Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (0-2)

The Colts have been one of the worst teams in the league this season, but injuries are the major reason why. Obviously the injury to Andrew Luck is the big one, but they’re also missing top cornerback Vontae Davis, talented hybrid safety/linebacker Clayton Geathers, and starting center Ryan Kelly. The Browns enter this game with significant injuries too though, and unlike the Colts, they are not that good even when healthy.

Rookie defensive end Myles Garrett, the #1 overall pick in the draft, remains out with a high ankle sprain and will be joined on the sideline this week by linebacker Jamie Collins, who has a concussion. Those are arguably their two best defensive players, from a defense that wasn’t good to begin with. The Colts are significantly better with Jacoby Brissett under center than Scott Tolzien and could move the ball pretty easily in this one.

The Browns could also move the ball against Indianapolis’ weak defense, but these two teams are about even and this line suggests that the Browns are a whopping 4.5 points better than the Colts. With Cleveland now missing Collins, I actually have the Colts one spot better in my roster rankings, so we’re getting good value with the Colts as home underdogs here. The Colts are also in a better spot as home underdogs tend to cover off of a loss as home underdogs, going 75-57 ATS in that spot since 2002. The Browns, meanwhile, host the Bengals next week in a game in which they are expected to be home underdogs and road favorites are 52-73 ATS since 2002 before being home underdogs. The Colts should win this outright by a field goal or more.

Indianapolis Colts 23 Cleveland Browns 20 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +1.5

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-2)

The Chargers haven’t won a game yet, but enter this game 5th in first down rate differential at +7.26%, trailing only four 2-0 teams (Carolina, Denver, Oakland, Baltimore). The Chargers have moved the ball well, but have failed to close out games because of missed field goals. In the opener, they had a field goal blocked at the end of the game that would have sent it to overtime and last week they lost by 2 to the Dolphins in a game in which they missed a pair of field goals, either of which would have won them the game. Because of this, I think the Chargers are an underrated team, as they have played significantly better than their record would suggest.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, are a little bit overrated. They’re a top-10 team, but I’m not sure if they’re an elite, top level team yet. They obviously looked like it in New England week 1, but they lost Eric Berry for the season in that game, a massive loss, and that game could easily be their best of the season when all is said and done. Last week, they won by a touchdown at home against a good Philadelphia team, but that game could have been a lot different if the Eagles hadn’t muffed a punt and missed a 30-yard field goal. The Eagles managed 27 first downs in that game to Kansas City’s 16 and led late in the 3rd quarter before a number of late screw ups.

These two teams are more evenly matched than their records suggest. In fact, I have them about even in my roster rankings, while the Chargers rank 4 spots better than the Chiefs in first down rate differential. Cornerback Jason Verrett remains out for the Chargers, which is a big loss, but the Chiefs lost talented center Mitch Morse in their victory over the Eagles, which will hurt their offensive line. Given that, we’re getting good line value with the Chargers as 3.5 point home underdogs.

The one reason this isn’t a bigger bet is because the Chargers have next to no homefield advantage in their new stadium. It will help the Chargers to not have to travel and to wake up in their own beds on gameday, but they’re not going to get any help from the crowd. I think we’re getting enough line value that they’re worth a bet anyway though. About a quarter of games are decided by a field goal or less, so, even if the Chargers don’t win this outright, I still like their chances of covering the spread. They have 6 losses by a field goal or less over the past 2 seasons, most in the NFL over that time period.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Kansas City Chiefs 23 Upset Pick +150

Pick against spread: LA Chargers +3.5

Confidence: High

Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) in London

The Ravens have been the most banged up team in the league all season in terms of number of guys on injured reserve, but they have managed to start the season 2-0. That’s partially because of weak competition (Cincinnati and Cleveland), but the big reason is simply that the Ravens hadn’t lost anyone irreplaceable. That changed when right guard Marshal Yanda broke his ankle against the Browns, ending his season. Yanda is arguably the best right guard in football, so that’s an enormous blow to this offense. The Ravens will also be without talented defensive lineman Brandon Williams in this one with injury.

Despite that, this line is still at 4 because casual bettors don’t pay attention to injuries as much as they should. This is on a neutral field in London, suggesting the Ravens would be full touchdown favorites if this game was played in Baltimore. That’s just a half point less than they were favored by against the Browns, who are significantly less talented than the Jaguars, and that was before Yanda and Williams went down. The Ravens covered that spread in 14-point victory, but the Browns had numerous opportunities to cut it to a single touchdown late because the Ravens couldn’t move the ball after Yanda got hurt. That was against a weak Cleveland defense. Jacksonville’s defense is one of the best in the league.

The Ravens were able to stop Cleveland’s comeback attempts with takeaways, but they won’t be able to rely on that every week. The Ravens lead the league with 8 takeaways and a +7 turnover margin right now, but unfortunately turnovers tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Teams that win the turnover battle by 3 like the Ravens did last week, on average, have a +0.0 turnover margin the following week. The Ravens are on pace for 64 takeaways and a +56 turnover margin, both of which would blow away the all-time records. Even if the Ravens do end up finishing near the top in both of those categories, their pace will slow down considerably going forward.

The Jaguars opened their season with a +4 turnover margin in Houston, but returned home last week and posted a -2 turnover margin. They had similar first down rate differentials in the two games (+0.22% week 1, -3.00% week 2), but the games had completely different results because of turnover margins, as Jacksonville won by 22 in Houston and lost by 21 at home to Tennessee. With Yanda and Williams out for the Ravens, these two teams are about equal. The Ravens have a slightly better offense, but the Jaguars have the better defense. This line shouldn’t be any higher than 1, so we’re getting at least a field goal of line value with the Jaguars. About 30% of games are decided by 4 points or fewer, so I like the Jaguars chances of keeping this one close and they have a decent shot to pull the upset as well.

