Pick of the Week
HOU +100 @ IND
Pick of the Week
HOU +100 @ IND
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) at Chicago Bears (2-1)
Ryan Fitzpatrick played incredibly well in the first two games of the season, but he fell back to earth last week, with a 3 turnover performance in a home loss to the Steelers, who have struggled defensively this season. Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger and has a lot of receiving talent to work with, so he could continue to post good passing yardage numbers, but he’s a 35-year-old career journeyman who is unlikely to suddenly be a different quarterback in his 14th season season in the league. With Jameis Winston returning from suspension this week, it would not be a surprise to see the Buccaneers pull Fitzpatrick if he turns the ball over early like he did last week. Winston may be an upgrade, but he’s had turnover problems in the past as well and has not seen a lot of first team reps.
Regardless of who is under center for the Buccaneers, the bigger concern is their defense, which ranks 28th in first down rate allowed at 42.13% and is unlikely to improve going forward. The Bears are a much more complete team, with one of the top defenses in the league, a strong offensive line and running game, and a solid receiving corps. Their obvious weakness is second year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who continues to look like a bottom-5 starting quarterback, despite an improved coaching staff and an improved supporting cast.
Trubisky should be able to have a solid game against a terrible Tampa Bay defense though. This line, favoring Chicago by 3 points at home, suggests that these two teams are about even, which is not the case. I have this line calculated at about 6.5, so we’re getting good line value with the Bears, who arguably have the most non-quarterback talent in the NFL. They’re a strong play this week and should win this one with relative ease.
Chicago Bears 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16
Pick against the spread: Chicago -3
New Orleans Saints (2-1) at New York Giants (1-2)
A popular Super Bowl pick, the Saints kind of stumbled out of the gate this season, losing to the Buccaneers week 1 and almost losing to the Browns week 2, despite being big home favorites in both games. As a result of that, it seems like people have kind of soured on them, as they are mere 3 point favorites here in New York against a Giants team that is one of the weaker in the NFC. I think that’s an overreaction. They still have one of the most talented rosters in the league and they’ve gotten off to slow starts before hitting their stride in other recent years too, going 2-12 ATS in the first two weeks of the season since 2012, but 51-38 ATS the rest of the season.
The Saints won last week in overtime in Atlanta and now head to New York to take on a Giants team that is pretty banged up right now. Already missing top edge rusher Olivier Vernon for the 4th straight week and starting cornerback Eli Apple for the 2nd straight week, the Giants will also be without starting tight end Evan Engram with an injury this week. I have this line calculated at New Orleans -7, so we’re getting plenty of line value with the Saints at 3. They’re still worth a bet at 3.5, but 3 is available in enough places that you should be able to find it. At 3, the Saints are my Pick of the Week.
New Orleans Saints 31 New York Giants 23
Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3
Confidence: Pick of the Week
Detroit Lions (1-2) at Dallas Cowboys (1-2)
This is another one I’m torn on. One one hand, the Cowboys are the slightly better team and are more likely to be focused, as the Lions could be a little flat a week after such a big victory over the Patriots. On the other hand, the Cowboys are missing linebacker Sean Lee, who they always miss significantly when he’s hurt, and they have had very little homefield advantage in recent years. Though they are 36-30 on the road since 2010, outscoring opponents by an average of 0.09 points per game, they are just 33-34 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 1.19 points per game, suggesting homefield hasn’t been worth a full point to them in recent years. I’m taking the Cowboys, but this is a no confidence pick and could easily be a push.
Dallas Cowboys 23 Detroit Lions 20
Pick against the spread: Dallas -3
Baltimore Ravens (2-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1)
The Steelers held on for a 3 point win in Tampa Bay last week on Monday Night Football, but they’re still an overrated team, dating back to 2017. Just 5 of their 14 wins over the past 2 seasons have come by more than 7 points, including just 2 since the midpoint of last season, a span of 12 games. They’ve especially struggled since losing linebacker Ryan Shazier to injury, allowing 27.5 points per game in 8 games (2-6 ATS) without one of the better linebackers in the league.
