Early leans & analysis Wk 3
Early leans & analysis Wk 3

Posted Friday at 4:00pm EST and odds are subject to change.

NFL Week: 3


there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday. We’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST

Week 3

Sunday, September 24

Washington +6½ over Buffalo 

1:00 EST. Market perception has always been high on the Buffalo Bills, and for good reason. Even against a resurgent Jets' team on the road in Week 1, before Aaron Rodgers went down to injury, the Bills were field-goal favorites. Last week, after Josh Allen's debacle of a game in an opening loss, they were still 7.5 to 10-point favorites leading up to kickoff. Pros and joes know that this is a perennial title contender, despite Allen's tendency to turn it over and their inability to make it further in the AFC Playoffs. They're the Cowboys of the AFC - crazy talented, volatile, and ultimately they under-perform in January.

Washington is a much bigger mystery. The Commanders are 2-0, despite playing in two close games against two 0-2 teams, and this Sunday presents their first real test. The market has responded predictably, listing the Commanders as 6.5-point underdogs at their home in Landover, Maryland. It hasn't moved much at all, indicating that the sharp betting community doesn't have a strong feel on this contest either way. At least part of that is because we can't answer two vital questions just yet:

How good is Sam Howell?

How good is the Commanders' defense?

We're about to get at least some answers this Sunday, and there's certainly optimism that both Sam Howell and the Washington defense are pretty damn good. Only Dallas has created more pressure and more sacks than the Commanders, who have brought down opposing QBs on 13.89% of their snaps. Sam Howell led his team back from a 21-3 deficit last week in one of the toughest road environments in Denver. Through two games he's had a 66% completion percentage, three touchdowns and just one interception, and he's looked comfortable in high-pressure moments.

It's tempting to bet on Washington - that's a lot of points to get at home - but when an operation is this new we're wagering on more assumptions than facts or probabilities. This is one of those games where we'll probably sit out, but we wouldn't blame anyone for betting on a feisty home pooch against a team that's cyclically mistake-prone. Recommendation: Washington +6½

Cleveland -3½ over Tennessee

1:00 PM EST. We’re always acutely aware of the point-spread because it tells just as big a story as the X’s and O’s and we therefore have to question why the oddsmakers hung a hook on such a key number like +3 to take it up to +3½ against a Titans’ squad that is 2-0 Against the Spread (ATS) and that has been a live pup for years. Why, oh why or why? Is it to entice bettors into taking that hook? You might want to think about that before you pull the trigger on the Titans. What is there not to like about the Titans getting points?

The Titans stop the run better than any team in the NFL, and the Browns have no idea who is going to run the football this week (or maybe any other week) after the incredibly devastating injury to Nick Chubb. In other words, Cleveland will be counting on its second-ranked defense to have a chance to win. This just seems like a field-goal kind of game between two teams who have already combined to attempt 13 of them (and make 12).

There is also an overreaction to Nick Chubb’s injury and that, too, has us leaning to the host. Absolutely it’s a key injury to a key player but do you think that the oddsmakers were unaware of Chubb’s injury when they hung a hook on that aforementioned key number? C’mon now. Chubb was the engine of the offense and the identity of the team. Jerome Ford was effective in relief, but the difference between possibly the best rusher in the NFL and a fifth-round pick who averaged 1.5 yards per carry as a rookie is something the market does not trust for a second. Worse yet, the passing effort under Deshaun Watson looked bad last year when he finished out the year by kicking off the rust. He still looks no better. The narrative is that the defense will keep them in all games but cannot win them outright. The Browns already looked like a team that would win close, low-scoring matchups and now the scoring may be even lower. That might be true but have you seen Ryan Tannehill play football this year? 

When Tannehill played a good defense in Week 1 (New Orleans) he threw for 198 yards and three interceptions. Last week he faced a Chargers’ defense that was and is brutal and while he didn't throw any picks, he was still sacked five times. Guaranteed Tannehill will get picked off this week and it’s just a matter of how many times. 