Baltimore Ravens 17 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +4

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Cincinnati Bengals at Green Bay Packers: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Green Bay Packers (1-1)

The Bengals have famously not scored a touchdown yet this season, picking up just 26 first downs on 120 plays in the process (21.67%). However, there are reasons to be optimistic about this offense. For one, they’ve fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, whose playcalling was not liked by the players. They’ve had 10 days since that Thursday Night loss to the Texans to install their new offense and that could easily have results on the field. It also helps that their level of competition is weaker this week.

They started the season with the Ravens and Texans, who have among the best defenses in the league, but this week they get to face a Green Bay defense that is average at best when healthy and currently missing their top two defensive players, defensive end Mike Daniels and outside linebacker Nick Perry, with injuries. The Bengals could have offensive line problems all season, but the Packers don’t have the players to exploit that like the Ravens and Texans did. Andy Dalton has pretty good weapons to work with, even with John Ross and Tyler Eifert injured, and he should have better games going forward.

Daniels and Perry aren’t the only key injuries the Packers are dealing with as left tackle David Bakhtiari and wide receiver Randall Cobb are out on the offensive side of the ball, two significant losses. Cincinnati has an underrated defense, so Aaron Rodgers could have a tougher day than most expect. Given all of that, this line is too high at 7.5. I don’t think this line adjusted enough to compensate for the injuries. Daniels and Bakhtiari were both in the top-60 of my top-200 players list before the season started, while Cobb and Perry are above average starters as well. They are really short-handed right now.

The Bengals are also in a better spot. This is just their first road game and teams that start the season with back-to-back home games tend to fare better week 3 than other teams, going 44-33 ATS in that spot since 1989 (35-21 ATS as underdogs). Green Bay, meanwhile, has another game in 4 days after this one, when they host the Chicago Bears on Thursday night football. Favorites are just 58-87 ATS before Thursday night football since 2008. It helps the Packers that their opponent is a lowly Chicago team, but Chicago is a division rival and Cincinnati is a non-conference opponent, so their attention could definitely have been split this week, even though the Bears aren’t good. The Bengals, meanwhile, are rested, relatively healthy, and should be able to give the Packers a much closer game than their expecting. This is one of my favorite plays of the week.

Green Bay Packers 24 Cincinnati Bengals 20

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +7.5

Confidence: High

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers: 2017 Week 3 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (1-1) at San Francisco 49ers (0-2)

This is one of the least enticing games of the week from both a watching and a betting standpoint. I typically don’t like betting on Thursday night games. They are more unpredictable than regular games because neither team is able to be at it’s best on a short week. When I do make a Thursday night bet, I typically bet on a superior home team against an inferior non-divisional opponent. That’s because it’s very tough for an inferior team to go on the road on a short week and play a superior team with which they are unfamiliar.

None of that applies here. These divisional rivals are very familiar with each other and the road team is the superior team. There aren’t that many teams that the Rams are better than, but the 49ers are one of them, as they have arguably the worst roster in football (I have them only ahead of the Jets). The Rams have to travel and start a young inexperienced quarterback on a short week though, so they’re not an enticing bet as 3 point favorites. This game is probably more of a toss up than this line suggests, so I’m taking the 49ers, but neither side is worth any sort of bet this week.

Los Angeles Rams 19 San Francisco 49ers 17

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +3

Confidence: None

Also, by request, I’m going to be posting lines I lock in early in the week during my Thursday Night writeups this season, so readers can lock them in before they move. These are not all my picks for the week, just picks where I think the line may move in an unfavorable direction (usually underdogs). The rest of the writeups will continue to be posted over the weekend as normal.

JAX +4 vs. BAL (I would take 3 or 3.5)

 

2017 Week 2 NFL Pick Results

2017

Straight Up: 20-11

Against the Spread: 15-16

Pick of the Week: 1-1

High Confidence: 3-2

Medium Confidence: 4-4

Money Picks (Medium confidence and higher): 8-7

Low Confidence: 4-4

No Confidence: 3-5

Upset Picks: 2-3

Since 2013

Straight Up: 696-399-4 (63.51%)

Against the Spread: 567-504-28 (52.87%)

Pick of the Week: 41-29-2 (58.33%)

High Confidence: 62-50-3 (55.22%)

Medium Confidence: 170-123-5 (57.89%)

Money Picks (Medium confidence and higher): 273-202-10 (57.32%)

Low Confidence: 149-149-9 (50.00%)

No Confidence: 145-153-9 (48.70%)

Upset Picks: 90-114 (44.12%)

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons: 2017 Week 2 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

The defending NFC Champion Falcons almost lost their first game of the season in Chicago against a mediocre Bears team, with the Bears having four chances to win it on the goal line at the end of the game. However, that’s to be expected considering the history of Super Bowl losers in week 1. Just 2 Super Bowl losers have covered the spread since 2000, in 18 games. The Falcons are still one of the best teams in the league, returning basically their entire Super Bowl core, and have a good chance to bounce back this week.

This line at 3 suggests these two teams are about even. I didn’t think that was true last year in the NFC Championship when I picked the Falcons as 4 point home favorites in an eventual 44-21 blowout victory and I don’t think that’s true now. The Falcons have a better offensive line, a more well-rounded offense, and arguably a better defense as well. I wish I had locked this in earlier this week at -2.5, but the Falcons are still worth a bet at 3. I would hold off in case 2.5 comes back tomorrow morning though. The Packers are still probably seen as the sexier team by the public because of the Falcons lackluster week 1 performance, so the line could move back. In many places, -3 has reduced or no vig and -2.5 is available for -125 or -130.

Atlanta Falcons 34 Green Bay Packers 28

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3

Confidence: Medium