Viewers are in for a heck of an early Sunday slate with a few games over a 50 total. Get your best bets, predictions, and picks for the NFL Week 3 slate. Which features Mahomes on the road against the Colts, Brady Vs. Rodgers, Allen Vs. Tua and a Philadelphia team looking to go 3-0.
NFL Week 3 Best Bets, Predictions, & Picks
Week 2 of the NFL season had its fair share of ups and downs, but there was plenty of exciting action to be had across the board. We’re starting to learn more about who these teams will be this season, which will allow us to have sharper bets moving forward.
As a reminder, I won’t end up with all of my picks published in this article, but you can follow me on Twitter @wayne_sports_ where I’ll post the latest on bets I’m taking throughout the week. Let’s dive into some Week 3 lines.
NFL Best Bets YTD: 21-13 (61.7%)
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
Game Info: Sunday, September 25, 1:00 PM EST
Sharp money has been flooding in on the Colts, and situationally, it makes sense. The offseason look-ahead line for this game was -3 to the Chiefs, and theoretically, there should be value on the home team after a swing of four points to Kansas City. The Colts were shut out last week in Jacksonville, their house of horrors where they are 1-13-1 ATS in their last 15 games. However, the Colts’ defense is in trouble against Patrick Mahomes.
Rather than follow the public and take the Chiefs against the spread, however, I’m attacking their points total here. Gus Bradley’s Cover 3 scheme is outdated and ineffective – the Colts rank second-worst in completion percentage allowed to start the year despite facing Davis Mills and Trevor Lawrence. They also have the worst pass-rush grade in football per PFF, making it even more difficult for their coverage to hold up.
Patrick Mahomes has torched Gus Bradley’s defense throughout his career. In seven games against Bradley, Mahomes has 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions. It doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. When asked about his scheme and Mahomes’s success against single-high safeties and Cover 3 looks, Bradley said he disagrees that he hasn’t been successful against Mahomes, and “points wise, [they] held him down last year.”
what in the world is Gus Bradley talking about "holding down" Mahomes in single-high last year?
vs his Raiders D when playing single-high last year, Mahomes:
+0.46 EPA/att, 60% success, 10.1 YPA, 71% comp
1 punt in a 41-14 KC win w 0 DEF TDs
1 punt in a 48-7 KC win w 1 DEF TD pic.twitter.com/Ot6TGxPFMs
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 22, 2022
Points wise, Bradley’s Raiders defense allowed 89 total points in two games against the Chiefs in 2021. While the rest of the NFL intelligently played more Cover 2 concepts against Kansas City, Bradley remained stubborn and devoted to his “system.” Mahomes was a combined 55 of 74 passing (74.3%) with 664 yards and seven touchdowns against Bradley last year. I’ll be looking to play Mahomes props this week, and my best bet for the game is on the Kansas City points total.
Best Bet: Chiefs Team Total Over 27.5 Points
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Game Info: Sunday, September 25, 1:00 PM EST
Primetime Kirk Cousins was back in action on Monday night, and it was his worst primetime performance of his career by EPA. On his way to three interceptions and a pathetic 51.1 passer rating, the Vikings showed they have some things to work on. Kevin O’Connell and his staff failed to make adjustments throughout the game while Cousins was pressured 16 total times behind an offensive line that played miserably. The Lions will be licking their chops here after registering five sacks and 31 total pressures last week, per PFF.
Minnesota’s offense should have success overall. The Lions are allowing 30 points per game, and their secondary has struggled. Slowing down the likes of Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, and Adam Thielen won’t be easy, and a home game during the day provides plenty of opportunity for a bounce-back for the Vikings offense. This game also profiles as a great matchup for Kirk Cousins due to the Lions playing man coverage at a 37% rate, the highest in the NFL. Cousins is the most efficient passer in the NFL over the last three years against man coverage based on EPA/att and ranks first with 9.1 yards per attempt.
