Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals: 2021 Week 4 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)

I would have liked the Bengals a lot more in this matchup a week ago. The Bengals were favored by 6.5 points on the early line and were in a good spot, as non-divisional home favorites of 6 points or more are 19-7-2 ATS all-time on a short week. This week, the Bengals are favored by 7.5 points, which doesn’t seem like a huge swing, but about 1 in 10 games are decided by a touchdown exactly and that line movement comes despite the Bengals losing safety Jessie Bates and cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, two key parts of their defense, to injury last week, adding to an injury list that also includes wide receiver Tee Higgins. The Bengals beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh somewhat easily last week, but the Steelers are an overrated and injury plagued team, so the injury absences are more important than the result of last week’s game when it comes to projecting this matchup. 

We are getting some line value with the Bengals though, as they are still a decent team, even with their injury absences. I’ve thought the Bengals were underrated for a few weeks and they could be 3-0 if Joe Burrow didn’t uncharacteristically throw interceptions in the fourth quarter of a close loss to the Bengals. My calculated line is Cincinnati -12, so, even though we’re not getting great line value, the Bengals are still worth a small bet because of how good of a spot they are in. It’s very tough for an inferior team to cover against a superior team on the road out of the division on a short week.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 14

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -7.5

Confidence: Medium

2021 Week 3 NFL Picks

Pick of the Week

CLE -7 vs. CHI

High Confidence Picks

TB -1.5 @ LAR

CIN +3 @ PIT

Medium Confidence Picks

NE -3 vs. NO

NYG -3 vs. ATL

BUF -7 vs. WAS

KC -6.5 vs. LAC

Low Confidence Picks

DET +8 vs. BAL

MIN +2 vs. SEA

IND +5.5 @ TEN

ARZ -8 @ JAX

No Confidence Picks

DEN -10.5 vs. NYJ

LV -3.5 vs. MIA

SF -3 vs. GB

PHI +3.5 @ DAL

HOU +9 vs. CAR

Upset Picks

CIN +150 @ PIT

MIN +110 vs. SEA

Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills: 2021 Week 3 NFL Pick

Washington Football Team (1-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-1)

The Bills’ offense seems unlikely to be as good as it was a year ago, which is not really a surprise given how many things went perfectly for this unit in 2020, but their defense seems much improved, ranking 2nd in first down rate allowed through two games. The Bills’ competition hasn’t been tough, as the Steelers and the Dolphins have among the worst offenses in the league, but the Bills finished the 2019 season ranked 6th in first down rate allowed, so there is some recent precedent for this being a top level defense, with similar personnel. 

The competition doesn’t get much tougher this week either, with Washington coming to town. Their offense could have been significantly improved this season due to the additions of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Curtis Samuel, who filled significant needs at quarterback and wide receiver respectively, but both of those players are on injured reserve, so this is once again an underwhelming offense, perhaps even more so than a year ago because their remade offensive line isn’t as good as Washington’s offensive line was a year ago. 

Making matters worse, their defense doesn’t look quite as dominant as it did a year ago, which isn’t a huge surprise, given that defense is a significantly less predictive side of the ball. It’s possible the Bills have the edge on both offense and defense in this matchup, in addition to a significant special teams edge. At the very least, they have a significant edge on offense, which is the more predictive side of the ball. 

Some are comparing this matchup to the Bills’ week one loss to the Steelers, but the Steelers were a better team than Washington is, they run a different defensive scheme, and, on top of that, the result of that game could easily be an outlier when all is said and done. Washington might be more comparable to the Dolphins, who the Bills blew out in Miami 35-0 last week. That could also be a little bit of an outlier result, but there is an obvious talent gap between these two rosters and my calculated line has the Bills favored by 10, so we’re getting enough line value at -7 for Buffalo to be worth a bet. 

Buffalo Bills 27 Washington Football Team 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -7

Confidence: Medium

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 3 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (0-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-1)

This game is tough to project because we don’t know how effective Carson Wentz is going to be, playing through two sprained ankles, and he technically isn’t even a lock to start, as he could still be ruled out pre-game in favor of either Nick Eason and/or Brett Hundley, which would be an obvious downgrade. Wentz is also a strong candidate for an in game setback even if he does start. My calculated line with Wentz being factored in as heavily limited still has the Titans as only 4 point favorites, giving us line value with the Colts at 5.5, but that’s more of a fade of the Titans than anything, as they are an overrated team.