The Browns barely lost to the Steelers, and that was solely because they allowed two defensive touchdowns to Pittsburgh. In Week 1, they destroyed the Bengals. The Cleveland defense was outstanding and after two games played, they have only allowed one touchdown, which came on a 71-yard fluke pass play. The Brownies also have an elite offensive line that might be the best in the biz. 

Finally, when a key player goes down, players come together and usually put in a strong and determined effort in support of their teammate. Tennessee may look appealing but that hook is something we cannot ignore and you shouldn’t either. If we’re reading between the lines correctly, that extra half point on that key number is merely fool’s gold and strongly suggests that the Brownies will win and cover. Recommendation: Cleveland -3½

Denver +6½ over Miami

1:00 PM EST. As we head into Week 3 and public perception of teams becomes clearer, we’ll reiterate that we’re not in the prediction business. If we were, a case for wagering on Miami would be pretty damn easy. The 2-0 Dolphins are averaging 31 points per game and they’re coming off a primetime victory after beating the Chargers in their opener. As it stands now, the Fish have defeated both Justin Herbert and Bill Belichick, two figures with huge market respect and presence. Miami has also accomplished that 2-0 record on the road so this will be its first home game of the year and the place will be nuts. It’s been a long time since the Dolphins were relevant. Miami is also 2-0 Against the Spread (ATS). 

Since we’re in the value business, buying Miami now, regardless of the outcome here, is buying high and it’s something we cannot get on board with. Buying Miami now is like betting on a horse at 2-1 the week after said horse won at 15-1. It’s a strategy we employ and one you’ll hear of often on here. In other words, you’re too late to the Miami ticket cashing party. There is a premium to pay after a team goes 2-0 both straight up and ATS and that premium is figured into the point-spread. Always look to sell high and buy low.  

Then there’s the Denver Broncos. The frustration of close losses is building. The Broncos looked forward to the change in coaching, hoping that a train wreck of a season in 2022 was over and that a turnaround was in quick order. While the Broncs have been very competitive, they were favored in back-to-back home games to open the year and not only did they fail to cover but they also failed to win. Denver is now 0-2 straight up and 0-2 ATS.  As a result of both teams' results, the Dolphins are overpriced while Denver is underpriced, which provides us with this great buy low/sell high opportunity. It’s also worth noting that the Fish will play Buffalo next week, which is without question, it’s most important two games of the season, thus, this game is sandwiched between New England in prime time last week and Buffalo next week. Recommendation: Denver +6½

Green Bay -2 over New Orleans

1:00 EST. At first glance the NFC South may look like a powerhouse division. The Saints, Falcons, and Bucs are all undefeated through two games. Of that group, the Saints remain a small favorite to clinch a NFC South title, but so far we haven't been all that impressed. 

Statistics will tell you that this is an elite defense and we don't necessarily disagree. The Saints are top 5 in points per game, yards per game, 3rd down conversion rate, and redzone conversion rate allowed to their two opponents. That's impressive regardless of the matchup. As always, we must consider how trustworthy these marks are, though, since A) Two games is an extremely small sample size, and B) The level of competition still matters.

In Week 1 the Saints benefitted from some truly grotesque turnovers by Ryan Tannehill. The 35-year old QB wasn't very crisp, throwing for a subpar completion percentage (16-34) and three interceptions.Two of those interceptions led to 10 Saints points. It's worth noting that Tannehill didn't play a single snap in the preseason. Like other struggling Week 1 quarterbacks (ahem, Joe Burrow), that tends to affect a starter's rhythm and timing with his offense. New Orleans' run-defense was average, permitting 104 yards.

In Week 2 the Saints took on the Carolina Panthers and Bryce Young in the rookie's first home-game. Do we need to say more here? Young is clearly in development-mode. He struggled mightily to find his wide-receivers all game and the Saints, to their credit, are exceptional at creating pressure with just a four-man front. An above-average secondary can then settle in and challenge even the best QBs. Despite the matchup advantage, the Panthers still covered +3½ in a loss.

