Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season kicked off Thursday night as Jacoby Brissett and the Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-17 in a battle of AFC North foes. Things only get better on Sunday with what figures to be a high-powered showdown between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins for AFC East supremacy. In the mid-afternoon window, two future hall of fame QBs will face off once again when Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But what does this all mean from a betting perspective? And what are the best plays to help you make smart wagering decisions?
Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan, fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings, ESPN Stats & Information's Seth Walder and Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz offer their insight into the games with tips and picks.
Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.
What is your biggest betting storyline entering Week 3?
Kezirian: It's undoubtedly the unders hitting at a 68% clip. Twenty-one of 31 games have gone under. And while we like to simplify things, I really do think it's team-specific and not just one large rationale. Some teams have been hit hard with injuries to key positions, such as offensive line and quarterback. Others have just limited offensive execution.
Moody: For me, it's the battle between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins will be Bills' first divisional opponent after two games. That's huge and will be magnified by the fact that it's for first place in the AFC. Tyreek Hill has historically performed well against the Bills. I'm looking forward to seeing how Hill and Jaylen Waddle perform against Buffalo's defense. Something to consider if you are looking at the prop market along with Bills quarterback Josh Allen: Over the course of his career, he has averaged 247.5 passing yards and 54 rushing yards per game against the Dolphins. An enormous amount of betting activity will be generated by this highly publicized game.
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Schatz: The wide receiver injuries in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Green Bay Packers contest. This would normally be the highlight game of the week, but who is playing in it? We know Mike Evans is suspended. Chris Godwin will probably not be back from his hamstring injury. Will Julio Jones be ready to play? Meanwhile, most of Green Bay's receiver room rested and missed Thursday's practice, including Sammy Watkins (hamstring), Christian Watson (hamstring) and Allen Lazard (ankle).
Marks: I agree with Moody. The Bills are heading to Miami, on short rest and playing in what feels like 100 degrees, so I do like the Fins getting the points. But how about nine road underdogs in Week 3!? I like four of them, so I'm going to play a four-team, six-point teaser at (+260). Dolphins (+11.5), Colts (+11.5) vs. KC in their first game back at home outside of the AFC South. Kansas City could get caught looking ahead to next week's matchup with the Bucs and Tom Brady. I'll also take the panther Panthers (+8.5) vs. New Orleans Saints and Jameis Winston, who is playing with four fractures in his back. Lastly, I'll take the Arizona Cardinals (+9.5) against the Rams, Los Angeles' offense looks off. Matthew Stafford has thrown five interceptions through two games this season and Arizona is coming into this game with momentum after beating the Raiders last week in spectacular fashion.
The Bills and Dolphins, both 2-0, square off in a big AFC East matchup. Buffalo has owned the recent series, winning seven straight by an average of 19 points per game. Buffalo (-5.5, 53) is favored in Miami on Sunday. How do you see this matchup ending up?
Schatz: So much depends on the health of the Bills' safeties, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer. The Bills were historically good against deep passes last season, putting up the best DVOA ever against passes of 16-plus air yards. I do believe the Buffalo pass rush can get after Tua Tagovailoa, as the Bills are currently fourth in pass rush win rate and the Dolphins are 23rd in pass block win rate. But when Tagovailoa has time to throw, will Poyer and Hyde be back there to stop the deep connection with Tyreek Hill? Will they be there to tackle when Mike McDaniel dials up those long YAC plays? The Buffalo offense is hitting on all cylinders and should have Gabriel Davis back. Xavien Howard can't cover both Davis and Stefon Diggs so I feel confident backing Buffalo and giving Miami points if those safeties are healthy. But if Poyer and Hyde don't play, I'm staying away from this game.
Fulghum: The Bills have been far too impressive for me to bet against them right now. They've been dominant on both sides of the ball and I see no reason why that changes, barring unforeseen injury. I know the Dolphins are a fun story right now. It's been genuinely fun to watch how McDaniel has exploited the unique skills of his personnel. However, Miami entered the fourth quarter against Baltimore last week trailing 35-14. As highly as I think of the Ravens, Buffalo is even better. I'm only interested in laying the number with the Bills.
Dolan: This may seem random, but I would play the Bills third quarter ML (-126). Buffalo is the highest-scoring third quarter team in the league with an average of 15.5 points scored. The Bills can make half time adjustments that can really help them put points on the board. Plus, Buffalo's defense ranks second against the pass (allowing 149 passing yards) and run (allowing 67.5 rushing yards). On top of that, they have held opponents to 8.5 points per game. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are averaging five third quarter points per game so far and are just not up to the pedigree of the Bills.
The other marquee matchup on Sunday's slate features two HOF MVP QBs, as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers do battle in the Green Bay Packers-Tampa Bay Buccaneers tilt. The Bucs (-1.5, 42) are a small favorite at home. Who do you like?
