Early leans & analysis Wk 3
Early leans & analysis

NFL 2021

Week 3

What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday.

We’re intent on providing our readers with the best possible selections and doing so on Sunday instead of Friday just makes more sense. We made that change two years ago and ended up going 81-57 (+64 units) in 2018, 65-59 in 2019 (+16 units) and 55-62 in last year's unusual pandemic season. Again, we’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST

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DETROIT +8½ -105 over Baltimore

1:00 PM EST. The over and underreaction to high profile, prime time games is real and this game nails that on two fronts. First up is the Lions, who were whacked 35-18 in Green Bay on Monday Night Football. While the result was disappointing, there were some positives for the 0-2 Lions. Up until halftime, Detroit was arguably the better side, taking the lead three times in the first 30 minutes of game time, including a 17-14 edge at the break. However, those 17 points would be all that Detroit would score, which has their stock on the decline after a quality showing against the 49ers in Week 1. While the Lions lost that game by a 41-33 final, Detroit had more first downs than the 49es (31-to-21), was comparable in yards (442-to-430) and won the time of possession by nearly seven minutes (6:54). It might be easy to write the Lions off as the same old NFC North basement dwellers, but that would be short sighted. The Lions are in the process of rebuilding with Jared Goff at the helm. Dude might not be the greatest #1 pick of all time, but he’s no Tim Couch either.

On the other side of this coin is Baltimore, who had one of the most dramatic comebacks we’ve seen in the early going after edging out Kansas City 36-35 on Sunday Night Football. The Ravens were down 11-points in the fourth quarter, but did not quit, outscoring the Chiefs 19-7 the rest of the way. It was a big win and well deserved, but there is often a letdown after such an exhilarating victory. 

The Ravens have played two straight prime time games, with their 33-27 overtime loss in Las Vegas being the wackiest finish to a game in 2021. The series of events that unfolded for Baltimore to blow that game in the final five minutes may never be matched again. After two games, the Ravens have likely raised their stock and appear to be a team that the market has taken a stand with here in Week 3. However, the Ravens go from a home pooch last week (+3½) to a significant road favorite here. If the Ravens have enough gas in the tank to not only win but win big, so be it, but the prudent play here would be to snap up the inflated points and let the chips fall where they may. Recommendation: DETROIT +8½

Washington +7 -105 over BUFFALO

1:00 PM EST. The only thing that will prevent us from stepping in on the underdog here is that the line opened at +9 and was immediately bet down by the efficient market. We’re very leary when the efficient market takes a position but in this case, the movement was quick and hard because oddsmakers did post a bad number and we trust that most of the money coming in was arbitrage money (attempting to make pennies on the dollar). We are really hoping that over the next two days leading up to Sunday, the line comes back a bit. At the time of this writing (Friday morning), we’re seeing signs of it indeed coming back. 

All that said, +9 was an absurd number and +7 is also an inflated price on The Football Team. The best thing about this game is that the Bills donkey-kicked an opponent last week to get their high expectations back on track. As a result of Buffalo’s 35-point win, they are once again grossly overpriced. 

The oddity in the Bills offense after two weeks is that Devin Singletary has never looked better running the ball, but Josh Allen isn't passing nearly as well. Allen created big expectations for this year after being the top fantasy quarterback for 2020. The Bills get a two-game stretch at home against the Football Team and Texans to figure out where their offensive mojo went but we’re going to keep fading this team until a market correction occurs. We have previously outlined Josh Allen’s luck-driven results last year not to mention his accuracy problems and a striking lack of fundamentals at both the NFL level and college level. It is of no surprise to us that Allen is struggling but all the market sees is a 35-0 win last week to seemingly get the Bills back where they should be. Trust us, Buffalo was not that sharp last week, instead, the Fish played a brutal, mistake-filled 60 minutes. 

