Week 3 NFL picks: Best bets on every game

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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Welcome to another exciting weekend in the NFL.

With 14 games on Sunday's slate, there are plenty of betting opportunities. Our VSiN experts -- Adam Burke, Wes Reynolds, Dave Tuley, Jonathan Von Tobel and Matt Youmans, along with Ben Brown from Pro Football Focus -- combine to give their opinions on every game.

Note: Lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday night.

Here are our Week 3 best bets:

Arizona Cardinals (-7.5, 52.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars

Reynolds: The Cardinals have eclipsed the 30-point mark in two consecutive games in their 2-0 start. In fact, quarterback Kyler Murray is now the shortest price at BetMGM for NFL MVP at + 550. Yes, ahead of Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, etc. The numbers probably justify the move, as Murray has thrown for 689 yards in two games along with nine combined touchdowns (seven passing, two rushing). Nevertheless, Arizona now takes back to the road in an unfamiliar role as a road favorite of greater than a touchdown. 

Meanwhile, No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence is completing just 50 percent of his passes and has thrown five interceptions in two games. The talent level is still down in Jacksonville, especially on the offensive line. Nevertheless, Arizona is in a dangerous spot here with two NFC West division games (at L.A. Rams, vs. San Francisco) on deck. In the previous five years, 0-2 teams that are home dogs in the third game of the season are 9-4-1 ATS.

Pick: Jaguars + 7.5

Tuley: The top game on Sunday’s betting board features a home underdog of more than a touchdown. These ugly dogs perform very well over the years -- and if an NFL team is getting this many points at home, it’s usually a supposed mismatch like this, but the dogs often cover anyway. So, yes, I’m plugging my nose and taking the Jaguars here.

Lawrence is having his expected growing pains now that he’s on a team whose talent doesn’t tower over the competition like it did when he was at Clemson. He’ll be fine, but the main reason for this bet is that the Cardinals, as exciting as they are with the electric Murray running the show, still have to be more consistent -- and this is the type of game where they often play down to the level of their competition.

Pick: Jaguars + 7.5

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (-5.5, 48)

Hill: A desperate, winless team getting over a field goal. That’s the situation the Titans were in last week, as they rallied from a late 14-point deficit against the Seahawks to avoid a disastrous 0-2 start to the season. The Colts find themselves in a similar situation this week, with a comparable spread as well. Indianapolis looks to avoid going 0-3, and may have to rely on Jacob Eason to put it into the win column, as Eason would be making his first career start.

The lookahead line was Colts -1, and despite the name recognition that Carson Wentz provides, I don’t think a 6.5-point adjustment is warranted. The Colts are desperate, they will be able to run the ball on a Titans defense that struggles to stop anyone, and Frank Reich is 3-0 in Tennessee since taking over in ‘18. This line is an overreaction, I will gladly grab the points with the better defense and more motivated team in a divisional game.

Pick: Colts + 5.5

Baltimore Ravens (-8.5, 46) at Detroit Lions

Tuley: A lot was made last week about there being seven home dogs out of the 16 games in NFL Week 2. You probably didn’t hear a lot about it after the fact because they ended up going just 2-5 straight up (only outright upsets by the Panthers vs. the Saints and these Ravens vs. the Chiefs) and 3-4 against the spread. Home-field advantage isn’t as strong as a lot of people expected with fans returning, but I’m still jumping on Detroit here. The Lions haven’t played a complete game yet, but they did rally to get the back-door cover against the closing line vs. the 49ers in Week 1, and if Jared Goff can stop fumbling the snap or dropping the ball in his long windup, the Lions can stick close enough with the Ravens here to cover this number.

Pick: Lions + 8.5

Brown: Sunday night was a signature win for the fourth-year signal-caller, as he upped his record to 1-3 against Patriots Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs with a come-from-behind victory, which was carried largely by his brilliance on the ground.

He will need no such brilliance to beat the Lions, as Baltimore is laying over a touchdown on the road against Dan Campbell and Co. As such, the Ravens might be more inclined to work through some of their passing game issues, which could lead to Jackson putting together a multiple-touchdown performance against a Lions team whose defense is down cornerback Jeff Okudah and already starting cornerback Amani Oruwariye, who has a PFF grade of 32.7 so far. 

