Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (2-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-1)

These two teams have had opposite starts to the season schedule wise. While the Broncos were home for their first 2 games, the Cincinnati opened the season on the road against the Jets and Steelers. That hurts Cincinnati’s chances here in this week 3 matchup, as they’ve had to travel much more than their opponents. Teams are 24-46 ATS since 1989 in a week 3 home opener, while teams that start the season with back-to-back home games are 42-30 ATS in their first road game of the season week 3. Combining the two, teams are just 3-10 ATS a week 3 home opener if their opponent opened the season with back-to-back home games.

On top of that, the Bengals have to turn around and play a Thursday Night game in 4 days after this game, with the Miami Dolphins coming to town. Favorites are just 50-71 ATS before Thursday Night Football, since 2008, as upcoming short weeks like that tend to be a distraction for teams. Despite all of this and the fact that close to 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, the Bengals are favored by 3.5 points here against a team that’s at least comparable in talent to them, if not better. It’s worth putting money on 3.5 because this could easily be a field goal game, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Broncos won straight up here.

Cincinnati Bengals 17 Denver Broncos 16

Pick against the spread: Denver +3.5

Confidence: Medium

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Arizona Cardinals at Buffalo Bills: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (1-1) at Buffalo Bills (0-2)

Earlier this off-season, the Bills looked like a legitimate candidate to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, after coming up just short in each of the past two seasons. However, they’ve had some very bad luck since then. They’re without their first and second round picks (Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland) with injury, while top defensive lineman Marcell Dareus still has two games to go on his 4-game suspension. Talented backup running back Karlos Williams was also suspended for the first 4 games of the season, but he was so out of shape this off-season that he didn’t even make the final roster. On top of that, left tackle Cordy Glenn remains out after getting hurt week 1, talented starting cornerback Ronald Darby joins him on the sidelines this week, and #1 wide receiver Sammy Watkins could end up missing this game after being limited through the first 2 games of the season due to complications from an off-season foot surgery.

Through 2 games, the Bills have been one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 31st in rate of moving the chains differential. That’ll improve as they get guys back and it’s only been two games (they finished 19th in that metric last season), but their injury situation seems like it’s going to get worse before it gets better with Watkins and Darby expected out. This line is pretty high at 4, considering 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, but the Cardinals remain one of the top teams in the league (3rd in RMCD) and are much healthier than the Bills. They’re also much better rested, after two straight games at home to start the season. Teams are 42-30 ATS in their first road game of the season after two straight home games to start the season. As long as this line doesn’t get any higher than 4, it’s worth a bet.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Buffalo Bills 20

Pick against the spread: Arizona -4

Confidence: Medium

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Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)

Through 2 games, the Ravens lead the NFL in rate of moving the chains differential (RMCD). Of course, it’s only two games and their competition hasn’t been hard (Buffalo and Cleveland), but the Jaguars don’t seem much better. Through 2 games, they’re 30th in RMCD, after finishing last season 27th in rate of moving the chains differential. They have a stronger roster than they did last season and figure to be better overall, but right now they’re not healthy. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum has already been ruled out, while center Brandon Linder, cornerback Prince Amukamara, and defensive tackle Jared Odrick are all highly questionable for this one. Those are 4 of their best players.

The Ravens, meanwhile, are relatively healthy (especially compared to last season) and may get Elvis Dumervil back from injury this week, after their top pass rusher missed the first 2 games of the season. The Jaguars are also in a tough spot with a trip to London to play the Colts on deck. Teams are just 6-18 ATS all-time before a game in London. It makes sense that a long trip would serve as a big distraction. As long as this line stays under a field goal, I like the Ravens enough to put money on them as road favorites.

