If the opening slate of NFL games is defined by uncertainty and anticipation, and Week 2 is all about overreactions, Week 3 is when the league settles into the upcoming season’s hierarchy.
The select few teams truly contending to win a championship in Super Bowl 54 hope to make the leap to 3-0, while woebegone franchises with no shot at the postseason are already folding up shop. With that in mind, the upcoming Week 3 docket offers bettors several prime spots to take advantage of the NFL pecking order circa 2019.
Per the latest odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada, two teams will enter the Sunday fray as favorites of 20 points or more for the first time in NFL history.
The New England Patriots (2-0) have defended their sixth Super Bowl title in style, outscoring overmatched opposition to the tune of 76-3 over the last two weeks. Including last February’s suffocating 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams (2-0) in the last Super Bowl, the Pats’ defense – coordinated this season by head coach Bill Belichick – New England hasn’t allowed a single touchdown over its last three games.
Throw in a 33-3 shellacking of the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) to open the year, followed by last week’s 43-0 dismissal of the tanking Miami Dolphins (0-2), and New England has simply been untouchable of late.
The addition of controversial wideout Antonio Brown also paid immediate dividends, making the Patriots a ridiculous (-24) favorite over the depleted New York Jets (0-2) this week.
The Jets lost second-year starter Sam Darnold to mononucleosis, then watched as backup Trevor Siemian suffered a season-ending injury early in a 23-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns (1-1).
Forced to start practice squad star Luke Falk this Sunday against the vaunted New England defense, and in the hostile venue of Foxboro no less, the Jets are such gigantic underdogs that moneyline odds have been removed from the board altogether.
The same goes for the aforementioned Dolphins, a team which added to its 2020 NFL Draft haul midweek by trading former 1st Round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers. Fitzpatrick ranked among the league’s best slot and boundary cornerbacks last year, but with Miami focused on losing its way to the top overall pick in the next draft, the Dolphins were able to snag a 1st Round pick from Pittsburgh. In two games so far, the Miami Dolphins have been outscored 102 to 10.
That may bode well for the ‘Phins in the future, but entering this Sunday’s road game against the stacked Dallas Cowboys (2-0), losing yet another starting lineup caliber player is the last thing Miami needs.
Including last week’s 43-0 whitewashing at the hands of New England with a season-opening 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens (2-0), the Dolphins are on track to be one of the worst NFL teams ever assembled. Minkah Fitzpatrick’s absence won’t help matters – nor will a roster stacked with rookies and perennial practice squad standouts -which is why oddsmakers have made Miami (+22.5) dogs to Dallas.
Fading spreads of three touchdowns or more might not be up your alley, but fortunately, the Week 3 lineup offers a few reprieves.
The reloaded Browns – boasting Odell Beckham Jr. opposite Jarvis Landry catching passes from second-year star quarterback Baker Mayfield – are a trendy pick to dethrone the Pats by representing the AFC in the big game. They’ll face their first real test in that regard this Sunday, as the Browns hosts last year’s NFC Champion when the Rams (-3) come to Cleveland as road favorites.
The New Orleans Saints (1-1) may be without legendary QB Drew Brees for the next few weeks, but last year’s NFC Championship runner-up trusts Teddy Bridgewater as the league’s highest paid backup. They’ll need Bridgewater to play his very best, however, as the Saints head to the Pacific Northwest for a date with the Seattle Seahawks (2-0).
Under head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks are 16-0 in September home games, so their status as (-4.5) favorites over a weakened New Orleans team certainly makes sense.
The marquee game of the week should be the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Baltimore Ravens. Not only have the Ravens and Chiefs vaulted to 2-0 records, but the teams are led by two of the most intriguing young quarterbacks in the NFL at the moment. 3rd year star Pat Mahomes is the reigning NFL MVP who led the Chiefs within a field goal of the Super Bowl last year in an AFC title game showdown with the New England Patriots. Mahomes 2018 performance makes him the top emerging star in the league, who has the tools to make every throw — and invent some new ones.
Meanwhile, 2nd year starter Lamar Jackson took over a Ravens squad midseason last year and led them to a playoff birth. Many NFL Draft experts argued that Lamar Jackson was a run-only specialist whose game wouldn’t translate to the NFL. With his upright, unorthodox throwing style, it’s easy to see why quarterback gurus wondered aloud about Jackson’s efficiency. Yet Lamar Jackson infused the 2018 Ravens with energy and drive, and all he did was win. Jackson’s 5 passing touchdown performance in Week 1 led some former critics to reevaluate the Ravens’ leader’s skill set.
When the two met up in Week 14 of 2018, the Chiefs barely emerged with a 27-24 win in one of the season’s most entertaining games. With the Chiefs -6.5 favorites, but the Ravens defense has a penchant for keeping the team in games — while the Chiefs defense still hasn’t improved despite a major offseason overhaul. If Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown can manufacture a few more big plays — and the Ravens run game led by Mark Ingram can control the ball to an extent — expect another close contest.