Fulghum: I'm not sure who I like in this one. I go back and forth. However, I'm not deterred by the low total. I would play the under 42 in this matchup. Both QBs currently have major trust issues within their offense. Brady doesn't trust his OL. Rodgers doesn't trust his WRs. Both defenses are capable, especially the Bucs who are playing very well and get to play with a home crowd.
Moody: Through two games, the Buccaneers defense has been a juggernaut. Tampa Bay has allowed just 13 points, which is the lowest in the league. Additionally, the Buccaneers have amassed a league-leading 10 sacks and are tied for third with six interceptions. That said, the Packers will be the most complete offense Tampa Bay has faced this season. I'd bet on Green Bay as a +1.0 point underdog. A lack of stability on the offensive line and uncertainty at wide receiver will haunt Tampa Bay in this game. Both quarterbacks should be able to propel the total beyond 41.5 points even with the Buccaneers' exceptional defense. The total has gone over in five of the last meetings between these two teams.
Schatz: The Packers were supposed to have a top-10 defense this year. They haven't had a top-10 defense by DVOA since 2015, but this was going to be the year. So far, it's not happening. They are currently 23rd in defensive DVOA and 30th against the run. They are 10th against the pass but 31st in pass rush win rate. The pass rush isn't getting there. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay currently ranks second in defensive DVOA, including No. 1 against the pass. So, despite the receiver injuries, I'm going to take Tampa Bay as the small favorite at home. I think they can win this game with defense and a big dose of Leonard Fournette on the ground. And Brady will find somebody to throw to.
Marks: Each week the Bucs get more injury riddled. This week they lost another offensive lineman in Josh Wells. Mike Evans is suspended, and their healthiest receiver heading into Sunday is Breshad Perriman, who is dealing with a knee issue as well. The Bucs have not scored more than 20 points a game and Brady has only two touchdown passes this season. Eventually the wheels are going to come off. Give me the Packers with the points!
Snellings: I'll take the Packers and the points. I agree with Anita; the Bucs are just too hit by injuries right now. While Rodgers does have trust issues with his receivers, he's had multiple games to get used to playing with this roster and trying to get the most out of it. The Packers running game is firing on all cylinders, and they've been getting bend-but-don't-break defense with their team holding opponents to 4-for-20 on third-down conversions thus far. Brady loses multiple key cogs every week, and even he needs something to work with in a tough game against a fellow inner circle Hall of Fame QB.
What are the three most important things that our analytics say?
Walder: I'll give you three takes on sides via FPI.
FPI prediction: Eagles by 2.7
FPI, like everyone else, has been impressed with what it's seen from Philadelphia. But 6.5 points on the road is a bit rich. The reality is that Washington's defense isn't that bad. Carson Wentz isn't great, but he's a huge upgrade over Taylor Heinicke and after two games the Commanders rank ninth in offensive efficiency with Wentz 14th in QBR. The Eagles and Jalen Hurts third and seventh, respectively, in those same categories, but that's why they're road favorites. FPI just doesn't think 6.5-point road favorites is justified.
FPI prediction: Panthers by 0.2
For almost as long as I can remember, I've been telling people that Jameis Winston is better than you think, just look at his QBR! It's true. Winston's interceptions in Tampa Bay made him look worse than he was because when he wasn't throwing picks he was completing balls downfield. Even last year in New Orleans in a more conservative style he was very efficient. But in 2022? Not the case, not thus far. He ranks 30th in QBR, which -- to be fair -- is two spots ahead of Baker Mayfield in dead last. But Mayfield isn't the one giving a field goal on the road. And the Panthers' defense has been almost as efficient (12th) as the Saints' (ninth).
FPI prediction: Bengals by 8.9
FPI will either look stubborn or smart on the Bengals. While it downgraded Cincinnati after Joe Burrow and Co.'s rough start to the season, the movement has not been severe. From the model's perspective, the Bengals have endured two close losses -- albeit to poor teams -- despite being a talented team. A high-end QB with two superb receivers is an excellent recipe for success. And while the Jets pulled out a miraculous victory a week ago, no one should mistake that team for anything other than what it is: a promising collection of offensive talent with an extremely limited quarterback in Joe Flacco and a struggling defense that ranks 31st in efficiency. There's serious blowout potential here.
What is your best bet for Week 3?
Schatz: Raiders -2 at Titans. Las Vegas may be 0-2, but they are a respectable 20th in DVOA through two weeks. The Titans, on the other hand, are dead last in DVOA and our preseason projections didn't like them very much either, putting them last in the AFC South. They were not as good as their record in 2021, and they lost a lot of talent this offseason. That includes not just A.J. Brown but also Harold Landry II, probably their most important defensive player. Tennessee's cornerbacks will be particularly tested by Davante Adams, who will be the focus of the Raiders' offense with Hunter Renfrow possibly out with a concussion. The Raiders have also had a reasonable run defense through two games and Derrick Henry looks like he has lost a step, as the Titans are currently 31st in run offense DVOA. Even if these defenses are evenly matched, the Raiders simply have better weapons on the offensive side of the ball, enough to counteract home-field advantage and then some.
