New York Jets at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

New York Jets (0-2) at New England Patriots (2-0)

This is one of two lines over 21 points this week (Dallas/Miami), after that had happened just five times in the last 30 years. The Patriots were the favorite in three of those five games, with all three instances coming during their undefeated regular season in 2007. The Patriots didn’t cover in any of those games though and, in fact, all five teams to be favored by 21+ points in the past 30 years failed to cover, winning the games with an average margin of victory of “only” 12.6 points. Unlike Dallas/Miami, which features a Miami team that is all-time bad and not giving 100% effort, this should be a more competitive game. 

The Jets are starting a third string quarterback and have several key absences on defense, but they still have a more talented roster around the quarterback than they have had in recent years. I have them 5 points better in my roster rankings than the Dolphins and that might even be overrating the Dolphins if they aren’t giving their best effort. Unlike the Dolphins, who are seemingly mailing in the season for a coaching staff and front office that doesn’t care about winning, the Jets may view this as their Super Bowl and they definitely will want to avoid going into their week 4 bye at 0-3, with quarterback Sam Darnold likely to return after the bye. 

The Jets should be well rested after starting the season with two home games (teams are 46-35 ATS since 1989 in week 3 after back-to-back home games), while the Patriots might be looking forward a little bit to a seemingly more important divisional battle in Buffalo next week. We’re not getting much line value with the Jets (I have this line calculated at New England -20),so I wouldn’t recommend betting on them, but this game could easily be closer than most people are expecting.

New England Patriots 27 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +21.5

Confidence: Low

Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (0-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-0)

The Cowboys are favored by a whopping 23 points in this game. Prior to this week, there have only been 5 instances of a team being favored by 21+ points in the past 30 years. None of the previous five teams covered (they all won, but with an average margin of points of “just” 12.6 points) and the Cowboys don’t seem to fit in with the other teams that have been favored by this many points in the past three decades. Three of those teams were the 2007 regular season undefeated Patriots and the other two teams were the 2013 Broncos (who were undefeated at the time and went on to make the Super Bowl) and the 1993 49ers (who had won 28 of their last 33 regular season games). 

All of that being said, I’m not taking Miami this week and I would need a really good reason to take them at any point this year. This line is more about the Dolphins than who they are facing and this is highly unlikely to be the final time the Dolphins are underdogs of 21+ this season. I have this line calculated at Dallas -21.5, but beyond 21 it’s hard to consider a couple points in either direction line value and it’s possible my roster rankings don’t capture how awful the Dolphins are right now. 

The few good players that the Dolphins do have don’t seem to be trying hard because the coaching staff and front office transparently don’t care about winning this season. Neither the winless 2008 Lions or the winless 2017 Browns ever lost by more than 40 points and the Dolphins have already done so twice in two weeks. Switching quarterbacks to Josh Rosen is unlikely to provide the spark they need and he could easily end up being a downgrade over a proven veteran like Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Cowboys are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but I would never bet on a team favored by this many points because they could easily take their foot off the gas in the second half and allow a backdoor cover. 

Dallas Cowboys 34 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against the spread: Dallas -23

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-0)

Earlier this week, I thought I would be betting on the Bengals in this one because the Bills are in an awful spot this week. They return home after playing their first two games of the season on the road, a situation teams typically struggle in (28-52 ATS in week 3 home openers since 1989). They could easily be tired from starting the year with back-to-back road games and not give their best effort at home against an 0-2 team. On top of that, they have to turn around and play one of their biggest games of the season next week, with the New England Patriots coming to town. The early line for that game has the Patriots favored by 6.5 points and teams are just 47-85 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 5+. On top of that, favorites of 6+ are just 33-62 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs of 6+ the following week. The Bengals seem unlikely to get the Bills’ best effort this week in this situation.

That being said, the Bengals could still have a lot of trouble covering the spread in this game because they are so banged up right now. I was expecting they might be healthier this week, but wide receiver AJ Green and left tackle Cordy Glenn remain out indefinitely and they will also be without a pair of key players, Ryan Glasgow and Carl Lawson, on the defensive line and their 3rd cornerback BW Webb with injury. In their current injury situation, the Bengals are one of the worst teams in the league and, even though the Bills aren’t a great team, I still have them favored by a full touchdown in this game. The bad spot really hurts their chances of covering, so I’m still taking the Bengals for pick ‘em purposes, but even if the Bills don’t play their best it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them win by at least a touchdown. 

Buffalo Bills 20 Cincinnati Bengals 16

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +6

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-0)

The Steelers have gotten off to a disastrous start to the season. They got blown out in New England week 1 in a game they were likely viewing as a measuring stick for their season and then last week they lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the year with an injury in a game they likely would have won if Roethlisberger had been healthy. Now they are 0-2 and are looking at 14 games with a backup quarterback under center. The 49ers, meanwhile, improved to 2-0 with a blowout victory in Cincinnati last week. As a result, this line has shifted significantly in the past week, from Pittsburgh -1 a week ago to Pittsburgh +7 this week.