Taylor Heinicke played very well against the Giants in his first start of the year, but the Football Team's defense isn't yet playing up to 2020 levels. Heinicke passed for 336 yards and let’s not forget how well he played in last year’s playoffs when the Football Team went into Tampa Bay and gave the eventual Super Bowl champs a massive scare. Washington was stuck two points going to the fourth quarter and then stuck five points with 4½ minutes remaining. Heinicke went off for 306 yards that day so in his last two starts, he has passed for over 300 yards in both. We cannot envision any scenario in which the Bills warrant this price against a superior QB and will call it out as such. Upset alert is on. Recommendation: Washington +7 -105 

N.Y. GIANTS -3 -105 over Atlanta

At a combined 0-4, this game stinks worse than the burning rubber, rotten eggs, or worse, the great state of New Jersey is known for. Sure, the Garden State gave us Bruce Springsteen, but that dude blew out of there, moved to L.A., and married a model the second he was able to. Happy birthday, Boss! Back to the Giants, New Jersey’s team, even if they don’t represent the state because of its limited marketing potential (among other things), who are winless and coming off a Thursday Night Football loss to the Taylor Heinicke-led Football Team. If you watched any of the coverage leading up to that game, the talking heads nearly all agreed it was a “must win” game for not only the Giants but quarterback Daniel Jones. Well, so much for that, as the Giants fell 30-29.

If the Giant’s stock was low before the season, it’s in the dumper now and their perceived dysfunction is all anyone is talking about. The newly signed Kenny Golladay was spotted giving the business to Jones on the sidelines in front of the football world and that image has now become the symbol of the Giants’ season thus far. Golladay insisted that he was pissed off at offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but those optics aren’t much better in the eyes of the market. This might be a good time to point out that all the outside noise and bullshit that fill the airwaves all week is usually just that, bullshit. If you want the good stuff, you need to follow the beat writers to get a proper feel for a team. Jason Garrett said the Golladay situation was “no big deal,” and we are inclined to believe him. Nobody likes getting beat on national TV, and the Giants are no different. With 10 days to prepare, it is unlikely that the G-Men will not be as ready to go. 

Because the Giants lost, nobody is talking about Daniel Jones’ coming out party. Although it was just one game, something clicked for Jones. He was throwing a gorgeous ball every time he slingged it, just like he did in college when he was tearing up the record books for Duke. It was one gorgeous pass after another for 60 minutes of football against what was supposed to be a very good Washington defense. 

The Falcons have laid two eggs to start the season, but they were expected to get frog-stomped by the Buccaneers in Tampa, so that result likely has not dinged them up any more than they already were. Despite the 0-2 start, the Falcons still have some notable star power that the market can trust far more than anyone the G-Men will trot out. Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Kyle Pitts and Mike Davis versus Jones, an already battered Saquon Barkley, malcontent Golladay and the oft-injured Evan Engram is not going to look like a fair fight on paper. It’s a good thing they don’t play the games on a spreadsheet. While it doesn’t always work out, it’s worth listening when the oddsmakers tell you something. Making the Giants the chalk when this game could easily have been a pick ‘em screams that the Giants are a very playable favorite. While all is not equal, much like the Bears last week (who were also coming off a prime time loss), this is a small price to swallow against a toothless invader. We have been following Daniel Jones for a long time. We followed his college career and thought the Giants stole him in the draft. What we saw last week was not a Giants loss but Daniel Jones getting a massive confidence boost from his coaches to go out there and take control. Buy this kid before he becomes the flavor of the week.  Recommendation: N.Y. Giants -3

Cincinnati +3 -105 over PITTSBURGH

1:00 PM EST. The red flags on the home side are plentiful here, but we’ll keep this one short and sweet.  The Steelers lost to the Raiders last Sunday, but they are still the Steelers at the end of the day, and they have a big time history of kicking the Bengals asses every year. Those past results only influence the market for all the wrong reasons. Traditionally speaking, a line such as this would be reserved for a heated battle with the Ravens, who are often battling it out with Pittsburgh for tops in the AFC North. Hell, the Steelers were spotting more points to the now 2-0 Raiders last Sunday. The Status of Ben Roethlisberger may have something to do with that, but we suspect the Bengals could have been priced in the same range as Vegas and not moved the needle on where the action will come from. Instead, the Steelers are spotting a much smaller price than an unsuspecting market might think they should be. Ben or no Ben. 

