NFL Predictions Week 3: Picks and Odds Advice for Latest Schedule

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Heinz Field on September 17, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Bettors still have time to capitalize on the biggest chunk of the Week 3 NFL schedule.

Those dragging their feet after an odd edition of Thursday Night Football are justified considering the odd 41-39 outcome as the Los Angeles Rams took down the San Francisco 49ers. Those hoping for a late shift in the lines fall into the same category. 

Regardless of the reason, the Week 3 slate doesn't entirely figure to be as unwelcoming as Thursday's game. The trick is navigating which seemingly lopsided games will fall over or under the spread and which dormant offense will wake up as the leaguewide struggles continue. 

Here's a look at the slate and a focus on some of the matchups to consider.

            

NFL Week 3 Schedule, Odds

Baltimore (-3.5) 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 (-3.5) at Buffalo | O/U 40

Houston at New England (-14) | O/U 43.5

Miami (-6.5) at N.Y. Jets | O/U 41.5

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

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia (-6) | 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 (-8) | O/U 44.5

Kansas City (-3.5) 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 (-14)

This is one of the spread tightropes hinted at above.  

Should bettors simply roll with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots by a wide margin? They suffered a 42-27 rout at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1. They then turned around and blew away the New Orleans Saints at their own stadium 36-20. 

Or do the rookie-led Houston Texans keep it closer than oddsmakers expect on the road? Does the team that lost 29-7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and slipped past the Cincinnati Bengals 13-9 have the defense necessary to keep pace? 

This seems like one of the easier calls of the week—J.J. Watt and the Texans can keep this somewhat close. The defense is much better than the Saints unit that took a beating in Week 2, and the offense, at the least, has a steady rookie with Deshaun Watson under center.

Texans head coach Bill O'Brien put it best when it comes to Watson, according to Stats LLC (via ESPN.com): "The thing about Deshaun is he doesn't get nervous. I asked him before the (Cincinnati) game, 'Are you nervous?' He said, 'Naw, I don't get nervous.' I see that, so I don't really concern myself too much with that."

It's true enough after Watson scored the only touchdown against the Bengals on a long rush. He isn't going to best Brady at home (rookies are 0-8 against him at Gillette Stadium), but he could help keep the game close so long as the Watt-led defense provides disruption. 

Brady will best another rookie, though keep in mind he has stars like Rob Gronkowski and Rex Burkhead dealing with injuries.

Prediction: Patriots 28, Texans 20

        

New Orleans at Carolina (-6)

Time to talk about those Saints.

New Orleans once again has one of the worst defenses in the league, at least on paper over the course of the first two weeks. The unit now needing to hit the road and take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers does nothing short of give bettors a great opportunity.

That isn't to suggest Newton and the Panthers have looked amazing offensively. A 23-3 win against the 49ers in Week 1 didn't inspire. Nor did a 9-3 performance against the struggling Buffalo Bills. 

But this is the Saints defense that not only got torched by Brady in Week 2 but let Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford look like Brady in Week 1, throwing a trio of scores in a 29-19 Vikings win. 

The defense's miserable performance could only get worse given the announced absences, something Rotoworld's Evan Silva pointed out: 

Drew Brees and the Saints have the offense to keep this game interesting. But the team is notorious for struggling outside of its home dome, and Newton's offense is more versatile than the New Orleans defense is used to thanks to versatile rookie back Christian McCaffrey and a strong performance from a healthy Kelvin Benjamin.

Look for the Panthers to cruise, especially with the Patriots showing how effective a receiving back like James White can be (eight catches on as many targets for 85 yards) against the Saints, meaning both Newton and McCaffrey are in for big days.

Prediction: Panthers 36, Saints 28

             

Pittsburgh (-7.5) at Chicago

The Le'Veon Bell breakout game is coming, and bettors might want to be around for the ride.

The Pittsburgh Steelers lead back only has 119 yards on a 3.2 per-carry average and hasn't scored this season. His team struggled in a 21-18 escape of the Cleveland Browns on the road in Week 1 and rebounded at home with a 26-9 dismissal of the Vikings.

Bell's breakout doesn't seem far off.

Granted, the opponent here quietly has one of the better front sevens in football. Few linemen can change the game like Chicago Bears star Akiem Hicks, and 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd continues to look like he's on the path to being one of the best at what he does—disrupt passers like Ben Roethlisberger.

But the difference here is simple—few teams have imploded as hard as the Bears have already. Another rebuilding year made this likely, though any goodwill garnered from playing the Atlanta Falcons close in a 23-17 loss in Week 1 went out the window during a 29-7 dud of a loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Quarterback Mike Glennon has as many touchdowns as interceptions (two), and last year's breakout star running back, Jordan Howard, can't even break the three-yard-average barrier.

Through it all, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin isn't letting his guys underestimate the competition.

"We'll get prepared with an edge," Tomlin said, according to Stats LLC (via ESPN.com). "We know we're playing a team that's going to be hungry. We know we're going into a hostile environment. And quite frankly, we're too fragile, we're too new in this team development process in terms of searching for consistency and an acceptable level of play to take any other approach."

After building momentum against a solid defense in Week 2, look for the Big Ben-led offense to also get Bell going in a big way Sunday.

Prediction: Steelers 30, Bears 10

           

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. Odds according to OddsShark.