Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 3 NFL Picks
It's still early, but with the 2020 NFL regular season 12.5 percent complete, you're getting nothing but fire against the spread from Bleacher Report NFL correspondents Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon, Kalyn Kahler, Matt Miller, Brent Sobleski and Master Tesfatsion.
The crew has been wrong with a consensus ATS pick just nine total times in 32 games, which means that if you're consulting the gang for your bets or your office pool, you're likely firmly in the black.
Here's where they stand.
T-1. Davenport: 21-10-1 (10-6 last week)
T-1. Miller: 21-10-1 (13-3 last week)
T-3. Kahler: 19-12-1 (10-6 last week)
T-3. Sobleski: 19-12-1 (10-6 last week)
5. Gagnon: 17-14-1 (8-8 last week)
6. Tesfatsion: 16-15-1 (8-8 last week)
Consensus picks: 20-9 (11-4 last week)
And here's shot No. 3.
Miami Dolphins (0-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)
DraftKings Line: Jacksonville -3
The Jacksonville Jaguars may or may not be tanking, but the fact is they're hanging.
A Jags team gutted this offseason has outscored its opponents 57-53 thus far, which has the majority of our panel believing it can spot the banged-up, winless Miami Dolphins a field goal against the spread in Jacksonville.
"There is no better example of just how weird 2020 has been than the fact that I'm laying a field goal with the Jaguars," Davenport admitted. "Someone forgot to tell Jacksonville it was supposed to be terrible this year. Gardner Minshew II is playing well, James Robinson just had his first 100-yard game, and the Jaguars gave the Tennessee Titans all they could handle a week ago. So much for tanking for Trevor."
Minshew's life should be made easier by the fact top Dolphins cornerback Bryon Jones has already been ruled out due to a groin injury, although starting Jags wideout DJ Chark Jr. (chest) is questionable.
Regardless, the Jags have some magic to them this year and nothing to lose. Meanwhile, Miami looks like a work in progress dealing with heightened expectations, and now it is on the road on short rest. The Dolphins have lacked consistency and balance on offense and splash plays on defense, so a three-point spread doesn't feel like much of a stretch here.
Consensus: Jacksonville -3
Score Prediction: Jaguars 26, Dolphins 20
Chicago Bears (2-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-2)
DraftKings Line: Atlanta -3
Betting on the Atlanta Falcons has been a dangerous endeavor for several years now, and that's certainly the case with Atlanta coming off one of the biggest collapses in recent memory last week against the Dallas Cowboys.
Throw in that the Chicago Bears are somehow 2-0 but remain untrustworthy in a lot of eyes and it's probably appropriate that our crew is essentially predicting a push with Atlanta laying a field goal at home Sunday.
"The Falcons actually covered last week," Gagnon said, "but I have no idea how they'll react to what happened in the second half against Dallas. This is a team that rallied back from a 1-7 start to go 6-2 in the second half last season and has Super Bowl pedigree, but it's also possible that blowing a 19-point second-half lead is more demoralizing than an opportunity for a rally in Atlanta."
Gagnon is one of three writers siding with the Bears because of the uncertainty surrounding Atlanta, but he also recommends staying away from this game altogether.
"Don't spend time or money on this game if you don't have to," he added. "The Chicago defense ranks sixth in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted valued over average) and should keep this close with Julio Jones banged up, but we're still talking about Mitchell Trubisky on the other side. Sit this one out."
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Bears 21
Las Vegas Raiders (2-0) at New England Patriots (1-1)
DraftKings Line: New England -5.5
Are the Las Vegas Raiders finally for real? Are the New England Patriots still somehow for real? While both teams are off to somewhat surprisingly strong starts, nearly all of our predictors are displaying more confidence in Bill Belichick's squad than Jon Gruden's.
Five of the six are backing the Pats minus 5.5 points Sunday in Foxborough.
"The Patriots came one yard from stunning the Seahawks in Seattle last week during a game in which Cam Newton threw for almost 400 yards and looked really good doing it," Davenport said. "The Raiders are 2-0, but I'm still not convinced they are good. At Gillette Stadium, look for Belichick to load up the box to stop Josh Jacobs and bracket Darren Waller in coverage. Patriots win at home by a touchdown and get the cover."
The Raiders are coming off a significant high, beating the New Orleans Saints in the first-ever game at their new stadium. And while the New Orleans defense is talented, it could be a very different ballgame on the road on short rest against Belichick and a secondary led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Plus, Newton is in more of a groove than Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
So while a six-point Pats victory won't be an easy achievement considering the state of both teams, it's a lot easier to feel comfortable with the Patriots than a Raiders team that doesn't get the ball downfield and still ranks 30th in defensive DVOA.
