For The Win: Week 3 - Footballguys

NFL Picks Against the Las Vegas Lines

Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. Just like last season, this article will still be picking all of the NFL games each week, but will also try and help some of you with some confidence and rankings of the selections - which also may assist those of you with Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as point totals, or Over/Unders) with 1-3 "Stars", which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted to help those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools or other contests that they may be participating in either this week or this season. Let's get started with Week 1, which can be a difficult week to make choices. If you have been on top of the NFL to this point and all through preseason, this might afford you a good advantage and help you to get off to a fast start. Hopefully, this will be the case this year.

First, a “Thank you” to Dave Larkin for filling in last week and helping me with my insane schedule. Week 12 was certainly tougher than Week 1, and the results were not as strong as the first week of the year, but I made my own picks as well for the week and they roughly mirrored his selections. In fact, as shown in the weekly Against the Spread staff pool, we all had a tough go of it in Week 2. That is just how it goes sometimes – some weeks will be tougher calls than others. The good news is that the league will get easier to dissect as the weeks pass, and now we have two games to reflect upon as we enter Week 3. Let's get started.

Note that the lines and Over/Unders are taken from VegasInsider.com.

(Thursday) CLEVELAND (-3) vs. NEW YORK JETS (Over/Under 39 to 39.5)
There are a few truths that tend to stick with Thursday Night Football, and they are that the home team usually does better on a short week and that the scoring is relatively low. The Browns are favored at home, and they are better than their 0-1-1 start. Cleveland could easily be 2-0 if their kicker was accurate in either contest. The Jets started the year off strong in Detroit but then struggled at home against Miami. Gauging how good the Jets are at this point is tough, but it appears that both teams are improved since last year. Cleveland is the home team here on a short week with a more experienced quarterback, so that is the slight lean in what could be an entertaining game to watch but tough to pick outright. PICK: Browns

ATLANTA (-3) vs. NEW ORLEANS (Over/Under 52.5 to 53)
If you look closely, you can see that there is no “D” in Atlanta or New Orleans. That’s a joke, but so was the defensive performance by the Saints in Week 1 and also at the end of last week as New Orleans tried to hold on against Cleveland at home. Both NFC South teams have outstanding offenses so points should not be a problem for either side. With each team at 1-1, neither team is out of it with a loss, but a home loss against the Saints is a bigger deal for the Falcons. Atlanta took care of Carolina last week and host what appears to be a tougher Bengals team next week, while this Week 3 matchup represents the first road game for New Orleans this year and their toughest matchup so far in the young season. It is reasonable to expect a close, high scoring game where the last team with the ball could easily be the victor. Tough call again, but this feels like Atlanta 34, New Orleans 27. PICK: Falcons

GREEN BAY (-3) at WASHINGTON (Over/Under 45 to 46)
Washington was exposed last week as “just not that good” in a home loss to the Colts after a road victory in Arizona against the woeful Cardinals. The Colts are figuring it out quickly, but Andrew Luck accelerates any learning curves. Green Bay suffered a tie against Minnesota at Lambeau Field last week in a tough NFC Central matchup, but this road game should feel like a walk in the park after taking on a very good Vikings team. PICK: Packers

PHILADELPHIA (-6 to 6.5) vs. INDIANAPOLIS (Over/Under 47.5 to 48)
The Eagles took one on the chin last week in Tampa Bay, and they could be without Jay Ajayi in Week 3 – but the biggest news is the return of Carson Wentz under center. The Philadelphia defense helped them to a big win in Week 1 at home against the Falcons to open the NFL regular season, and a 1-1 record looks impressive now with Wentz back to lead the Eagles. The Colts took care of Washington on the road last week, but the Redskins 1-0 start was inflated as their one-sided victory over the Cardinals on the road is not that impressive after watching just how bad Arizona looks. The Eagles will have their first Sunday home opener this week and a double-digit victory over a mediocre (but improving) Colts franchise appears like the most likely result. PICK: Eagles