Lamar Jackson Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns + 103

Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills (-8.5, 46)

Burke: The WFT has been in two close games and also lost Ryan Fitzpatrick to a long-term injury that will run into the middle of the season. Taylor Heinicke has had some good -- and bad -- moments to this point, but this handicap is more about the Washington defense.

Per Pro Football Reference, Washington’s defense has had 14 hurries, which ranked fourth going into Week 3, and 24 pressures, which ranked tied for sixth. We saw Josh Allen struggle mightily with the pass rush in Week 1 against the Steelers. The Dolphins generated a few pressures and Allen looked uncomfortable in that game as well.

We’re getting 7.5 points here in a game with a total in the mid-40s. With a low-scoring expectation, points are likely to be at a premium, which adds some extra value to the 7.5, especially the hook on this game.

The final score would suggest that Buffalo’s offense was dominant in last week’s 35-0 win, but that was not the case. Buffalo only had 4.9 yards per play, Allen was only 17-of-33 passing, and three of the five TD drives for the Bills were under 53 yards. This Washington defense, which held opponents under five yards per play last season, is better than what we’ve seen so far.

Wind could be a bit of a factor in this one, which could also neutralize the Buffalo offense, as the Bills have not been able to run the ball effectively the last few seasons. A low-scoring game helps the + 7.5, and that’s what we should get here.

Pick: Washington Football Team + 7.5

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (-3, 42)

Youmans: As it turns out, New Orleans is not invincible and it was too soon to anoint Jameis Winston as league MVP after Week 1. It appeared the Saints were in a flat spot last week at Carolina, and that’s exactly how it played out. Winston passed for only 111 yards, threw two interceptions and was sacked four times in the 26-7 loss to the Panthers. In the opener, he threw for five touchdowns with no picks and took no sacks. But the Saints’ blowout of the Packers was a lot about a no-show performance by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay defense.

Look for the Patriots to steadily improve and become one of the AFC’s elite teams by November and December. New England is strong on the offensive and defensive lines and essentially has the ideal support system for rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who’s completing 73.9 percent of his passes and operating an efficient offense. The defense has allowed 11.5 PPG. Betting on coach Bill Belichick to avoid back-to-back home losses is a solid strategy.

It’s also a good time to catch the Saints on the schedule. The team has been away from home for almost a month because of the hurricane that hit New Orleans and there have been COVID-19 and injury issues to deal with along the way. I hit this when the line opened -2.5, and still like Patriots laying a field goal.

Pick: Patriots -3

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5, 55.5)

Burke: One of the two early lines that I liked this week was the Chargers + 6.5 against the Chiefs. We haven’t really seen much movement in that game, even though it is certainly drawing a large betting handle in Week 3.

The Chiefs simply have no interest in covering spreads for whatever reason. Kansas City is winning games, but not by margin (1-9 ATS in their last nine regular-season games). One potential reason is that the Chiefs are atrocious defensively in the red zone. Opponents were 36-for-47 scoring touchdowns in the red zone against KC last season, and 8-for-8 in two games so far. That is an astronomical 80 percent success rate over the last 18 regular season games for the opposition inside the 20.

To this point, the Chiefs have scored on 55.6 percent of their drives and opponents have scored on 50 percent. The Chiefs have allowed the most points per drive and scored the most points per drive.

The Chargers defense has played significantly better than that, while still scoring on 50% of drives. Los Angeles, unfortunately, is only 3-for-10 scoring touchdowns in the red zone, but this seems like a good opportunity to get on track in that department. Furthermore, we’ve all basically accepted that Brandon Staley is a massive improvement over Anthony Lynn. When the Chiefs were trying in Week 2 last season, the Chargers took them to overtime and had almost 500 yards of offense.

Herbert and the Chargers marched up and down the field against the Cowboys, but had a touchdown taken off the board by a penalty and had a pick in the end zone. The Chiefs aren’t completely in rhythm yet and neither are the Chargers, but 6.5 points is a lot in what should be a back-and-forth battle.

Sprinkle in a little moneyline here with maybe an 80/20 or 85/15 split ATS/SU, as the Chargers certainly have a chance to win this game outright. Take the 6.5 points to be safe, too.

