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

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2020

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) scrambles a Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) pressures him during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept.20, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The Houston Texans fit into the adage of not being a typical 0-2 NFL franchise. 

Bill O'Brien's team played the most difficult schedule of any team in the first two weeks, as it lost to a pair of Super Bowl contenders in Baltimore and Kansas City.

Houston could be the best underdog to pick against the spread and on the outright moneyline for its Week 3 showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

The Steelers are still undefeated, but they earned two wins against a pair of weaker squads in the New York Giants and Denver Broncos. 

The Green Bay Packers do not deserve to be an underdog after their 2-0 start, but they are on the wrong side of the spread since they visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.  

Of all the Week 3 underdogs, Houston and Green Bay are the most trustworthy selections to pull off victories. 

           

NFL Week 3 Schedule

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All Times ET; Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

        

Thursday, September 24

Miami at Jacksonville (-3) (8:20 p.m., NFL Network) (Over/Under: 48)

      

Sunday, September 27

Cincinnati at Philadelphia (-6) (1 p.m., CBS) (O/U: 46.5)

Houston at Pittsburgh (-4) (1 p.m., CBS) (O/U: 45)

Las Vegas at New England (-5.5) (1 p.m., CBS) (O/U: 48)

Tennessee (-2.5) at Minnesota (1 p.m., CBS) (O/U: 47.5)

Chicago at Atlanta (-3.5) (1 p.m., Fox) (O/U: 47.5)

Los Angeles Rams at Buffalo (-2) (1 p.m., Fox) (O/U: 47.5)

San Francisco (-4) at New York Giants (1 p.m., Fox) (O/U: 41)

Washington at Cleveland (-7) (1 p.m., Fox) (O/U: 44)

Carolina at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5) (4:05 p.m., CBS) (O/U: 44)

New York Jets at Indianapolis (-10.5) (4:05 p.m., CBS) (O/U: 43.5)

Tampa Bay (-6) at Denver (4:25 p.m., Fox) (O/U: 43.5)

Detroit at Arizona (-5.5) (4:25 p.m., Fox) (O/U: 54.5)

Dallas at Seattle (-4.5) (4:25 p.m., Fox) (O/U: 55.5)

Green Bay at New Orleans (-3.5) (8:20 p.m., NBC) (O/U: 51.5)

       

Monday, September 28

Kansas City at Baltimore (-3.5) (8:15 p.m., ESPN) (O/U: 53.5)

Predictions against the spread in bold. 

       

Top Underdog Picks

Houston (+4) at Pittsburgh 

Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Houston did not play well enough to keep up with Baltimore and Kansas City for four quarters, but it put up some decent numbers that suggest its offense could be in for a big performance against a team beneath the top tier. 

The Texans eclipsed the 300-yard mark in both losses and managed to put up 36 points on the pair of AFC front-runners. 

Deshaun Watson has connected with nine different wide receivers in his quest to replace DeAndre Hopkins' production. Primary wideouts Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller V both have over 100 receiving yards after combining for 15 catches on 23 targets. 

If Watson continues to work Cooks and Fuller into the passing attack and uses tight ends Darren Fells and Jordan Akins as targets in the red zone, the Texans could cause damage in the Pittsburgh secondary.

Thriving through the air is probably the best way for Houston to win since it faces a Pittsburgh rushing defense, led by Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt, that held the Giants to 29 rushing yards in Week 1 with a healthy Saquon Barkley on the field. 

Although they are 2-0, the Steelers have some flaws that could be exploited by the AFC South side. 

Pittsburgh allowed 477 yards through the air and committed three turnovers in the pair of victories in which it scored 26 points in both. In the second half of the Week 2 win over Denver, Pittsburgh allowed 18 points to backup quarterback Jeff Driskel, who brought the Broncos within five points. 

If the Steelers fail to control the second half again, they could stumble against the Watson-led passing attack that is starting to find a rhythm without Hopkins.

In 2019, Houston picked up five road victories, including a crucial Week 16 win over Tennessee, and two of its three regular-season road defeats were by one possession.

The Texans should keep the game close and be in a position to win Sunday, which makes a +180 (bet $100 to win $180) moneyline wager an intriguing proposition. 

           

Green Bay (+3.5) at New Orleans

Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

Green Bay should be the most popular underdog on the betting lines in Week 3. 

The Packers put up back-to-back 40-point performances against two NFC North rivals. In Week 1, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams stole the headlines, while Aaron Jones was the primary star in Week 2. 

Rodgers, Jones and Co. have 1,010 total yards against Minnesota and Detroit to set them up perfectly for the trip to New Orleans. 

The Saints are at home, but they have had less rest to recover from Monday night's loss to Las Vegas. 

In Week 1, both of the Monday night losers were unable to bounce back with victories in Week 2. It is a very small trend set by the Giants and Broncos, but it is worth watching moving forward. 

New Orleans put up 424 total yards in its loss to the Raiders, but it struggled to produce a downfield threat without Michael Thomas, who is dealing with a high ankle sprain. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported "there is hope and even some optimism" the wide receiver could return Sunday night, but nothing has been confirmed. 

If Thomas is unable to go, Brees needs to form a better connection with Emmanuel Sanders, who had a single reception for 18 yards in Week 2. Brees utilized Tre'Quan Smith and Alvin Kamara more through the air, but if he can't find his No. 2 wide receiver on a consistent basis, it may hamper the dynamic ability of the Saints offense. 

The Packers are dealing with an injury issue of their own, but Adams' hamstring injury appears to be less serious than Thomas' knock. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur addressed the concerns regarding Adams' hamstring after the win over Detroit, per Ryan Wood and Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

"I know he wanted to go back in the game. I just told him, "Hey, let's see how these next few series go, and see if we need you' Obviously, he's a huge part of what we do offensively and a key member of this football team. If we don't need him, we didn't want to put him back in a position to do further harm to his own body."

If Adams is healthy, the Packers should be in good shape to put pressure on a Saints defense that allowed over 300 total yards to Tampa Bay and Las Vegas. 

With the spread in favor of the Saints, now may be the time to land the Packers at +150 if you believe their offensive run will continue into Week 3.

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.