MINNESOTA (-16.5 to -17) vs. BUFFALO (Over/Under 40.5 to 41)
Welcome to Homecoming Week for the Vikings! After a tough, hard-fought comeback to tie Green Bay on the road, this matchup looks like the cakewalk of all cakewalks as Minnesota hosts Colgate – check that, Buffalo – in Minnesota. A 16-17 point favorite is very rare in the NFL (actually anything over 13.5 is rare) and the implied score in this game is Vikings 29, Bills 12. Minnesota scored exactly 29 points last week in Green Bay, and Buffalo is averaging 11.5 points per game so far through two weeks – and their best player in LeSean McCoy has cracked rib cartilage. Vikings 34, Bill 6. PICK: Vikings

OAKLAND (+3) at MIAMI (Over/Under 43.5 to 44)
In a battle of two teams that are hard to buy into, the 2-0 Dolphins host the 0-2 Raiders. Miami won a marathon contest at home over Tennessee that took forever to play thanks to two lightning delays, and then they went to New Jersey and took care of the Jets on the road. Oakland is winless, but they had a good first half in Week 1 at home against a very strong Rams team and then had a good start again against Denver in Mile High last week, losing 20-19 on a final minute field goal. Derek Carr was 29 of 32 passing and Oakland just needs to put together a full 60-minute effort to get their first victory, and that could come in south Florida this week. Miami looked solid against the Jets, but a win over Tennessee is not that impressive. Throwing out their records, the Oakland team that played well for most of the game against Denver on the road and also held their own against the Rams before halftime looks way better than any quarter from Miami through two weeks. Do not be surprised if Oakland gets their first win this week, even with the dreaded “early East Coast road game for a West Coast team” hurdle for Oakland to clear in Week 3. PICK: Raiders

DENVER (+5) at BALTIMORE (Over/Under 43 to 44)
Here is another Jekyll and Hyde matchup in Week 3. Denver did not come out strong last week at home against Oakland, and they had to rally to beat the Raiders 20-19 on a last-second field goal. That same Broncos team took care of business in Week 1 with a big home win over Seattle, but now both victories are questionable as the Raiders and Seahawks are not looking very strong overall. Meanwhile, Baltimore demolished Buffalo in Week 1 then proceeded to forget about covering A.J. Green last Thursday. Both teams can be dominant, or fall on their face. So – what to do with a pick? Defense and running games travel well, so those are two checks towards Denver – but this is the first road game for the Broncos, at 1PM Eastern, and also the Ravens have had extra rest since last Thursday. In a word, this is a toss-up, so take the points. PICK: Broncos

HOUSTON (-6) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (Over/Under 41 to 41.5)
Two very different 0-2 teams square off in Week 3 as the Texans host the Giants. New York has their second trip to Texas in a row after a loss to Dallas on Monday Night Football, and that game really highlighted the lack of talent (and offensive line blocking) that the Giants currently possess. That is not good news for a team about to face J.J. Watt and company, as a hungry and winless Houston team has their home opener after tough losses in New England and Tennessee. Houston is the better club by a lot here, and this should be a double-digit victory – and possibly a one-sided blowout – for the Texans at home. Houston 34, Giants 10. PICK: Texans

CINCINNATI (+3) at CAROLINA (Over/Under 43.5 to 44)
The Bengals are making a strong bid for not just one of the most improved teams since last season but also to push for the AFC North crown. Cincinnati took care of business in a big way last Thursday, exploding out of the gate against Baltimore and cruising to their 2-0 record after winning in Indianapolis in Week 1 in comeback fashion. A tougher test looms in Carolina, where the home team could be a rallying point for a state that has been ravaged by flooding from Hurricane Florence. The Panthers are 1-1 after beating the Cowboys in Week 1, but a loss in Atlanta last week highlighted that the absence of Greg Olsen and the struggles in running the ball may be two big weak spots for the Panthers. The Bengals will be without Joe Mixon, but Giovani Bernard is more than capable to fill his shoes. The differentiator here will be the Cincinnati defense, which is better than advertised and will pressure Cam Newton into a few key mistakes on Sunday. PICK: Bengals

