Week 3 NFL: Best bets on every game

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 


The third weekend of the 2020 NFL season is here. 

With 13 games on Sunday's slate, there are plenty of betting opportunities. Our experts Drew Dinsick, Dave Tuley and Matt Youmans combine to give their opinions on every game.

Here are our Week 3 best bets:

Las Vegas Raiders at New England Patriots (-6, 47.5)

Tuley: The Raiders, surprisingly, are the 2-0 team in this matchup after their upset of the Saints on Monday Night Football in their first home game in Las Vegas. The Patriots are still the stronger overall team and rightly favored at home, however, the gap has narrowed and I think this line should be closer to -3.5 or -4. I’m not including it on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page in Point Spread Weekly, but I’m still planning to bet it. I’m waiting to get at least 6.5.

Pick: Raiders + 6

Youmans: The Raiders are riding high, but this is one of the worst spots imaginable. After upsetting the Saints on Monday night in the first-ever NFL game in Las Vegas, Jon Gruden must take his team to Boston to deal with Bill Belichick, who will be in a bad mood off a loss. The matchup is also problematic for the Raiders, a team with injury issues on the offensive line and a lack of talent on defense. Las Vegas ranks 26th in the league in total defense (406 yards per game), and the Raiders were fortunate to face Drew Brees when his top wideout (Michael Thomas) was out with an injury.

Cam Newton, who has exceeded early expectations in a new offense, led the Patriots to 464 total yards in the Week 2 loss at Seattle. Belichick’s defense will attack the weaknesses in the Raiders’ offensive line, pressure quarterback Derek Carr and try to take away his top target -- tight end Darren Waller. Carr has focused on Waller, who has 18 receptions on a team-high 24 targets; no other Raiders receiver has more than nine targets. I’ll lay the six points and also recommend New England on a two-team teaser or moneyline parlay.

Pick: Patriots -6

Los Angeles Rams at Buffalo Bills (-2.5, 47.5)

Dinsick: The Rams and Bills meet in what is surprisingly one of the higher-profile contests of Week 3, with both teams riding high on 2-0 starts. The Rams have re-captured their Super Bowl-caliber offensive swagger thanks in large part to the innovative wrinkles of Sean McVay’s scheme combined with improved offensive line play, resulting in the third best offensive DVOA (30.8%) across the league through two games.  The Bills’ success has been fueled by the emergence of Josh Allen as a passer; Allen’s Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE) has improved from -2.9% in 2019 to 6.9% this season.

It’a fair to downgrade Los Angeles’ expected performance on the basis of injury and its disadvantage travel situation (the Rams were forced to return to L.A. following their Week 2 game in Philadelphia and make a second trip to the East Coast in consecutive weeks for an early kickoff). These adjustments make fair price Buffalo -4 by my numbers, meaning the Bills at -2.5 is a play.

Pick: Bills -2.5

Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4, 45)

Tuley: The Steelers are 2-0 and the Texans are 0-2, but I have this as a pick-’em matchup. The Steelers beat the Giants and Bengals, while the Texans had to face arguably the two best teams in the league in the Chiefs and Ravens. Playing in Pittsburgh against this Steelers defense isn’t much easier, but the Texans should at least be able to cover (and if Jeff Driskel and the Broncos can do it, why not Deshaun Watson and the Texans?).

Pick: Texans + 4

Youmans: It’s never easy to side with Houston coach Bill O’Brien, so I do this with some hesitation. The Texans get to take a slight step down in class after opening against the Chiefs and Ravens, the top two power-rated teams in the league. Pittsburgh is tied for second in total defense (305 yards per game), but its pass defense has been exploited by lesser quarterbacks than Watson.

As impressive as Ben Roethlisberger has looked through two games, the Houston defense does not need to worry about Big Ben as a running threat after failing to contain Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Teams that started 0-2 against the spread have gone 22-7 ATS in Week 3 the past four years. A winless Houston team will be playing with more urgency this week.

Pick: Texans + 4

San Francisco 49ers (-4, 41.5) at New York Giants

Dinsick: The 49ers are living through one of the most devastating starts to a season in recent memory from an injury perspective. We know that they will take the field Week 3 without Richard Sherman, Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Deebo Samuel; Tevin Coleman, Dee Ford and Raheem Mostert are doubtful; and Jimmy Garappolo and George Kittle are questionable.  In all likelihood the active roster will look more like the 2018 49ers than their 2019 Super Bowl squad.

