Week 3 of the NFL season may be remembered one day as the “Sunday Slaughter,” with 10 of 13 underdogs either covering or winning outright to punish the public.
And it wasn’t really a statistical aberration, as underdogs have gone 27-19-1 against the spread thus far.
With that in mind, we’ll keep an eye on the dogs to watch for this week while examining the opening lines posted by online sportsbook Bovada.
The most lopsided line of the week, by far, lends 13 points to the Indianapolis Colts (1-2), who head into the maw of the 12th Man to face the Seattle Seahawks (1-2).
Taking place under the primetime spotlight of Sunday Night Football, this game features a Seahawks team that has underachieved offensively all year – which makes the enormous spread a head-scratcher to say the least. Quarterback Russell Wilson has led the Seahawks offense to a paltry 15.0 points per game average – with two 9-point performances thrown in – leading many pigskin pundits to openly question whether Seattle’s window of championship-caliber play has come to a close.
Conversely, the Colts are surprising bettors and opponents alike, covering as big dogs against the Arizona Cardinals (1-2) in Week 2, and defeating the Cleveland Browns (0-3) last Sunday. New quarterback Jacoby Brissett seems to have brought a winning attitude with him, as the Colts exploded for 31 points in beating the Browns.
Amidst allegations of open tanking, the New York Jets (1-2) were installed as 6-point home underdogs last Sunday – before trouncing the Miami Dolphins (1-1) in a 20-6 slugfest. The Jets defense was simply ferocious, surrendering nothing on the scoreboard until a last-second face-saving touchdown by Miami.
This week, the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) head to the Big Apple, and once again the Jets are being discounted as 3.5-point home dogs.
Despite the Jets’ thorough domination of the Dolphins, this line may be attributable to Jacksonville’s unexpected 44-7 rampage over the Baltimore Ravens (2-1), as the Jags entertained their adopted “home crowd” in London last week.
The Browns (0-3) host the Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) in an intrastate battle of winless AFC North rivals.
But despite keeping things close in a pair of 3-point losses thus far, the Browns have been tabbed as 3.5-point home dogs – even facing a Bengals squad that has posted a dismal 11.0 points per game to begin the season.
Cleveland’s youngsters have been playing with passion under head coach Hue Jackson, while his counterpart Marvin Lewis can’t seem to get a veteran bunch in gear. Those facts, combined with a “Dawg Pound” home crowd that has turned out for far worse clubs, makes Cleveland’s status as a home dog curious on all accounts.
Another surprise underdog on the Week 4 slate is the Oakland Raiders (2-1).
The reigning AFC West champions head to Mile High for a date with the Denver Broncos (2-1) as 2.5-point road dogs, following a Week 3 both teams would rather forget. Oakland was trucked by the Washington Redskins (2-1) in a 27-10 laugher, while Denver couldn’t get anything going in a 26-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills (2-1).
Those listless performances were out of character for two teams built to win, so the linemakers are leaning towards a close contest by giving Oakland nothing but the standard field goal spread on the road.
Speaking of those Bills, they’ll be facing an 8-point disadvantage against the Atlanta Falcons (3-0).
The Falcons don’t seem to be aware of the “Super Bowl Slump” most fans believed would strike after February’s infamous collapse, as evidenced by a spotless record. Atlanta’s offense takes things to another level when playing indoors, but the Buffalo defense has been stout while surrendering just 12.3 points per game.