How to Bet Week 3’s Best NFL Games, According to Pro Handicappers
Paul Bovi and Dave Tuley talk Ravens-Chiefs, Rams-Browns and where to draw the line with the Patriots
This is NFL Best Bets, a new 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, Paul Bovi, a sports betting expert from Bet-NJ.com who’s been handicapping games for three decades, and Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN) senior reporter and Point Spread Weekly contributor Dave Tuley share their opinions on five games on the NFL’s slate of Week 3 matchups, including Sunday’s primetime tilt between the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Jets (+22.5, +$2,000, O/U 43.5) at Patriots
In one of two games with a spread of more than 20 points (Miami at Dallas is the other), the Jets (0-2) travel to Foxborough for a showdown with their AFC East rivals. It hasn’t been much of a rivalry lately, with the Patriots (2-0) winning six in a row. Their lost home loss to the Jets was way back in 2011. That likely won’t change with the Jets relying on third-string quarterback Luke Falk.
Bovi’s take: “In the days leading up to the NFL season, one could have laid eight points with the Patriots on the advance line, a proposition that is offered by several Vegas and offshore sportsbooks. Two weeks in, and on the strength of several Jet omissions, notably quarterback Sam Darnold as well as linebacker CJ Mosley, coupled with New England’s acquisition of Antonio Brown, there has been a 15-point movement in the line. Historically, the underdog has covered the number at a high rate above the 21-point threshold in the NFL. New England suffered another blow to their offensive line this week as starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn was placed on the IR after suffering a toe injury. The Jets defense is well-coached and, while their offense has struggled, they should be able to keep the Pats in the low 30s. The offense was bad at times [on Monday], but it wasn’t as bad as the score would indicate. They left some points off the board and I think they could score 10 or 13 points. The value is with the Jets.”
Tuley’s take: “I’m a longtime underdog or pass bettor and usually love almost any double-digit underdog. Historically, the last seven 20-point NFL favorites haven’t covered. It’s a huge number, but obviously it’s big for a reason. The Patriots have been dominant in outscoring their opponents 76 to 3 in their first two games, and the Jets have been looking bad and lost their top two quarterbacks. [The Jets] are still going to be giving their best effort and Le’Veon Bell, I was very impressed with his performance on Monday night. He was trying to carry the team on his back and Robbie Anderson is playing well too. If The Jets can at least give Luke Falk some time to throw, I think they can score once or twice and stay within the number. The Patriots’ main goal here is to just get in and out with a win.”
Our Pick: Hold your nose and take the Jets with the points
Ravens (+6.5, +240 , O/U 52) at Chiefs
In what should be one of the most entertaining games of Week 3, the undefeated Ravens take on the undefeated Chiefs in a matchup of what appear to be the two best AFC teams outside of New England. No matter how it plays out, seeing Patrick Mahomes go up against Lamar Jackson should be like something out of a Madden game.
Bovi’s take: “Patrick Mahomes has picked up where he left off from his MVP season in compiling a 136.3 QB rating on the strength of seven TDs without an interception to go along with a 71 percent completion rate. He continues to post gaudy numbers, despite the Chiefs losing Tyreek Hill to injury. The Ravens and Lamar Jackson have gotten off to a great start, though the caliber of their competition, which consisted of the Dolphins and Cardinals, has to raise at least some doubts. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray torched Baltimore’s secondary last week as both Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald topped 100 yards receiving. Jackson’s passing stats, while impressive, came against a Cardinal secondary missing their best cornerback in Patrick Peterson as well as the Dolphins, who are setting records for futility. I feel as though Jackson at this point may be overrated and Baltimore will come down to Earth. The Ravens will score but they simply will not be able to keep up.”
Tuley’s take: “Normally this would be a spot where I would definitely jump on the underdog, especially with the Ravens having the better defense. But Patrick Mahomes and that offense look virtually unstoppable so far and with the way the rules are in the NFL, a good offense trumps a good defense. I feel the Ravens might be able to put up some points as well — Lamar Jackson’s obviously improved this season — but I just don’t feel like I’m getting enough points. The fact that their [Baltimore’s] offense didn’t score as much on the Cardinals [last week] as they probably should have gives me pause about if they can keep up and match score for score with the Chiefs. The Chiefs are a different animal.”
Our Pick: Pray for points and take the over
Saints (+4, +177, O/U 45) at Seahawks
Playing with either Teddy Bridgewater or Taysom Hill under center in place of Drew Brees, New Orleans (1-1) travel to Seattle to take on a Seahawks team that is 2-0 but hasn’t look overly impressive in their wins. Even without Brees, the Saints have a lot of firepower and Seattle’s offense has underwhelmed up to this point.
