Written By Billy Attridge
Week 3 is possibly my favorite of football season; we start seeing separation between contenders and pretenders along with teams dealing with positive and negative luck over a small two week sample. I’m sure many of you reading have noticed injuries piling up which continue to be a major factor in both the setting and movement of point spreads and totals more than average seasons. Monitoring Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday practice reports are always important but this season it’s vital.
Moving ahead to Sunday, Houston searches for its first victory against 2-0 Pittsburgh, and the early line move is telling. Tampa Bay’s defense continues to be stellar under Todd Bowles, but will the Denver altitude and elevation impact their performance? Perception might be altering Sunday Night Football when Aaron Rodgers and the 2-0 Packers travel to New Orleans, but will professional bettors assist in keeping the line -3 or maybe even send it higher? Find out why these prices have moved and where they could head before kickoff. We also flash forward to FanDuel sportsbook’s NFL Week 4 look ahead lines.
Houston Texans +4.5 (-115) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers:
The look-ahead number installed Pittsburgh 6-point favorites, and that’s where books reopened after Week 2 games concluded. By noon Monday, however, a big buy-order came in on the Houston Texans, driving this point spread down to the current number of 4/4.5. No team has had a more challenging start than Houston, taking on the two highest power rated teams back-to-back weeks. Digging into the play-by-play data from the Baltimore game, we see a final score that wasn’t completely indicative of the play on-field. Including a 4th down failure, the Texans were -3 in turnover differential and couldn’t get out of their own way early. Baltimore is the team you want to play from behind against least, but Houston managed to finish +1% in net success rate. The key for Houston this week is to keep the game in a “neutral state” or build an early lead because their offensive line has struggled early (currently 31st in pass block win rate). As for Pittsburgh, their opening two games have been much easier versus winless teams in Denver and the Giants. The Broncos were a 4th and 2 conversion away from potentially stealing a game with Jeff Driskel leading the way, while Week 1 a costly Daniel Jones interception near the goal line late in the 2nd half helped secure victory. Offensive lineman David DeCastro practiced Wednesday for the first time in a month, signaling a return is near, but JuJu Smith-Schuster has missed practice all week. If Houston’s defensive line has done one thing well, it’s get after the quarterback (10th in pass-rush win rate and adjusted sack rate). Bottom-line, this is a step down in competition for the 0-2 Texans, and they’re cognizant that since 1980, only 3.4% of teams that start 0-3 make the playoffs. The move from +6 to +4/4.5 is very real.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Denver Broncos 1H Under 21.5 (-110):
The full game total opened 44.5 before settling at its current price of 43.5. There are clear reasons why the under is taking money, specifically when assessing Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers defense has predictably been very strong despite facing the Saints offense with a healthy Michael Thomas and Carolina who ranks 9th in overall offensive success rate. Tampa’s defensive line is 5th in adjusted line yards and 6th in adjusted sack rate, and as a whole, the Buccaneers defense is 4th in overall efficiency. They held New Orleans to 4.1 yards per play Week 1, and shut out the Panthers in the first half Week 2. Now they set their sights on Denver’s offense void of Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, and Phillip Lindsay; arguably the 3 most explosive weapons Denver has. Vic Fangio turns to Jeff Driskel to lead the offense with rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler; the former of that duo is dealing with broken ribs. As expected, Denver’s offensive line has struggled protecting (30th in pass-block win rate) with Ja’Wuan James opting out and a rookie center that wasn’t good with pass protection at the college level. Both offenses are bottom third in first half pace, and both defenses are Top 10 in explosive play rate allowed, so points could be at a premium early. Expect both the full game and first half totals to continue ticking down.
Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints -3 (-105):
You would be hard-pressed finding a game more perfect for a weekly article called; “Market Moves.” On the look-ahead line last Wednesday when Michael Thomas’ status was still uncertain, New Orleans was installed a 6-point favorite. Tuesday morning, when offshore books re-opened prices for Sunday night football, New Orleans was -2.5. That was quickly corrected as FanDuel moved to the key number of -3. Green Bay has once again won over the hearts of bettors across America, defeating, and more importantly, covering against their NFC North foes in Minnesota and Detroit back-to-back weeks. Ticket counts continue to be lopsided in the Packers favor, but here’s why you should proceed with caution. Minnesota and Detroit rank bottom 10 in defensive line yards, adjusted sack rate, and have been absolutely torched through the air as both secondaries are breaking in new parts and dealing with injuries. The Saints defense is a major upgrade over what Green Bay’s faced, and if Davante Adams hamstring isn’t 100% we could see the Packers take a step back this week. If you’ve done your reading, you’ll have seen New Orleans delayed their flight home from Las Vegas to get work in and analyze what went wrong Monday night against the Raiders despite being a net +2.5 yards per play. Green Bay took serious UNDER money on their regular season win total, and beating Minnesota and Detroit (0-4 combined straight up and against the spread) isn’t enough to change my mind yet. Expect this price to bounce around from -3/-3.5 leading up to kickoff, and am extremely confident saying books will need New Orleans here and professional bettors that do invest will lay it with Brees and the boys.
NFL Week 4 Look-Ahead Lines:
Denver -2.5 @ New York Jets
Indianapolis -2 @ Chicago
New Orleans -5 @ Detroit
Arizona -5 @ Carolina
Cincinnati -2.5 vs. Jacksonville
Dallas -5 vs. Cleveland
Houston -4.5 vs. Minnesota
Seattle -7 @ Miami
Tampa Bay -5 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Tennessee -2 vs. Pittsburgh
Baltimore -13 @ Washington
Los Angeles Rams -9.5 vs. New York Giants
Kansas City -7.5 vs. New England
Buffalo -2 @ Las Vegas
San Francisco -3.5 vs. Philadelphia
Green Bay -5.5 vs. Atlanta