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October 2, 2016

There are three NFL picks today.

#1: Take Tampa Bay Buccaneers +4 spread (buy half a point) against Denver Broncos for 3% of the bankroll.

This is the type of matchup that is a lot more difficult for Denver than it looks at first glance. The average bettors sees the defending Super Bowl champs head to Tampa Bay, a team that is 1-2 on the season and coming off a home loss to the LA Rams and assumes this one will be easy. We disagree. The fact that the Broncos have not only won all 3 games so far this season but also covered the spread in each has made them a very popular bet! And yet Vegas opened them as only a FG favorite against Jameis Winston and company. That's because they know a thing or two more about this matchup that the betting public does not.

This is a let-down spot for the Broncos. They are coming off an impressive road win against an AFC contender in Cincinnati Bengals and are undefeated on the season! Add in the fact that they won it all last year and it breeds a false sense of security and complacency. Some of the players will look past this lowly NFC opposition, thinking it won't be necessary to give 100%. However, at this level, failure to give it your all almost always goes punished and so even if Denver does find a way to win this game, we don't believe it'll be by a convincing margin. This is likely to be a closely contested game and one in which the points on the spread are therefore very precious. Taking the points as opposed to laying them is the smart move here, in a game that nobody expects the Bucs to put up a fight but they probably will.

After all, Tampa Bay is just 1-2 in a tough division that already has an improved Atlanta Falcons team leading it, as well as the Carolina Panthers who are likely to turn things around and contend. The Buccaneers know that they can ill-afford to fall further behind, especially at home. It should be noted that while the final score won't show it, they outplayed the LA Rams and gained more yards. It was a couple of costly turnovers that turned the game on its head and it had a hint of good fortune about it. We believe Winston and the O-line will take the challenge of playing the defending champs very seriously and perform well. The Bucs have a lot more to lose in this contest than the visiting Broncos and we expect the hosts to play with more urgency and concentration than the visitors.

Let's not forget about the impact of the injury to DeMarcus Ware for Wade Phillips' defense! One of the reasons Von Miller has had the type of success he's had has been the fact that opposing offenses have also had to worry about Ware's presence and his proven track record of causing havoc. With him absent, they can double-team Miller and have a better chance of nullifying him. We don't expect the Tampa offensive line to be able to keep him quiet all game but they should be able to do a reasonable enough job to give Winston a couple of extra seconds in the pocket. If that's the case, we believe he'll relish the opportunity to play against what is widely considered the best defense in NFL and might just surprise a few doubters with his leadership and decision-making. Everyone might be betting on Denver this afternoon but they've had to fly to the East coast and the value is with the under-rated dogs who might just cause an upset. Even if they don't, we believe the points will come into play as Tampa is the sharp play, assuming Roberto Aguayo can put behind his kicking woes. Take the generous 4 points with the plucky underdogs.

#2: Take Oakland Raiders +4 spread against Baltimore Ravens for 3% of the bankroll.

The Ravens may be 3-0 to start the season but they are extremely fortunate to have that record. Not only have they had one of the easiest schedule to start the NFL season, facing the Browns, Bills and Jaguars but they actually struggled in each of those games. All three matchups were decided by one score and could have gone either way. The leg of Justin Tucker and some lucky bounces of the ball are the reason they are sitting atop the AFC North division right now but while Tucker will continue to be a reliable kicker, we don't see them getting as many breaks as they have in the first 3 games with interceptions in the red zone, among other things. The fact is that Baltimore could easily be 1-2 right now and yet sport an unblemished record that isn't bound to last.

Today they're going up against a team that is far from perfect BUT does have more wins than their 3 previous opponents combined! Oakland already has two wins on the season and the impressive part about that is the fact that they were both road victories! This is a team that has shown its ability to perform in hostile environments and is in confident mood. They know they have a tough task against them in Baltimore, given that they've never won there but there's a first time for everything and we believe it could well come this afternoon. Even if they don't however, they are likely stay within this generous spread as John Harbaugh's side rarely wins games by more than 4 points. As a former special-teams coach, he values his kicker Justin Tucker immensely and relies on him reguarly to hit field goals. The Ravens have won many games over the last few years with a last-second FG attempt and it wouldn't surprise us if that happened again. If that is indeed the case, Oakland should stay within the points and cover the spread even if they fall short of the outright win.

