Today's Free Picks for
Posted Friday at 12:15 PM EST.
Week 3 Preview:
In this weekly space, we'll cover every NFL game that we're not wagering on. Remember, these are not official plays and if we do decide to make any of these official plays, we'll move them into that category. Please note that the BEST LINES available are also listed,
The Rest of the Games
9:30 AM EST. There have been 18 games in London since the NFL began this series in 2007. A few have been competitive but it is interesting that all four were competitive last year. They occasionally have involved teams that went on to winning records and/or playoff berths. For the most part, however, the product the NFL has sent to its ravenous London fan base has hovered in an otherworld that is more appealing than, say, Week 4 of the preseason but something short of, well, the NFL RedZone channel.
At the end of the day, this is not about showcasing the NFL in England or seeing if the market could support a team there. It’s a big cash grab with an average of 83,00 fans showing up per game to spend British pounds. The NFL will NEVER have a team in London, at least not in our lifetime and we assure you that every team, player and coach hates going there to play a football game. It takes them out of routine, which is probably why so many games have been blowouts. Half of the games have been decided by one score, but the other half were blowouts to such an extent that the average final has been 32-17.
Handicapping games in London therefore becomes entirely different because you can’t apply the same theories. Tough-minded, unified teams with good leadership and a stronger commitment to values -- finishing, truly taking the schedule one week at a time, desire to achieve goals with a strong pedigree are better candidates to have a good week on the field. Joe Flacco and Blake Bortles are worlds apart when it comes to mental toughness and it’s not in Bortles favor. However, this is Baltimore’s first rodeo while it’s been an annual trip for the Jags and that surely matters. The Jags played in London in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 while the Ravens have never played here before. Situations and preparations for those situations may come into play here, which is the only reason we’re leaning Jags but frankly speaking, we have no interest in watching or supporting the NFL’s decision to play this one at 9:30 AM EST. in the morning when they already have the population watching from 1:00 PM EST to 12:00 AM EST every Sunday. Play: Jacksonville +4 (No bets).
1:00 PM EST. Maybe the Broncos go into Buffalo and put forth another outstanding effort on both sides of the ball and put away the Buffalo Bills in impressive fashion just like they did against San Diego for three quarters in Week 1 and Dallas the entire game in Week 2. The Broncos dominating the Bills seems pretty reasonable, no? The Broncos winning by a FG or more seems even more reasonable, no? Of course it seems reasonable but the oddsmakers have posted a number that has upset written all over it and we pay much more attention to that than the X’s and O’s.
What we have here is a Denver team coming off a Monday night win in Week 1 over the Bolts. The final score was 24-21 for the Broncs but that’s a little misleading, as they led 24-7 late in the third quarter and they led 24-7 by the time most of this market went to sleep. In Week 2, on Fox Sports “Game of the Week”, Denver annihilated the Cowboys, 42-17. That was a resonating and very influential win. This market has watched a lot of the Broncos in two weeks and it would therefore be very difficult to bet against them, especially by taking a measly three points with a 1-1 team that beat the Jets and scored three points on the Panthers last week. There’s even more hype surrounding the Broncs with QB Trevor Siemian getting more praise than Tom Brady’s bounce-back win. Siemian dominated Dallas with a four-touchdown performance in that 42-17 win on Sunday. Add that to the Broncos incredible defense and their appeal this week is even stronger. To that we say, don’t get “trapped” into betting Denver and don’t overreact to the great exposure and press that they have received.
Let’s not dismiss the Broncos tremendous home-field advantage. Since 1977, Denver has the best home record in the NFL. Let’s not dismiss that Trevor Siemian won the QB job in preseason only because Paxton Lynch was so bad. Let’s not dismiss how difficult it is to win in Western New York. Buffalo’s defense looks very good thus far, especially the pass rush so don’t dismiss that either. The Bills sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton six times in Week 2 and they forced two interceptions against Josh McCown and the New York Jets in a 21-12 victory the week before. Buffalo’s defensive unit has yielded a 68.7 quarterback rating and has yet to allow a touchdown through the air but nobody is talking about that.
