NFL Underdogs: Week 3 pointspread picks and predictions

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Parents love to force the things they love on their kids, and loyalty to sports teams is one of the greatest violations of free will. 

For me, I grew up a Dallas Cowboys fans purely out of adolescent spite. My dad was a New York Giants fans and after watching the Cowboys kick the snot out of the Giants one sleepy Sunday afternoon, I decided that was my team – for life.

And I give my kids the same flexibility with their fandom. Cheer for whoever you want… but know this: whenever your team plays my team, get ready for a wave of ridicule and trash talk that would make Gary Payton blush.

My oldest boy has erred on the side of caution. While he has plenty of favorite players from assorted NFL teams, he’s a Cowboys fan, like me. He’s also a Lakers and Penguins fans as well. Smart kid.

My youngest just turned four, so he doesn’t know any better. Sure, he has a Dak Prescott jersey but he’s more excited to wear “The Star” like Daddy. But he’ll get the same leeway (and warning) when he’s ready to pledge allegiance to a team.

Then there’s my daughter. At nearly six years of age, she’s been a card-carrying Miami Dolphins fan since she first laid eyes on those beautiful aqua green and coral orange jerseys. And when she found out that team was named the Dolphins, well that sealed it.

But despite our teams clashing in Week 3 of the NFL season, and my deadpanned promise to rain down holy terror on anyone who appose America’s Team under my roof, I just don’t have the heart to rip into the Fins in front of her. Not the way this team is playing. Not like this.

Miami heads to Jerry’s World this Sunday catching 22 points from the Cowboys after getting smashed 59-10 by Baltimore in Week 1 and absolutely… well I can’t even come up with a word for that 43-0 loss at home to New England last Sunday.

While I’m confident Dallas will prevail, I don’t think it covers this massive pointspread. By now, you’ve likely seen the track record for 20-plus point chalk. But, if not here’s a reminder: eight NFL teams have given 20 or more points since 1984 and not a single one has covered that sizable spread. It’s a fun trend but doesn’t mean squat when looking at this specific game.

What I am taking into account is that the Cowboys have looked very good against some very bad teams (New York and Washington) and have a big trip to New Orleans (Brees or not) in Week 4. Head coach Jason Garrett needs that win over the Saints to help secure his job in Arlington and finally put an end to the secret love affair with former OC and current New Orleans head coach Sean Payton (the “one that got away” signed an extension with the Saints in Week 2).

The Cowboys are already planning their second-half strategy for Week 3, with talk of sitting starters once they’re up big on the scoreboard. Dallas is already missing a couple reasons for this early-season success, with leading receiver Michael Gallup out (knee) and safety Xavier Woods sidelined with an ankle injury, and seems to be treating this matchup with Miami like a mini bye week.

Dallas – fat and happy off two cupcake wins – will trim the playbook and give plenty of touches to rookie RB Tony Pollard (a sneaky DFS grab if you’re into that sort of thing), winning this game with comfort but not getting over the three-touchdown hump.

And I’ll get to cheer alongside my little girl, rooting for the Dolphins to suck just a little less.

PREDICTION: Miami +22

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT BUFFALO BILLS (-6, 43.5)

Speaking of teams looking better than they are, the Buffalo Bills also used a win over the hapless Giants to puff up their opening two weeks of football.

Buffalo took New York by siege like The Duke, squeaking by the Jets in Week 1 and roughing up the G-Men and the decrepit shell of Eli Manning last Sunday (and yes, I picked New York in that game). The Bills are home in Orchard Park for their New Era Field debut in Week 3, facing a Bengals team that I think is still undervalued.

I successfully bet Cincinnati and the points against the Seahawks in Week 1 loss and stayed away from them at home versus San Francisco in Week 2, expecting a bit of a letdown (I did not expect that big of a letdown). However, the Bengals are back on the road where they do their best work. Cincy is a stellar 12-5 ATS as a visitor since 2017 and this line has jumped two full points from +4 to +6.

The Bills won’t be able to run over the Bengals defense like San Francisco did, especially with RB Devin Singletary questionable with a hamstring injury, and I like Cincinnati’s up-tempo offense to wear out this Buffalo stop unit that has yet to be truely tested in 2019.

