Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
It’s that time of the week, and the NFL picks are back. We are coming off a HEATER going 7-3 last week and secured +3.0 unit profit. That puts us at 8-4-1 on the year.
Looking ahead to Week 3, while there are a lot of quality matchups, the lines are a lot tighter this week. Unfortunately, there aren’t many spots with value.
Before we get to the picks, one quick note: A trend to keep track of this week is teams that are 0-2 against the spread typically come through in Week 3. If you follow sports betting, this is a trend that is beaten like a dead horse over this part of the season. Bettors tend to bail on teams that have failed to meet expectations over their first two games, yet over the last four seasons, teams with 0-2 ATS starts are 22-7 ATS in Week 3. Teams that fit that category this week are the Jets, Browns, Titans, Texans, Cowboys, Eagles, Lions, Vikings, and Panthers. I don’t live and die by betting trends, but it is good info to have in your back pocket. NFL casual bettors are often fooled by recency bias way too often. This is a stat that confirms that reality.
And now, with all that said, let's get to the picks. A quick reminder that these picks - like Aaron's college football picks - are presented by the folks at MyBookie. So if you're thinking of gambling this weekend, go to MyBookie and use promo code "TORRES." First time sign ups will double their first deposit. Meaning you want to bet $30 on that Kansas City-Baltimore showdown on Monday night, MyBookie will give you $60 to play with. Again, that's MyBookie, promo code "TORRES."
Without further delay, here are the picks.
Los Angeles Rams at Buffalo Bills
Spread: Buffalo (-2.5)
This is a fun matchup between one of the league’s best offensive gurus in Rams coach Sean McVay, and defensive mastermind head coach of the Bills, Sean McDermott. One of the two will get the best of the other, and it will be interesting to see who, since you can make the argument the Rams and Bills are playing better than anyone in the NFL not named the Ravens or Packers. This should be one of the best games on the NFL slate. The teams are evenly matched metrically - the Rams rank sixth in overall DVOA while the Bills rank seventh.
Despite that, the sharp bettors seem to be fading the Rams in this matchup, like they have all year long. The sharps really haven't given the Rams any credit in 2020, treating them like they are coming off a 4-12 season, when in reality they went 9-7 in the toughest division in football, with a banged up offensive line. The sharps were on the Eagles against LA last week, and they are back on the Bills this week. Sadly, let me tell you why the so-called “wise guys” are wrong again. The Rams and Bills grade out evenly metrically, but the Rams have performed better against better competition. The Rams beat out two projected playoff teams in the Cowboys and Eagles, while the Bills have been lucky to feast on the Jets and Dolphins.
For Buffalo, Josh Allen is playing his best football as a pro coming off a 415 yard and four touchdown performance against Miami. However, in that game Dolphins star corner Bryon Jones left the game with an injury on the first defensive drive of the game, and rookie corner Noah Iginbnoghene was stuck on star receiver Stefon Diggs, who roasted him for eight catches and 153 yards. Looking back on the first two games, Allen has relied on Diggs quite a bit, as Diggs has accounted for 38 percent of the Bills air yards. Diggs will have a tough matchup being shadowed by Rams all pro corner Jalen Ramsey. If Ramsey is able to shut Diggs down, Allen will have a hard time being efficient on Sunday.
In addition, the Bills offense has been carried by Allen with a lack of ground game. So far Buffalo ranks 30th in offensive adjusted line yards and 27th in offensive stuff rate, which is bad news in a game where the Bills will need to be able to run the ball to keep Aaron Donald honest. The Rams defense has excelled against the pass, ranking seventh in pass defense DVOA and have only allowed four explosive pass plays of 20+ yards all year (although most Cowboys fans would argue it should be five).
In comparison, the Rams have the most balanced offense in the NFL so far this season. The Rams rank third overall in offensive DVOA. A lot of that is thanks to the major improvement of their offensive line, which has turned into a major strength after being an Achilles heel last season. The Rams rank sixth in the NFL in adjusted line yards, they run 56 percent of the time, and 90 percent of their power runs are graded successful. And they are doing this without a feature back.
Meanwhile, Jared Goff has had time to throw this year posting a 78.9 QBR through two games. Goff will get a chance to feast on a defense that allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 314 yards and two touchdowns last week. Two Bills starting linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are questionable. If neither are ethier to go, Rams tight end Tyler Higbee and slot receiver Cooper Kupp should have big games in the middle of the field. One last note: East coast travel historically has not been a problem for the Rams under McVay - the Rams are 7-1 straight up and ATS in the Eastern time zone.
The Bills have not beaten a team with a winning record as a favorite in over three seasons. This is a much bigger game for the Rams due to the division they play in.
Stick it to the sharp guys and take the Rams with the points.
The pick: Rams ML +110 ( 2 units)
Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
Spread: Arizona (-5.5)
We really have to start treating NFC West teams like the SEC West in non divisional games. The Cardinals are a team that has been a little bit underappreciated in the desert so far this season. The offensive under Kliff Kingsbury has been explosive and efficient. Kyler Murray looks like the real deal excelling at running and passing. Meanwhile, the Cardinals defense has been surprising, ranking seventh in the NFL in total yards allowed.
