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Thursday, 24 September 2015

NFL Week 3 Picks 2015 (September 24-28)

The Thursday Night Football schedule means there is little turnaround from week to week in the NFL and the games are spread over three days which means there isn't a lot of time for some of these players to recover from their bumps and bruises.

Injuries have been a real feature of the new season with big names looking like they will be missing plenty of time on the field and so affecting their teams chances of making the Play Offs.

My Week 2 Recap is up and includes comments about the Dallas Cowboys, Chip Kelly, the New England Patriots, Drew Brees, my pick for the 0-2 team that is in the best place to recover and make the Play Offs as well as the usual Power Rankings. You can read that here.

Week 3 Picks
It was the expected bounce back week for Vegas as highlighted by the Survivor Pools that were being played- ESPN noted that the top six picks for the straight up win all lost last week including the New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens who were all favoured by 5.5 points or more on the spread.

Fortunately I missed the majority of the big spreads except the Colts and that defeat meant it was a small loss in Week 2 having gone into the last two games ahead. The Seattle Seahawks blew a Fourth Quarter lead again to miss their cover and then the Colts were pretty terrible in their home loss to the New York Jets on Monday Night Football to drop the picks into the losing column for Week 2.

It could have been a lot worse having missed out on the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills, so I am alright with the season total still in the black.

As I mentioned last week, going forward the Thursday Night Football pick, if I have one, will be up first with the rest of the week picks out in the next couple of days. I will keep them in this one thread though so check back before Sunday to see where I am going this week.

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants Pick: This has suddenly become a really big NFC East game in a Division that has opened up thanks to the injuries the Dallas Cowboys have picked up in the first two weeks of the season. Losing the likes of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo for a number of weeks will give the rest of the Division a lot of hope they can peg back the 2-0 Cowboys, although the New York Giants are in the more desperate position of the two teams playing on Thursday Night Football.

The Giants are 0-2, but they would be 2-0 if anyone on the coaching staff had ever paid attention to kids that play Madden on a console with clock management being the main reason they have lost to the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons. Fortunately for Tom Coughlin, the Giants are far from done and they are favoured to beat the Washington Redskins in Week 3.

Washington are 1-1 thanks to a very good win over the St Louis Rams who were coming in off a stunning upset of the Seattle Seahawks having come from behind to win in Overtime. The Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins was ugly, but Matt Jones came together with Alfred Morris in Week 2 to dominate the Rams vaunted front seven.

Jones and Morris will be given the ball to try and keep the Redskins in third and manageable for Kirk Cousins and the rest of the Offense. After two weeks when they were in a good spot to run the ball, they take on the New York Giants who have excelled against the run and get Jon Beason back to improve the Linebacker unit.

Restricting the Dallas Cowboys behind that impressive Offensive Line to just 3.5 yards per carry and keeping Washington in third and long will give the Giants every chance to get off the field. That is me talking about a lack of faith in Cousins at Quarter Back who is never too far from a couple of big errors, although he won't have to worry about a pass rush or going against a Secondary that has played that well.

One of the more surprising aspects of the early NFL season is how well the Washington Redskins have done Defensively, although this is clearly the biggest test they would have faced in the early part of the season. The Giants have actually moved the ball effectively enough when running the ball, but the Offensive Line is banged up and it might be up to Eli Manning to open up the running game by throwing the ball effectively.

He has been able to hit Odell Beckham, although the continuing absence of Victor Cruz has to be a worry for the Giants. There are some decent targets that the Giants still have, but they have to cut out the mistakes that have blighted them in the early going.

Like many teams in the NFC East, Washington have excelled as the road underdog, but they have lost and failed to cover in their last four games against the New York Giants. I also think New York have been close enough to coming into this game 2-0 and they would have been perhaps as many as three points bigger on the spread, while I am not sold on the Washington Defense because they've played well against St Louis and Miami.

