2021 Week 3 NFL Betting Preview: A Prediction for Each Game

The third week of the NFL slate is upon us. There are some intriguing matchups, highlighted by a showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After perusing the possibilities, here is my favorite bet for each game. Odds courtesy of DraftKings on Sept. 24.

Ravens (-8) at Lions

The pick: Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (-115) over 219.5 passing yards

The reason: A bet like this is always a risk, because Baltimore could be up big late and pound the ball. However, the Lions have been terrible against the pass this season, and the Ravens have enough playmakers on the outside to rattle off several big plays. The heavy lifting needs to be done in the first three quarters, and it will.

Cardinals (-8) at Jaguars

The pick: Cardinals (-110) to cover the spread

The reason: The Cardinals are the superior team across the board, and quarterback Kyler Murray is playing like a legitimate MVP candidate through two games. Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury is usually aggressive against inferior opponents and should have some creative ideas drawn up. A backdoor cover is always a concern when the spread gets above a touchdown, but the Cardinals should win this one comfortably.

Chargers (+6.5) at Chiefs

The pick: Chiefs (-115) to cover the spread

The reason: The Chargers have not been particularly impressive in any phase of the game early on. The Chiefs’ defense needs work, so maybe Justin Herbert does enough to keep Los Angeles close in a shootout. The more likely scenario is Patrick Mahomes and Co. winning by a touchdown or more. 

Bears (+7) at Browns

The pick: Bears (-105) to cover the spread

The reason: The Browns are No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ offensive efficiency through two weeks, so there is a lot to like there. However, the Bears have a better defense than Cleveland has seen in the first two weeks. The Browns’ defense has struggled, and even though Justin Fields will be starting his first career game, the rookie quarterback’s mobility should help Chicago cover.

Washington (+7.5) at Bills

The pick: Washington (-110) to cover the spread

The reason: The Bills’ offense has yet to find its groove this season, ranking No. 26 in efficiency through two games. Quarterback Josh Allen is only averaging 5.3 yards per pass attempt, and while that will improve, Washington has enough talent on defense to keep him from breaking out. Quarterback Taylor Heinecke played well last week and should do enough to help Washington lose by a touchdown or less.

Colts (+5.5) at Titans

The pick: Colts RB Jonathan Taylor (-110) over 13.5 receiving yards

The reason: Whether it’s a less-mobile-than-usual Carson Wentz at quarterback or a backup, the Colts figure to be checking down often in this game. Nyheim Hines is Indianapolis’ receiving back and he should get the majority of that action, but Taylor plays a lot. He should inevitably get a few passes thrown his way, and it won’t take much to surpass this total.

Saints (+3) at Patriots

The pick: Patriots QB Mac Jones (-115) under 240.5 passing yards

The reason: The Saints have one of the most talented defenses in the NFL, and coach Bill Belichick has kept the offensive gameplan simple for Jones the first two weeks, as his average intended air yards of 5.6 is among the lowest in the league. The Patriots will play conservatively, with the biggest risk to this bet being high volume if New England falls behind.

Bengals (+3) at Steelers

The pick: Steelers (-115) to cover the spread

The reason: The spread has seemingly dropped because of Ben Roethlisberger’s pectoral injury, but whether he is full strength or not shouldn’t matter. Roethlisberger has been unimpressive the first two weeks, and Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins could likely put up similar numbers. Pittsburgh is the pick because, regardless of quarterback play, the defense should be able to stymie the Bengals.

Falcons (+3) at Giants

The pick: Giants (-110) to cover the spread

The reason: Not only have the Falcons been atrocious on defense, as expected, but the offense has also been terrible. It’s only been two games, but the early returns are bad. The Giants are also 0-2 but have been much more competitive. New York should win this by more than a field goal.

Dolphins (+4.5) at Raiders

The pick: Raiders (+100) under 2.5 total touchdowns

The reason: Las Vegas’ start hasn’t been quite as impressive as advertised. The Raiders are No. 18 in offensive efficiency thus far and face a strong Dolphins defense. Miami will have backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett under center, which could push Raiders coach Jon Gruden toward being more conservative on fourth-down decisions in field goal range.

Jets (+10.5) at Broncos

The pick: Broncos (-110) under 26.5 points

The reason: Jets quarterback Zach Wilson threw four picks last week in a blowout loss, but the New York defense has actually been decent in the first two games. The Broncos’ offense has been rolling early on, but this scoring total seems too high, especially considering Denver may be taking its foot off the gas in the fourth quarter.

Buccaneers (-1.5) at Rams

The pick: Scoring total (-110) under 55 points

The reason: The Buccaneers and Rams are both top-6 in Football Outsiders’ offensive efficiency, but their defenses are good, too. This is going to be high-level football between a pair of Super Bowl contenders, but it may not be the shootout that many think.

Seahawks (-2) at Vikings

The pick: Vikings (+115) on the moneyline

The reason: Minnesota’s offense looked fantastic in Week 2 against the Cardinals, and the defense’s biggest issue was giving up huge off-schedule plays to Kyler Murray. Obviously Russell Wilson can do similar things, but the Vikings’ scramble drill awareness should be heightened in this one. Running back Dalvin Cook’s sprained ankle is a concern, but he is expected to play.

Packers (+3) at 49ers

The pick: Packers WR Davante Adams (-145) under 8.5 receptions

The reason: Adams is arguably the best receiver in the NFL and Aaron Rodgers looks for him a lot, but this prop is too high. Adams has put up elite numbers the past four years, but even in that span, he has only reached nine or more receptions in a game 25.6% of the time. The 49ers have cornerback issues but the defense is very good overall, and Green Bay isn’t such a huge underdog that major volume is a guarantee. The under is a strong favorite, and deservedly so.

Eagles (+3.5) at Cowboys

The pick: Eagles (-125) under 24.5 points

The reason: Jalen Hurts threw a 91-yard pass to Quez Watkins against the 49ers last week. Beyond that, he had 99 passing yards on the other 22 attempts. The Cowboys’ defense is a far cry from San Francisco’s group, but Hurts still must prove he can consistently move the team down the field. The half-point above 24 could be crucial and is worth the price.

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