B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 3
From a betting perspective, a lot of good and bad luck was attached to Week 2 in the NFL.
In this space, it was more bad than good.
The Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints were all forced to deal with injured starting quarterbacks, and all three unsurprisingly failed to win and cover as a result.
The consensus also suffered tough losses with the Chicago Bears (who fell half a point short), Philadelphia Eagles (who choked after losing half the roster to injury) and Los Angeles Chargers (who pulled a Charger in Detroit).
Through two weeks, the numbers aren't pretty (last week's records in parentheses).
T-1. Brent Sobleski: 14-18 (7-9)
T-1. Brad Gagnon: 14-18 (6-10)
3. Gary Davenport: 13-19 (5-11)
Consensus picks: 13-19 (6-10)
Let's see if the law of averages is more favorable in Week 3.
Lines from Caesars as of 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Tennessee Titans (1-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2)
It's never easy to travel on short rest, but the Tennessee Titans have proved they have the Jacksonville Jaguars' number with four consecutive wins and covers over their division rival from the Sunshine State.
Our analysts are thus comfortable unanimously laying only two points with Tennessee on Thursday night.
"I try not to get too excited about matchup history," Gagnon said. "But in this case, the Titans have beaten the Jags and covered the spread six times in an eight-game span over just four seasons. They beat them by 21 points on the road in both 2016 and 2017, and they beat them by 14-plus points in their Thursday night matchups in 2016 and 2018. These Jags are no better on either side of the ball, and a tough Tennessee defense should expose Jags rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II."
Minshew, a sixth-round pick thrust into the starting role with Nick Foles injured, struggled against the Houston Texans in his first career start before turning it on late with some heroic plays in a losing effort. But now he'll face an even tougher defense, one that has surrendered fewer than 20 points in five of its last six games dating back to December.
Both teams are stout enough on defense for this to stay close in Jacksonville's house. But with turmoil surrounding a Jags team that has now lost 13 of its last 16 games, the Titans feel like a pretty safe bet.
Davenport: Tennessee (-2)
Gagnon: Tennessee (-2)
Sobleski: Tennessee (-2)
Consensus: Tennessee (-2)
Score Prediction: Titans 20, Jaguars 14
Atlanta Falcons (1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
Despite the late-offseason loss of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts opened the season by going toe-to-toe on the road with two teams that had winning records in 2018. They look like they're going to compete this year, and the majority of our analysts are backing them as a small favorite in their home opener against the volatile Atlanta Falcons.
"The Colts are establishing a new identity that is equal parts competitive and boring," Davenport said. "They're going to try to pound away on the ground with Marlon Mack, control tempo and steal wins late. This is a team that's a few plays from being either 2-0 or 0-2. But the Colts have also been relatively consistent—something that can't be said about the Falcons through two games. In front of the home crowd, the Colts will get Mack going, make a play or three defensively and get a six-point win."
It's tough to get behind the Falcons on the road here after they were embarrassed away from home by the Minnesota Vikings to start the season. They did rebound with a Week 2 victory, but it wasn't necessarily a good sign that they had to fight tooth and nail for an 11th-hour home win over a Philadelphia Eagles team gutted by in-game injuries.
Still, we lack a unanimous consensus here because Sobleski believes the Falcons can keep the ball rolling after an emotional prime-time victory. And it's worth pointing out that those among this group who picked against the majority as lone wolves were 64-61-1 during the 2018 regular season and are 11-8 this year.
Considering key Colts defenders Darius Leonard, Pierre Desir and Jabaal Sheard are all dealing with injuries, you might want to wait before dropping cash either way here.
Davenport: Indianapolis (-1.5)
Gagnon: Indianapolis (-1.5)
Sobleski: Atlanta (+1.5)
Consensus: Indianapolis (-1.5)
Score Prediction: Colts 26, Falcons 21
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)
Only one AFC quarterback has a higher QBR and passer rating than Patrick Mahomes, and his name is Lamar Jackson. The two will face each other Sunday, and our gang considers it odd that Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs are laying nearly a touchdown against Jackson's Baltimore Ravens.
Both are 2-0, the Ravens look healthier (Tyreek Hill, Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy are all hurt for KC), and the Chiefs defense has already looked like a liability on several occasions early this season. With that in mind, we have unanimity in favor of the road 'dog.
"This contest seems to be an obvious situation in which each of us is betting the line, not the teams," Sobleski said. "The Chiefs are a better squad, but they're giving Baltimore nearly seven points. Considering Lamar Jackson's early play and the sieve that is Kansas City's defense, the Ravens should easily move the ball to keep the score close or win outright."
