NFL Predictions Week 3: Picks and Projections for Top Underdogs' Upset Bids

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2017

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions calls a play in the first quarter against Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field on September 10, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

At a glance, the Week 3 NFL schedule doesn't seem to leave much wiggle room for NFL bettors who like the idea of rolling with underdogs for higher payouts.  

Then again, neither did Week 2 before the Carolina Panthers struggled against the Buffalo Bills in 9-3 fashion or the Seattle Seahawks had a hard time with the San Francisco 49ers in a 12-9 eyesore. 

But so goes the trick of walking the tightrope, right? There is more risk involved in rolling with a built-in underdog, considering oddsmakers construct the lines to protect the house. 

There are whiffs this early in the season though from a line standpoint, so after a look at the full slate, let's look at a few underdog spread scenarios to consider. 

        

NFL Week 3 Schedule, Odds

L.A. Rams (-3) at San Francisco | O/U 40

Baltimore (-4) vs. Jacksonville in London | O/U 39.5

Atlanta (-3) at Detroit | O/U n/a

Cleveland (-1) at Indianapolis | O/U 40.5

Denver (-3) at Buffalo | O/U 40

Houston at New England (-13) | O/U 43.5

Miami (-6) at N.Y. Jets | O/U 41.5

New Orleans at Carolina (-6) | O/U 47.5

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia (-3.5) | O/U n/a

Pittsburgh (-7.5) at Chicago | O/U 45.5

Tampa Bay at Minnesota (n/a) | O/U n/a

Seattle at Tennessee (-3) | O/U 43

Cincinnati at Green Bay (-9) | O/U 44.5

Kansas City (-3) at L.A. Chargers | O/U 45.5

Oakland (-3.5) at Washington | O/U 54

Dallas (-3.5) at Arizona | O/U 47

Bold denotes predicted winner against the spread and over/under projection. 

        

Houston at New England (-13)

Do bettors want to go against the New England Patriots?  

It is something at least worth considering here with a line boasting such a large differential when the Houston Texans come to visit.  

Remember, the Patriots opened the season at home against a game Kansas City Chiefs squad and took a 42-27 whipping, only to rebound by picking apart a miserable New Orleans Saints defense, 36-20.  

These Texans, though, have a solid defense led by J.J. Watt capable of bringing the pressure. A 29-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 seemed odd, though the team turned it around on a short week by traveling to Cincinnati and taking down the Bengals 13-9. 

So which Texans team shows up in Foxborough? Hard to say, though it isn't hard to figure out Houston rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson might have a hard time keeping pace with Tom Brady. His only score against the Bengals came via a run: 

While pretty, this sort of ball-control offense isn't going to permit the Texans to pull off an upset. What it can do, though, is create a lower-scoring affair than most might predict and help the Texans stay within the confines of the spread. 

Given last week's eruption by the Patriots was more a product of a perennially bad defense laying another egg, bettors can make some headway here with the Texans against the spread and Patriots outright.

Prediction: Patriots 28, Texans 20

          

Atlanta (-3) at Detroit

One of the week's top matchups features strong upset potential when the Atlanta Falcons visit the Detroit Lions. 

It isn't often oddsmakers side with a visitor in what otherwise looks like an evenly matched contest. It seems even odder here based on how the hosting Lions have looked through two games, taking down the Arizona Cardinals 35-23 before slapping away the New York Giants on the road, 24-10. 

Over the course of those two blowouts, Matthew Stafford has completed 71 percent of his passes for 414 yards and six touchdowns against one interception. He doesn't sound like a guy ready to take his foot off the pedal with weapons like Marvin Jones Jr. and rookie Kenny Golladay already catching multiple scores, as captured by ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein.

"I've got a lot of trust in him," Stafford said of Jones. "He's made some big plays over the years, came close a couple times tonight. I missed him early in the game on one, by, golly, a yard or two, and again later in the game. We'll continue to take shots, be aggressive, hopefully hit a couple more of them."

This isn't meant to suggest the Falcons haven't looked good—but context is a must. Beating the Chicago Bears 23-17 in Week 1 is more disappointing than anything else given the poor state of the rebuild in the Windy City. And the team didn't have any excuses for anything less than a 34-23 blowout win at home in Week 2 against a Green Bay Packers team missing both offensive tackles and losing weapons like Jordy Nelson to injury during the game. 

Again, Ryan and the Falcons look elite and there hasn't been much of a whisper when it comes to a Super Bowl hangover. But they also haven't been tested yet in a big way. Stafford, backed by a game defense and more receiving targets than he's had in years, can pull this one off late in the fourth quarter. 

Prediction: Lions 27, Falcons 24

            

Dallas (-3.5) at Arizona

To say the Dallas Cowboys are a bit of a mess would be putting it nicely. 

The Cowboys, as most might think that this season given the odd state of the team, blew through the New York Giants in Week 1. But the good vibes didn't last long after a Week 2 loss at the Denver Broncos, 42-17. 

Second-year quarterback Dak Prescott put it best after the loss, according to Damon R. Marx of the Dallas Morning News

To date, Prescott has three touchdowns against two interceptions and Ezekiel Elliott has only mustered 112 yards on a 3.4 per-carry average. 

The Cardinals have to like the sound of that. Arizona came up short in the opener against the Lions, then turned around and squeezed out a road overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts, 16-13. 

Now the Cardinals finally get to play at home after four consecutive road games, which Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said has "tired us out," according to ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss

At home, bettors might find confidence in the fact Carson Palmer can put together a strong performance even without David Johnson against a Dallas defense that just coughed up four touchdown passes to Trevor Siemian. 

Prediction: Cardinals 23, Cowboys 20

       

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. Odds via OddsShark.