NFL Odds: Week 3 picks against the spread and market analysis

Here are the Week 3 NFL odds, picks against the spread, player props, and long term analysis for plays and fades within the NFL betting market.

The NFL odds market is full of small sample sizes. Often, we see the majority of NFL bettors decide their picks based on what they saw the previous week. Seeing as how the NFL is riddled with small samples, it’s easy to fall prey to recency bias. So how can we distance ourselves from the pack and make smart wagers? By determining which teams might have gotten lucky by using regression to the mean in some statistical regions. I’ll attempt to pinpoint teams who are worth a play and those who are worth a fade going forward in the NFL odds market.

Week 2 was very profitable for the betting crew at Pro Football Network. I went 5-2-1 between picks in my article and ones sent out from the PFN All-Access Twitter account (@PFN365AA). If you’re a subscriber, you need to be following our All Access account.

Related: NFL Odds: The Sheep Report and Week 2 gambling recap

Week 2 NFL Odds Recap

San Francisco 49ers

I was hesitant to back the 49ers because they were the beneficiary of turnover variance, which helped them win a coin flip game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1. The spread was inflated towards San Francisco as a result, which got me off of them as a play.

I suggested a fade, which fell flat on its face. I don’t think my process was flawed, however. It might be worth a look to fade the 49ers with good run defenses, as the jury is still out on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He had a fantastic performance against the Cincinnati Bengals but was rarely pressured.

Cincinnati Bengals

A team I suggested as a play in the NFL odds market going forward fell flat on their face. I was impressed by Zac Taylor’s play-calling on early downs and them beating the number in Seattle (one of the few stadiums with an actual home field). The 49ers were able to consistently harass Andy Dalton, recording 5 hurries, 4 sacks, and 8 QB hits, according to Pro Football Reference.

Bengals players said it themselves – they got out-executed in their game against the 49ers. This is a team I still want to back in certain spots this season. They’re catching six points at the Buffalo Bills this week. I agree with the adjustment in the NFL odds market after their blow-out loss against San Francisco. That game is one to stay away from.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I regret not suggesting to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+7) last week. My read on that game was spot on, but I was too afraid of Winston’s turnovers to squeeze the trigger.

Their coaching staff is one of the best in the league. Todd Bowles has done terrific as their defensive coordinator (ranked fifth in yards per play), getting the most out of his players the first two weeks. They could win the NFC South this year given the state of the division at the moment. I attempted to get ahead of the NFL odds market by picking the Buccaneers (-6.5), but that did not work out. 

Pittsburgh Steelers/Seattle Seahawks

It didn’t work out the way I imagined, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still covered or pushed their first-half spread and went over their team total of 25.5. It just goes to show how bad the Seattle Seahawks defense is. They get the New Orleans Saints this week without Drew Brees. We’re potentially looking at a very fraudulent 3-0 team going into Week 4. They would absolutely be a fade in the NFL odds market. 

Mason Rudolph kept the Steelers competitive after Ben Roethlisberger exited with an elbow injury. He completed 63% of his passes and had a touchdown rate of 10.5%. His average first down rate (via Sharp Football Stats) was 37%, one point lower than Russell Wilson’s figure of 38% in the same game. It could be said there isn’t much of a drop off from Roethlisberger to Rudolph.

The look-ahead line was right around a “PICK” before the Roethlisberger injury. It has jumped to a consensus (-6.5) in favor of San Francisco. I think that is an overreaction by the books and NFL odds market.

The Steelers traded for Minkah Fitzpatrick which should help their atrocious pass defense against slot receivers. The 49ers will also be without All-Pro tackle Joe Staley, which should spell trouble against a very stout Pittsburgh pass rush. Dee Ford logged a limited practice on Friday and is listed as a game-time decision, which is good news for Rudolph. The Steelers are looking like a very appealing play this week, which we highlight below. 

Looking Ahead

Let’s take a look at teams who won the yards per play battle but lost the game in Week 2.

[table id=106 /]

The one team I want to look at is the Minnesota Vikings. Their yards per play differential of (+4.24) is second only to the New England Patriots/Miami Dolphins differential in Week 1. So how on earth did they not even cover as road dogs in Green Bay?

The first issue was turnovers. The Vikings were (-2) in the turnover department, but could have been much worse given the 5 fumbles they had. They were fortunate to recover three of those.

