Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (1-1) at New England Patriots (1-1)

The Patriots have been my Pick of the Week in each of the first two weeks of the season because I thought they were an underrated team coming into the season and that we were getting good value with them in each of the first two weeks. They lost in Miami week 1 by a score of 20-7 as 3.5-point underdogs, but likely would have covered if not for a -3 turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week. In terms of yards per play and first down rate differential, the Patriots were about even with Miami at +0.85% and -0.18.

Last week, the Patriots won and covered as 2-point favorites in Pittsburgh and, while they weren’t as impressive in Pittsburgh as I was expecting, their loss to the Dolphins looked better when Miami came from behind and scored six touchdowns in a win in Baltimore, a week after the Patriots’ defense held the Dolphins’ offense to one touchdown, which they also did to an admittedly underwhelming Pittsburgh offense. The Patriots’ offense has been underwhelming, ranking 23rd in offensive efficiency, but their defense ranks 7th in efficiency and their offense has the talent to be better going forward, especially since they figure to play easier defenses going forward, with both the Steelers and Dolphins possessing solid defensive units.

The Ravens figure to be significantly easier to move the ball against. A year after finishing 28th in defensive efficiency, a Ravens turnaround on defense in 2022 seemed very possible, given that they were likely to be healthier, but thus far they have continued to deal with injury issues and have continued to struggle defensively, ranking 27th in defensive efficiency, in large part due to their performance in that aforementioned loss to the Dolphins last week. Despite that, the Ravens are field goal favorites in New England, once again giving us good line value with the Patriots, who I have calculated as 2.5-point home favorites. On top of that, the Ravens are in a tough spot this week, with a tougher game against the Bills on deck that could provide a distraction. Once again, the Patriots are going to be my top pick this week. The money line is worth betting as well.

New England Patriots 23 Baltimore Ravens 20 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: New England +3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Commanders: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) at Washington Commanders (1-1)

This line has jumped significantly from a week ago, when the Eagles were just 3-point favorites on the early line in this game in Washington, as the Eagles are now favored by 6.5 points. Normally I like to fade significant week-to-week line movements as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and that is the case here, but I am not confident in Washington, as I think the Eagles were undervalued on the early line last week, like they were as mere 2-point home favorites in what eventually became a blowout win over the Vikings. My calculated line, Philadelphia -5, still suggests we’re getting line value with the Commanders, but not nearly enough to bet on it.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 Washington Commanders 20

Pick against the spread: Washington +6.5

Confidence: None

San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at Denver Broncos (1-1)

This game has seen a significant line movement in the past week, shifting from Denver -3 on the early line last week to San Francisco -1.5 this week. Normally I like to fade significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and that is the case here, but I am not confident in Denver, as I think that line movement was somewhat justified. The 49ers lost their starting quarterback Trey Lance for the season last week, which normally would be a very bad thing for a team, but veteran backup Jimmy Garoppolo could be an upgrade and played well in a convincing win over the Seahawks last week. This week, the 49ers get tight end George Kittle back, which should be another boost for this offense.

The Broncos, meanwhile, were underwhelming in a one-score win over the lowly Texans last week which, after a week 1 loss to the Seahawks, is cause for concern with the Broncos. I expected their defense to not be as good a year ago without defensive minded head coach Vic Fangio, but I expected their offense to be significantly better with new quarterback Russell Wilson and offensive minded head coach Nathaniel Hackett and thus far it has not been as good as expected. Facing the Seahawks and the Texans in the first two weeks of the season, the Broncos had as easy of a start to the season as any team in the league and they significantly underachieved what you would expect from a good team, given who they were playing. Their defensive problems are made even worse by the continued absence of safety Justin Simmons, arguably their best defensive player, who will miss his second straight game due to injury this week. We’re still getting some line value with them in this game as slight home underdogs, but not nearly enough to bet on it.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Denver Broncos 23

Pick against the spread: Denver +1.5

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (2-0) at Miami Dolphins (2-0)

Coming into the season, I considered the Dolphins overrated. They thought they’d be significantly better on offense than a year ago, with Tua Tagovailoa going into his third season, with Tyreek Hill and Cedrick Wilson being added to his receiving corps, Chase Edmonds being added to his backfield, and Terron Armstead and Connor Williams being added to his offensive line, but they were starting from a pretty low base point, ranking 26th in offensive efficiency last season. The Dolphins had a solid defense last season, ranking 11th in defensive efficiency, and they returned all of their key players from a year ago, but lost defensive minded head coach Brian Flores were likely to have more injuries than a year ago, when they had the fewest adjusted games lost to injury on defense. 