Pick: Los Angeles Chargers (+ 6.5) w/ a ML sprinkle

Brown: This has been Eric Eager and George Chahrouri’s lock of the week the last two weeks on the PFF Forecast, and in both cases, the bet hit easily. Now, you’re not getting as good of numbers as you were in the past, but Mahomes throwing over 2.5 TD passes still a value at -116. 

Lost in the shuffle of a disappointing loss in Week 2 -- Mahomes’ first September loss as a Chief -- was the fact that Kansas City finally found some tertiary options outside of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Byron Pringle, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson combined for 10 catches and two TDs against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night and will have to step up again against a Brandon Staley defense that is very top heavy, similar to the Los Angeles Rams last season. 

Take this prop until the price gets to -140 or so.

Pick: Patrick Mahomes Over 2.5 Passing Touchdowns -116

Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (-3, 48)

Tuley: This matchup of 0-2 teams would probably have this week’s lowest betting handle if it wasn’t for the fact the Giants have such a huge fan base … but that’s the only reason I can think of for the Giants being favored by a full field goal. The Falcons looked pitiful in their 32-6 loss to the Eagles in the opener, but showed life vs. the Buccaneers despite losing 48-25. I expect Matt Ryan to have even more success against the Giants defense while Daniel Jones and New York’s offense won’t be able to match them score for score.

Pick: Falcons + 3

Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns (-7.5, 46)

Burke: It remains a great mystery why coaches continue to purposefully put themselves into the middle of a quarterback controversy. When a high-value asset like a top-five pick is used on a QB, the expectation is for that guy to start in Week 1. Matt Nagy’s seat is white-hot now with an inauspicious start to the season and his mishandling of the most important position in football.

Justin Fields will get the start here in place of the injured Andy Dalton, but it seems like this is a permanent move going forward. Fields brings a lot of variance to the table. He is clearly a more mobile QB than the Red Rifle, which adds some new wrinkles that the defense must account for in the game-plan. Fields has a bigger, more accurate arm on deep balls -- he also has the decision-making skills of a rookie quarterback.

The betting markets seem to prefer Fields to Dalton as evidenced by the line movement. Maybe there are some concerns about the Browns as well, who had issues putting Houston away last week. Ultimately, where I see value in Fields is the total.

Wind could be a factor and that should keep this total around where it is or maybe even drive it lower, but the improvisation skills of a mobile QB are something that I highly value in the NFL. Fields brings some good in that aspect. He also brings some bad in that a very efficient Browns offense may end up with some short fields. They should capitalize.

The Bears defense has allowed over six yards per play thus far. The rush defense looks stout by the numbers, but the Rams and Bengals are poor rushing teams; the Browns are not. Baker Mayfield has thrown just nine incomplete passes this season and Cleveland has over 7.2 YPP.

The Cleveland defense is still a work in progress for Joe Woods, who may not last the season if things don’t improve. For having all kinds of talent on the edge, the Browns only have three sacks and 16 pressures in two games.

This game could be higher-scoring than people expect. With a very manageable total of 45.5, the over is the pick here.

Pick: Over 45.5

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3, 43)

Tuley: The news broke Tuesday that Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was banged up and had a pectoral injury that could limit his preparation for this game. I grabbed the Bengals + 4 right away in case this line plummeted due to news that Mason Rudolph had to start at QB. Even if Big Ben is able to go, the Steelers offense has been poor this season (ranking 28th in the NFL in yards per game) despite beating the Bills in Week 1.

The Bengals are actually looking better on offense with QB Joe Burrow spreading the ball around to RB Joe Mixon (127 yards vs. Vikings in Week 1) and WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. If reports come out that Roethlisberger is good to go, the line might go back up to 3.5, but we still see the Bengals playable at + 3 as they have a great chance to pull the upset and stay in first place in the AFC North. 

Pick: Bengals + 3

Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders (-3.5, 45)

Von Tobel: The news of Tua Tagovailoa’s injury is a factor that works in favor of the home team here, but this play is all about Las Vegas. This is the third straight week I have bet on the Raiders, because I believe the market has yet to realize how good this team is. Derek Carr is the fourth-highest graded quarterback by PFF and fourth among quarterbacks in EPA per play both passing and rushing. Las Vegas has also shown an ability to take advantage of poor offensive lines, which the Dolphins have. Maxx Crosby leads the league in total individual pressures through two weeks, and the Raiders have the fifth-highest pressure rate in the league as a result. There are certainly questions as to how legitimate this 2-0 start is from Las Vegas, but they are the better team and the play here.

