NFL Betting Predictions: Week 3 Opening Line Report and Picks
When the season began, Washington's Jay Gruden was the favorite to be the first coach fired, and frankly I agreed with that as I expected the Redskins to open 0-5 and then Gruden to get the gate. Entering last Thursday's Week 2 game between the Bucs and Panthers in Charlotte, Atlanta's Dan Quinn had moved into the favored role to be first coach fired. Not sure I 100 percent agreed with that but could see the logic (he won't be favored any longer after the Falcons beat the Eagles on Sunday night).
I now have a new personal favorite: Carolina's Ron Rivera. If you saw the end of the Panthers' 20-14 home loss to Tampa Bay, well, that was a baffling play-call on fourth-and-1 from the Bucs' 2 in the final minute-plus. Rivera doesn't make the offensive calls, OC Norv Turner does, but it's still on the head coach.
And it actually brings me to a bigger issue. Cam Newton is not right. I have watched both Panthers games in their entirety this year. The team says Newton's surgically-repaired shoulder is fine, and he definitely still puts mustard on the ball. But remember when he was arguably the top running threat among quarterbacks in the NFL? That's what made him an MVP. That guy is gone now.
In the Week 1 loss to the Rams, Newton rushed for a career-low minus-2 yards on three carries. Against Tampa: zero yards on two carries. Christian McCaffrey is a great player and got the ball on a sweep on that fateful fourth-down play vs. the Bucs. McCaffrey isn't a power back. In past years, there would have been ZERO question that the Panthers would have run a quarterback dive with the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton. You just can't stop that.
Again, I'm not a football coach, but there were so many times Thursday that Newton could have avoided pressure and had a clear running lane but he NEVER took it. ESPN reported that Bucs DC Todd Bowles told his guys that Newton's quickness is gone. Teams are going to completely focus on McCaffrey to shut the Carolina offense down. The Bucs did a great job of that with McCaffrey held to 53 total yards on 18 touches.
Keep in mind that the ownership in place with the Panthers is not the group that hired Rivera. Since starting last season 6-2, the Cats are 1-9, and that lone victory was Week 17 last year in New Orleans when the Saints played all their scrubs with the NFC's top seed clinched.
I give the Panthers zero chance at the playoffs. Teams with 0-2 records rarely make it (12.6 percent of time under current format), and I'd imagine that percentage is close to zero when those teams lost both games at home. It's another matchup of former Heisman winners this week for Carolina as Newton faces off with Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray in the desert. The Panthers are -2.5.
Here are some other Week 3 early lines that caught my eye. We won't touch on Thursday's game (Titans at Jaguars) or Monday's (Bears at Redskins) because we will be previewing them individually here at Doc's.
Ravens at Chiefs (-6.5, 54.5): Definitely could be a Divisional Round playoff preview as I believe the Ravens will win the AFC North again and that Kansas City at a minimum will be a Wild-Card team and could win the AFC West a fourth straight year (Chargers could win that too, though). Fascinating matchup of talented quarterbacks in Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes, both of whom clearly were undervalued coming out of wacky college offenses at Louisville and Texas Tech, respectively. Very different players, though. Could be one of the AFC's better QB rivalries going forward. The Ravens had been 3-0 all-time at Arrowhead Stadium but lost there Week 14 last year 27-24 in overtime. Jackson completed just 13 of 24 for 147 yards but did have two TD passes and rushed for 67 yards. The Chiefs, who Ferringo has #2 in his power rankings, needed a Damien Williams 5-yard TD reception from Mahomes to tie it late in regulation. They got the ball back in time to get in position for a Harrison Butker 43-yarder as time expired. He missed, but would win it in OT on a 36-yarder. Mahomes threw for 377 yards and two scores. Pick ATS: Chiefs.
Texans at Chargers (-3.5, 48): Also playoff teams from last year with Houston winning the AFC South and the Chargers taking the AFC's top Wild-Card spot despite tying for the conference's best record (Kansas City won the AFC West tiebreaker). When Houston lost Lamar Miller to a season-ending injury in the preseason, there was immediate speculation that the Texans were interested in trading for Chargers Pro Bowl holdout running back Melvin Gordon. Instead, Houston opted to roll with Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde - the Texans no longer have the draft capital to get Gordon after making that big deal with Miami for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. I suppose it's possible to see an actual player-for-player swap, but I'm not sure what the Texans have that the Chargers would want (and could realistically get). Gordon doesn't appear close to reporting. These teams haven't played since 2016, meaning it's the Bolts' first look at Deshaun Watson. Pick ATS: Texans.
Giants at Bucs (-6.5, 48): Could be the last time that Eli Manning and Jameis Winston face off as starting quarterbacks in the NFL. You are probably asking: Why does that matter? Well, they both were No. 1 overall picks, with Manning in 2004 (sometimes people forget to the Chargers, who immediately traded Manning to the Giants because Eli wouldn't play in San Diego) and Winston in 2015. I think these two are a lot alike; they can show signs of greatness but also are going to throw terrible interceptions. Still can't believe Eli has won two Super Bowls, but he also had terrific defenses and running games around him. Winston clearly is/was a more physically talented player but has never sniffed the playoffs because he hasn't had a running game or defense. I actually don't think either is with his current team in 2020. Winston certainly will play somewhere. There are a few teams that might take Eli as a starter next year, but he could be backing up Daniel Jones as a mentor-type. These teams met last year in New Jersey and the Giants won 38-35. Manning had his highest-rated game of the year in going 17-for-18 for two scores and no picks. Saquon Barkley rushed for two scores and caught one. Ryan Fitzpatrick started but was pulled in the third after three picks. Winston threw two TDs but also an interception. Pick ATS: Bucs.
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