The Steelers do get right guard David DeCastro and right tackle Marcus Gilbert back from 2-game and 1-game absences respectively this week though, and they’re facing another overrated team, the Baltimore Ravens. Over the past 2 seasons, the Ravens have played 8 games against teams quarterbacked by Deshone Kizer (x2), EJ Manuel, Tom Savage, Brett Hundley, Jacoby Brissett, Matt Moore, and Nathan Peterman. They are just 3-8 in their other 11 games, including two losses in Pittsburgh last year. We’re not getting enough line value with the Steelers for them to be worth betting, but they’re the slightly better team.
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Baltimore Ravens 23
Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -3
Miami Dolphins (3-0) at New England Patriots (1-2)
After a solid week 1 win at home over the Texans, the Patriots have been embarrassed in back-to-back weeks on the road, losing by double digits in Jacksonville and Detroit. Now they return home to face a surprise 3-0 Dolphins team. This line has shrunk to 6.5 as a result, but I think that’s an overreaction that’s created some line value with the Patriots. The Dolphins have not been dominant in any of their 3 wins and have faced a pretty easy schedule, facing the Raiders and Jets, two of the worst teams in the conference, and a banged up Titans team. Ryan Tannehill is playing at a high level in his return from injury, but they have a pretty underwhelming roster overall.
The Patriots, meanwhile, should continue to get the benefit of the doubt, despite a slow start, as we’ve seen them come back from slow starts in the past and make Super Bowls. The Patriots have also been great off of a loss in the Belichick era, going 47-25 ATS after a loss since 2000 (37-19 ATS with Tom Brady). I know they didn’t win last week, despite coming off of a loss, but they’ve actually been even better off two straight losses, going 8-3 ATS in Brady’s career and incredibly not losing 3 straight games since 2002. Perhaps even more incredible is Tom Brady’s career record against teams with better records than his, as he’s 34-12 straight up and 36-10 ATS.
Their offense probably won’t hit its stride until it gets Julian Edelman back, but Josh Gordon could be active this week and their defense would get a big boost in this game if defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung can return after missing the last game and a half with concussions. Two of their most important defensive players, it’s no surprise their defense has struggled since losing them, after a solid performance against the Texans week 1. Flowers and Chung are not guarantees to return this week, but both returned to practice this week and could be cleared from the concussion protocol. I’m keeping this as a low confidence pick for now, but depending on the status of Chung, Gordon, and Flowers and how the line reacts I may decide to make a bet on this one in the morning.
Sunday Update: Gordon, Flowers, and Chung are all active for New England, while Reshad Jones is out for the Dolphins, but the line has stayed put at 6.5. I’m bumping this up to a medium confidence pick.
New England Patriots 31 Miami Dolphins 20
Pick against the spread: New England -6.5
Cleveland Browns (1-1-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-3)
I’m torn on this one. On one hand, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield looked like an upgrade on underwhelming veteran Tyrod Taylor in his debut and the insertion of him into the starting lineup could take a team with a capable supporting cast to the next level. If that’s the case, this line shouldn’t be Oakland -3, which suggests these two teams are about even. The Browns have easily the better supporting cast and could be about equal at quarterback if Mayfield continues playing well.
Of course, we’ve only seen Mayfield for about a half, so it’s tough to be confident in him as starter yet. On top of that, the Browns could be a little flat this week, against an 0-3 team, coming off the excitement of their first win in over a year. They might get a little bit ahead of themselves and have a disappointing performance against a team that has held the halftime lead in all 3 of their losses and that will be desperate for their first win. They also could get caught looking forward to a divisional clash with the Ravens next week. If the Browns aren’t fully focused and the Raiders can finally close, they could easily win this game, so I can’t take the Browns with any confidence, but they’re the pick for pick ‘em purposes.
Oakland Raiders 26 Cleveland Browns 24
Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3