Week 3 is upon us with a whimper. If you think you’ve seen some poor offense so far, hoo buddy, San Francisco is dead last in net yards per pass attempt in 2017. Here’s the preview and against the spread picks for each matchup.
THURSDAY: LA Rams (-3) at San Francisco
The lock of the week is that there will be much bitching about Thursday night games and the quality of play. While I’m generally a cynic of the quality of play stuff, here’s the issue with the Thursday night games. It exposes the rank-and-file of the NFL schedule. These aren’t special matchups. They represent a cross-section of games that you would get on a Sunday afternoon. Some are compelling, others may have one big-name team in a mismatch, and plenty are dogs. These would ordinarily be buried out of sight–unless you were a devoted fan of one of the teams–only to be seen if a Red Zone highlight emerged.
On Thursdays, they are the league’s showcase product.
We all know that Sunday Night Football is the belle of the ball. Over the last three years 63 percent of the participants in SNF were playoff teams that year. Last year, there wasn’t a single Sunday Night game that involved two non-playoff teams (the Thursday opener did involve Denver and Carolina, who both missed the postseason after making the Super Bowl the year before). This is a function of both setting the matchups with established stars and teams and then having the flex option.
In comparison, Thursday Night Football–if we exclude the season opener and Thanksgiving–had a playoff team 36.9 percent of the time, just under the league average. There have been only five matchups over the last three seasons where both teams would eventually make the playoffs. There have been far more duds.
As for the game, I’ll take the home dog, with LA hitting the road for the first time SF +3, and I’d pair it with the unwatchable Under.
SUNDAY, 9:30 AM
Baltimore (-4) vs Jacksonville in London
Baltimore is 2-0, but the teams they have beaten are a combined 0-4, and Baltimore is +7 in the turnover margin column. Jacksonville leads in London games and has won each of the last two years as an underdog (Bills and Colts). I’ll take the Jags +4.
SUNDAY, 1 PM
Cleveland (-1.5) at Indianapolis
I’m just an Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. I don’t know much. Your blitz schemes and flashing Jumbotrons frighten and confuse me.
But what I do know is this: when a team is actually laying points and has lost 21 of their last 22 games, go against that team. Oh, and if I watch this one, I am entitled to no less than $1 million in compensatory damages. Colts +1.5.
Pittsburgh (-7.5) at Chicago
Pittsburgh will open the season by playing DeShone Kizer, Case Keenum, and now Mike Glennon. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row for the defense. We’ve seen the Steelers play down to competition on the road as recently as Week 1, though that is somewhat overblown.
Here’s a crazy note for you. Pittsburgh has now been favored in 12 straight regular season road games including this one, going 6-5 ATS over that span, and they have been favored by more than a touchdown in 7 games in that stretch, including this one. With Jordan Howard banged-up and Glennon at QB, I will hesitantly lay the points on the Steelers -7.5.
Miami (-6) at NY Jets
Maybe the Jets are a much better home team than road team. Yeah, we’ll go with that until we get evidence to the contrary, which could come by 2 p.m. on Sunday. Jets +6.
Denver (-3) at Buffalo
Denver, for the third time in the last four years, has gotten off to a 2-0 start with both wins coming at home. Now, we get to see them on the road for the first time as a favorite, and I’ll take the home dog again. Bills +3.
New England (-13.5) vs Houston
New England’s defense has given up 62 points. Houston’s offense has scored 20. Something’s gotta give here. I’ll take Houston +13.5 and Watson to make enough plays with his legs to keep the cover intact. The Patriots, by the way, are the sixth team since 2012 to both score and surrender more than 60 points in the first two weeks.
New Orleans at Carolina (-5.5)
Carolina has only given up 6 points through two games, but will take a major step up in QB class going from Brian Hoyer and Tyrod Taylor to Drew Brees. Still, it’s the other side of the ball that will decide it, and the Saints defense looks a lot like every other year in the last five. Panthers -5.5.
Tampa Bay at Minnesota (-1.5)
Can we bring back the creamsicle orange uniforms for the old NFC Central battle? Sam Bradford is again in doubt, and the Bucs looked good and barely broke a sweat against the Bears. Bucs -1.5.
Atlanta (-3) at Detroit
Matthew Stafford MVP favorite talk karma kicks in early against the guy who won a year ago and is listed behind him. Falcons -3.
NY Giants at Philadelphia (-6)
I get why the line has grown, but I’ll take the rivalry angle and that the Giants will turn things around a bit this week after chaos. This is a series that has tended to have very little home field advantage: the home team is 19-21 SU over the last 20 years. G-Men +6.
Seattle at Tennessee (-2.5)
This line has actually moved in the Titans’ favor since opening at a point. I’m guessing the public is on Seattle getting points. Mariota and the Titans passing game hasn’t looked great through two weeks, but Seattle’s has been even worse. Titans -2.5.
Kansas City (-3) at LA Chargers
The Chargers have no home field advantage, but this is still a situation where I am leery of KC. They have given up 52 first downs so far through two games, but have held in the red zone. That first down total is next to last in the NFL. The Chargers meanwhile have lost two heartbreakers. It’s almost as if the Mike McCoy era never ended. Chargers +3.
Cincinnati at Green Bay (-9)
Cincinnati is the only team that Aaron Rodgers hasn’t defeated which is an interesting factoid, but one that will be no longer applicable in a few days. The Bengals have scored 9 points. They will have to score double that, at least, to cover. Packers -9.
Oakland (-3) at Washington
Marshawn Lynch in primetime, y’all. Raiders -3.
Dallas (-3) at Arizona
Winner gets to claim Emmitt Smith. Seems only fair. And yes, I’m rooting for Elliott to not move on an interception again. Cowboys -3.