Our resident NFL expert Mike Carlson takes a close look at a trio of week three match-ups and makes the case for bets on Baltimore, New England and Atlanta...
"If you want to take a little risk on another road favourite, Green Bay (-3 at 21/20) at Washington is interesting."
After a good opening round, I was let down in week two by Denver. I messed up bad with the Jest (which will teach me something, at least for a week) and I could get the Steelers failing to win, much less cover four points, but the Saints? At home? Against the Browns?
Luckily the Jags helped me out, although they scored more than I expected, and both the over in Pittsburgh and under in New Orleans paid off. That said, I realised too late I was breaking a simple rule which was to avoid taking big spreads and going under at the same time.
Of course there are always exceptions, as Bill Belichick said to himself while signing Josh Gordon to a contract. With Vontae Davis quitting and retiring at halftime, Antonio Brown missing practice on Monday as if to give Twitter something to talk about, and the Browns saying they'd release Gordon on Saturday, before trading him on Monday, the week was full of exceptions.
And for kickers Zane Gonzalez and Daniel Carlson, they were the exceptions, as they were both cut after their toe failures cost their teams wins or at least chances to win. Just what tight spreads were invented to take advantage of.
Ravens can take flight against travel sick Broncos
The Broncos have not been good on the road for the past few years, with the lack of mile-high advantage making it harder to come back in the fourth quarter when their opponents are gassed. Case Keenum has done just enough to pull out games, but for a team with three good downfield receiving threats (at least if Demariyous Thomas recovers from his dropsies) they haven't been that impressive offensively, despite undrafted rookie running back Philip Lindsay justifying my faith in him (in fairness, all I said was he would make the team, not star).
It's defensively where I think the Broncos will be vulnerable, especially as we have seen signs of life from the Ravens in the past two games.
Miami (-3 at 5/6) v Oakland seems a pretty good bet too; I have the Dolphins straight up, and they ought to be able to push close to a TD margin.
Patriots can cover handicap on the road
The Pats are 5-0 against the spread after a loss in the past two seasons, and even though I hesitate to take teams playing consecutive road games, a certain amount of familiarity with Matt Patricia may help the Pats offense get untracked for the first time this season - even though I wouldn't be counting on Josh Gordon for much help. I liked this better when it was -6.5, but so did a lot of other bettors, it would seem. Even so seven is not insurmountable.
If you want to take a little risk on another road favourite, Green Bay (-3 at 21/20) at Washington is interesting. This is all down to Aaron Rodgers, and the Skins could play more like they did in week one on the road than they did last week at home when the Colts stuffed them, but AR is bookie magic.
Falcons attack can compensate for defensive weakness
The Falcons are hurting on defense, which is why the over/under on this is 53.5, but they showed signs of life offensively, and the Saints' D, while good enough against the Browns, has to show they can stop a high-powered offense. Atlanta will not be missing Damontae Kazee, which will help their pass coverage a bit, and this is one of those series where home field helps unless one team or the other is really dominant, which thus far neither has been. I'd be tempted by the under 53.5 at 19/20.
You may wonder about the Vikings giving 16.5 to the Bills in what is a college-type spread. I am loathe to recommend that: too many ways teams can rest players, sub down, or take their feet off the pedal (the Chargers last week dominated the Bills but lost by only 11). Buffalo's on the road. You might jump at the spread, but the over 40.5 at 9/10 seems like a better outside bet to me.