Remember when you were a kid and you would make a bet with little Billy down the street, and then some kind of weird (stuff) would happen in a game and you could talk him into letting you out of the bet?
“You can’t make me pay for that miracle! You got let me off the hook! Tell you what, I’ll buy you a Snickers. OK? Cool, let’s go.”
Yeah, Caesars Sportsbook doesn’t have any need for candy bars.
And, of course, we were on the wrong end of three miracle finishes this past Sunday that turned a 10-6 overall week against the spread into 7-9. Indeed, Arizona’s incredible finish, along with the Jets and Atlanta’s ridiculous cover is how it goes as a sports bettor, which is why we encourage you to do this thing strictly for fun.
Scott Van Pelt calls ‘em bad beats. I call ‘em … wait … this is not my podcast; this is a family newspaper. I can’t tell you what I call them, but it has something to do with a bovine and what they do after they eat. Use your imagination.
Whatever, losing games like that most certainly can drive you mad, especially when they happen multiple times on the same day. (Except those rare weeks when you are on the other side.)
With that, good news is we didn’t bet any of our mythical bankroll on any of those games, so all in all, we had a great week.
Week 3 presents some challenges, and it could be the toughest week of the year to remain alive in knockout pools. Let’s make sure we do our darnedest to get these best bets correct once again. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
NOTES: All spreads, money lines and over/under totals (as of Wednesday) are provided by Caesars Sportsbook. We started the season with a mythical bankroll with $1,000. Our totals for the past week and the season are at the bottom of this column.
(All times CENTRAL)
THE WEEK 3 BEST BETS
HOME TEAM in CAPS
1 / MINNESOTA -6 over Detroit
WHEN: Sunday at noon. THE BET: $44 to win $40.
This line opened at -8 a couple of weeks ago and was -7 last week, and while the Lions have shown they CAN be better than preseason expectations, their win total at Caesars was 6.5, so it already was built in they would win twice as many games as they won in 2021. (Hence, their lines should have been adjusted for improvement.)
Meanwhile, the Vikings have been an early season Jekyll and Hyde, defeating Green Bay and then getting trounced on Monday night in Philly’s home opener. Here’s the thing: Minnesota is much closer to the team that beat the Packers than they are the one that failed to show up against the Eagles.
What we always look for is value, and to drop this line under a touchdown gives us that. Through two games, the Vikings have allowed just one combined passing touchdown to Aaron Rodgers and Jalen Hurts, and if Detroit is to have a chance to pull the upset – or even stay within shouting distance – Jared Goff will have to not make mistakes, and D’Andre Swift will have to go for well over 100 and possibly two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Lions defense has been second-worst through two games in yards allowed.
In one of the overreactions of the week, we’ll go against one of America’s new favorite teams. (Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Kirk Cousins isn’t playing in prime time, where he has been God awful throughout his career. Please remind me of that next time they play on a Sunday or Monday night.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Vikings 28, Lions 17. (Under 52.5.)
2 / Kansas City at INDIANAPOLIS under 50
WHEN: Sunday at noon. THE BET: $33 to win $30.
At first glance, this seemed like a great spot to take Indy (and still does), but I just could not press the button on the statue better known as Matt Ryan, who is going to take heat from the strength of the Kansas City defense – its front line.
That being said, there is no getting past how desperate the Colts will be in this one, while the Chiefs showed a bit of crack in their offensive armor last week against the Chargers.
Although it is only Week 3, this is the most critical point of the season for Indianapolis, who has games against Tennessee and at Denver following this one.
They will be ultra-focused, and they will do it with their defense, while the Chiefs’ D should be able to sack Ryan three or four times and hold down Jonathan Taylor just enough to keep the scoring low.
Lastly, although I am picking the Chiefs to win here, I would want nothing to do with them in a knockout pool. It would not be surprising whatsoever to see the Colts play at a high level with Frank Reich’s butt getting ever closer to that coaching-seat fire.
SCORE PREDICTION: Chiefs 23, Colts 20 (+6.5).
3 / NY GIANTS -1 over Dallas
WHEN: Monday at 7:15 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win $20.
“Wait a minute, Derry. You were all over the Cowboys last week, and you somehow pulled one out of your keister in picking them to beat the Bengals, and now you’re picking against them?”
Well, it’s funny how the betting world works, isn’t it? This is a perfect spot for Aunt Mabel to save some of her Sunday betting money for Monday night, thinking, “Wait, all the Cowboys have to do is beat the stinkin’ G-Men? Thaddeus, hold off on the groceries for those fruitcakes. We’re gonna have enough to make pumpkin-date-raisin bread AND pecan bars for the entire Thibodeaux clan with this one!”
