NFL Week 3 Spread Picks
Welcome to home underdogs week! Including Thursday Night football, this week features a whopping 10 road favorites, including the Cleveland Browns against the Indianapolis Colts (see below). This will be the first time the Browns are favored since 2015. Hopefully we will be able to find as much value this week as we did last week, where we went 4-1 in our free picks, along with 11-2 against the spread overall. This brings us to 7-2-1 (77.7%) in our free picks on the season, and 20-6 (77%) on all of our spread picks, including last night’s game in Santa Clara.
Each week provides an exciting slate of games, along with the knowledge generated from additional 16 games of PFF data. For the second straight week we’re picking an under for Monday Night Football. Each of the five feature picks comes with a point/counterpoint analysis, with a deeper dive into our “Lock of the Week” on the PFF Preview Podcast. For the remainder of our spread picks, check out PFF Elite and the PFF Elite Facebook Group. For our thoughts on Thursday Night Football’s spread, follow us at @PFF_George and @PFF_EricEager on Twitter each week.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (+4) in London
Pick: Ravens 23 – Jaguars 17 (the Ravens cover)
Point (Eric Eager): Without the services of Allen Robinson (who had 780 receiving yards on deep passes the last two years), the Jaguars’ offense will rely heavily on first-round running back Leonard Fournette, who has 40 carries and 99 yards after contact the first two weeks of the season. Unfortunately for Jacksonville, the Ravens return a defense that finished second in the league in PFF run defense grades last season, and have surrendered just 85 yards a game on the ground the first two weeks. Behind the chains, the Baltimore defense (with eight interceptions so far this season) will be able to key on Blake Bortles, who leads the league in first-half turnover-worthy plays (43) since entering the league in 2014. Like the last two weeks, it’s going to difficult for the Ravens’ opponent to cover a modest spread without scoring much in the way of points.
Counterpoint (George Chahrouri): The Ravens will be without LG Marshal Yanda, who earned the best grade among all guards each of the last three seasons – he’s allowed just seven QB pressures over the past two seasons, none of which were sacks. Calais Campbell has been one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL so far (91.5 pass-rush grade) and lines up all over the line, including over the left guard. As a whole the Jags are pressuring the opposing quarterback on 46.2 percent of dropbacks which is second in the league through two weeks. Joe Flacco has gone flaccid under pressure putting just 50.9 percent of his throws on target when under duress. It will take an ELITE (subscribe) effort to be more futile than Sir Bortles, but Flacco could be just the man for the job.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (OVER/UNDER 44)
Pick: Patriots 31 – Texans 14 (the over hits)
Point (GC): I hear everything about the Texans front seven and I raise you Tom Brady. After two weeks, the G.O.A.T. from San Mateo is averaging a cool 14.9 yards per attempt when under pressure, nearly five yards better than any other quarterback with starts starts under his belt. With CB Johnathan Joseph (73.1 grade) looking questionable and CB Kevin Johnson (35.2) already out, the Texans will be very thin at corner which doesn’t bode well for anyone hoping the Texans D will be able to accomplish something similar to what the Chiefs did to the Patriots in Week 1 – not to mention that the total in that Thursday contest reached 69. Which leads naturally to Gronk…Gronk good.
Counterpoint (EE): The Texans defense gave Brady some difficulties in their playoff matchup at Foxboro a season ago, yielding just 18 completions on 38 attempts. Without J.J. Watt in their lineup, they were able to pressure Brady on 18 of his 41 dropbacks, yielding just a 73.2 quarterback rating on the 16 resulting throws. Add Watt to the mix, and throw out Julian Edelman and (possibly) Rob Gronkowski, and the Patriots offense might have difficulties in this one. That said, with all of Brady’s difficulties and those of … Brock Osweiler on the other side didn’t keep last season’s game from reaching 50 points, so the over is certainly the better of the two sides in this one.
Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts (+1.5)
Pick: Colts 22 – Browns 21 (the Colts cover)
Point (EE): It’s difficult to see the Browns favored for the first time in what seems like forever, and on the road no less. And, while Jacoby Brissett is starting only his second game with his new team, he was relatively efficient as a passer against a good Arizona defense, completing 17-of-26 passes for 178 yards when kept clean. Without Myles Garrett, the Browns are the lowest-graded team in the league by a mile in pass-rushing grades, so Brissett should grow more comfortable in the role. DeShone Kizer, on the other hand, looked very shaky a week ago in Baltimore, throwing all three of his interceptions when kept clean, earning a 34.2 passer rating overall. This differential leads us to believe that the home team is the better side in this one.