The Saints' defense is likely very solid - after all Dennis Allen was their defensive coordinator before assuming the head coach role - and that's probably why the Against the Spread (ATS) line is so short heading into Sunday. It's the Saints' offense that's a real cause for concern. 

Derek Carr just hasn't looked comfortable. The long-time Raiders' thrower has a deer-in-headlights look through two games, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and leading his offense to a 25th best 18 ppg - not exactly the effectiveness the franchise was looking for when they signed the free agent QB. In his postgame interview after beating the Panthers, Carr acknowledged as much, saying the Saints' haven't played very well offensively and implying that they're lucky to be 2-0 heading into Week 3. We agree, and this Sunday will present a considerably more difficult challenge from where we're sitting.

The Packers are a good test for the Saints in several regards. According to many analysts, their offensive line is among the NFL's best, and who are we to argue? Jordan Love wasn't touched in the preseason, and he's only been sacked twice in two games. New Orleans may not be able to only rush four guys like they usually do, unless they don't mind Love sitting back with 3-6 seconds to throw on every play, of course. 

Speaking of Love, the kid was maligned in the media before ever taking a snap in 2023 and he's stepped up to the plate and then-some. Love already has six touchdown passes, has yet to throw an interception, and he's been able to move the ball with zip and confidence when the Packers needed a pivotal 3rd down conversion (they're 5th overall through two weeks, completing 48% of their third down attempts). Last week Love threw a dime for a fourth down conversion, giving Green Bay an opportunity to take the lead in the final seconds at Atlanta. The receiver dropped the pass and the Packers lost by one point. They'll seek revenge in their first home-game this Sunday.

Defensively the Packers have a young, exciting group that hasn't faced a tough test yet. So far their stats show a defense that's better inclined to limit the passing game, earning impressive marks in opponent completion percentage (50%) and yards per pass allowed (6.1). Of course they faced two run-first offenses through two weeks, but Lambeau Field will be a welcome change of scenery after two tough road games to open the season. Expect the cheeseheads to level-up this defense’s effort.

According to reports, it's likely that David Bahktiari, Aaron Jones, and Christian Watson all suit up Sunday. That'll be a major boost for Jordan Love, who's steadied the ship despite not having the trio last weekend. As long as the line remains under -3, there's major value on a home Packers' squad off a loss, and a team that looks impressive on both sides of the ball despite a difficult schedule to open their season. The Saints still have a lot to prove but this is the week they get exposed for being a very average football team.  Recommendation: Packers -2

L.A. Chargers +1½ over Minnesota

1:00 PM EST. If you so happened to bet on Philadelphia last week (-6) consider yourself extremely, extremely, extremely lucky that you didn’t rip your ticket up. The Vikes lost four fumbles in that one, not to mention Justin Jefferson's outstretched reach for a 30-yard touchdown fumbling out of the endzone for a touchback. Minnesota should’ve won that game by 28 points but lost by 6. Still, do we put a lot of emphasis on Minnesota getting unlucky or do we focus on Week 1 when they hosted Tampa and lost outright as a 5½-point choice while scoring just 17 points? 

What about the Chargers? The Chargers have a history of losing close games, they also have a history of bizarre outcomes and they would be 2-0 for the want of just five points. However, they also have no defense and that is a problem. The Chargers already allowed Tua Tagovailoa to throw for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Last week they made Ryan Tannehill look decent, which is not easy to do.  

The challenge here is trying to figure out which team will be worse on defense and that’s nearly impossible to predict. What we know for sure is that both teams will put up points. We also know that the Chargers cannot be trusted when they’re favored but are very playable when they are not expected to win or when they are in the role of the underdog. 

The real question is, “How long will this freaking game last?” Neither team can run the ball, and there legitimately could be 80 passes thrown. We also understand that the Chargers’ coach is Brandon Staley and it doesn’t really matter if he’s desperate or not (it’s really time to get him off an NFL sideline) but we cannot and will not trust Minnesota as the chalk at this point, especially after they looked pretty good in a prime time game last week. Nevermind that the Vikes failed to win (it was a push), as they badly outplayed the Eagles and anyone that watched it, knows it. Finally, the Chargers were a one-point favorite early in the week but the inefficient market didn’t like that and now we see the Vikes favored. That’s another red flag to not bet the Vikes.