The Chiefs surrendered 6.6 yards per rush against Leonard Fournette and Josh Jacobs in the first two weeks, and they struggled to defend tight ends last year. That feeds right into Baltimore's hands because Mark Ingram II and Mark Andrews are off to splendid starts.
The Ravens took the Chiefs to overtime at Arrowhead in December, and Jackson has developed plenty since then. Look for them to hang around again here and hope for a backdoor cover in the worst-case scenario.
Davenport: Baltimore (+6.5)
Gagnon: Baltimore (+6.5)
Sobleski: Baltimore (+6.5)
Consensus: Baltimore (+6.5)
Score Prediction: Chiefs 28, Ravens 27
Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-0)
The Cincinnati Bengals hooked a lot of folks with a strong Week 1 cover in Seattle, so much so that all of our analysts took them as a small favorite in Week 2. They were burned as the Bengals were crushed at home by the San Francisco 49ers, so it's not surprising the majority of our experts are jumping on the 2-0 Buffalo Bills as a mere six-point home fave.
"The Bengals are who we thought they were," Sobleski said. "Despite a loss, Cincinnati played well in Week 1 and provided false hope. The throttling handed down by the 49ers this past weekend showed the Bengals' true colors. Now, Cincy's high-flying passing offense—Andy Dalton ranks second overall with 729 passing yards—faces one of the league's best defenses. The Bills aren't always pretty in their approach, but they're a sound football team and should easily overwhelm a less-talented opponent."
That said, Davenport is going against the grain, and it should be pointed out that he dominated his colleagues last year with a 133-116-7 record against the spread.
"I need to have my head examined for taking Cincinnati a week after the Bungles gave up 572 points and 41 yards to the 49ers," he admitted. "It may have been the other way around. I can't remember. There were so many of both I got dizzy. But this was a Bengals team that played Seattle tough on the road in Week 1, and I'm not so convinced Buffalo is that much better than Cincy that I'm willing to lay almost a touchdown."
That money you're already putting away for the holidays? Don't drop it all on this one.
Davenport: Cincinnati (+6)
Gagnon: Buffalo (-6)
Sobleski: Buffalo (-6)
Consensus: Buffalo (-6)
Score Prediction: Bills 26, Bengals 17
Denver Broncos (0-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-0)
The Green Bay Packers haven't won a game by more than seven points since Week 14 of last season, but our crew agrees unanimously they're due.
They're willing to lay 7.5 when the Packers host the winless Denver Broncos on Sunday.
"The new-look Green Bay offense is taking a lot of fire," Gagnon said. "But with all that talent, I think it's just a matter of time before they string together full games in which they perform the way they did in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears and the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings. They generated nearly 300 yards and 28 points in those two quarters, so we know they have it in them.
"The Denver defense is strong, but it's not as talented as Chicago's or Minnesota's. With yet another week of work under their belt, the Packers should have enough in them to win this thing by more than a touchdown at home."
Meanwhile, the Denver offense was nearly as bad against the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 as it was against the Bears in Week 2. Green Bay's revamped D has surrendered just 19 points all year, which could be problematic for Joe Flacco and Co., especially considering how much Denver left tackle Garett Bolles has struggled this season.
Davenport: Green Bay (-7.5)
Gagnon: Green Bay (-7.5)
Sobleski: Green Bay (-7.5)
Consensus: Green Bay (-7.5)
Score Prediction: Packers 28, Broncos 13
Detroit Lions (1-0-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-1)
The Philadelphia Eagles are in tremendously poor health following an injury-riddled loss to the Atlanta Falcons, yet they're still laying nearly a touchdown against the unbeaten Detroit Lions.
With DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Dallas Goedert and Timmy Jernigan all dealing with fresh injuries, our analysts agree unanimously that's too much.
"Sharps were able to get seven or even 7.5 points for the Lions early in the week," Gagnon said. "Still, considering what Philly went through Sunday night, I'm surprised this line remains within reaching distance of a touchdown. Coming home helps, but the Lions are an underrated opponent that hasn't lost by more than a point on the road since Week 10 of the 2018 season.
"I'm also still not sure Carson Wentz is healthy. He didn't look right at all for much of the night after taking several early shots in Atlanta, and he'll be severely lacking support against a talented tandem of edge-rushers in this game."
