The 2018 NFL season has been a rollercoaster so far: after a 4-1 week to start the year, I managed to go 0-5 (it still hurts to put it on paper) in Week 2 before bouncing back in Week 3 with another 4-1. A variety of things going on in my life during that second week should have talked me into fading myself, and I even thought about doing it, but you gotta trust the process.
We’re doing that this week with a difficult slate of games. Part of that process involves not taking two huge favorites that I like (Green Bay and the Chargers) and staying away from road chalk.
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Targeted this game as soon as the initial lines dropped, thanks in large part to the matchup, local and public perception. I don’t think the Cowboys are great — and maybe not even very good — but I like this spot for them. The public disagrees, with 60 percent of the bets coming in on the Lions so far. The public fading the Cowboys in a spot like this should tell you everything you need to know about perception of the Cowboys. Dallas’ offense looked stale and stagnant against the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday afternoon in Week 3, while the Lions throttled the Patriots in prime time on Sunday night. The Lions defense isn’t necessarily good, though — it just matched up really well against what the Pats were trying to do. Their rush defense is 27th by DVOA, which could set up for a signature Ezekiel Elliott game in front of a home crowd. That could lead to Matthew Stafford chucking the ball a lot against a surprisingly stout defense for Dallas. Cowboys roll here.
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Lot of home dogs on the docket this week, which seems tasty, but as my colleague Jaguars last week. This defense is better than people think and it can drag the Eagles into the mud. The offensive line is starting to get healthy, with Jack Conklin back at full practice and Taylor Lewan off the injury report. Blaine Gabbert is likely out with a concussion, so Marcus Mariota (elbow) needs to find some freaking feeling in his fingers and be ready to play the whole game, otherwise things could get dicey. But expect Mike Vrabel, an early Coach of the Year candidate, to lean on the run game and let his defense try to slow down Philly. I like the Titans outright here. Everyone in Philly apparently has a flu bug, which is a big plus and might explain why this line is moving towards TEN +3., home underdogs don’t necessarily cover at an exponentially larger spread than anything else. Having that pointed out, I think it’s worth noting the key for home dogs is to a) find value in teams who are underrated and b) find a live dog. If you’re going to bet on a home underdog, you need to believe that underdog can win outright. I believe the Titans qualify in both categories, and aren’t getting much attention because they won a 9-6 slopfest against the
It’s a little dangerous to get involved in a vitriol-filled rivalry like the Ravens and Steelers, but this is not your typical type of game these two teams will play. The over/under for this matchup, which is usually a rock fight, sits at a whopping 51, which means Vegas expects to see a shootout on Sunday night. That’s logical: the Steelers defense looks like a shell of itself, is giving up tons of points in every game of the season so far. That’s not going to magically get fixed on Sunday night against Baltimore, whose offense has looked surprisingly potent through three weeks. Baltimore looks like an above-average offense and has a top tier defense as well. Joe Flacco’s early season resurgence is not a fluke and he has the type of wideouts in Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead who can do damage down the field against Pittsburgh. Ultimately I want the points in a game like this, and I will definitely take them when I see the Ravens as the better team with the Steelers coming off an emotional win on Monday night in Tampa.
Bears (-3) vs. Buccaneers
I greatly dislike taking a team giving an even three in the SuperContest, mainly because you can easily end up giving a half point. But I think this is a bad matchup for the Buccaneers. The Bears have the No. 1 defense by DVOA through three weeks thanks to the addition of Khalil Mack, who is smashing people right now.
The Buccaneers are playing very well on offense and rank No. 5 in DVOA on that end. But it’s fair to wonder if it will continue: Ryan Fitzpatrick started to come back to earth in Week 3 against the Steelers before a gritty second-half effort. The problem for me is the Bucs have only played one good defense (Eagles) through their three-week run of magic. There will pressure to use Jameis Winston if Fitz struggles, and I can totally see the Bears giving up some second-half points to the “backup.” But I can also see the Bucs giving up a TON of points to the Bears and be up late comfortably. Hit Chicago for the first half while you’re at it too.
This game makes no sense to me. The Texans are 0-3 on the year so far and have looked terrible. The Colts are 1-2 but could easily be 3-0 — they should have beaten the Bengals in Week 1 and were in a dogfight with the Eagles last week. Indy is coming off back-to-back road games and should be thrilled about heading home to play at Lucas Oil Stadium. Their defense is better than people think and playing surprisingly well right now thanks to Matt Eberflus coaching up this unit. But here’s the deal: the Texans are desperate. They have to win this game. J.J. Watt is starting to come on strong. Houston knows Andrew Luck can’t push the ball down the field. I think Bill O’Brien has to blow some stuff up this week and utilize scheme changes in order to get Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins really rolling. I think it happens. Weird game and I’m zigging instead of zagging on a Colts team I’ve liked a lot this year. Just a feeling on the Texans.
BONUS UNDERDOG OF THE WEEK
People are all over the Saints after their big win last week in Atlanta, an impressive overtime outing that featured another monster game from Michael Thomas. Everyone is expecting a shootout in this game and with good reason: neither the Giants nor the Saints defense has been very good. The over/under is 50.5 and it’s climbing — expect a bunch of different guys from this game to fill up lineups all over DFS. I could actually see it randomly going the other way; maybe the Saints are sluggish off a big emotional win, it’s their first game outside of a dome this year, the Giants are starting to figure something out and want to run the ball. This could be the big breakout Saquon Barkley game we’ve been hoping to see. I don’t know. Something funky about this game and I’ve had it circled since the lines came out. I think I’ll probably end up putting this one in my SuperContest picks, just need to figure out who I’m taking out of the list above them.