The Giants are also facing meaningful injuries to star RB Saquon Barkely and wideout Sterling Sheppard, however, facing a diminished pass rush QB Daniel Jones will finally find the time to execute the offensive scheme making New York live to pull off the upset. I think four points is too good to pass as this game should be near a pick ‘em, especially if Kittle is ruled out. 

Pick: Giants + 4


Tennessee Titans (-2.5, 48.5) at Minnesota Vikings 

Dinsick:  The Titans and QB Ryan Tannehill have picked up right where they left off at the end of the 2019 regular season through two games; Tannehill continues to excel passing the football posting the second highest EPA/play among quarterbacks at 0.47 and an impressive 6.7% CPOE. This success is likely to continue as the Titans head to Minnesota to face a defense that has failed to generate any semblance of a pass rush and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to pick on their young secondary players who are clearly still learning Coach Mike Zimmer’s scheme. Minnesota’s offense hasn’t fared any better, ranking 25th in offensive DVOA (-13.1%) and is dead last in success rate on dropbacks (31.1%), when excluding garbage time. 

It is reasonable to make significant adjustments to Minnesota’s priors as this is clearly not a team currently capable of performing at the level of its nine-win expectation. Based on these adjustments, fair price in this game is Tennessee -4 by my numbers. 

Pick: Titans -2.5

Washington Football Team at Cleveland Browns (-7, 45)

Dinsick:  Through two games the Washington Football Team are exactly who we thought they were: A team with a young, dynamic defense (No. 1 in DVOA, -36.2%) but severely limited offense (No. 30 in DVOA, -21.0%). Their foes in Week 3, the Browns, have been somewhat disappointing overall, failing to cover in both divisional matchups and with only their superb rushing attack to write home about (currently No. 2 in Rushing EPA, 0.081 per play).  The story of the defense thus far in 2020 for Cleveland has been its cluster injury in the defensive backfield and at long last reinforcements will be available this week. That should help the Browns deploy a more aggressive pass rush capable of stifling Washington’s hapless offense. Cleveland can control the ball and put away a comfortable lead based on its ground game, which makes laying the TD a fair play. 

Pick: Browns -7

Cincinnati Bengals at Philadelphia Eagles (-6, 46.5)

Tuley: The Bengals came through for us last Thursday night and I’m sticking with them against an Eagles team that is also 0-2 and shouldn’t be laying this many points against anyone at this point. Rookie QB Joe Burrow continues to impress, has shown poise and already succeeded in late-game situations against the Chargers and Browns.

Pick: Bengals + 6

Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons (-3, 47.5)

Youmans: It’s an understatement to say I’m skeptical of the Bears, the most fortunate 2-0 team in the league. Chicago’s defense is above average, yet Mitchell Trubisky still rates below average among quarterbacks. The winless Falcons have faced a couple of the best passers in the league -- Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson -- so this is a boxing match against a QB tomato can by comparison.

It’s a cliche and it’s still September, but this is a must-win game for Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, who needs to show he can fix his broken defense. While the Falcons have scored 64 points, their defense has surrendered a league-high 78. Matt Ryan ranks No. 2 in the league with 723 passing yards and is tied for second with six touchdown passes. If Ryan loses to Trubisky, I’ll buy lunch at Burger King for Chicago superfan Dave Tuley. The Bears are 5-14 ATS in their past 19 games. Lay the field goal before this line goes back to -3.5.

Pick: Falcons -3


New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts (-11, 44)

Tuley: The Jets are pretty bad, but that’s why we’re getting double digits … and I can’t resist. Besides, even though the Colts did cover as 3.5-point favorites over the Vikings on Sunday, this fits in our basic strategy of fading QB Philip Rivers when he’s in the role of favorite (and only backing him as an underdog). The Colts should be content to grind out a win and Sam Darnold should be able to do enough to stay within two scores. If the Jets can score 17 points, they can cover this inflated number.

Pick: Jets + 11


Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5, 43.5)

Tuley: This was a tough call when the Carolina was + 7 earlier Tuesday, as I think the money came in on the right side to drop it to 6.5 everywhere. But I didn’t pull the trigger as the Chargers, despite starting rookie QB Justin Herbert, looked great in nearly upsetting the Chiefs last week. I still think the line is too high, but it’s hard to fire again on the Panthers after they gave up the late covering TD against the Buccaneers to turn our winning Sunday into a loser.

Best Bet: Pass 

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals (-6, 55)

Youmans: Life is short and time is valuable, so I’m not going to spend too many words explaining why the Lions could be a good bet in this spot. Desperate, ugly ‘dogs can offer point-spread value, and the 2-0 Cardinals will be popular public favorites. The Lions apply to the same angle mentioned earlier with the Texans: teams that started 0-2 ATS went 22-7 ATS in Week 3 the past four years.