The second issue was Kirk Cousins. He completed just 44% of his passes, which led to a 27% success rate. The Vikings were able to have a 43% success rate on early downs. However, that was fueled by the running game. Early down passes led to a 29% success rate, while early-down rushes yielded a 54% success rate. Typically, early-down passing is more efficient than early-down rushes. Their run game broke the mold against the Packers in Week 2. I talked about how much I loved Dalvin Cook this year in my Vikings win-total article. He has not let me down the first two weeks.

Cousins recorded 2 interceptions as well, to put some “icing on the cake.” He has to be better, and it’s fair to question if that is even possible. That said, the Vikings are a team I want to back in the NFL odds market going forward. Their defense is still elite, and Mike Zimmer is a ridiculous 60% against the spread in his coaching career.

As for the Packers, all of their success came in the first quarter. It is bizarre that Aaron Rodgers was not able to move the ball after the scripted plays presumably ran out. Below you will see the success rate of rushing and passing plays on early downs, split up by quarters.

[table id=107 /]

The passing game was electric in the first quarter and non-existent for the rest of the game. This is alarming if you’re a Packers supporter. They’re going to need Rodgers to play far better if they expect to be real players in the NFC. The Packers are making my fade list in the NFL odds market moving forward. I’m not going to back Joe Flacco on the road off a miserable loss, but I will stay far away from backing the Packers until I see improvement from Rodgers.


Steelers vs. 49ers

I touched on a few reasons why I like the Steelers above. I think there was an overcorrection for the Roethlisberger injury. The 49ers could be without Dee Ford this week as he left the Cincinnati game early with an injury and is listed as a game-time decision. That doesn’t bode well against what has been a stout pass protection unit in Pittsburgh.

As for the 49ers offensive line, they will be without Staley for this game. The Steelers possess one of the better pass rushes in the league, which makes the Staley injury hurt even more. 

The 49ers don’t enjoy a great home-field advantage, while Pittsburgh should “up” their level of play in the first game with their backup QB starting.

If you can get a full seven points, I would take that bet (available on Bovada as of this writing). However, I’m also good with (+6.5). If your book doesn’t have a seven, I would look to the first-half spread. It is (+3.5) on My Bookie, which is a great number. I’m recommending both the first half and full game spread. 

I’m also going to suggest betting 0.5 units on the money line, and look to play it back in-game if the 49ers drop to (+200).

Pick: Steelers 1H (+3.5) (-105) 1U, full game (+6.5) (-110) 1, Pittsburgh money line (+240)

Giants vs. Buccaneers

I suggested the Buccaneers (-6.5) as a pick on Monday because I projected the line only to go up. Well, I was wrong. It has dropped down to six, which is less than ideal.

I agree with that line movement. Daniel Jones gives the New York Giants a better chance to win than Eli Manning did. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with the Buccaneers (-6.5). If I hadn’t locked that in, I would strongly consider the Giants here.

One angle I do like is the Buccaneers offense. Sunday will be the first game Jameis Winston could potentially see a clean pocket, as the Giants pass rush is dreadful. This will also be a “pace-up game” for Tampa Bay as the Giants play at one of the fastest paces in the league in every situation (via Football Outsiders).

I don’t see value with their team total (27) but will suggest taking the over on Winston’s passing yards (278.5) and passing touchdowns (1.5). 

Pick: Winston over 278.5 passing yards (-140), over 1.5 passing TD’s (-115)

Teaser Pick

I want to take advantage of the Vikings this weekend, but am not the biggest fan of laying nine points. They are one of my favorite teaser legs, however. 

I like teasing them with the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns. Patrick Mahomes should enjoy a clean pocket in this contest. No matter what the offensive output is for the Baltimore Ravens, I expect the Chiefs to match it and then some. Plus, the Ravens have played two of the worst teams in the league thus far. The Chiefs are a significant step up in competition. 

As for the Browns, all of us at Pro Football Network like the under in that game. It has been bet down to 47.5 after opening at 51. Games that go under tend to favor the underdog. We’ re also hitting a secondary key number of ten, going through another secondary key number in four and a primary key number in seven.

I expect the Browns to get plenty of pressure on Goff as Austin Blythe left the Saints game early and will be a game-time decision. Goff is terrible when pressured, which is great news for the Browns stout front.

3 team, 6.5 pt teaser (+135): Vikings (-2.5), Browns (+10) Chiefs (-0.5)

That’s it for this week. Good luck, and let’s hope we’re profitable again. Be sure to follow the PFN All-Access Twitter account (@PFN365AA) for live updates and more picks!

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