The Titans won 11 games a year ago, but they faced an easy schedule and went 7-2 in one score games, while leading the league with a +11 turnover margin, which are both unsustainable long-term. They drew a lot of attention in the off-season for their addition of Julio Jones, but he is on the decline and might not be an upgrade on free agent departure Corey Davis, while the loss of offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and an aging offensive line affect this offense in a negative fashion. 

They were exposed in a week one blowout loss to the Cardinals and, while they bounced back with an overtime win in Seattle, they still have the 6th worst point differential in the league through 2 games. I’m taking the Colts, who are also in a good spot because 0-2 teams that made the post-season a year ago tend to cover at an above average rate in week 3, but it’s hard to take them confidently given the uncertainty around Wentz’s health.

Tennessee Titans 24 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +5.5

Confidence: Low

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys: 2021 Week 3 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) at Dallas Cowboys (1-1)

The Cowboys have had a tough start to their season, going on the road to the Buccaneers and Chargers. The Cowboys split those games to go 1-1 and now they return home to be favored by 3.5 points over the Eagles, but this could be a let down spot for them, as teams tend to struggle in week 3 home openers, covering at just a 33.3% rate in a week 3 home opener over the past thirty seasons. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but it does make some sense that teams would be tired after back-to-back home games to start the season and then relax a little in their home opener, leading to relative struggles. 

Unfortunately, we’re not getting enough line value with the Eagles to bet them confidently. They’ve gotten off to a surprisingly strong start, but they’ve lost a trio of key players in the past week, with left tackle Jordan Mailata, right guard Brandon Brooks, and defensive end Brandon Graham all being placed on injured reserve. My calculated line has the Cowboys favored by 5.5 points given all of the Eagles injuries, so, while I am still taking the Eagles, this is a no confidence pick at +3.5.

Dallas Cowboys 23 Philadelphia Eagles 20

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3.5

Confidence: None

New York Jets at Denver Broncos: 2021 Week 3 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-2) at Denver Broncos (2-0)

Coming into the season, I thought the Broncos could be a playoff team in the AFC, with an improved quarterback situation, a healthier and more experienced receiving corps, and a defense that got Von Miller back and significantly upgraded their biggest weakness at cornerback. They have started 2-0 and, while their schedule has been a big factor, as they’ve gotten to face the Giants and Jaguars, it was still good to see them take care of business, winning both games by double digits on the road.

The schedule doesn’t get any harder for the Broncos this week, as the pathetic Jets come to town for their home opener, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Broncos will cover this 10.5 point spread. Already at 2-0, the Broncos could overlook an 0-2 Jets team, especially with their first real game on deck, a game against the Ravens. Teams also tend to struggle when playing their first home game in week 3, covering at just a 33.3% rate in a week 3 home opener over the past thirty seasons. 

I’m not entirely sure why that is, but it does make some sense that teams would be tired after back-to-back home games to start the season and then relax a little in their home opener, leading to relative struggles. There is enough line value here for the Broncos to still seem like the right side, but I don’t have any confidence in them covering this big spread, as the Jets could easily make this game closer than expected, especially since the Broncos are without key players like Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell.

Denver Broncos 24 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: Denver -10.5

Confidence: None

Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings: 2021 Week 3 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (0-2)

The Vikings are 0-2, but they aren’t far from being 2-0, as their two losses came by a combined 4 points, one by 1-point and one by a field goal in overtime. Both losses were also on the road against teams I thought were underrated coming into the season in the Bengals and Cardinals. The Vikings were also on my underrated list coming into the season because their defense is much healthier and more talented than a year ago and figures to have a much better season, but I haven’t picked them in any sort of significant way yet because of their early schedule.

I was hoping to get a good line with the Vikings at home against the Seahawks this week and would have recommended a bet at +3, but the Vikings remain home underdogs of just 2 points, meaning they will probably have to win outright to win this game. They could do that and my calculated line actually has the Vikings favored by 1.5 points, but there isn’t enough here to confidently take the Vikings at +2 because they are in a couple of bad spots. 

For one, they are having their home opener in week 3 and teams cover at just a 33.3% rate in a week 3 home opener over the past thirty seasons, although that does go up to 40% for winless teams. On top of that, the Seahawks will be motivated to bounce back after last week’s overtime loss to the Titans and Russell Wilson is 25-12 ATS off of a loss in his career. I’m still taking the Vikings for pick ‘em purposes and the money line is a solid value at +110 as the Vikings should be at least 50/50 to win this game, but I wouldn’t recommend betting the spread in this one.

