Austin Montgomery's Sunday NFL Betting Preview: Thoughts on Bucs-Rams, Chargers-Chiefs and much more
We are back for NFL Week 3. We went a modest 3-4 last week, not great. Maybe had one or two more tequila sunrises during my birthday weekend than I should have. But, we are back, and got the week started off on the right foot with our under-cashing Thursday night between the Panthers and Texans.
An overall 7-4 record after two weeks is not bad. We got five game previews.
Without further ado, here are the picks.
Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns
Spread: Cleveland (-7)
We get former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields making his NFL debut in the state of Ohio. The Bears fans can rejoice as they finally have some optimism at quarterback. No more scripted gadget plays - we finally get to see what Justin Fields is all about. Really I think this is a good spot for the young quarterback. Cleveland’s defense is banged up, as they currently rank 25th overall in defensive DVOA. David Montgomery should be able to run the ball against this defense. Routinely the Browns have struggled reigning in running quarterbacks.
Defensively this will be the best defense Cleveland has faced this season. The Browns will be without their top two receiver targets in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. We should see a ground focused running attack from Kevin Stefanski's club, which normally would not worry Browns fans. However, the Bears defensive front ranks in the Top 10 in adjusted line yards and are only allowing 3.3 yards per rush. Expect the Browns to run more heavier formations- something the Bears defend well against.
In the big picture, the Browns haven’t been profitable at home going 9-13 ATS since Baker Mayfield has been the quarterback.
There has been a lot of criticism of Matt Nagy’s lack of creativity as a play caller. With a week to prepare against a vulnerable secondary, Nagy has the chance to silence those critics. The Browns struggle to cover big numbers as a favorite. We are getting a touchdown with a below average total. This is a good spot for the Bears, expect them to keep this one competitive.
The pick: Bears (+7)
New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots
Line: New England (-3)
We get a mirror of two different styles. Saints starting quarterback Jameis Winston has been the poster child of inconsistency. After topping the PFF QB rankings in Week 1, the Saints quarterback had an equally disastrous performance against the Panthers, where he passed for 121 yards completing just 50 percent of his passes and threw two horrible interceptions. It was the worst offensive performance for a Sean Payton coached team ever.
The Saints are still missing Michael Thomas. I expect New England to stack the box to stop Alvin Kamara. Winston is going to have to make clutch throws on third and longs. I just think that’s a dangerous spot for the Saints. Now the Saints have to bounce back by playing on the road in Foxboro? Due to hurricane conditions in New Orleans, the team has been living out of hotels for more than three weeks now.
Now the Saints have to bounce back by playing on the road in Foxboro? Due to hurricane conditions in New Orleans, the team has been living out of hotels for more than three weeks now.
In New England, Bill Belichick has this defense firing on all cylinders. They rank third overall in defensive DVOA and they lead the league in interceptions.
Offensively, the Patriots have been very conservative with their rookie quarterback. I think he will loosen the reins here. Mac Jones ranks sixth in the NFL in completion percentage. Expect the Patriots to dominate this game on the defense, and they will put their offense in advantageous positions throughout this game.
Give me the Patriots laying a field goal at home.
The Pick: Patriots (-3)
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Line: Kansas City -7
Last week Patrick Mahomes lost his first career game in September. He covered the first half for us. But Clyde Edwards Helaire's fumble combined with the heroics of Lamar Jackson cost the Chiefs a big Sunday night win. While the Chargers may seem like a drop in competition from the Browns and Ravens, this isn’t a game the Chiefs can afford to relax against. Since the middle of last year, Kansas City has been in coast mode. The Chiefs are 1-13-1 ATS in their last 15 games and they haven’t covered a spread of over three points since last October.
Truthfully I don’t think it changes here. The Chiefs rank last in defensive success rate. While the Chargers rank in the Top 12 in overall success rate and rank fourth in the NFL in yards per drive. The Chargers need to start executing down in the red zone better. Once they fix those issues, the Chargers will have one of the most dynamic offenses in football. The Chargers have a multitude of weapons and should be able to move the ball consistently against this Chiefs defense. They should possess the ball enough, to prevent Mahomes from putting up a big number early.
Defensively, the Chargers match up better than almost any team in the AFC with the Chiefs. They have a dynamic pass rusher with Joey Bosa. Brandon Staley implements cover 4 matchup zone. They do a great job of keeping receivers in front. The Chargers rank fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed. They were able to limit one of the best passing offenses last week, holding Dallas and Dak Prescott to just 237 yards through the air - this after he threw for over 400 against Tampa Bay in Week 1.
Put simply, you need to be able to run the ball on the Chargers to open up the pass. That is an area the Chiefs are extremely lacking right now. Despite all of this the Chiefs are a very popular pick this weekend. We are going to fade the public and take the Chargers as a road dog. I’m hoping to get +7.5 at kickoff but we will take +7 for now.