Baltimore Ravens 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -1

Confidence: Medium

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Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Miami Dolphins (0-2)

The Browns entered the season with arguably the weakest roster in the league and have had terrible injury luck already. On defense, defensive end Carl Nassib is out, while cornerback Joe Haden is questionable and could join Nassib on the sideline. On the offensive side, the Browns are already down to 3rd string quarterback Cody Kessler, a 3rd round rookie who reportedly is not close to ready to play quarterback in the NFL, while top receiver Corey Coleman is also out. With Josh Gordon still suspended, that leaves the Browns with Kessler throwing to the likes of Gary Barnidge, Terrelle Pryor, Duke Johnson, Andrew Hawkins, and Rashard Higgins. They’re also without starting center Cameron Erving. Right guard John Greco shifts inside, making the right side of their offensive line a major area of weakness.

However, there’s no reason the Dolphins should be favored by 10 points here. No team is bad enough to be 10 point underdogs in Miami, as the Dolphins aren’t very good themselves. They finished last season 31st in rate of moving the chains differential (RMCD) and they’re not much better so far this season, entering this game in 28th. As bad as the Browns have been over the past 2 seasons, they actually finished last season 29th in RMCD, higher than the Dolphins, and even still enter this game one spot higher than the Dolphins in that metric this season, as they enter in 27th.

The Dolphins are better coached this year, but have an even less talented roster than they did last season, after losing the likes of Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby, and Lamar Miller in free agency. Center Mike Pouncey is also out with injury. They did have some off-season additions and their roster is definitely more talented than the Browns’ roster is right now, but not enough to warrant this 10 point line. Teams that finish with 6 or fewer wins cover just 25% of the time as favorites of 6 or more since 2002. Of course, it’s too early to know for sure that the Dolphins are going 6-10 or worse, but you can make an educated guess.

Both teams have tough games on deck and figure to be underdogs of 6+ next week, with the Browns heading on to Washington to play the Redskins and the Dolphins going to Cincinnati next. Both big favorites and big underdogs struggle before being big underdogs, as favorites of 6+ are 23-50 ATS before being underdogs of 6+ since 2008, while underdogs of 6 or more are 45-71 ATS before being underdogs of 6+ since 2012. The Bengals are a tougher opponent than the Redskins are though and the Dolphins also have to turn around and play them on Thursday Night. Favorites are just 50-71 ATS before Thursday Night Football, since 2008. It also hurts the Dolphins that they are playing a week 3 home opener, which historically doesn’t go well. Teams are just 24-46 ATS in a week 3 home opener since 1989. This seems like a trap game for Miami, even if Cleveland’s lack of talent doesn’t allow them to actually pull off the straight up victory. It’s worth betting on them at 10, though I’d be more hesitant at 9.5.

Miami Dolphins 23 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +10

Confidence: Medium

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Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

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

The Rams pulled off a big upset win last week in their home opener, beating the 7-point favorite Seattle Seahawks by the final score of 9-3. However, they’re in a terrible spot this week. For one, teams tend to struggle off of big home upset victories like that, going 49-75 ATS off of a win as home underdogs, including 13-24 ATS off of a win as home underdogs of 4 or more and 4-13 ATS as divisional home underdogs or 4 or more. This game is sandwiched between that huge, emotional home victory and another tough game, a trip to Arizona, where they will almost certainly be 10+ point underdogs. Teams are just 39-59 ATS since 2012 before being 10+ point underdogs, as tough upcoming games like that tend to be a distraction.

The Rams could easily be flat this week and they’re not that good to begin with, despite their home win against the Seahawks last week. The Rams’ defense looked great against the Seahawks, but the Seahawks’ offense hasn’t looked good at all in either game this season, thanks to the worst offensive line in the league. On the offensive side, the Rams failed to score a touchdown for the second straight week. On top of that, their 28-0 week 1 loss in San Francisco definitely can’t be ignored. They’re still dead last in rate of moving the chains differential, after finishing 30th in that measure last season. As bad as they were last season, they’re worse this season, after trading their entire draft for a quarterback who hasn’t played yet and losing a pair of talented starters in the secondary in free agency, Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, neither of whom was replaced.