Looking ahead to Sunday, this is just a really terrible matchup for Detroit, specifically on the back end on defense. The Lions have asked No. 3 overall pick Jeffrey Okudah to immediately step in to be their number one corner however he simply is not ready. Okudah ranks near the bottom of the NFL with 28.6 coverage grade according to Pro Football Focus. Now he will be asked to defend DeAndre Hopkins who has been one of the best receivers in the NFL early in the season.
In addition, the Lions defense has routinely struggled with the mesh passing concept that is a foundational principle of the Cardinals offense. For those not familiar, a mesh concept is basically executed with two receivers from opposite sides running 5-8 yards across the field, creating a crossing meeting point that naturally can cause collisions from a defense in man coverage. Matt Patricia operates a complicated match up zone defense that has been susceptible to this type of play design. It requires a lot of communication to defend, but the Lions are not communicating well at all. The Bears did this to free up Anthony Miller for key first downs in their fourth quarter comeback, Aaron Rodgers accounted for half of his passing yards on crossing routes and the Cardinals used mesh concepts this to dominate the 49ers defense
These are two teams heading in opposite directions. The Cardinals have a legitimate chance to start the season 5-0 with a win against the Lions and with the Panthers (0-2) and the Jets (0-2) coming up next.
Put simply, the Cardinals have bought into everything that Kliff Kingsbury is doing, while the Lions are on the verge of collapsing if the players don’t replicate that same support for Matt Patricia. Arizona's efficiency and explosiveness on offense is going to overwhelm a Lions defense that has its troubles executing the most simple plays.
Finally, watch out for the injury report for Lions WR Kenny Golladay, who is currently listed as questionable. At this rate he looks to be a game time decision, and the Lions will need their star receiver on the field to have a chance to keep up with Arizona’s offense.
The pick: Arizona (-6) (3 units)
Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
Spread: Seattle (-5.5)
This is going to a fun game to watch. There are multiple great storylines going into this game. Dallas is coming off a miracle comeback win where they trailed 29-10 in the second half and trailed by two possessions in the final minutes, before recovering an onside kick to set up a game winning field goal. Seattle is coming off a dramatic win where they needed a last minute goal line stand to hang on to a win against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Both teams are coming off emotional games.
The Seahawks have been a trendy team to win the NFC after two great offensive performances in their first two games. After nine years, the Seahawks have finally molded their offense to let Russell Wilson cook. As it turns out, when you let your future Hall of Fame QB throw the ball, it actually works. The Seahawks are rated No. 2 in the NFL in offensive DVOA, and Russell Wilson has been rated the No. 1 overall quarterback according to Pro Football Focus. The Seahawks have been aggressive on early downs averaging 8.9 yards on first and second down passes.
While Seattle's offense has been fantastic, their defense has been equally horrific. Seattle’s pass rush ranks last in the NFL in overall pressure rate. In addition, Seattle is blitzing at the fifth highest rate in the NFL and they are still not getting pressure. The Seahawks rank last in explosive plays allowed, making this a terrible matchup going against a stout Dallas offensive line.
On the back end, even with the addition of Jamal Adams, the Seahawks secondary has been horrible in coverage, and now they are facing one of the most complete receiving tandems in the NFL. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dak earned his $40 million contract by throwing for 500 yards in this one. Dallas will also benefit operating in a stadium with no fans.
Seattle has the public bandwagon following them and this line is inflated. Dallas is 0-2 ATS and they are in line for a cover. You can’t back a team to cover over a field goal that can’t get a stop, and that's kind of where Seattle is right now (minus, literally, the final play of the game against New England). Dallas has an average defense and I trust them to get one or two stops in this contest.
This total is really high, but I would bet it up to 59. All Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson passing props are in play as well.
The pick: Dallas (+5.5) (1.25 units) and Over 55 (0.5 unit)
Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens
The main course of the NFL slate comes Monday night, as the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs take on the Baltimore Ravens. We get a sneak preview of the potential AFC Championship game could look like this year, and you could argue this is the most anticipated regular season game since the Rams and Chiefs met on Monday night football in 2018. We all remember how that game went, and we are hoping for something similar.
Looking ahead, we are going to keep this pick short. It sucks to bet on the opposite side of either Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes. The stress and anxiety level you get watching them make ridiculous plays over and over again takes minutes off your life. So we are going to take the easy road and root for both of them by taking the over. It’s the best way to watch this game. Both quarterbacks are going to be balling out in this one. Lamar Jackson continues to improve week after week. He is becoming an elite passer completing 77 percent of his passes and he is making tougher throws stretching the field outside the numbers- something he rarely did last year. The Ravens power run scheme should move the ball at will against a KC rush defense that ranks 26th in run defense DVOA and they are allowing 58% of runs to grade successfully.
If the Ravens get out to a lead early, the Chiefs will be hyper aggressive getting back in the game. We know the Chiefs offense can score points. Even last week when the Chiefs struggled against an elite Chargers defense, it was because the Chargers did a great job of protecting the deep ball and letting Mahomes be patient. The Ravens are not going to do that. The Ravens will play man coverage and then go after Mahomes. This will present many big play opportunities for the Chiefs offense. Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale is one of the few coaches who has the balls to play cover zero with Tyrkee Hill on the field.
This is a really good bounce back spot for the Chiefs.
Don’t stress the side in this one. Have a cold beer and enjoy the points.
The pick: Over 55 (1 unit)
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive.
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