Intro by Doug Kezirian
Every NFL slate takes on a specific path that will dictate its bottom line for that particular weekend. Week 3 is poised to provide the rare afternoon game that will draw more handle than any prime-time game.
"There's a very good chance this is going to end up being the highest volume game of any non-prime-time game this entire season," Las Vegas SuperBook executive director John Murray told ESPN. "And it could be the rare week where the highest handle game is not the Sunday night game. The betting interest is so high."
The Rams opened as a small home favorite, but professional and recreational money has driven this price in favor of Tampa Bay. However, this line is not expected to reach the key number of three points.
Every Friday during the season, betting analysts Doug Kezirian (4-4-2, 2-4 last week), Tyler Fulghum (2-6, 2-4), Joe Fortenbaugh (7-5-1, 2-4) and Anita Marks (51-26, 25-9), Stats & Information's Seth Walder (9-10, 5-6) and Mackenzie Kraemer (0-2, 0-2), sports betting Deputy Editor David Bearman (4-3-1, 1-1-1) and Football Outsiders Aaron Schatz (8-3, 3-1) will provide their top plays across the NFL landscape.
Here are their best bets for Week 3 of the NFL season.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook as of Thursday (unless otherwise indicated).
4 p.m. ET games
Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders (-4, 45)
Fortenbaugh: This matchup was a pick 'em on last week's look-ahead line, making Las Vegas -4 perhaps the biggest overreaction to take place following Week 2's results. Remember what we all thought about Baltimore and Tennessee following their respective Week 1 performances? Both came back the following week to win outright as underdogs. The drop-off from Tua Tagovailoa to backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett isn't much, given what we've seen from Tua in his young career. In addition, I'm betting the Dolphins had a terrific week of practice after getting blanked 35-0 by Buffalo on Sunday. Note that Miami is 6-0 ATS over its past six games following a loss and 10-1 ATS over its past 11 after surrendering 30 or more points in its previous contest.
Pick: Dolphins +4
Walder: This is a bad spot for Peyton Barber. I wrote in my weekly fantasy article on line play that this was the worst projected run blocking matchup of the season so far: the Raiders have the worst run blocking unit in the league and the Dolphins have the fourth-best run stop unit, according to our win rate metrics. Add in that Barber has been one of the worst runners in the league in terms of rush yards over expectation over the last few years, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and he's an easy fade. The only concern here is game script with the Raiders favored, but I'm willing to eschew that given the extreme nature of the first two points working against Barber.
Pick: Barber under 38.5 rushing yards (-110)
New York Jets at Denver Broncos (-10.5, 41)
Walder: Elijah Moore led Jets wide receivers in snaps last week with 52. And so far this season, he ranked third-worst in receiving yards over expectation with -54, based on metrics from NFL Next Gen Stats. Is it possible Moore and Zach Wilson are just an awful combination? It's in the range of outcomes, sure. But to that much of an extreme seems pretty unlikely. The Jets' offense is bad, but we're not asking for much to hit the over here.
Pick: Moore over 35.5 receiving yards (-110)
Marks: Wilson just had to face Bill Belichick's defense and now must go up against Vic Fangio's vaunted unit in Denver. Von Miller (11 QB pressures this season) gets a favorable matchup against Jets tackle Morgan Moses, and defensive backs Ronald Darby and Patrick Surtain Jr. should feast on Wilson come Sunday.
Pick: Broncos -4.5 in 6-point teaser with Cardinals -1.5, Wilson over 1.5 INTs (+155)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1.5, 55.5) at Los Angeles Rams
Marks: The Bucs have been outgained in both games this season and have allowed over 700 combined passing yards and now face a Rams team with Matthew Stafford now at the helm. Stafford has three TD passes of 15 yards or more and will use play-action to account for the Bucs' pass rush.
Tom Brady has looked great but will now get a true test against the Rams, who held him to 55% passing and less than 5 yards per attempt in their matchup last season. Aaron Donald will be his usual disrupting force in the pocket.