Davenport: New England
Gagnon: New England
Kahler: New England
Miller: New England
Sobleski: Las Vegas
Tesfatsion: New England
Consensus: New England -5.5
Score Prediction: Patriots 28, Raiders 17
San Francisco 49ers (1-1) at New York Giants (0-2)
DraftKings Line: San Francisco -4
Sunday's matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants is all about attrition and how each team might handle its many losses.
Just consider how many key players from the end of last season are unavailable for this game: Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Nate Solder for the Giants; Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, Joe Staley, Emmanuel Sanders, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Richard Sherman, Solomon Thomas and possibly even Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle for the 49ers.
"Clearly," Gagnon said, "one team has been hit a lot harder than the other. And while the 49ers survived their injuries against the miserable New York Jets, this should be a different challenge in their second consecutive game on the East coast. I don't see how the San Francisco D can take advantage of Barkley's absence and pick on Daniel Jones, and I'm not about to lay more than a field goal with Nick Mullens likely under center for San Francisco."
Of course, everything probably changes if Garoppolo and Kittle return, and both have yet to be ruled out. The former appears to be a lot less likely to suit up than the latter, but either could be game-changers against a vulnerable Giants defense.
That might explain why one-third of our experts—including the co-leader, Davenport—are rolling with the defending NFC champions and their reputable head coach minus four points against a bad team that is also quite banged up.
In other words, you might want to tread carefully, or at least await more clarity on San Francisco's up-in-the-air injuries.
Davenport: San Francisco
Gagnon: New York
Kahler: San Francisco
Miller: New York
Sobleski: New York
Tesfatsion: New York
Consensus: New York +4
Score Prediction: 49ers 21, Giants 20
Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (0-2)
DraftKings Line: Philadelphia -5
You often want to avoid betting against a Philadelphia Eagles team with its back against the wall, but the depleted Eagles have struggled so mightily thus far that the vast majority of our crew can't justify picking them to cover a five-point spread Sunday against an upstart Cincinnati Bengals team that has had extra time to prepare.
"Siding with the Bengals here for a simple reason," Kahler said. "Cincinnati put up 30 points last Thursday night, and the Eagles have yet to break 20 points. Carson Wentz and the offensive line are struggling, and we saw last week that Joe Burrow and this Bengals offense are more than capable of scoring. I wouldn't be surprised if the Bengals get their first win with Burrow, and I expect them to keep it close."
Wentz is talented enough to suddenly break out and save his team's season against a defense that surrendered 35 points to the Cleveland Browns in Week 2, but Cincy's pass D has actually performed well thanks to strong early-season showings from defensive backs William Jackson III, Mackensie Alexander and Jessie Bates III.
Philly could instead control the game on the ground, but that makes a blowout less likely. On the other side of the ball, a weak linebacking corps could have trouble with Joe Mixon and Joe Burrow on the ground.
With home-field advantage unlikely to be a significant factor in front of no fans, this does have the look of a close game.
Consensus: Cincinnati +5
Score Prediction: Eagles 23, Bengals 21
Houston Texans (0-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)
DraftKings Line: Pittsburgh -4
"The Houston Texans have fought two hard battles in the opening weeks of the season," Miller said, "but the Pittsburgh Steelers' ability to win on the ground and through the air should make them an easy pick even at -4 this week. The game is in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers' pass rush and front-seven play will be a big problem for Deshaun Watson and Co."
For what it's worth, Miller, who was 13-3 picking games against the spread last week, is joined on Pittsburgh's side by a super-majority of his fellow correspondents, all of whom see the balance Ben Roethlisberger has brought back to the defensively stout Steelers and wonder how the down-and-possibly-out Texans can counter that.
"Let's also remember," Milled added, "the Texans' first two losses came by 14 (Week 1) and 17 (Week 2) points. They're not exactly keeping it close."
Indeed, while the Steelers have yet to blow anybody out, the Texans have been dominated twice. The Watson-led offense has yet to get on track sans DeAndre Hopkins, and Pittsburgh's opportunistic defense won't make that process any easier. Plus, the Houston defense has now given up 33 or more points in four of its last five games, and there's not much of an excuse for that.
With top Steelers receivers Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster getting healthier, don't overthink this one.
