What is worth betting in the NFL in Week 3? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Tyler Fulghum, Erin Dolan, Eric Moody, Seth Walder and Al Zeidenfeld are here to provide their thoughts.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
Since 2002, 99 teams have started the season 0-3 and only one (the 2018 Texans) has made the playoffs. Does that impact the way you bet the games involving the nine teams that enter Week 3 with an 0-2 record?
Moody: It does affect how I bet on the games, but it depends on the team. The Panthers, Texans, Cardinals and Bears are rebuilding teams, so their record isn’t surprising to many bettors. However, the Bengals, Vikings, Patriots, Chargers and Broncos have very surprising records. As teams with playoff aspirations, they know how difficult it is to start the season 0-3 and know what challenges would lie ahead. Only six teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3 since 1979. Although I can’t quantify it, I would consider backing a team with their backs against the wall (along with other factors) since they are more likely to give it their all. Although in Week 3 we do have two 0-2 teams facing each other in the Vikings and Chargers.
Walder: No. I don’t think that there’s any special about losing the first three games in a season. Without looking at the numbers, I’m guessing the chances of making the playoffs are pretty low for teams that suffered a three-game losing streak at any point (and an extra team makes the playoffs now). A team’s chances of making the playoffs is also wildly different depending on how good they are. If the Cardinals and Chargers both lose this weekend they will both be 0-3. The historical numbers are consistent but their chances to reach the postseason will vary wildly.
Zeidenfeld: It wouldn’t have any effect on my week to week decision making. The NFL is a job and no player or coach is trying to put bad tape out there, ever. With regards to spreads, totals and props the usage and matchups will still lead the decision making, but shopping for exploitable season long props that go against public sentiment is always a good idea.
Last week saw 13 of the 16 games hit the over, the most overs in a single week since 1986. Is that a one-week blip or something to keep an eye on in the weeks and months ahead?
Fulghum: Remember all the UNDERs in Week 1? Week 2 was nothing more than a random output over the course of a 18-week schedule. There is no discernible trend to lean into, in my opinion. It was just a good week for offense, after we saw a really bad one in Week 1.
Walder: Overall, offense is down this year compared to the last three, at least in terms of EPA per play. I generally agree with Tyler — we’re looking at randomness — but if there’s anything to keep an eye on it it would be unders but that’s only if the sportsbooks weren’t reacting to the offense being down, which they almost certainly are.
Zeidenfeld: Variance is a very real thing, but I’d want to wait for a slightly larger sample before calling anything a trend. Like the season where the referees just stopped calling holding which led to one of the most explosive offensive seasons of all time.
What games are you looking forward to betting this week?
Fulghum: I think Falcons at Lions is a really compelling game. First off, it’s at Ford Field. Last week in this column I urged the reader to recall how Ford Field is essentially the Coors Field of the NFL. Offense explodes inside that building. The Seahawks/Lions game last week went well over the total, reaching 68 combined points in OT. Atlanta has a slew of playmakers on offense, they have a chance to go to 3-0 to start the season — despite the fantasy world’s disdain for Arthur Smith’s usage. And they’re catching a field goal. Of course, I like this game to produce more than enough touchdowns and I think the visiting underdog is once again live on the moneyline like last week.
Dolan: Chiefs -12.5. The Bears are a mess on offense and defense. The offense has only averaged 18.5 points, while the Alan Williams resigned as defensive coordinator this week. The Bears have lost 12 straight going back to last season, allowing 25 or more points in all 12 of those games. Justin Fields is 0-3 ATS as a double digit dog, and now faces an explosive Kansas City offense that should be better than the past two games.
Moody: Since both teams have suboptimal defenses, I’m looking forward to watching the offensive fireworks between the Chargers and Vikings. In this matchup, I like the over. For the Vikings, the over is 8-2 in the previous 10 games. In the Chargers’ last five games, the over is 4-1. In this game, bettors should also consider numerous prop bets, especially those related to the Vikings’ passing game. Minnesota has gained nearly 91% of its yardage through the air, the highest rate in the league.