One thing that seems to have gotten lost in all of this is that the 49ers had a significant injury loss in the past week as well, losing left tackle Joe Staley indefinitely. Staley isn’t as important to the 49ers as Roethlisberger is to the Steelers, but he’s easily their best offensive lineman and he’s arguably their best offensive player. On top of that, while the Steelers can turn to Mason Rudolph, a 2018 3rd round pick and a potential long-term successor for Roethlisberger, the 49ers will have to start 6th round rookie Justin Skule on the blindside. The Steelers still have a solid defense and a strong pass rush, so they could create a lot of problems for the 49ers’ offense in this game. 

Without Staley, I have this line calculated at San Francisco -4, so we’re getting good line value with the Steelers at +7. Even without Roethlisberger, the Steelers might be the toughest opponent the 49ers have faced thus far this season, after opening the season with the Buccaneers and Bengals. The 49ers were able to win both of those games on the road, but returning home might not be much of a boost for them this week, as teams are just 28-52 ATS since 1989 in week 3 home openers. The 49ers could be tired after traveling twice to start the season and, now back at home, they could overlook a team starting its backup quarterback. There isn’t a great Pick of the Week option this week, but the Steelers are my favorite play this week if you can get the full touchdown.

San Francisco 49ers 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +7

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (1-1)

Going into the season, the Falcons were my sleeper contender. They returned a strong offense from last season and still had most of the key personnel from their Super Bowl offense and their defense looked likely to be healthier after key players like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, and Ricardo Allen missed significant time with injury last season. The Falcons have gotten off to an uneven start, but they rank 6th in the NFL in first down rate differential through 2 games at +5.13%, despite playing a pair of playoff contenders. They lost in Minnesota week 1, but that was largely because they lost the turnover margin by 4 and turnover margins are inconsistent on a week to week basis. They lost the first down battle by just 1.61% in that game and then they won that battle by 8.29% in their home victory over the Eagles last week.

Now the Falcons get their easiest test so far, facing a Colts team that is middle of the pack at best when healthy and that is currently missing their best defensive player, linebacker Darius Leonard, because of a concussion. I have this line calculated at Atlanta -3, so we’re getting pretty significant line value with them at +1. This is also a tough spot for the Colts, in addition to Leonard being out, because the Colts are returning home after starting the season on the road in back-to-back games. Teams are just 28-52 ATS since 1989 in week 3 home openers. The Falcons have a good shot to pull the “upset” and could easily win convincingly.

Atlanta Falcons 27 Indianapolis Colts 23

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +1

Confidence: High

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)

When these two teams met late last season, the game went to overtime, with the Chiefs eventually pulling out the victory. Lamar Jackson has taken a step forward in his second year in the league, so the Ravens seem to be a trendy upset pick this week, but they don’t nearly have the same defense as they had last season. In free agency, they lost five of their top-11 in terms of snaps played in 2018 and since then they’ve lost another two, cornerbacks Tavon Young and Jimmy Smith, due to injury. They did add Earl Thomas to the backend of their defense, but he can’t mask all their other losses by himself. 

They’ve gotten off to a good start to the season on defense, but they haven’t faced tough competition at all, going against the Dolphins and Cardinals. The Chiefs are a huge step up in competition and should give the Ravens’ defense a lot of trouble. We haven’t seen Lamar Jackson win a shootout thus far in his career and I wouldn’t expect him to do so on the road in Kansas City. This line is 5.5, but I have it calculated at 8, so we’re getting good line value with the Chiefs. I’m keeping this as a smaller bet though, because the Chiefs could be tired after starting the season with back-to-back road games (teams are 28-52 ATS in week 3 home openers since 1989).

Kansas City Chiefs 31 Baltimore Ravens 23

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -5.5

Confidence: Medium

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2019 Week 3 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (1-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)

The Titans lost last week at home to the Colts, but all things considered they have gotten off to a great start to the season. They won convincingly on the road in Cleveland in week 1 and then last week may have been caught looking ahead a little before a short week, a situation favorites tend to struggle in. They rank 7th in the league in first down rate through two weeks, at +5.02%, despite playing quality opponents both weeks. Built around their defense and running game, the Titans quietly went 6-2 down the stretch last season before Marcus Mariota missed week 17 with injury and they still won 9 games despite Mariota being less than 100% all year and despite facing eventual playoff qualifiers in 9 of 16 games (4-5 record). This season, with a better insurance option behind Mariota, they look well positioned to win the AFC South.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, have gotten off to a tough start to the season, losing quarterback Nick Foles indefinitely in the first half of their first game and missing several other starters (left tackle Cam Robinson, cornerback AJ Bouye, and defensive end Yannick Ngawoue) during week 2. Robinson and Ngawoue are expected back this week, whlle Bouye is questionable, but Foles remains out, backup quarterback Gardner Minshew fell back down to earth last week against a much tougher Houston defense, and the Jaguars also have the Jalen Ramsey situation looming over the team. 

Ramsey has demanded a trade out of Jacksonville and, while he’s not expected to be traded before gametime, he clearly does not want to be there and he has gotten off to an uncharacteristically slow start to the season. He may be playing at less than full speed to avoid injury.  I have this line calculated at Tennessee -3.5. In reality this line is at Tennessee -2, which doesn’t seem like significant line value, but about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. In a game where the Titans essentially just have to win to cover, I think they’re worth a small bet. 

Tennessee Titans 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 16

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -2

Confidence: Medium