Underdogs weren’t barking nearly as loudly in NFL Week 3, but we were still happy in the Tuley’s Takes home office as we went 4-3 ATS with our Best Bets in this column last week and even better on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page at 4-1 ATS (9-6 ATS overall).
College football didn’t fare as well as we went 2-4 ATS after a hot start to the season on the VSiN CFB Best Bets page to dip to 13-11 ATS. But all in all, September has been good to us, and we hope you’ve been checking out our new daily “Tuley’s Takes Today” column at VSiN.com as we went on a seven-day winning streak with the St. Louis Cardinals last Monday through Sunday (all at plus-money as we took them on the run line when they were favored).
But let’s get back to the NFL as we head into Week 4. Since I’m known as a dog-or-pass bettor, I’ll list whether I have a Best Bet or if I’m passing. Either way, I’ll also post my “pool play” to give my level of confidence for those in all kinds of contests, some in which you have to pick every game.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5)
We usually love to fade overachieving teams like the Bengals (2-1, tied for first in AFC North) when they’re put in the unfamiliar favorite’s role, but it’s hard to pull the trigger on the Jaguars again. I had them + 7.5 on Sunday vs. the Cardinals. They were hanging in great at 7-7, and then Jamal Agnew returned a missed field-goal attempt an NFL-record 109 yards to give the Jaguars a 14-7 halftime lead. And they still couldn’t cover. I’m assuming the oddsmakers felt they couldn’t make the Bengals double-digit favorites since the line was Bengals -2.5 over the summer and -6.5 on the advance line last week, but I still feel this line is short. Having said all that, I feel the best way to play this game is to start some teasers with the Bengals (taking them down to -1.5 in a 6-point teaser) and include Sunday games such as Falcons + 7.5, Titans -1.5, Vikings + 8, Saints -2, Chiefs -1 and Ravens + 7.5. Best Bet: Bengals in 6-point teasers (pool play: Bengals 55/45 in my rare ATS contests that include “Thursday Night Football” and in all SU pools).
Washington Football Team (-1.5) at Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons beat the Giants 17-14 in an ugly game for us on Sunday. The Falcons’ offense hasn’t been as explosive as I was expecting this season, but the much-hyped Washington defense is allowing 432 yards per game (31st in the league). That might not cure all of Atlanta’s ills, but Matt Ryan should be able to outduel Taylor Heinicke. Best Bet: Falcons + 1.5 (pool play: Falcons around 67/33 in ATS contests and around the same in SU pools).
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (-3)
On “A Numbers Game” on Monday morning, Gill Alexander was all over the Lions if he could get + 3.5. I think we all felt that way, but that’s long gone. If the Bears’ awful performance in their 26-6 loss to the Browns — with rookie QB Justin Fields running for his life and netting just 1 passing yard — wasn’t enough, Fields is banged up and coach Matt Nagy said all three QBs (Fields, Andy Dalton and Nick Foles) are under consideration to start this game. Everyone is looking to fade the Bears. Meanwhile, the Lions have been competitive in all three games and should have beaten the Ravens, so I’ll take them to break through here as they’re also a solid moneyline play. Best Bet: Lions + 3 (pool play: Lions 75/25 in ATS contests — though lower if offered only + 2.5 — and 60/40 in SU pools).
Tennessee Titans (-8) at New York Jets
This year’s rookie QB class is struggling as a whole with New York’s Zach Wilson perhaps hitting rock bottom in a 26-0 shutout loss to the Bills. However, the Titans’ defense (allowing 28 points per game) offers some hope as it doesn’t have much of a pass rush and things could be easier for Wilson on Sunday. Last week’s advance line was Titans -6.5. It was reposted at -7.5 on Sunday and it’s already -8 as of this writing on Tuesday morning. While road teams lead 24-23 SU & 26-21 ATS, home dogs are still profitable at 10-8 ATS, so I’ll pull the trigger on this ugly dog. I’ll wait until the line peaks (I’m guessing it’ll steam to 8.5 and some books might even move it to 9 to discourage six-point teasers on the Titans). Best Bet: Jets + 8 or more (pool play: Jets 60/40 in ATS contests, but Titans still 75/25 in SU pools).