Consensus: Pittsburgh -4
Score Prediction: Steelers 26, Texans 17
Tennessee Titans (2-0) at Minnesota Vikings (0-2)
DraftKings Line: Tennessee -2.5
The Minnesota Vikings might be a well-coached, veteran team that made the playoffs in 2019 and is trying to save its season Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, but that isn't enough to convince the majority of our prognosticators—or the vast majority of the public—to take 2.5 points with Minnesota in this spot.
"The Vikings feature one of the league's worst pass defenses so far this season," Sobleski said. "While the Titans aren't exactly an emphatic aerial attack, the Vikings will sell out to stop running back Derrick Henry, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill is more than capable of torching Minnesota in the play-action game thanks to A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries and tight end Jonnu Smith. The last thing the Vikings want right now is to play from behind with their anemic (32nd-ranked) passing attack."
While that passing attack could bounce back under the tutelage of the unpredictable Kirk Cousins and the solid Dalvin Cook, especially with Adoree' Jackson still missing from the Tennessee secondary, the Vikings might also have trouble with that sell-out-to-stop-Henry plan Sobleski touched on. They've also struggled in run defense the last couple of weeks and are now without four-time Pro Bowler Anthony Barr in the linebacking corps.
Put it all together and 2.5 points doesn't seem like an excessive sacrifice.
Consensus: Tennessee -2.5
Score Prediction: Titans 24, Vikings 20
Los Angeles Rams (2-0) at Buffalo Bills (2-0)
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -2
The smallest line of the week has the 2-0 Buffalo Bills laying two points in a battle with the also-unbeaten Los Angeles Rams, and Gagnon understands why this is close to a toss-up.
"This is just an incredibly even matchup," Gagnon said. "Josh Allen is a little more capable than Jared Goff, who is more accomplished. Both teams are loaded with weapons in the passing game, but both pass defenses are superb. The Los Angeles run defense has been vulnerable, but the Bills haven't been able to get much going on the ground.
"But I'll go with Allen's hot hand over Goff's past results, and I think the third-year quarterback's legs could make a big difference against a defensive front seven that hasn't done much to support Aaron Donald this year. That should give the Bills a slight edge at home, yet they're laying only two points. Even with this game likely to be close, it's an easy call."
You almost have to view spreads this low as pick'ems, so if you have more faith in the Bills at home, that's the pick. That's the case with four of our six experts, but this is extremely unlikely to be a one-sided affair, so you might want to avoid it if you can.
Kahler: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Consensus: Buffalo -2
Score Prediction: Bills 26, Rams 23
Washington Football Team (1-1) at Cleveland Browns (1-1)
DraftKings Line: Cleveland -7
The majority of our correspondents are confused as to why the consistently untrustworthy Cleveland Browns are favored by a full touchdown over a Washington Football Team that is loaded on defense.
"I think this is one of the best plays of the week," Tesfatsion said. "There's no reason a team with Baker Mayfield at quarterback should be touchdown favorites. Washington's defense is first in DVOA and pass defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders. It's a small sample size, but Washington fared well against Carson Wentz and Kyler Murray. I think it can do the same Sunday to keep this game close."
Mayfield rebounded from a rough Week 1 showing in a solid Week 2 performance against the Bengals, but he was hardly touched by a Bengals defense that has only two sacks and four quarterback hits this year. Now, he'll have to deal with a defensive front that more closely resembles that of the Baltimore Ravens, who annihilated Mayfield and the Cleveland offense to kick off the season.
Cleveland's offensive line is improved, and Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt can counter that pressure in the backfield, but is that dynamic enough to justify laying seven points? Not according to Tesfatsion and three of our five other writers.
Consensus: Washington +7
Score Prediction: Browns 24, Washington 21
New York Jets (0-2) at Indianapolis Colts (1-1)
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -10.5
You want to try to find opportunities to fade heavy public favorites like the Indianapolis Colts minus 10.5 points Sunday against the New York Jets, but it's hard to justify putting dollars down on a Jets squad that has looked broken thus far in 2020.
With that in mind, four of our six analysts are laying double digits with Indy.
"This line is trying to suck you in," Gagnon said. "I'm amazed a quarter of the public and a third of our group is biting. The backdoor cover is of course a risk, but the Colts proved last week they're a damn good team on both sides of the ball. And while they've been hit hard by injuries, the Jets have been hit even harder. And while the Colts struggled in Week 1, the Jets don't even look like a professional football team.
