NFL Week 3: Best Bets

By John Kaufman – NFL Betting Analyst

Is it just me, or does it take forever to get from Tuesday morning to Sunday morning every week? You think so, too? Oh good. It’s not just me then. Phew.

Whatever, the wait is over. Week three began with Jacksonville not only covering the spread as a home dog vs Tennessee, but they won the game outright. I need to do a mini Best Bets article on Thursdays form now on when I really like one of the plays in the Thursday Night Football game, because I loved the Jaguars to win that game. Another NFL home dog cashes. What else is new, eh?

Week Two Postmortem – Results: 1-2-1

First thing’s first, we need to quickly recap last week and see how I did, where I was right, and where I can improve. And just so we’re on the same page here, you and me, I need you to know that when I make recommendations to you in this article, you will always be able to come back the following week and get an honest and unbiased recap of my previous picks. I will never run away and hide from incorrect picks. That’s silly. I’m going to get things wrong. I’m going to misread situations and see value where none truly exists. And I’ll also miss value when I should have identified it. But ignoring my mistakes and the errors in my process would be disingenuous to you. But most importantly, it’s not going to help me get any better at this. We all know that losing stinks. But when I lose, I’m going to figure out why it happened so that I can improve and be better. I owe that to you and me.

With that in mind, quickly let’s go over my week two results:

PIT -3.5 vs SEA – Result: L (SEA 28-PIT 26)

Yes, Roethlisberger got hurt in this game. Of course that didn’t help me at all. So it would be very easy to chalk up this loss to Roethlisberger’s injury and just say I got unlucky and move on. But that’s lazy. And incorrect. Mason Rudolph replaced Big Ben and he played just fine. Pittsburgh’s defense, specifically their secondary, was awful. That was the real problem. Russell Wilson was throwing the ball all over the yard on them. Pittsburgh’s defense is a liability right now, so that’s something we need to keep an eye on. They did just trade a 2020 first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick, so maybe that helps them. Maybe not. I’ll keep an eye on that one and then we can react accordingly.

JAX +9 at HOU – Result: W (HOU 13-JAX 12)

Easy cover here. Just the way we like it. There’s no argument that Houston has a better roster and a better QB than Jacksonville does. But Bill O’Brien is a sub-optimal coach who puts his players in poor positions and habitually plays extremely conservative in the second half with the lead. Additionally, despite trading for LT Laremy Tunsil right before the season began, Houston’s offensive line is still very bad. They’ve given up 10 sacks in two games this year, second-most in the NFL. The Texans led the NFL in sacks given up in 2018 with 62, and they were second in the NFL in this category with 54 sacks given up in Watson’s rookie season in 2017. If the Texans’ goal is to get Watson killed, job well done, mates. Anyway, this bet was smart because we took nine points with a divisional opponent against HOU which should almost be automatic at this point. Good job, us.

DEN +2 vs CHI – Result: PUSH (CHI 16-DEN 14)

Ugh. WE HAD THIS ONE. That atrocious roughing the passer call on Bradley Chubb in the fourth quarter cost us this one in my opinion. I think my process was good on this one. Denver was a home dog facing a team with a very suspect offense, and the elevation absolutely was the factor I thought it would be. Chicago’s defense was gassed in the fourth quarter. Like I said, I nailed this one. I just got unlucky with the result. (Also, I saw a ton of books had this line at DEN +2.5 and even +3, so I’m hoping that read my prediction and liked it, AND you got a better number than I did and won your bet. Cheers to you if you did.)

Six Point Teaser of The Week – Result: L

DEN +8 vs CHI – Result: W

AT +8 vs PHI – Result: W (ATL 24-PHI 20)

NYG +8 vs BUF – Result: L (BUF 28-NYG 14)

I got 2/3 of the way there on this one. But as my father always said, “Johnny, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and some dart games.” This is shocking, but the Giants have actually been really efficient on offense this year – way more so than anyone, including me, would ever have thought. But BUF is just the better team and taking the points with the Giants here was a bad play. With Daniel Jones taking over at QB now, there may be some great chances to take the Giants catching too many points. In fact, that opportunity may even be present this week…

Don’t worry, baby birds. I’ll feed ya. Read on.

NFL Week Three – Best Bets

DET +4.5 (-110) at PHI – 1:00 PM

Philadelphia is really banged up. WR DeSean Jackson and DT Timmy Jernigan are going to miss this game. WR Alshon Jeffery and TE Dallas Goedert are questionable to play. Carson Wentz will barely have any of his usual weapons available vs Detroit. More importantly, though, is how bad Philly’s secondary has been this year. Per Pro Football Reference, the Eagles have faced the fourth-most passing attempts (87), have given up the third-most yards (680), the seventh-most net yards per attempt (7.6), at least 320 passing yards in each of their first two games, and they’ve allowed three touchdown passes of over 45 yards this year. They have been destroyed in the passing game, a fact that Matt Stafford, his WRs and his new TE, T.J. Hockengronk, will take advantage of. Oh, and did I mention that of all the NFL QBs, Stafford is third in air yards? He is throwing the ball down the field this year and that’s going to help us in this game. DET will probably struggle to run the ball a little in this game. But PHI is just so bad against the pass that it might not matter.

The Lions could win this game outright, although it is in Philly so that might be asking a lot. But we’re taking the points so that we don’t have to worry about the Lions pulling off the upset.

NYG +6 (-120) at TB – 4:05 PM

This line opened at TB -4. Then the announcement came that Daniel Jones is going to start over Eli Manning. Then the line went to TB -6.

