A topsy-turvy NFL Week 2 saw injuries to notable players interspersed with a multiple double-digit road wins and another game where the Miami Dolphins looked like they could potentially be the worst team the NFL has seen in decades. Outside of a couple of spots – one a sacrificial-lamb road trip for Miami to Big D in which Miami is already a three-touchdown underdog — Week 3 shapes up as an interesting one to prognosticate based on how the landscape shapes up as of Monday.
Without further ado, let’s dive into some first impressions on what shapes up as a highly interesting slate. Here’s a live look at the lines at sportsbooks in the US.
NFL Week 3 lines
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Week 3 analysis and predictions
Tennessee Titans (-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars — Thursday night
As suspected, the Titans and Marcus Mariota somewhat turned back into a pumpkin in Week 2 following a spectacular second half versus the Browns in Week 1. Tennessee ultimately put together an uninspired offensive outing against the Colts that has often been a signature of the Marcus Mariota era. Derrick Henry does continue to look in fine form, but the puzzle that the Titans’ receiver corps has often proven to be in recent seasons looks as perplexing as ever.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars also dropped a close decision to the Texans on the road. However, looked at through the lens of their current quarterback situation, that can be viewed in a much different perspective than the Titans’ home loss while at full health. Jacksonville managed nine fourth-quarter points and rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew was impressive for a second straight week while compiling 269 total yards (213 passing, 56 rushing) and not throwing any interceptions. His three fumbles, only one which was recovered by the Texans, is an issue. But his rapport with both Chris Conley (4-73) and DJ Chark (7-55) for a second straight week is encouraging.
The oddsmakers see this game as very evenly matched and rightly so. The Titans are 3-7 (NFL-worst 30.0 percent) ATS as an away favorite during the Marcus Mariota era (2015-present). Tennessee is also 11-13-1 (45.8 percent) versus the number in division games over the last four-plus seasons. In turn, Jacksonville boasts a 13-10-2 (56.5 percent) mark against the spread in AFC South tilts over that stretch.
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-21)
The Pats took full advantage of their early-season “free square” against the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday. They now face a slightly stiffer challenge in the form of the Jets. How much more resistance Gang Green presents remains to be seen, however. They’ll be traveling on a short week and taking on New England with Luke Falk and not Sam Darnold (illness) or even Trevor Siemian (IR-ankle) at quarterback. Le’Veon Bell is also currently dealing with a sore shoulder that could potentially get further banged up versus an aggressive Browns front Monday night.
New England has literally looked a bulletproof team that’s even more impressive than last year’s Super Bowl-winning edition. The Antonio Brown Experiment ended up lasting all of one game, but no matter. Tom Brady still has a full arsenal of offensive weaponry and home field. New England is a mammoth favorite (18-to-18.5 points ) over a division opponent for the second straight week. The Jets’ quarterback situation only further brightens the Patriots’ rosy outlook.
Recent history is not on the side of a Jets moneyline wager no matter how enticing the price. The Patriots are 14-2 straight up against the Jets over the last 16 meetings. The only two defeats were both in overtime. However, a cover at the current spread may be a bit more realistic. Of the aforementioned 14 victories, nine have been by less than the current two-touchdown-plus figure.
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills (-6)
Whatever feel-good vibes and moral victories the Bengals took from their close season-opening road loss to the Seahawks were likely obliterated in a Week 2 dismantling at the hands of the 49ers on Cincinnati’s own home turf. The Bengals’ defense particularly looked lost against a good-but-not-great 49ers offense. For their part, the Bills provided another example that they’re a team on the rise with a strong road win at MetLife Stadium for the second straight week.
Josh Allen continued to demonstrate strong chemistry with his two new top receivers. John Brown and Cole Beasley combined for 12 targets, 11 catches and 155 yards versus the Giants following even more impressive Week 1 efforts. The trio could be licking its collective chops ahead of a date with Cincy’s struggling unit. The one blemish on the Bills’ strong Week 2 showing was the hamstring injury suffered by rookie running back Devin Singletary. It remains to be seen if he’ll be available Week 3. But, the ageless Frank Gore and capable vet T.J. Yeldon make for a capable duo.
