10 NFL betting lessons of Week 3 from Matt Youmans

September 25, 2023 02:56 PM

NFL Week 3 Betting Recap

It’s late September, the autumn wind has yet to hit Las Vegas, and already the Raiders’ season feels doomed. In the aftermath of Sunday night’s loss, it was reported that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was being evaluated for a concussion after he threw three interceptions.

The reporters who covered the game — and the rest of us watching from home or a sportsbook — wanted Raiders coach Josh McDaniels’ head examined.

Despite playing poorly on both sides of the ball in a 23-18 loss to the Steelers, the Raiders had a shot to win or at least tie the game late in the fourth quarter. McDaniels responded under pressure with a mysterious decision to sabotage his team’s chances. When questioned about it after the game, he stumbled through a senseless answer.

Las Vegas trailed 23-15 and faced a fourth-and-4 from the Pittsburgh 8-yard line with 2:25 remaining. (Derek Carr rarely rose to the occasion in those situations, which was one reason McDaniels dumped him and signed Garoppolo.) Instead of doing the obvious and leaving the ball in Garoppolo’s hands to make a play, McDaniels sent in Daniel Carlson for a 26-yard field goal.

“You have two choices there, you know?” McDaniels told reporters. “You try to make it a five-point game, where you have an opportunity to win it with a touchdown if you get the ball back, or you try to go for it there. If you happen to convert, you have to make a two-point conversion. You’re going to need another possession anyway, you know what I mean? I did have confidence that we were playing well enough defensively. I mean, it is what it is.”

The bottom line: Sending out the kicker was not a bright idea, and everyone but McDaniels could see that. No math model supported McDaniels’ call. The live betting line was Steelers -500 before the fourth-down play and -1,100 after the field goal. According to ESPN analytics, the Raiders had a 15.8% win probability by going for it and 10.2% by kicking it.

McDaniels’ confidence in his defense did not pay off. The Steelers converted on third-and-2 from their 33-yard line with 2:12 remaining when Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs blitzed and receiver Allen Robinson was left wide open for a 6-yard catch that essentially ended the game. While that defensive breakdown was inexcusable, the field-goal decision was a disaster that will haunt McDaniels throughout another losing season.

Westgate SuperBook director John Murray was happy about the result, saying, “The Steelers winning makes it a great day.”

Murray said his book took “a lot of sharp money” on the Raiders, who opened as 1.5-point home underdogs and closed as 3-point favorites. (I had a small bet on the Steelers plus-3, so I’m not whining as a sore loser.)

The line move had a lot to do with Pittsburgh’s anemic offensive showing last Monday against the Browns. Of course, the Las Vegas defense that McDaniels had so much confidence in allowed 333 total yards, including 235 passing yards and two touchdowns by Kenny Pickett.

Davante Adams continues to be a bright light for the Raiders on the field. Adams had 13 receptions for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He’s unhappy, however, and it was clear he disagreed with the call to kick a field goal while speaking to reporters in the darkness of the locker room.

According to OptaStats, since the 2-point conversion was adopted in 1994, the Raiders are the only team to attempt a field goal in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter when down by exactly eight points with less than 5 yards to go for a first down or touchdown.

It’s only Week 3, the season-opening 17-16 win at Denver looks much less impressive now, and already the odds are against Las Vegas getting Over its season win total of 6.5.

McDaniels is 7-13 in his second year with the Raiders. Three of his wins came against the Broncos, who are a bigger mess as they sit embarrassed in the AFC West basement. Don’t trust McDaniels, Garoppolo or the Raiders’ defense unless they are facing the Broncos — one of 10 betting lessons to take away from Week 3.

NFL Odds | NFL Betting Splits | Week 3 Hub

The Broncos can make so-called sharps look square.

Sean Payton is finding something out about karma. After ripping Denver’s former coach, Nathaniel Hackett, for doing a horrendous job in Denver prior to getting fired, Payton has taken over a bad team and made it worse.

The Broncos, 6-point underdogs, were humiliated in a 70-20 loss at Miami. The Dolphins scored the most points by an NFL team since 1966, finishing two short of the regular-season record. Tua Tagovailoa, who was trashed by Payton last year when he worked as a TV analyst, passed for 309 yards and four touchdowns with no picks or sacks.

“We had a lot of sharp groups on Denver, honest to God, and they got crushed,” Murray said.

Only the Bears can make the Broncos look better.

The dysfunctional, 0-2 Bears went to Kansas City as 13-point underdogs at DraftKings and never threatened to cover the number. The Chiefs led 34-0 at halftime and coasted to a 41-10 win as Taylor Swift celebrated in a suite. Swift’s appearance, as a guest of tight end Travis Kelce, stole the headlines and that was some good news for Justin Fields the Bears.

VSiN analyst Michael Lombardi, a former NFL general manager who often has mocked the Bears and their betting supporters, tweeted on X: “And people thought the Bears were a playoff caliber team this summer. The Over 7.5 was juiced.”

