We move into week 3 of the NFL season and while I’m not crazy about this slate of games overall I have found some where I see value. Here’s what I’m going with and a write up for each play…
Cardinals (+5.5): There’s no denying that right now the Cardinals look like they are probably one of the worst teams in the NFL. That said I don’t think the Bears should be laying 5.5 points on the road to anyone, especially on a short week like they are now. They played Monday night against Seattle and now having to travel out to the desert with one less day of rest than normal they could be a bit flat. Defensively the Bears are excellent but I’m still far from sold on their offense. Mitch Trubisky is still very limited and it seems like Nagy is treating him with kid gloves. There are very few downfield shots being taken and the pass offense is mostly dinks, dunks and check downs. Trubisky is only averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and this isn’t an offense that’s going to scare anyone. I won’t attempt to talk up or defend the Cardinals offense as it’s probably the worst in the league. The total of 38 in this game speaks for itself and how ugly the game should be. Usually when a team is 0-2 like Arizona is you see a max effort showing in week 3. There’s such a huge difference between being 1-2 and just one game away from .500 compared with 0-3 and likely finished for the season. At this point I would expect an extra effort to get David Johnson more involved in the offense. Through two games Johnson is only averaging 14 touches per game and that’s compared with the 23.3 touches per game he averaged in 2016. He’s an elite player and for a team as challenged on offense as much as the Cards are they simply just have to get him the ball more. Screens, draws, line him up in the slot, do whatever it takes and I suspect they will. The combo of Cardinals desperation, Bears weak offense and Bears short week is enough to get me on the home dog in what should be a low scoring snoozefest. I personally made this line only 3.5 and see a 20-17 type of game.
Steelers (-1.5): I think there is some two way overreaction going on here. The Steelers aren’t as bad as everyone is acting like, and the Bucs sure as hell aren’t as good as people now seem to think they are. All I keep hearing this week is how bad the Steelers defense is, but I’m not quite ready to say that. Yes they were chewed up by Kansas City last week but they only allowed 327 yards to the Browns in week 1. Last week we all know about Mahomes going for 6 TD’s and Chiefs scoring 42 points but the truth is the Chiefs look to be one of the best and most explosive offenses in the league. The Steelers weren’t the first defense that couldn’t stop KC and they certainly won’t be the last. Offensively Pittsburgh is just fine at 29 points per game and a league best 489 yards per game. In short the Steelers still have a very explosive offense and in my opinion the jury is still out of their defense, I’m just not ready to rip that unit apart because they couldn’t stop Kansas City. As far as the Bucs go you’ll have to forgive me if two great games from Ryan Fitzpatrick aren’t enough to make me forget what he’s been for the last decade. He’s a middle of the road QB and the ultimate journeyman. Two good games isn’t enough to change that and I’ll need to see more before I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. When he comes back to earth this offense is in trouble as so far their ground game has been non existent. With just 77.5 yards per game rushing the Bucs check in at 27th in the league. Their two top RB’s Rodgers and Barber are combining for about 2.4 yards per carry and there’s really nothing going on there at all. At the end of the day if you are a buy low, sell high guy then spots don’t come much better than this. Just a few weeks ago many thought the Steelers were a super bowl contender and the Bucs were a lock to go winless until Winston returned from his suspension. Fast forward two weeks and now the Steelers are just a 1.5 point favorite? That’s a discount I just can’t pass on. I have a feeling that in a few months we’ll look back at what this line was and just laugh.
49ers (+6.5): It’s not exactly easy to jump in front of the freight train that is the Kansas City Chiefs right now but I’m going to to do it. The offense has been nothing short of spectacular and that’s all been very well documented. Pat Mahomes has 10 TD’s and 0 INT’s through two games and has looked absolutely incredible, there’s no denying that at all. What we can’t ignore however is the Chiefs defense is allowing 32.5 points and 508 yards per game. Both the Chargers and Steelers despite losing were able to move the ball up and down the field pretty much at will. With guys like Mahomes, Hunt, Hill, Kelce the Chiefs are about as dangerous as it gets offensively, but that defense is really struggling. It’s a challenge to feel like you’ve gotta put up 35+ points week after week to win games. The reality is at some point for as good as Mahomes is there is going to be some regression. Right now he’s on pace to throw for 80 TD’s and 0 INT’s this season, I can go ahead and tell you guys now that isn’t going to happen. There are going to be some INT’s, deflected passes, strip sacks, whatever it may be. This line has already moved a few points and that’s not terribly surprising with how good the Chiefs have looked. On the other side we have the 49ers who I still think are a solid team and shouldn’t be getting 6.5 points against hardly anyone. They lost in week 1 at Minnesota but there’s no shame at all in losing on the road to a team that good. They then rebounded with a win over the Lions and are showing a pretty balanced offensive attack. Garoppolo was no doubt shaky in week 1, but again that’s against a very good Vikings defense, last week he rebounded with a clean and error free showing against the Lions. On top of that led by NFL rushing leader Matt Breida the niners are 3rd in football with 140 rushing yards per game. I think this line is a bit inflated and I expect a high scoring game where the 49ers are able to hang around. I’m not quite ready to say they win outright but I could see a 28-24 ish game.