The Bills are a strong 5-2-1 (71.4 percent) ATS as home favorites in Sean McDermott’s tenure (2017-present). However, the Bengals were an impressive 5-2 (71.4 percent) against the number as a road underdog last season. Therefore, the six-point projected advantage for Buffalo is an interesting one and will shrink to some extent should A.J. Green (ankle) be deemed ready to make his season debut.
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys (-22)
There are rebuilding projects and then there are the Dolphins, a team that coach Brian Flores appears to have lost only two regular-season games into his tenure. This squad looks 1970s-era Saints, paper-bag-wearing-fans bad, with a level of ineptitude that hasn’t really been seen since parity became much more pervasive over the last two decades-plus.
Then, the Cowboys, which have looked close to hitting on all cylinders at times over two games against a pair of admittedly inferior division opponents, could come off like a combination of the Kurt Warner-era Rams and the ’85 Bears in this Week 3 home matchup. Dallas attacks with lethal balance on offense and an aggressive defense that can get pressure on the quarterback. Josh Rosen could well be the sitting duck under center for Miami in this one. That shouldn’t make much difference.
It’s a jaw-dropping 21-point spread in favor of the Cowboys across featured sportsbooks at the moment. There’s really no NFL precedent in recent history for this type of number. Therefore, looking at traditional trends is of little use. The quadruple-digit plus money on a Dolphins moneyline certainly catches the eye but a Miami win seems like an outright pipe dream at this juncture.
Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
The Broncos have endured a pair of close losses to open the Joe Flacco era. The Week 2 rollercoaster home defeat at the hands of the Bears was particularly a heartbreaker. Denver can’t afford to wallow with a trip to Lambeau Field to face the undefeated Packers on tap. For a change, it’s Green Bay’s defense that largely carrying the team early. The unit has looked several levels above last season’s while often manhandling two division opponents to open the campaign. A test against an unfamiliar interconference foe with some solid offensive weaponry could be a good early litmus test.
Joe Flacco did seem to strengthen his rapport with his capable top receiver duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton late in Sunday’s defeat. Those connections will be critical to the Broncos breaking out of their early-season funk. Green Bay could prove to be a tall order to accomplish that against after the Pack’s secondary made life very difficult on Mitch Trubisky and Kirk Cousins over the first two games.
The Packs’ status as a touchdown-plus favorite is interesting. They were just 3-4 (42.9 percent) as a home favorite in 2018 but did manage to narrowly come through against the number in their Week 2 matchup. Denver has enough talent on both sides of the ball to keep this game closer than a touchdown. Additionally, an outright upset that would cash an attractive moneyline bet isn’t out of the question with the Broncos desperate to sidestep an 0-3 start.
Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5)
The feeling expressed in this space last week was that the Falcons would likely look a lot better on their home turf Sunday night against the Eagles than in enemy territory against a vicious Vikings defense in the opener. Atlanta not only validated that prediction versus Philadelphia, they did one better by grabbing their first win of the season versus a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The Colts were no slouches, either. Facing a division opponent in the Titans that had looked formidable in Week 1, the Colts squeezed out an impressive road victory on the strength of three touchdown passes from Jacoby Brissett. The fourth-year quarterback should continue to improve as the season unfolds. He also draws an exploitable home matchup versus an Atlanta secondary that likely looked a bit better than it is against an Eagles team that lost DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery to in-game injuries in Week 2.
The Colts aren’t quite being afforded the standard three-point home-field advantage in the spread. They check in as 2.5-point favorites in featured sportsbooks. Indy’s defense has the ability to slow down the Falcons in a manner similar to what Atlanta experienced in Week 1 in Minnesota. The Colts were also 3-2-1 (60.0 percent) ATS as home favorites in Frank Reich’s first season at the helm. Meanwhile, the Falcons were an NFL-worst 1-4 ATS as road dogs in 2018 and are already 0-1 this year after their season-opening loss to the Vikes.
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)
The Ravens weren’t likely to continue looking like the juggernaut they came off as when facing the Dolphins in the opener. As mentioned last week, each Miami opponent will probably never look better this season than in the game they face the Fins. Sure enough, Baltimore had its hands full with the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray and the unorthodox Air Raid offense he helms. However, they did enough to pull out the close Week 2 win.