There are two reasons why I wouldn’t put money on Tampa Bay as favorites of more than 4 though (this line is currently at 5.5). The first is the Buccaneers are playing a week 3 home opener, which historically doesn’t go well. Teams are just 24-46 ATS in a week 3 home opener since 1989. The second reason is the Buccaneers are missing their top pass rusher Robert Ayers with injury. Without him, it’s tough to be too confident in them as favorites of more than 4, even against an awful Rams team, considering 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer. Doug Martin is also out for Tampa Bay, though backup Charles Sims is a solid fill-in. The Buccaneers seem like the right side though.

Update: This line fell to 4 Sunday Morning, so it’s worth a play on Tampa Bay if you can get that line or better.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Los Angeles Rams 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -4

Confidence: Medium

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San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (0-2)

The Chargers’ offense continues to be bitten by the injury bug. After finishing last season with the 8th most adjusted games lost to injury of any offense in the league, the Chargers lost #1 wide receiver Keenan Allen for the season week 1 and running back Danny Woodhead (the Chargers’ leader in yards from scrimmage in 2015) for the season with a torn ACL week 2. They will also be without veteran tight end Antonio Gates in this one, while rookie defensive end Joey Bosa (the 3rd overall pick in the draft) remains sidelined with a hamstring on defense.

Despite that, they still won at home last week, by the final score of 38-14 against a capable though mediocre Jaguars team. They’re more talented overall than last season, so they can withstand injuries better. Plus, even with all of their injuries last season, they outgained their opponents by 158 yards on the season and went 4-12 largely as a result of bad luck and things that are easy to clean up (close losses, long return touchdowns, missed tackles on special teams).

The Colts are not much better than the Jaguars and they too are dealing with injuries. While Vontae Davis, Henry Anderson, and Trent Cole are expected to return from injury this week, they could be limited; Davis and Anderson are making their season debuts, the latter after a late 2015 ACL tear. They’re also still without #2 and #3 cornerbacks Patrick Robinson and Darius Butler and will additionally be without starting wide receiver Donte Moncrief and right guard Denzelle Good with injury this week. An old team in general, especially on defense, the Colts have one of the weaker rosters in the NFL, outside of the quarterback position. This game is in Indianapolis, but the Chargers have covered in 7 of their last 9 road games. The Chargers don’t get great home crowds, so it makes sense that they would be travel well (they’re also 3-6 ATS in their last 9 home games).

On top of that, the Colts could be distracted with a game in London on deck; teams are just 6-18 ATS all-time before a game in London. It makes sense that a long trip would serve as a big distraction. I wish this line hadn’t moved from the full field goal it was at last week on the early line. We lost all line value as a result of the Chargers’ big win last week. The line is now between 1-2 points. It doesn’t really matter what this line is as long as it’s under 3, as about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. I think the Chargers will win straight up, but not enough to take them confidently as favorites of less than a field goal. If you need something to bet on in this game, the money line is a good idea at +110. This game seems like a toss up at worst for the Chargers.

San Diego Chargers 27 Indianapolis Colts 24 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +1.5

Confidence: Low

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-0)

The Eagles were at the top of my underrated teams list coming into the season, with a pre-season over/under of just 6.5 wins. Obviously the quarterback situation complicated matters, especially with Sam Bradford getting traded a week before the season started and rookie Carson Wentz being the week 1 starter. However, I thought they were easily the most talented team in the NFC East around the quarterback, particularly on defense, where they were getting a significant upgrade in leadership with Chip Kelly hire Billy Davis getting fired and Jim Schwartz, one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, coming in.

So far, through 2 games, they’ve exceeded even my expectations, winning both games pretty easily and currently ranking 7th in rate of moving the chains differential (RMCD). Granted, neither the Browns or the Bears are a tough opponent, but it can be easy to slip up against bad teams and the Eagles took care of business and dominated both games. They’re the only team in the league to win each of their first 2 games by 10 points and their +34 point differential is just behind New England, who has played an additional game. Their defense has been one of the better defenses in the league, masking their weakness at cornerback with good safety play and good front 7 play, while rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has been very impressive thus far. He doesn’t have great skill position talent around him, which limits this offense, but they do have a strong offensive line, especially with Lane Johnson being allowed to play until the results of his PED suspension appeal.