Pick: Raiders -3.5

New York Jets at Denver Broncos (-10.5, 41)

Tuley: My VSiN colleague Matt Youmans collects the picks for the NFL Best Bets page every week. In his email this week, he wrote “I’ll go ahead and pencil in Tuley for the Jets.” Well, I hated to disappoint him, but I found five stronger plays for the page. However, he is right that I won’t be able to pass up the week’s lone double-digit underdog. Granted, Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson is going through some growing pains and now faces Vic Fangio’s Bronco defense, but I don’t see how Denver -- whose wins are against the Giants and Jaguars -- should be favored by this much. I mean, you might not be with me on the Jets, but I can’t imagine many people saying, “I’m totally fine with laying 10.5 points with this Broncos team.”

Pick: Jets + 10.5

Reynolds: After last week’s victory and cover in Jacksonville, Teddy Bridgewater is now 38-14 ATS as a starter in the NFL. However, he has never been this big of a favorite before. 

Zach Wilson got welcomed to New York with boo birds after throwing four interceptions in his first 10 pass attempts against New England. Going on the road is probably the best thing for him after that miserable performance. 

Clearly the offense has not been much to write home about for the Jets and going against Denver’s top-five defense probably will not cure those woes. However, the Jets defense has been very solid through two games and is third-best in the league on third downs (26.9 percent). 

This is a “hold your nose” spot betting the Jets here, but it is also a spot with a high potential for a home team off two road wins (combined opponents 0-4 record) to be a bit flat, especially early.

Pick: Jets + 6.5 1H/+ 10.5 full game

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1, 55.5) at Los Angeles Rams 

Youmans: Who’s tired of the Tom Brady hype? Too bad. He’s 44 and still looks about as sharp as ever, with nine touchdown passes in two games. He’s also surrounded by elite weapons, something he lacked in his last year in New England, and the Buccaneers boast the league’s No. 1 scoring offense at 39.5 points per game. But this is a much tougher matchup for Brady than what he faced against the Atlanta and Dallas defenses. It’s imperative to get pressure up the middle in Brady’s face, and the Aaron Donald-led Rams front can do just that. The Rams’ pass coverage in the secondary is solid as well.

The Buccaneers’ weakness — and maybe their only one — is the defensive secondary. Tampa Bay has allowed 342 yards per game through the air to rank 30th in the league. Rams coach Sean McVay will scheme to exploit the Rams’ advantage by letting Matthew Stafford cut it loose. Stafford’s record against winning teams was abysmal during his Detroit years, but the Lions are in the past and the McVay-Stafford tandem shows promise.

I believe the Buccaneers will win at least 13 games this season, but the upcoming two-game trip to LA and New England is by far their toughest stretch on the schedule. Brady will not be looking ahead to the Patriots, so that’s not part of the handicap. I rank the Rams as the biggest threat to the Bucs in the NFC.

Pick: Rams + 1

Von Tobel: I am in total agreement with Youmans on this play. Los Angeles has the perfect defensive scheme to match up with Tampa Bay and Brady. The Rams limit big plays down field, inviting teams to run it up the middle toward Aaron Donald, and that shows in the numbers. Last season, Los Angeles led the league in average depth of target allowed and air yards allowed. Through two games they are allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw the ball an average of just 4.6 yards downfield, and they have allowed just 242 total air yards. Offensively, they have the personnel to exploit a secondary that has been thinned by injury and hampered by poor play. The Buccaneers have allowed the seventh-most air yards so far this season (355) and the most yards after catch (384). Add in the injury along the edge to Jason Pierre-Paul, an important development against a team that loves zone runs off tackle, and this seem like a sold spot for the home underdog.

Pick: Rams + 1

Burke: Is Buccaneers vs. Rams an NFC Championship preview? It very well could be. It should be a great game, but one team has a decided edge in my opinion. That team is the Buccaneers.

Brady has the luxury of being able to spread the ball around. There are five different players with at least 10 targets for the Bucs. There is one for the Rams and that is Cooper Kupp. While Stafford has found his favorite target 16 times and Kupp is en route to a huge season, the Buccaneers have one of the deepest and most talented secondaries in the NFL. They are well-equipped to neutralize Kupp and force Stafford, who is still trying to develop a rapport with his wide receivers, to find other options.

