With numerous injuries piling up across the NFL, taking note of replacements and their potential influence on Week 3 point spreads becomes even more critical when handicapping games. Join me as I analyze a few of the Week 3 NFL spreads. Make sure you keep up with all of the betting team’s Week 3 plays throughout the week.
Miami Dolphins (+2.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars, Over/Under 48
The Mustache versus The Beard
“The Mustache versus The Beard.” You’ve heard this phrase at least once this week. This should tell you everything you need to know about this game. It’s Thursday night. It’s two teams you don’t want to see. How can the NFL entertain you? With scoring. Now let’s get to the stats behind the story.
Both Gardner Minshew (The Mustache) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (The Beard) are classic gunslingers. They love to push the ball down the field, and they love to take risks for the big play. Brett Favre was like this, Philip Rivers was like this, Jay Cutler was like this, and Jameis Winston is like this.
This style of quarterback usually causes an increase in scoring but also the potential increase in turnovers. Both of these quarterbacks play with such a tenacity that even being down 14 to 21 points in a game is not an issue to them, and they will continue to push the ball down the field to score. This is great for an over play.
These quarterbacks are going against defenses that cannot pass rush to save their lives. The Dolphins have three sacks on the season, and the Jaguars have two. These quarterbacks should have plenty of time in the pocket to allow their receivers to get separation and move down the field with ease.
Although the Miami Dolphins spent big money on their linebacker unit and the secondary in the offseason on Kyle Van Noy and Byron Jones (who has been ruled out for this game) respectively, their run defense is absolutely atrocious. They have allowed the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL in 2020, and last week they let running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss run all over them at an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a field day throwing a career-best game this past week when he shredded the Dolphins for 417 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t much to talk about either. Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill just gashed this same Jaguars defense for four passing touchdowns, two of which went to tight end Jonnu Smith.
The Dolphins have a tight end by the name of Mike Gesicki, who should feast in this game in addition to DeVante Parker and potentially Preston Williams (if he can hold onto easy touchdowns this week). This is part of the reason why this Week 3 NFL matchup is such a close point spread.
Both the Dolphins and Jaguars have more than enough weapons to challenge these porous opposing defenses. On the Dolphins side of the ball, they have two capable running backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida, who are going up against a decent Jaguars run defense that held Derrick Henry to 84 rushing yards with a 3.4 yards per carry average.
They did the same to the Nyheim Hines and Jonathan Taylor running back combo of the Indianapolis Colts. Removing Marlon Mack from the equation, the Jaguars only allowed 50 yards combined with a 3.1 yards per carry average to the Colts duo. The Dolphins have rushed for the sixth-fewest yards in the NFL in 2020, so this doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for them.
The Dolphins do possess an above-average receiving unit with the aforementioned combo of Parker, Williams, and Gesicki as well as Breida out of the backfield. Considering the Jaguars have allowed the third-most receiving yards and the second-most passing touchdowns in the NFL this year, it would be wise for the Dolphins to employ a pass-first offense this game against a Jaguars defense that is considerably worse at defending the pass than they are versus the run.
When the Jaguars unceremoniously cut Leonard Fournette right before the start of the 2020 season, everyone assumed this was due to an intentional tank for the 2021 NFL Draft. What we failed to anticipate was the fact that the Jaguars felt comfortable with the running back talent they had on the roster and wanted to remove potential character issues with the current rebuild they are attempting. Jaguars running back James Robinson is coming off a 102 yard and one touchdown game against the Tennessee Titans where he posted a 6.4 yards per carry average.
The Jaguars boast a deep receiving unit headlined by DJ Chark (he remains questionable to play), who went for 84 yards last week against the Titans. Chark is joined by Keelan Cole, who has scored a touchdown in both games this year so far, and second-round draft pick Laviska Shenault Jr., who can line up anywhere on the field and produce results. If tight end Tyler Eifert can remain healthy, Minshew will have plenty of weapons to throw to all season long.
Jessica’s Pick: over 48 points @ -110 odds for 4 units: Two gunslingers. Two bad defenses. Both teams boasting bottom-tier defensive lines (you should know how I feel about the trenches by now). The NFL Thursday Night Football headline of “The Mustache versus The Beard.” Two bottom-tier teams that fans don’t want to see on primetime television. I feel as though this game could go either way, so taking the point spread was not an option. Everything lines up as an over to me.
Tennessee Titans (-2.5) at Minnesota Vikings, Over/Under 48.5
The good old trenches comparison
The Vikings are having the offensive line woes that we expected going into the season, and it has affected their offense dramatically. They have allowed two safeties in the first two games of the season and were manhandled by the Colts defensive line last week. This led to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins taking three sacks and throwing for a measly 113 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns.
The Titans have a mid-tier defense but possess good edge rushers in Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley — they should be able to disrupt Cousins similarly to how DeForest Buckner did this past week and cause him to make erratic throws under pressure. The Titans only have two sacks as a team this year through two games, but they should be able to garner two to three sacks against the Vikings this week alone.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans have only allowed two sacks on Tannehill all season, which has allowed him to continue the efficient passing he perfected at the end of the 2019 season. Henry has also run for 200 yards through two games showing the efficiency of the Tennessee Titans offensive line.
The Vikings lost three defensive linemen this offseason in Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, and Stephen Weatherly in free agency, and it shows how important they were to this team through the first two games. They also lost Michael Pierce due to opting out, Danielle Hunter is on injured reserve, and their significant acquisition at defensive end, Yannick Ngakoue, isn’t performing the way they anticipated.
