NFL Best Bets: Experts Pick Week 3 Games Including Saints-Packers, Patriots-Jets and Steelers-Raiders

A pair of sharps examine five of this week's most intriguing games

September 22, 2023 6:48 am
Hunter Henry of the Patriots carries the ball against the Jets.
Hunter Henry and the Patriots are in danger of falling to 0-2.
Adam Glanzman/Getty

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

In this Week 3 edition of NFL Best Bets, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum share their opinions on five games that will kick off on the NFL’s third weekend, including the Steelers traveling to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders for the first time in their new home in the desert.

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

Saints (+2, O/U 42.5) at Packers

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Packers listed as a 2.5-point home favorite. The public is leaning Packers with 55% of bets laying the points at Lambeau. However, we’ve actually seen this line tumble toward the Saints. This signals smart money grabbing the points with New Orleans. Road dogs are 13-6 against the spread this season and 438-347 ATS (56%) since 2018. Short road dogs +3 or less are 6-1 ATS this season and 105-8 ATS (57%) since 2019. I’ll follow the smart money and play the Saints +6 in a teaser, which passes through the two most important key numbers of 3 and 7.

Gable’s Guess: I was really disappointed in Green Bay’s run defense against Atlanta. They were pretty much shredded on the ground. The offensive line continues to have issues for the Packers and they couldn’t get the run going without Aaron Jones. If there was a positive, it was that Jordan Love was solid again. Unspectacular, but he was OK. The Saints had a somewhat easy time with Carolina until the Panthers made it interesting in Week 2, but I thought New Orleans was pretty much in command of that game and that they played pretty well. Injuries should play a role in how you should bet this game. Will Jones be back? Will Christian Watson finally be available for the Packers? I think the Saints’ defense will be very solid all year. I’m going to take the under.

IH Best Bet: The Packers can’t be happy with last week’s result and it’s their home opener. Laying the points.

Chargers (+1, O/U 54) at Vikings

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Chargers listed as a 2-point road favorite. The public is roughly split down the middle and can’t decide who to take. However, despite this even bet split, we’ve seen the Vikings flip from +2 to -1. This signals sharp “dog to favorite” line movement on Minnesota, with pros backing the home team in a coin-flip game. Minnesota is only receiving 52% of bets but 66% of the money, a notable “low bets, higher dollars” bet split. The Vikings also enjoy a “rest vs. tired” situational advantage, having last played on Thursday while the Chargers played on Sunday. Give me the Vikings on the moneyline -115.

Gable’s Guess: This is an interesting matchup. The Chargers came up short against Tennessee last week even though their pass rush registered five sacks. They’re giving up a lot of deep passes and this team has played like the Chargers teams of old with perplexing losses due to bad decisions and poor execution. Like L.A., the Vikings are also winless after losing to the Eagles. Their offense revolves around one thing and that is passing to Justin Jefferson as much as possible. Their running game is non-existent. That may be OK for this week against the Chargers, who have given up more passing yards than any team in the NFL through two weeks. This game just has all the makings of a shootout and the total has already climbed. I’m not going to go contrarian here because I haven’t seen anything from either of these defenses yet. I’m going to take the over.

IH Best Bet: The Vikings are at home and have the best player in Justin Jefferson. Laying the point.

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Patriots (-2.5, O/U 36.5) at Jets

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with New England listed as a short 1.5-point road favorite. The public (66% of bets) is all over the Patriots, who have owned this matchup in recent years. This lopsided betting has driven the Pats up from  -1.5 to -2.5. The line briefly touched 3, at which point an overload of sharp Jets +3 buyback hit the market, dropping it back down to 2.5. Dogs off a blowout loss of 20+ points are 1-0 ATS this season and 93-56 ATS (62%) since 2018. Divisional dogs are 9-4 ATS this season and 171-128 ATS (57%) since 2021. Even though I’m a Pats fan, I have to go contrarian and back the Jets as an unpopular home, divisional dog. I’ll wait or buy the half point on New York. Give me Jets at the key number of +3.

Gable’s Guess: The Patriots are off to an 0-2 start and, while they had tough opponents in the Eagles and the Dolphins, they were in both games until the end. Their defense has been the star once again, but Mac Jones hasn’t been able to complete anything downfield. Now they face a very good secondary in the Jets. Luckily for the Patriots, the Jets have Zach Wilson, who Belichick has owned since he’s come into the league. While Wilson looked atrocious against Dallas in Week 2, he still seems to have the support of his teammates. I think the defense will have to carry the load for the Jets. We’ve seen enough of a sample to know who Wilson is and it’s not going to get any better. The Jets have to try and get their running game going and it’s the same with the Patriots. This game is setting up for a defensive battle, so I’ll take the under.

IH Best Bet: If the Patriots go to 0-3, it’s all over for them. Betting they still own the Jets. Lay the points.

Bills (-6.5, O/U 43.5) at Commanders

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Bills listed as a 6-point road favorite. The public is laying the wood with the Bills expecting an easy win by a touchdown or more. However, despite 71% of bets backing Buffalo, this line really hasn’t budged. This signals a sharp line freeze on the Commanders, with oddsmakers reluctant to move the line further toward Buffalo for fear of handing out a better number to sharp contrarian Washington backers. Dogs are 19-12 ATS (61%) this season. Shop around and try to find the hook, which is still available at a few shops. I’ll be sweating the Commanders +6.5.

Gable’s Guess: The Bills righted the ship on Sunday and put up 450 yards against the Raiders on a short week. A lot of controversy around Buffalo, but they were able to block that out in a game that was never really in doubt. Washington’s new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is putting quarterback Sam Howell in spots where he’s able to succeed. You saw it last Sunday with him passing for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Washington’s defense has been a bit head-scratching through two games and it really should be a strength for this football team. They’re going to have to put in a better effort on Sunday against a very dangerous Bills offense. I’m going to lay the points here and believe Allen has corrected some things this week.

IH Best Bet: Don’t trust either team with the line so will go out of the box and side with the over.

Steelers (+2.5, O/U 43) at Raiders

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened at roughly a pick’em, with some shops even opening the Steelers as favorites. Currently, 60% of bettors are backing Pittsburgh. However, we’ve seen the line shift to Raiders -2.5. This signals pro money fading the trendy dog and instead backing the home team in a sharp “dog to favorite” spot. Las Vegas is only receiving 40% of bets, but 60% of the money, a notable sharp contrarian bet split in primetime. The Steelers just played a tough, physical, injury-filled division game against the Browns. Now they’re on a short week and have to travel across the country. Give me the Raiders -145 on the moneyline to win the game.

Gable’s Guess: It’s a short week for Pittsburgh after winning against Cleveland on Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, it took two defensive touchdowns to get that win. I continue to have concerns about Pittsburgh’s offense. I didn’t like it coming into the year and they have not changed my opinion of them. It’s been the opposite story for Pittsburgh on defense as they continue to be a top defense in this league. For Vegas, Josh Jacobs still needs to round into form after holding out through training camp. We opened with the Steelers as a 1.5-point favorite and now the Raiders are favored. I want to take the points with the Steelers. I expect a lot from Pittsburgh and I think their fans travel well and a lot of them will be in the stands. It is not going to be a true home-field advantage here for the Raiders.

IH Best Bet: Think the Steelers could win outright so taking Pittsburgh with the points.

Last Week: 2-3; This Season: 5-4-1

Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Double-check the odds before betting.

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