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September 23, 2018

There are 3 NFL picks today, all of which were released back on Friday. 

 

New England Patriots -7 spread against Detroit Lions risking 3% of the bankroll.

Matt Patricia has looked lost as a head coach, not only in the first two weeks of the season but also all throughout preseason! He seems like the type of character that was perfect for a coordinator role but not as the main man. He lacks the natural authority and leadership that successful coaches have. The players haven't fully bought into his philosophies either and while some work hard, others look disinterested. All in all, this is the weakest team in the NFC North division in our opinion and likely to finish last despite having some good talent in their squad.

Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback but his play hasn't been sharp so far this season. He tends to get frustrated and make rash decisions when things aren't going his way, such as when the team is trailing. His O-line needs to do a better job of protecting him but the biggest weakness of this team has been the running game for years and they still have not addressed it. The Lions haven't had a 100-yard rusher in a long long time and remain a fundamentally flawed team because of their over-reliance on the passing game. Until they can run the ball efficiently and effectively, they'll continue to struggle no matter who's in charge of this team.

The Patriots have a proven history of winning over the last 15 years and are especially deadly coming off a loss. Consider the fact that over the last 5 years alone, they are 15-2 following a defeat. But if you're worried about the spread, that's been factored in as well, they are 14-3 ATS (against-the-spread) in that same time span meaning they not only bounce back but do so in style! There's been only one occasion then over the last 5 years where they won but didn't cover the spread in this particular situation. Keep in mind they were often favorites in these matchups and at times even bigger favorites than seven points and yet they found ways to cover the Vegas line and probably will do so tonight. 

New England got their butts kicked by the Jags last week minus Leonard Fournette and won't take that lightly. This is a team that is used to bullying others around and a rich tradition of winning. They are used to it and don't take losses lightly. Expect every player to up their game for this matchup against a Detroit side that still has fundamental flaws and is lacking the stability that the visitors have in their organization. The Lions have lost their first two games of the season and will also try their best to avoid defeat, knowing a 0-3 start all but dooms their playoff hopes but that won't be enough. The Pats have done it time and time again and are proven in these situations like a well-oiled machine. We don't believe it'll be easy, this game will likely be close throughout but at one point Tom Brady and company will pull away for victory. Laying a touchdown (just one possession) is not a big deal in this spot in our opinion as it also leaves the possibility of a push open. Take the number with the proven visitors against a shaky side that's lacking confidence and proper leadership.
 

Carolina Panthers -3 spread against Cincinnati Bengals risking 3% of the bankroll.

The Bengals are off to a good start this year and deserve credit but this is not a good spot for them for a number of reasons. First there is the fact that Cincinnati has been stuck in 'mediocrity' for years under Marvin Lewis and that means after nearly every forward step, there's been a half-step back. This team is 0-3 over the last three years after 2 or more consecutive wins showing that every time they feel 'comfortable', they underperform and suffer a loss. We expect that to happen today especially against a capable Carolina team that is in bounce-back mode and playing at home.

Matchup wise, Joe Mixon had been excellent to start the year and was doing so well on the ground both in rushing and catching passes from the backfield that teams had to respect him. His play on the ground opened up holes for AJ Green and others to thrive. He needed a surgical procedure on his knee however and won't be back for another week or so. Giovani Bernard will get the start in this game and while the shifty back has made a career out of catching passes in the backfield, he's not a true workhorse back. He was the perfect complement to Joe Mixon but to have to carry the load himself and run between tackles, it won't be easy. This Panthers defense rarely gives up a 100-yard rusher and yet when they did last week to Atlanta, coach Ron Rivera who is defensive-minded by nature was livid! He called out his defense and after 20 games or so of not allowing such a feat, look for them to have buckled down even on Joe Mixon had he been playing! But now that Cincy does not have its big athletic back and has to rely on the small shifty Bernard, we can see them struggle to gain rushing yards and be forced into a one-dimensional passing offense. If that happens, there will be less room for receivers to get open and mistakes by Dalton are more likely. 