In turn, the Chiefs began life without Tyreek Hill by benefitting from a Hill-like effort from one of the other receivers on their roster — just not the one anyone expected. Demarcus Robinson exploded for 172 yards and two touchdowns to help facilitate a relatively easy win against a division opponent Kansas City has often struggled against on the road, the Raiders.
Something will have to give in this marquee showdown between what looks like two of the top AFC squads. The Ravens were an impressive 4-1 ATS as road underdogs in 2018. The Chiefs sported a just a 5-5 mark versus the number (including the playoffs) as home favorites last season. However, KC was 8-2 (80.0 percent) straight up at Arrowhead in 2018 and Baltimore was a pedestrian 4-4 on the road. A near-touchdown projected advantage for the Chiefs doesn’t afford the Ravens much respect. The combination of Hill’s absence and Baltimore’s strong defense could well keep matters closer, especially if Jimmy Smith is able to return from injury.
Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings (-9)
As just alluded to, the Raiders were subject to a bit of a humbling in Week 2 at the hands of AFC West kingpin Kanas City. Oakland’s offense bore very little resemblance to the unit that had impressed versus the Broncos in Week 1. The stumble against a Chiefs defense that isn’t exactly elite doesn’t bode well for Derek Carr and company’s chances of bouncing back on the road in Week 3 against an exponentially tougher opponent in the Vikings.
Minnesota actually didn’t look anywhere as menacing against the Packers in the tough environment of Lambeau Field in Week 2. However, they’re unquestionably a different team at home. Moreover, Dalvin Cook continued to demonstrate he’s all the way back from his 2017 ACL tear. He proved his season-opening trampling of the Falcons was no fluke by posting a second straight 100-yard rushing effort to open 2019.
The oddsmakers aren’t too thrown by Minnesota’s close loss to a division rival on the road, however. Their projected 8.5-point advantage is elevated but not outlandish when considering the Raiders’ 6-10 mark ATS in the first year of Gruden 2.0, including a 2-6 tally on the road. In turn, the Vikings posted a 4-2-1 mark ATS as home favorites last season and also came through under that circumstance against the Falcons in Week 1.
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles (-5.5)
It wasn’t easy, but the Lions outslugged the visiting Chargers for a tough 13-10 win at home in Week 2. A reasonably well-balanced attack that featured another solid game from Matthew Stafford – albeit one that included two interceptions – led the way, along with a strong effort by the Detroit defense. Additionally, the likes of playmakers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones were a lot more involved after ceding the mantle of top pass-catching threat to rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson in the Week 1 overtime tie with the Cardinals.
The Eagles were battered and bruised during a tough Sunday night loss to the Falcons. No less than Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Corey Clement all exited the game at one point for Philly. That was just on the offensive side of the ball. Tim Jernigan also was sidelined with a broken foot, further depleting Philly’s defensive line. All but Wentz were forced from the contest for good, while Dallas Goedert reinjured his calf in pregame warmups. The status of each of the ailing offensive players is up in the air as of Monday.
Nevertheless, Philadelphia remains favored by a touchdown as the week begins. This is a number that could well shrink as more injury news comes out throughout the week. A flier on the Lions moneyline at +245/+250 isn’t the worst idea in the world at this juncture, either, given the Eagles’ health situation.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (-2)
Only two games in, Ron Rivera’s Panthers look out of sorts, especially in the passing game. This summer, Cam Newton was repeatedly declared fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. However, the veteran quarterback looks like he’s not quite firing at full capacity yet after opening the season with a pair of lackluster showings. Newton has also surprisingly been a non-factor on the ground and the Carolina defense seemed to crater a bit in the latter portion of the Week 2 loss to the Buccaneers after not getting much support from the other side of the ball.
The outlook is much sunnier, pun intended, in the desert. And that’s with the Cardinals checking in with an uninspired 0-1-1 mark heading into Week 3. The play of top overall pick Kyler Murray and several of his receivers has made that mark almost irrelevant for the moment. In what was the first legitimate test of his nascent career, Murray and the Air Raid offense as a whole came through with flying colors versus the Ravens on the road.