Hold on there, Mabes. Yes, as I write this, about 70 percent of the tickets are on Dallas, and there has been sharp money on the Cowboys, as well, that has dropped this line from its open of -2 on Monday and as high as -4.5 last week.
But the sharps were wrong about Dallas last week, and even they seem to be overreacting (or confused) with this one. It could be as much about the Giants, who didn’t necessarily light the world on fire last week against a sub-par Carolina team.
That being said, no way Cooper Rush follows a much-above-expectations performance with another. That, and the Giants have proven they can stop a good running back such as Ezekiel Elliott, as they have yet to give up a rushing touchdown following games against Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey.
SCORE PREDICTION: Giants 19, Cowboys 14. (Under 39.)
4 / Green Bay ML (+100) over TAMPA BAY
WHEN: Sunday at 3:25 p.m. THE BET: $20 to win $20.
Had I been forced to release my picks on Monday, I would have made this one my top pick, as I already have made several wagers among the books at +120 before the sharps jumped all over it and dropped the line from -3 to -1 and ML from +120 to even money on Wednesday afternoon.
In other words, I hate that it seems the overwhelming majority of bettors are thinking the same thing I did. That being said, the only way one can like Tampa Bay here is solely because of the Bucs’ defense and some guy named Tom Brady (who has looked anything but his old, er, make that young self through two games this season).
The Bucs have all sorts of problems, as it was confirmed Wednesday No. 1 wide receiver Mike Evans would be suspended in this one for his cheap shot (again) on Marshon Lattimore last Sunday. Meanwhile, we have to guess early whether Chris Godwin and Julio Jones will each miss another game. (But that’s where the values come in.)
That and the fact Brady has had Rodgers’ number as a Buc – winning 31-26 in the playoffs a couple of years ago and earlier that season, 38-10. Give me the revenge-factor motivation, as well. With Tampa not being anything close to 100 percent on offense, this has to be one of the top value picks of the week.
SCORE PREDICTION: Packers (+1) 24, Buccaneers 20. (Over 42.)
5 / TENNESSEE ML (+110) over Las Vegas
WHEN: Sunday at noon. THE BET: $10 to win $11.
Sometimes as a prognosticator, you try to look at your picks from the outside, and you want to shake yourself and wonder why you keep making the same mistakes over and over again. “Look man, that brick wall is starting to fall apart from all the times you have banged your rock-hard head against it.”
But then I realize it’s really unhealthy to keep talking to myself, and maybe I should ignore that dude. I mean, he’s the same guy who told me last week it was OK to eat half a pizza an hour before bed and to tell my wife what I really thought about the dress she was wearing. (She doesn’t read this column, in case you were wondering.)
But I digress. And with that, we come to the Tennessee Titans, who I am picking for the third consecutive week. Can they really be as bad as they have looked in the first two weeks of the season? Well, yes Virginia, they really can be. However, I am ready to bang my head against that wall one last time, because I ain’t believing it.
Rather, I am putting my money in Coach Mike Vrabel with his back pressed up against the wall as much as the Colts and Frank Reich. (Man, this division stinks.)
While my denomination of money has changed, which shows I am at least smart enough to back off just a bit, it’s now or never for Tennessee against a Raiders defense that can’t do much on the ground and has allowed 109.5 yards and a touchdown per game to opposing rushing offenses thus far.
SCORE PREDICTION: Titans 27, Raiders 23. (Over 45.5.)
TOP KNOCKOUT PICKS
1 / Minnesota; 2 / LA Chargers; 3 / Cincinnati; 4 / Chicago (No, I didn’t take any unprescribed medication.); 5 / Take one of the first two teams twice. (All correct last week.)
OTHER PICKS (No bets for the following)
Thursday at 7:20 p.m.
CLEVELAND 20, Pittsburgh (+4.5) 17: At first glance, I thought this was all Cleveland and figured the Steelers would have a tough time stopping the Browns’ run game. Then I went back and looked at trends, and the past five games in this series, Cleveland has combined to score an average of just 13.6 points. I still pick the Brownies to win, but can’t lay that many points in what should be a low-scoring snoozer. (Under 38.5.)
Sunday at noon
New Orleans 19, CAROLINA (+3) 17: How can anyone feel like this Saints offense is on the verge of breaking out, as Jameis Winston and his four broken vertebrae have been completely off the mark in seven of eight quarters this season? So, it comes down to defense and whether they can put the clamps on Christian McCaffrey and Baker Mayfield.
So far, in seven games against the Saints, McCaffrey hasn’t been all that special, rushing for 3.15 yards per carry and three touchdowns. That being said, he does have 44 receptions for 429 yards and two more scores, so he has been somewhat effective out of the backfield.
Will Alvin Kamara play? Will Dennis Allen and Pete Carmichael be more willing to go to Andy Dalton if it appears it is truly necessary? Will Taysom Hill be more involved? All questions key to whether the Saints are 1-2 and in a seriously deep hole the week before traveling to London or whether they leave on an uplifting note.