Incidentally, Cincinnati was not the second best team on the field last week. Uncharacteristically, Joe Burrows, a true student of the game, threw three picks including a late pick-6, yet Cinci lost by just three. Mistakes made and now corrected.  

What is notable about Cincinnati’s matchup against Chicago last week is that the Bengals were priced in a similar range as you see here on Sunday morning before the market pounced and pounded Cinci down to just a +1-point pooch. The Bears would win 20-17 but truth be told, Cinci was up 20-3 in the fourth quarter and those that backed the Bears switched channels and were left with a sour taste in their mouth for backing the Bengals. They surely won’t make that same mistake again this week, thus creating a bunch of proven strategies. We have a zig-zag in play and we also have the buy-low strategy in play. Pittsburgh shouldn’t be -3 over Jacksonville, never mind Cincinnati. We’ll wrap this one up on this note: The Bengals are a team on the rise, while the Steelers are on the decline. Pittsburgh’s win over Buffalo in Week 1 was smoke and mirrors and we’ve seen nothing from this team to take us off our preseason stance that they would be in the toilet in 2021. The Bengals are the vastly better side coming off a learning experience loss and thus the most likely outcome here is a straight up win. Recommendation: Cincinnati +3 -105

Arizona -7½ -105 over JACKSONVILLE

1:00 PM EST. We wrote last week about the mess that is already the Urban Meyer era in Jacksonville and there was little in the Jaguars 23-13 loss to “Wobbly Balls” Teddy Bridgwater and the Broncos to suggest that those reports of the head coach being a total dick are not to be believed. It’s with that in mind that we point to Jacksonville’s Thursday Night contest in Cincinnati as a potential hurdle in the Jags getting off the schneid. When a team has a date on Thursday night, much of that prep time begins before the week prior’s game is over. With Meyer being a bully and total control freak, you know his blood is already boiling at the prospect of looking like a genius on national television. It’s not like the Jags are going to get many kicks at that can in 2021. As for Meyer’s 0-2 start to his NFL coaching career, well, dude might be one blowout loss away from another grabber. How sad is it that the most impactful thing Meyer has done since returning to North Florida was lend Chris Jericho his lapper on All Elite Wrestling, which is owned by Tony Khan, whose old man bankrolls the Jags.

The Cardinals were the talk of the league after a high flying Week 1 win in Tennessee, but last week they were a slim 34-33 point-spread loser at home over the Vikings as a popular choice in the market. Those that saw the highlights or watched that game know that the Vikings missed a chip shot field goal with no time left on the clock to walk away as losers. Did the Cards get away with one? You bet, but to be good, you also have to be lucky and that scare is enough to keep the Red Birds flying in the right direction

Spotting points on the road like this is not usually in our bag of tricks, but there are exceptions to many rules. Mindset is everything and listening to Trevor Lawrence this week, dude sounds like he’s totally bummed when describing the locker room, “Everyone is frustrated. Everybody is disappointed.” 

No kidding, Dawg. This isn’t college, where Urban Meyer can throw his weight around and intimidate kids. No, these are pro athletes that are getting paid and there isn’t anything this fucking freak can do about it except turn red as a motherfucker. The players can’t stand his ass already and we cannot wait to watch the cameras on him while his team gets embarrassed by the Bengals next week. Players respond and play hard for coaches they love. They don’t give a shit when they can’t stand the site of their coach. 

As with any game the Jaguars are going to play this season, this one is going to go off the rails. When it does, it’s going to get ugly  We could never sign off regarding this game without discussing another little nugget we’ll put in our back pocket. Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury went 35-40 in six years at Texas Tech, never finishing higher than fifth in the Big 12. Meyer won five conference titles and three national championships during stops at Florida and Ohio State. If you don’t think that Kingsbury wants to kick this mother fuckers ass until his face is purple, think again. Recommendation: Arizona -7½ -105

L.A. Chargers +7 -105 over KANSAS CITY

1:00 PM EST. Patrick Mahomes and company need little fanfare from us, as they are on TV more than “Leave It To Beaver” re-runs. Just last Sunday night, Mahomes was in an offensive fireworks show with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. While the Chiefs came up short in a 36-35 final, we doubt that they lost much shine. That game was expected to be a spectacle, with the NFL putting on the best show it can and the Chiefs delivered their end of the bargain. However, Kansas City must turn around on a short week to prepare for a fierce invader that is capable of doing some real damage. We’re calling this a letdown spot and won’t back down.