Recommendation: L.A. Chargers +1

Indianapolis +7½ -105 over Baltimore

1:00 PM EST. You’ll have to excuse us while we crap our pants in awe of Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens starting the season at 2-0. First, Baltimore beat Houston 25-9 in one of the more misleading scores of the first week. Houston did not get outplayed. In fact, Houston had just as many first downs and actually had more total yards than the Ravens. In Week 2, Baltimore barely survived a Cincinnati team that has looked like garbage for two straight weeks. It was reported that Joe Burrow played on a bum calf and could barely walk off the field when he threw a TD late in the 4th quarter. Cincinnati was destroyed by Cleveland in Week 1. Now the Ravens are 2-0 both straight up and Against the Spread (ATS) and market perception has them as a legit contender. 

The Colts are in the win column after an opening week loss to the Jags. Their 31-20 victory over the Texans on Sunday was the first victory of the Shane Steichen and Anthony Richardson tenure, even though it came tinged with some concern as Richardson left with a brain injury. Although not official, Richardson, the NFL, and the Colts aren’t likely to mess around with this type of injury so we’re going to assume that Richardson is out so this matchup will not be a battle of running quarterbacks. When a starting QB goes down, there is almost always a market overreaction and that’s the situation here. Enter Gardner Minshew.

Minshew stepped in to throw for 171 yards and one touchdown. He made 20 starts from 2019-20 with the Jaguars and threw for 5,530 passing yards, 37 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He also saw action in nine games after being traded to the Eagles before the 2021 season. Minshew followed coach Shane Steichen to the Colts this offseason so we like that connection. Despite limited physical traits, Minshew can come in and manage an offense. He’s confident, he’s experienced and at this point, he might even be a better option than Richardson but that’s for the talking heads to discuss. As far as value is concerned, 2-0 teams (both straight up and against the spread) after two weeks are almost never undervalued. Now throw in a backup QB for the underdog and the foundation for an overlay has been set. Furthermore, the Ravens just beat Cinci and have two more divisional games on deck with Cleveland next week and the Steelers the following week. This is not only a bad spot for the overrated Ravens but this team is not built to cover big margins and they’re not good enough to cover them either. Recommendation: Indianapolis +7½

Jacksonville -9 -110 over Houston

1:00 EST. There should be real concern for Houston backers heading into this Week 3 contest. Demeco Ryans assumed the role of Texans' head-coach after developing one of the NFL's best defenses in San Francisco for two seasons prior. We know the Texans are full of younger talent and they probably can't compete with better teams this season; their 4.5 win total suggests as much. However, as a bettor, we'd like to see Houston's defense play well, even if it's in a weekly losing effort. That was not the case last week, even though they were at home against a familiar divisional opponent who's working through their own development. Not a good sign for their battle in Jacksonville this Sunday.

We haven't been very high on Texans' rookie quarterback CJ Stroud heading into the season and we still have our doubts. Sure, Stroud put up good numbers last week, but the Colts dominated the Texans in the first two quarters and then coasted for the rest of the game. Stroud and the Houston-offense were in comeback mode while Indianapolis settled in and protected their lead behind back-up QB Gardner Minshew. Aka, most of Stroud's stat-padding came in the second half against a more shallow defense. He looked very mediocre the week before against Baltimore, throwing for only 55 yards in the first half before falling behind by three scores halfway in the third quarter, which again created comeback mode and softer resistance to elevate his marks.

The Jaguars, on the other hand, are coming off a puzzling performance in Week 2. Jacksonville was one of the most touted teams heading into the season, with pundits and analysts expecting Trevor Lawrence and his team to ascend in a weak AFC South division. That's still likely to occur, but last Sunday the Jags had an incredible opportunity to knock off the Chiefs and it just didn't happen. Lawrence found the red zone over and over again but simply couldn't create points, as one receiver after another caught balls on the boundary, all of them eventually found out-of-bounds. No touchdowns and 9 points was the result. After a sterling Week 1 performance where Lawrence led the offense to 31 points in a hostile environment at Indy, it was disappointing for their fans and bettors; JAX +3.5 was one of the most popular public wagers last weekend. 

