We’re looking to build off a perfect 2-0 Week 2 as we head into a really ugly Week 3 slate that’s already seen a ton of line movement. We also went 2-1 in Week 2 props, which are released on my Twitter page every Thursday night and Sunday morning before kickoff, so make sure to check those out. On the season, free bets are 3-1 and player props are 5-3 after Preston Williams’ dud on Thursday against the Jaguars. Here are some noteworthy trends to monitor on as the season progresses:
- Favorites are 24-8 straight up, but just 16-16 against the spread
- Favorites when betting lines open that become smaller favorites by kickoff (-3 to -2.5, for example) are just 3-9 against the spread. Favorites when betting lines open that become larger favorites by kickoff (-3 to -3.5, for example) are 11-7 against the spread.
- The over is 6-3 in games where the total has risen (46.5 to 48, for example) from when the spread opened to when it closed at kickoff, covering by 7.3 points per game.
- The average game total through two weeks is 45.8 (45.5 in Week 1 and 46.1 Week 2), and games are averaging 50.3 total points. Overs are 20-12.
- Divisional matchups are averaging 52.0 total points per game, while non-divisional games are averaging just 48.9.
Use these trends as a factor in your weekly handicaps, but keep in mind that the sportsbooks will adjust rather quickly, so it’s unwise to blindly bet solely based on a trend. Especially a trend that only encompasses two weeks’ worth of data. With that in mind, let’s have a look at Week 3’s free bets:
Bills (-2) vs. Rams
This line is stuck at -2.5 at some books, but of the 10 sportsbook apps that I use to determine a consensus line, five had the Bills -2, and five had them -2.5. So, there are plenty of spots, namely DraftKings, where you can get Buffalo at the lower number. I still like it at -2.5, but I’ll take an extra half-point of value if it’s being offered.
The public is all over the Rams; 63% of the bets have been placed on Los Angeles, but 79% of the money has been wagered on Buffalo. For those newer to betting, when a team receives the lower percentage of bets, but the higher percentage of dollars, it’s usually an indication that professional bettors are wagering on that team (in this case, the Bills). This is because there are a high number of public, amateur, and casual bettors who usually place small wagers, and a much smaller number of professionals, and they place high-value wagers.
This line is much smaller than it should be, mainly because the Bills didn’t blow out either of the two bad teams they’ve played, although they should have. In Week 1 against the Jets, they went into the half up 21-3, but the lead could have been even larger if not for two fumbles inside Jets territory. The Bills clearly took their foot off the gas a bit in the second half, and only settled for two short field goals. The Jets only touchdowns in that game came on a fluke, 69-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder, and a garbage-time touchdown against the Bills’ reserves with 54 seconds left, down 17. Buffalo’s win probability, according to ESPN, was no lower than 71.4% at any point in the game after each team touched the ball once on offense, and was no lower than 89.9% at any point in the second half.
In Week 2 against Miami, Buffalo’s momentum was halted by a lightning delay, allowing Miami to regroup and double their scoring output in the second half. Miami also punched in a garbage-time touchdown with 49 seconds left, turning an 11-point lead into a three-point victory for Buffalo. The Bills averaged 8.9 yards per play against the Dolphins, and now that they’re in sync, I expect them to roll that into this meeting with the Rams.
On the other side of the field, the Rams have beaten two of the most popular NFL teams, so they’re slightly overrated. Their Week 1 victory over the Cowboys was aided by a questionable-at-best pass interference call late, and last week, they beat a highly-overrated Eagles team with a completely decimated offensive line. The Bills offensive line is one of their strengths, so they’ll be better equipped to neutralize the pressure the Rams try to put on Josh Allen. Los Angeles is also flying back east again this week, after flying from California to Philadelphia and back home last week. With the new COVID travel restrictions in place, I expect them to wear down quicker than Buffalo at home.
The Rams may also be without their top two running backs, while the Bills expect to welcome back their top two linebackers, Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds. This game feels like it could be won in the trenches, and Buffalo has the superior line on both sides of the ball, even with Los Angeles having Aaron Donald. The Rams have just three sacks on the year while the Bills have piled up 6, and without consistent pressure on Allen, he has the ability to take off and do damage with his legs. Allen’s improvement as a passer, with much help from finally having a true number-one option in Stefon Diggs, gives the Bills enough of an edge to lay the couple points at home.
Patriots (-5.5) vs. Raiders
Las Vegas was one of my best bets last week, but this week, I’m fading them. This is the first week where both of my free bets are on favorites, but I think this is a prime spot for a letdown from the Raiders. Like the Bills line, this one is all over the place across many sportsbooks, ranging from -5 to -6; the majority have New England -5.5 currently.
Through two weeks, favorites of six-or-more points are 10-5 against the spread, and home favorites of six-or-more points are 7-3 against the spread. This matchup also fits the above trend where the favorite is 11-7 against the spread when they become a larger favorite by kickoff. New England fits the bill this week, and those aren’t the only trends working against Las Vegas.
The Raiders are coming off an emotionally draining victory against the Saints in their first home game in their new city. Now, they’ll fly across the country to a different time zone on a short week after playing on Monday night. Against the worst possible coach to lose a day of preparation against Bill Belichick. Belichick rarely gets beat two weeks in a row. In fact, he’s 32-12 against the spread coming off a loss, covering by nearly six points per game.
Under Belichick, the Patriots defense has made their living taking away the opponent’s best weapons and forcing the supporting cast try to win the game. I expect no different on Sunday against Darren Waller and Josh Jacobs, and I know better than to trust two rookies, Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, to take control and win this game.
The Raiders are off to a great start, and despite being 2-0, they’re a worse team than their record would indicate. Last week, they allowed 24 points to a Saints offense without Michael Thomas and without Drew Brees showing any indication that he could complete a pass of more than ten yards. New Orleans also had the ball for just under 24 minutes, so Las Vegas had the ball for two-thirds of the game and still allowed four scores.
The Raiders rank 26th in yards per game allowed on defense, while the Patriots are 8th in yards per game on offense. The Raiders defense isn’t going to be able to get enough stops to keep this a one-score game, especially against this new Patriots offense with the added element of a running quarterback. Like it or not, they’re a better team right now with Cam Newton than they would be with Tom Brady. They’re more dynamic, unpredictable, and harder to stop.
This one may be tight in the first half but look for New England to pull away in the second half once Vegas starts to wear down from the long travel on a short week.