Sports | September 24, 2021 6:02 am

Expert NFL Picks for Week 3, Including Chargers-Chiefs, Bucs-Rams and Eagles-Cowboys

Kevin Rogers of VegasInsider, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights

QB Justin Herbert takes the snap against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium
QB Justin Herbert takes the snap against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in 2021.
Jamie Squire/Getty

This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.

For this edition of Best Bets, Kevin Rogers, a veteran handicapper for VegasInsider.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 3 games, including a divisional matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and another one between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.

Chicago Bears (+7.5, O/U 46) at Cleveland Browns


A compelling matchup because … drafted in the first round after the Bears moved up the board to get him, rookie quarterback Justin Fields will get his first career start against the Browns. With Cleveland a bit banged up on offense, the Browns will be looking to dominate on defense against a Chicago offense that has underwhelmed thus far. Perhaps getting Fields under center from the opening kickoff will inject some life into the Bears and liven up a passing game that is far from scary for opposing defenses.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: These non-conference foes are an identical 1-1 straight up and 1-1 against the spread (ATS) this season. The Bears just picked up their first win last week, beating the Bengals 20-17 and covering as 2-point home favorites. Similarly, the Browns posted their first victory by beating the Texans 31-21, although they failed to cover as 13.5-point home favorites. This line opened with Cleveland listed as a 7.5-point home favorite. The public is happy to fade the Bears and lay the points with the Browns. However, we’ve seen this line dip from 7.5 to 7 at some shops, signaling some respected money grabbing the points with Fields making his NFL debut as a starter. Dogs with a line move in their favor are 67-46 ATS (59.3%) over the past two seasons. Ron Torbert is a big road ref historically, with visitors going 54-38 ATS (59%). I’ll take the Bears and the points.

Gable’s Guess: Chicago’s defense came up big with four turnovers in their win in Week 2 against a weak Cincinnati offensive line. Andy Dalton suffered a knee injury but looked decent and efficient prior to going out. Fans finally got what they wanted — Fields running the offense. He looked okay at times but certainly made some rookie mistakes, held the ball too long and left the pocket too early at times. The Texans were able to stay with Cleveland in Week 2. I think if [Houston QB] Tyrod Taylor hadn’t gotten injured, Cleveland may have lost. I do believe the Bears’ defense will continue to build on their showing from last week, but I don’t trust Fields. I’m going to go with the under in this game.

Rogers’ Recommendation: Fields wasn’t impressive in last Sunday’s win over Cincinnati as he threw for 60 yards on 13 attempts while getting intercepted once. Chicago took advantage of three Cincinnati interceptions, including returning one for a score. Cleveland bounced back from the season-opening loss at Kansas City to hold off Houston last week as 13.5-point favorites. Sunday’s number is more manageable for the Browns, although they are 4-8 ATS in their last 12 as a favorite. Best Bet: Cleveland -7.5.

Our Pick: Don’t trust either of these teams, for different reasons. The number is big, so we’ll go with the under.

LA Chargers (+7, O/U 55) at Kansas City Chiefs


A compelling matchup because … Justin Herbert got the first start of his career against the Chiefs last season when a freak injury sidelined starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Herbert lost the game but was impressive while doing so, and has been LA’s starting QB ever since. The Chargers and the Chiefs are the only teams in the AFC West to lose this season (Denver and Las Vegas are both 2-0), and the loser of this game will fall into last place in the division.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This AFC West clash features a pair of division rivals looking to bounce back from Week 2 losses. The Chargers fell to the Cowboys 20-17, losing outright as 3-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Chiefs lost to the Ravens 36-35 on Sunday Night Football, losing outright as 3.5-point road favorites. This line opened with Kansas City listed as a 6.5-point home favorite. Divisional dogs are 59-45 ATS (57%) over the past two seasons. September division dogs are roughly 61% ATS over the past decade. Shawn Hochuli, the lead ref, has favored road teams historically (27-20 ATS, 57%). Give me the points with Justin Herbert in a classic contrarian road divisional dog spot.

Gable’s Guess: This may be the week where we finally see bettors go against the Chiefs. They are 1-11-1 against the spread in their last 13 games. I think bettors just continually back them because they know how many points the Chiefs can score and are afraid to bet against them because of how good they are on offense. So I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see what happens here, but the Chiefs are at home at Arrowhead, which is traditionally a tough place to play. The Chargers are a divisional dog. Divisional underdogs have provided value to bettors so far this season. I think the Chargers getting points will probably be a pretty popular bet with the public. I think the Ravens really exposed the Chiefs’ defense and their lack of ability to stop the run. The Chiefs are allowing 7.6 yards per play on defense. Herbert has thrown for over 300 yards in both of his two career games against Kansas City. The Chiefs’ ability to score isn’t going anywhere, though, and I think this game could turn into a shootout. I know it’s a high total, but I’m going to take the over.