Moody: Cowboys -12.5. It’s unusual for me to be drawn to double digit favorites, but the Cowboys have been dominant on both sides of the ball. Micah Parsons anchors a Dallas defense that ranks first in pass rush win rate and sixth in run stop win rate. The 10 points allowed in the first two games is the fewest in Cowboys history. Dallas’ offense has scored 70 points this season. Despite being 0-2, the Cardinals have shown flashes of competence. Arizona hasn’t faced a team as talented as the Cowboys. Dallas is 5-2 against the spread in their past seven games. I’ll back the Cowboys to win and cover the spread.
Are there any games you are staying away from?
Fulghum: I do not want to bet Bills at Commanders. Washington is a surprise 2-0 team that is getting some surprisingly encouraging play from second-year QB Sam Howell. The defense is rock solid and I really do wonder if there is going to be a home-field advantage in DC that we haven’t seen in many years due to the fan bases’ excitement over new ownership with the franchise. Buffalo is laying almost a touchdown, and while it is the better team on paper, we know Josh Allen can have some wildly inconsistent performances from week to week. I think this game could go either way.
Moody: The Patriots going on the road to take on the Jets. The New England wide receiver core ranks 31st in yards per target. They now face a formidable Jets cornerback unit. Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott have also been held in check. The Jets’ defense ranks 12th in run stop win rate. Last season, Zach Wilson did not play well against the Patriots. I’m not a fan of laying almost a field goal on the road with the 0-2 Patriots, but also not excited about backing a Wilson-led Jets team.
Is there anything else you are playing on Sunday?
Dolan: Kirk Cousins over 291.5 passing yards vs. the Chargers. He is averaging 354 passing yards this season. 9.3% of Vikings total yards have been from rushing this season, the fifth-lowest mark through two games since 1950. The Chargers have allowed the most passing yards per game to opposing QBs through the first two weeks of the season. Tua going for 466 passing yards in week one didn’t help. I think Cousins can ait the ball out.
Fulghum: The Cowboys’ defense is going to devour Josh Dobbs and the Cardinals’ offense in Arizona. I’d lay it with Dallas and play some team totals and props that fit that game script. Josh Dobbs INT, sack props, Tony Pollard props, etc.
Moody: Kenneth Walker III over 64.5 rushing yards. The Panthers have allowed at 130 rushing yards in each of their first two games. The Seahawks should build a commanding lead against a Carolina team without rookie quarterback Bryce Young. Taking advantage of these factors bodes well for Walker III running behind a Seattle offensive line ranked seventh in run block win rate. He’s averaged 68.1 rushing yards per game in his career.
Zeidenfeld: Deshaun Watson over 227.5 passing yards. While fully acknowledging that the Browns passing game has looked absolutely horrible, the combination of losing Nick Chubb and squaring off against the pass funnel defense of the Tennessee Titans makes this very modest over very reachable. The Browns will have to pass to win this one, and Watson has his full complement of pass-catchers to utilize.
Moody: Nico Collins over 54.5 receiving yards. Collins has had nine or more targets and 80 or more receiving yards in two consecutive games. The only other players with more air yards than Collins (287) are Justin Jefferson (293), Kendrick Bourne (314) and Tyreek Hill (361). Bobby Slowik has done a great job getting Collins more involved in the passing game since taking over as offensive coordinator this offseason. The Texans are expected to trail in this game based on the spread. Only the Rams (93) and Patriots (96) have more pass attempts this season than Houston (91).
Walder: Three-team six-point teaser with Ravens (-2), Saints (+7.5) and Steelers (+8.5) (+160). We’re crossing seven and three in all three games here and holding steady at the +160 price on teasers. I think the Steelers scares me the most because I’m a believer in the Raiders’ offense, but the fixed +160 price at Caesars makes this teaser worth it.