NFL Week 3: Beware of traps

September 19, 2023 05:49 PM

Beware of NFL Week 3 traps

We have worked our way through two weeks of NFL betting and it’s already been an unusual season. Several teams that looked horrible in Week 1 bounced back in Week 2 and vice versa. There are nine undefeated teams left, with six of them coming from the NFC East and NFC South. Ironically, the latter division was expected to be one of the worst in football, if not the worst.

There are also nine winless teams, including four that were in the playoffs this past January. That’s how quickly things can turn in the NFL. Typically, after two weeks of games, bettors are already forming opinions about all of the teams, and in turn, those setting the odds try to take advantage. Let’s avoid some traps they’ll try to set for you this week.

Regardless of what has happened in the first two weeks, historically, Week 3 has had a penchant for evening the scales, so tread cautiously this weekend, and perhaps have the courage to go “against the grain” in terms of what we’ve seen so far. Bettors who have done so have typically reaped the rewards. It’s also imperative that you understand what has transpired with each of the teams in terms of personnel, as we’ve already seen some major injuries that have affected games and will continue to in the coming weeks.

Let’s look at some NFL handicapping systems that have thrived in recent years, using logic that might not seem all that sensible. Backing these types of angles helps bettors avoid what could be considered “traps.” Here are six concepts you’ll want to consider as you prepare your wagers for this weekend and the games that will be affected.

NFL Betting Odds | NFL Betting Splits | NFL Matchups

1. Teams that start 0-2 SU in the NFL are 23-23 SU but 33-13 ATS (71.7%) against 1-1 teams in Week 3 since 2010

There’s a tidal wave of negativity that gets associated with the winless teams after two weeks, and while they remain typically bad when matched against undefeated teams, they do perform quite well against middle-of-the-road opponents. In most cases, the 1-1 team has shown early signs of inconsistency, and I don’t know of any bettors who are actively looking to bet teams like that. Trust that the desperate 0-2 teams will bring their best effort into this week’s game, motivated by the fear of going 0-3 and what that has historically meant to teams’ playoff chances.

The 0-2 teams in 2023, with their prospective matchups for Week 3 against 1-1 teams are as follows:

CAROLINA (+5.5) at Seattle

NEW ENGLAND (-3) at New York Jets

HOUSTON (+8.5) at Jacksonville

CHICAGO (+13) at Kansas City

CINCINNATI (-2) vs. Los Angeles Rams

If you consider the lines, three teams have pretty strong chances of going 0-3. Two of the winless clubs are favorites, including the Patriots, who are road favorites. New England and Cincinnati figure to be the most desperate teams of the group, as both had realistic playoff aspirations heading into the season. Keep an ear to the newswire regarding the status of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who tweaked the same calf he injured in the preseason and may have to miss the Super Bowl 56 rematch versus the Rams. The Bears have to be the biggest disappointment of these teams. They have lost two games with tight point spreads under 3 points and are now being looked at as one of the worst teams in the league.

2. Winless teams in the NFL are 18-32-1 SU but 34-17 ATS (66.7%) in Week 3 when playing as underdogs of +3.5 points or more since 2010

This system reeks of pure desperation by the 0-2 team. Surely you’ve seen the stats indicating that only six teams since 1980 have reached the postseason after an 0-3 start. That’s essentially only one team every seven years. In other words, you can almost kiss the playoff chances goodbye for the teams below should they lose their Week 3 games. That’s enough to fuel even the worst team’s effort level. Here are the winless teams playing as an underdogs of +3.5 points or more this week:

ARIZONA (+12.5) vs. Dallas

CAROLINA (+5.5) at Seattle

HOUSTON (+8.5) at Jacksonville

CHICAGO (+13) at Kansas City

If history serves, expect the Panthers, Texans and Bears to be very competitive this week, and perhaps at least threaten upsets. Recognize that bettors in past years have also faced this same difficulty of choosing to back a team that looks hopeless at this point and may be playing some of the league’s better teams, but for whatever reason, they do bring a solid effort in most cases. Note that all three teams are on the road and all three are facing returning playoff teams. They have no chance, right? Or do they?

3. Teams allowing more than 6.50 yards per play in the first two weeks have rebounded in Week 3 with a record of 25-16 SU and 26-15 ATS (63.4%) since 2015.