JACKSONVILLE (-6.5) vs. TENNESSEE (Over/Under 39.5)
The big question for the Jaguars is the health of Leonard Fournette, but T.J. Yeldon and the rest of the offense has been more than capable to hold down the fort until Fournette is at full strength – not to mention the dominating Jacksonville defense. Tennessee’s home win in Week 2 over Houston felt like the Titans stole one from a much better Texans team, but that is how the ball bounces sometimes. Jacksonville looks a solid team with depth while the Titans appear to be lucky to be 1-1, as their passing game is average at best with Marcus Mariota or Blaine Gabbert. Jacksonville should win by 10+ at home this week. PICK: Jaguars

KANSAS CITY (-6 to 6.5) vs. SAN FRANCISCO (Over/Under 55.5 to 57)
After blinking and looking twice at the point total for this game, it really is over 55 points. That projects both the Chiefs (31) and 49ers (25) to put up a lot of points in Kansas City this week, and it would be difficult to see it as a low scoring contest. The Chiefs won in Pittsburgh last week 42-37 after a 38-28 win at the Chargers, while the 49ers split their first two games with a close win last week at home over Detroit 30-27 followed by a tough opening week loss to Minnesota, 16-24. Kansas City has looked formidable on offense, more than the 49ers, and it is always tough for teams to travel to visit the Chiefs. This is the home opener for Kansas City, so expect a raucous opening day for the Chiefs and a big win at home. PICK: Chiefs

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-7) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (Over/Under 47.5 to 48.5)
The Battle of Los Angeles happens this week with the Rams hosting the Chargers this Sunday afternoon. The good news is that the game is in the Los Angeles Coliseum, which has about 63,000 more seats than the temporary home of the Chargers (the StubHub Center, 30,000 seats). The next regular season matchup between these two will be in 2022, two seasons after the LASED stadium in Hollywood Park opens. Odds are that neither stadium would be at capacity on a beautiful day in Southern California, but what matters here is what transpires on the gridiron. The Rams are looking like one of the best teams in the NFL right now on both offense and defense, while the Chargers are scoring points just fine but their defense is not quite strong enough. That will be the difference here as the Rams will take care of business “at home” and win by more than a touchdown. PICK: Rams

SEATTLE (-1 to 1.5) vs. DALLAS (Over/Under 41 to 41.5)
The Seahawks are far less formidable on defense than they have been in recent seasons, and some offenses have been able to exploit it – but Dallas does not look like a team that can put up a lot of points this year. Aside from one big play against the Giants, the Cowboys are struggling to put the ball in the end zone with just three touchdowns so far this season. The Seattle defense may not be as tough, but traveling to the state of Washington still is and that is going to be too big of a hill for just Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to climb. PICK: Seahawks

CHICAGO (-6 to 6.5) at ARIZONA (Over/Under 37.5 to 38)
The Bears are another team fighting for that “most improved” label for 2018 after two impressive showings on prime time football. Chicago’s defense took care of Seattle last Monday and almost held on against the Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 1. Arizona is competing only with Buffalo as the worst team in the league, and being shut out by the Rams in Week 2 did little to disprove a worst team label. Chicago may be on the road, but they are the favorites in this one by nearly a touchdown for a reason. Bears by double digits at a minimum, something like 27-6. PICK: Bears

(Sunday Night) NEW ENGLAND (-6.5 to 7) at DETROIT (Over/Under 51.5 to 52)
New England heads to Michigan to take on the winless Lions on Sunday Night Football, but the bigger story will be the matchup of former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia who is now the head coach in Detroit. While that may make for interesting pregame banter amongst analysts, Patricia will have his work cut out to keep Tom Brady and the Patriot offense in check after the Lions have given up 78 points in two weeks – tied with the Bills for the worst scoring defense in the league. That should tell you all you need in a matchup where Brady and company should excel against in prime time. PICK: Patriots

(Monday) TAMPA BAY (+1 to +1.5) vs. PITTSBURGH (Over/Under 53 to 54)
Do you believe in magic? How about Fitzmagic? Ryan Fitzpatrick has been using the power of his chest hair to propel the Buccaneers to a 2-0 start with two victories over 2017 playoff teams (a road win in New Orleans filled by a home opener win over the Eagles). Meanwhile the Steelers are struggling with an 0-1-1 record and inner turmoil with issues over Le'Veon Bell’s holdout and now rumors of Antonio Brown wanting a trade. Momentum is very real, and we have two teams going in opposite directions early in the year. Taking the home team and a point or so of a head start feels like the right choice, especially if you consider the performance of the teams and just ignore the franchise histories. PICK: Buccaneers

BEST BETS

Once again this year this article will give out not only the Best Bets but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Star scale. The more stars, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game.

