NFL Picks Week 3: Top ATS Value Found in Opening Odds

Rivers McCown

Monday, September 21, 2015 2:40 PM GMT

We're starting to understand who these NFL teams are, but with two games in the books and a wacky Week 2, there's still plenty of uncertainty to exploit. 

Week 2 went quite nicely for me, as Arizona and Tampa Bay came through. San Diego fell short of matching Cincinnati, but did so only by losing the turnover battle. As far as yardage went, the game was basically even. Nobody ever said gambling was fair.

So, here's my NFL picks for Week 3. As a reminder, I'll give myself $1,000 in monopoly money to bet with every week. And just like last week, I'll be sitting on $500 of it during the first four weeks because data is still scarce. 

 

Pittsburgh (-1) against St. Louis ($200)
Simply put: the Pittsburgh offense has looked awesome in back-to-back games. Only cluster luck, field goal misses, and poor game management kept them from keeping pace with New England. This is in line with what we were expecting. By the way, Le'Veon Bell -- perhaps the most talented running back in the NFL -- actually gets to play in this game. The Rams just let Matt Jones and Alfred Morris run all over them.

And what we saw against Washington last week was a Rams team that can't consistently move the football. Maybe Todd Gurley changes the entire game plan for St. Louis if he gets back on the field, but that's something I'm putting on the backburner until I see more of Gurley. 

Now this game does reek a bit of a home underdog getting disrespected. Pittsburgh's defense is bad. There are reasons to put this pick on the backburner. But the only way I can see St. Louis making a game of this is a monster defensive line game that just makes passing the ball untenable for Pittsburgh. That's happened at times over the past couple of seasons for the Rams. But not consistently enough to bet on it. 

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Carolina (-3.5) against New Orleans ($100)
We just went over, last week, how New Orleans was getting this strange respect from NFL odds makers. Even after last week's win, it continues here. After blowing a home game to a team they were favored to beat by almost 10 points, New Orleans is regarded as essentially a half-point worse than the Panthers. 

If it seems like I'm fading the Saints, well, you're right. This is what happens when Jimmy Graham is not adequately replaced and you're left with merely competent receiving options like Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman. Consider that, outside of Brandin Cooks, there's not much different between the NO receiving corps and the CAR receiving corps. And that the latter is frequently mocked. 

Drew Brees may yet have a renaissance, but my bet is that the Saints get bullied by a Panthers team that held the Texans to 17 points despite missing Luke Kuechly and Star Lotuleilei. If I trusted Carolina's receivers to hold on to a pass, I'd be willing to bet even more on it.

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Atlanta (Opened pick, now __) against Dallas ($200)
Certainly there's always a chance that a team guts out a close win here or there, but the Cowboys have essentially been gifted two wins by their incompetent division. Tony Romo looks unlikely to play after what's being called a fractured collarbone and may be out for several more weeks. Same for Dez Bryant. If this sounds a lot like the sequel to the 2014 Atlanta Falcons, you're paying attention. 

The Atlanta Falcons have opened the year 2-0. The offense has been as good as expected, maybe even a little better if you count Tevin Coleman's game against Philadelphia as an indicator of what is yet to come. The defense has been a bit better than I expected, especially at rushing the passer. 

And you don't have to rush Brandon Weeden much to keep him in check. I'd consider this game up to about -4. As of now, when I write this Sunday night, it's a pick. The pick is: yes, the Falcons are better than a Cowboys team missing their two most valuable players. 

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Season: 3-3-1
Season-to-date: -$132
Stake Remaining: $868
Last Week Results: +$72
Cash pooled for later: $1000