Chicago, which has a 13-game losing streak, opened as a 3-point home ‘dog to Denver in Week 4. Yes, a Broncos team that just allowed 726 yards and 70 points to the Dolphins is favored on the road. Which side would you bet in the Biggest Loser Bowl? Who should do the halftime show?

“Why did people think the Bears were going to be good?” Murray said.

Why is it good to be a bookmaker? Because there were “sharp” bettors on the Broncos in their 50-point loss at Miami and squares who were betting the Bears Over their win total.

Don’t trust the Jaguars with your Survivor life.

More than $9 million is on the line in the Circa Survivor contest, which drew 9,267 entries. Only 2,481 entries remain going into Monday night’s doubleheader.

The Jaguars eliminated 41 percent of the pool (2,421 entries) by losing 37-17 to the Texas, who were 7.5-point dogs. Jacksonville’s first five offensive drives ended with a missed field, punt, blocked field, punt and fumble.

Houston has won five in a row at Jacksonville and 10 of the past 11 in the series. With that trend in mind, why were the Jaguars such a popular contest pick?

Murray, who had three entries with partners, lost one Sunday. “I told the guy I’m doing the contest with, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to get through 20 weeks without using the Jaguars once.’”

The Chiefs were the safest pick, but it seemed wiser to save Kansas City for later.

The Ravens are unreliable as home favorites.

Backup quarterback Gardner Minshew and the Colts, 7.5-point underdogs, stormed into Baltimore and stole a 22-19 overtime win against the Ravens, who killed another 621 entries in Survivor. The spread decision should not come as a stunner considering the Ravens went 1-6 ATS as home favorites last season.

Indianapolis won with Minshew, who passed for 227 yards and one touchdown, and backup running back Zack Moss, who carried the ball 30 times for 122 yards. Maybe the Colts, who sit atop the AFC South at 2-1, are serious contenders to win the league’s weakest division.

Strange things are happening in the Arizona desert.

A week after blowing a 20-0 halftime lead against the Giants, the Cardinals closed the deal. Arizona took a 21-10 halftime lead against the Cowboys, 11-point favorites, and held on to win 28-16. The team almost everyone predicted would be the NFL’s worst is not the worst.

A Dallas defense that was dominant through two weeks is not comparable to the ‘85 Bears. Joshua Dobbs, a Cleveland castoff in the preseason, completed 17 of 21 passes for 189 yards and ran for 55 yards in the upset. Dobbs outplayed Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who was in postseason form.

The Cardinals wiped out 367 Survivor entries riding with the Cowboys — and suddenly 73% of the Circa field is eliminated.

“It’s another crazy NFL day,” Murray said.


Always bet on the Patriots against the Jets.

Bill Belichick was 0-2 and facing Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, and that’s most of what you needed to know when handicapping the game. It was also important to know the Patriots had a 14-game winning streak in the rivalry. The streak is now 15 after New England’s 15-10 win as a 2.5-point road favorite.

Wilson did not throw an interception, and neither did Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who passed for 201 yards with a 58-yard touchdown. New England rushed for 157 yards and its defense allowed only 38 rushing yards.

The Patriots got impressive production from former Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had 80 yards on 16 carries. The Patriots are 7-point underdogs at Dallas in Week 4.

Josh Allen and the Bills are back.

Allen was not quite great, but he followed up a strong showing in a victory over the Raiders by accounting for 264 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-3 win at Washington.

The Buffalo defense was great, sacking Sam Howell nine times and intercepting him four times. The Commanders turned out to be square 5-point ‘dogs. The Bills will get a tougher test this week when the Dolphins roll into Buffalo for what deserves to be a prime-time game yet will be an early kickoff among eight other games at 1 p.m. ET.

Jordan Love and the Packers are back, thanks to a big comeback.

The small line mattered in the New Orleans-Green Bay game. The Packers were 2-point favorites during the week before closing as 1.5-point underdogs. Even after quarterback Derek Carr left Lambeau Field with a shoulder injury, the Saints seemed on their way to an easy win by taking a 17-0 lead into the fourth quarter.

Who needs Aaron Rodgers? (The Jets needed him, of course, but that’s a different story.) The Packers scored 18 points in the final 11 minutes to win their 11th consecutive home opener, 18-17. Love is looking good, and it’s clear Green Bay can win with him. Love passed for 259 yards and a touchdown and ran for a score in his first home start.

Green Bay’s last two games were each decided by one point. It’s OK to bet small favorites on the moneyline instead of laying the point or a few points. The Packers (2-1) gave away a fourth-quarter lead at Atlanta in Week 2 and got it back in Week 3.

The Chargers-Vikings game was a coin-flip decision all the way.

No one is a genius for betting the Chargers at Minnesota, and no one is dunce for betting the Vikings. The line straddled pick ’em all week, with each 0-2 team favored by one point at different times at different books.

In a wild one that featured a little bit of everything, the Chargers escaped 28-24 when Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins had a pass deflected and intercepted in the end zone in the final seconds. It was exactly the kind of game we expected from those teams.

Justin Herbert passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns for the Chargers, who are not back but found a way to stay alive.

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