Plus, Bills Mafia has a soft spot for Andy Dalton. So…

PREDICTION: Cincinnati +6

HOUSTON TEXANS AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-3.5, 49)

I pinpointed the total for this game in my “Bet Now/Bet Later” article early in the week, predicting a drop in the number before buyback on the Over would come Thursday. The Over/Under fell from 49 to 47.5 before money bought back a higher-scoring finish and returned the total to 49 points.

A shootout favors the Texans in this game. Houston has one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, headlined by DeAndre Hopkins, who had a quiet day against a very good Jacksonville defense last week. Houston’s high-flying targets won’t see that same level of coverage against the Chargers, who are running thin in the secondary.

Los Angeles has already lost its two starting safeties and despite slowing down Detroit to 13 points in a Week 2 road loss, have some issues on defense. A once-feared pass rush has just two sacks on the season and failed to record one against a shaky Lions offensive line. If you give Deshaun Watson time, he will tear you apart.

Some places are already moving to Bolts -3, so we’re snapping up the extra half point hook with Houston and expecting another tight finish for Los Angeles.

PREDICTION: Houston +3.5

Week 2: 2-1
Season to date: 5-1

Running up the points with Rockets, and the college football bets you need to make in Week 12

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Are you ready for some more MAC-tion? Because there are two more games on the schedule Wednesday night. We break down the best bets for these games and take a look at the weekend ahead in college football – from sides and totals to props and everything in between.

ROOM TO ROAM

The Toledo Rockets might be only slight favorites for Wednesday night’s MAC tilt with visiting Northern Illinois, but they have a significant advantage in at least one area – and it could turn this one into a bit of a laugher. The Rockets come into the game with the nation’s No. 12 rushing offense, averaging nearly 251 yards per game on the ground – and they’ve been especially dominant over their previous two games, racking up a combined 664 rushing yards in narrow victories over Eastern Michigan and Kent State. The Huskies, meanwhile, are coming off getting routed 48-10 to Central Michigan in which the Chippewas posted 327 rushing yards.

An edge like this makes Toledo a terrific option in a variety of different bet scenarios; we recommend buying a few points in their favor and taking an alternate line of -6.5.

MIAMI (OH) FOR 3

The Miami (OH) Redhawks should have little trouble filling the board Wednesday night as they host a Bowling Green defense that ranks among the worst in the nation in points allowed. But while the Falcons have surrendered a mind-boggling 33.8 points per game so far this season, the Redhawks might not necessarily be headed for a parade to the end zone. Miami (Ohio) has one of the worst touchdown-to-field-goal ratios in the country coming into Week 12, having scored 22 TDs compared with 16 FGs – six of those coming over the course of their current three-game winning streak.

Miami (Ohio) is a big-time favorite here, and is a good bet to open the scoring given BGSU’s 2.5 first-half-points-per-game average on the road this season. We like the Redhawks FG to kick off the point parade.

GILBERT  GETTING BACK

Kansas State’s premier rushing threat might be back on the field this weekend. Wildcats senior James Gilbert practiced on Tuesday and is trending in the right direction as he recovers from an undisclosed ailment that kept him out of last week’s 27-24 loss to the Texas Longhorns. It was originally thought that Gilbert would be in the lineup vs. Texas, but he was a late exclusion – and Kansas State struggled in his absence, finishing with a paltry 51 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Gilbert ranks ninth in the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards (558) while adding five touchdowns on the ground.

Gilbert’s return would invigorate a Kansas State rush attack that has a favorable matchup against a West Virginia defense allowing 173 rushing yards per game. We recommend the hosts ATS if Gilbert is deemed fit to return.

WAKING NIGHTMARE

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have seen their season take a terrible turn with word that standout wide receiver Sage Surratt will miss the remainder of 2019 with an undisclosed injury. Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson confirmed Tuesday that Surratt, who wasn’t featured on the team’s depth chart ahead of its Week 12 encounter with Clemson, would be out for the rest of the season – though he wouldn’t specify what was wrong with the star wideout. Surratt finishes the year with 1,001 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 66 receptions as the premier target for quarterback Jamie Newman.

