New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (0-2) at Carolina Panthers (2-0)

The Saints were one of the best teams in the league that didn’t make the playoffs in 2014, finishing 11th in rate of moving the chains differential. However, they had a very rough off-season, getting rid of Kenny Stills, Ben Grubbs, and Jimmy Graham on offense and Junior Galette on defense. They added CJ Spiller, Max Unger, Andrus Peat, Brandon Browner and Stephone Anthony, but it was still a tough off-season for them. Things have only gotten worse as the season has started, as the Saints are 0-2 and rank 25th in rate of moving the chains differential, getting blown out in Arizona and then losing by a touchdown at home to Tampa Bay. Without Stills and Graham, they have arguably the worst receiving corps in football. Their defense is even worse without Galette and has been missing starters Jairus Byrd, Dannell Ellerbe, Anthony Spencer, and Keenan Lewis with injury. Lewis and Ellerbe are expected back this week, but they aren’t very good.

Now the Saints are going to be without quarterback Drew Brees, easily their most important player, with a shoulder injury, forcing 34-year-old career journeyman backup Luke McCown into action with one of the worst receiving corps in football helping him and one of the worst defenses in football supporting him. If the Saints are going to keep this game close, it’s going to be on the ground, but, as their roster will be in this game, they are one of the worst teams in the league. I don’t think 8 points is too many for Carolina to be favored by, even with Luke Kuechly out with injury, though I’m not confident at all.

Carolina Panthers 27 New Orleans Saints 17

Pick against the spread: Carolina -8

Confidence: None

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Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-0)

This is the toughest game of the week for me. The Cowboys usually struggle at home, going 20-31 ATS at home since 2009. However, they are home underdogs here and, while that’s been a rarity, they are 6-3 ATS as home underdogs. The Cowboys are only home underdogs because their offense that was essentially injury free in 2014 is now missing both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for an extended period of time. On top of that, they are also missing their top cornerback Orlando Scandrick and their top three defensive ends (Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, and Jeremy Mincey) on a defense that wasn’t that good to begin with, though having Sean Lee back from injury after he missed all of last season has been huge.

The Falcons could overlook the Cowboys because of how banged up they are. Remember, while the Falcons are 2-0, they are a few plays away from being 0-2. They rank just 12th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the also 2-0 Cowboys rank 6th. It’s only two weeks, but that’s certainly consistent with what happened last season, when the Cowboys ranked 8th and the Falcons ranked 23rd. Of course, the Cowboys are way more banged up now than they were then so I’m not confident at all, but I am taking them.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Dallas Cowboys 23

Pick against the spread: Dallas +1.5

Confidence: None

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Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (0-2) at New York Jets (2-0)

This game had the biggest line movement from last week to this week of any line that didn’t involve an injured quarterback, as the Jets have gone from 3.5 point home underdogs to 2.5 point home favorites here this week. I usually love to fade huge line movements like that because they tend to be overreactionary and this one is no exception. Some of that movement is understandable, as the Eagles lost three important defensive starters, Cedric Thornton, Kiko Alonso, and Mychal Kendricks, with injury last week and couldn’t do anything offensively against the Cowboys. Meanwhile, the Jets went into Indianapolis and won by the final score of 20-7, backing up an impressive 31-10 week 1 win over the Browns.

However, if the Eagles had hit a makeable field goal in Atlanta week 1, they’d very likely be 1-1 right now and we wouldn’t be too worried about them. Meanwhile, the Jets have been overly reliant on winning the turnover battle through 2 weeks. They’ve had a +4 turnover margin in both games thus far, playing a huge part in their success, but that’s very tough to sustain. Teams that have a +4 turnover margin, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.1 the following week.

None of this is to say that the line shouldn’t have moved somewhat, as the Eagles are missing essential defensive personnel and their offense has struggled in Sam Bradford’s first year in town, while the Jets have proven they are at least a decent team. Ryan Fitzpatrick has continued to play solidly, as he did in Tennessee in 2013 and Houston in 2014, and might be the best quarterback they’ve had since Chad Pennington was healthy. He’s also had solid offensive play around him and new head coach Todd Bowles has this defense playing well too. However, they’ll be without wide receiver Eric Decker in this one, while running back Chris Ivory is going to be a gametime decision, and I think we’re getting a good deal getting a few points with the Eagles. I wouldn’t put money on it, but the Eagles are my pick.

Philadelphia Eagles 20 New York Jets 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +2.5

Confidence: Low

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Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (1-1) at Miami Dolphins (1-1)

The Bills were seen as a breakout squad after they defeated the Colts week 1. However, that win doesn’t look as good now that the Jets beat the Colts in Indianapolis and the Bills were also beaten pretty convincingly at home by the Patriots last week. They have one of the best defenses in football, but they also have one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league in Tyrod Taylor and a weak offensive line on an all-around poor offense. They’re an average team at best and could easily finish below .500 if they have more significant defensive injuries than they’re used to. They’ve had very good luck in terms of their defensive stars staying healthy over the past few years.

Miami also lost last week, doing so in surprising and embarrassing fashion in Jacksonville. The Dolphins didn’t look great to start the season, going 1-1 and finishing 14th in rate of moving the chains differential, despite playing a pair of teams in Washington and Jacksonville that aren’t very good. However, it’s somewhat excusable because both games were on the road and it’s very possible that when we look back on this season, the Miami loss in Jacksonville looks like a fluke. It’s still very early in the season and I don’t like to change my views on teams quickly. I had them winning the AFC East coming into the season, after finishing 10th in rate of moving the chains differential last season and improving their team this off-season. They might not do that anymore because New England has looked very good through 2 games, but they could still certainly be a playoff team. They’re better than Buffalo and they could actually very easily be 2-0 right now if a couple things, including a missed makeable field goal, went differently against Jacksonville.