Given that, it’s confusing why they’re getting 4 points here at home. The Steelers are one of the better teams in the league, but the Eagles are still not getting the respect they deserve from the oddsmakers and I’ll keep betting them until the oddsmakers start making better lines. It’s also worth noting that the Steelers seem to have a habit of slipping up against inferior non-divisional opponents on the road, going 9-20 ATS as non-divisional road favorites in the Mike Tomlin era, dating back to 2007.

They got a big win week 1 in Washington in that situation, beating the Redskins 38-16 as 3-point road favorites, but the Eagles are better than the Redskins and that was week 1 anyway, which is a weird situation. The Steelers were focused in their first game of the season, but could easily be less than fully focused here week 3, after a big win over division rival Cincinnati and with another big conference game (Kansas City) on deck. This has trap game written all over it and I’m happy to take the 4 points with the underrated Eagles, especially since 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer. The money line is also a good value at +160, as this line should be around a pick em.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +4

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (1-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-1)

I’ve seen a couple articles this week asking what’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. That doesn’t make sense to me. The Packers opened their season with two road games and played pretty well in both games all things considering, beating a capable Jacksonville team week 1 and then barely losing last week against a good Minnesota team. Despite splitting the two games, they actually moved the chains better than their opponents in both games and only lost in Minnesota because of a +2 turnover margin.

Turnover margin tends to be very inconsistent week-to-week and the Packers tend be better at winning the turnover battle than most, so I don’t see that as a long-term problem. They’re unlikely to be as good offensively as they were in 2014, when they finished 1st in rate of moving the chains (RMC), but they figure to finish significantly better than last season, when they finished 16th in that statistic, especially as Jordy Nelson gets back into game shape after missing all of last season with a torn ACL and especially as more home games come up on the schedule.

Now back at home, they have a very good chance to get back on track. They went just 4-4 ATS at home last season, but went 36-23 ATS in Lambeau from 2008 to 2014. Even if they don’t recapture that old home magic, it definitely helps that they’re going into a bye. Big favorites tend to take care of business going into a bye, as home favorites of 6 or more are 61-22 ATS before a bye since 2002. Their offense especially has a good chance to get back on track this week, as Detroit is missing two of their top three defensive players, linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, with injury. That leaves their defense very vulnerable. This is the easiest matchup the Packers have had thus far. Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t good, but that was a road game and the Packers still moved the chains at a respectable 75.00% rate.

As long as this line is 7 or fewer, this is a money play, though I’d be more hesitant at 7.5, as Detroit has a strong offense and I’d be worried about Detroit driving down the field down two touchdowns late for the backdoor cover, especially with the Packers missing some guys on defense as well (though not anyone as important as Ansah or Levy). The backdoor cover possibility also scares me off of making this my Pick of the Week, as does the fact that the Packers are playing a week 3 home opener, which historically doesn’t go well. Teams are just 24-46 ATS in a week 3 home opener since 1989. The Packers have had to travel a lot already and that could give the Lions an advantage, but their upcoming bye should keep them focused on this week and I like their chances of putting up a big number on Detroit’s injury plagued defense.

Green Bay Packers 31 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -7

Confidence: Medium

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Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (0-2) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1)

The Bears have been hit hard by the injury bug early in the season. Not only is quarterback Jay Cutler out for this game with a thumb injury, they’re also without starting linebackers Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan, reserve linebacker Lamarr Houston, and top defensive lineman Eddie Goldman, while top cornerback Kyle Fuller is questionable after missing the first two games of the season with an ankle injury. That’s a lot to be missing from a defense that wasn’t great to begin with.