The Chargers just aren’t going to get the love they deserve until they get over the hump and finally win some games that matter in January, but until then, we are happy to back them when they are taking back an inflated price like this. As a small home favorite against the Cowboys last Sunday, L.A. dropped a 20-17 final. Not a good look when the Cowboys scratched two of their better defenders just prior to game time. The market overreacted to that injury news, as it often does, and you know how the rest played out.

On the surface, the Chargers have an unimpressive 20-16 Week 1 win over the Football Team and a loss to the Cowboys. Those results, while not ideal, do not tell the entire story. In the football game against the Football Team, L.A. should have won by a wide margin. It dominated Washington in every area but the final score. Last week, it was turnovers that sunk the Super Chargers. Rarely does a team lose that luck-based battle and win the game. 

When it comes to pivots in this league, there are few we trust more than Herbert to make good decisions under pressure. Dude is cool as a cucumber. When you bet a game that involves the Chargers you can count on something bizarre happening that will drop your jaw open. That said, the Chargers are in the upper echelon of NFL teams in terms of overall talent and QB play but rarely are they priced like it. Win, lose or jaw drop, the Bolts are too good to be taking back prices like this. Recommendation: L.A. Chargers +7 -105

Miami +3½ -105  over LAS VEGAS 

4:05 PM EST. In today’s NFL, when a team gets shut out the market takes notice. In a league where offense rules, defenses are forced to tiptoe like they are walking on glass so not to take a game changing penalty. Posting a big fat zero is going to stink up the box scores like a fresh dog turd. Enter the 1-1 Dolphins, who suffered more than just the loss on Sunday, as they also lost second year pivot  Tua Tagovailoa, who left that 35-0 drubbing against the Bills with fractured ribs and will not suit up this week. The loss of their #1 QB might have taken what little shine the Dolphins had, but the reality is, dude wasn’t playing well anyway. On the surface, Jacoby Brissett might appear to be a downgrade, as he did not lead the Fish on any scoring drives in relief of Tua, but with a full week to prepare, the often overlooked Brissett is in a prime position to play spoiler. Dude threw 40 passes last week and was moving the chains but the Fish turned the ball over three times and also went 0-3 inside the red zone. 

The Raiders are 2-0 and the hype train is getting ready to leave the station. Following its wild and wacky Monday Night Football tilt with the Ravens, Vegas took their show on the road to Pittsburgh, where it downed the Steelers 26-17. A road win in Pittsburgh has value and with it comes attention from the market. So, too, does the start of quarterback Derek Carr, who is putting up Madden 22 like numbers with 817 yards and four touchdowns after two games. Just three other pivots have had a season with such a hot start (at least 380 yards and 2 TD in the first two games to start the year). Turn on any NFL Fantasy show or weekly NFL preview show and the Raiders are the flavor of the week, however, we would be hesitant to jump on board with the Raiders in Week 3 because their stock is up, while the Dolphins are on the downswing. It’s worth mentioning that this will be the first game this season the Raiders will not be the plucky pooch. Now Vegas is expected to win instead of being expected to lose, which is a much different role. A peek ahead on the schedule also shows that the Raiders have a big game against the Chargers next Monday night. One could not blame Vegas for looking ahead to renewing its “Hate Week” rivalry in Los Angeles but more importantly, Vegas comes into this one as a small favorite, which has a big fat danger sign written all over it. Recommendation: Miami +4 

N.Y. Jets +10½ -105 over DENVER

4:05 PM EST. The 0-2 Jets donated their obligatory loss to the Patriots last week and now head to Denver, where the 2-0 Broncos continue their early-year feast on bad teams but the market is influenced by results and final scores more than anything else, thus allowing us these wonderful opportunities. 

