Week 3 NFL Picks – Picks Against the Spread

September 24, 2020

I can’t drive home enough how much injuries are impacting this season. I made a list last week of the skill position players that were already injured, and that list was *before* last week’s carnage that took out Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Davante Adams and a slew of others.

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We are just settling into the season now, but hoping this week doesn’t bring the same amount of injuries. Given the nature of this unique offseason, I would say player conditioning and team chemistry is now somewhere around the point of where it would be around the third or fourth preseason game in a normal season. We should see the injury rate settle down within 2-3 weeks and have a complete grasp on the ability of each team by then. We do have a good bit of information now, and the oddsmakers are starting to catch up.

We don’t see that many NFL games with totals in the mid 50s, but here we are this week with three of them. I was hoping for some errors on those games with totals set more in the normal range, but we don’t get to attack those. We do however get to attack three favorites that should absolutely roll on their opponents, and with favorable lines. We also get one over play that doesn’t have a line set nearly high enough.

We will get to those in a moment, but first lets run through how we did last week.

Win – Tamp Bay/Carolina Over 47.5
This one barely got home, but it did get home, and after as low of a scoring pace as we could have imagined in the first half. Carolina is a team that I will continue to hammer overs on, and hint hint, they might just pop up later in the piece.

Loss – Steelers -7
This one was a bummer, as Pittsburgh lead and covered most of the way in this game, but Denver was able to muster a back door cover with a fourth quarter touchdown. This game was not as close as the final score might suggest.

Loss – Cowboys -4.5
The Cowboys lost three fumbles early in the game, and conceded 26 points to the Falcons in the first half due to those turnovers. They faced a 26-7 deficit late in the second quarter, and it looked bleak. Things normalized after that point and the poorly coached Falcons allowed the Cowboys to come all the way back, and the Cowboys actually won the game. The issue was they won 40-39 and did not secure the cover. An unfortunate series of turnovers early in the game doomed this play.

Win – Minnesota/Indianapolis Under 48.5
This one was in great shape throughout, as the scoring pace was completely absent, with only three points in the first quarter and then just 18 points at the half. The Vikings offense was nothing short of pitiful and the 28-11 final was a comfortable win.

Win – Cardinals -7
This game was essentially decided in the first half. The Cardinals jumped out early and never looked back. They took a 20-0 lead into the locker room and comfortably cruised to a 30-15 win that was never in danger of losing the cover.

The 3-2 week brings us to 6-5 on the season.

Let’s get to this week’s four plays. If you’re a new Draft Kings user, they are running a fun promotion this week. You pick any NFL game, and a winning ticket returns $100 on a $1 wager. Take advantage of this! Go to DraftKings

Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers

Betting Play: Steelers -4.5

1PM EST
Opening Line: Steelers -6 and 45
Current Line: Steelers -4 and 45

We kick off this week’s betting slate with a line movement that I simply can’t wrap my head around in any sense. The Texans are a paper tiger and it fairly apparent they won’t be anything resembling a playoff team in 2020. We could see it coming a mile away, but its almost like trading away the best wide receiver in the league for a washed running back was going to be a bad idea. Well, it was. They will be unable to run the ball, at all, against the nasty Steeler defense. They are also somewhat inadequate in the passing game as well, without, again, the best wide receiver in the league. This offense would be hard pressed to keep pace with the Steelers if the Steelers didn’t have a nasty defensive unit at all levels, but given the fact that they do, we are unlikely to see a close game here.

On the other side of the ball, the Steelers have been blessed with an absolute star at wide receiver, and it isn’t Juju Smith-Schuester. That man is Diontae Johnson, and from my vantage point, he is already one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He will continue to be uncoverable and the team will continue to send volume his way and keep the scoreboard churning. The Texans have been lit up for 67 points by two high end offenses in the first two weeks, and we will see a continuation in week 3. There is no excuse for allowing this to be a one score line, and we are taking the Steelers to roll in this one.

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Tennessee Titans at Minnesota Vikings

Betting Play: Titans -2.5

1PM EST
Opening Line: Pickem and 45.5
Current Line: Titans -2.5 and 49.5

If you followed this column last year, it probably read something like a Ryan Tannehill fan account on every given week. Well, that is going to continue, at least for now, as that man has simply balled out as the Titans have had some issues getting their running game going. Even if the Titans have struggles running the ball early on in this one, it seems a foregone conclusion they will be able to run it often later on in this one after Tanny gets the early point son the board.