All of this made the Cardinals’ status as 2.5-point underdogs and the plus-money on their moneyline bets especially intriguing when the lines first opened on this game. But with Newton’s status in doubt and the Panthers getting embarrassed at home in Week 2, the odds quickly moved in favor of the Cardinals mid-week.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6)
The G-Men are right about where many expected – 0-2 – after their first pair of contests. A short-handed Giants squad in transition has unsurprisingly looked fairly pedestrian for a good chunk of its first two games and has had its occasional flashes of offensive success as well. The latter isn’t surprising when you have a still-capable veteran in Eli Manning that was under center the first two games, as well as an all-world asset at running back in Saquon Barkley. However, playing with their top two receivers Sunday against a tough Bills defense was a bit too much to ask of New York. They suffered a two-touchdown loss.
The Buccaneers are at a different point than New York in their franchise timeline at present. However, that doesn’t necessarily equate to any real clarity as to their actual potential. Tampa Bay did notch a tough road win versus the division-rival Panthers last Thursday. Yet Jameis Winston still looks like he’s acclimating to running coach Bruce Arians’ offense. The duo of Mike Evans and O.J. Howard look even more out of sorts through two games. On a more positive note, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ unit seems to have hit the ground running in its new 3-4 scheme.
It’s still hard to trust the Buccaneers despite the upgrade at head coach this season. Their performance over two games has been uneven to say the least. Plus, home-field advantage proved as elusive in Week 1 as it often has been for Tampa during the Jameis Winston era (2015-present). The Bucs are just 15-18 at Raymond James Stadium during that span, including 9-9 ATS as home favorites. Now, there’s news Tuesday that rookie Daniel Jones will make his first NFL start in Week 3. That could make him a sitting duck against the Bucs’ aggressive defense, but this Giants team still has some talent on offense and could still put up a solid fight should Sterling Shepard clear concussion protocol. Oddsmakers are nonplussed about the switch at quarterback thus far, with the line holding steady. Originally, I thought the 6.5-point spread might ultimately prove a bit much for Tampa. Yet, with Jones making his first start against a defense run by a savvy, veteran coordinator, I can now see a Bucs cover as a much more realistic proposition.
Houston Texans at Los Angeles Chargers (-3)
It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but the Texans took care of their business at home against a feisty Jaguars squad for their first win of the season Sunday. Houston’s offense actually looked much more dynamic in the opener at New Orleans than against a short-handed Jaguars D in Week 2. However, Houston’s defense enjoyed a strong but not necessarily surprising resurgence versus a Gardner Minshew-helmed Jaguars attack.
The Chargers left it all out on the field for a second straight game to open the new season. In contrast to the opener against the Colts, it wasn’t enough Sunday in Detroit. The loss of tight end Hunter Henry to yet another leg injury certainly doesn’t help a Los Angeles offense that’s already missing Melvin Gordon, but Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen continue to prove they’re capable of shouldering plenty of extra responsibility.
The Chargers are being given just an extra half-point advantage over the standard three-point edge for home field here and that seems to shape up about right at the start of the week. Neither team has been a model of consistency in the first two games and both offenses struggled considerably in Week 2. In fact, a wager on the Under of the projected 47.5-48.0-point total might be the surest bet associated with this game at the current lines.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
The Saints will apparently be relying on Teddy Bridgewater and/or Taysom Hill for multiple weeks in the wake of Drew Brees’ projected 6-to-8-week absence following thumb surgery. If their Week 2 loss to the Rams is any indication, that could spell trouble more often than not. However, if Bridgewater does retain a hold of the top job, he’s naturally expected to grow more comfortable and productive in the offense in subsequent weeks. That’s especially true in his case, considering Sunday represented only second taste of meaningful regular-season snaps since January 2016.
The only impediment in the immediate future might be a Week 3 road date against the Seahawks in Seattle. Granted, the ‘Hawks secondary looks like a shell of its former self early now that many of the Legion of Boom’s members are elsewhere. But the front seven looks like a near-elite unit against the run through two contests and therefore has the ability to make the Saints’ offense one-dimensional in a hurry.
The oddsmakers are treading somewhat lightly here by making the undefeated Seahawks relatively modest 5.5-point favorites. The measured take might ultimately prove correct. The Saints still have an offense with enough explosive pieces to put together a very strong performance with the right turn of the key. Whether Bridgewater can be an effective driver is another story. Nevertheless, his pedigree and the chance to prepare throughout the week as a starter could make a notable difference.