The Dolphins have started 2-0, but I still think they are a little overrated, even if they have exceeded my expectations. In their week 1 victory over the Patriots, they were very reliant on the turnover margin, as they were +3 in that department, leading to a 20-7 win, despite only winning the yards per play battle by 0.18 and losing the first down rate battle by -0.85%. They followed that up with a win in Baltimore, the Dolphins were about even in first down rate (+0.53%) and yards per play (-0.83) against a very banged up Ravens team that blew numerous coverages. Overall, they rank just 21st in overall efficiency, despite their 2-0 record.

The Bills, meanwhile, are properly rated, rightfully seen as the best team in the league, ranking 1st in overall efficiency by 3.5 points over the next best team, a year after finishing the season as the #1 overall team in efficiency by 5.5 points over the next best team. They’re also in a great spot, coming off of a blowout win on Monday Night Football, which tends to carry into the next week, with teams going 61-39 ATS all-time after a MNF win by 21 points or more. 

Unfortunately, the Bills are not healthy enough to bet them confidently this week, missing a pair of key interior defenders Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips, starting cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Dane Jackson, and talented starting safety Micah Hyde. We are still getting some line value with the Bills as 5.5-point road favorites, as my calculated line is Buffalo -7, even with all of their defensive injuries, but there isn’t enough here for the Bills to be worth betting.

Update: Safety Jordan Poyer and center Mitch Morse are unexpectedly out for the Bills, two big losses. This line has dropped to 4.5, but that’s insignificant line movement, so I am dropping all confidence on this game.

Buffalo Bills 30 Miami Dolphins 24

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -4.5

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Chicago Bears: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (0-1-1) at Chicago Bears (1-1)

There are a lot of similarities between these two teams. Both of these two teams entered the season expected to be among the worst teams in the league. Both of these teams surprisingly did not lose as big home underdogs week one, but both teams also lost the first down rate and yards per play battle in those games and required some unsustainable metrics to avoid week one defeats. Both teams then followed that up by struggling in week two losses on the road.

The Bears beat the 49ers week 1, but the 49ers had a lot of injury problems and still won the first down rate and yards per play battle by 0.41% and 1.30 respectively on the road, with the game largely swinging on turnovers and big plays, which are not as predictive week-to-week as first downs and yards. The Bears then lost in Green Bay by 17 in a game in which they lost the first down rate and yards per play battle by 10.85% and 0.71 respectively.

The Texans, meanwhile, played a Colts team that was also very banged up to a tie week one, but lost the yards per play and first down rate battle by 1.35 and 8.09% respectively, only managing a tie because of turnovers and special teams, which are not as predictive. The Texans then lost in Denver last week, in a game that was only decided by a touchdown, but also a game in which the Texans lost the yards per play and first down rate battle by 1.42 and 4.40% respectively, primarily keeping the game close because they won the turnover battle.

This line, favoring the Bears at home by a full field goal, suggests that the Bears are a slightly better team, but I have that the Texans are slightly better, both in my roster rankings (31st vs. 32nd) and in terms of overall efficiency (29th vs. 31st). The Texans are also healthier, with the Bears likely to be missing top cornerback Jaylon Johnson and/or top linebacker Roquan Smith due to injury. If both of those players are out and this line stays at three, I will likely place a bet on the Texans, but, for now, this is just a pick for pick ‘em purposes only.

Update: Jaylon Johnson is out, but Smith will play. Johnson’s absence is bigger in my opinion given their lack of depth at cornerback. This isn’t a big play, but I like getting the full field goal with the Texans and the money line at +140.

Houston Texans 17 Chicago Bears 16 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Houston +3

Confidence: Medium

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Carolina Panthers (0-2)

The Panthers are 0-2, but both of their losses have been very close, coming by a combined 5 points. In their 3-point loss to the Giants last week, they won the yards per play battle by 1.31 and the yards per play battle by 6.03%, only losing because of a -2 turnover margin, which is not nearly as predictive week-to-week as yards and first downs. Their offense only ranks 19th in efficiency, but that’s a significant improvement over last season, when they ranked 29th, as Baker Mayfield is at least somewhat of an improvement over last season’s quarterback situation. 