The Vikings have the appearance of the one of, if not the absolute worst team in the league. Their offense is hapless, and even if they are able to get something going on that side of the ball, they have very real problems on defense. This young unit and secondary was already a question mark heading into the season, and have been blasted through two weeks. Now with key injuries in the front seven, they will be something of a turnstile. Despite teams like the Falcons and Panthers being so inept defensively, the Vikings are currently the best bet to allow the most points on the season. I cannot understate how much this defense is a disaster.

When oddsmakers drop the ball this badly and open a game like this at a pickem, there isn’t enough one sided money to move the line to a point where it should be set. At less than a field goal, the Titans are an absolute smash and have the feel of a blowout winner.

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Carolina Panthers at Los Angeles Chargers

Betting Play: Over 43.5

4:05PM EST
Opening Line: Chargers -6.5 and 44
Current Line: Chargers -6.5 and 43.5

We touched on the Panthers defense being a real problem in the last week review section, and now we get to their game this week with a total set at just 43.5. Through two weeks, they’ve allowed 64 points and at least 31 in both games. I am going to beat the drum that says this will be a weekly trend and the backs of any team, and in this case the Chargers, will lead the way in demolishing them. Even without Christian McCaffrey they have enough talent in place on offense to score at least into the mid teens every week, and will be an over team to attack throughout the season. In this case, the Chargers have been a slow low scoring team, and I understand a total can’t be set over 50 in the particular matchup. The thing is, 43.5 is roughly the rock bottom floor outcome when I believe every team will score cloe to or into the 30s on Carolina. It won’t take much from the offense to help the over him in those scenarios and this is simply a no brainer of a play.

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Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals

Betting Play: Cardinals -5.5

4:25PM EST
Opening Line: Cardinals -3.5 and 51
Current Line: Cardinals -5.5 and 55.5

This current line compared to the opening line is something of bettors clamoring for sports books to break off from previous years trends and embrace the new normal of 2020. I mentioned he mid 50s lines being something of a rarity in previous seasons, but now we have three just this week, with this game being one of them after being correctly bet upwards. We actually had four totals open over 50 this week and all four have been bet upwards. I think three of those four betting trends are correct and this game is one of the three. I wanted to touch on that in a broader sense than in this game as there may be exploitable opportunities moving forward, there just isn’t this week.

Moving on to the play in this game, it is another favorite that opened at a far too low spot, and it was so far off that no matter how much early money was pumped into that side, the line was still going to offer value no matter what. The Cardinals offense has emerged as one of the best in the league, and its no surprise as they were the recipient of Deandre Hopkins in the trade with Houston that we mentioned earlier. They are running the offense at the preferred pace and have been extremely effective through two weeks. Enter the Lions, which is their first easy defensive matchup of the year, after starting out with stiff tests against San Francisco and Washington. The Lions have allowed 69 points through two weeks and I see that 34.5 average points allowed figure being even higher this time next week. They are another woeful defensive unit that will get scorched at every level. This is the side of the ball where the game will be decided and, without exaggeration, I easily see the Cardinals scoring into the 40s. The less important side of the ball is the Detroit offense against the Arizona defense. The Lion offense is a capable but not elite unit, that will continue to be saddled with too much pressure to keep up with the scoring pace allowed by the defense. I think they score into the 20s which would mean the over is still a sound play, but the Cardinals are just the superior look in this game. They will score at will and just run away with this one while laying less than a touchdown. Jump on it!

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Other Game Predictions

 🏈Patriots win but no cover against the Raiders 🏈
 🏈Rams win as an underdog in Buffalo 🏈
 🏈Giants win as underdog against the 49ers 🏈
 🏈Browns win but don’t cover against Football Team 🏈
 🏈Eagles win and cover against the Bengals 🏈
 🏈Bears win as an underdog in Atlanta 🏈
 🏈Colts win and cover against the Jets 🏈
 🏈Tampa Bay wins but doesn’t cover in Denver 🏈
 🏈Seattle wins but doesn’t cover against the Cowboys 🏈
 🏈Saints win and cover against the Packers 🏈
 🏈Chiefs win as underdogs in Baltimore 🏈

TJ
TJ Calkins
TJ Calkins was raised in a gambling loving household. He knew how to handicap horse races and follow line movements well before his tenth birthday. While sports betting remained a passion into adulthood, poker and Daily Fantasy Sports also became passions and remain as such today.