However, the Cowboys are missing a lot of guys as well. Top cornerback Orlando Scandrick will be out for this one, while starting defensive ends Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence and starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain are all suspended and of course quarterback Tony Romo remains on the sidelines with a back injury. They won in Washington last week, but only by 4 and against a Redskins team that isn’t playing well right now. Cowboys Backup quarterback Dak Prescott understandably hasn’t quite lived up to his big pre-season and has a patchwork defense supporting him, so the Cowboys shouldn’t be favored by a touchdown against anyone, except for maybe the Browns.

The Bears aren’t that bad. They’re actually in pretty capable hands with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, who has made 22 starts over the past 2 seasons and has shown himself to at least be a low end starting quarterback. He had success throwing to DeAndre Hopkins and will likely have similar success with Bears #1 receiver Alshon Jeffery, a similar player. Even with Goldman, Houston, and Trevathan going down too, this line shouldn’t have moved from 3.5 on the early line to 7 this week as a result of Cutler’s injury, especially if Fuller can play.

The Cowboys also haven’t had much homefield advantage in recent years, as they are 15-34 ATS at home since 2010, including 8-26 ATS as home favorites, as opposed to 28-21 ATS on the road. That makes sense, as the Cowboys have fans scattered around the country and normally have many of their own fans in attendance at road games, while their home stadium is a bit of a tourist attraction and often has many visiting fans as a result. There aren’t a lot of good sides this week, but I like the Bears a good amount.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Chicago Bears 20

Pick against the spread: Chicago +7

Confidence: High

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Houston Texans at New England Patriots: 2016 Week 3 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (2-0) at New England Patriots (2-0)

Last week, the early line was 3.5 in favor of the hometown New England Patriots. When I saw that, my first thought was New England was likely to cover. Home non-divisional favorites on Thursday nights are 34-16 ATS since 1989. Thursday night games are tough enough for players, but they’re especially tough when you have to go on the road and face a comparable or better opponent, unless that opponent is a divisional opponent that you play twice a year. This game fit all 3 criteria and the Patriots had proven themselves to still be a tough opponent, even without Tom Brady, with a win in Arizona week 1.

Of course, the Patriots lost backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo last week, which changed matters a lot. Now the Patriots are in a tough situation, scrambling to get 3rd string quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a 3rd round rookie out of NC State, ready to start on a short week. That also changed the line as now the Patriots are underdogs of 3 points at home. That seems like far too drastic of a swing. In fact, the New England/Arizona line only shifted about 6 points immediately after Brady’s suspension was upheld.

The Patriots went from leading 24-3 when Garoppolo went down to barely hanging on by the final score of 31-24 aftewards, but that’s not really an indictment on Brissett. The Patriots’ defense played a lot better in the first half than the second half and Brissett didn’t even have that many pass attempts, as the Patriots just tried to run out the clock with what was once a big lead (as high as 31-3 at one point). Brissett only threw 9 passes in a little over a half, completing 6 of them for 92 yards. Two of the 3 incompletions were drops by Julian Edelman that were not in the best spot. All in all, for coming into the game cold off the bench, Brissett wasn’t bad and could conceivably lead a run heavy offense to victory, though he’s a major question mark.

The Texans have a strong defense so the Patriots are unlikely to win a shootout, but they have a good defense as well and figure to be able to keep the Texans’ offense in check on a short week. The Texans remain without left tackle Duane Brown with injury, while the Patriots are reportedly likely to get back both linebacker Dont’a Hightower and tight end Rob Gronkowski from injury. One in 6 games are decided by a field goal or less, so I like the Patriots’ chances of at least keeping this one close at home. They’re 41-22 ATS as underdogs under Bill Belichick, including 8-6 ATS without Brady, and 12-3 ATS as home underdogs under Bill Belichick, including 2-1 ATS without Brady. In some places, this line has dropped to 1.5-2.5, in which case this is a lower confidence play, but it’s a money play at 3 for sure.

New England Patriots 16 Houston Texans 13 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: New England +3

Confidence: Medium

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