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 professional football season. Here are five of the best Week 3 NFL picks.
For this edition of Best Bets, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Odds Assist CEO Dave Rathmanner share their opinions on five games that will kick off over Week 3 of the NFL season, including the 49ers and new/old quarterback Jimmy G heading to Denver to take on the Broncos on Sunday Night Football.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Buffalo Bills (-5.5, O/U 52) at Miami Dolphins
A compelling matchup because…the winner of this game will remain undefeated and take over sole possession of first place in the AFC East. If that winner is Miami, it will be the first time in eight attempts that the Dolphins have knocked off the Bills as Buffalo heads down to South Beach riding a seven-game winning streak against their division rival. With both offenses capable of big plays, turnovers could be a key factor here. Buffalo has a league-leading seven takeaways on the year while the Dolphins only have three.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Bills opened as a 4.5-point road favorite and we’ve seen the public absolutely hammer Buffalo, who looks like an absolute wagon. The Bills are currently a +400 favorite to win the Super Bowl and Josh Allen is a +300 favorite to win MVP. Currently, 81% of bets are on the Bills, which pushed this line up to Buffalo -6. We’ve seen some buyback on Dolphins +6, dropping the line back to 5.5. It’s hard to bet against Buffalo, but I’ll grab Miami plus the points in a super contrarian divisional dog spot. Tua Tagovaiola is 8-3-1 ATS (73%) in his career as a dog.
Gable’s Guess: The Bills didn’t have many doubters coming into this season, and they have even less after just two weeks. When they beat Tennessee on Monday night 41-7, it was their 20th win in a row by double digits. The last time they won by fewer than 10 points was against New England in November of 2020. Now, they begin a really tough stretch of five games starting with this one in Miami. Buffalo is just so good on both sides of the ball. They’re first in scoring offense (36 points per game), second in scoring defense (8.5 ppg) and only give up 215 yards per game. But now they have Miami on a short week coming off a big win against the Ravens. The Dolphins torched the Baltimore defense with Tua Tagovailoa throwing for 469 yards and 6 TDs. Miami’s receivers won’t be as wide open as they were against the Ravens, but the offense is going to need to put up points to hang with Buffalo. I’m going to lay the points with Buffalo as this Bills’ defense is going to be able to keep Miami in check much better than Baltimore did.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Bills look like the most complete team in the league early in the season. The offense has been firing on all cylinders and has put up 72 points in the first two games of the season while the defense has been equally as strong in allowing only 17 points. The Dolphins’ defense is not playing at the level they need to be at to beat the Bills. The Dolphins gave up four touchdowns last week on drives that all took six plays or fewer and went for 60 or more yards. They also only forced only two Baltimore punts in the game and did not force a turnover. That’s a recipe for disaster against Josh Allen and company. Taking the Bills laying less than 7 in Miami.
Our Pick: Buffalo looks like a runaway freight train. At less than a touchdown, lay the points.
Baltimore Ravens (-2.5, O/U 43.5) at New England Patriots
A compelling matchup because…games between these two teams always feel like rock fights and this one should be no different as it will be New England pass-rusher Matthew Judon’s first game against his former team. After playing two games on the road, New England will play for the first time at home this season, which is a good thing for quarterback Mac Jones as he had 16 TD passes vs. 7 INTs and a 97.5 quarterback rating in nine home starts last season. That may not matter as his counterpart on the Ravens, Lamar Jackson, has played like a man on a mission (who wants a new contract) through the season’s first two weeks.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: In my opinion, this is the most intriguing matchup of Week 3. This line opened with the Ravens listed as a 3-point road favorite. The public sees an easy win and cover with Lamar Jackson and they’re rushing to the window to lay the short chalk with Baltimore. However, despite 91% of bets backing the Ravens, we’ve seen this line stay at 3 or even dip to 2.5 at some shops. This signals a sharp line freeze and reverse line movement on the Patriots +3. New England is your top contrarian play of Week 3, receiving only 10% of bets. This seems fishy. Give me the fishy side. I’m on the Patriots with the points.