Minnesota Vikings 27 Seattle Seahawks 26 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +2

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers: 2021 Week 3 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (1-1) at San Francisco 49ers (2-0)

These two teams met twice in 2019, including the NFC Championship, and the 49ers won both matchups easily. The 49ers had a down year in 2020 due to injuries, but are now back to being a similar caliber team to what they were a couple years ago. Given that, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a similar result from this matchup, especially since the Packers are missing a pair of key offensive linemen in David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, as well as top edge defender Za’Darius Smith.

However, the Packers do have one thing going for them, which is that the 49ers are in a tough spot, having their home opener in week 3. Teams cover at just a 33.3% rate in a week 3 home opener over the past thirty seasons. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but it does make some sense that teams would be tired after back-to-back home games to start the season and then relax a little in their home opener, leading to relative struggles. That’s not enough for me to take the Packers, but it’s hard to be confident in the 49ers, even if we are getting some line value with them (my calculated line is San Francisco -5.5). This is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Green Bay Packers 20

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -3

Confidence: None

Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders: 2021 Week 3 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (1-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (2-0)

This one is a tough call. On one hand, the Dolphins are still a little overrated even after last week’s 35-0 home loss to the Bills, as they would be 0-2 right now if not for recovering a pair of fumbles in a 1-point win over the Patriots. Fumble recoveries are highly non-predictive week-to-week and in more predictive metrics the Dolphins were clearly worse than the Patriots, losing in first down rate (33.33% vs. 30.77%) and yards per play (5.61 vs. 4.98) by significant margins. The Dolphins won 10 games a year ago, but they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%) and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). 

The Raiders are a bit of an overrated 2-0, beating the Ravens in overtime a great spot, in their first game in Las Vegas in front of fans, against an east coast team that had to travel cross country for a night game, and then turning around and beating a Steelers team that was missing several key players due to injury, but they should still be favored by more than 3.5 points at home over the Dolphins. The Raiders’ offense isn’t as good this year after downgrading their offensive line this off-season, but their defense has improved significantly and they are at least a middle of the pack team, which I think is more than can be said about the Dolphins, especially with backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center.

However, this is a tough spot for the Raiders, who are already 2-0 and have a nationally televised game against the Chargers on deck, after this game against a Dolphins team starting a backup quarterback and coming off of a blowout loss. They could easily overlook the Dolphins and teams tend to cover after blowout losses in general, going 68-39 ATS since 2002 after losing by 35 points or more. I’m still taking the Raiders for pick ‘em purposes because of the significant line value we are getting with them (my calculated line is Las Vegas -6.5), but I am not at all confident in them in this spot.

Las Vegas Raiders 20 Miami Dolphins 16

Pick against the spread: Las Vegas -3.5

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 Week 3 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-1)

The Chiefs have gotten off to a 1-1 start and, while they could easily be 2-0 if a couple things had gone differently, the same is true of them being 0-2. Their offense has not been the problem, as they ranked 2nd only behind the Browns in first down rate through two weeks, but their defense has been a huge problem, leading the league in yards per play allowed by a wide margin (7.6 vs. 6.9). The Chiefs defense is not impressive and could have problems all season, but offensive performance is much more predictive than defensive performance going forward, so the Chiefs should still be one of the top teams in the league overall when all is said and done, especially when their schedule gets easier, after starting with a pair of talented teams in the Browns and Ravens.

The Chargers aren’t a bad team, but they’re not as good as the two teams the Ravens have faced thus far and they may be a little overrated. They are better than a year ago, but they weren’t as good as their 7-9 record suggested last season. In total, just three of the Chargers last eight wins have come by four points or fewer, with the exceptions coming against the 1-15 Jaguars, the 2-14 Jets, and the Chiefs’ backups in week 17 of last season. The Chargers also are dealing with some key injuries, as they will be without top cornerback Chris Harris for the second straight game and, more importantly, stud edge defender Joey Bosa is highly questionable after not practicing all week.

Without Bosa, it’s hard to see the Chargers keeping this one close, so it’s a surprise this line has only shifted from Kansas City -6.5 on the early line last week to -7 this week with Bosa’s status highly uncertain. It’s possible this line could skyrocket if Bosa is ruled out, but if not, I will likely be placing a bet on the Chiefs. I’m not locking any bets in until I know Bosa’s status, but the Chiefs are likely to be the right side for pick ‘em purposes regardless.

Update: Bosa is playing, but -6.5 popped up Sunday morning. That is worth a bet.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Los Angeles Chargers 24

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -6.5

Confidence: Medium