That defense held the high-flying Los Angeles Chargers to just 10 points in Week 2. And with a lot of new parts, they're likely to improve going forward.
Put it all together and Detroit should hang in Philadelphia.
Davenport: Detroit (+6.5)
Gagnon: Detroit (+6.5)
Sobleski: Detroit (+6.5)
Consensus: Detroit (+6.5)
Score Prediction: Eagles 24, Lions 21
Miami Dolphins (0-2) at Dallas Cowboys (2-0)
Prior to this week, eight teams in NFL history have been favored by more than 20 points. All eight failed to cover. But considering the Miami Dolphins have been outscored by a tied-for-modern-record 92 points in their first two games, our analysts are willing to lay a ridiculous 21.5 points on the Dallas Cowboys for Sunday's game.
"No line is big enough to pick the Dolphins until they prove themselves capable of being competitive," Sobleski said. "Meanwhile, the Cowboys feature the NFL's second-best offense through two games at 484 yards per contest. Don't expect the downtrodden 'Phins to show new life all of a sudden after yet another top talent got shipped to a different squad."
That talent is defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was a top-12 pick just a year ago and was one of the highest-graded rookie slot cover guys in Pro Football Focus history last season.
To boot, several of Miami's remaining talented players—safety Reshad Jones and wide receiver Albert Wilson—are dealing with injuries. And they're sticking with washed-up quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick even though the 36-year-old is off to the lowest-rated qualified two-game start to a season since Luke McCown bombed with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.
This team might eventually run into a win or two, but it's hard to imagine it even hanging close to the Cowboys on the road in its current state.
Davenport: Dallas (-21.5)
Gagnon: Dallas (-21.5)
Sobleski: Dallas (-21.5)
Consensus: Dallas (-21.5)
Score Prediction: Cowboys 34, Dolphins 10
New York Jets (0-2) at New England Patriots (2-0)
The Dallas Cowboys aren't even the biggest favorite of the week. That's because the dominant New England Patriots are hosting a New York Jets team down to its third quarterback while traveling on short rest to play its Goliath.
In this case, 23 points aren't even enough.
The Patriots have won 17 consecutive regular-season and playoff home games dating back to October 2017, with seven of those victories coming by three-plus-score margins. They've also defeated the Jets in three consecutive games at Foxborough by an average margin of 31 points.
This could get ugly, especially considering projected Jets starter Luke Falk wasn't on the active roster until last week.
Falk didn't perform poorly in relief of both Sam Darnold (mononucleosis) and Trevor Siemian (leg) Monday night against the Cleveland Browns, but he was mainly dinking and dunking against a conservative defense in a blowout loss. It'll likely be a different story against a New England defense that has surrendered six total points in its last three games dating back to Super Bowl LIII.
"Sooner or later, the Pats are going to fail to cover one of these ridiculously high spreads—Darth Hoodie will gladly take a business-like 20-point win in which the Pats don't suffer any injuries of note," Davenport said. "But this isn't going to be the week. The Patriots are playing at home against a Jets squad led by a quarterback who hasn't been with the team two weeks. It could be a good long while before these Patriots are tested at all. Like, say November. At least."
Davenport: New England (-23)
Gagnon: New England (-23)
Sobleski: New England (-23)
Consensus: New England (-23)
Score Prediction: Patriots 31, Jets 6
Oakland Raiders (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-1)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is now 5-26 in his career against teams with winning records, and his allergy to prime-time games has been well-established. But on the flip side, this is where Cousins and the Vikings are at their best: at home against a non-winning team on a basic Sunday afternoon.
With that in mind, they have the support of the majority of our experts against the Oakland Raiders.
"The Vikes are 5-1 straight-up and 4-1-1 against the spread in Sunday afternoon home games with Cousins under center, and they crushed a solid Atlanta Falcons team under those circumstances in Week 1," Gagnon said. "Cousins loves to bully bad teams, and the Raiders certainly aren't yet a good team. This'll be a blowout."
The Vikings hardly needed Cousins to hammer Atlanta in Week 1, and Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook is off to a special start. He should have a chance to do damage against a defense that struggled to slow Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman in Week 1.
The Raiders were outscored 28-0 in the final three quarters of a Week 2 home game against the Chiefs, and they could be in worse shape in a hostile environment Sunday.