Given that and given that this line only favors Miami by 2.5 points, Miami appears to be a pretty obvious choice. Not only does this line suggest that the Bills are the better team, but it can also be covered with a victory by a field goal. However, I’m not too confident in the Dolphins this week for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that they’ll be missing talented left tackle Branden Albert with injury. The second reason has to do with scheduling. The Bills lucked out not having to go on the road until week 3, while the Dolphins were unlucky getting stuck with two road games. It’s not just that two road games are a tougher two weeks than two home games. Teams that don’t play at home until week 3 tend to be less refreshed than their opponent when they finally are home, going 22-43 ATS during that week 3 game since 1989. Meanwhile, teams that don’t play on the road until week 3 are 40-27 ATS in that week 3 road game. I still like the Dolphins here, but I don’t think I’d put money on it.

Miami Dolphins 17 Buffalo Bills 10

Pick against the spread: Miami -2.5

Confidence: Low

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Oakland Raiders at Cleveland Browns: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)

Both of these teams won as home underdogs last week, pushing themselves to 1-1. However, I think the Browns are a significantly better team than the Raiders. The Browns have noted issues in the passing game and minimal offensive skill position talent, but they have one of the best offensive lines in football and a solid defense. The Raiders’ roster is still much thinner on talent. They were able to knock off the Baltimore in last second, upset fashion last week, but I think that will prove to be more of a fluke than anything when we look back at their season. This line (Cleveland -3.5) suggests that these two teams are essentially even, which I disagree with.

The Raiders are also on the road now, where they haven’t won since week 11 of 2013. They were given a gift by the league scheduler when they were given two home games to start the season. Not only does that increase your chances of getting some wins, even some fluky wins, early, but, when you do go on the road in week 3, you tend to cover the spread because you’re the more rested squad. Teams who have their first road game of the season week 3 are 40-27 ATS since 1989. Still, it’s really hard to like the Raiders on the road here, especially as a Pacific Time Zone team playing in a 1 PM ET start time game in the Eastern Time Zone. On top of that, the Raiders are 8-23 ATS off of a win since 2009. The Browns should be able to beat them pretty easily.

Cleveland Browns 23 Oakland Raiders 13

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -3.5

Confidence: Medium

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Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (0-2) at Seattle Seahawks (0-2)

A popular pick to win the NFC again this season, the Seattle Seahawks have started the season 0-2. It’s not that bad though and they have a very good chance to bounce back in a huge way this week for a variety of reasons. For one, they haven’t really played that badly, losing in overtime as small road favorites against a decent St. Louis team and then losing by 10 in Green Bay, where the Packers are borderline unstoppable.

Now they return home for their first game of the season. It’s typically bad to have your home opener week 3 because teams that have their first home game week 3 tend to be less energized and it shows, as teams in that situation are 22-43 ATS since 1989. However, the Seahawks have had such a strong homefield advantage over the past few years that it’ll still be home sweet home. Since Russell Wilson arrived in 2012, they are 26-3 at home (20-9 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 13.34 points per game, as opposed to 16-13 on the road (17-12 ATS), outscoring opponents by an average of 5.72 points per game.

The Seahawks are also 10-3 ATS off of a loss since 2012. I know that trend didn’t predict the outcome last week correctly, but that’s not a reason to ignore it, especially with the Seahawks returning home and especially with Kam Chancellor returning from a holdout. 0-2 teams that made the playoffs the previous season typically play well week 3 anyway, going 18-9 ATS since 2002. I’m not confident in the Seahawks because this line is too high for me to be confident at 15, even with Jay Cutler out for the Bears. Covering that line is a tough task for a team that hasn’t really gotten their offense going and that is playing their first home game of the season week 3, against a Chicago team playing their first road game of the season (40-27 ATS since 1989). The Seahawks should be the right side though.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Chicago Bears 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -15

Confidence: None

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Kansas City Chiefs at Green Bay Packers: 2015 Week 3 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) at Green Bay Packers (2-0)

Green Bay’s home success over the past few years is really remarkable and last week even the Seahawks couldn’t beat them there. I don’t give the inferior Chiefs much chance. As long as Aaron Rodgers starts (minus any games he’s been knocked out very early with injuries), the Packers are 28-11-1 ATS at home since 2010 and 36-4 straight up, with an absurd +579 point differential, meaning they outscore opponents, on average, by 14.48 points per game.

I really think you can’t just use the standard 3 points for Green Bay’s homefield advantage. You need to use like 4, 5, or 6 points at least. If we assume that, then the only way we’re not getting line value is if Kansas City is only a couple points worse than the Packers. Even with the Packers missing key parts from an offense that had virtually no injuries last season, with Jordy Nelson and Bryan Bulaga out and Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams expected to play, but not 100%, this is still a very good team, especially at home. 7 points is too low.

The Packers are also in a great spot, with a trip to San Francisco on deck. That’s means the Packers really have no upcoming distractions. The early line on that game is 6.5 points. Teams are 104-75 ATS since 2010 before being 4+ point road favorites and 69-47 ATS since 2010 before being 6+ point road favorites. On top of that, 6+ point home favorites are 81-50 ATS before being 6+ point road favorites since 2002. I like the Packers a good amount this week.

Green Bay Packers 31 Kansas City Chiefs 17

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -7

Confidence: Medium

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