Pick: Rams +7.5 in 6-point teaser with Broncos -4.5, Cooper Kupp over 6.5 receptions (-150), Kupp over 84.5 receiving yards (-115)
Seattle Seahawks (-1.5, 55.5) at Minnesota Vikings
Schatz: The Seahawks are third in passing DVOA through two games, while the Vikings rank 22nd against the pass. Patrick Peterson is no longer his younger self now that he's playing for the Vikings, and Bashaud Breeland struggled to contain the elderly A.J. Green last week. It's hard to imagine that they'll be able to keep Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf below two touchdowns, before we even get into the possibility of Russell Wilson throwing to other receivers. We have Wilson covering this prop 82% of the time in our simulations, making this a strong bet even at -200 odds.
Pick: Wilson over 1.5 passing touchdowns (-200)
Marks: There is potential for big points in this game, and I expect Wilson to have all day in the pocket and dice up a Vikings defense that is allowing offenses a 14% explosive play rate. Lockett has a favorable matchup against Breeland, who has allowed over 100 receiving yards and two TDs this season.
Pick: Seahawks team total over 27.5, Wilson over 282.5 passing yards (-115), Lockett over 73.5 receiving yards (-115)
8:20 p.m. ET game
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5, 49.5)
Bearman: The impending doom and end of the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay was just like most post-NFL Week 1 thoughts ... an overreaction. Although there are some holes on defense, things are just fine up in Lambeau. The Packers do take a step up in class this week with a cross-country trip to the undefeated 49ers, but we are getting a good line here, especially with the hook. The Niners opened the season with back-to-back road wins, which is notable, but remember, it was Detroit and Philly, two teams without high expectations. So the 49ers are stepping up in class as well, facing a Rodgers-led offense that just torched the Lions for 35 points.
Even though the Niners shut down Jalen Hurts and the Eagles last week, they also allowed 430 yards (314 through the air) to the same Lions whom the Packers just beat up a few nights ago. They will be missing CB Jason Verrett and LB Dre Greenlaw, which should allow Rodgers and Aaron Jones to move the ball consistently. This is not a great position for the Niners, as they were 0-5 as a home favorite last season. Rodgers, meanwhile, is 5-2 as a road 'dog over the past two seasons. I took the Packers -155 to win the North and didn't bat an eye after Week 1, rolling with them last week vs. Detroit. I'm back on them this week, with some points to go with it.
Pick: Packers +3.5
Walder: Deebo Samuel leads the NFL yards-after-catch over expectation this season with +87, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. And while he has been a strong YAC player before, his 2021 total has already exceeded his 2019 total when he played 15 games (it's about half his 2020 total, when he played seven). He also has +33 completed air yards over expectation this season when he accumulated -57 last season. Don't get me wrong, breakouts happen. But his torrid pace so far is unlikely to continue.
Pick: Samuel under 65.5 receiving yards (-115)
1 p.m. ET games
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (-3, 48)
Bearman: The Falcons and Giants have been difficult to figure out in the betting landscape the last couple of years. One thing is for certain, I don't want action on either team, as laying three points with the Giants sounds like bad business, and having faith the Falcons won't screw up and throw two pick-6s late isn't something I want my money on either.
However, betting against both these offenses is something I am interested in. The Falcons rank dead last in offensive DVOA, per our friends at Football Outsiders, 29th in passing and last in rushing. They have scored three TDs through two weeks and given up two on defense. Matt Ryan has looked awful outside of some garbage time points vs. the Bucs last week, and the running game is nonexistent. The Giants looked like they had a pulse last week against a surprisingly bad Washington defense, scoring 29 points, but that was on five FGs and QB Daniel Jones' legs as they continued to stall without an actual running game. Shy of Jones or Ryan giving away more points (which is always possible), I don't see these teams combining for 48 here and will play in a tightly-contested game decided late on someone's mistake.
Pick: Under 48