NFL Best Bets: Week 3

Last week against the spread: 3-1

2021 overall ATS: 3-4-1

Last week’s theme was bouncing back, which is pretty much the only thing you can do after a winless Week 1. My goal for the season is to hit 55% of my picks on here, but my secondary goal would simply be to match what I did in 2020 (50%). The holy grail of sports betting is finding a way to beat NFL spreads, which is ultimately an exercise in constantly adjusting on the fly. I enjoy it, and that’s why I do it.

1. Baltimore Ravens (-8) at Detroit Lions

It can’t be overstated just how significant Baltimore’s 36-35 Sunday Night win over Kansas City meant to them. They have tried, and they have failed, to accomplish such a feat during the Lamar Jackson era. They lost 27-24 in 2018, they lost 33-28 in 2019, and they got drubbed 34-20 last year. Despite being considered Kansas City’s closest peer in the AFC over the last three seasons, the Ravens have pretty clearly not been on the same level.

So it has to give them a serious infusion of confidence to not only know they can beat the big bad Chiefs, but that they actually did it. Inside that locker room has to be a belief that if they can beat Kansas City in a primetime game, in comeback fashion no less, that they can beat anybody. Time will tell exactly what that is worth, but I’m betting that it has to be worth something.

It’s generally a losing play to lay more than a touchdown with the road team, and it’s rarely my practice to roll with a team who just came off such an emotional win. I’m bypassing both of those red flags since I think the Ravens tend to beat up on bad teams, and 8 points doesn’t feel like enough of a deterrent for me to be interested in the underdog.

Score prediction: Ravens 34, Lions 17

2. Chicago Bears (+7) at Cleveland Browns

It’s my belief that within the Bears locker room there has to be a ton of excitement that Justin Fields, who will be making his first career start, is their starting QB. After four years of Mitch Trubisky and two games of Andy Dalton — two of the most uninspiring quarterbacks in the NFL — Chicago finally has a guy they can believe in.

I don’t know if he has the game that can justify such belief, but it has to be a shot in the arm. The Bears have been some of the NFL’s biggest underachievers over the last five years, a team that has always had a sturdy (if not great) defense that has constantly been let down by an offense that hasn’t held up their end of the bargain. I’m betting that Justin Fields has the juice to keep both sides of the ball motivated enough to keep this to a one possession game.

After all, it is Chicago versus Cleveland. This game is going to be decided at the line of scrimmage. I expect the Bears to run a shitload of zone read and Run Pass Option — since that is what Fields is most comfortable with — and I also expect the Browns, who are without their best possession receiver, Jarvis Landry, to run the ball a lot (which is what they want to do anyway).

Score prediction: Browns 19, Bears 16

3. Miami Dolphins (+4) at Las Vegas Raiders

I don’t know if this sounds like fucked up logic, but is it possible that the Raiders are due for a letdown after beating the Ravens (who are widely considered a top-4 team in the AFC) and Steelers (who knocked off the Bills on the road in Week 1) in consecutive weeks? I think if you are betting on the Dolphins, like I am, then that’s basically what you are betting on.

Second question: Are we sure that Miami’s backup — Jacoby Brissett — is any worse than their starter, Tua Tagovailoa? During my AFC East Preview before the season I wrote about how the Dolphins, who won 10 games last year, were projected for just 8.5 wins despite there being a 17th game on the schedule this year. And my only rationale was that betting markets did not like Tua very much.

That didn’t deter me; I picked Miami to go over their 8.5-win total. I still think this roster is pretty good. But wouldn’t it be the most Raiders thing in the world to win back-to-back games that they were underdogs in, only to lose a game that they were favored? And wouldn’t it be kind of hilarious if the Dolphins offense began looking a lot better with Brissett under center instead of Tua? These are just questions, but I think you know where I stand on it.

Score prediction: Dolphins 23, Raiders 21

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (+7.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals

I don’t have any take on this game. The Jaguars stink, but I want to bet on them when no one else does. This seems like the perfect spot. They were favored by a field goal in Week 1, and they lost by 16. They were 6-point underdogs in Week 2, and they lost by 10. This 7.5-point spread against a 2-0 team just seems like such a trap for those who believe in Arizona. Give me the points, even though I probably won’t watch even one second of this contest.

Score prediction: Cardinals 27, Jaguars 23

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