Khalil Mack still doesn't have a sack this season but that is bound to change. He and the Raiders should put pressure on Joe Flacco and collapse the pocket for a QB that is still not 100% after a torn ACL surgery! Meanwhile the running game has not gotten going for Baltimore despite their record. That has led to speculation that Justin Forssett will be benched with West getting the start but it's not been only Forsett that's been at fault. The offensive line has failed to create gaps and none of the backs for Ravens have impressed thus far. The team has averaged only 82 yards on the ground and that is not good enough to continue winning, let alone by comfortable margins. This is an offense that has scored 25 or less points in eight straight games, going back to last year but likely needs more than to cover this inflated spread.

This is a matchup where we feel the points are extremely precious. These two are evenly matched up and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. It is a game that may well be decided by a late field goal attempt. We'll side with the 4 points on the visitors knowing that the Raiders are 7-0-1 against the spread on the road since Jack Del Rio took charge! Oakland has a good passing and rushing offense and should trouble the Ravens' secondary today. Latavius Murray has a TD in each of the first 3 games of the season and can help keep the defense honest.

#3: Take Carolina Panthers -3 spread against Atlanta Falcons for 3% of the bankroll.

The Panthers are coming off a rare home loss last week and they were not only beaten, they were essentially dominated on their home field by the Minnesota Vikings. Cam Newton endured what was arguably his worst performance of his career as he threw for 262 yards with 3 interceptions. The poor play of Newton however can't fall completely on his shoulders as he was sacked a career high 8 times during that contest. The Minnesota defense applied consistent pressure and never allowed Newton to set his feet or feel comfortable in the pocket. The performance of the offensive line was undoubtedly a focus of head coach Ron Rivera this week and we expect a much better effort up front when the Panthers take the field this week.

After nearly completely a perfect 16-0 season last year and playing in the Superbowl, the Carolina Panthers are a somewhat surprising 1-2 on the season. This is a team that came into the year with lofty goals behind the leadership of their MVP. Things haven't worked out exactly to plan and this team has certainly underperformed thus far in the season. Their opponents on the other hand, which not much was expected of this season, has certainly exceeded expectation and find themselves with a favorable 2-1 record heading into Week 4 of the season. This wasn't exactly how the experts had predicted and we expect both teams to revert back to the mean in the next couple of weeks. We don't believe that the Atlanta Falcons are as good a team as they have appeared to be in the early going and we certainly don't believe the Panthers are as poor as they have shown.

This is also a big time revenge game for Carolina as it was the Falcons who ended their quest for an undefeated season last year. There is no question that the Panthers players remember that contest and will be looking to exact a little bit of revenge on the Falcons this afternoon. The fact that Carolina is now coming off a loss only cements our expectations that they will bounce back with a strong performance in this contest. The perception of both these teams have been somewhat skewed and there is no question that the betting public is thinking back to how well the Falcons offense navigated the field on Monday Night in their win over the Saints. The problem is that the Carolina defense is leaps and bounds above New Orleans and we believe the Falcons will have a much tougher time moving the ball this afternoon.

Cam Newton is the reigning MVP of the league and for good reason. He can make plays on the ground as well as through the air and poses a real problem for opposing defenses. The fact that he struggled last week will only add to his motivation to have a bounce back performance in this contest. Carolina actually outgained Minnesota on the stat sheet, while the opposite is true for the Falcons. Ron Rivera's team is the only one in the league that currently sports a losing record but has a positive point differential! That speaks volumes on how good this team actually is and how they have had less than fortunate results, despite the tough schedule to start the season. This is a quality team and we expect that they will prove that in this contest against their division rivals. We expect both of these teams to sport identical 2-2 records after this one as the Panthers win and cover the short spread in the process.

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