NFL Week 3 Best Bets – A pick for every Sunday late game
Every Friday during the season, ESPN betting analysts Doug Kezirian (2-0 last week, 3-2 overall), Joe Fortenbaugh (2-4, 4-8), Anita Marks (4-2, 9-3), Preston Johnson (2-2, 5-5), Mike Clay (0-1, 3-1) and Tyler Fulghum (0-1, 0-3), sports betting deputy editor David Bearman (2-0, 5-1), Seth Walder (3-2, 7-3) of ESPN analytics and Aaron Schatz (4-2, 7-4) of Football Outsiders will tell us what they like from Sunday’s NFL slate.
Note: Lines courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill as of Thursday.
4 p.m. ET games
New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-11.5, 44)
Fulghum: This game is going to be ugly for Jets fans. Colts rookie RB Jonathan Taylor is in an absolute sledgehammer smash spot as a more than double-digit favorite at home against a Jets team that has been wrecked by opposing running games. The rookie out of Wisconsin will likely dictate score and pace in this one.
How are the Jets going to contribute more than 6-10 points to this total? Adam Gase still looks lost as a head coach, and the Jets are missing four starters on offense: RB Le’Veon Bell (hamstring), WR Jamison Crowder (hamstring), WR Breshad Perriman (ankle) and G Connor McGovern (hamstring). Hammer the under in this game.
Pick: Under 44
Schatz: The danger here is that the Colts will get out to such a big lead that they can run all second half. That’s what happened with San Francisco last week against the Jets, when two 49ers’ QBs combined for just 202 passing yards. And it’s what happened to Philip Rivers last week when he had just 214 passing yards against Minnesota.
But we also have evidence from Week 1, when the Jets allowed 312 passing yards and Rivers threw for 363. At least while the game is competitive, the Jets are a pass funnel defense; last year they ranked 18th in DVOA against the pass but second against the run, and so far this year they are 23rd against the pass but third against the run. (Yes, the Jets rank third despite the 80-yard Raheem Mostert touchdown run; otherwise they’ve allowed 3.3 yards per carry.) Based on Football Outsiders projections, there’s a 76% chance of Rivers beating this prop.
Pick: Rivers over 231.5 passing yards (-110)
Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5, 43.5)
Schatz: Don’t be thrown off by Austin Ekeler’s one catch for 3 yards in Week 1. That was a major outlier for a player who averaged 62 receiving yards per game last season. Fifty-five yards in Week 2 was more like what we can expect from Ekeler. Meanwhile, the Carolina defense has allowed over 24.5 receiving yards to at least one running back in each game so far: 46 yards for Josh Jacobs in Week 1 and 26 yards for LeSean McCoy in Week 2.
Pick: Ekeler over 24.5 receiving yards (-110)
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals (-5.5, 55)
Fulghum: Kyler Murray will have another plum spot to upgrade his budding MVP candidacy in the early portion of the season as the Lions bring their toothless defense to the desert. Aaron Rodgers and Mitchell Trubisky — yes, that Mitchell Trubisky — have combined to hang 69 points on the Detroit defense through two weeks. Kliff Kingsbury and Murray have a group that is arguably more explosive than either of those teams. So far, Matt Patricia’s defense has mustered up just two sacks and eight QB hits on the season. That won’t cut it against Murray.
And it won’t be just the Arizona passing attack that is going gangbusters on Sunday. Kenyan Drake is poised for a breakout game as well thanks to a matchup with a defense that so far has allowed 353 rushing yards this season on 6.9 yards per carry.
I fully expect the Cardinals to reach into the 30s or 40s in this game, and while Matthew Stafford will benefit from the likely return of his top receiver, Kenny Golladay, that won’t be enough to keep this game within two field goals.
Pick: Cardinals -5.5
Marks: The Lions are expecting Golladay back this week, but that still won’t be enough to pull off a win in the desert. The addition of DeAndre Hopkins makes the Cardinals’ offense even more legit, and it will face an injured Lions secondary in Week 3. Murray should have success rushing against a Lions defense that has given up over 400 rushing yards so far this season in two games. Detroit’s defense has forced zero turnovers this season (and, by the way, they faced Mitchell Trubisky in Week 1). Stafford won’t be able to keep up offensively, considering Arizona’s defense is stingier this season in the red zone.
Pick: Cardinals -5.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6, 43.5) at Denver Broncos
Marks: Since joining Tampa Bay, Leonard Fournette’s volume share is over 65% of the Bucs’ offensive snaps, and he is getting targeted in the red zone more than any other running back in the NFL. Fournette scored two touchdowns in Week 2, and I see much of the same against a Broncos defense that has allowed success to opposing running backs in each of their first two games.
Pick: Fournette scores TD (+163)
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks (-5, 56)
Fortenbaugh: Both clubs rank in the bottom 10 in total defense, and both franchises rank in the top 10 in total offense as well as scoring offense. How could this game possibly stay under? I’d love to give you a solid, clearly presented case as to why I’m betting against scoring in this game, but the answer here is extremely simple — everybody is going to bet this over, just like everybody was betting the over in the Super Bowl. Sometimes I prefer to lurk in the shadows and bet against the majority. Other times, I find myself firmly in the crosshairs of the majority. When it comes to this particular game, it’s the former. Keep the clock running!
Pick: Under 56 points
8:20 p.m. ET game
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints (-3, 52.5)
Johnson: I think this is a relatively strong spot to sell high on the Packers two weeks into the season. Scoring 43 and 42 points back-to-back weeks to start the season will certainly change public perception, but I’m not ready to completely buy in to an Aaron Rodgers revival yet. Rodgers took advantage of depleted defenses in both weeks — including as many as five in the Lions’ secondary who were out with injuries this past Sunday — but New Orleans is a step up in class. The Saints’ loss to the Raiders in Las Vegas is likely contributing to a cheap buy at -3 as well. Even if Michael Thomas misses his second consecutive game, I project the point spread in this matchup to be -5.6. Davante Adams is questionable as well for Green Bay after getting hurt against Detroit, so if he is unable to go then it’s an even bigger bargain for us on the Saints.
Pick: Saints -3
1 p.m. ET games
Las Vegas Raiders at New England Patriots (-6, 47.5)
Kezirian: Are the 2-0 Raiders actually good? Call me skeptical after seeing the Saints look pretty pedestrian without Michael Thomas and Drew Brees looking every bit of his 41 years. I imagine we are going to learn a lot more about Las Vegas in this tough situation, having to travel to Foxborough on a short week and facing the sport’s greatest coach. I expect Bill Belichick to remove Raiders standout tight end Darren Waller from Derek Carr’s available options. Plus, Belichick is 51-26 ATS in his career off a loss, so I think we get a good version of New England. The guy is a machine. Plus, Cam Newton should thrive against a porous Raiders defense.
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