Jacksonville's young, talented defense forced a few turnovers last week, but they're also not a group we trust just yet. We've seen them shit-the-bed plenty under Doug Pederson, a former QB and offensive-minded coach, and covering big ATS lines like -9 will likely come through their offense, not an inexperienced defense.

Who's bound for more positive regression this weekend, the Houston defense or the Jacksonville offense? We're inclined to believe it's the latter, but it's worth noting that the Texans have experienced startling success against their rival the last few seasons. The last time Jacksonville beat Houston at home? 2017. Hard to believe, but true!

This is a different Houston team, though, with a first-time coach and a rookie QB at the helm. The Jaguars have high expectations this season and should be plenty motivated to show-out at home in a redemptive performance, particularly for their offense. Recommendation: Jaguars -9

New England -2½ -105 over New York

1:00 EST. All you'll hear across the betting industry this week is how the Patriots have owned this series. The last time New York bested New England in the regular season was 2015 - 14 straight wins under Belichik. The market is also aware that the Jets entered the 2023 season with Super Bowl aspirations, but now find themselves searching for answers after getting annihilated in Dallas last week. Zach Wilson and a mistake-prone Jets' offense do not have the pro or public trust, and now the Jets are catching 2½ points at home in a big AFC East battle.

Of course the market is also showing its support of the Patriots, a team that's played well despite their 0-2 record. New England committed two early turnovers in the first quarter of their opener, one an interception-touchdown and the other a fumble that turned into a short field and touchdown. The deficit was ultimately too much to overcome, allowing Philadelphia to coast and play ball control after a 16-0 start. The Patriots outgained and outperformed the Eagles in every metric but the score. In Week 2 the Patriots' defense was eventually overwhelmed by what we consider one of the best offenses in the NFL, but the New England offense fought and nearly tied the game late. It's also worth noting that the Dolphins had no problem running all over New England. 

Jets' running back Breece Hall hasn't practiced much this week but there's optimism he'll play. He jumped off the screen his rookie season before going down to injury, but he's already looked as explosive through two weeks. Jets' coach Robert Saleh decided to limit his snap-count in Week 2, but Hall could be poised for higher-usage alongside veteran All-Pro running back Dalvin Cook. Against a Patriots' defense that's shown susceptibility to the run, New York will hope to utilize their ground attack to take pressure off Zach Wilson. That’ll be essential against one of the best pass defenses in football. 

As much as we want to find value in the Jets at home, this line makes sense. Bill Belichik is notorious for confusing quarterbacks, especially under-talented or under-experienced QBs that lack confidence. Wilson is the archetype of that type of thrower. Last season he threw 3 interceptions in game one against New England, and he only threw for a total of 77 yards in a 10-3 loss in the second. New York's defense is exceptional and can keep this game close, but we can't bring ourselves to bet against an 0-2 team, motivated and coached up by one of the best defensive minds the league has ever seen. Recommendation: New England -2½

Dallas/Arizona under 43

4:25 EST. If you're one of the many Cowboy-haters across America, you're probably not very happy about the way this season has started. Both New York franchises have been obliterated by Dallas through two weeks, creating a litany of impressive stats for Jerry Jones' franchise. Out-scoring your opponents 70-10 and out-gaining your opponents 647-386 will do that. Eventually their statistical dominance will regress as the Cowboys face teams that present stronger resistance on both sides of the ball, but it's unlikely that'll come this weekend. Although it's worth noting - this is a very sleepy spot for the surging Boys.