Rogers’ Recommendation: The Chiefs are riding a rough ATS stretch in the last 13 games coming off a meltdown last Sunday night at Baltimore. Kansas City returns home to face the Chargers, who they lost to in a meaningless Week 17 game at Arrowhead last season. Los Angeles lost in the final seconds at Dallas last week, another close call for the Chargers dating back to last season. Kansas City has actually been outgained in each of its first two games, while LA has mustered a total of 37 points so far. Best Bet: Kansas City -7.

Our Pick: We’ll take one more bite of the KC apple. Lay the points with the Chiefs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1, O/U 55.5) at LA Rams


A compelling matchup because … no team in the NFL has scored more points through the first two weeks of the season than the Bucs (79). Tampa Bay’s offense will get its first real test of the season against an LA defense that has been one of the league’s stingiest for the past few years. The Rams will also get a shot at avenging their Super Bowl loss from a few years ago, when Tom Brady was on the Patriots. With the Bucs set to play the Patriots in New England in Week 4, this could be a classic look-ahead game for Tampa Bay. It won’t be for LA.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This will be the most popular and heavily bet game of the week by far. The Bucs (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) are coming off an impressive 48-25 shellacking of the Falcons, easily covering as 13-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Rams (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) edged the Colts 27-24 in Week 2, although they failed to cover as 4-point road favorites. This line opened with Los Angeles listed as a 1.5-point home favorite. Wiseguys have pounced on Brady and the Bucs as a short dog, steaming Tampa Bay from +1.5 to -1.5. Tampa Bay matches the classic “dog to favorite” line move system that pros have leaned on for years. I’ll mitigate my risk and take the Bucs to win the game on the money line (-125). We could also be looking at a higher-scoring game here. The total opened at a super-high 54 and has been bet up to 55.5. Both teams are 2-0 to the over this season.

Gable’s Guess: This line actually opened with the Rams favored at home, but it’s now shifted to the Buccaneers being favored. This should be a very entertaining game with two top NFC contenders facing off. Certainly could be a prelude to the NFC title game this year. One thing we’ve seen through the first two games is just how good the LA pass rush is. Andy Dalton had to get rid of the ball very quickly against the Rams. I think he only held the ball for an average of two seconds when the Bears faced the Rams. Indy has a much better line, but Carson Wentz still had to rely on his running ability to avoid sacks in Week 2. Brady’s not nearly as mobile as Wentz, but he is very capable of getting rid of the ball quickly. He’s also one of the best at recognizing coverages, so this is a very intriguing matchup. I think Matthew Stafford and the Rams receivers will be able to exploit the Tampa secondary. I think this is a true pick ’em, but I’m going to look to take the Rams because I believe Stafford should be able to find some openings in that Tampa secondary.

Rogers’ Recommendation: The Bucs hit the road for the first time this season, coming off home wins over the Cowboys and Falcons. All six of Tampa Bay’s regular-season road wins last season came against teams that did not make the playoffs, while the two losses came to playoff teams (New Orleans and Chicago). The Rams slowed down Brady and the Bucs last season in Tampa in a 27-24 win while picking up two interceptions on the future Hall-of-Famer. Los Angeles is in a rare home underdog spot and this is a good place to back them against the defending champs. Best Bet: L.A. Rams +1.

Our Pick: Picking against Brady and the Bucs never seems to work. But we will. Take LA with the point.

Green Bay Packers (+3.5, O/U 50) at San Francisco 49ers


A compelling matchup because … Green Bay and San Fran have matched up four times in the last three seasons and split those games 2-2. The last three of those matchups have come in San Francisco, and by the luck of the draw and the way the NFL schedule works out, this one will be in the Bay Area as well. Both of these teams have Super Bowl aspirations and viewing this Sunday Night Football clash, like Bucs-Rams, has the potential to be an NFC Championship Game preview.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This Sunday night showdown features two of the leading contenders for the NFC crown. The Packers (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) rebounded from a disappointing Week 1 loss to the Giants with a 35-17 beatdown of the Lions, easily covering as 11.5-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the undefeated 49ers (2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS) are coming off a 17-11 win over the Eagles last week, covering as 3-point road favorites. This line opened with the 49ers listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. Some shops opened at 4 and immediately fell to 3.5. Many shops are juicing up the Packers +3.5 to -115, signaling a possible fall to the key number of 3. Bettors looking to back Green Bay would be wise to pounce on the hook before it may fall. Primetime dogs are 4-2 ATS this season and 31-21 ATS (60%) since 2020. It’s also been profitable to bet against teams making their home debut in Week 3. Doing so has resulted in a 30-13 ATS (70%) record over the past decade. I’ll take Rodgers and company with the points, ideally with the hook +3.5. We may also see some points in this one. The total opened at 48 and has been bet up. Primetime overs are 6-0 to the start the season. 

