Week 3 of the NFL season got underway on Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns earned the win and cover against the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, we still have 15 games on the slate for this weekend. Let's take a look at three pairs of games with similar point spreads and try to break down which side we'd rather be on.
Bills or Chiefs?
The Buffalo Bills have looked unstoppable to open the NFL season, as they've defeated the defending Super Bowl champions and last season's No. 1 seed in the AFC by a combined score of 72-17. This week, they head to Miami where they are 5.5-point favorites against the Dolphins on a short week. Elsewhere, the Kansas City Chiefs are 2-0 and head to Indianapolis to meet the reeling Colts. Indianapolis is 0-1-1 and their offense has been putrid. Kansas City is a 5.5-point road favorite over the Colts. Which of these two well-regarded road favorites would you rather back?
Greg: The Colts were missing a stable of key players in Week 2 so I’m willing to give them the first clean pass they’ve seen all year. Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce and Shaquille Leonard are all back at practice and will need to suit up for Indy to have a chance in this game. The giant red flag here is the line dropping from -7 to -5.5 while 66% of the money is on Kansas City.
It’s so funny how Tua Tagovailoa went from skipping passes off the ground in Week 1 to the fifth-shortest MVP odds after a couple breakdowns in the Ravens’ battered secondary last week. Buffalo’s entire secondary is injured, so it could be déjà blue in Miami. While I’m a Tua skeptic, I’m a huge believer in Mike McDaniel and how he’s built this team puts them in position to succeed. The Dolphins are more of a live dog than the Colts, so I’ll take the Chiefs.
Pete: Both the Dolphins and Bills are receiving a lot of hype after their impressive wins last week. However, I think this is a bad spot for Buffalo. It's a short week after playing on Monday and it'll be near 90 degrees in Miami on Sunday. Buffalo has already ruled out some key players, including standout safety Micah Hyde. I'm not rushing to lay the points with the Bills this week.
As far as Indianapolis, Matt Ryan looks pretty near cooked. Of course, there's a chance that's a premature judgement but the early results are bad. If the Chiefs hone in on Jonathan Taylor (they will), it's hard to see a Matt Ryan-led passing offense keeping pace. Kansas City has been just fine without Tyreek Hill and I can see them winning a 31-17 type of game here. I'll roll with Kansas City as well.
Raiders or Saints?
Both the Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints fell apart late in Week 2 en route to losing their games. The Raiders meet the Titans in Week 3 with both teams winless. It's Week 3, but this feels like a bit of an elimination game as rebounding from an 0-3 start is nearly impossible based on history (just over 3% chance of making the playoffs). Las Vegas is a 2.5-point road favorite in Tennessee. Elsewhere, the New Orleans Saints are a 2.5-point road favorite in Carolina against Baker Mayfield and the Panthers. It's a last stand for Carolina as it looks to avoid an 0-3 start and they are a home underdog in a divisional game. Which road favorite would you rather bet?
Greg: The Raiders are allowing the sixth-fewest yards per carry, Tennessee’s offensive line is crumbling, and Derrick Henry is declining faster than crypto prices. Things won’t get much better through the air for the Titans against Nate Hobbs and an impressive Vegas secondary. I’m counting on Derek Carr to play better than he has the first two weeks and for the Raiders to take this one on the road.
MK-Ultra, McDonald’s bubble gum-flavored broccoli, Baker Mayfield – these are all experiments gone horribly wrong. It’s ironic how watching Baker makes me want to go full Sylvia Plath. There’s talent on this Panthers team, but Matt Rhule is conducting a trainwreck in slo-mo. It’s all Saints day for me.
Pete: In the last set of games, I faded the Colts because I'm not sure how much Matt Ryan has left. I'm applying similar logic here in fading the Titans. If Derrick Henry has declined by even 20%, that's a serious issue for this year's Titans. He certainly looks slower since returning from his foot injury last season. If Henry is even simply above average instead of elite, this might be a long season in Tennessee.
In the Saints/Panthers, I'm not sure how one can continue putting their hard-earned post-tax dollars on Matt Rhule and the Panthers. The Baker Mayfield experiment has not produced results yet. I think the Saints terrorize Baker behind that weak Panthers offensive line and New Orleans does enough on offense. I'm marching with the Saints as well.
Falcons or Packers?
The Atlanta Falcons are 0-2 straight up but they are 2-0 against the spread to open the season. This week, the Falcons are 1-point road underdogs against the Seahawks in Seattle. Elsewhere, the Green Bay Packers are 1-point road underdogs in Tampa Bay against the Buccaneers in what could be the last-ever meeting between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Which short road underdog would you rather bet?
Greg: It only took a week for Geno Smith to write back. The Falcons are playing quite well for a team that was ranked 45th coming into the season. They’re not anything close to a playoff team, but Dean Pees’ defense has some spunk and Marcus Mariota is moving the offense along with rookie receiver Drake London. It wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta blows the Seahawks out in Seattle.
The Packers and Bucs have a combined 10 receivers who are either injured or suspended. All I want in this game is a reversal of last year’s Bucs-Jets matchup, where a shirtless Antonio Brown emerges from the tunnel in the third quarter, runs to the Tampa sideline, suits up and demands to enter the game. It may be awhile before the Bucs heal up and find their groove on offense, but their defense is clamping, allowing just 13 points through two weeks. There are so many possible outcomes to this game that I’m staying away. Give me the Falcons.
Pete: I hate to agree with Greg on all three games, but here we are.
The total for Packers/Buccaneers is set at just 42 points, which says a lot about the current status of these teams. It's the lowest team total for Green Bay since 2014 when Aaron Rodgers is under center. It's the lowest team total for Tampa Bay in the Tom Brady era. Both defenses are good, both offenses are banged up and have legitimate question marks. It seems like both Todd Bowles and Matt LaFleur seem content to run the ball and lean on their defense, which is shocking when you look at the two quarterbacks involved. This game will probably be decided by a late field goal and I can see it going either way. I'm staying away.
As for Atlanta-Seattle, the Seahawks used adrenaline and motivation to beat Denver, a team we are already certain is poorly coached. I still think the Seahawks aren't very good. I don't think the Falcons are very good either, but they've shown they can be competitive. I'll take Marcus Mariota over Geno Smith. Keep your point, Atlanta wins straight up.