NFL Betting: How to Pick Week 3 Games

I felt fortunate to finish 3-4 in Week 2. It was a week where the favorites dominated by going 14-2 straight-up. When favorites have this much success I usually do poorly on the week, but seven of the 14 underdogs that lost covered the spread, which definitely helped. On Sunday morning, I pivoted from the Cowboys to the Giants as my seventh and final pick because the line dropped due to Dallas’ injuries, and that also worked in my favor.

In Week 3 there’s an interesting trend involving teams that start 0-2 against the spread that we should acknowledge. I usually don’t pay attention to trends like this, but this one holds more weight to me because the market often downgrades teams when they don’t cover a number. So watch out for the teams that are 0-2 against the spread like the Texans, Titans, Vikings, Browns, Eagles, Jets, Panthers, Lions and Cowboys.

I’m also going to target 0-2 teams that are playing 2-0 teams. That’s because last year there were five instances where this happened and the 0-2 team covered the spread in three of the five matchups. My thought process is that the 0-2 team needs to win and the 2-0 team could be complacent.

I’ll use lines from the Las Vegas SuperContest, a popular football challenge hosted by the Westgate SuperBook. The point spreads for the contest come out Wednesday evening and are locked at those numbers for the rest of the week.

I’m in a competition where I pick seven sides a week using the SuperContest’s lines, so in this weekly breakdown I will unveil my first impressions of the games and point spreads. I hope this can be a guide for people who are in similar NFL pick’ems or looking to bet games.

Note: My picks could change based on information and any news that is not factored into the contest line. I will discuss and finalize these picks on a Periscope show I host called Weekend Warriors. The show will be live for an hour on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on Stadium’s Periscope channel or Stadium’s Twitter. After the show, I will tweet my seven picks for the contest from my Twitter.

Here are my thoughts for Week 3.

Sides I’ll likely use

Texans (+4) over Steelers: This play is purely situational based on what I wrote above, as the 0-2 Texans travel to the 2-0 Steelers. The Texans failed to cover in their two straight-up losses against the NFL elites in Kansas City and Baltimore. It definitely feels unfair that Houston was dealt this early-season schedule with a trip to Pittsburgh, but it’s still a vital game for the Texans. Houston opened +6 and the line plummeted to +3.5 on Monday morning, indicating that the Texans are the sharp side. While I believe the situation is the reason for the line move, keep in mind that the Steelers barely got past the Broncos in Week 2. Now that the line is back to +4, I like the Texans at this number.

Broncos (+6) over Buccaneers: The Broncos are 14-4 straight-up and 10-6-2 against the spread in September home games since 2012. Part of that edge is lost for this game without fans, but a big reason for Denver’s early-season home success is they are better prepared to play in high altitude and visiting teams wear down as the game goes on because they aren’t in mid-season shape yet. The situation favors the Broncos, but I also believe there’s line value here. The look-ahead line before Week 2 was Buccaneers -3.5 and now it has gone up 2.5 points. The biggest change from last week to this week is Broncos quarterback Drew Lock is injured and Jeff Driskel takes his place. While Lock has a lot of potential, I don’t think the drop-off between Lock and Driskel is worthy of a 2.5-point adjustment. I like the Broncos to keep the score close in a low-scoring game.

Cowboys (+5) over Seahawks: I don’t want to fade Russell Wilson and a Seahawks offense that is allowing their franchise quarterback to throw the ball and make plays on his own, but this number is too good to pass up. I believe the line for this game should be Seahawks -2.5, so I see real value on Dallas. Two weeks ago, the Cowboys were regarded as one of the NFC favorites. They then lost to the Rams, who might be better than we expected, and defied the odds by rallying to beat the Falcons. While I can see a slight downgrade on Dallas over 120 minutes of play, they shouldn’t be a five-point underdog in Seattle without fans in the building. You have to wonder what this line would be if Cam Newton gained one yard on the final play last Sunday and the Seahawks lost to the Pats. This sets up for a great “buy low” spot on the Cowboys.

Picks I’m considering

Patriots (-6.5) over Raiders: This line is probably right as both teams impressed last week in primetime. The Patriots lost and didn’t cover, but I came away feeling more positive about New England going forward because of their offensive performance. Las Vegas overcame two 10-point deficits and won their first game in their new city by 10 points against the Saints. I’ll make a case for New England here with the rest advantage and predict a possible letdown for Las Vegas, who’s playing an early game after an emotional win on Monday. The Patriots could end up being a teaser leg I play.

Rams (+2.5) over Bills: I would’ve used the Rams in the contest and bet on them at a +3 line, but I missed out on that number. I can only look at the Rams here because I’m still unsure how good the Bills are after only beating the Jets and Dolphins the last two weeks. What’s keeping me away from Los Angeles is they had to travel back home after playing in Philadelphia last week. Before the schedule was released, the Rams requested to have these two games played in back-to-back weeks so they could stay out East. However, with COVID-19 protocols they were forced to go back home and have to take another cross-country plane trip. The Rams are one of my favorite teaser legs this week, with me going through the key numbers of +3 and +7 and getting them to +8.5.