The answer is NO ONE knows, and if you bet on either side, you might need to call that hotline thingy. (Under 40.5.)
NEW ENGLAND (+3) 21, Baltimore 19: If someone came down from the heavens and said you can either have $10 in your hand or bet $100 of some unknown dude’s money on this game, I would take the free 10 bucks. Anyone who thinks they have either of these teams figured out send me a note, but even trends don’t help us here with two very different results in the Lamar Jackson era.
I’m giving the nod to Belichick, and think the Ravens may still be reeling from that fourth-quarter meltdown last week. Oh, and I don’t think they’re as good as many “experts” do, either. (Under 43.5.)
Philadelphia 23, WASHINGTON (+6.5) 20: Refer back to my comments on the Titans and banging my head against a wall. Sorry, but I am still not buying these Eagles are the best thing since “The Greatest Show on Turf.” Can’t pick them to lose straight up here, but no way I take them in knockout, and I certainly don’t think it’s a romp. My No. 6 best bet – if I had to make one – would have been to fade the public and take this under. (Under 47.)
Buffalo (-6) 34, MIAMI 22: OK, I give up. Let me in the car, Aunt Mabel. Push over, Drunk Joe. The Bills are the best team in the history of football, and it’s a fait accompli they will win the Super Bowl. Just give Josh Allen his gold jacket, already. Every brilliant, social-media loving 20-something was right.
And the answer to the rest of you normal people is: Yes, that’s the best I can do for this game, Golden Rule or not. (Over 52.)
Cincinnati 31, NY JETS (+5) 27: It’s Desperation Week for quite a few playoff hopefuls in the NFL, and the Bengals are squarely on the top of that list. Although I think it will be tougher than a majority than the public thinks it will be, somehow, someway one has to think Joe Burrow will find a way to avoid 0-3. (Over 45.)
CHICAGO (-2.5) 27, Houston 17: Justin Fields has been much better than I expected through two games this season. (Yes, I had super low expectations.) The only problem is he still can’t find open receivers. Oh, that’s all? Here’s suspecting he nears 300 yards through the air in the perfect weather at Soldier Field on Sunday, and the defense stifles Davis Mills in the process. (Over 40.)
Sunday at 3:05 p.m.
LA CHARGERS (-7) 33, Jacksonville 13: The Jags are on a serious high having shutout an opponent for the first time in four seasons, all the while the Chargers know they’re in a spot to take advantage of the schedule the next several weeks with games against Jax, Houston, Cleveland, Denver, Seattle and Atlanta before things severely change in November. Give me the (much) better team. (Of course, this pick is assuming Justin Herbert plays.) (Under 47.5.)
Sunday at 3:25 p.m.
SEATTLE (-2) 23, Atlanta 16: In Geno we trust! OK, let’s not get silly, but he has had quite the start to the season. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota and the Falcons on the West Coast for the second straight week? I am gonna take the 12th Man, although I will hold my nose while doing so and hope this one doesn’t spend much time on the Red Zone Channel. (Under 42.)
LA Rams 24, ARIZONA (+3.5) 21: Another game I obviously am staying away from, and this is more from my lack of knowing what the heck the Rams actually are. Sticking with Golden Rule of taking a home dog in a division game, but I can’t go as far as to take the Cardinals to win outright. Also fading the public with this total, which is probably a better bet. (Under 48.5.)
Sunday at 7:20 p.m.
San Francisco (-1.5) 26, DENVER 18: I am still trying to figure out why so many people were all over the Broncos before the season began. I get the whole Russell Wilson thing, but that doesn’t change a franchise THAT MUCH to go from a seven-win team to a 10- or 11-win team. (By the way, what’s up with Wilson, anyway?)
Meanwhile, my more important question is: Are the Niners better off with Jimmy G at quarterback? Guess we’ll find out. I think they are. (Under 44.)
HOW WE DOIN’?
Note: TIES ARE NOT COUNTED IN MY RECORD, which could result in a different total of games in the “straight up” and “against the spread” categories, as well as with totals.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Week 2 top picks: 4-1 (+$57). Season top picks: 7-3 (.700; $1,042 balance – started with $1,000 prior to Week 1). Week 2 all picks: 7-9. Season all picks: 15-17 (.469).
STRAIGHT UP (no spread)
Week 2: 9-7. Season: 15-16 (.484). (Note: Correction made from Week 1 when I was 6-9, not 6-10.)
Week 2: 12-4. Season: 22-10 (.688).
Week 2: 4-1 best bets (+$57); 7-9 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 12-4 over/unders
Week 1: 3-2 best bets (-$15); 8-8 ATS; 6-9 straight up; 10-6 over/unders