Counterpoint (GC): As if you needed more reasons to watch this game. The line seems to be as much about the Browns getting better as it is the Colts looking to be in dire straits without Andrew the Giant. Brissett will stand behind an O-line that has surrendered the second most sacks (seven) of any unit so far this season, if anything can jump start the Browns pass-rush this should be it. It is worth mentioning that Brissett currently owns a passer rating of 8.7 when pressured (last) – that’s over 30 points lower than the rating you get for spiking the ball. On the other side of things, the DeShone Kizer show has a chance to find success, the Colts have allowed nine completions on throws of 20-plus yards which more than any other NFL defense (and tied with the Saints).
Pick: Buccaneers 22 – Vikings 19 (the Buccaneers cover)
Point (GC): Let’s not get away from our core values here, Grit and the Passing Game. Sam Bradford has been sidelined with what I assume is a slight scrape on his knee, while Jameis Winston is a former winner of the Elite 11 QB camp. Not sure I need to say more, but I will. Mike Evans ranked second in 2016 with a 93.7 overall grade and is off to a fast start this season gaining 3.10 yards for every route he’s run thus far (fifth). The addition of DeSean Jackson, last year’s leader in yards gained on throws of 20-plus yards, should only provide more opportunities for Winston to improve his deep passing accuracy which ranked just 27th (34.8 percent adjusted completion percentage) last season. Look for Famous Jameis and his weaponry to attack Trae Waynes, the Vikings’ CB has allowed 2.42 yards on average every time he plays coverage which is the third-worst mark in the NFL and quarterbacks have a 152.1 passer rating when throwing into his coverage.
Counterpoint (EE): While the possible loss of Bradford for another week certainly hurts the purple, their defense is stout enough to keep them in games. After holding Antonio Brown to 54 yards in his coverage last week, Minnesota hopes that cornerback Xavier Rhodes will be up to shutting down one of the league’s best receivers in Evans. If can do so, it will be up to the rest of the Vikings’ defense to shut down a Bucs offense that is without running back Doug Martin. If they luck into a really poor game by Winston (which has happened roughly three times a season through his first two campaigns) and create some turnovers, anything is possible, as Case Keenum’s 2-0 career record against the Bucs attests.
Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals (OVER/UNDER 47)
Pick: Cowboys 23 – Cardinals 22 (the under hits)
Point (GC): The Monday Night under – what a horrifying way to end a week. It is a mathematical fact that history repeats itself and last week the under hit in the presence of Gruden the God of Grit. The Cardinals are without their most potent weapon in David Johnson and Carson Palmer has the second lowest adjusted completion rate in the NFL so far (he is putting throws in a catchable spot just 62.5 percent of the time). On the other side of things, the Cardinals defense will likely stick Patrick Peterson on Dez Bryant; so far this season Peterson is allowing just 0.26 yards per coverage snap played (fourth-best). Should the ‘Boys try to make their way on the ground they will face an Arizona run defense that allowed the fewest yards before contact per attempt in the NFL last season and this season they are making contact with opposing runners behind the line of scrimmage on average, the only team to do so. In Bruce we trust, Arians-Fitzgerald 2020.
Kai Forbath Memorial Extra Point (EE): While he has not looked great in the first two weeks, Carson Palmer is just a season and change removed from an MVP-caliber year where he put up a 93.0 overall grade. If J.J. Nelson (hamstring) can go, he adds an improving dimension to the Arizona offense, as he hauled in five of seven targets for 120 yards and a touchdown against the Colts a week ago. On the ground, Dallas’ run defense has graded out as the league’s 27th-best through two weeks after getting gashed by a Denver team no one is going to confuse with the teams that were gifted 1,000-yard seasons from the likes of Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell during the Mike Shanahan era. All of those said, 47 points are a lot for a game for which the best offensive player (David Johnson) is unavailable and between teams that, in their wins this season, have seen scores of 19-3 and 16-13.