Bovi’s take: “The Seahawks offense was prolific in their 28-26 road win over the Steelers as Russell Wilson completed 29-of-35 passes for 300 yards while their running game was effective in averaging a shade over 4.5 yards per carry while totaling 151 yards. In Week 1, they gained only 260 yards while escaping with a one-point win over the Bengals courtesy of a 3-1 turnover edge. I don’t know how good this Seattle offense is, but I don’t think it’s great. Questions loom about the Seahawks’ pass defense as Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton was prolific in throwing the football to the tune of over 400 yards. Last week it was Mason Rudolph who took the reins for the Steelers and went 12-of-19 for 112 yards after Big Ben went down with an elbow injury. While the Saints have lost Drew Brees to a thumb injury, they still have playmakers and can stay within the number. It really doesn’t matter if it’s Bridgewater or if it’s Hill. They’re both pretty competent.”
Tuley’s take: “Seattle having home-field obviously helps there. I believe the Saints should go with Tayson Hill as a starting quarterback. I didn’t think Teddy Bridgewater looked very comfortable in there. They do have plenty of weapons with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. But the line here looks like it’s settling at a four or four and a half. So again, I’m not as comfortable fading Seattle at home, especially if it’s Bridgewater. I think Drew Brees is worth more to the line. The advance line at Westgate last week was Seattle minus one assuming Brees was going to be healthy. It was disappointing that the Seahawks weren’t able to put away the Bengals or at least cover against them in Week 1, but I thought they obviously stepped up their game and went on the road in Pittsburgh. I think this one is more of a toss-up.”
Our Pick: Believe in the 12th Man and take the Seahawks and lay the points
Texans (+3, +155, O/U 48.5) at Chargers
At 1-1, Houston has had an up-and-down couple of weeks, looking good in their Week 1 loss and looking poor in their Week 2 win. The 1-1 Chargers are in a similar boat, as they could have won both of their games as well as lost both of them. Los Angeles is the home team, but they don’t enjoy a very strong home-field advantage, essentially making this game a pick ’em.
Bovi’s take: “The Chargers have been beset injuries, the most recent being safety Adrian Philips, who was replacing arguably their best defensive player in Derwin James, who underwent foot surgery during the preseason. Phillips logged 14 tackles in the first two games. The Chargers offensive line has struggled to keep quarterback Philip Rivers upright, as he has been sacked five times while also absorbing numerous hits. Losing left tackle Russell Okung to injury was a major blow to their pass protection. The Chargers just keep losing guys and it’s going to hurt them. The Texans struggled to score in their 13-12 win over the Jags, but that will not be the case in California this Sunday. Deshaun Watson has his full complement of receivers, while their running game will flourish against a Charger run defense that can be exploited. It should be a close game.”
Tuley’s take: “The Texans were more impressive, I felt, in their loss to the full-strength Saints in New Orleans than they were in beating the Jaguars at home last week. I still really love Deshaun Watson and that offense. DeAndre Hopkins was held down by Jalen Ramsey last week, but I don’t think the Chargers have an answer for him this week. So I think they’re going to be able to light it up again. And the Chargers don’t have much of a home-field advantage. They’ve actually been playing better on the road since last season. They were barely able to put away the Colts in overtime in their first home game.”
Our Pick: Flip a coin and take the Texans with the points
Rams (-3, -170, O/U 48) at Browns
Coming off a must-win game in Week 2, the 1-1 Browns travel home to Cleveland to host the defending NFC champs. The Rams are undefeated but have played a pair of uneven games and failed to display the dominance that made them the NFC’s top team last season. The Browns also have yet to live up to their preseason hype, making this primetime Sunday Night Football matchup quite compelling.
Bovi’s take: “The Browns must show more, particularly on offense, as their line has struggled in protection while quarterback Baker Mayfield has been inaccurate at times. He has suffered four interceptions thus far, including three in a quarter in a loss to the Titans. While the Rams are 2-0, they benefited by two Cam Newton turnovers in the opener that led to their three-point win despite totaling only 340 yards. Last week, Drew Brees went down with an injury early on while they also were on the right end of a botched call on what should have been a Saints touchdown. Jared Goff did pass for 283 yards on 28 attempts, though 123 of those came on just two plays. Cleveland’s defense is more than capable of holding the Rams to 24 points. While they did surrender 43 points to the Titans in the opener, it was driven by fourth-quarter turnovers — they trailed only 15-13 late in third. There are a lot of people who were down on the Rams before the season started. Now they’re high on the Rams. I can’t get high on the Rams just yet.”
Tuley’s take: “Sunday night, primetime game … the three-point home dog is tempting. But I actually think the line’s a little short here. I’m usually dog or pass, but I would be much more likely to lay the three with the Rams. I think they’re still the better overall team. The Browns are still trying to learn how to win with high expectations. I don’t put the Rams on the level of the Patriots, Chiefs or maybe even the Ravens at this point, but they’re still obviously strong on both sides of the ball. They have Pro Bowlers all over. They are loaded and they should probably be better than they have been.”
Our Pick: Don’t buy the Browns — take the Rams and lay the points
Last Week’s Picks: 3-2, Season: 5-5
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.