NFL Pick’Em Picks For Week 3: Dolphins, Rams, Chiefs, More Favorites & Underdogs
Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew Stafford
I’ll be picking five NFL sides each week of the season for DraftKings‘ Pro Football Millionaire Pick’Em contest. Note that the spreads for this contest lock on Wednesdays, so some will be stale by the time you read this and thus not readily available outside of the contest. But you can check real-time NFL odds here.
Here were the five sides for this week’s entry:
- Miami Dolphins +3.5: Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET
- Kansas City Chiefs -6.5: Sunday 1:00 p.m ET
- Los Angeles Rams +1.5: Sunday 4:25 p.m ET
- Denver Broncos -10.5: Sunday 4:05 p.m ET
- Green Bay Packers +3.5: Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET
Week 3 NFL Pick’Em Picks
1. Miami Dolphins +3.5
The Miami Dolphins are coming off a 35-0 home blowout loss against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills who have had their number recently — scoring 87 points in two games last year and 122 points in the last three matchups. Despite being shut out against a Bills team that has dominated them, the Dolphins had their opportunities last week, failing to score on three trips inside the Bills’ red zone. Nevertheless, in Week 3 the Dolphins will take on the Las Vegas Raiders who have won back-to-back games against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
While the Raiders have improved this season, I’m not sure they’ve improved enough to warrant this number. I’m not particularly upgrading the power rating for this Raiders team after their win over the Steelers — who have had issues offensively and dealt with losses to T.J. Watt, Devin Bush and Joe Haden defensively — and their win over the Ravens was largely because of two Lamar Jackson fumbles.
The elephant in the room is the absence of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who will miss Sunday’s game with fractured ribs. Jacoby Brissett will step in and he’s more than capable of keeping the Dolphins afloat in Tagovailoa’s absence — it’s possible he could be an upgrade for this team as opposed to a downgrade given his arm strength.
Derek Carr also comes into this game dealing with an ankle injury and he’ll be facing a Dolphins defense that is still 11th in efficiency and leads the league in quarterback hits (15). The Raiders’ offensive line is banged up and is 32nd in adjusted line yards and 16th in adjusted sack rate (5.5%), so Miami should be able to cause problems for this unit.
According to our Bet Labs database, since 2003 teams who lose by 35 points or more are 24-15-4 (61.5%) in their following matchup. Overall, I see this number as a bit high and believe the spread is overvaluing the loss of Tagovailoa — I’ll play the Dolphins.
2. Kansas City Chiefs -6.5
What would this line be if the Kansas City Chiefs had closed out the Baltimore Ravens in their 36-35 loss on Sunday night? At this point we know betting on the Chiefs hasn’t been a successful endeavor over the past season — they are just 1-11-1 ATS in the last 13 games. This is a market and I do believe the market has finally caught up to the Chiefs consistently finding themselves in one-score games. If the market is efficient and given how tight these NFL numbers are, the Chiefs should find themselves covering some of these games going forward. The Chiefs are still third in points per game (34), first in EPA/play and third in Offensive Success Rate, so it’s clear that a team will need to score close to 40 to have a chance to win.
While the Chiefs have plenty of issues defensively, ranking 32nd in Defensive Success Rate (59.2%) and Defensive Rushing Success rate (59.7%), they are coming off games against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens who have prolific rushing attacks. I’m not sure the Chargers can capitalize in the same manner as they’re just 23rd in Rushing Success Rate (35.6%). Justin Herbert and the Chargers have been dominant on third down, converting a league-high 61.29%, however, we can expect these numbers to regress as the season goes on.
What’s troubling is that this team is forced to convert third downs at such a high rate to be competitive as they’re just 26th in Early Down Success Rate (40.5%), meaning they’re consistently behind the sticks and forced to make big plays on third-and-long to keep drives going. The Chargers have also struggled in the red zone where they’re ranked 31st, scoring touchdowns on just three of their 10 red-zone attempts (30%). Along with ranking third in penalties (18) this year, the Chargers are an undisciplined team that has struggled to make the best of opportunities in games against the Washington Football Team and Dallas Cowboys. With the Chargers taking a step up in class, this feels like a great buy-low spot on the Chiefs who should be able to put the pressure on and win this game by a touchdown or more.
