Oakland Raiders at Washington Redskins: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (2-0) at Washington Redskins (1-1)

This is the toughest game of the week because the line is right where it’s supposed to be and neither team is in a particularly good or bad spot. I have these two teams about six points apart, so a line of -3 in favor of the visiting Raiders makes a lot of sense. I’m taking the Redskins for one reason and one reason only and that’s to fade the public, as the public is betting heavily on the Raiders this week. Casual fans don’t realize the importance of homefield advantage so they think the Raiders will easily beat the Redskins by more than a field goal. I think they’ll have a little bit more trouble than that. This could easily be a field goal game and a push. I have no interest in picking either side outside of pick ‘em leagues.

Oakland Raiders 30 Washington Redskins 27

Pick against the spread: Washington +3

Confidence: None

Pittsburgh Steelers at Chicago Bears: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (0-2)

This is a classic Steelers trap game. The Steelers are just 4-13 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of 4.5 or more in the Ben Roethlisberger era (since 2004). For whatever reason, this team always seems to play down to the level of their competition on the road outside of the division. That could easily happen again here. The Bears are one of the worst teams in the league, but this line is high enough for them to cover. They nearly beat the Falcons at home week 1, failing on 4 straight shots on the goal line at the end of the game in a 6-point loss. Something similar could easily happen here.

All that being said, I can’t be confident in the Bears because I hate the spot they are in. After this game, they have to turn around and play in Lambeau Field against the Packers in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. That a daunting task even on a normal week. The Bears are expected to be double digit underdogs in that game and teams are 44-70 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, as tough upcoming games tend to be a distraction for teams. Even if the Bears don’t end up being double digit underdogs, teams are 29-48 ATS since 2012 as 7+ point underdogs before being 7+ point underdogs again, which the Bears definitely will be. This is such a tough part of the schedule for the Bears that they could lose to the Steelers by double digits even if the Steelers don’t play all that well. The Bears are the pick, but only for pick ‘em purposes.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Chicago Bears 20

Pick against the spread: Chicago +7.5

Confidence: None

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

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

The Panthers’ defense has been incredible through the first 2 games of the season with Luke Kuechly back from the concussions that cost him time last season and with a pair of young cornerbacks (James Bradberry and Daryl Worley) taking a step forward. They’ve allowed just 23 first downs and no touchdowns through 2 games. Even against the likes of the Bills and the 49ers, those kind of numbers are impressive. Unfortunately, their offense has some major issues. Cam Newton still looks rusty after off-season surgery and their offense struggled to move the ball all game against the Bills after losing tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil, a pair of very valuable veteran offensive players.

Olsen and Kalil will be out for an extended period of time, so the Panthers will have to adapt. Fortunately, they get to face arguably the worst defense in the league this week with the Saints coming to town. The Saints’ defense is banged up too, missing #1 cornerback Marshon Lattimore and slot cornerback Sterling Moore. Between those two and Delvin Breaux, who has been out all season, the Saints are missing their top-3 cornerbacks. They are also without a talented defensive tackle, Nick Fairley, for the season.

The Saints also have key players missing on offense, with left tackle Terron Armstead and right tackle Zach Strief both out with injuries and #2 wide receiver Willie Snead still suspended. With both teams banged up, this line is right around where it should be at 5.5. I am taking the Panthers just because the Saints have to go to London after this one and teams are understandably 11-21 ATS before going to London all-time. The Saints could easily keep it close throughout or get a backdoor touchdown late though.

Carolina Panthers 27 New Orleans Saints 20

Pick against the spread: Carolina -5.5

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1)

The Vikings’ season got off to such a promising start with Sam Bradford having the game of his life in their week 1 home victory over the Saints. However, Bradford’s surgically repaired knee started giving him trouble a few days after that game and now he’s out indefinitely. Bradford was originally acquired from the Eagles for a first round pick because the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater to a horrific knee injury three weeks before the start of the 2016 season and needed a replacement. Bridgewater remains out, so the Vikings are in a unique position of having two franchise caliber quarterbacks on the roster and not being able to play either of them.

Instead, veteran journeyman Case Keenum started in their week 2 loss in Pittsburgh and he’ll start again this week at home for the Buccaneers. Bradford’s injury shifted this line all the way to 2.5 in favor of the visiting Buccaneers. That translates to a line of about 8 or 8.5 in Tampa Bay, which doesn’t make sense because the Bears were just 6.5 point underdogs there last week and the Vikings are still a much better team than the Bears even with Keenum under center. The Buccaneers beat the Bears 29-7, but that was largely because they won the turnover battle by 3, which is not something they can count on every week. Teams that win the turnover battle by 3, on average, have a +0.0 turnover margin the following week.