Gable’s Guess: Baltimore’s defense needs to pick up the pieces after melting down against Miami and surrendering a 21-point lead. Lamar Jackson played tremendously in the loss, completing 21-of-29 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. By the way, he also ran for 119 yards and a score. He became the first player to have a 75-yard TD run and throw a 75-yard TD pass in the same game. Jackson has also played well in his career against the Patriots, so it will be up to a New England defense that is giving up an average of 13.5 points per game to contain him. Quarterback Mac Jones has been up and down for the Patriots, but the offensive line of New England has been a bright spot for the team. I believe the defense will have a much harder time trying to contain Jackson and the offense will need to step up. I’m going to take the over.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Ravens’ defense left a lot to be desired with an epic second-half collapse against the Miami Dolphins last week. They allowed four touchdowns in the final 12 minutes of the game. The Patriots’ defense has been solid this season, but the offense has gotten off to a slow start with only 24 points in two games. The Ravens’ offense will have a harder time scoring against the Patriots than they did against the Jets and Dolphins. Baltimore’s defense, on the other hand, should be ready to make a statement after being embarrassed in the second half last week. Look for this one to be low scoring. I’m taking the under.
Our Pick: For the Patriots to have a chance, they’ll have to score because Baltimore will. Take the over.
Detroit Lions (+6, O/U 52.5) at Minnesota Vikings
A compelling matchup because…situated in a division where all four teams are tied at 1-1, the winner of this game will take over at least a share of first place. Through two games, the Lions are averaging 35.5 points per game, more than 20 more than the Vikings at 15.0 per game. On the flip side, Detroit is giving up 32.5 points while the Vikings are surrendering a mere 15.5 points thus far. The Vikings have won eight of the last nine games of this series, but the teams did split last season.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Vikings listed as a 7-point home favorite. Respected Lions money has dropped the line from 7 to 6. Some shops are even down to 5.5 and essentially all movement and liability are on the Lions. Conference dogs +6 or less are 216-142 ATS (60%) since 2019. Detroit also has value as a divisional dog. Dan Campbell is 13-6 ATS (68%) as a dog with the Lions. I’ll take the points with the Lions.
Gable’s Guess: Detroit’s offense looks legit through two games and bettors who have backed them have cashed twice in a row. While the Vikings’ Justin Jefferson will get most of the attention at wide receiver in this game, you can’t ignore what Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown has done. He has eight straight games of eight catches or more. On a short week, the Minnesota defense will be tested here. The Detroit offense isn’t the Philly offense, but it’s still dangerous. The last three games between these two teams have been decided by two points. Detroit can also run the ball. They are third in the NFL at 186 yards per game and are averaging 7.2 yards per rush. They have three runs of 40+ yards — no other team has more than one. That’s concerning for a Vikings run defense that couldn’t contain the Packers or Eagles on the ground. Kirk Cousins should have a bounce-back game as it’s being played during the day and not on a Monday night. But, this Detroit team is probably going to be an over team all year and I’m going to take the over here.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Vikings have allowed 412 yards per game, which is fourth-worst in the league. One of the teams below them is the Detroit Lions, who have allowed 425.5 yards per game, third-worst in the league. Both teams have been especially poor at defending the pass. The Lions rank 27th and the Vikings rank 29th in the league in passing defense. While Minnesota has struggled to score, this is a great chance for them to get their offense on track with weapons like Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen for Kirk Cousins to work with in the passing game and Dalvin Cook running the ball. Four of the last six games between these two teams have gone over 52.5 points. Look for that trend to continue Sunday and take the over.
Our Pick: Would love to take the Lions with the points, but will settle on siding with the over.
Green Bay Packers (+1, O/U 42) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A compelling matchup because…the Bucs will come into this game with a depleted receiving corps and a QB who was worried enough about his offense that he gave up his scheduled day off on Wednesday. That may not matter as Tom Brady and Tampa were held off the scoreboard for a large portion of last week before ultimately putting up 20 points in a win over the Saints. Green Bay’s offense looked better last week against Chicago after doing basically nothing against the Vikings, but the Packers could regress as the Bucs are giving up just 6.5 points per game so far this season.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Bucs listed as a 3-point home favorite. All sharp money has taken the Packers plus the points, dropping the line down to -1 or a pick’em. One big variable here is Mike Evans being suspended. As a pick’em, this is a no-play for me. I’ll take the under. Unders are 22-10 (69%) this season. Both teams are 2-0 to the under through two weeks.
