After multiple people got burned in this space last week for taking the Steelers and Saints (although Mitch Goldich came through on the other end with Chiefs +4 over Steelers as his best bet), we're back with our best bets in Week 3, including backing several title contenders who didn't win in Week 2.
The Patriots are coming off a tough week on both sides of the ball in their loss to Jacksonville. But the struggling Lions are an ideal rebound. Detroit has allowed 78 points in the first two games of the season, tied with the Bills for worst in the league. Expect a ticked-off Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels, as captured on last week’s CBS broadcast, to take out their frustrations on Lions head coach and ex-Patriots DC Matt Patricia. — Jenny Vrentas
Take Denver over Baltimore, especially with Vegas favoring the Ravens by five points. The Ravens might struggle to even top five points in the first half. Denver's defense on film these first two weeks has shown many traits of the Denver defense that won a Super Bowl in 2015. Bradley Chubb and Von Miller will be a lot to handle for the Ravens. — Andy Benoit
Pittsburgh Steelers (-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I spent the past two weeks going with cold, hard logic for my best bets, and managed to get burned both times. So let's throw all that out and just go with my gut feeling.
We've seen this from Ryan Fitzpatrick before—in Buffalo and with the Jets. You could argue that he didn't play this well at either of those places, which is true, but it also works to underline the point that he's going to regress, because even the previous highs of his career weren't this high.
The overblown drama surrounding the Steelers (columnists around the league are phoning everyone in their rolodex, no matter how unknowledgeable about that locker room, to feed them the hottest of "It's a circus!" takes) has a role in suppressing the line here. The Steelers offense looked bad in a monsoon in the Browns tie. The offense looked elite last week, but the defense couldn't stop the demigod who goes by the name "Mahomes." The thing that most gives me pause on this one is that Pittsburgh's offense has been measurably worse on the road the past three seasons. But I can't convince myself to answer this question—"Will FitzMagic do it again?"—in the affirmative. — Gary Gramling
The Cardinals might be really, really bad this year. At 0-2, They're only above the Bills in Football Outsiders' DVOA. On defense, they're 28th in yards per play. On offense, they're even worse: 31st, above only Buffalo, who might be really, really, really bad. So why should you bet on them? Because the Bears are just one slot higher on offense, at 30th. They're on a short week, having played Monday night, and have won by more than six on the road only once since late 2015. As long as Arizona can keep the Chicago defense from scoring, I think a desperate ball club can stay in this one at home. — Jacob Feldman
Contextually, I love this bet. The Raiders have to fly across the country—about one of the longest possible flights in the NFL—for a 1 p.m. ET kick when it’s 10 a.m. back in California. The line opened at Miami -3, and there it still sits despite 55% of the money wagered thus far coming in on the Raiders, according to Covers.com. That suggests Vegas is happy to let bettors have the Raiders at +3 all they want, and, as a general rule of thumb, it’s smart to align yourself with the oddsmakers.
As for actual on the field reasons, the Dolphins have handled their business in wins over the Titans and Jets. Sure, we might look back on those wins as not terribly impressive by the end of the season, but the Dolphins were in control of both games from start to finish. The Raiders, meanwhile, got trounced by the Rams and gave away last week’s game to the Broncos in heartbreakingly predictable fashion. The Raiders have scored 32 points in two games, with just three total touchdowns. They rank 30th in the league in sack rate, a direct result of trading Khalil Mack, and don’t seem to have any hope of generating meaningful pressure on the quarterback.
Miami’s offense remains a work in progress, but the signs of growth are there. Ryan Tannehill has completed 72.5% of his passes for 398 yards, 7.8 yards per attempt and four touchdowns against two picks. Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore have formed an effective backfield pair in the early going. The receiving corps, led by Kenny Stills and supported by Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant, is looking like it might be more than the sum of its parts. It may not be the prettiest watch, but the Dolphins are a strong bet laying three against the Raiders at home. — Michael Beller
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Washington Redskins
Two weeks into the season, we still have to be careful not to overreact to what we’ve seen play out. Going into the season, just about everybody expected the Packers to be a much better team than the Redskins, and I don’t think we’ve seen anything that should change our collective mind.
The Redskins took care of business against Arizona in Week 1, thanks a 21-point second quarter, and coasted to a 24-6 win. That win led to some good feelings in Washington, as the team was six-point favorites against Indianapolis—a game it lost 21-9 at home. But now seeing that Arizona is likely one of the two or three worst teams in football, we should probably be putting more stock in Washington’s Week 2 result.
The Packers, meanwhile, are 1-0-1, but could easily be 2-0 if not for the controversial penalty against Clay Matthews that led to overtime against the Vikings. Running back Aaron Jones now returns from suspension, and Aaron Rodgers is one more week removed from the injury he sustained in Week 1.
All this to say that I think we’ve expected the Packers to be at least a tier above the Redskins all along, and I still do. And even though they are on the road, a three-point spread feels a little low. — Mitch Goldich
Indianapolis Colts at Phildelphia Eagles (-6.5)
Carson Wentz is back, and while he’s an upgrade over Nick Foles, the biggest advantage of this contest for me is Philadelphia’s defense vs. Indy’s offense.
In Andrew Luck’s first two games this season, he completed 72.4% of his throws and had four touchdown passes. If you look closer, however, the distance of his throws is concerning. Luck’s 5.9 yards per attempt is 28th in the league (only ahead of Blaine Gabbert, Foles, Mitch Trubisky and Sam Bradford among current starting QBs). Via NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Luck’s average air yards (distance the ball travels beyond the line of scrimmage to the point of reception) on completions is 3.4, the second-worst mark in the NFL. He’s dead last in average air yards on attempts at 5.2.
The Eagles were torched by Ryan Fitzpatrick last weekend, but this is still one of the scariest defenses in football. The Eagles should feast whenever the Colts decide to opt for the subpar rushing attack, as Philly leads the NFL in run plays that have gained zero or negative yardage at 39%. Luck will be facing a good amount of second- and third-and-long plays if Indy’s ground game gets shut down, and that will be a major challenge against Philly’s pass rush which ranks second in the NFL with 42 pressures (just behind the Ravens’ 43).
One bizarre trend in the regular season under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, Philadelphia has allowed 13.9 points per game at home and 23.6 PPG on the road. I think you’re getting a generous discount on the Eagles here because of Week 2 overreactions, as laying less than a touchdown with one of the NFL's most talented rosters at home vs. one of the least talented ones is an absolute gift. — Max Meyer