The Broncos are a little too high right now for a team that was projected to be around .500. They’re coming off two emotional and intense games against San Diego (on Monday Night Football) and Dallas and have the Raiders on deck next week in another high profile contest. Letdowns and upsets happen all the time in football and they often occur in these very difficult situations for the favorite. The Bills, in an extremely favorable spot, get this outright call. Play: Buffalo n+150 (No bets).
The Eagles were shot down by the Chiefs 27-20 in Kansas City but anyone that wagered on the Chiefs know they dodged a bullet. That game was tied late in the fourth quarter and it looked almost certain that it was going to come down to a FG victory for one team or the other but a series of bizarre incidents led to three TD’s in the final five minutes. K.C. backers breathed a sigh of relief but Philadelphia absolutely gained the respect of the market if they hadn’t already with their win the week prior against Washington and we now get a pretty nice takeback on the dog here because of that great respect the Eagles earned last week. Had this game been played last week instead of this week, Philly would’ve been a -2 or -2½-point favorite and not -6. Furthermore, if the Giants had any respect in this market, they don’t anymore.
After two poor performances in two high-profile prime time games, we can understand that the Giants might not be an appealing choice here in Week 3. No team has been more visible to national audiences this season and therefore no other team has had its warts exposed to more people than the G-Men. We’re not here to make a case for the Giants based on their play; everyone has seen how bad they’ve been. The offense has only put up 13 points in two games and that has not gone unnoticed by the national pundits. Head coach Ben McAdoo didn’t help either when he used a delay of game penalty on 4th and goal from the one-yard line as his chance to rip quarterback Eli Manning. While Manning took responsibility, it should have been a non-story. Instead, it turns into easy fodder for the talking heads and in turn is one of several negatives being thrown at the Giants here. This is one of those bitter NFC East rival games that often come down to the wire. Whether that transpires again here remains to be seen but as value bettors that react to overreactions, we know we’re going with the best of it by recommending the Giants plus the points. Are we confident? Not really, thus, this one won’t make our slate. Play: N.Y. Giants +6 (No bets).
4:25 PM EST. On paper, it’s near impossible to make a case for the Bengals. This is a stale team that has scored nine points in two weeks combined. The worst plays of Andy Dalton's putrid Week 1 performance were inexcusable and well-documented and that was his best game this year. His first interception of the year came on an underthrown ball over the middle. His second was an in-rhythm toss into double coverage. His fourth pick was a back-shoulder throw that Lardarius Webb snagged without even turning and the worst part was that all four came from clean pockets. After two weeks, Andy Dalton has zero TD passes and four picks with a QB rating of 47.2 In Week 2, Dalton was sacked five times.
The choice this week now becomes which team is worth backing more, the Bengals on the road with Andy Dalton quarterbacking or the Packers at Lambeau Field with Aaron Rodgers quarterbacking. You are likely going to hear and read all week about how the Bengals aren’t scoring and cannot keep pace with the Packers. That may be true but we’re in the buy low business and Cinci’s stock hasn’t been this low since their fans were showing up with bags over their heads. Those fans were known as two-baggers. They would show up to the games wearing two bags over their head, one to hide their face and the second bag was in case the first one ripped. The Bengals are now being offered at an inflated price that’s worth buying. They are not as bad as they look and will play this one after getting humiliated in a prime-time game 10 days prior to the start of this one.
Meanwhile, Green Bay was taken to school once again by Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds. In Week 1, Green Bay easily defeated a Seattle team with no offense but perhaps what’s most important is that Green Bay is coming off the two highest profile games of the week. Seattle at Green Bay was the marquee matchup in Week 1 and Green Bay at Atlanta was the Sunday night marquee matchup in Week 2. The Pack have the Bears up in Week 4 but before that, they’re being asked to cover a big price against an embarrassed squad that is getting ripped apart in the media. A Bengals response and cover is more likely than not. Play: Cincinnati +9 (no bets).
