The NFL delivered another week of surprises last time out and Mike Carlson attempts to make sense of it all as he picks his best bets for week three...
"Coming into this season, in games against teams that went to the playoffs, Matt Stafford is a career 30-62 (.326) while Tom Brady is 144-63 (.696), the best mark among active QBs."
Week 2 was another festival of early-season madness from the NFL and the most important thing to remember as we head into week 3 is the Avoidance of Recency Bias. It's one of the reasons I recommend an early look at the odds, because sometimes the markets react to the weekend results without taking a deep breath and considering specific matchups or the process of playing into form: I've written a number of times about how September has become, in many ways, what the exhibition season used to be, the time when teams actually fit into their systems.
It's hard to avoid sometimes reading too much into a single result (the Saints, anyone?) and I am guilty of that too...but if Seattle want to throw away another 30-16 fourth quarter lead to Tennessee, well, there's little anyone can do about it. At least Thursday Night Football this week, Carolina's win over Houston, played out just about the way it should of. Sadly, that's not the provenance of this column.
Sunday Early Games (18:00 Kickoff)
Arizona at Jacksonville
Watching Rondale Moore join Kyler Murray in their version of high school JV guys taking over an NFL video game is a lot of fun. Watching Urban blight in Jacksonville less so. They should win and likely cover against the home dogs.
Indianapolis at Tennessee
The Titans' win in Seattle was a shock because they came from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter, and a run-first team isn't supposed to do that. I still wonder about Tenn's D, but I don't think either Jacob Easton or even a healthy Carson Wentz will kill them.
Baltimore at Detroit
I sense another fine opportunity for Dan Campbell's knee biters to spring into action in the fourth quarter. The Lions played a good first half against the Pack last week, which makes me a little leery of what I thought I was a good shout, with Detroit 5/4 to win the fourth quarter.
Washington at Buffalo
It looked as if the Bills were starting to compensate for their injuries at WR and RB last week, although the shut out against Miami meant that wasn't totally necessary. They likely see Taylor Heinecke this week, and although he has seemed a competent QB in all of his few NFL starts, that may not be enough against a difficult D, especially at home. But WTF can play D as well, and I think under (45.5) may work for the third straight week.
New Orleans at New England
This one is a puzzler, because the Saints are a defense-first team and the Pats have a rookie QB, whom they are keeping under control, hence the dink and dunk against not so great teams. In fairness, Sam Darnold played well enough against the Saints last week, but the Carolina D had done their business already. I'm not sure the Pats will be able to dominate the Saints' D line, but I do think Belichick will make Jameis's life difficult. I meant to go under with the Pats last week, my apologies, but I think under (41.5) may be the way to go again
LA Chargers at Kansas City
Between getting hosed with water cannon by the referees, the Chargers also made a lot of mistakes and left a lot of points on the table. The Chiefs, for all our criticisms of them, were in position to win that game when Edwards-Hilaire fumbled. Their D is better against the pass, they are at home, and have something to prove. So I might be contrarian and go under 55.5 here
Chicago at Cleveland
Baker Mayfield injured his non-throwing shoulder making a tackle last week. If he can't start at QB, maybe the Browns will play him at safety. We think about the Bears' D, but the Browns can pressure QBs, whether Dalton or Fields.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Last week, Joe Burrow threw interceptions on three consecutive passes, which is not really as easy to do as it might seem. Meanwhile Big Ben looked like he needed oxygen after throwing three consecutive passes more than five yards in the air. The Steelers' game at the moment is really based on pass rush, and the Bengals' line may not hold up. I'm surprised they're getting only 3.5 which might signal an upset.
Atlanta at NY Giants
I suppose there is an essay to be written about how much better Matt Ryan's career has been than Eli Manning's, but when Manning went to two Super Bowls the Giants won both, and when Ryan went to one, the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter. On such things are Hall of Fame berths based. Daniel Jones is the evolutionary Giants Eli? Discuss. Avoid.
Sunday Late Games (21:05 KICKOFF)
Miami at Las Vegas
Why do I think the Raiders are going to get off to a running start and get cut down to size again in October? Having said that, with Tua's status questionable, and frankly even with him rather than Jacoby Brissett, I'd pull the slot machine handle on the Raiders in this one. The line dropped at one point, but I expect the Dolphins will get more points before Sunday, so take it now. I've taken the points on a best bet, but I like the Raiders to win and the teams to cover 44.5 at 2/1 would be my alternate outside bet.
Best Bet: Las Vegas (-4.5 at 9/10) v Miami
NY Jets at Denver
Consider Zach Wilson. He is the very model of modern Jets type quarterback.
Whenever he throws picks your D's immediately on the field back
He recognises openings but pin point touch he seems to lack
He is the very model of a modern Jets type quarterback
Vic Fangio's defense might not confuse Zach as much as Bill Belichick's did, but it will attack him more fiercely. The over/under is 41.5 and I'd lean toward the under, but I fear both defensive scores and a fourth quarter meltdown as the Jets run out of gas at altitude.
A 10.5 spread in a game with an O/U of 41.5 is a tough mix. So I'm thinking a double
Value Bet: Denver to win and match over 41.5 points at 2.35/4
Sunday Late (21:25 Kickoff)
Tampa at LA Rams
Here's an interesting stat. Coming into this season, in games against teams that went to the playoffs, Matt Stafford is a career 30-62 (.326) while Tom Brady is 144-63 (.696), the best mark among active QBs. I'm going to write more about this in my patreon column but both the Rams and Bucs are likely playoff teams this year. The play here might be the over (55.5). It's becoming a pick 'em kind of match, but the Rams are 11/10 on the moneyline...
Seattle at Minnesota
Every few seasons, a kicker misses a kick or kicks that costs the Vikes a big win in week two of the season. When it was the rookie Daniel Carlson, they cut him and now he's a pretty good weapon for the Raiders. What they do with Greg Joseph I don't know, but being Vikings a flaming longboat into Lake Superior might work.
Sunday Night (01:26 Monday Kickoff)
Green Bay at San Francisco
The third game in a great parlay of matchups. I would expect Bay Area Area Rodgers to show up in this one, remember the guy the Niners wanted to trade for and offered Jimmy G as part of the deal. I'd love to write that a Jimmy G with a chip on his shoulder is a dangerous man, but I'm not so sure.
Monday Night (01:15 Tuesday Kickoff)
Philadelphia at Dallas
You can't find odds on another Philly Special appearing in this game, which is a shame. The Cowboys' D has not been overwhelming, but they may be able to keep up with Jalen Hurts' game out of the pocket.
Outside Bet: Dallas (-3.5) at 1.910/11 v Philadelphia
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Best Bet: Back Las Vegas (-4.5) at 1.910/11 v Miami
Value Bet: Back Denver to win and match over 41.5 points at 2.35/4
Outside Bet: Back Dallas (-3.5) at 1.910/11 v Philadelphia