The Giants have gone 9-4-1 against the spread when off a loss as the favourite, while Washington are 3-8 against the spread when trying to back up a win as the underdog. I think New York are in a desperate spot to get back into the NFC East and I like them to come through and make it five in a row straight up and against the spread versus the Washington Redskins.

There is no doubt the sharp money is going on the Washington Redskins which has seen the spread shrink to the key number of three points, but I like the New York Giants to get out of their own way and put the first win on the board in the 2015 season and will back them to cover on Thursday Night Football. It very possibly shortens even more up to kick off, but I will lock it in here.

Atlanta Falcons @ Dallas Cowboys Pick: When Tony Romo went down with an injury to take away the biggest piece of the Dallas Cowboys Offense and join Dez Bryant on the sidelines, I did think the Atlanta Falcons were going to be the right side to back.

Let's fact facts, who in their right mind would trust Brandon Weeden as a Quarter Back after he struggled in relief last season? The Cowboys did trade for Matt Cassel this week from the Buffalo Bills, but that had more to do with the fact that Dallas were the only team to come into the season with two Quarter Backs prior to the injury to Romo.

There is no doubting that this is Weeden's team for the foreseeable future and I actually have had time to break this game down and believe the Dallas Cowboys are the right side to back.

Dallas are coming off two wins in Divisional games which means they could be set for a let down, but there are reasons to believe in the Cowboys. Atlanta might have a few issues to contend with as they have struggled to run the ball and have lost Tevin Coleman for this game.

Julio Jones is also banged up, although he will be a surprising scratch, and the Atlanta Offensive Line hasn't protected Matt Ryan as well as they would like to have done. Dallas' Defense might have looked like a potential weakness at the beginning of the season but they have played very well with Sean Lee back leading the way at Linebacker and I think the Cowboys Defense steps up their play in this one to another level.

The Cowboys are 6-2 against the spread as the home favourite and Weeden still has some weapons on the Offensive side of the ball to attack a Secondary that is allowing over 315 yards per game through their first two games. I imagine Jason Garrett leans on the Offensive Line and tries to establish a strong running game, which has been missing early in the season, and that should give Weeden a chance to be playing out of third and short.

And how about this statistic- over the past five years, teams playing their first game without their starting Quarter Back cover around 65% of the time. Teams will tend to really rally around the back up Quarter Back and I think Dallas will do that too so they are worth a small interest in this one with the point and a half being given to them. A chance to fade the public is a bonus too after the first two weeks Vegas have had so Dallas do look the call.

I can't go bigger than a single unit because it is Brandon Freaking Weeden at Quarter Back and I wouldn't trust him to avoid the big turnovers that have blighted him through his NFL career. If Jason Witten is ruled out on Sunday this spread might even increase by a couple of points, but I will lock it in here.

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans Pick: This is the second season in a row the Indianapolis Colts have opened the season 0-2 so the fan base can't panic at the moment. The AFC South is one of the weaker Divisions outside of the Colts and I imagine Indianapolis will get back into Play Off contention unless the discord between General Manager Ryan Grigson and Head Coach Chuck Pegano is deeper than anyone thinks.

It was a similar level of discord at the San Francisco 49ers last season that eventually saw Jim Harbaugh leave the franchise after a disappointing season. While I wouldn't be surprised to see Pegano move on at the end of this season, he will be hoping that it isn't because Indianapolis have failed to get out of the hole they are currently in.

Pegano wasn't too kind about Andrew Luck in the wake of the Monday Night Football loss to the New York Jets, but Luck has dominated the Division and I think he bounces back this week. The Colts are 13-3-2 against the spread in Divisional games since Luck was picked Number 1 in the Draft and they are 6-0-1 against the spread as the road favourite in those Divisional games.

Last season they went into Week 3 0-2 and Indianapolis crushed the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road and I truly don't think Tennessee are that much improved from last season or much better than Jacksonville were a year ago.