Gable’s Guess: The big news coming into this one is Tampa’s Mike Evans will be out with a one-game suspension for his conduct in the Saints game last week. This will be the first meeting between these two teams since the 2021 NFC Championship game. For those keeping track at home, Tom Brady is 4-1 lifetime against Aaron Rodgers. The uncertainty around the Tampa offense has led this line to drop and the total to drop significantly as well. It’s never a good sign when a team is signing veteran receivers (Cole Beasley) midweek as that’s a sign they are expecting some problems getting their receivers on the field for at least a few weeks. Brady is also going to be under a lot of pressure with the missing pieces on Tampa’s offensive line. Meanwhile, Green Bay has been effective in moving the ball on the ground this season and Rodgers will not throw the interceptions that Jameis Winston did last week that benefited Tampa greatly. The injuries and the suspension are pointing toward a Green Bay road win. I will take them on the moneyline.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: Tom Brady and the Tampa offense have gotten off to a slow start, producing just two offensive touchdowns so far this season. Look for the offensive struggles to continue against a tough Green Bay defense, which is allowing only 16.5 points per game thus far. Brady will have very limited options in terms of throwing the ball with Mike Evans suspended and Julio Jones and Chris Godwin both likely out with injuries. The Packers found a formula that worked last week when they focused on the run game and rushed for over 200 yards on 38 carries with just 25 pass attempts. The Bucs will also have to focus on the ground game given the receiver issues they have. Lots of running and two good defenses should make for a low-scoring affair despite two of the game’s top quarterbacks facing each other. I’m taking the under.
Our Pick: At home and in a bad mood, Brady should find a way. Laying the point with Tampa.
San Francisco 49ers (-1.5, O/U 44.5) at Denver Broncos
A compelling matchup because…following what has been a disastrous start to the season despite the Broncos being 1-1, Denver will host a team that new quarterback Russell Wilson knows very well. Neither of these teams has done much on offense to start the season, but the Niners having Jimmy Garoppolo back under center and tight end George Kittle back from injury could kickstart the scoring for San Fran. These teams are 7-7 against one another all-time, but the 49ers have won three out of their last four meetings.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with Denver listed as a short 1.5-point home favorite. Sharps have pounced on the 49ers, flipping San Francisco to a 1.5-point road favorite. The 49ers are receiving sharp dog-to-favorite line movement. San Francisco also enjoys a huge coaching advantage, with Kyle Shanahan facing off against rookie Nathaniel Hackett, who has already made several head-scratching mistakes. I’m also more confident in the 49ers with Jimmy G under center instead of Trey Lance. I’ll be sweating the 49ers on the moneyline.
Gable’s Guess: With Trey Lance’s injury, Jimmy Garoppolo is back as the starter for the Niners and that’s not a bad thing in my eyes. The Niners have brought in a number of veteran quarterbacks for tryouts to back up Jimmy G because it’s doubtful he is 100% healthy, but he does provide a feeling of familiarity and comfort for this offense. The playcalling will change with him under center, but this is a team that is built to win now, not two or three years in the future when Lance might be ready. They have an elite defense, a potent running attack and skill-position players that will wreak havoc on opposing defenses. The Broncos have looked shaky at best. I am close to downgrading Russell Wilson in my QB rankings and Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett looks to be in over his head. The Broncos are 0-for-6 in the red zone this season and there is indecision in the playcalling. While the defense has been decent for Denver, I just don’t see this offense getting back on track against a very strong San Fran defense. I’m going to take the under here.
Rathmanner’s Reckoning: Between new head coach Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson learning a new offense, the Broncos have only scored 16 points per game in their first two games of the year. The 49ers opened the season with an ugly loss to the Chicago Bears but rebounded nicely with a comfortable 27-7 win over the Seahawks. Returning QB Jimmy Garoppolo is familiar with the 49ers’ offense and is probably an upgrade at the position over Trey Lance (for now, at least). He came into the game last week and threw for a touchdown and ran for another while leading three total touchdown drives. The 49ers opened as slight underdogs before being bet to the role of favorite. Taking the 49ers laying the small number against Denver on Sunday night.
Our Pick: The Niners can win on the road like they did last year in Green Bay in the playoffs. Lay the points.
Last Week: 2-3-0; This Season: 3-7-0
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Make sure to double-check the odds before betting.