Before we get to this week’s picks, this is your weekly reminder to enjoy and appreciate all these games that we were not guaranteed to have a few months ago. Despite the inevitable bad beats you will suffer over the course of a season or your favorite team already being on the brink of irrelevance before October, we have a full Sunday of football for which to be grateful.
As we enter Week 3, the intensity ramps up as many teams look to avoid 0-3 starts that effectively serve as death sentences in the NFL, even with the added playoff spot. Concurrently, the workload ramps up for us as bettors — check the injury reports! Who practiced? Who didn’t? With the plethora of injuries this week, homework is as important as ever. Sifting through all the injuries is time-consuming but necessary, and it can make the difference between a good bet and a bad bet.
One thing I wonder about is teams that will start 0-3. The Dolphins last year and the Jaguars this year are living proof that NFL teams do not tank. But with Trevor Lawrence likely entering the draft in April, I’m sure many fan bases will start to root for their teams to lose, knowing they are closer to the bottom than the top.
On to this week’s picks ...
Patriots -6 over Raiders: Bill Belichick off a loss, and the Raiders flying west to east on short rest after a big victory. This is a golden spot to back the Pats and fade the Silver and Black. Cam Newton’s play would have me asking my general manager why we didn’t sign this guy if I owned one of these teams that needs a quarterback. It’s puzzling, and it’s once again an example of the Patriots feasting off poorly run teams. Newton looks fast, strong, healthy and accurate. The vertical passing game wasn’t really unleashed until the second half vs. Seattle, but everything about his performance was impressive. A Patriots team in a bad mood will bounce back, and Raiders coach Jon Gruden will fail, once again, to gain a measure of revenge for “the tuck game.” It’s amazing that game was 18 years ago and the coaches, after all this time, are the same for each team. Pats win going away.
Titans -2.5 over Vikings:
Get this while you can, as it will only go up. Mike Zimmer is great against the spread, winning nearly 60% ATS since taking over the Vikings in 2014. He’s great as an underdog, and he’s also excellent coming off a loss. Take all those trends, put them with my Vikings futures tickets and throw them in the garbage. The Vikings need to play complementary football to win, and Kirk Cousins needs a good defense and running game to excel. The losses on defense simply cannot be compensated for, especially with so much youth in a year with no preseason. The defensive line is a shell of its former self. Danielle Hunter is on IR, Michael Pierce opted out and Everson Griffen now has a star on his helmet in Dallas. The Vikings lost three cornerbacks to free agency, and Mike Hughes, whom they drafted over Lamar Jackson, has been relegated to slot corner because of his poor play. In comes a smash-mouth Titans team with Derrick Henry and a physical offensive line. Bad matchup for the Vikes, who are headed for a long season.
Lions + 6 over Cardinals:
My final attempt to avoid entering “Lions rehab” ... maybe. They led the Bears 23-6, holding them to 2-11 on third down, losing not only because of the drop by D’Andre Swift but because of four starting defenders who didn’t dress for the game. Last week they led the Packers 14-3 before doing what has become a habit — squandering double-digit leads. The Cardinals were everybody’s darlings entering the season. Their 2-0 start combined with their fun, up-tempo style makes them even more endearing, but this line seems a bit inflated to me. The Lions will be desperate and will get WR Kenny Golladay back to give the offense some punch. These teams tied in the opener last year and should be locked in another close one late. Take the points.