Marcus Mariota sparked them in the first game and they Defense hasn't really been tested having faced Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel in the first two games. The Titans should be able to control Frank Gore and get pressure on Andrew Luck, but the Quarter Back and the Offense made some big errors in Week 2 and I don't think that happens again.

While the headlines have all been about the pressure the Offensive Line have allowed to come onto Luck, Indianapolis did find ways to get to Ryan Fitzpatrick last week and they will be able to put pressure on rookie Mariota too. Indianapolis have played the run well and I think Luck outduels Mariota here to put his team on the board.

The Colts are now 6-1-1 against the spread when coming off a loss as the favourite, have dominated games against Divisional rivals since Andrew Luck has come in as Quarter Back. Tennessee are 0-3-1 against the spread as the home underdog against teams from the AFC South, while they are 1-6-1 against the spread when set as an underdog of three points or fewer over the last two seasons.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers Pick: Drew Brees was officially ruled out on Friday and the public have been pounding the Carolina Panthers to cover the bigger line against the New Orleans Saints who are 0-2 and looking for Luke McCown to hold the team together in the absence of Brees.

There remain some doubts about Brees and whether he is going to have a future in New Orleans beyond this season and now he misses his first game in his NFL career. The problem for Brees is that no one will really know how long he is going to have to sit for the Saints and New Orleans could easily be out of the Play Off picture if they lose this weekend to their Divisional rivals who are 2-0.

Carolina have shown how a team can overcome injuries to win their first couple of games despite some Offensive inconsistencies. It might be a chance for them to put together their best performance on that side of the ball as Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton should both find some big running lanes against this Defensive Line.

The Saints haven't got a lot of pressure on the Quarter Back and they have struggled to get off the field in a similar manner to last season which should give the Panthers confidence in avenging their home loss from 2014.

Am I backing Carolina to cover though? No, I think the Saints can rally behind their back up Quarter Back and cover with this large amount of points behind them.

The media might only have had it confirmed on Friday that Drew Brees is out, but the rumours were there since last Sunday and Sean Payton would have had McCown preparing all week. He would love to get some support from Mark Ingram in the running game, while the Offensive Line has struggled, but this is a spot where McCown has performed in the past.

In 2007, McCown came in for an injured Jeff Garcia and threw for over 300 yards and 2 Touchdowns in a NFC South Divisional game although ironically that was against the New Orleans Saints for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I already mentioned the high covering rate for teams in their first game without their starting Quarter Back, while the Carolina Offense has struggled for consistency and can't be called upon to cover a big number.

The fact McCown's one and pretty much only big performance in the NFL came in relief for a starting Quarter Back is enough to think he can lead the Saints to the cover in a spot that should see a 0-2 squad rally to the cover at the least. It's another one unit play because it's Luke McCown under Center after all!

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Jets Pick: You just have to love it when there is a huge overreaction that sees a spread make a huge move on the basis of two weeks of football.

Don't misunderstand me, I can't deny the Philadelphia Eagles have looked pretty terrible while the New York Jets have looked better than advertised, but this is not the best of spot for the latter who are being pounded by the public to cover 'just two points'.

Coming off Monday Night Football is difficult, but the New York Jets are now playing a non-Conference game prior to facing the Miami Dolphins in a Divisional battle. That alone might make this a bad spot, but the fact that game is going to be played in London is another distraction and the favourites go 3-8 against the spread the week prior to the International Series game in England.

DeMarco Murray might miss out for the Eagles who have had two disappointing games in the first couple of weeks of the season and Sam Bradford has to find a way to get going behind an Offensive Line that will be challenged by a very strong New York Jets Defensive Line. However, the Jets might miss Darrelle Revis this week which should open up some passing lanes.

On the other hand, Ryan Fitzpatrick has done just enough to make sure the Jets are 2-0, although he will be missing Eric Decker this week. Brandon Marshall should collect his numbers, but the Eagles have been pretty stout against the run and forcing Fitzpatrick to throw from third and long doesn't usually end well for his teams.