Davenport: Minnesota (-8.5)
Gagnon: Minnesota (-8.5)
Sobleski: Oakland (+8.5)
Consensus: Minnesota (-8.5)
Score Prediction: Vikings 27, Raiders 16
Carolina Panthers (0-2) at Arizona Cardinals (0-1-1)
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been absent from the practice field this week, and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that the three-time Pro Bowler is unlikely to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
But the Cardinals, who hung with both the Lions and Ravens to start the season, are merely a small favorite at home. That has our group of analysts rolling unanimously with Arizona.
"Even with Newton, the Panthers haven't been right this year," Gagnon said. "They laid a complete egg at home against the Bucs, and the defense has just four sacks and one takeaway. Kliff Kingsbury's offense has been moving the ball well ever since a slow start to Kyler Murray's rookie season. They got inside the Baltimore five-yard line on four separate drives last week, and they should do a better job finishing with another week of work under their belt, at home against a weaker defense."
There's still some risk here because the Panthers have plenty of talent and are coming off extra rest. They also could be better off with a healthy (and unpredictable Kyle Allen) than with an unhealthy (and familiar) Newton. Still, with the hook working against Carolina as well, Arizona seems like the safer bet here.
Davenport: Arizona (-2.5)
Gagnon: Arizona (-2.5)
Sobleski: Arizona (-2.5)
Consensus: Arizona (-2.5)
Score Prediction: Cardinals 24, Panthers 16
New York Giants (0-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1)
The New York Giants' decision to bench veteran quarterback Eli Manning in favor of rookie No. 6 overall pick Daniel Jones had no significant impact on the line for New York's Week 3 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs are still laying nearly a touchdown, and our crew remains unanimously in Tampa Bay's corner.
"I think the Giants will eventually be a lot better with Jones than with Manning, and that could happen soon," Gagnon said. "But this isn't the ideal matchup right out of the gate. Saquon Barkley can take over any game, but Tampa Bay's new-look defense has surrendered just 2.7 yards per carry and was lights-out on the ground against Christian McCaffrey last week. That and a bad receiving corps could put a lot of pressure on Jones on the road against a D that has given up just 30 points in two games this year.
"Meanwhile, Jones is unlikely to get much support from his own toothless defense, which has given up 63 points and generated zero takeaways this year. Coming off a mini bye week as a result of a Thursday game, Jameis Winston and Bruce Arians have had plenty of time to prepare for that unit."
While this number might seem high considering the buzz surrounding Big Blue right now, it's possible Jones' career as a starter is kicking off in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Davenport: Tampa Bay (-6.5)
Gagnon: Tampa Bay (-6.5)
Sobleski: Tampa Bay (-6.5)
Consensus: Tampa Bay (-6.5)
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Giants 17
Houston Texans (1-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-1)
The Houston Texans have played two extremely close contests this year, and they haven't lost a regular-season game by more than three points since the third week of the 2018 campaign. They're benefiting from the hook as 3.5-point underdogs this week against a hurting Los Angeles Chargers team, which is more than enough for the majority of our analysts to side with Deshaun Watson and Co.
"The Chargers are in rough shape," Gagnon said. "No Derwin James, no Adrian Phillips, no Hunter Henry, obviously no Melvin Gordon III. And now they've got kicker problems again. You wonder if they're in for another snakebitten season. Sure, they're at home, but they also don't have much of a home-field advantage at Dignity Health Sports Park."
The Bolts did take care of the Colts in a close game there in Week 1, but they were merely 5-3 straight-up and an ugly 2-6 against the spread at home last season. It's hard to trust them right now.
Then again, it's also hard to trust the Texans' pass protection, and the Chargers have a pair of elite pass-rushers. And that's a big reason why Davenport is denying us a consensus.
"The Chargers continue to be hit hard by injuries, but Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III should be able to wreak havoc against the five matadors that are the Texans O-line," he said. "The Chargers get right, take care of business at home and cover—barely."
This might be one to tread carefully on.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-3.5)
Gagnon: Houston (+3.5)
Sobleski: Houston (+3.5)
Consensus: Houston (+3.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 24, Chargers 23
New Orleans Saints (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (2-0)
The Seattle Seahawks have won 15 consecutive September home games, going 12-3 against the spread in those outings. And they might be due to get another early-season home win ATS after failing to cover in a Week 1 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at CenturyLink Field.
With a likely demoralized New Orleans Saints team coming to town sans Drew Brees on the back half of a two-week Pacific road trip, two of our three experts are willing to sacrifice four points and roll with the Seahawks at home.