The third season for head coach Vic Fangio couldn't have started any better. The schedule makers were kind when the season opened with the Giants, Jaguars, and the Jets but the schedule turns dark starting next week when the upcoming opponent is the Ravens. Look, we have no fucking idea what’s going to happen here but what we know for sure is that Denver has done nothing to be priced in the same range as the Buccaneers, Packers and Brownies were last week. It’s properstorous. The Broncos and Teddy Bridgewater are 2-0 not because they’re playing well but because the schedule makers felt sorry for them. This is a team that is probably going to lose 10 games or more this year and now they’re priced like they’re the Chiefs? Da fuck is dat? 

Vic Fangio might be the worst NFL coach in history. John Elway might be the worst GM in history. Elway goes through QB’s like the Titans go through field goal-kickers. Teddy “Wobbly Balls” Bridgewater is the result of Elway and Fangio grasping at straws. Bridgewater needs two gloves and a novelty-sized slingshot to advance the ball more than 10 yards downfield. If you enjoy checkdowns, Teddy is genetically engineered to throw them. All we’re reading about Teddy after two weeks is that “he hasn’t made any mistakes” yet. In other words, expectations and pedigree are not on his side. 

Few people watch the Jets so the market is, for the most part, unaware of the positive strides they’re making. First, the coach has the players' attention and respect. Robert Saleh actually looks good to us but the team has not executed well. There’s a learning curve to be sure but Saleh knows exactly what buttons to push. That poor execution will get better. The four picks that Zach Wilson threw last week figure to be a blessing in disguise because it’s a great learning experience. Just because he can, doesn’t mean he should and we’re referring to Wilson throwing the ball. The kid is smart and talented and we’re going to bet that last week’s results were an outstanding learning opportunity. 

The Jets defense looks half decent. The running game looks half decent too. This is a young talented team that looks like they’re having fun out there and are in it for the long haul. They also moved the chains on the ground with 133 yards last week, which is another positive. 

Look, the Jets lost by five lousy points in Week 1 in Carolina. They were not dominated by the Patriots last week either. The Jets had more first downs than New England and also had a significant edge in time of possession. They were more efficient on third down (5-13) than the Patriots (3-12) but all anyone sees is a 19-point loss. When you add everything up, including a 2-0 team versus an 0-2 team, it equates to us taking back a slew of more points than we should be. Survivor players beware if you were thinking Broncos, as we’re calling this the biggest overlay on the board and a potential upset. Wobbly Balls spotting double-digits? That’s funny. Recommendation: NY Jets +10½

L.A. RAMS +1½ -105 over Tampa Bay

4:25 PM EST. An analysis of the X’s and O’s here will not be necessary, as this is one of the marquee matchups of Week 3. You’ll find the experts breaking down tape on Tom Brady and Matt Stafford, comparing the Rams and Buccaneers vaunted defensive units, and of course the chess match on the sidelines between Sean McVay and Bruce Arians. They can have it. All we need to know about this game is that the efficient market has taken a stand.

The Rams rightfully opened as the betting favorite here, but that did not last long and now L.A. is a small home pooch. Exsqueeze me? Last time out, the Rams were in a dogfight against the Colts, which was a team that they were expected to roll after Stafford and company went off on the Bears on Sunday Night Football. Instead, L.A. had to overcome a fourth quarter deficit and kicked the game winning field goal with just under 2:30 to play. From our perch, that character-building win in Indy was far more impressive than the domination of the Bears. Stafford has so many weapons at his disposal it is almost sickening. Matty has also been one of the better protected quarterbacks through two weeks, as the Rams offensive line ranks second only to San Francisco in sacks allowed per game. Give Stafford time and he’s going to hit his targets. 

Tom Brady is setting a ridiculous touchdown pace to start the year. He is feeding Gronk like the big man hasn’t eaten in months, while also saving some for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, and the rest of the star studded offense. The Bucs don’t need us to slobber on them, they’ll get plenty of that in the market. Instead, we’d like to point out that Tommy Boy is going back to Foxboro next Sunday night to show off his tan and his hot new girlfriend to the withered old hag he left behind. That’s not to say that the Bucs will not be prepared here, but the lookahead spot cannot be ignored. The oddsmakers got this one right when they made the Rams the chalk. The wrong side is now favored. Recommendation: L.A. RAMS +1½ -105

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