"Maybe there's an exploitable matchup for the Jets here? Nah, they don't run well, they don't throw well, they can't defend the pass, and after they at least held the Bills in check on the ground in Week 1, the run defense was a disaster against San Francisco. There's just nothing this depleted team does well, while Indy's Week 1 hiccup against Jacksonville was likely an anomaly. If the Colts can beat the Vikings by 17 points, it's fair to say we can spot them at least 11 or 12 against the demoralized Jets."
Based on the current trajectory of both teams, this spread could look way out of whack in a few weeks' time. Still, this is far from a unanimous decision. It's a high number considering how poorly the Colts played the Jags two weeks ago.
Davenport: New York
Sobleski: New York
Consensus: Indianapolis -10.5
Score Prediction: Colts 28, Jets 13
Carolina Panthers (0-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (1-1)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -6.5
Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert nearly led an upset victory over the defending Super Bowl champions in his surprise NFL debut last week. Now, he'll again be at home for a less surprising start against a young Carolina Panthers defense that has already given up 65 points this season.
"Last week, with 10 seconds notice, he went throw for throw with Patrick Mahomes," Kahler said of Herbert in defense of her and the majority's decision to take the Chargers minus nearly a touchdown. "Imagine what he can do with a full week of taking the first-team reps in practice, and again facing a weak defense with Carolina."
Meanwhile, the Panthers will be without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, which could make it easier for Joey Bosa and Co. to pin their ears back and get after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The former Viking and Saint has been one of the least-pressured passers in the league thus far, but Bosa figures to change that. It helps to have Casey Hayward Jr., Chris Harris Jr. and Desmond King II on the back end, too.
So while Bridgewater could be in trouble, Herbert will be facing a defense that doesn't have a single sack and has just one quarterback hit this year. It's an ideal matchup for him, and for the Chargers in general.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Consensus: Los Angeles -6.5
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Panthers 14
Detroit Lions (0-2) at Arizona Cardinals (2-0)
DraftKings Line: Arizona -5.5
The first unanimous call of the week goes to the Arizona Cardinals, who are laying 5.5 points against a Detroit Lions team that was supposed to be competitive this year but is already being written off by Sobleski and the rest of our writers.
"A clean sweep of selections in the Cardinals' favor probably says more about their opponent than Arizona," Sobleski said. "Detroit found a way to lose in Week 1 against the Bears before being beaten handily by the Green Bay Packers a week later. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are one of the NFL's most explosive teams with Kyler Murray leading the way and DeAndre Hopkins looking like his old self in a new uniform. It's not hard to see why the Cards are favored."
More reasons the Cardinals are widely expected to cover that 5.5-point spread:
- They remain astonishingly healthy, while cornerback Desmond Trufant (hamstring), wideout Kenny Golladay (hamstring), offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot) and cornerback Justin Coleman (hamstring) remain injured to various degrees for the Lions.
- Murray and Hopkins are only going to become more comfortable with each other, and a Detroit defense with a banged-up secondary and just two sacks on the year isn't likely to present much of a challenge.
- At some point, we have to stop believing the Lions will turn a corner. They've covered the spread only twice in their last 13 games.
- The public might not have caught on yet, but the Cards have the No. 8 defense in terms of DVOA.
So, yeah. It's Cardinals all the way here.
Consensus: Arizona -5.5
Score Prediction: Cardinals 34, Lions 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) at Denver Broncos (0-2)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -6
Public faves can be high-target fades, but the fact the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are drawing 85 percent of the bets as a six-point favorite against the Denver Broncos is a potential indication this line is too low considering the injury-ravaged state of the Broncos.
Our writers agree by way of a clean sweep.
"The Broncos are without Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton and Von Miller," Miller said. "The Buccaneers are at full strength offensively with a cast that seems to be gelling together on the fly. The Bucs win, and they cover without much effort this week."
Tampa Bay is indeed fully healthy now that Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are both on track to play, while the Broncos are down that aforementioned trio along with right tackle Ja'Wuan James (COVID-19 opt-out), running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder). It's a mess, and nobody wants to back a team in that shape with Jeff Driskel at quarterback and only six points in their back pocket.