This goes against all logic when it comes to bettors and the choices they make. The teams that have allowed more than 6.5 yards per play have shown to be the league’s worst defensively in the first two games. Why in the world would any self-respecting bettor consider backing a team like this in the third game? Well, this is exactly how the sportsbooks entrap their clients. Typically, teams that were that bad defensively in the early going rebound as they are motivated by the bad press about them and/or make adjustments. In many cases, the Week 3 matchup is also against a lesser opponent offensively than it faced in the first two games.

In 2022, four teams allowed at least 6.5 yards per play defensively in the first two games. This season, only one has allowed more than 6.0 yards per play, and that is the Chargers, who are easily the league’s worst defense in this statistical category, allowing 7.1 YPP.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-1) at Minnesota

Interestingly, despite the brutal defensive start, the Chargers still find themselves in the role of road favorite heading to Minnesota. Los Angeles has lost its two games by a combined five points. The Vikings, who are also sporting a 0-2 record, also have lost both of their games by single-score margins. This is about as interesting of a game, and line scenario, as there is on the Week 3 slate.

4. The league’s best defensive teams after two weeks, or those allowing 14 PPG or less so far, are 25-20 SU but just 14-30-1 ATS (31.8%) in Week 3 since ’05 when favored by three points or more.

It’s obvious from this system and the last one that bettors shouldn’t put too much stock into the defensive performance of teams in the first two weeks. Oftentimes the numbers that a defense puts up in the early going are more a reflection of the opposing offenses they’ve faced. Those that played bad offenses have fared well, while those that faced the elite attacks are probably being misjudged. Again, this is a trap that many bettors fall into. After two weeks, the Cowboys boast the league’s top defense, but how much can be attributed to having played the two New York offenses? It is too presumptuous to look at their game this Sunday in Arizona as an easy win?

DALLAS (-12) at Arizona

If you recall last year, there was only one qualifying game for this system as well. In that one, a seemingly dominant Bills team at the time went to Miami and was upset 21-19. Dallas looks as unbeatable this year and is facing the league’s perceived worst team in a double-digit road favorite spot. What could possibly go wrong?

5. Teams gaining more than 6.75 yards per play in the first two weeks have continued their impressive play in Week 3 with a record of 17-7 SU and ATS (70.8%) since 2015.

So, this system wouldn’t be considered a “trap,” per se, but the reason I have included it here is to remind people that good offense continues to rule the day in the NFL and is the more consistent factor in a team’s resume. So far, there is only one team that has been truly elite offensively, that being Miami, which has put up what would seem to be an unsustainable 7.4 YPP in its 2-0 start. What makes the 7.4 YPP figure so impressive is that no one else is above 6.5 right now. The Dolphins offense is clicking, and historically speaking, it makes no sense to step in front of the train until a key injury or other factor has a negative impact. Coach Mike McDaniel’s team has also beaten two fellow expected AFC playoff contenders, both on the road no less and gets its first home game on Sunday.

MIAMI (-6.5) vs. Denver

What makes this game a little more interesting than it may have seemed two weeks ago is that Denver’s offense under new coach Sean Payton has also gotten off to a surprisingly hot start. The Broncos are averaging 5.9 YPP so far, fifth in the league. Can they keep up here with the red-hot Dolphins?

6. Since ’08, the league’s best undefeated teams after two weeks, those having outscored teams by 25 points or more, are 24-21 SU but 15-28-2 ATS (34.9%) in Week 3.

These are the teams that oddsmakers tend to shade the lines heavily toward in Week 3, as they have put up the most sterling performances in the early going. Some of the teams may have actually warranted the respect. Others, though, may have been the beneficiary of turnover luck or favorable scheduling in the first two weeks to get to where they are. Recognize that if you’re backing a team that has won its first two games by a combined 25 points or more, you are probably paying too high of a price and be prepared to see your team struggle to cover an overinflated point spread. For 2023, two teams have met the criteria for outscoring teams by 25 points or more in the first two weeks, the Cowboys and 49ers.

DALLAS (-12) at Arizona

SAN FRANCISCO (-10.5) vs. New York Giants

The Cowboys-Cardinals game has now come up in two of the six systems, and all of them suggest that Arizona is the play for Sunday, at least from a point-spread perspective. The 49ers also look very tough to fade after two weeks, especially with the Giants having had to rally furiously at Arizona this past Sunday to avoid 0-2. If any of these systems is a tough one to swallow as a bettor, this would be it. No one has ever said winning consistently at sports betting was easy, have they? Keep in mind that the only play that was called for on this system last year was backing Miami vs. Buffalo, a winner.


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