I am perpetually baffled when this situation occurs:

A starting QB has played very poorly, and everyone knows it and talks about it incessantly. Then the team decides to bench him and go with the backup, and everyone’s reaction is, oh, well, since the backup is starting, I’ll bet against them. It’s insane and it makes no sense. I mean, I don’t get it. If Eli Manning is so bad that the Giants are better off without him, then why would the line move from -4 to -6 in favor of TB when they decide to bench him? I understand that Jones is making his first NFL start in Tampa Bay. But honestly, if you thought that Eli Manning was quite possibly the worst starting QB in the NFL, how much worse could Danny Dimes really be??

Look, I don’t have any more insight into how Jones will play than you do. Maybe he’ll be a disaster. That certainly is in the realm of possible outcomes. But if you thought that Eli was the problem with the Giants offense, then the switch to Jones should be a good thing. And it turns out that it is because now we get an additional two points when we take the Giants in this game.

Oh, and one more quick thing about Tampa Bay. Let’s do a really fast thought experiment, shall we? Just run this thought through your head right now: Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are six-point favorites vs another NFL team. Pretty crazy thought, huh? Yeah, it is. I mean, could you actually imagine laying the six points here? No way, right? Right.

1st Half: NO +3 (-115) at SEA – 4:25 PM

We’re going to take NO +3 in the first half in this game. Here’s why. SEA is a very slow starting team. This is from SharpFootballStats.com (an excellent, free NFL stats website – I cannot recommend it enough): SEA’s success rate in the first quarter of games is 29%. The NFL average is 48%. Also, Brian Schottenheimer is their Offensive Coordinator, and he goes to the church of Establish the Run of Latter Day Saints. Schottenheimer has Russell Wilson as his QB, and he chooses to take the ball out of his dynamic QB’s hands and run, run, run, and then run some more. Typically, it’s maddening. But not tomorrow. Tomorrow we’re going to use that to our advantage by taking the Saints +3 in the first half.

Now, this will be New Orleans’ first game without Brees. But whether we see Teddy Bridgewater or Taysom Hill taking snaps (and my guess is we’re going to see a decent dose of both), NO should be fine. Both Bridgewater and Hill have been on the team for a while now, so they know the offense very well. NO still has Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, a very good offensive line, and most importantly, Sean Payton. I can’t wait to see how Payton designs the offense without Brees. He is one of the best offensive minds in the NFL so I’m betting (ha ha, see what I did there?) that we’re going to see some pretty cool stuff from Payton. Most importantly, though, I don’t think NO will be that much worse without Brees. (I absolutely do not mean to take anything away from Brees. He obviously is a Hall of Fame QB and one of the top 5-7 QBs all-time. I’m just betting on Payton’s ability to help mitigate the drop off between Brees and Bridgewater/Hill.)

Six Point Teaser of the Week:

ATL +7 at IND

CLE +9.5 vs LAR

(There is a teaser explanation below if you need it.)

Taking a touchdown with the Falcons in a dome is not a bad thing at all. ATL looked okay last week at home against PHI. They had their moments. But let’s not forget that they were underdogs in that game and won outright. ATL really hasn’t been able to run the ball this year, though it’s not for a lack of trying. I imagine that we’re going to see more success for Devonta Freeman and the ATL rushing offense.

IND has looked, dare I say, kinda okay without Andrew Luck. Brissett has played well and they are 1-1 despite opening the season with two road games. Their offensive line is the best in the NFL. Defensively they’ve been pretty good as well; they’ve given up the 13th fewest yards (678) in the league. I think the Colts are a fine team, and if they win this game it won’t surprise me in the least. But if they end up losing to the Falcons, I won’t be surprised either. Again, I just think that moving a line up through three and to seven with a good ATL team is that way to go here.

As for the Cleveland half of this bet, it’s going to come down to one thing: how much pressure Aaron Donald gets and whether that translates into good Baker Mayfield or bad Baker Mayfield. Through two games this year, Mayfield has a 40 Passer Rating while being pressured. If Donald is constantly applying pressure, the Browns will lose. If they can manage to get Donald blocked or have Baker get the ball out quickly, thus negating the Rams pass rush, Cleveland has a shot to win this game. Again, we’re moving a point spread through the key number, seven, all the way up to 9.5, so Cleveland doesn’t have to win the game, obviously. But the recipe for it is protecting their QB, and if they do it this ticket will cash easily.

The last thing to pay attention to in this game is LA’s defense vs 11 personnel. (11 personnel is a description of the type and number of skill players that an offense is using on any given play. We always use a two-digit number – such as 11 – where the first number tells you how many running backs are on the field, the second number tells you how many tight ends are on the field, and since there are always exactly five skill players on the field, the number of wide receivers must be your first two numbers added up and then subtracted from five. Thus, in 11 personnel, a team has one RB on the field, one TE on the field, and then we know that they must have three WRs on the field. In 20 personnel, there are two RBs on the field, zero TEs, and three WRs. Make sense?) The Rams are excellent when defending 11 personnel. And as (bad?) luck would have it, the Browns run a ton (almost 80% in 2019) of 11 personnel on offense. This is significant because last year after Freddie Kitchens took over on offense, he did use 11 personnel at times. But he used way more 12 personnel (one RB, two TEs, two WRs) and it helped Baker and the Browns offense to be successful. Kitchens seems to have gone away from that this year which is bad for the Browns. But if he goes back to using more 12 personnel against the Rams, we’re in business.

So, as you sit down to watch this game, when the Browns are on offense try to count the number of RBs and TEs you see on the field, especially early in the game. If you’re seeing a lot of 21 and 12 personnel, be happy. If we’re just seeing a ton of 11, then it’s going to come down to holding off the Rams pass rush and protecting Baker. By halftime we’ll basically know exactly how we feel about our teaser bet. I think we’ll be feeling very good about it, but crossing a few fingers never killed anyone.