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October 18, 2018

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Vegas pick’em: NFL Week 3 winners against the spread

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David Zalubowski / Assocaited Press

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is sacked by Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Denver.

Week 3: Chargers at Rams

Which side would you take in Chargers at Rams? (Poll consensus year to date: 2-0)
Rams minus-7 — 68.3%
Chargers plus-7 — 31.7%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Several analysts have expressed surprise that the NFL is already down to seven unbeaten teams through the first two weeks of the season.

The number of 2-0 teams, however, is far less shocking than the identities of the 2-0 teams. The Los Angeles Rams are the lone one of the bunch that were expected to be perfect by sports books' odds.

The Denver Broncos have also been favored in each of their first two games, but by such slim margins that their implied probability to win both was 46 percent by the money lines.

Four out of the five other unbeatens — the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — were underdogs in both their first two games. The Buccaneers are the real outlier, as their closing money lines implied less than a 9 percent chance that they’d win in each of the first two weeks.

The final undefeated team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, aren’t a major revelation, but the majority of gamblers have bet against them in both games.

Talking Points picked five of the undefeated teams’ seven games correctly in Week 2, as part of an overall 11-5 bounce-back showing in the weekly column looking at every game on the board. The blog now sits at 15-16-1 against the spread on the year.

Check below for picks on every Week 3 game, separated into three confidence categories — plays, leans and guesses. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.

Plays (3-3)

Washington Redskins plus-3 vs. Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers has been phenomenal on one leg through the Packers’ last seven quarters, but his injury remains a less-than-ideal scenario that should be accounted for on the betting line. This number might even be too high if Rodgers were fully healthy with the Redskins’ defense silently formidable, sitting second in the NFL through two weeks in giving up only 5 yards per passing attempt.

New Orleans Saints plus-3 at Atlanta Falcons No hesitation in buying low on a Saints’ team that’s still might be the most explosive in the NFL. Injuries are piling up for the Falcons, especially along the offensive line and to players vital to their pass defense. The Saints have the personnel to take advantage.

New York Jets plus-3.5 at Cleveland Browns Always like to start Thursday Night Football handicapping by analyzing the coaching staffs, which is a telling exercise this week. Jets coach Todd Bowles is 23-30 straight-up, 27-23-3 against the spread in his NFL career. Browns coach Hue Jackson is 9-40-1 straight-up, 18-30-2 against the spread.

Baltimore Ravens minus-5 vs. Denver Broncos It’s entirely possible, if not likely, that the Seahawks and Raiders are two of the worst teams in the league — and the Broncos beat them by a total of five points in a pair of home games. Denver was also a mess on the road last year, going 1-7 straight-up and against the spread.

Leans (5-5-1)

Pittsburgh Steelers minus-1 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nothing in the NFL has been as fun as “Fitzmagic”, but nothing also looks as unsustainable. No, the journeyman quarterback isn’t going to keep up his 13.4 yards per attempt and 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Steelers have racked up just as many 20-plus yard plays as the Buccaneers — Tampa leads 13-11 — and now look easy to back in a spot where they’re desperate for a win.

Arizona Cardinals plus-6 vs. Chicago Bears It’s never fun backing the worst teams in the NFL, but sometimes the point spreads make it unavoidable. The Cardinals were only a 2.5-point underdog in this game a week ago. They looked horrendous in failing to get the ball past midfield until the final minutes in a 34-0 loss to the Rams, but they probably needed to lose 134-0 to merit a 3.5-point betting swing in a single week.

Detroit Lions plus-7 vs. New England Patriots Don’t mind paying a tax on the Patriots in seasons where they’ve demonstrated they’re worth it and a level above the rest of the competition. New England hasn’t done that this season, as it ranks 20th in offense at 5.2 yards per play behind a largely new cast of supporting characters around Tom Brady. This spread, therefore, just looks needlessly bloated by a few points.

Guesses (7-8)

Kansas City Chiefs minus-6 vs. San Francisco 49ers Grabbing the short number now because the Chiefs will almost surely inch to minus-7, and may go over a touchdown by kickoff unless there’s some resistance in the market via large bets on the 49ers. San Francisco has failed to impress through two weeks, as its offense ranks 25th in the league by Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, which isn’t good enough to make up for a predictably mediocre defense.

Miami Dolphins minus-3 vs. Oakland Raiders Oakland would have probably been the play if the momentary opening line of Miami minus-4.5 stuck, but now it feels like the number has shifted too far. The Raiders have been quietly efficient on offense — ranking in the NFL’s top 10 with 6.2 yards per play — but the Dolphins’ defense has been even better, leading the league by DVOA.

Jacksonville Jaguars minus-6.5 vs. Tennessee Titans Texans outgained Titans by 154 yards and 2.5 yards per play last week, making the latter’s 17-14 win one of the biggest statistical anomalies of the year. There will come a time to fade the Jaguars following their success. This isn’t quite it.

Buffalo Bills plus-17 at Minnesota Vikings Don’t expect to read many nice things about Bills quarterback Josh Allen in this space, but he’s at least less helpless than original starter Nathan Peterman. It’s almost impossible for value to exist in laying this high of a number this early in the NFL season.

Los Angeles Chargers plus-7 at Los Angeles Rams Adding the half-point hook to the spread would make this an easier call, but it’s still enticing to get this many points with a potent offense. Sports books have stubbornly stood on minus-7 so far despite a swarm of tickets on the Rams, which is another indication that the teams are truly separated by less than a touchdown.

Carolina Panthers minus-3 vs. Cincinnati Bengals Line looks perfect, but must instinctually take a small step away from the Bengals’ hype, which has them drawing two out of every three tickets against the Panthers so far. Before the season, Carolina was a 6-point favorite in this spot.

Dallas Cowboys plus-1.5 at Seattle Seahawks Cowboys already tore up one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines last week, pressuring Eli Manning consistently including hitting him six times en route to a 21-14 victory over the Giants as 3-point favorites. Hard to see how a matchup against the even-worse Seahawks’ front will be any different.

Philadelphia Eagles minus-6 vs. Indianapolis Colts Consider it a minor leap of faith with returning quarterback Carson Wentz. Number was already at 6 before the confirmation of Wentz taking over for Nick Foles, despite the fact that he should be upgrade even in the first game off of tearing his ACL.

Houston Texans minus-6 vs. New York Giants Red flags abound, as the best number is long gone — the Texans opened a 3.5-point favorite — and the Giants have gone from a trendy short underdog against good teams in the first two weeks to a totally-avoided large underdog versus a worse team. Still, the Texans’ offense looked back in form in Week 3, gaining more than 7 yards per play against the Titans and only losing in fluky fashion.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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