On the other side, the Detroit offense has been electric. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson is drawing national attention as he has consistently put his players in position to succeed. After 22.5% of Jared Goff’s passes were at or behind the line of scrimmage last season, that number has dropped to 9.9% as the offense has pushed the ball down the field. Amon-Ra St. Brown has been dominant to start this season, and really ever since Johnson took Anthony Lynn’s spot as the OC late last year. St. Brown ranks top-ten for receptions, yardage, touchdowns, and yards per route run.
Perhaps more importantly, the Lions will be able to dominate with their rushing offense. Minnesota ranks last in the NFL in rush defense DVOA, last in EPA per rush allowed, and second-worst in yards per carry allowed. D’Andre Swift leads the NFL in yards per carry, and the offensive line leads the league in yards before contact per attempt, as you can see in the chart below.
The Lions' offensive line has been banged up so far and they still FAR outpace the rest of the league in yards before contact per run, elite play from that unit pic.twitter.com/4tB2718NeZ
— Jacob Wayne (@wayne_sports_) September 19, 2022
I’m always looking for opportunities to fade the public, and I especially hate betting on a public underdog, but I can’t ignore the Lions’ hot start to this season. The last three games between these teams have been decided by a combined six points, and I love the way the Lions are playing with tenacity and creativity on both sides of the ball. The over is also the play here as the total has gone over in three of the last four games between these sides.
Best Bet: Lions +7 (bet to +6) and over 52.5 points
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
There’s a lot of public love for the Bills right now, and it makes sense – they are 14-7 straight up since the start of last season, and all 14 wins have come by 12+ points. They have beaten their two opponents, the Rams and Titans, by 27.5 points per game this year. Buffalo’s defense ranks first in DVOA this year after finishing first in DVOA last year, and they appear to be borderline unbeatable. However, they played the second-easiest schedule of offenses last season, and so far this year, they have faced two opponents in the Rams (20th) and Titans (29th) who rank well below average in offensive DVOA.
That isn’t the case this week. Miami enters this game ranked second in the NFL in offensive DVOA with the best receiving corps in football featuring Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Tua Tagovailoa threw for 469 yards and six touchdowns last week against the Ravens. While Von Miller will be able to put more pressure on Tagovailoa than the Ravens could, the Bills will be without defensive linemen Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips. In addition, Buffalo is set to be without Tre’Davious White, Dane Jackson, and Micah Hyde while Jordan Power may not play. An injured secondary against Hill and Waddle is a recipe for disaster.
Meanwhile, the style of defense that Miami plays should be conducive to success for Josh Allen. In their last seven games against the Dolphins, the Bills have averaged 37 points per game, and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer remains in Miami with his blitz-heavy, man coverage scheme. Miami is playing man at the third-highest rate in the NFL and blitzing at the second-highest rate on early downs, but they get the second-worst pressure rate in the league. With that, the Dolphins have allowed a league-high 12.2 yards per completion so far this season.
Josh Allen has destroyed the blitz so far this season with the sixth-best rate in EPA per attempt and the fourth-best success rate. He also ranks top-ten against man coverage this year. Gabriel Davis is questionable for this week’s game, but with Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox, Isaiah McKenzie, and Jake Kumerow, the Bills have plenty of weapons to beat the Dolphins’ defense. That will be especially true if Xavien Howard, who has had success against Diggs in prior matchups, is unavailable.
My favorite bet from this game is on the over, which has been steadily climbing throughout the week. You can still get it at 52.5 at some places, and I would play it up to 54.5. I lean towards the Dolphins being able to make this a game against the a banged up Buffalo defense, but I want to see how the injury report shakes out – Terron Armstead and Howard are both questionable and are key pieces for Miami. For now, I’m simply playing the over here, but follow me on Twitter @wayne_sports_ and I’ll let you know if I end up betting the Dolphins live.
Best Bet: Over 52.5 Points (play to 54.5) and possibly Dolphins live bet (+7 or better)
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
Game Info: Sunday, September 25, 1:00 PM EST
For the third straight week, the Bengals are set to be a heavy public side with around 75% of the bets appearing to be on their side for this game. However, this time, I’m siding with the public and taking the Bengals to cover the spread. My biggest concern over the first two weeks was the lack of chemistry along the Cincinnati offensive line as they were set to face the likes of T.J. Watt and Micah Parsons, and that rang true.