Dallas heads back on the road to face the Arizona Cardinals, a team with the lowest predicted win-total this season. It's plain to see why. Without star QB Kyler Murray, the Cardinals are forced to play Josh Dobbs. The journeyman thrower hasn't looked too bad, actually, despite the lack of talent and protection around him. Their best chance to hang in this game will be through James Conner. Conner showed great burst last week against an above-average Giants' front-seven, gaining over 100 yards and helping the Cardinals maintain a lead for most of the game. Of course we saw what Dallas did to the Giants in Week 1, we're hardly comparing the two, but run-defense is the only area that's been a little subpar for the Cowboys' defense so far. Dallas has allowed 89 rush yards per game, but that's actually not very impressive. They took early leads against the Giants and Jets in Weeks 1 and 2, forcing their offensive coordinators into a more pass-happy approach in an attempt to close the margin. Dallas is allowing nearly 4 yards per rush (3.9 to be exact, ranked 16th overall) through two games, and Arizona is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, a top 10 mark. 

The Arizona defense hasn't been terrible, either. They shut out Daniel Jones and the Giants' defense in the first two quarters last week, and they nearly beat the Commanders on the road in Week 1. A young, energetic front-seven sacked Sam Howell six times in that contest, a big part of why they were able to keep the game close. If they can get to Dak Prescott and limit their offensive production early, they can keep the score within range. Of course that's easier said than done against an extremely talented Cowboy-offense, but that begs the biggest question for this Week 3 matchup - how much does Dallas care?

Of course the Cowboys want to win, but this feels more like an "avoid injury and get out of dodge" situation. Dallas and Arizona are both top 5 in sack percentage through two weeks, and both teams lean on their run-games to establish ball control early. Jonathon Gannon, whose defense helped the Eagles get to the Super Bowl last year, seems to be making an impact on his team. We're seeing more effort and more energy from the Arizona defense, and that might be enough to snag an ATS cover. On the other hand, if Dallas plays the same way they have through two weeks, this one shouldn't be close. The best angle is to consider betting the under in what should be a slower-paced, defensive battle. Recommendation: Under 43

Carolina +6 over Seattle

4:05 PM EST. Although it may not seem like it, this could very well be the biggest overreaction on the board. Seattle was a 4½-point pooch last week in Detroit (it opened +5½) and now they go from being a +4½-point pooch to a -6 point favorite in the span of one week based on its win over Detroit? That’s a double-digit swing in the span of one week and it’s not warranted. 

Let’s not forget that Seattle was destroyed by the Rams in Week 1. Let’s not forget that Seattle allowed a brick load of yards to the Lions last week and only won because they won the turnover battle 3-0. When you win the turnover battle by three, you’re supposed to win by 14, not four, as the Seachickens did in their 31-27 victory in Detroit. This is a Seahawks defense that gave up 446 yards in Week 1 and another 414 yards last week (despite Detroit turning it over three times). Had Detroit not turned it over three times, how many yards would they have accumulated? 500? 600?. 

Carolina’s market presence or credibility is not very good especially with a rookie QB that was featured on Monday Night Football last week and couldn’t move the offense five yards. Those prime time games often cause the biggest overreaction because they are seen by millions. While Bryce Young will not suit up this week, Andy Dalton will and that’s another reason that the market will not be anxious to get behind the Panthers. Andy Dalton?  

Andy Dalton, whose career is very much over, was brought in by the Panthers to back up first-round pick young Bryce. Is Andy Dalton an upgrade from backups Baker Mayfield/Matt Corral/Sam Donald/P.J. Walker or whoever else Carolina used last year? No. Why? Because it's the Panthers quarterback job. In this ever-swirling vortex of filth, nothing is ever an upgrade from the lousy thing before it so we understand why Carolina’s market credibility is so low. However, it still presents an opportunity to take back inflated points with Carolina. Finally, Seattle will play on Monday Night next week and for the annoying Pete Carroll, who will be smacking on Hubba Bubba and hopping around the sidelines like a hyperactive kid after a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, he’ll be more focused on that than on backup Andy Dalton beating him. Big overreaction to Andy Dalton starting and to Seattle’s very lucky win last week v Detroit. Recommendation: Carolina +6

Chicago +12½ -110 over Kansas City

4:25 PM EST. If you ripped up your ticket after betting on Chicago in Week 1 and were disgusted by its performance, doubling up in Week 2 was not a good plan, as we found out after betting them against the Buccaneers last week and losing again. You would be hard=pressed to find a team whose stock is lower than Chicago’s right now so the right thing to do, as hard as it may be, is to stick with it because we promise you the number is inflated. 

