Situational handicapping may not present itself too much in the opening two weeks of the NFL season but by the time Week 3 odds roll around, teams are starting to feel the crunch of the schedule.
Early upsets, upcoming contests, and extended road trips start to impact the quality of play on the field, and bettors with a keen eye for “spot bets” can fold these situations into their capping cadence when making NFL picks.
I size up the slate and give you the letdown, look-ahead, and schedule spots to consider in NFL Week 3.
Letdown Spot: Atlanta Falcons (+4.5) at Detroit Lions
The Atlanta Falcons have made good on all that sharp money that poured in on their NFL futures this offseason, bringing a 2-0 record to Motown in Week 3.
A home-friendly start with back-to-back wins inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Carolina and Green Bay gets swapped out for one of the more disruptive settings in the NFL. Ford Field has become a frenzied environment since the preseason, with long-suffering Detroit Lions fans unleashing all that angst on visitors.
The crowd for the Week 2 home opener donned blue ski masks and set a new stadium record for noise, cooking up a roar that maxed out at 127.5 decibels. And while Detroit lost in overtime to Seattle, the Seahawks were flagged for three false start penalties with snap counts drowned out by the Detroit faithful.
“That was a real, real, real home-field advantage for us today, and having them do that for the rest of the year will be a real, real home-field advantage,” Lions QB Jared Goff told the media.
This will be Atlanta’s first road test of the year and Desmond Ridder’s first taste of a rival crowd since two road starts last December. The jury is still out on the Falcons quarterback after a pop-gun Week 1 and wretched first half against the Packers Sunday.
This spread opened as low as Lions -2.5 at some online shops, but the market quickly moved to Detroit -4 on Sunday night. That early play against Atlanta is predicting a backslide from the 2-0 Falcons, who also could get caught looking ahead to a UK trip in Week 4.
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Look-Ahead Spot: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-9)
And speaking of looking ahead to trip across the pond, the Jacksonville Jaguars are square on that spot in Week 3.
Jacksonville will play the Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in Week 4 but before it packs its bags and outlet adapters, the Jags host the Houston Texans as beefy favorites this Sunday. Week 3 spreads are all over the place for this AFC South matchup, with Jacksonville sitting between -8.5 and -10 across the industry.
Not only is this a look-ahead spot, with the logistics of the London trip providing a distraction on all levels of the organization, but the Jaguars make one of the biggest drops in competition that an NFL team could undergo in Week 3.
They run the risk of a letdown as well, coming off a tough loss to the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Week 2 and now face a downtrodden 0-2 Texans team. Don’t sell Houston short, however. The Texans are 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS against Jacksonville since 2018.
What’s more, the Jaguars struggle as favorites (30% ATS since 2018) and especially suck as divisional chalk. They’re 3-6 SU and 2-7 ATS as faves in AFC South showdowns in that same span (they did cover -3.5 at Indy in Week 1).
If you’re leaping into the look-ahead spot for the Jags, be sure to shop and get as many points with Houston as you can. You’ll need them.
Schedule Spot: New York Giants (+10) at San Francisco 49ers
Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.
Before the 2023 schedule was released, the New York Giants asked the “powers that be” to schedule them back-to-back West Coast road games. The thought was the team could stay on the left side of the country instead of bouncing back and forth between coasts, limiting the wear and tear of travel.
Well, the schedule makers abided but stuck the G-Men in a troublesome schedule spot in the second of those roadies. New York, which avoided an 0-2 start with a crazy comeback at Arizona in Week 2, now has a quick turnaround to face the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football in Week 3.
Making matters worse is an ankle injury to star RB Saquon Barkley, putting his status for Week 3 in jeopardy. Barkley left late into the Cardinals’ collapse, but the team says it is a standard sprain, leaving him little time to get healthy before facing one of the best defenses in the land.
Barkley isn’t the only New York starter hurting. The Giants could be missing bodies on the offensive line as well, with starting left guard Ben Bredeson in concussion protocols and LT Andrew Thomas still working his way back from a hamstring injury. Not what you want against the Niners.
The Giants opened as 9.5-point underdogs on Sunday and instantly shot to +10. As of Monday morning, many sportsbooks have tacked on an extra half point to the key number (+10.5).
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