However, the Jets simply don’t have anyone who can pressure Burrow like the Steelers and Cowboys did. The Jets rank 21st in pressure rate and have the fourth-slowest average time to pressure (2.74 seconds) in the NFL, per TruMedia. New York has allowed the second-highest dropback EPA this season, despite facing Jacoby Brissett last week, and they rank second-worst in defensive EPA per play overall.
Perhaps the Jets’ defensive line breaks out against the Bengals’ offensive line, but I’m betting on the reverse as this looks like the ultimate get-right spot for the Bengals. Cincinnati is averaging just 4.0 yards per play on early downs, the lowest rate in the NFL per TruMedia. Joe Burrow has been sacked at least once on 50% of the Bengals’ drives, the highest rate in the NFL by far.
The ugly truth about the Bengals is they weren’t particularly efficient offensively last season. They ranked just 11th in EPA per play and 17th in offensive success rate. However, they ranked fifth in explosive pass play rate. Those big plays haven’t been there to start the season, but Burrow will have more time in the pocket against the Jets this week to find Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins against what is likely to be an overmatched secondary and a pass-rush that won’t be able to get home.
The Jets are coming off a highly emotional, come-from-behind win against the Browns that was highly improbable. That type of effort can lead to a letdown spot the following week. Meanwhile, the Bengals are playing with desperation as they can’t go 0-3 to start the year and expect to get back to the postseason, let alone the Super Bowl. The Jets rank last in defensive DVOA, and they provide the perfect get-right spot for the Bengals.
Best Bet: Bengals -4.5 (bet to -6)
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Game Info: Sunday, September 25, 1:00 PM EST
Yeah, I know. We’re back. I’m not too ashamed to admit I’ve had bet the Panthers in both weeks so far, and I agree with Matt Rhule that they’ve been close in both games – I missed the covers by a total of three points. We’re running it back here, and this is a good spot to back the Panthers and bank on desperation. Per Action Network, winless teams are 14-6-1 ATS (70%) in division games since 2010.
While Carolina has two losses and New Orleans is 1-1, the Panthers have been the better team by offensive, defensive, and special teams DVOA. The Panthers also have -5 “hidden points” per Football Outsiders. Hidden points represent “the advantage teams have received from elements of special teams generally out of their control: opposing field goals, kickoff distance, and punt distance.”
You can obviously point to coaching miscues to explain some of that “hidden points” metric, but it also shows that if a couple of things bounced differently, this team could be sitting at 2-0 right now. Nevertheless, Panthers’ ownership isn’t interested in what ifs. It’s interested in winning football games, and if Matt Rhule doesn’t start doing that soon he won’t be long for this league. Baker Mayfield is also fighting for a role as a starter in the future.
Meanwhile, the Saints are fighting to stay healthy. Jameis Winston is working through multiple back fractures and an ankle issue that might keep him out this week. Alvin Kamara is still recovering from his ribs injury while offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and defensive backs Marcus Maye, Paulson Adebo, and Alontae Taylor have all been limited in practice.
According to Action Network, Jameis Winston is just 8-18-1 (30.8%) ATS as a favorite, and now he’s dealing with significant injuries. He threw three fourth-quarter interceptions last week. Can the Panthers improve upon their third-down and red zone struggles? I’m willing to say yes, at least to the degree that I’m willing to back them as a home underdog in a divisional game against a team fighting through injuries.
Best Bet: Panthers +3 (bet to ML)
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Game Info: Sunday, September 25, 1:00 PM EST
The Rams are off to an unconvincing start to this season, but a matchup against the Cardinals provides them a perfect opportunity to elevate their play. Sean McVay is 10-1 straight up and 9-1-1 ATS against the Cardinals in his coaching career with the Rams, making them his most profitable opponent. This is a brutal matchup for Arizona and an excellent one for Los Angeles for a handful of reasons.
