Fields taking over under center for the Bears, but I’d center in on that four-game parlay.
CAR at HOU
DEN vs NYJ
These are two teams not in the “top tier”, but are heavy favorites to win against far inferior opponents. The Panthers get to face third-round rookie Davis Mills in his first career start, a quarterback who is cited as a) not being polished and b) being a pocket passer that sticks to his first read. Against a strong pass rush and without much of a supporting cast, that could be a major issue, and this is easily Carolina’s softest opponent for the rest of the year. The Broncos, too, don’t face many easy opponents after the Jets and are favored by double-digit points for a reason. Denver has Detroit later on in the season, so you might be inclined to side with the Panthers here, but it’s close.
Parting Bold Predictions
Kirk Cousins Doesn’t Score a Passing Touchdown
ARI Doesn’t Score a Touchdown In The Second Half
The Falcons Score More Points (31) Than In Their First Two Games Combined
Remember, these are BOLD predictions! All of these align with my previous betting picks, but allow us to get a bit spicy here! Enjoy an exciting week of football, and please remember to bet responsibly!