Tampa Bay will also be without a pair of talented defensive starters, with defensive tackle Chris Baker and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander both out. The Vikings are healthy other than Bradford and Bridgewater and they have a lot of supporting talent around Keenum on both sides of the ball. Keenum is a backup caliber quarterback, but he’s not the worst backup in the world and the Vikings have a good chance to pull the upset straight up. The money line is worth a small bet at +130, but I’d need a full field goal to bet on the spread. If this line moves up between now and game time, I’ll reconsider.

Minnesota Vikings 17 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +2.5

Confidence: Low

Seattle Seahawks at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)

The Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the league, but had back-to-back disappointing offensive games to start the season. They have just 33 first downs and 1 touchdown through 2 games and are moving the chains at a mere 26.77%, almost 7% less than league average. That’s despite playing a pair of middling at best defenses, Green Bay and San Francisco. Their offensive line has been a big problem and has hurt both their pass game and their run game significantly, but their offensive line issues are nothing new.

The bigger problem is that Russell Wilson is off to a sluggish start, after playing well in spite of offensive line issues in the 2nd half of last season. He’s completed just 56.1% of his passes for an average of 5.39 YPA, and just 1 touchdown on 66 attempts and he ranks 28th among 33 eligible quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus. I trust him to bounce back though, given his track record of success. Their offensive line will be a problem all year, but their offense should be better going forward and this team will likely end up as one of the best in the league again.

That being said, I have the Titans a few spots higher than them in my roster rankings right now because they are a much more complete team. They don’t have as much top level talent as the Seahawks, but they also don’t have any holes that are nearly as glaring as Seattle’s offensive line. I have this line at -3.5 in favor of Tennessee, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the Titans at -2.5. It’s not enough for me to bet on them, but they’re the smarter choice in pick ‘em leagues and should win this game at home by a field goal or more.

Tennessee Titans 21 Seattle Seahawks 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2.5

Confidence: Low

Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (2-0) at Detroit Lions (2-0)

The Lions are 2-0, but I am not sold on them. They went 9-7 last year, but they didn’t beat a single playoff team and only won one game by more than a touchdown. This season, they have defensive end Ezekiel Ansah back fully healthy, but they are without fellow defensive end Kerry Hyder and left tackle Taylor Decker, both of whom are big losses that will hurt them against better teams. They’ll be joined on the sideline this week by promising rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis, who is out with a concussion, another significant loss.

The Lions’ two victories have come against the Cardinals and the Giants, neither of whom are likely to make the playoffs. Both wins came by double figures, but they actually lost the first down rate battle in both games. They trailed 17-9 in the 3rd quarter at home against the Cardinals before David Johnson got hurt and managed just 12 first downs against a Giants defense that was without Janoris Jenkins and BJ Goodson. If not for a punt return and a 56-yard field goal, that game in New York could have been much closer.

The Falcons this week are a step up in competition, as they are almost definitely going to be a playoff team. They have one of the best offenses in the league and a young defense that is improving by the week. The Lions are catching them at a good time though, as they will be without right tackle Ryan Schraeder and top edge rusher Vic Beasley. Atlanta should still win this game, but there isn’t line value with them as 3 point road favorites. If this line drops down to 2.5 between now and gametime, I would reconsider.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Detroit Lions 27

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1)

Ordinarily, you have to pay a pretty high premium to bet on the Patriots at home. As a result, they are just 21-21 ATS as home favorites of 7.5 or more over the past 8 seasons, despite going 35-7 straight up in those games. The casual public loves betting on New England, so we don’t usually get good line value with them. However, in this game, I think we are getting a little bit of line value with them. The Patriots are favored by 14 points, which is a lot, but this is a matchup between one of the best teams in the league and one of the worst, so you can make a case for this line being a couple points higher.

The Texans get a lot of attention for their front 7, but, when you look at the rest of their roster, this is one of the worst teams in the league right now. They’re starting a rookie quarterback behind arguably the worst offensive line in football with no receivers to throw to after DeAndre Hopkins. Even on defense, they have issues in the secondary, especially with Kevin Johnson hurt again. That all could be a recipe for disaster against a New England team that doesn’t have any upcoming distractions.

The Patriots host the Panthers next week in a game in which the Patriots are expected to be favorites of at least a touchdown. Teams that are favored by a touchdown or more are 61-36 ATS since 2012 before being favored by a touchdown or more again, as good teams tend to take care of business without upcoming distractions on their schedule. That’s what I expect to happen here. New England is worth a small bet at 14 and should win this game by at least two scores.

New England Patriots 31 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: New England -14

Confidence: Medium