In this new era of wagering on sports (same game parlays - prop bets, teasers, etc) that sportsbooks are promoting with incredible incentives, the teaser bet has become one of the more popular wagers out there. Well, sportsbooks have the data and have to protect against such teasers by inflating points on certain games. For instance, instead of being a -9 point favorite, where bettors could tease K.C down to -3, they inflate it so the tease becomes more difficult to cover.

The Bears have now lost 12 straight. They are 0-2 Against the Spread this season and they’ve failed to cover in 11 of those 12 straight losses. The point-spread is supposed to be the great equalizer but for the Bears, oddsmakers cannot give them enough points. They have been one of the greatest fades in NFL history over an extended period of time and books are sick of paying out on them. 

We don’t like Chicago but we’re not in “we like or don’t like business”. We are in the value, over/under reaction and situational plays business and in that regard, if you play Kansas City, you indeed may win but Chicago is taking back a bunch of inflated points here based on all of the above. Recommendation: Chicago +12½

Pittsburgh +2½ over Las Vegas

8:20 EST. Has any offensive coordinator received as much vitriol in one week as Pittsburgh's Matt Canada? Fans have literally started a petition to get the maligned play-caller fired. Unsurprisingly, the Steelers' offense has been stamped with a scarlet letter, with every other media pundit shouting in criticism about the Steelers' inability to produce more than 400 yards in a game for the last season-plus. All this negative sentiment despite the fact that Mike Tomlin, the Steelers' coach since 2007, has led his team to an 11-7-1 ATS mark during that span of time. This is the kind of skewed public perception we like to take advantage of, the kind that's inflated this line and made Pittsburgh up to 3-point underdogs at times this week, especially since Pittsburgh's very average offensive production has almost no effect on our handicap.

If we are going to discuss pure football, why aren't we all talking about the Raiders' offense instead? Public perception wants you to focus on the Steelers woes, but maybe that's not the side to inspect. These are some of the Raiders' marks, against defenses not as talented as the one's Pittsburgh faced, through two games: 30th in points per game, 30th in yards per game, 31st in INTs thrown, 31st in yards per rush, 30th in rush yards per game, 21st in pass yards per game.

Xs and Os don't play too much into any one of our bets, but if there's any statistical analysis we should pay attention to, it's how good each defense is. The data tells us that neither offense is a world-beater at this juncture. Defensively, one team has a significant edge. The Raiders have allowed 27 points per game, 355 yards per game, a 50% third down conversion rate, 4.9 yards per rush, and they only sack the QB on 5.33% of plays - all rankings in the bottom third among NFL defenses. Even worse, they allow a league-worst 81.69% completion percentage to opposing QBs through two games. Without even looking at the Steelers' defensive statistics, we could easily ascertain that Kenny Pickett is set up to have one of the best games of his young career against the Las Vegas defense

By comparison, the Steelers' have only permitted a 53.06% completion percentage to opposing QBs, a top-10 mark, and they're 5th best in sack percentage. It's true that Pittsburgh has allowed way too many yards on the ground in Weeks 1 and 2, but that's bound for regression. The 49ers and Browns are two of the most potent rushing attacks in the NFL. It's been struggle-city for the Raiders on the ground, averaging only 2.6 yards per rush.

The thesis statement here is that the line is just plain wrong. We understand that the Steelers are on a short week after a somewhat fortunate run. Hell, their offense didn't even cross the Browns' 30-yard line in Week 2. But the Raiders' defense is full of holes. Pittsburgh has one of the best defensive players in the NFL in TJ Watt, and Allegiant Stadium is hardly a home-field advantage. We expect plenty of yellow color in the stadium this Sunday, and we anticipate the Steelers will cover this line. Recommendation: Pittsburgh +2½

Our Pick

Early leans & analysis Wk 3 (Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)

New England +218 over Pittsburgh