Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
CIN +150 @ PIT
MIN +110 vs. SEA
Pick of the Week
High Confidence Picks
Medium Confidence Picks
Low Confidence Picks
No Confidence Picks
CIN +150 @ PIT
MIN +110 vs. SEA
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Baltimore Ravens (1-1) at Detroit Lions (0-2)
The Ravens started their season with a loss in Las Vegas against the Raiders, but that was a tough spot travelling cross country for a night game in what was the Raiders’ first game in Las Vegas in front of fans, obviously an emotional high for them. The Ravens then turned around and looked a lot better in an upset victory over the Chiefs last week. However, the Ravens are back in a bad spot this week, as they could be flat after finally beating the Chiefs and now taking on an 0-2 Lions team that is undoubtedly among the worst teams in the league.
On top of that, the already shorthanded Ravens will be missing several key players due to COVID and contact tracing and, making matters worse, several of the players play the same position, including edge defenders Jaylon Ferguson and Justin Houston and interior defenders Justin Madibuike and Brandon Williams, leaving the Ravens very thin in the front seven. Given that, this line is a little high at Baltimore -8.
I would need Trey Flowers to play for the Lions to be worth betting, as he’s arguably their best defensive player and is very questionable after not practicing all week, but the Lions should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes regardless. Even if the Ravens lead by multiple scores for most of the game, the Lions seem like they could be a good backdoor cover team this year, so they could still find a way to keep this within one score when all is said and done.
Baltimore Ravens 23 Detroit Lions 17
Pick against the spread: Detroit +8