3. Los Angeles Rams +1.5
I expect most of the public to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the contest this week as they’ve won 10 straight games through last season (including playoffs) with Tom Brady throwing 31 touchdowns to just six interceptions in that span. Nonetheless, there’s some game theory involved with picking the Los Angeles Rams as it will allow me to recover two games in one. That said, I still believe the Rams are the right side in this matchup as oddsmakers opened them as one-point favorites before this moved through the zero, making the Buccaneers favorite.
These two teams met last year and in many ways it provided a blueprint for what we’ll see this Sunday. The Buccaneers have been first in defensive run efficiency the past two seasons and teams have recognized that it doesn’t make sense to run on this team. Last season the Rams ran 51% of the time on early downs, in their matchup against the Bucs they passed 77% of the time on early downs. It was a blueprint followed by the Cowboys and Falcons who passed on 81% and 71% of their early downs against Tampa Bay in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively.
Opposing NFL offenses are passing against the Bucs 77% of the time, calling run plays just 35 times this season. There’s a clear method of beating this team and it’s through the air where the Rams are fully equipped of beating this banged up secondary with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. The Rams are second in drop back EPA/play (0.489) facing a Buccaneers defense that is 21st in passing success rate. The Buccaneers are missing Sean Murphy-Bunting — who is out with a dislocated elbow — which won’t bode well against this prolific Rams offense. The Buccaneers will get theirs offensively but this feels like a game where the wrong team is favored. I’ll take the Rams as a dog here.
4. Denver Broncos -10.5
After two road games, the Denver Broncos finally have their home opener at Empower Field at Mile High where they hold one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL at a time when the advantage of playing at home is decreasing rapidly. The New York Jets have been a mess to say the least, scoring just 10.5 points per game, ranking 30th in offensive success rate (38.1%) and 31st in drop back success rate (39.1%). The Jets did take some money within the betting markets pushing this line down. And while it does make sense given the low total of 41.5, it’s pretty clear they’re facing an uphill battle with a rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson facing a Vic Fangio-coached Broncos defense that is in the top ten in EPA/play and success rate. I don’t see much improvement from Wilson and this Jets offense.
The Jets defense is no threat either despite the presence of head coach Robert Saleh who was formerly the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. Teddy Bridgewater and this Broncos offense should do more than enough in conjunction with the defense to clear this number. Bridgewater is a whopping 37-14 (72.5%) ATS, according to our BetLabs database. With a game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, this feels like another good spot to back the Broncos before hopping off the train.
5. Green Bay Packers +3.5
The San Francisco 49ers are banged up on defense and the issues at cornerback are problematic to say the least. The 49ers are missing Jason Verette who tore his ACL in Week 1, Emmanuel Mosley has been dealing with a knee injury and Josh Norman also tweaked his ankle against the Eagles. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw will miss the next six to eight weeks with a groin injury as well. As I said last week, this is a banged-up defense with DT Javon Kinlaw (knee), DL Arik Armstead (hip/adductor), DE Dee Ford (ankle) and LB Marcell Harris (oblique) all playing through injuries.
While it didn’t show up in the scoreboard against the Eagles last week, it was a game the 49ers should have lost with the Eagles out-gaining them in yards (328-306), yards per play (6.0-4.5), yards per pass (6.8-6.3) and yards per rush (5.2-3.1). After a dominant first-half performance, the Eagles were only able to muster three points and went into halftime down 7-3. It was particularly troubling given the opportunities the Eagles had (like Jalen Reagor stepping out of bounds on what would have been a touchdown and failing to score after a Quez Watkins’ 91-yard reception on a possession in which they turned the ball away on downs).
Nonetheless, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers should do a much better job capitalizing offensively. With the total on this game rising from 48 to 50, it’s pretty clear we have a shootout on deck. While the Packers have had their struggles defensively, the 49ers are missing running back Raheem Mostert. His backups Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell are dealing with injuries as well. If we’re looking at a high-scoring game, I’ll back the team with Rodgers against a team with a banged up defense.