The Pick: Chargers (+7)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams
Line: Tampa Bay (-1.5)
The line opened at Tampa Bay +1.5 and the public hammered the reigning Super Bowl Champs to make the Rams a short home underdog. I love to see it. This is Brady’s first time playing in Los Angeles. We got the Fox Game of the week, at the new Sofi Stadium. Sean McVay, Brady, Matt Stafford, and Aaron Donald all have star power in Los Angeles.
Over the last two weeks we have seen the Bucs be vulnerable to early passing downs. Over two games the Bucs rank 30th in opponent completion percentage (77.1%) and passing yards allowed. However, the most glaring factor is that the Bucs rank 31st in adjusted sack rate. The Bucs are still blitzing at a 40 percent clip on passing downs but they are not getting to the quarterback. The Rams have allowed a league low two sacks this year and the offensive line is ranked in top 3 in pass blocking win rate. The Rams rank fifth overall in offensive DVOA and second overall in pass DVOA. Darrell Henderson is questionable but the Rams traded for Sony Michel for this particular reason. McVay will find ways to extend the run game through short passes and screens. It’s fair to note McVay passed the ball on 70 percent of the Rams plays when they played the Bucs in Tampa last year. That was when Jared Goff was the quarterback. I expect the Rams to be able to move the ball at will against this Bucs defense. Tampa will be missing a key piece with Jason Pierre Paul on the sidelines on Sunday.
We can’t talk about this game without mentioning Tom Brady in LA. Antonio Brown is a scratch. However, the Bucs still have plenty of offensive weapons. Expect Jalen Ramsey to shadow Mike Evans like he did in the last contest. Which means Chris Godwin is going to need to step up. All Godwin fantasy/props will be live on Sunday. The Rams have routinely struggled to defend slot receivers. I’m assuming Godwin will line up in that area often.
Tampa comes into the game as the top ranked scoring offense and passing offense in the NFL. But they have played the two worst passing defenses in the league. Jalen Ramsey and company will be a huge step up. The one thing I’m concerned with Tampa is their inefficiency running the ball. It’s the most exploitable part of the Rams defense where they give up 4.6 yards per carry. Neither Ronald Jones or Leonard Fourtnette has taken a solid claim over the backfield. It’s crazy Tampa is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry despite their offensive line leading the NFL in adjusted line yards. The offense is getting pushed, but the backs aren’t finding the holes or breaking tackles in space.
Maybe the rushing offense is due for positive regression. Who knows, what is evident is that we haven't seen the playoff Lenny that anchored the Bucs Super Bowl run last year. Since last season, we have not really seen Brady deal with pressure. Bryon Leftwich has implemented a more standard drop back approach and has used play action more often. But it’s a hard task to get Aaron Donald out of the backfield. Donald ranks second among all defensive tackles in pass rush win rate. He will be in Brady’s face all day on Sunday. Simply, I think this is a terrible defensive matchup for the Buccaneers offense. We will see a flustered Brady on Sunday.
We are fading the public once again. There’s a lot of value on the Rams at this number. The Rams need a big win to show they are for real. The Rams get it done at home on Sunday.
The pick: Rams (+1.5)
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings
Line: Seattle (-2)
This is a game I circled when the schedule came out. Mike Zimmer is a cover machine. Since Zimmer became the head coach the Vikings are 29-13 ATS (69 percent) off a loss, 8-2 in non divisional home games, and 33-21 ATS at home overall. The Vikings are 0-2, but they could just as easily be 2-0. While many are using the Vikings as a teaser option, I’m projecting them to win outright.
The two teams met on Sunday Night Football last season where the Seahawks won on the final drive with D.K Metcalf touchdown. It was a tale of two halves where the Seahawks overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit. The Vikings have a chance to get revenge in their home opener.
Last week, the Seahawks offense collapsed in the second half and the defense melted as they were bulldozed by Derrick Henry’s 237 rushing yards.
The one unit that has surpassed many Vikings fans expectations is the play of their offensive line. Coming into the season has one of the bottom 5 offensive line units- the Vikings ranked 16th in adjusted line yards and 10th in adjusted sack rate two games into the season. This has given Kirk Cousins time to operate. Cousins is completing 71 percent of his passes averaging 7.0 yards per attempt and has yet to throw an interception. This is despite Justin Jefferson’s slow start to the season. Cousins will need to play a great game with a Dalvin Cook questionable to play.
On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks should cook the VIkings defense on paper. We know the Vikings secondary is old and over the hill. But they have been holding their own ranking 22nd in pass DVOA. Patrick Peterson presents a solid physical matchup for DK Metcalf. When the Vikings aren’t in man, expect Minnesota to play a lot of soft cover 2. The Vikings play their safeties range of 14-16 yards deep, which creates avenues for the intermediate passing game- but it takes away a lot of deep crossing patterns the Seahawks love to employ. The Seahawks offense has either been unstoppable or it has slowed to a dead stop.
I can’t bet a team with those major swings on the road. This is a great spot for the Vikings and I expect them to get the win on Sunday.
The pick: Vikings (+2)
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