Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021 | 2 a.m.
The Kansas City Chiefs have been the most backed team in the NFL since Patrick Mahomes took over at quarterback four seasons ago — largely for good reason.
The back-to-back AFC champions had been the most profitable team to wager on over the previous three seasons, which helped to build a devoted following in the betting public. But the popularity is backfiring now.
Kansas City is one of four teams sitting 0-3 against the spread early in the 2021-22 season — alongside the lowly New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Football Team — after back-to-back outright upset losses the last two weeks. The Chiefs have failed to cover by an average of six points per game.
Their drop from the top of the betting market has been as precipitous as it’s been unexpected. No one expected Kansas City not to win the AFC West this year, but now sitting in last place, the odds at Circa Sports imply it’s more likely they don’t win the division.
Kansas City is available at +109 (risking $1 to win $1.09) to win the AFC West with the “no” price at -139 (risking $1.39 to win $1) — implying less than a 46% chance they prevail after adjusting for the house’s hold percentage.
Kansas City has hurt Talking Points’ record, too. Although I had Baltimore in the Week 2 upset, the Chiefs failed to cover for the column both in last week’s 30-24 loss to the Chargers and a 33-29 Week 1 win over the Browns.
The season total record picking every game against the spread now stands at 25-23 after going 8-8 a week ago, though 6-2 on plays.
Read below for picks of every Week 3 game, separated into three confidence categories and listed in rough order of confidence. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.
Seattle Seahawks +3 at San Francisco 49ers Let’s hesitate a little before pushing the panic button on Seattle. The Seahawks outgained both the Vikings and Titans by 1.5 yards per play despite losses over the past two weeks. This is a tremendous buy-low spot against a 49ers’ team with mounting injuries.
Denver Broncos pick’em vs. Baltimore Ravens Historically, blowing out bad teams is a better indicator of future success than winning close games against good teams. So, no, the Broncos’ weak strength of schedule is not a major concern considering what they’ve done in winning every game by double digits. Empower Field at Mile High also presents one of the best home-field advantages in the league.
Dallas Cowboys -4.5 vs. Carolina Panthers There’s been so much negative talk about the Broncos’ strength of schedule, and yet so little about an equally noticeable red flag on the Panthers’ slate. Anointing a Panthers’ defense that’s faced two rookie quarterbacks (the Jets' Zach Wilson and Texans' Davis Mills) and a Saints’ team averaging 4.3 yards per play feels a little premature. The Cowboys’ offensive explosiveness should provide a rude awakening.
Las Vegas Raiders +3.5 at Los Angeles Chargers The Chargers have outperformed their actual efficiency numbers with a pair of virtual coin-flip wins. It sounds weird to say given recent reputations, but the Raiders probably have the best defense the Chargers have encountered so far to make taking the half-point hook unavoidable.
Minnesota Vikings +2.5 vs. Cleveland Browns Money has been flowing in on Cleveland ever since Monday morning to give me some pause, but I had these teams even coming into the season and Minnesota has been just as impressive against a tougher schedule. The Vikings and Browns are virtually tied through three games by EPA (expected points added) per play.
Atlanta Falcons +1.5 vs. Washington Football Team Washington has been more efficient through three games, but priors coming into the season should still hold plenty of weight in Week 4 and Atlanta projected as the more talented team. It may just be taking a few weeks for first-time head coach Arthur Smith to settle in. I’m exercising some caution here as this is another example of the market moving against me.
Detroit Lions +3 at Chicago Bears This number would need to get back to 3.5 to be a play, and that's not going to happen with it trending the other way. Detroit has clearly played better than Chicago early in the season, though. The Bears’ problems looked like they needed more than a week to be fixed in last week’s 26-6 loss to the Browns where they gained 47 total yards.
Philadelphia Eagles +7.5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs This is less of a sell on the Chiefs, which should still be fine long-term, than a buy on the Eagles. Philadelphia’s underlying numbers — including a 1.8 net yards per play – are better than its 1-2 record indicates and a lot better than the impression the 41-21 loss to Dallas on Monday Night Football left.
Arizona Cardinals +5 at Los Angeles Rams My biggest betting regret of the early week is not jumping on Arizona +6. The Cardinals may still be worth a smaller wager at this price, however, as they’ve been more efficient than the Rams on both offense and defense on a per-play basis.
New England Patriots +7 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers The Buccaneers’ tax remains in full effect as it’s difficult to justify this number being any higher than 6 statistically. Tampa Bay would be winless against its consistently inflated spreads if it wasn’t for a pair of late-game interception returns in a 48-25 win over the Falcons.
Jacksonville Jaguars +7.5 at Cincinnati Bengals Cincinnati hasn’t laid this many points since 2017, two years before current coach Zac Taylor was at the helm. And that’s because the Bengals have no business laying this many points to anyone. They’re getting too much credit for a fortunate win over the Vikings and a smothering of a severely injured Steelers’ team.
Green Bay Packers -6.5 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers A number of the Steelers’ best players — including but not limited to T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith and JuJu Smith-Schuster — are listed as questionable for this game. It’s hard to justify a play on Pittsburgh unless several of them are confirmed as playing, and even then, nothing less than +7 should be considered against a Green Bay team hitting its stride.
New York Jets +7.5 vs. Tennessee Titans There are still a couple 7.5s hanging around town, which might just be worth taking. Tennessee -7 is the fair price, as it should win, but has a pass defense so bad that even struggling New York rookie quarterback Zach Wilson should be able to find some success.
Miami Dolphins -1.5 vs. Indianapolis Colts This might be the most evenly-matched game of the week with both teams right around -1.5 net yards per play. But Miami typically has a larger home-field advantage this time of the year with the muggy, and in Sunday’s case, potentially rainy, weather that should make it at least -2.5 on the point spread.
Buffalo Bills -15.5 vs. Houston Texans I’ve lost too many games picking against the Bills in this column over the last few years. Buffalo might be the most well-coached team in the league, an edge that neither myself nor the market have fully accounted for in the past. Whenever there’s a tightly-lined, coin-flip spread like this going forward, I’m backing Buffalo.
New York Giants +8 at New Orleans Saints New Orleans only deserves to be favored by this much if Caesars Superdome accounts for one of the biggest home-field advantages in the league. It hasn’t held that large of an edge in recent seasons, but I’m not ready to write it off in this situation. I’m just also not ready to pay a premium.