When these teams met in last year’s opener in Arizona, the Lions blew an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter and settled for a 27-27 tie; Matthew Stafford passed for 385 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in that game, and Arizona’s defense is not dramatically improved this year. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is a crazy good runner, but he’s got two touchdown passes and two interceptions through two games, so he’s far from unstoppable.

Pick: Lions + 6

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6, 43.5) at Denver Broncos

Dinsick:  Tom Brady and Co. head to altitude this week to take on a Broncos team that will look for a relief effort from backup QB Jeff Driskel.  The Buccaneers got back on track in Week 2 with a comfortable win against the Carolina Panthers but Brady has been uncharacteristically sloppy so far this season, having already thrown three interceptions and falling below his expected completion percentage (CPOE -0.3%) for the first time in many seasons. Denver coach Vic Fangio is on record that the Broncos will adjust their offense this week to play into Driskel’s “strengths” which suggests we will see a more conservative approach from Denver -- a significant problem against one of the league’s top defenses (No. 4 in DVOA, -19.0%). 

This information sets up a nice play on the under at 43.5 considering the likelihood that Tampa will not be forced into a high-scoring affair as Denver intends to shorten the game and rely on its defense.  

Pick: Under 43.5

Tuley: The Broncos are 0-2, but a more respectable 2-0 ATS as they’ve covered in their losses to the Titans and Steelers with a defense that keeps them in the game and competent -- if unspectacular -- QB play from Drew Locke and then Driskel in relief. The Buccaneers are still overrated in my book and barely covered against the Panthers, so give me the points again.

Pick: Broncos + 6

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks (-5, 56)

Tuley: The Cowboys needed a miraculous comeback to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start, but certainly have the talent to keep up with the Seahawks. However, Russell Wilson has been in MVP form and it’s hard to fade him now. Instead, I’m looking to the Under. Even though both offenses are capable of lighting up the scoreboard (and neither defense has put together a lockdown performance), this total is just set too high.

Pick: Under 56

Youmans: The Dallas defense is beat up, and Wilson is playing a hot hand, so those are the main reasons this game has the highest total (56) of the week. Wilson has an insane completion percentage (82.5) to go with nine TD passes and one pick. What might not be as obvious is the fact Seattle ranks last in total defense (485 yards per game) and pass defense (415.5 ypg) after getting shredded by the Falcons and Patriots. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys certainly have enough scoring firepower to trade shots with Wilson in a shootout. The Seahawks are 3-7 ATS in their past 10 as home favorites.

Pick: Cowboys + 5

Dinsick: Outstanding matchup of offensive firepower is on tap in this contest with the league’s top performing quarterback (Wilson) hosting the Cowboys, who snapped out of their funk, exploding for 30 points in the second half of their comeback win against the Falcons. The Seahawks were exposed defensively against the Patriots last week and without any ability to generate a pass rush, Seattle will have difficulty capitalizing on the one weakness of Dallas’ offense, its injured offensive line. The Cowboys similarly are suffering from a cluster injury at cornerback in a game where Seattle will feature a dynamic set of weapons in the passing game, which sets up a score-and-answer game state and high red zone efficiency (Seattle is already the most efficient team in the red zone converting a touchdown on every opportunity so far this season).

Pick: Over 56


Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints (-3, 52.5)

Tuley: This line opened Saints -3.5 before they lost to the Raiders on Monday Night Football and dropped to 3 on Tuesday morning. I would lean to passing at that number, but early betting on Tuesday and Wednesday had some books going to -3 and added juice so hopefully we’ll get the 3.5 again. The Saints were being called the best team in the NFC and one of the best in the NFL with their win over the Buccaneers in Week 1, but they were exposed against the Raiders and Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are looking stronger right now.

Pick: Packers + 3

Dinsick: Green Bay is riding high using a balanced attack to secure the top performing offense through two weeks of the season (DVOA of 36.7%) while the Saints are still finding their form having fallen short of their 2019 production largely due to the absence of injured wideout Michael Thomas. The Packers passing offense may be without its most effective weapon as well, Davonte Adams, who would draw a difficult matchup against Marshon Lattimore even if he is able to take the field.

This suggests that the primary game plan for Green Bay will feature their rushing game, while the same can be said for New Orleans, while will look to attack the weakness of the Packers: their poor run defense (allowing a league worst 0.23 EPA per play on the ground). These key injuries and emphasis on the run suggest a shortened game in terms of possessions and scoring opportunities opening the door for an under play on the inflated total of 52.5.

Pick: Under 52.5

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