It just strikes me as a game that might not feature a lot of points and the Jets are 1-6 against the spread coming off a win as the underdog like they had on Monday Night Football. The Eagles are 5-1 against the spread as an underdog of three points or fewer under Chip Kelly and they can't look ahead to the big game with the Washington Redskins next week. With the distraction of London and the Jets overachieving in their first two games, I think a small interest on the underdog Philadelphia Eagles has to be worth backing.

All the money seems to be on the Jets this week in this game and fading the overreacting public looks the play.

Tampa Buccaneers @ Houston Texans Pick: It was a very big win for rookie Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the SuperDome last week, but backing that up might be difficult in a non-Conference game on the road.

Take a look at the spot- Tampa Bay have had a road game against a Divisional rival, this game and then they host NFC South rivals Carolina next week. A team that was sloppy against the Tennessee Titans from the AFC South in the opening week can't be overly trusted in my opinion to have the ability to repeat their big win from Week 2.

Winston is going to have some ups and downs in his rookie season and now faces a Defensive Line that can put the fear of God into any Quarter Back. The Tampa Bay Offensive Line hasn't been that effective in protection and Winston does have the tendency to hold onto the ball a little too long from his time at the Florida State Seminoles so might have the likes of JJ Watt, Vince Wilfork and Jadeveon Clowney in his face in this one.

It is not like Winston is going to have Doug Martin picking up huge chunks of yardage on the ground and might be in third and long a little too often for his liking. With Mike Evans still a little banged up and Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been ruled out for a few weeks so Winston might not have a lot of places to throw the ball with the expectation Jonathan Joseph will be on Vincent Jackson for much of the afternoon.

Lovie Smith may look at his Defense to propel them to victory and they should have some success in this one. Ryan Mallett just hasn't looked comfortable at Quarter Back and makes too many bad decisions, while the Offensive Line will be under pressure from the pass rush led by Jacquies Smith.

DeAndre Hopkins could be missing so Houston are missing a key piece of their Receiving corps and the continued absence of Arian Foster is a concern with the likes of Alfred Blue not getting it done. That might have something to do with the Offensive Line issues, so Houston will need Mallett to be at his absolute best if they are going to reverse their 0-2 start.

The game could come down to which of the two Quarter Backs makes the fewer mistakes and Ryan Mallett doesn't have that much more game time experience than Jameis Winston at this level. However, I love the spot for the Houston Texans who are desperate to get out of their 0-2 hole and facing a team who are off a big Divisional road win and facing another Divisional rival next week.

It just feels a natural spot for Winston and the Buccaneers to have a step back in their performance and there is a statistic I read that shows 0-2 teams are 19-10 against the spread when favoured by six points or higher. I think the Texans find a way to get this done and back in contention in the weak AFC South and cover the spread too.

San Diego Chargers @ Minnesota Vikings Pick: It isn't an ideal position for the San Diego Chargers to be playing back to back road games at the 1pm kick off time, although Mike McCoy has had them playing well in that spot. This is a non-Conference game though and I think the Chargers might have a tough time to stay with the Minnesota Vikings who are off a very impressive home win over the Detroit Lions.

The Chargers have had a hard time slowing down teams who want to run the ball against them over the first couple of weeks of the season and that doesn't bode well for them heading to Minnesota. That is because Adrian Peterson looked close to his best last week when trampling the Detroit Lions, although he needs to get the fumbling issues back under control.

Peterson helped the Minnesota Vikings wrack up 378 yards on the ground when they last hosted the San Diego Chargers in 2007 and he will be licking his chops at this match up. The Chargers have allowed 122 yards per game on the ground at 4.7 yards per carry and I expect Norv Turner to dial up Peterson's number early and often and he should keep the Offense chugging along.