We would be surprised if Cincinnati can run the ball effectively in this contest. Gio Bernard is more likely to be used in screen passes and designs like that but with Luke Keuchly on the field, he'll find it tough. Keuchly is a Cincinnati-native and grew up a Bengals fan! He now gets another opportunity to show the team what an amazing player he is! The middle linebacker calls out plays to his teammates before the ball is snapped and is one of the toughest and most intelligent players in the league. This Panthers defense has what it takes to slow down the Joe Mixon-less Bengals and has enough offense to pull away. 

Cam Newton is a dual-threat QB and something that is hard to game plan for. Cincinnati doesn't have to face him often given that they are from another conference but rest assured he poses a completely different threat than Joe Flacco did and Andrew Luck did in Week 1 in what was his first game in two years! Luck can occasionally scramble for yards but in that game he was understandably more rusty and reluctant to take a hit while Newton doesn't slide, he sometimes welcomes challenges and lunges into the red-zone given his 6'5 frame that is built more like a TE than a quaterback. In Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffery and the rest of the supporting case, he has enough talent around him to cause the Vontaze Burfict-less Cincy defense problems. Burfict is on a 4-game suspension and while he hasn't been missed as much yet, he likely will be today against Christian McCaffery.

Keep in mind that Cincinnati's Center Billy Price is also out with an injury and so this Bengals offensive line is suddenly not as good as it was in the first two weeks (Price got injured midway through Game 2)  and finally the fact that Preston Brown a leading tackler for this defense will miss out as well. Norv Turner is a briliant offensive mind and capable of getting the hosts to win this game. When they do so, it'll likely be by more than a field goal, this could be a close game for the most part but laying 3 points with the team we believe will win the game is ultimately a choice we will make every time given that only two numbers don't work for us.
 

New Orleans Saints +3 spread against Atlanta Falcons risking 3% of the bankroll.

This could be a shootout but ultimately we believe the Saints are more likely to triumph. If the Falcons had not been bitten by the injury bug, it might have been a different story but they are missing numerous important players, especially on the defensive of the ball. New Orleans' defense meanwhile has underperformed so far but at least they are healthy for the most part. Atlanta, on the other hand, lost its two pro-bowl anchors in Deion Jones and Keanu Neal early in the season. Neal was the safety that had made big improvements while Jones was their middle line-backer and leading tackler! As if that wasn't bad enough, heading into Week 3, they've also lost two of their better pass rushers in Takkarist McKinley and Derrick Shelby. We now doubt they can pressure the most accurate quarterback in NFL history (Drew Brees) enough to be able to survive what should be a high-scoring affair. Not only might they fail to bring enough pressure, there will be leaks in their coverage down the field.

Drew Brees has a lot of offensive talent at his disposal led by Michael Thomas whose 28 receptions (on 30 targets) is a new NFL record after just two games in the season! Thomas has been getting better and better and is used all over the field to create mismatches. The athletic and competitive player has the speed and the size to be the total package, both in the red zone, from the slot or on the outside for big plays. He does it all and the attention he commands these days will open up gaps for veteran speed merchant Ted Ginn Jr. Then there is Alvin Kamara who can hurt you by running the ball or by catching it and one that even ATL's first-choice linebackers would have a hard time keeping up with let alone the backups. 

Matt Ryan and the Falcons have a pretty solid offense of their own and we believe will get their points in this game. At the end of the day though, the team that can make a couple of defensive stops will likely head out victorious and we believe that is more likely to be Dennis Allen's crew given that they are missing only Manti Te'o. Marshon Lattimore and company have talked about how this defense has been embarrassing and needs to improve and similarly star rusher Cameron Jordan who finally made his first pro-bowl appearance last year and deservedly so also called out his defense! Look for an improved effort from them against a play-caller in Steve Sarkissian who has struggled to get the most out of his team in the red zone. They finally did better last week against the Panthers but before that they had far too often had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. We believe Brees and company will get their touchdowns and so it becomes a matter of if the Falcons can keep up. We believe this should be a closely contested game but after two underwhelming performances, Sean Payton will demand the best from his team and they are the more likely team to win. Even if that doesn't happen however, the 3 bonus points will act as insurance and might come into play. All the value is with the underdogs in what is a 'false favorite' situation in our opinion. Take the 3 points with the Saints.




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