Vikings (+2.5) over Titans: These are two teams that are both 0-2 against the spread, but the Titans are 2-0 overall and road favorites against the winless Vikings. The Vikings have had one of the most disappointing starts to the season and there’s uncertainty they will improve soon. I believe that is now built into the line but would consider taking the Vikings if it got to +3. For now, Minnesota will be in the group of teams that I will likely use in teasers.

Browns (-7) over Washington: The buy signs are flashing on the Browns. They are coming off a mini-bye after playing two games in five days to start the season. This afforded the team time to get healthy on defense and allowed first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski an opportunity to implement his offense after not having a normal offseason schedule or real preseason. While I might not lay seven points in this game, the Browns are another team to tease or have in a moneyline parlay of large favorites.

Eagles (-5) over Bengals: One of the favorites you could pair in a parlay with the Browns (and maybe Patriots) are the Eagles. I would be shocked if they fell to 0-3 on the season after starting the year with high expectations. This line feels discounted because of their start, but I’m also not high on the Bengals. Cincinnati is coming off a five-point loss to the Browns, but the Bengals were dominated in the box score. Cleveland had a 7.5-4.0 yards per play advantage and the Bengals only covered because Joe Burrow led a late touchdown drive to cut the lead from 12 to 5. The Bengals do have extra time to prepare for this game, but it’s negated by having an unqualified head coach in Zac Taylor. This is a good bounce-back spot for the Eagles.

Falcons (-3) over Bears: The Falcons are 0-2 with losses to the Seahawks and Cowboys, while the Bears are 2-0 with wins against the Lions and Giants. It’s already a must-win game for Dan Quinn and Atlanta, and I believe Chicago isn’t as good as their record might indicate. I can only look towards the Falcons because of the situation, although the point spread feels right.

Panthers (+6.5) over Chargers: There are a few reasons why I’m considering the Panthers in this game. I usually look to fade rookie quarterbacks against the spread and Justin Herbert is going to make his second start in this game after a bizarre injury involving Tyrod Taylor. Herbert was impressive against the Chiefs, but I question how he’ll deal with the pressure knowing that he’s going to start all week. I was also discouraged by the comments head coach Anthony Lynn made after Sunday’s loss. He reaffirmed that Taylor would still be the starter when healthy and said, “he’s a backup for a reason” when talking about Herbert’s performance. Everything going on with the Chargers makes me want to fade them as a big favorite. I just have a hard time backing a Panthers team that has a bad defense and will be without running back Christian McCaffrey.

Lions (+5.5) over Cardinals: I would’ve likely been on the Lions at +6, but I also want to wait to see if they get some players back from injury, including wide receiver Kenny Golladay. This line is inflated based on the Cardinals’ 2-0 start and the Lions’ 0-2 start. Consider that the Cardinals were a 6.5-point favorite last week against Washington and Detroit is a better team than Washington. I expect Detroit’s best effort in an attempt to salvage their season.

Saints (-3) over Packers: I think the Saints will bounce back after their Monday night loss, as they host the Packers on Sunday night. But the wide receiver injuries in this game are keeping me from making a pick in a contest as Michael Thomas and Davante Adams are uncertain to play for their respective teams. Usually a non-quarterback doesn’t move the point spread, but these two players do because of their talent and a lack of depth within their team’s skill positions.

Games I’ll likely avoid

Dolphins at Jaguars (-3): If this game was on a Sunday afternoon I would make a case for the Dolphins, but I stay away from Thursday night games. If you want to make a bet so you have a reason to watch this game, I would take the Dolphins getting a field goal and maybe tie them up in teasers for Sunday’s games.

49ers (-4) at Giants: The 49ers travel back to the same stadium where they saw a bevy of injuries on the MetLife Stadium turf. The most notable injury was Nick Bosa’s ACL tear, which is a brutal blow to a defense already banged up at pass rusher. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is likely to miss the game with an ankle injury, which means Nick Mullens is expected to start. The Giants also lost running back Saquon Barkley for the season in Week 2. It’s a game I want to stay away from given the circumstances.

Jets at Colts (-11): The look-ahead line was Colts -7. But as good as the Colts played and as bad as the Jets looked last week, I’m not going to bet a favorite after that big of an adjustment without an injury being the reason the line moved.

Chiefs at Ravens (-3.5): I think it’s fair to say this will be the most important regular season game all year as the winner has an edge for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Getting that top seed is more important this year because the extra playoff spot in the conference means there’s only one first-round bye, and playing one less January playoff game improves a team’s path to the Super Bowl. It’s too early in the week to make a pick in this game, but I would have to look at the Ravens unless the line got to Chiefs +4 or better.