Pittsburgh Steelers at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5)
The skies are getting increasingly darker in Pittsburgh even as the air gets crisper and the leaves get set to turn. As if a 33-3 Week 1 shellacking at the hands of the Patriots wasn’t bad enough, the Steelers hold-my-beer-themed Week 2 included losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season to an elbow injury and running back James Conner for a potential multi-game stretch due to a knee issue. They also dropped a two-point decision to the Seahawks at home for good measure, leaving them reeling heading into a cross-country Week 3 trek to San Francisco.
Conversely, the 49ers have the look of one of the league’s most improved teams through two games. Most impressive is the fact they’ve secured a pair of road victories to open the season – traversing multiple time zones for both – and have accomplished them through two very different means. Whereas defense carried the day in Week 1, Jimmy Garoppolo looked like a considerably improved quarterback in Week 2 against the Bengals. Granted, the level of competition wasn’t the most formidable. However, Matt Breida’s stellar day on the ground brought some much-needed balance to the offense and provides a glimpse of how potent the San Fran attack could be.
Seeing a proud Steelers team as 6.5-point underdogs (down from 7.5 earlier in the week) is still a bit of a shock, even with the injuries. The biggest loss here is under center. Pittsburgh could get by with a combo of Jaylen Samuels and rookie Benny Snell for a limited stretch if necessary. A cover and even a moneyline bet on the Steelers here at very appealing +230/+260 prices is in play despite the question marks for the Black and Gold. Mason Rudolph proved serviceable at quarterback in emergency duty and has plenty of preseason game experience the last two summers. He at least has a chance of keeping the offense at an acceptable level with a week to prepare as a starter.
Los Angeles Rams (-4) at Cleveland Browns
So far, so good for the defending NFC champion Rams in their repeat quest. A gritty road win against the Panthers in Week 1 was followed by an anticlimactic triumph over the Saints in an NFC Championship Game rematch. The first-quarter exit of Drew Brees for New Orleans certainly made life infinitely easier on the Rams. In fact, the one thing coach Sean McVay might seize on to hold over his bunch this week is that it took Los Angeles until the fourth quarter to gain definitive separation.
The Browns take the field Monday night versus the short-handed Jets. It’s looking more and more like a potential get-right spot for Cleveland after their embarrassing second-half performance versus the Titans at home in the opener. New York will roll out Trevor Siemian at quarterback and looks like they’ll have a less-than-100-percent Le’Veon Bell due to a shoulder issue.
The way Cleveland looks Monday night will potentially affect the Browns’ three-point underdog status to a degree. An early bet on either a cover or an outright straight-up win isn’t a bad idea here when considering Baker Mayfield and company’s poor Week 1 effort is still influencing matters to an extent and Cleveland was a respectable 2-2 straight up as a home favorite in 2018 with a less talented team.
Chicago Bears (-4.5) at Washington Redskins — Monday night
It’ll likely qualify as one of the most improbable – and ugliest — victories of their season, but the Bears’ Eddy Piniero-authored 16-14 road triumph for the Bears over the Broncos in Week 2 counts just the same as any other win. The Chicago offense does have to be a source of concern, however. Through two games, Mitchell Trubisky looks like he’s turned the nifty trick of regressing in his second year within an offensive system. The 2017 first-round pick is still in search of his first touchdown pass of the season and threw for a meager 120 yards against the Broncos on Sunday while completing under 60.0 percent of his attempts for the second time in as many games. Rookie David Montgomery did have a chance to showcase his ample skills more than in the opener by carrying 18 times against Denver, while the defense looks as fierce and talented as advertised heading into the season.
The good news for the slow-starting Bears is that they won’t be facing a team likely to put much pressure on them to fling it around in the Redskins. Admittedly, Washington has looked more capable on offense than it seemingly has any business doing over the first two games. Case Keenum has appears much more comfortable than pretty much at any point last season in Denver. Moreover, he’s getting it done with a rag-tag group of pass catchers that doesn’t yet include Jordan Reed (concussion).
Nevertheless, Keenum may be hard-pressed to keep up his strong start with the step up in competition the Bears defense represents. The home field may help to an extent, but a 3.5-point projected advantage for a Chicago team that proved it could win on the road in a much tougher environment Sunday appears to be a level-headed assessment.