It will help Teddy Bridgewater whose Offensive Line was a lot better last week than in the opening game at the San Francisco 49ers. That was partly because Peterson was given the ball and picking up large chunks on the ground and I expect a similar game plan to come to the fore in this one.

San Diego should also be able to run the ball effectively through Melvin Gordon and that will be what they need to do to make sure Philip Rivers is not under pressure behind this Offensive Line. If they can establish the run, Rivers is good enough to move the chains from third and manageable even without Antonio Gates and that is a key for the San Diego Chargers.

It is tough back to back road games though and the Chargers were 0-2 against the spread in that spot last season. I think Minnesota might have rediscovered their Offensive identity last week and I believe they are a better team than San Diego which makes the spread look a little out of sync here.

The public and the sharps seem to be on the Chargers, but I am going the other way and I think the Minnesota Vikings win and cover.

San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals Pick: I have picked the Arizona Cardinals to win and cover in their first two games of the season because I have felt they are under-rated and this is not the time to get off the bandwagon.

The San Francisco 49ers are not the force of the last few seasons, but this is still a big game for the Arizona Cardinals. Carson Palmer has never beaten the San Francisco 49ers so it is a big game for him personally, while this is a NFC West game that are always that little bit more important for teams.

This is a weaker San Francisco team than in recent years as I have said and they have been decimated Defensively. After a strong performance to open the season against the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco were torn apart by the Pittsburgh Steelers through the air and Palmer with Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Juron Brown and Michael Floyd will be confident of doing the same.

I can't imagine there will be a lot of room for either Chris Johnson or David Johnson running the ball, but Arizona might not need to do that too much until later in the game when they want to control the clock. San Francisco didn't get any pressure on Ben Roethlisberger last week and Palmer has been very comfortable behind his Offensive Line and should have his way with this Secondary.

That puts the pressure on Colin Kaepernick to find some consistency from the Offense before they are down by three scores like last week. Carlos Hyde will be back, but Arizona haven't conceded too much on the ground and it might be down to Kaepernick to throw the ball to keep them in the team.

While there are some decent Receivers here, San Francisco's Offensive Line has struggled in protection and Kaepernick could be under some pressure. The Arizona Secondary have given away some yards as teams try to keep up with the Cardinals Offense, but they are better than what the statistics show and I like Arizona to create a couple of turnovers in this one.

The 49ers are 1-4 against the spread when set as the road underdog in a Divisional game in recent years while Bruce Arians has inspired his team to 8-2-1 against the spread as the home favourite. This has become a very, very tough team to visit and Arizona are also 5-0 against the spread when favoured by 3.5 to 9.5 points.

I like the Cardinals to get it done and cover what might be a big number at first glance, even if it means being on the same side as the public in this one.

Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins Pick: The Buffalo Bills were put in their place by the New England Patriots in Week 2 and now they have a big AFC East game at the Miami Dolphins. With two teams in this Division already at 2-0, these two 1-1 teams will be desperate to avoid being dropped into the basement in what was seen as a promising season prior to kick off.

The Bills have gone 4-2 in the last six games against the Miami Dolphins although they were beaten here last season. Can they bounce back in this underdog spot? I certainly think it is a big possibility despite being a Dolphins fan.

One of the big issues against the Dolphins this season has been an awful Defensive Line performance which has seen them struggle to stop the run. The reports about Ndamukong Suh going rouge is troublesome considering the money paid to him and the Dolphins have been hammered on the ground which is exactly what Suh was supposed to help.

Now they face a run first Offense who have gained almost 5 yards per carry and should have LeSean McCoy ready to go. Tyrod Taylor didn't escape the big mistakes last week which has to be a concern, but he can run the ball and Miami might have some trouble stopping Buffalo rolling in this one, while Dan Carpenter won't miss too many kicks against his former team.

A lack of pressure up front thanks to the discord between the Defensive Line and Defensive Co-Ordinator Kevin Coyle hasn't helped Miami get to the Quarter Back and Cameron Wake remains banged up.