Cleveland Browns (-2) at Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings got off the schneid with a 30-17 home win over the Seahawks and are now home underdogs again against the Browns. The Browns’ 26-6 rout of the Bears was more about the Bears’ ineptitude on offense and they face a much tougher test against QB Kirk Cousins (30-for-38, 323 yards, 3 TDs vs. Seahawks), whether RB Dalvin Cook returns or they turn again to Alexander Mattison (112 rushing yards, 59 receiving). If the Minnesota defense plays half as well as it did in containing Seattle, the Vikings should get back to .500. Best Bet: Vikings + 2, plus using the Vikings in teasers (pool play: Vikings 67/33 in all SU & ATS contests).
Indianapolis Colts at Miami Dolphins (-2)
Unlike other 0-2 teams like the Falcons and Vikings, the Colts didn’t get in the win column in Week 3. They have a good shot in Week 4 against the Dolphins, but I’m not confident enough to use them in my five picks on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page. The Dolphins did rebound from their embarrassing 35-0 loss in Week 2 to the Bills by nearly upsetting the Raiders in Week 3, but I still have the Colts as the better team despite their 0-3 start. However, since I’m already having some doubts, I know I’ll have more tied up in teasers just in case. Best Bet: Colts + 2, plus Colts in teasers (pool play: Colts 60/40 in ATS contests and around 55/45 in SU pools).
Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys (-5)
Last week’s advance line on this game was Cowboys -3.5. After the Panthers improved to 3-0 with a 24-9 win over the Texans on “Thursday Night Football,” I was surprised that the line went to Cowboys -5 on Sunday (though Christian McCaffrey’s injury probably had something to do with that). Early money came in on the Panthers to drive the line back down to 4 on Monday, but then the Cowboys routed the Eagles 41-21 on “Monday Night Football” and it’s back up to 5. We get to see which is stronger, the Cowboys’ high-flying offense (No. 1 in the NFL at 416.7 yards per game) or the Panthers’ defense (No. 1 in the league, allowing 191 yards per game). The Panthers lost CB Jaycee Horn with broken bones in his right foot but replaced him with C.J. Henderson thanks to a trade with the Jaguars. And even without McCaffrey, QB Sam Darnold still has plenty of weapons to keep up with the Cowboys. Best Bet: Panthers + 5 (pool play: Panthers 65/35 in ATS contest, but Cowboys still 60/40 in SU pools).
New York Giants at New Orleans Saints (-8)
The Saints have impressive wins over the Packers and Patriots but also have a blowout loss to the Panthers. Meanwhile, the Giants are 0-3, but they’ve actually been competitive the past two weeks in narrow losses to Washington and Atlanta. The Saints’ offense is still trying to find its identity (averaging just 234 yards per game, better than only the Bears), so I still expect the Giants to be able to stick around, especially as we’re getting more than a touchdown. Best Bet: Giants + 8, though also using Saints -2 in teasers (pool play: Giants 65/35 in ATS contests, but Saints 70/30 in SU pools).
Kansas City Chiefs (-7) at Philadelphia Eagles
South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews brought up a great point on “A Numbers Game” when he reminded everyone of the “Super Bowl hangover for the loser.” He said everyone always says, “Well, not this year,” especially with the Chiefs in that spot this year, but here it is working again. The Chiefs are 1-2 (last place in the AFC West) and 0-3 ATS. I was all set to take the Eagles as 6.5-point home underdogs when the lines came out this week – but then the Eagles put in their clunker on Monday night. I’m having more reservations now, but with the line up to 7 and even 7.5 at some books, I’m going to plug my nose and take the Eagles anyway. Besides, the Chiefs are 2-12 ATS in their last 14 games and their defense lets everyone stick around, so why not the Eagles? Best Bet: Eagles + 7 (pool play: Eagles 60/40 ATS — higher if we get the + 7.5 — but Chiefs still around 75/25 in SU pools).
Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills (-16.5)
I usually can’t resist double-digit NFL underdogs, but I’m finding it easy in this case. The Texans, after upsetting the equally bad Jaguars in Week 1, have put themselves back among the dregs of the league. They did cover in their 31-21 loss to the Browns in Week 2, but we’ve seen the Bills take their game to another level after their Week 1 loss to the Steelers. They shut out the Dolphins 35-0 in Week 2 and ran over Washington 43-21 on Sunday, and a repeat of either should have the Bills winning this comfortably. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Bills 60/40 in ATS pools at -16.5 — though flip to Texans 60/40 if offered 17.5 — and in all SU pools).
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-5.5)
With the Cardinals and Rams both 3-0, this is for first place in the NFL’s best division from top to bottom (though the AFC West is making a play for that title with the Chiefs in last place). The Rams have moved to No. 1 in a lot of rankings after their win over the previously undefeated Buccaneers, but the Cardinals have the offense (No. 2 in the league at 423.3 yards per game) with Kyler Murray and Co. to keep up with the Rams and a defense (No. 11 in league, allowing 342.7 yards per game) to contain Matthew Stafford and the Rams. Best Bet: Cardinals + 5.5 (pool play: Cardinals 67/33 in ATS contest, but Rams still 55/45 in SU pools).
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-3 Even)
This is the one game this week where you just look at it and think “the home team will be favored by three points.” The Seahawks have lost two in a row, but it’s not going to be easy getting back to .500 against a 49ers team coming off a tough loss to the Packers on Sunday night. This truly looks like a toss-up, especially with the spread. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: 49ers 55/45 in ATS contests and 60/40 in SU pools).
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-1.5)
The Ravens are 2-1 but could very easily be 0-3 if not for a narrow win over the Chiefs and the miracle win over the Lions. They’ve obviously had a much tougher schedule than the Broncos, who are 3-0 thanks to schedule-makers giving them the Giants, Jaguars and Jets right out of the gate. This line has flipped from Ravens -1 to the Broncos now being favored, so the Ravens are going to be a very popular public dog. I agree that’s probably the right side — though I hesitate to fade Denver QB Teddy Bridgewater, who is 34-18 ATS as a starter but keeps changing teams — but will be betting the Ravens more in teasers in case they do lose a close game. Best Bet: Ravens in teasers (pool play: Ravens 55/45 in all SU & ATS contests).
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers (-6.5)
It’s been sad to watch Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ fall from grace. Their Week 1 upset of the Bills made it appear it might not be the end of the line, but losses to the Raiders and especially the Bengals show the Steelers are going to get worse before things get better. They’re 7-9 since their 11-0 start last year and are sitting in the AFC North cellar. The Packers tend to let opponents stick around, but I’d feel a lot better if the Steelers’ defense was its usual stellar self, but it’s just middle of the road at 354.7 yards per game allowed (No. 13 in NFL). I never remember saying this, but I don’t trust Big Ben to be able to keep the Steelers within a touchdown. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Packers 55/45 in ATS contests — though flip to Steelers if offered + 7.5 — and Packers around 85/15 in SU pools).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5) at New England Patriots
The Sunday nighter is the most-hyped game of the week (though I’d rate it as just the fourth- or fifth-best matchup). Tom Brady returns to New England. We’ve learned over the years not to fade Bill Belichick off a loss, but most of that sample size was with Brady at QB. Besides, Brady is off a loss as well. I’ll be watching along with everyone else, but it doesn’t mean I have to bet on the game. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Buccaneers 60/40 in ATS pools and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5)
The Raiders are tied for first place in the AFC West with the Broncos at 3-0. The advance line was Chargers -3 last week and it reopened at -3 on Sunday, but early money has pushed it to 3.5 as bettors apparently are putting more stock in the Chargers’ upset of the Chiefs. However, if you ask me, the Raiders have actually been more impressive in their wins over the Ravens, Steelers and Dolphins. Derek Carr has the offense topping the league at 471 yards per game, which is nearly 50 more yards per game than No. 2 Arizona (boosted by two overtime games, but impressive nonetheless). This should be a shootout and come down to the final possession, so I really like getting 3 points and the hook. Best Bet: Raiders + 3.5 (pool play: Raiders 67/33 in ATS contests, but Chargers in slightly more than 50/50 in SU pools).