Week 3 looks rough at first, but it may be best to stick with teasers as there are a number of favorites riding right in that sweet spot of -5 to -7 this week. Taking these favorites and working up teasers feels like the best approach for another tough week in the young season. With that in mind, here are the Week 3 selections:

* ONE STAR GAMES *

  • OAKLAND (“FOR THE WIN” +150) at MIAMI
  • DENVER (“FOR THE WIN” +200) at BALTIMORE
  • CINCINNATI (“FOR THE WIN” +135) at CAROLINA
  • GREEN BAY (-3) at WASHINGTON
  • PHILADELPHIA (-6) vs. INDIANAPOLIS
  • OAKLAND (+3) at MIAMI
  • DENVER (+5) at BALTIMORE
  • CINCINNATI (+3) at CAROLINA
  • CHICAGO (-6) at ARIZONA
  • 6-POINT TEASER: PHILADELPHIA (EVEN) vs. INDIANAPOLIS (Under 54)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: (Sunday Night) NEW ENGLAND (-0.5) at DETROIT (Under 58)
  • 2-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (9-5 ODDS):
    • HOUSTON vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (Under 47.5)
    • JACKSONVILLE vs. TENNESSEE (Under 45.5)
  • 5-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (4.1-1 ODDS):
    • HOUSTON (EVEN) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • JACKSONVILLE (-0.5) vs. TENNESSEE
    • KANSAS CITY (EVEN) vs. SAN FRANCISCO
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
    • PHILADELPHIA (EVEN) vs. INDIANAPOLIS
  • 6-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (6.1-1 ODDS):
    • HOUSTON (EVEN) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • JACKSONVILLE (-0.5) vs. TENNESSEE
    • KANSAS CITY (EVEN) vs. SAN FRANCISCO
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
    • PHILADELPHIA (EVEN) vs. INDIANAPOLIS
    • CHICAGO (EVEN) at ARIZONA
  • 7-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (8.9-1 ODDS):
    • HOUSTON (EVEN) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • JACKSONVILLE (-0.5) vs. TENNESSEE
    • KANSAS CITY (EVEN) vs. SAN FRANCISCO
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
    • PHILADELPHIA (EVEN) vs. INDIANAPOLIS
    • CHICAGO (EVEN) at ARIZONA
    • (Sunday Night) NEW ENGLAND (-0.5) at DETROIT

** TWO STAR GAMES **

  • 6-POINT TEASER: HOUSTON (EVEN) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (Under 47.5)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: JACKSONVILLE (-0.5) vs. TENNESSEE (Under 45.5)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: KANSAS CITY (EVEN) vs. SAN FRANCISCO (Under 63)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (Over 41.5)
  • 6-POINT TEASER: CHICAGO (EVEN) at ARIZONA (Under 44)
  • 4-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (2.65-1 ODDS):
    • HOUSTON (EVEN) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • JACKSONVILLE (-0.5) vs. TENNESSEE
    • KANSAS CITY (EVEN) vs. SAN FRANCISCO
    • LOS ANGELES RAMS (-1) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

*** THREE STAR GAMES ***

  • 6-POINT TEASER: KANSAS CITY (EVEN) vs. SAN FRANCISCO (Over 49.5)
  • 3-TEAM, 6-POINT TEASER (9-5 ODDS):
    • HOUSTON (EVEN) vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
    • JACKSONVILLE (-0.5) vs. TENNESSEE
    • KANSAS CITY (EVEN) vs. SAN FRANCISCO

PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Green Bay, Philadelphia, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago

RESULTS

Last Week

  • OVERALL: 5-9-2 (35.7%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 5.8-9 (39.2%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 2-3-1 (40.0%)

Season

  • OVERALL: 14-16-2 (46.7%)
  • BEST BETS (STARS): 11.8-11 (51.8%)
  • PICK OF WEEK: 8-5-1 (61.5%)

Good luck this weekend!

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com

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