Their defense, meanwhile, once again ranks among the best in the league in efficiency, again ranking 4th, a year after having the 4th ranked defense in efficiency across the 2021 season. They probably aren’t as good defensively as that suggests and they’ve faced a pretty easy schedule in terms of the offenses they’ve faced this season, but they’re at least an above average unit on that side of the ball, while their offense is much more of a complementary unit than it was a year ago. Despite their 0-2 start, the Panthers are likely to be a competitive team for most of the season, barring major injuries.

That being said, we’re getting good value with the Panthers as field goal underdogs at home against the Saints. New Orleans is a more talented team overall, but they’re a similar team to the Panthers in that they have a below average offense and an above average defense and, while the Panthers haven’t lost by more than a field goal yet this season, the Saints have yet to win by more than a field goal, struggling to beat the Falcons in Atlanta week 1. They could easily have even more trouble on the road against a better division foe in Carolina. My calculated line is even, so like getting the full field goal with the home team enough to bet on the Panthers. I don’t like them as much at +2.5, but the money line should be a good value regardless and even at +2.5 they would remain my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Carolina Panthers 17 New Orleans Saints 16 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3

Confidence: Medium

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns: 2022 Week 3 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)

The Browns lost last week to the Jets, but the Jets needed to score twice within two minutes and recover an onside kick to win a game in which the Browns had a 99.9% chance of winning with less than two minutes left and in which the Browns won the first down rate battle by 13.87% and the yards per play battle by 0.23. Including their week 1 win over the Panthers, the Browns rank 3rd in overall efficiency through two weeks and would be 2-0 if they just recovered an onside kick or if Nick Chubb had taken a knee at the 1-yard line instead of scoring. 

The Browns have faced a pretty easy schedule, but they also rank slightly above average in my roster rankings, despite starting backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, as they have one of the most talented rosters in the league around the quarterback position. They’ll be short-handed this week without talented edge defender Jadeveon Clowney, but they will otherwise be healthy, including the return of right tackle Jack Conklin, who missed the first two games of the season recovering from a knee injury suffered last season. 

The Steelers, meanwhile, will be without edge defender TJ Watt, probably their most important player. The Steelers’ offense, which ranked 28th in efficiency in 2020 and 30th last season, ranks 31st through two games this season and their defense isn’t nearly as good without Watt. While the Browns could easily be 2-0 right now if they had just recovered an onside kick, the Steelers could easily be 0-2 right now if the Bengals had just made an extra point, in a game the Steelers would have lost despite a +5 turnover margin, which is not a consistent metric week-to-week. The Bengals won the first down rate battle and yards per play battle in that game by 11.36% and 0.22 respectively and that was with Watt playing most of the game.

In terms of overall efficiency, the Steelers rank 30th through two games and, without Watt, they don’t rank much higher than that in my roster rankings. I have these two teams about 5.5 points apart, giving us a calculated line of about Cleveland -7.5 at home, so we’re getting good line value with the Browns as 4.5-point favorites. If the Browns had a 2-0 record and the Steelers were 0-2, I suspect this line would be closer to 7.5, probably around a touchdown and, as I mentioned, that could easily be the case right now, if not for special teams disasters. This isn’t a big play, but I like the Browns enough to bet them this week.

Cleveland Browns 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Pick against the spread: Cleveland -4.5

Confidence: Medium

Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills: 2022 Week 2 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (0-1) at Buffalo Bills (1-0)

In week 1, the Bills went into Los Angeles and beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Rams in a blowout, winning 31-10 in a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 11.04% and the yards per play battle by 3.44, despite the fact that the Rams were in a great spot as defending Super Bowl Champions in a home opener, a situation in which teams had covered in 12 of the 17 previous instances. A lot of the talk after that game is about how the Rams were overrated coming into the season, but I think the bigger takeaway is how good the Bills are. 

Coming into the season, I had the Bills winning 13 games, winning the AFC, and ultimately losing in the Super Bowl, but I think even that might have been underrating them. The Bills finished the 2020 season with the #1 ranked offense in efficiency, finished last season #1 in defensive efficiency, with a 5th ranked offense, and always had the potential to be a truly dominant team on both sides of the ball this season, even if I wasn’t expecting them to necessarily be that good. I don’t think it’s an overreaction to consider the Bills the clear Super Bowl favorite right now, as a result of that game.