I am also expecting the Bills Defense to rebound after being picked apart by Tom Brady and the Patriots this season. They should be able to because Ryan Tannehill and the Offense here is simply not at that level and it is a big test for the fourth year Quarter Back.

It is very unlikely that Tannehill gets much support from the running game and that means the Bills will see him in third and long and allow this pass rush to get at him. They have given up a lot of yards through the air, but Andrew Luck and Tom Brady can do that to you and the Bills are better than the statistics show on that front. Luck was under siege in Week 1 and only improved the numbers in garbage time, and Tannehill might feel the rush for much of the afternoon.

The Dolphins are just 4-6 against the spread as the home favourite in a Divisional game, while they are 7-12 against the spread as the favourite of three points or fewer in recent years. I mentioned a statistic I had read previously which shows teams are 3-8 against the spread when favoured the week before a game in London.

Miami are also just 2-6 against the spread following a loss as the favourite and Buffalo are 6-4 against the spread as an underdog of three points or fewer. The money being pounded on the Bills without the spread being moved suggests this is another heavily backed public team, but I like Buffalo with the points on the road.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Green Bay Packers Pick: There are a couple of emotional aspects at play on Monday Night Football as the Kansas City Chiefs somehow try and pick themselves up from blowing a late lead to lose to the Denver Broncos. On the other hand, the Green Bay Packers picked up a win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 and you know that was a game they were heavily invested in and had to win.

The spot might have favoured the Kansas City Chiefs in the last couple of years as the Packers are going to San Francisco next week, but Green Bay are looking to make Lambeau Field a fortress no one wants to visit and the 49ers are no longer the big NFC threat they have been.

Eddie Lacy might not be available, even if he was back in limited fashion on Friday, but James Starks can spell him effectively. Let's face facts though, this team is all about Aaron Rodgers and he has played lights out at home and will have his success against a Secondary that couldn't contain a faded Peyton Manning.

Manning beat the Chiefs with his mind and a late, efficient drive, but Rodgers will give them that for 60 minutes and it is hard to believe the Packers are going to score their points.

It comes down to what the Kansas City Chiefs can do against them and Jamaal Charles might rebound from a crucial fumble that gave the Broncos the win last week. Charles will have seen the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears produce effective ground games and he will have his chance both rushing and receiving out of the backfield.

Matt Forte had a big game against Green Bay and Charles can follow suit while also giving Alex Smith third and manageable conversions to pick up. Smith is still someone who perhaps manages the game more than being able to win it, but the Offensive Line hasn't helped him and Green Bay can get effective pressure on the Quarter Back.

The turnover battle is always key too and Rodgers has simply not turned the ball over at home, while the same is unlikely to be said of Smith. Green Bay are 30-14-1 against the spread as the home favourite in recent years and they are 7-1-1 in that spot since the beginning of the 2014 season.

I respect the fact that Andy Reid inspires his team as a road underdog, Kansas City going 7-3 against the spread in that spot since he took over as Head Coach, but this is a team that is 4-7 against the spread when coming in off a loss as the favourite. Green Bay simply aren't making mistakes at home and while Monday Night Football sees the favourite getting pounded, I think the Packers are the first favourites to cover in the final game of the week.

MY PICKS: New York Giants - 3 Points @ 1.91 Betway (1 Unit)
Dallas Cowboys + 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Indianapolis Colts - 3 Points @ 1.93 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New Orleans Saints + 8 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Philadelphia Eagles + 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Houston Texans - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Minnesota Vikings - 2 Points @ 1.85 Coral (2 Units)
Arizona Cardinals - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Buffalo Bills + 3 Points @ 1.91 Coral (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Week 2: 4-5, - 1.71 Units
Week 15-2-1, + 6.46 Units

Season 20159-7-1, + 4.75 Units
Season 201477-80-2, - 8.47 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

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