The Tampa defense can bring it, and the Broncos are in terrible shape for a matchup with a D that generated four takeaways last week against Carolina. Throw in progress from Tom Brady and Co. on offense, and this looks like a blowout without home-field factoring in very much at Mile High.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Gagnon: Tampa Bay
Kahler: Tampa Bay
Miller: Tampa Bay
Sobleski: Tampa Bay
Tesfatsion: Tampa Bay
Consensus: Tampa Bay -6
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Broncos 17
Dallas Cowboys (1-1) at Seattle Seahawks (2-0)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -5
The Seattle Seahawks barely covered a four-point spread with a last-gasp victory over the Patriots, but they're now even larger favorites against a Dallas Cowboys team that arguably has more talent and is coming off a thrilling 40-39 victory over the Falcons.
That has all but one of our experts siding with Dallas on the road in an empty stadium.
"HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS?" Tesfatsion shouted, apparently. "Did they cover last week? No. Did they have one of the most enjoyable comebacks of all time in my biased opinion? You're damn right they did. Falling behind 20-0 off four giveaways isn't a sustainable formula for success, but Dak Prescott once again proved that he's one of the top quarterbacks in the game."
The Cowboys have been hit hard by injuries, but they could get left tackle Tyron Smith back Sunday. Meanwhile, Prescott has a chance to keep it rolling against a Seattle defense that has struggled against the pass and is now dealing with injuries to Marquise Blair on the back end and Bruce Irvin up front.
"This is gearing up to be another high-scoring, tight game at CenturyLink Field," Tesfastion added. "Seattle doesn't have Atlanta's pass-rushers, though, and it just lost Irvin for the season."
In other words, the Cowboys should keep up in this track meet.
Consensus: Dallas +5
Score Prediction: Seahawks 28, Cowboys 27
Green Bay Packers (2-0) at New Orleans Saints (1-1)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -3.5
The lines that made no sense to our crew seemed to be piled into the late-afternoon and prime-time schedule this week, as none of our writers were willing to consider laying a field goal plus a hook with a New Orleans Saints team that hasn't looked right this year hosting the red-hot Green Bay Packers in front of nobody at the Superdome.
"How in the holy hullabaloo are the Saints still 3.5-point favorites after the egg they laid in Las Vegas on Monday night?" Davenport asked. "The Saints looked choppy on offense against the Raiders, and the defense had no answer for Darren Waller, Meanwhile, the Packers are firing on all cylinders offensively after using Aaron Jones to pound the Lions into goo in Week 2. The Packers are better than I thought. The Saints are not. And Green Bay is going to win this one outright."
It'd be hard to argue against that, and nobody here did. Drew Brees looks as though he finally might have hit a cliff at 41, Michael Thomas is dealing with an ankle injury that could sideline him for this game, and key trench players Marcus Davenport and Terron Armstead are hurting as well for New Orleans.
While the Packers have injury problems of their own with Davante Adams (hamstring) and Kenny Clark (groin) missing practice time, Aaron Rodgers and Jones look unstoppable right now, which is a bad sign when you couldn't even stop Derek Carr.
Could Brees wake up or Alvin Kamara take over against a still-vulnerable Packers defense, especially with Clark hurting? Absolutely, but that might just allow the Saints to keep up. Spotting the Packers 3.5 points is a different story entirely.
Davenport: Green Bay
Gagnon: Green Bay
Kahler: Green Bay
Miller: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Tesfatsion: Green Bay
Consensus: Green Bay +3.5
Score Prediction: Packers 27, Saints 24
Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -3.5
"The biggest matchup of the season so far pits the NFL's two best teams against one another with the Kansas City Chiefs getting a nod by all but two of B/R's voters for one simple reason," Sobleski said in summarizing our final pick of the week. "The Baltimore Ravens are laying 3.5 points against the reigning Super Bowl champs."
"Baltimore may be the better team right now, but there's no reason whatsoever to bet against Patrick Mahomes and Co. when they've shown time and again they can score with anyone and come back from any deficit."
Mahomes has never failed to cover or push in six games as an underdog in his NFL career. And while the Ravens have been dominating to more of an extent than the Chiefs have early this season, neither the Browns nor the Texans were in great shape for those matchups. The Chiefs also easily handled the Texans but struggled against the much more impressive Chargers.
Baltimore fell by five points when these teams met in Kansas City last September. What have the Ravens done to suddenly lay 3.5 with a limited home-field advantage this week? They've improved and Jackson has taken off as a passer, but need we remind you that the Chiefs won the Super Bowl?
This has the look and feel of a field-goal game, and we won't fault you for refusing to bet against Mahomes and Andy Reid with 3.5 points on the other side. In fact, that's what we recommend.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kahler: Kansas City
Sobleski: Kansas City
Consensus: Kansas City +3.5
Score Prediction: Ravens 28, Chiefs 27
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