"Russell Wilson played as well as he ever has this past weekend in Pittsburgh," Sobleski said. "The eight-year veteran was decisive, got the ball out quickly and made plays with his feet when necessary. The Saints, on the other hand, have question marks at quarterback thanks to Brees' injured hand. New Orleans didn't move the ball against the Los Angeles Rams, and there's little reason to believe it'll get back on track with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill leading the way."
Still, Gagnon isn't convinced Seattle is a juggernaut based on a one-point victory over the Bengals (who were later crushed by the San Francisco 49ers) and a two-point win over the Pittsburgh Steelers (who lost Ben Roethlisberger and had just been crushed by the New England Patriots). He figures a talented Saints team with two quality backups can keep this close, and we lack unanimity as a result.
Davenport: Seattle (-4)
Gagnon: New Orleans (+4)
Sobleski: Seattle (-4)
Consensus: Seattle (-4)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 26, Saints 20
Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
Maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers can eventually excel without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but the majority of our analysts don't see that happening on the road against a talented and confident opponent during sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph's first career start.
And it's not just a Rudolph thing.
"On the west coast under head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are 1-5 straight-up and against the spread," Gagnon said. "That's jarring considering how good Pittsburgh has been for much of the Tomlin era. They just don't do well with cross-country travel, and they're running into a scary opponent without Roethlisberger.
The problem might be San Francisco's revamped defense, which has surrendered just 4.7 yards per play and is tied for the NFL lead with five takeaways. Football Outsiders ranks that unit second in the NFL in terms of defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), behind only the mighty Patriots D. And they've yet to even play at home.
That's not an ideal first opponent for Rudolph, who might not enjoy much support from a defense that has surrendered 28-plus points in both weeks thus far.
That said, the Steelers are probably desperate, and they're getting nearly a touchdown. That's too much for Sobleski, leaving us without a unanimous consensus. Watch out for the backdoor cover.
Davenport: San Francisco (-6.5)
Gagnon: San Francisco (-6.5)
Sobleski: Pittsburgh (+6.5)
Consensus: San Francisco (-6.5)
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Steelers 16
Los Angeles Rams (2-0) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)
The Cleveland Browns might have saved their season with a Week 2 Monday Night Football victory over the New York Jets. But their offense still failed to execute consistently, and now they're facing a much stronger opponent on slightly short rest.
That has the majority of our gang siding with the Los Angeles Rams minus three points on the road Sunday night.
"The Browns redeemed themselves Monday against the Jets after an embarrassing 30-point loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 1," Sobleski said. "Well, sort of. Cleveland was clearly the better team since New York has so many injury issues at the moment. The Browns still aren't a well-oiled machine, and the Rams are the superior squad entering the upcoming matchup."
One particularly daunting matchup within the matchup is Cleveland's vulnerable offensive line going up against reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and surging edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. But in dissent, Gagnon points out that Los Angeles has also struggled mightily in pass protection this season, while the Browns have the second-best sack rate in the NFL.
He figures Cleveland can win or keep it close at home. There's no unanimity here.
Davenport: Los Angeles (-3)
Gagnon: Cleveland (+3)
Sobleski: Los Angeles (-3)
Consensus: Los Angeles (-3)
Score Prediction: Rams 27, Browns 21
Chicago Bears (1-1) at Washington Redskins (0-2)
Is this the week it finally comes together for the Chicago Bears offense? Vegas believes so, with Chicago laying four points on the road. And the majority of our experts are on board.
"The 2019 Bears don't have much in common with last year's iteration of the team," Davenport said. "The offense has been, well, offensive in two games this season. But the defense has played well—well enough to put the clamps on a Redskins offense that's played over its head to date. I don't relish laying points on the road, but this feels like the week the Bears finally get in gear."
The shorthanded Washington defense has surrendered 63 points in two games, and it has only registered one takeaway. It's exploitable with standout defensive lineman Jonathan Allen injured, and it's not as though Chicago has to hit home runs all day. Mitchell Trubisky and Co. are well-supported by a defense that has given up 17 or fewer points in seven consecutive regular-season and playoff games.
But Gagnon again went against the grain by backing the Redskins, noting that since the start of November last season, home underdogs are 8-2 against the spread in prime-time games. Nobody wants to be embarrassed at home on national television, and Washington already pulled off a backdoor cover in Week 1.
So, it's complicated.
Davenport: Chicago (-4)
Gagnon: Washington (+4)
Sobleski: Chicago (-4)
Consensus: Chicago (-4)
Score Prediction: Bears 24, Redskins 17