Last week ATS: 3-1
Overall ATS: 6-5-1
Minnesota Vikings (+3.5) at Houston Texans
What do we really know about the Texans? We know they are winless, 0-3, and we know they have played the league’s toughest schedule through three weeks. Playing the Chiefs (3-0), Ravens (2-1) and Steelers (3-0) is going to make winless teams out of about half of the NFL. So I’m not going to hold that against DeShaun Watson and Bill O’Brian.
But it’s also a fact that they have failed to cover the spread in any of their three losses. At +9.5 against the Chiefs they lost by 14; at +6.5 on extra rest they lost to the Ravens by 17; and at +3.5 against the Steelers they lost by 7. In other words, in three games they have underperformed the spread by 18.5 points, which is nearly double the 19.5 points they have been allotted as underdogs across those three contests. So while I admit the scheduling gods did them no favors in the first three weeks of the season, it’s also fair to say the Texans have still failed to meet their (low) expectations.
Minnesota is also 0-3, and they have also played two 3-0 teams (Packers, Titans) and one 2-1 squad (Colts). For some reason, though, I feel like they haven’t been given the same credit for their schedule as the Texans. Perhaps part of it is because the Texans had to play the Chiefs and Ravens in back to back weeks — two teams that are considered hands down the two-best teams in the NFL — and part of it is because they looked so awful in their opening losses to the Packers (43-34) and Colts (28-11). I could be overstating it, but I feel like the public was quicker to write off Kirk Cousins and the Vikings than they were DeShaun Watson and the Texans.
To that end, if we give the Texans 1.5 points for home field advantage, then what Vegas is saying is that the Texans are 2 points better than the Vikings? I see these as fairly even teams who each conceivably could have won their Week 3 games, but I feel like the perception is the Texans have played a tougher schedule and that by itself should reward them with a wider spread than this matchup calls for.
Score prediction: Vikings 27, Texans 26
Los Angeles Chargers (+7.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The high point of the Chargers season was losing by only three points to the Chiefs in a game they probably should have won. I don’t want to blame their upset loss to the lowly Panthers in Week 3 on a hangover from their emotional loss to Kansas City, but I am saying it’s possible. It’s human nature to get up for a matchup against the Super Bowl champs in the same way as it’s human nature to have a letdown playing one of the worst teams in the league the following week.
I don’t think they’ll have that problem against the Bucs, because everyone gets up for games against Tom Brady. The Buccaneers have feasted on weak opponents the last two weeks, first a 31-17 win against Carolina (that was a lot closer than the final score indicated) and then a 28-10 beatdown of a Broncos team that started Steve Driskell at quarterback. After three games you would rather be 2-1 than 1-2, but it isn’t complicated to admit that thus far Tampa Bay hasn’t proven anything.
I might be a slave to how well the Chargers usually play the Chiefs — thus perpetually getting me to believe they are underrated — but I think this matchup is a good spot for them. Despite the negative of west coast teams playing early games on the east coast, I think Los Angeles has an edge in motivation that will be enough to keep this close.
Score prediction: Buccaneers 23, Chargers 19
Philadelphia Eagles (+9) at San Francisco 49ers
I’m not going to lie, I have been high on the Eagles all year and I’ve been low on the 49ers for the last two weeks. As it’s turned out, Philly has let me down fully, and the Niners have been surprisingly good since their Week 1 loss to the Cardinals.
Here’s my thing, though: San Francisco has played two dogshit teams the last two weeks (Jets, Giants), and Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz usually does OK under pressure. There’s a chance both New York franchises are the two-worst teams in the NFL, and there’s a chance Wentz is playing for his reputation this Sunday Night in primetime. I could be wrong about both those things or I could be 100% spot-on, but either way I think 9 points are way too many.
Now that the Eagles have proven themselves to be pretty bad, I’m going to roll with them for the simple fact that I don’t think anyone else wants them. That’s the best time to bet on teams. The 49ers will probably win, and they could totally win big, but I’m taking the team with its back up against the wall to keep it close.
Score prediction: 49ers 24, Eagles 21
Chicago Bears (+3) vs Indianapolis Colts
To me, this is one of the most confusing lines of the weekend. On the one hand, the Colts have what is being considered as, like, the best defense in the NFL through the first three weeks — holding opponents to a remarkable 4.2 yards per play. (League average is generally around 5.5, so they are nearly one and a half yards per play better than that. Crazy.)
On the other hand, the Bears are 3-0 and are being given no respect. Sure, two of those wins — against the Lions (Week 1) and Falcons (Week 3) — required miraculous 4th quarter comebacks, and the other win — against the Giants (Week 2) — was a 17-13 snooze fest. No matter which way you slice it up or rationalize it to agree with your own preconceived biases, this is still a 3-0 team, playing at home, against a quarterback (Phillip Rivers) that’s like a million years old.
That last part is important, because come game time there is supposed to be about a 50% chance of rain and at least a little bit of wind in Chicago. I’m not saying that’s the end-all be-all, I’m just saying the Colts are a dome team and the Bears are not only used to the weather, but their quarterback, Nick Foles, actually has an above average throwing arm.
Ultimately, Foles might be the key here. The Bears trotted out Mitch Trubisky for the first three weeks of the season, and they literally waited for the first opportunity — where Mitch threw one of his patented pick-sixes — to pull his ass and insert Foles, whom the head coach and organization obviously wanted to play from the very beginning. They just needed a reason.
In my mind, the Bears should be favored to win in this game. The fact that the Colts are only allowing 4.2 yards per play doesn’t mean a lot to me, since to this point they have only played the Jaguars (who are 1-2), Vikings (0-3) and Jets (0-4). Those aren’t exactly juggernauts. And while the Bears are hardly the offensive force that’s going to hurt that yard-per-play average, I believe being at home, in weather, with the better quarterback is enough for me to like them on the moneyline, let alone getting points.
Score prediction: Bears 24, Colts 17