Kyler Murray put together some magic in the fourth quarter of the game against the Raiders, but it was primarily due to his rushing capability and not his deep passing. After ranking fourth in EPA per attempt on passes of 10+ yards downfield in 2021, Murray ranks 34th out of 34 qualified passers this year. That’s partially due to the absence of DeAndre Hopkins as he’s currently suspended, and Arizona hasn’t had enough reliable pass-catchers.
Murray has especially struggled under pressure as PFF has tracked him with three turnover-worthy plays and no big-time throws on 25 dropbacks with pressure. He’s completed just 30% of his passes for 39 yards in those situations. With Aaron Donald providing the push, the Rams have a high-level pass-rush, and they also lead the NFL in EPA against the run. Their defense should continue to round into form.
Matthew Stafford can also take advantage of an Arizona secondary that grades as PFF’s worst in coverage and ranks as the third-worst in dropback EPA. An unpressured Stafford with time to throw to an open Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson is a losing proposition for Arizona. In addition to the clear schematic and personnel advantages of the Rams, McVay is 5-1-1 ATS and 6-1 SU in his career against Kliff Kingsbury.
McVay’s six wins against Kingsbury have come by an average of 14.2 points per game and each one has come by at least a touchdown. We’re getting added value here after the Falcons’ surprising back-door cover and the Cardinals’ unlikely comeback win. With a huge coaching edge, monumental personnel advantage, and market dynamics creating additional value, the Rams look like one of the best bets on the board in Week 3.
Best Bet: Rams -3.5 (bet to -4.5)
Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks
Game Info:Sunday, September 25, 4:25 PM EST
The Seahawks have been the worst offense in football over their last six quarters. They came out on fire against the Broncos in Week 1 and scored 17 points in the first half, but they haven’t scored any offensive points since. Their lone touchdown against the 49ers came on a blocked field goal that they returned for a touchdown. Geno Smith has thrown for just 228 yards over his last six quarters – that’s painfully low.
In the second half against the Broncos, the Seahawks generated -0.412 EPA per play. That improved slightly to -0.283 EPA per play against the Niners in Week 2, but both numbers would be the worst in the NFL so far and would have been the worst in the league last season by far. The Atlanta defense isn’t elite – they rank just 25th in EPA per play allowed – but they have the personnel to slow down Seattle.
A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward Jr. are a dynamic cornerback duo capable of stopping D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett while Grady Jarrett is capable of wreaking havoc on a Seattle interior offensive line that has struggled mightily. Seattle ranks as the third-worst pass-blocking offensive line in the league per PFF. Geno Smith has surprisingly completed 91.7% of his passes against the blitz this year, but the Falcons have only blitzed at a 29.8% rate, and they will be content to sit back and force Smith to make difficult throws.
The Atlanta offense has been surprisingly dynamic as it ranks 12th in the league in DVOA, and it’s top-13 in both passing and rushing DVOA despite facing two defenses that ranked in the top-five of DVOA last year. Seattle ranks just 25th in defensive DVOA this season. Drake London is off to a strong start to his rookie season with 13 catches for 160 yards and a score while Kyle Pitts and Cordarelle Patterson are fully capable of making plays against this overmatched defense.
The Seahawks are 92-67-6 ATS (57.9%) at home over their last 165 games, which is the second-best home-field advantage in the league, behind only the Patriots. However, it’s fair to wonder if the Seahawks’ fans will turn out in numbers for this midday game against a seemingly lousy Falcons team after the egg Seattle laid last season. With the better players on both sides of the ball, I love these feisty Falcons to get their first win of the season.
Best Bet: Falcons ML
Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Game Info: Sunday, September 25, 4:25 PM EST
The Buccaneers’ offense was hampered by injuries all summer, and it’s only gotten worse to start the season. Chris Godwin and Julio Jones didn’t practice on Thursday, while Russell Gage and Breshad Perriman were limited. Mike Evans is suspended for this week’s game after the altercation with Marshon Lattimore. Tampa Bay signed Cole Beasley this week, which indicates their concern about their available pass-catching personnel. Green Bay can be run on, but they will limit explosive plays.