The Titans, meanwhile, lost their home opener against the Giants, losing by 1 point on a late 2-point conversion as 5.5-point home favorites. The takeaway for some from that game might be that the Giants are better than expected, but I think that game said more about the Titans than the Giants. The Giants are almost definitely going to remain a below average team this season, but the Titans might not be much better, if any better than them. 

The Titans finished last season at 12-5, but they ranked just 19th in team efficiency, benefiting from a 6-2 record in one-score games and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that would be tough to maintain long-term. They especially struggled without AJ Brown last season, which is a problem because they traded him this off-season and, while they have Robert Woods and Treylon Burks to replace him, they still figure to miss Brown significantly. On top of that, they lost a pair of starting offensive linemen and top edge defender Harold Landry, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

This line shifted from Buffalo -7.5 on the early line last week to Buffalo -10 this week and, while we’ve definitely lost line value as a result of that, I don’t think that line movement is an overreaction and we’re still getting a little bit of value with the Bills, who I have calculated at 11.5-point favorites, with the public maybe not quite realizing how good the Bills are or how much worse the Titans are likely to be this season than their record last season would suggest. 

The Bills do have some important injuries, missing top cornerback Tre’Davious White as well as their top interior defender Ed Oliver and his likely replacement Tim Settle, but the White missed the opener against the Rams as well and the Titans aren’t healthy either, not only missing Harold Landry, but also a pair of would-be starting cornerbacks Elijah Molden and Kristian Fulton, so we’re still getting some line value with the Bills.

That being said, I can’t take the Bills with any confidence this week because the Titans are likely to have the emotional edge. While the Bills just won one of their biggest games of the season and were practically anointed Super Bowl favorites on national TV, the Titans just lost to a team that was expected to be one of the worst in the league, so they could be overlooked, which happens to be when the Titans tend to play their best football. 

Since Mike Vrabel took over in 2018, the Titans are 14-9 ATS after a loss, 15-7 ATS as underdogs of more than a field goal, and 7-2 ATS as underdogs of more than a field goal after a loss, which is the case this week. The Bills are still my pick for pick ‘em purposes, but we might not see their best effort this week, while the Titans are likely to play one of their better games of the season, so, even though we’re getting line value with the Bills, they are one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Buffalo Bills 31 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -10

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints: 2022 Week 2 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0) at New Orleans Saints (1-0)

Last week, I bet on the Buccaneers as 2.5-point road favorites in Dallas because of how well Tom Brady led teams have done as underdogs or favorites of 3 or fewer in his career. The Buccaneers covered, pushing Brady’s career ATS record to 58-28 when not favored by 3 points or more, and they now are 2.5-point road favorites again this week, this time in New Orleans. That’s down from Tampa Bay -3 a week ago on the early line, a significant shift, given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly three points. 

In another game where Brady’s team just basically just has to win to cover, it would seem to make sense to pick them again, but this is not nearly as sure of a thing as last week, for a couple reasons. For one, the Saints have had a lot of success against Brady in his tenure with the Buccaneers and, still with a dominant defense, they could easily do so again this week. That’s especially true because of the Buccaneers’ injury situation, which is the second reason this isn’t as sure of a thing as last week. 

Having already lost left guard Aaron Stinnie and center Ryan Jensen to injury this season, the Buccaneers will now be without talented left tackle Donovan Smith this week with an arm injury he suffered last week. With Shaq Mason replacing Alex Cappa at right guard this off-season, the Buccaneers now have just one offensive lineman from last season left and not nearly as good of an offensive line as a result. On top of that, they have a receiving corps that is missing Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown from the last couple years and that now will be without Chris Godwin, who is out with a hamstring injury suffered in the opener.

Between Smith and Godwin going down in the past week, it’s perfectly reasonable that this line moved off three and in fact this is right where my calculated line is. The Buccaneers still have a strong defense of their own and could win this game as a result, but Tom Brady will have his work cut out for him against the Saints defense, given the issues around him on offense right now. I’m still taking the Buccaneers, expecting them to sneak out a close, low scoring victory, but this pick is only for pick ‘em purposes and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was a Saints upset victory.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 New Orleans Saints 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -2.5

Confidence: None