Brady knows all of his options. He doesn’t have to contend with Carlton Davis or Mike Edwards. He’ll have to deal with Jalen Ramsey, but also some young safeties and replacement starters for the Rams after guys like Troy Hill and John Johnson left in free agency. The Buccaneers are passing a lot in early-down situations and have utilized a lot more motion this season. Those are characteristics of this offense that should really increase the efficiency of this unit.

Neither team runs the ball with much success, so that means that this is a battle of the passing games and the quarterbacks. As great as Stafford’s start has been, it has been primarily with one guy’s set of hands. The Buccaneers have a deeper pass defense. Davis is already second in passes defended in the NFL and Edwards has two pick-sixes. Jamel Dean is no slouch either.

Wherever Kupp lines up, the Buccaneers can isolate him. Brady finds the mismatches and almost always makes the right read. Stafford will have to make a lot more reads than he has in the first two weeks. There are enough matchup advantages here for the Buccaneers to pull the trigger and lay the short number.

Pick: Bucs -1

Seattle Seahawks (-1.5, 55) at Minnesota Vikings

Youmans: There are things to like about the Vikings, including their 0-2 record. This should be a highly motivated Minnesota team that deserved a better fate in a 34-33 loss at Arizona. Kirk Cousins is playing well, completing 71.6 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no interceptions, and Dalvin Cook is running for 96 yards per game. The Vikings have the weapons to score on a suspect Seattle defense. On the flip side, the Minnesota defense has the ability to chase down the quarterback and should be able to contain Russell Wilson, who’s not getting much help from the Seahawks’ running attack. I’m actually surprised the Vikings are in the home dog role.

Pick: Vikings + 2

Von Tobel: Once the Seahawks defeated the Colts in Week 1, I began my quest of playing against this team until the market caught up with how poor this defense is. Last week, Tennessee made me sweat, but ultimately they nabbed an overtime win on the road. Now, Seattle finds itself as a road favorite in a spot that it should be an underdog. When Tannehill was kept clean last week (faced no pressure) he picked apart the Seahawks secondary, completing 23-of-31 attempts for 307 yards and 9.9 yards per attempt. Cornerback Tre Flowers was abysmal in coverage, allowing four receptions and 108 yards on six targets. Ugo Amadi, Quandre Diggs and Jordyn Brooks all posted PFF coverage grades of 59.0 or lower as well. The Titans finished with 16 more first downs, 532 total yards and six red zone possessions, and I expect that to continue this week.

Minnesota will be able to run the ball on a front that allowed Derrick Henry to run for 182 yards and 5.2 yards per rush. It is also a favorable spot for the Vikings, coming home off of two losses at the gun on the road. Seattle is an overvalued team, and the market should learn that this weekend.

Pick: Vikings + 2

 

Reynolds: The Vikings are two plays away from being 2-0 in lieu of 0-2. The controversial Cook fumble in overtime at Cincinnati and the Greg Joseph 37-yard missed field goal have put Minnesota in a desperate situation. The good news for the Vikings is that Cousins has been playing at a high level, throwing for nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games. Seattle also comes in having lost a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter largely on the ground, as Derrick Henry took over late for Tennessee.

I was hopeful that Seattle would have hung on for the win last week and be in a bit of a fat and happy spot laying around 3 to Minnesota. However, this game is in a very good spot for a six-point teaser.

Pick: Vikings + 7.5/Rams + 7.5 (two-team, six-point teaser)

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5, 49.5)

Brown: Everyone knows Marquez Valdes-Scantling led the NFL in average depth of target last year, finishing 15th overall in total air yards. He has picked up in 2021 right where he left off, averaging over 20 air yards per target and registering 214 total air yards through two games. The problem is that his snap percentage and number of routes run compared to dropbacks has dropped off in 2021 due to more pass-catching options for Green Bay.

Valdes-Scantling is still the preferred deep receiving threat in this offense, but the problem is that is his only role. Catches this far downfield don’t come easily, especially since he only has a 30 percent catchable ball rate on his 10 targets. Even if he connects with Aaron Rodgers on one deep shot, he will still have a really difficult time getting over this reception total, making it one of the best offerings on Sunday given the plus-money price. 

Pick: Marquez Valdes-Scantling Under 2.5 Receptions + 116

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