The absence of Surratt should give bettors even less of a reason to bank on Wake Forest, which has seen the line shift as far as four points in Clemson’s favor. Look for the Tigers to keep the undermanned Deacons below their team total.

Too late to start fading the Fins, and the NFL bets you need to make in Week 11

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This may require a double-take, but listen up. The Miami Dolphins have been the best bet in the NFL since the start of October. Yes, those Miami Dolphins. We break down the odds and let you know what bets we like in Week 11 of the NFL as we dive into sides, totals, props and more. 

STAYING HOT IN Q1

The hottest team in the league right now is Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens. After knocking off the Patriots in Week 9, they turned their crosshairs on the winless Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10. The Ravens ran just 48 offensive plays but managed to put up 49 points. Lost in the 49-13 win was the fact that Baltimore moved to 8-1 against the first-quarter spread after winning the first 15 minutes 14-0.

This week, Baltimore is a 4-point home favorite versus a Houston team that is coming off their bye. If you don’t trust a team coming off a blowout win versus the worst team in the league and/or covering their last three games, take a look at the 1Q Ravens -0.5 (-105) as an alternative.

Baltimore is second in the league in first quarter points per game at 9.5 and third in the league in points against in the first quarter at 3.67 while the Texans are 0-3-1 on the road this year in the first quarter. Take the Ravens 1Q -0.5.

FEAST AWAITS EVANS

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face a very motivated New Orleans Saints team Sunday, but NOLA will be without their top cornerback in Marcus Lattimore. The third-year CB is week-to-week with a hamstring injury meaning Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will face sub-par corners in P.J. Williams and Eli Apple.

As Brad Evans pointed out on twitter, this is especially great news for Mike Evans who has struggled over his career versus Lattimore. Evans put up a donut early this year in Week 5 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and averaged 9.5 targets for three catches and 34 yards in two games in 2017 (last year Lattimore struggled following up his 2017 DROY but has been much better this year).

Even with Jameis Winston getting sacked nearly four times a game, Evans is averaging 139 yards a game over his last four contests. Jump on Evans’ receiving yard total on any number below 85 and check in on his reception total, hitting the Over on any number below 7.

LOADING SCREEN

No team in the league relies on the screen game more than the Minnesota Vikings. Per ESPN, Minnesota is averaging 9.8 yards per screen attempt which is 3.5 yards more per attempt than the No.10 team.

The beneficiary of this is running back Dalvin Cook who gashed the Cowboys in primetime every time he got the ball with blockers ahead of him. Over the last three games, Cook has amassed 193 yards receiving and will face a Denver Broncos’ defense that is giving up 8.6 yards per pass to RBs since Week 8.

Grab the Over on Cook’s receiving yards on any total less than 40 yards.

LOADING SCREEN PT. 2

If you’re tailing the Cook receiving yards play and want some action on the other side of the ball, maybe look to fade the Broncos’ backfield in receiving yards. Denver is the worst team at generating yards on the screen game (3.7 yards per attempt) and neither Phillip Lindsay nor Royce Freeman has topped 17 yards receiving in the last two weeks. In the only game Brandon Allen has started at quarterback, Lindsay wasn’t targeted at all and Freeman saw one target which he lost a yard on.

Feel confident in taking Lindsay’s Under receiving yards on anything greater than 19 and Freeman’s Under on any number greater than 25.

AIN’T FADING THE FINS NOW

The best team ATS over the last five weeks has been the Miami Dolphins. The former 0-7 team has rattled off five-straight wins ATS and face a Buffalo Bills team that has zero offensive identity of late and trailed the Dolphins by five points heading into the fourth quarter just four weeks ago.

We are a little bearish on Miami hitting a sixth-straight win ATS but have no problem fading Josh Allen’s Bills who are putting up just 288 yards of total offense over the last three weeks, good for sixth-worst. Their once stellar defense now sits 12th in Wtd DVOA — 9th against the pass and 27th against the run.

The Bills needed 22 4th-quarter points in their last meeting to cover their team total and we don’t see Brian Daboll’s offense clearing 23.5 points since they are 2-5 O/U that total in their last seven.

Get on the Bills’ team total Under 23.5 now, as it may drop under this key number later in the week.