The Bucs’ pass protection has also been a problem. Ryan Jensen and Aaron Stinnie are out while Donovan Smith is questionable and Josh Wells hit the IR. The Bucs rank 22nd in the NFL in PFF’s team pass-blocking grades, and now they have to face a Packers’ pass rush featuring Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, and Kenny Clark. Green Bay ranks ninth in PFF’s team pass-rush grade.
Tampa’s defense has kept them afloat this season as they lead the league in EPA per play allowed and rank second in DVOA. Those numbers are slightly inflated after Dak Prescott suffered an injury in their first game and Jameis Winston played through injuries in their second game, but it’s impressive nonetheless. The stars in particular have been Antoine WInfield, Shaquill Barrett, and Jamel Dean.
Green Bay seemed to find its offensive identity against the Bears last week after scoring just seven points against the Vikings in Week 1, but Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, and Christian Watson are all listed as questionable for this game. So too are top offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins. Green Bay’s offense will rely on Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon, but their passing game will be limited.
Full disclosure – I bet on the Packers as the injuries rolled in for the Bucs, but now I’m concerned about Green Bay’s available personnel. I’m still taking the Packers this week, and I would take them at anything resembling plus money value, but I’m locking in the under as a best bet here. With the defenses on both sides having the edge, particularly in the pass-rush, it’s hard to imagine many explosive plays, and I like the under at anything over 40 points.
Best Bet: Under 42 Points
San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos
Game Info: Sunday, September 25, 8:20 PM EST
The Nathaniel Hackett experience has been miserable. The Broncos won last week, but it hardly felt like a win as they barely escaped the game. Here’s a bullet point list of everything that has gone wrong for Denver through two games:
- 25 penalties, the most in the NFL – second-most is 18
- Four delay-of-game penalties – they had two all of last season
- Most lost offensive EPA by penalties by a Broncos team since at least 2000, per TruMedia
- No touchdowns on five goal-to-go situations despite Hackett being the offensive coordinator for a Packers team that ranked second in red-zone efficiency over his three seasons in Green Bay
To be fair, there are some positives. The offensive line has been good – they rank second in both pass-blocking and run-blocking per PFF’s team grades. They haven’t allowed a touchdown in the past six quarters, and Russell Wilson ranks fifth among quarterbacks in EPA per play. However, that has all come against the Seahawks and Texans, two of the worst teams in the NFL. This week, they face a 49ers team that is among the most efficient.
To make matters worse for Denver, defensive leader Justin Simmons is on IR while starters Patrick Surtain, D.J. Jones, and Dre’Mont Jones are on the injury report. The Joneses are essential to this team’s ability to generate interior pressure, and Surtain and Simmons are two elite players in the secondary. Facing Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle without those players is a terrifying proposition.
Wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler also may not play, and Denver was essentially down to one receiver in Courtland Sutton in the second half last week. San Francisco’s defense has been outstanding, particularly with the emergence of Talanoa Hufanga, and it’s tough to trust Wilson against them right now, especially if he’s down key offensive personnel. The Niners rank third in the NFL in defensive EPA per play allowed.
Whenever anything becomes a major talking point on First Take and similar shows, it’s typically a clear indication that we can find value in fading the narrative. However, the 49ers have a massive coaching edge here, and they are a well-oiled machine with Shanahan and Garoppolo. San Francisco is 29-21-1 ATS with Jimmy G under center, and Russell Wilson is 2-9 ATS in his last 11 starts in primetime.
I’m a Broncos fan, and I would love nothing more than to see my team bounce back with a big win in primetime. However, I have to be realistic about the way things are going, and this matchup terrifies me. Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson have a lot of work to do to get on the same page, and I’m expecting growing pains in the short term. The 49ers will be a popular public play on Sunday Night Football, but I believe it’s the right one.
Best Bet: 49ers ML (bet to -2.5)