Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 | 2 a.m.
So much for the offensive revolution.
The first two weeks of the NFL season have been anything but high-flying with unders whooshing in at an astounding rate in sports books. The Cleveland Browns’ 23-3 win over the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football" finished off week 2 with a sixth straight under — dating back to Sunday’s afternoon slate of games.
Unders went 13-3 on the week and now sit at 20-12 on the year.
A spate of quarterback injuries have certainly helped, as the Jets were down to their third quarterback (Luke Falk) for the majority of the aforementioned Monday Night Football game. As many as a quarter of the teams in the league could be playing someone other than their presumed starter going into the season in week 3.
Read below for picks on every week 3 game, which are separated into three confidence categories. Lines are best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.
Cleveland Browns plus-3 vs. Los Angeles Rams This is a terrific spot for the Browns with their offensive explosiveness set to test the Rams, which are fresh off of logging 10,000 miles of travel since the start of the season. Los Angeles has started 2-0 straight-up and against the spread but looked iffy during stretches of both games despite facing one hobbled quarterback, Carolina’s Cam Newton, and one backup quarterback, New Orleans’ Teddy Bridgewater.
Los Angeles Chargers minus-3 vs. Houston Texans Mismatch alert: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram should tear a shoddy Houston offensive line, which ranks last in the league in pass protection per Football Outsiders, to pieces. The Chargers are also not getting enough credit for averaging more than 7 yards per play despite facing a pair of decent defenses.
Minnesota Vikings minus-8 vs. Oakland Raiders The Vikings have been one of the most impressive teams in the NFL through two weeks — and yes, that includes last week’s 21-16 loss at the Packers. Minnesota was highly unlucky at Lambeau Field with a 2 yard per play efficiency advantage and minus-2 turnover margin. I’m looking to buy on the Vikings in any way, even at high point spreads.
Pittsburgh Steelers plus-6.5 at San Francisco 49ers The loss of Ben Roethlisberger is highly detrimental but is it 7 points — the Steelers were previously 1.5-point favorites in this spot — detrimental? The 49ers may have just as much of travel/time zone disadvantage as the Steelers after spending the last two weeks on the East Coast, and it might be time to sell high on them after a blowout win at Cincinnati.
Indianapolis Colts minus-1 vs. Atlanta Falcons Atlanta has the better personnel, but the gap is negligible. Indianapolis has the better coach — Frank Reich versus Dan Quinn — but the gap is extensive.
Jacksonville Jaguars plus-2 vs. Tennessee Titans If Leonard Fournette stretches forward an extra few inches and the Jaguars get their two-point conversion to beat the Texans last week, are they still an underdog this week? I doubt it, and there’s no reason for such a volatile result to factor into the line.
Cincinnati Bengals plus-6 at Buffalo Bills I’m not ready to anoint the Bills off of a pair of wins against two of the worst teams in the league in the Jets and Giants. The Bengals may belong in the same group, but the asking price is now a touchdown higher. In the off-chance this line touches 7, Cincinnati would become a play.
Denver Broncos plus-8 at Green Bay Packers Granted, they’ve played a tough slate of opposing defenses but the Packers’ offense has left much to be desired and ranks second-to-last in the NFL at 4.3 yards per play. New coach Matt LaFleur’s playcalling also hasn't inspired much confidence. This is not a team to saddle with more than a touchdown on the betting line at the moment.
Carolina Panthers minus-1.5 at Arizona Cardinals I’ll always pick every game on Thursday’s run date for this column, even if the stubbornness leaves me in a bad spot like it does here. There’s no reason to back Carolina before getting a status update on Cam Newton, who’s dealing with an ankle injury, but if he does play, then this current line at Treasure Island is definite value. Even if Newton is out, a practical pick’em isn’t prohibitive considering Carolina has an advantage over Arizona at nearly every other position on the field.
New York Jets plus-23.5 at New England Patriots The Jets are not a historically bad team, not even with Falk inserted as the starter. They would need to be a historically bad team for this point spread to be justified.
Washington Redskins plus-4 vs. Chicago Bears Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is struggling far too much — he’s averaging an NFL-worst 4.8 yards per pass attempt — to lay more than a field goal on the road. The Redskins have been as vertically happy with its passing game as any team in the NFL, which could make for a plus-matchup against the Bears.
Baltimore Ravens plus-6.5 at Kansas City Chiefs The best strategy on this matchup might be to pass and take a position through in-game or halftime wagering. The Ravens and Chiefs have exclusively played the dregs of the league so far this year, which makes it hard to determine how they will look against each other.
Detroit Lions plus-7 at Philadelphia Eagles The number falls in line with where I would place it so I have no real opinion on this game. It is curious, however, that the full 7 points are still available locally with the Lions when most prominent offshores have moved down to minus-6. That means there’s likely value on the visitors.
New York Giants plus-6.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers It’s a slog having to back bad teams, but this line has moved so much that there’s not much of a choice. Tampa Bay was only a 3.5-point favorite on the lookahead line last week and neither its win over Carolina nor New York’s switch from Eli Manning to Daniel Jones at quarterback is worth an extra field goal.
Seattle Seahawks minus-4 vs. New Orleans Saints Here’s another game where I’d rather not get involved — it’s hard to form a sans-Drew Brees Saints’ opinion until seeing more of Bridgewater — so I’ll resort to picking off what I think might be a bad number. It would not be a surprise if the Seahawks came off the board closer to a 6-point favorite.
Dallas Cowboys minus-21 vs. Miami Dolphins Just typing a three-touchdown point spread in the NFL — not to mention with a Dallas team I suspect is overvalued — feels dirty. But I’m done with the Dolphins until they show some signs of life, and with the trade of Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers this week, that might not be any time soon.