It is widely accepted that Tannehill is a much better quarterback than Cousins, but we will still dive into the stats to support this claim. Tannehill led the NFL in passer rating in 2019, but Cousins wasn’t far behind him at number four on the list.
When Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback for the Titans in Week 7 of 2019, he threw for 22 touchdowns, five interceptions, and 2,598 in 10 games. That comes out to 35 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and 4,156 yards over a full 16 game season. Those are some pretty remarkable numbers for a team that was a heavily run-first offense before he became the starting quarterback.
Cousins, on the other hand, held a mostly game manager role in a similar run-first offense by the Minnesota Vikings in which he threw for 26 touchdowns, six interceptions, and 3,603 yards in 2019. He has flashes where he has looked good and then reminds everyone his true nature like he did last week when he threw for three interceptions versus the Colts.
The Vikings perform the best when Cousins limits his throws, and they rely on the running game behind Dalvin Cook and their good zone-blocking offensive line. Whenever the Vikings are forced to pass, they typically run bootleg plays allowing Cousins to roll out of the pocket due to their below-average pass protection, which can be exploited with proper pressure.
Who can implement their game plan the best?
The Vikings have a new offensive coordinator in Gary Kubiak, who is still implementing his game plan with a preseason-less squad with new faces across the board. Their offensive line is in shambles and hasn’t allowed Cousins or Cook to be able to make plays when they needed them most. Their defense was porous through the first two games of the season, and the young players they decided to rely on have not shown up the way that they expected them to.
The Titans are returning a good portion of their team from 2019 and made no significant changes to their offensive and defensive schemes. They boast a balanced attack between Henry, Tannehill, AJ Brown (who is questionable with a knee injury), Corey Davis, and Smith. You cannot expect to stack the box and stop the run or sit in coverage anticipating the pass because they can attack you in a multitude of ways with an efficient quarterback that is not known for throwing interceptions often.
The Titans have the best chance at controlling this game on both sides of the ball, and if they can grab a decent lead early in the game, the Vikings will be forced to rely on Cousins to bail them out yet again.
Jessica’s Pick: Titans ML (-138) for 2 units: The Minnesota Vikings seem to be falling apart with all their young and unproven players taking over for the starters they let walk this past offseason. The lack of a preseason, along with a new offense, has definitely affected this team, and we are only three games into the season, which could still be considered a “preseason” of full action.
The Titans, on the other hand, have returned almost all of their starters and boast a better quarterback and an advantage on both sides of the ball in the trenches. I’m taking the Titans moneyline in this game rather than the point spread due to the uncertainty between these two defenses and which one shows up. At the same time, I expect the Vikings to play better than last week but still need another couple of weeks to get their game plan in action.
NFL Week 3 spread analysis from other writers
Chris Smith’s Best Bet: Buffalo -3 | -105 for 1 unit
The Los Angeles Rams have been impressive through the first two weeks of the season, with convincing wins over the upper echelon of the NFC East. The Buffalo Bills also jumped out to a 2-0 start, although against admittedly inferior competition. While both the Eagles and Cowboys failed to put any real pressure on Jarred Goff, I suspect Ed Oliver and the Bills defensive line invade the pocket enough to cause discomfort for Sean McVay’s golden boy.
On the other side of the ball, Josh Allen’s legs should keep him out of Aaron Donald’s crosshairs. Asking the Rams to cover the point spread in a third consecutive game in Week 3 seems a tall task considering their original travel plans to stay on the East coast were completely derailed by the NFL’s current travel protocols. I’ll lay the field goal with Buffalo in this spot.
0.5U underdog round-robin. 4 bets, (Carolina +240, Cincinnati +170, Houston +175), 1 treble, 3 doubles | 2 units total (doubles: +818, +642, +835; treble: +2424)
All 3 teams are 0-2 and on the road but they are all in better spots to pull upsets than it looks. The Texans have faced the two best teams in football and while the Steelers are 2-0 they haven’t been very dominant and could be ripe for an upset. Houston’s also had plenty of slow starts and turned it around.
Carolina doesn’t have Christian McCaffrey but they still have very good receivers and Teddy Bridgewater will bounce back after a tough week last week. They also are able to prepare for Justin Herbert, something Kansas City couldn’t do last week.
With an extra 3 days off, Cincinnati arrives in Philadelphia with confidence in their offense after playing well against Cleveland. And Joe Burrow will have a field day against a very bad Eagles secondary. If this is a shootout Philadelphia might not be able to keep up because of how bad the offensive line is right now. Burrow and the Bengals have a great chance to get the first of many wins together.
Cardinals -5.5, Broncos +6, Houston +4 | +611 for 1U
I think Houston (at Pittsburgh) and Denver (home to Tampa Bay) can both win outright. Jeff Driskell played well in relief of Drew Lock last week and the Bucs, after getting up 21-0 on Carolina, labored before pulling away to win. Plus Denver has been one of Tom Brady’s most difficult road venues and the Broncos are desperate for a win. Houston also catches Pittsburgh in the right spot.
The Steelers are 2-0 but had a lot of trouble with the Giants and with the Broncos sans Drew Lock. The Texans have climbed out of bigger holes than 0-2, if they can give Deshaun Watson a little time he will find that Pittsburgh secondary is a bit more vulnerable than it looks.
Arizona is 2-0 and here come the hapless Lions into town. Detroit did manage to get a 14-3 lead in Green Bay last week but then was steamrolled by the Packers offense. Kyler Murray won’t have much trouble against the Lions secondary. Meanwhile, Matt Stafford is turning the ball over in key spots and Detroit is not sustaining enough drives to give their defense a chance to rest.