Marks: 49ers (-1.5) at Broncos. I'm sorry to see Trey Lance go down with an injury, but at the end of the day, the 49ers are a better team with Jimmy G at quarterback. The 49ers offense will be rolling with Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, and hopefully George Kittle finally gets to dress! San Francisco's defense is one of the best in the NFL and will be a huge challenge for Russell Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett. The Broncos have 25 penalties for 205 yards in two games, and Nathaniel Hackett has already shown horrible clock management. Shawn Hochulis' crew is calling the game, which is advantageous to the 49ers, considering this group calls a lot of false start penalties.
Snellings: Rams at Cardinals over 48.5 points. These two defenses have struggled through the first two games. The Rams got torched by Josh Allen in their first game, but also allowed 27 points to the Falcons in Week 2. The Cardinals got incinerated by the Chiefs in the opener and allowed 23 points to the Raiders in the first three quarters before their furious comeback in the fourth quarter and overtime. Both defenses can generate big plays off turnovers, as well, which could also add to the point total. I'm looking for this to be an old-fashioned, western shootout.
What is your favorite player prop?
Schatz: Jerick McKinnon over 14.5 rushing yards (-119). This is a bit of a counterintuitive pick. The Colts' run defense is the one thing that has been good in the first couple weeks, currently No. 2 in DVOA and 11th in run stop win rate. But Jerick McKinnon has played a clear role in the Kansas City run game early this season as the switch-up for Clyde Edwards-Helaire, with 34 rushing yards so far. I expect the Chiefs to be controlling this game late and running out the clock, which means McKinnon's going to get his opportunities and top this tiny rushing total.
Fulghum: Dalvin Cook over 17.5 rushing attempts (+118). Don't be spooked by Cook's Week 2 box score. Yes, he only carried the ball six times, but context is important. The Eagles demolished the Vikings from start to finish. Back in Week 1, Cook had 20 carries against a methodical Packers team because of the positive game script. Not only will he be a back playing as a home favorite, but he is facing the Detroit Lions. Dan Campbell's bunch has become the ideal opponent in 2022 for opportunity and production. The +118 price only adds to the attraction of this bet.
Moody: Patrick Mahomes over 2.5 passing touchdowns (+106). I'm drawn to this at plus odds. The Chiefs have one of the most pass-heavy offenses in the NFL. Only the Buccaneers (43.3) had more pass attempts per game than the Chiefs (39.9) last season. Mahomes is known for his dominant performances in September. I expect the Chiefs to score 40 points in this game and most of them through the air. Mahomes has averaged 3.2 passing touchdowns each game in September over his career. It will be difficult for the Colts' defense to slow down the Kansas City's high-octane offense.
Dolan: Leonard Fournette over 72.5 rushing yards (-135). Fournette is averaging 96 rushing yards on 22.5 attempts in two games played this season. The Packers defense ranks 27th against the run, allowing an average of 153 rushing yards per game. The Packers defense allowed Dalvin Cook to rush for 90 yards in Week 1 and David Montgomery for 122 rushing yards in Week 2. Tampa Bay's offensive line is banged up, and Fournette will have to have a big day in order for the Bucs to stay in the game.
Walder: Joe Burrow under 266.5 passing yards (+102). I think there's a few different ways that Burrow can throw under 266.5 yards Sunday. For starters, as I mentioned earlier, there's blowout potential here. The Jets are coming off a win but are not a great team. So Burrow could stop passing early, particularly given the sack concerns the Bengals have. That's actually a second point in our favor: the offensive line. Not only does that potentially limit Burrow's passing ability, but the Bengals almost have to be a little more conservative to protect him. And lastly, the Jets as a team haven't been great against the pass, but their starting corner duo has been pretty solid. D.J. Reed has allowed 0.4 yards per coverage snap as a nearest defender (third-best among outside corners), while Sauce Gardner has been average at 1.2, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Walder: Marquez Valdes-Scantling over 40.5(-117) . I love this bet. Valdes-Scantling is firmly in the mix of receivers behind Travis Kelce, with 11 targets over the first two games -- tied with JuJu Smith-Schuster and one ahead of Mecole Hardman. My projections make this number 55.5 (with a fair line at about 49.5). But what those projections don't know is that Valdes-Scantling has been running more high-value routes in terms of yards per route run as a Chief compared to what he did as a Packer. More deep outs, more drags and most notably, more deep crossing routes. Those crossing routes are most effective against single-high coverage and who are the Chiefs facing Sunday? Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, a Cover-3 disciple. It's perfect.
Marks: James Robinson over 49.5 rushing yards (-115). Robinson is the Jags' early down back and late-game grinder. I expect Doug Pederson to run the ball often to keep Justin Herbert off the field. Robinson has 116 rushing yards after contact through two games, and the Chargers defense has struggled against the run, with only 17 run stops so far this season.