4:25 PM EST. A move to Los Angeles has not changed to the fortune of the Chargers. We almost felt bad for them as they played their “home” opener in front of just over 25,000 fans in a 27,000 seat soccer stadium at least half of which came out to cheer the visiting Dolphins. The Bolts are now 0-2 while every other team in the AFC West is 2-0. However, the box score doesn't always tell the whole story (as was the case for this team much of last season) and so that's why analytics become an important part of our research.
The Chargers/Dolphins game was the only contest from Week 2 where DVOA (a relevant metric that measures defense-adjusted value over average) numbers did not fall in line with the outcome of the game. The Chargers were 19.3% while Miami was a -28.7%, which is a huge discrepancy. L.A. was the better team on the field last Sunday. They outperformed the Fish in yards per offensive play (6.8 to 4.9), had more first downs (24-21), and even outscored Miami 14-9 in an equal number of trips to the red zone (three). What sunk the Changers on Sunday has been their Achilles Heel for years, the kicker. Younghoe Koo not only whiffed on the 44-yard kick that would have won the Bolts the game, but he also missed a 43-yarder earlier in the contest not to mention his flub on the game-tying kick in Week 1. L.A. has lost two games this season by a field goal or less, picking up right where they left off last year. They could be and probably should be 2-0 like the rest of the division.
The Chiefs are 2-0 and perhaps the hottest team in the market. They blasted the Patriots in front of the world to see to open the season and gutted out a tough home win and cover over the Eagles in Week 2. Alex Smith has seemingly shed his “game manager” moniker and is fifth in the league with 619 passing yards through two games. Running back Kareem Hunt is the hottest player in Fantasy Football and it appears head coach Andy Reid can do no wrong. Over the last two seasons, K.C. has become a team the market can trust and it's easy to see why. They are 7-0 against the spread in their last seven road games and 4-1 ATS overall. Covering weekly tends to influence the market and also puts fear into anyone that wants to fade the Chiefs.
The perception is the Chargers have no home field advantage and while that might be true, it's curious that this line opened with the mighty Chiefs as just a -2½ point favorite. When these two teams played last season in San Diego in Week 17, K.C. covered easily as a -5½ point favorite and although they were headed to the playoffs, they didn't have the hype train behind them like they do now. Now the books have hung some low-hanging fruit here and we’re urging you to proceed with extreme caution because unless Alex Smith rolls in missing a leg, this number stinks. Play San Diego +3 +102 (No bets)
1:00 PM EST. The Dolphins start their season with a small upset win in Los Angeles over the Chargers and now are back at home to face the 0-2 Jets. The Fish swept the Jets last year. They won 34-13 in New York during Week 15 and 27-12 at home in Week 9, therefore, this one looks to be a good chance for the Fins to continue their dominance against an even worse Jets team.
Look it, everyone knows the story here. The Jets management ripped apart the roster in the offseason, starting a long-overdue youth movement that could take years to come to fruition. Considering the circumstances -- low expectations, 0-2 start, "Suck for Sam," etc. -- many fans already have checked out for the season and a good number won't show up at Met Life this week. Those who do will be conflicted, torn between idealism (always cheer for your team) and realism (2017 is hopeless and you want the No. 1 pick next spring). There will likely be as many Dolphins fans in the seats as there will be Jets fans.
We’re not going to break it down for you either. We’ll let Terry Bradshaw and other crews assure you that Miami will beat New York and will cover too. Not a single analyst on TV will pick the Jets. We’re not here to pick the Jets either but we also know that when something looks good or easy, it rarely is. As contrarian bettors that look for opportunity, we can’t get on board with playing the Jets but we can’t recommend the Dolphins either. In this day and age of internet wagering and teaser betting, the odds makers did not guard against the market teasing Miami down to win outright. Of course Miami can win going away here but New York will win between one and four games this year and this could be one of them. While Miami’s win last week was nice, Miami goes from being a 3½-point road dog to a 6-point road favorite in the span of a week. The Jets may be un-bettable but the Dolphins have done nothing to prove that they’re worthy of being priced in this range on the road. Play: N.Y. Jets +6 (No bets).
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