Gable’s Guess: The 49ers are 2-0 to start the season and Jimmy Garoppolo is entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, but he hasn’t exactly kicked the Niners’ offense into high gear. And we didn’t see Trey Lance against the Eagles at all in Week 2, so Garoppolo’s going to be the guy for the foreseeable future. San Fran has some depth issues at running back and they only averaged 3.1 yards per carry against the Eagles on Sunday while rushing 38 times. Running the ball is a big part of their offense. This is a team that should be able to compete with anyone in the league with their defense. I think the defense will have to lead the way in this home game against the Packers. The Packers’ offense finally woke up in the second half against Detroit on Monday night, but there are still a ton of questions about their defense. But I’m going to take Green Bay and the points.

Rogers’ Recommendation: Green Bay bounced back from a horrific Week 1 performance against New Orleans to pull away from Detroit on Monday night. The Packers are listed as an underdog for the first time this season with a cross-country trip to the Bay Area to face the 49ers. San Francisco is 1-6-1 ATS in its last eight regular-season games as a home favorite, while the Packers have won and covered seven straight games in primetime action. Best Bet: Green Bay +3.5.

Our Pick: Maybe the Packers just needed a get-right game to get it going. We’ll take Green Bay and the points.

Philadelphia Eagles (+4, O/U 51.5) at Dallas Cowboys


A compelling matchup because … two of the most disappointing (and injured) teams in the NFL last season, the Eagles and Cowboys are both looking for redemption this season in one of the weakest divisions in pro football. The Cowboys have looked good on offense but shaky on defense thus far, while the Eagles have yet to really hit their stride on either side of the ball. NFC East rivalry games are usually hard-fought but also a little sloppy, and this one should be no different despite it being under the bright lights of Monday Night Football.

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This MNF showdown features a pair of NFC East rivals with 1-1 records, although the Eagles are 1-1 ATS while the Cowboys have covered both of their games as dogs. After crushing the Falcons 32-6 in their season opener, Philadelphia dropped their Week 2 game to the 49ers 17-11, failing to cover as 3-point home dogs. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are coming off their first victory of the season last week, upsetting the Chargers 20-17 as 3-point road dogs. This line opened with the Cowboys listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. The public is happy to back Big D at home on a short spread. This line initially ticked up to -4, at which point pros hit the Eagles and dropped the line back down to 3.5. Philly is contrarian in a heavily bet primetime game and also has value as a divisional dog. The Eagles also match one of my favorite systems: short road dogs +6 or less. They are 9-1 ATS this season and 114-71 ATS (62%) the past two seasons. I’ll go Fly Eagles Fly with the points. This feels more like a field goal game.

Gable’s Guess: The Cowboys are certainly expected to be the better team this year, but the Eagles have surprised some people and have some backing now amongst the betting public thanks to the efforts that they put in during Week 1 and Week 2. Cowboys favored by four here at home. The Eagles are dealing with a lot of player personnel issues. When you add the questionable play-calling by head coach Nick Sirianni to the injuries, I don’t think it’s a surprise why the Cowboys are favored at home. Sirianni is a rookie head coach. He’s going to make mistakes, and he certainly made a few against the Niners. The questions around Dallas’s defense remain. In both games, they have allowed 400 yards to their opponents. Yet they produced four takeaways against Tampa and two against the Chargers. Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard produced a nice one-two punch last week, but Dallas may have a tougher time running the ball against Philly than they did against the Chargers. We know Dak Prescott will look to exploit the Eagles’ secondary. I’m not convinced Philly can score enough to keep up with the Cowboys. I’m going to lay the points.

Rogers’ Recommendation: Dallas has covered in its first two games in the underdog role, but the Cowboys are flipped to a favorite against the rival Eagles on Monday night. The Cowboys edged the Chargers last week on a long field goal, 20-17, but Dallas is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games in the favorite role. Philadelphia fell short against San Francisco at home last week, 17-11, but the Eagles cashed as road underdogs in Week 1 against Atlanta. Prescott didn’t play in either of the two matchups last season against the Eagles, but it’s hard to lay points with Dallas considering its struggles in the chalk role. Best Bet: Philadelphia +3.5.

Our Pick: This is Prescott’s first home game since his injury last season. He’ll come to play. Lay the points.

Last Week: 1-4 (ouch); Season: 3-7 (ouch)

Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.