Well. This is something we haven’t seen in a very long time.
The NFL season is only two weeks old, but Week 3 is giving us not one but two games with betting lines currently three touchdowns or higher. The New England Patriots are 22.5-point favorites at home against the banged-up New York Jets, while the Dallas Cowboys will host the hapless Miami Dolphins as 21-point favorites.
According to the Action Network, this is the first time two teams have been favored by that many points in the same week since at least 1993, and ESPN Stats & Info says it hasn’t happened since the strike-shortened season in 1987.
In fact, the Action Network points out only seven games since 1993 have closed with a spread of 20 points or higher. The favorite has won all of those games but only covered once — something to keep in mind with your picks this week.
Speaking of picks, NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are back to make their selections.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 9-7 (18-13-1)
Ricky Doyle: 8-8 (16-15-1)
Andre Khatchaturian: 9-7 (18-13-1)
Here are their Week 3 picks.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 19
(-1.5) Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars, 8:20 p.m. ET
Mike: Jaguars. Marcus Mariota has been sacked eight times already — think he misses Taylor Lewan by now? Thursday night game, low total (39), in the division … all signs pointing toward the home team and the points.
Ricky: Titans. Why does it feel like these two teams play each other eight times a year on Thursday night? Anyway, take the Titans, who have a solid defense capable of stymieing sixth-round rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew. The Jaguars are dealing with some in-house drama thanks to the trade rumors surrounding star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and that, too, could negatively impact Jacksonville’s short-week preparation.
Andre: Titans. Tennessee leads the league in turnover differential and they’ve yet to allow a turnover. Jacksonville is 27th in turnover differential and they’ve yet to force a turnover. Marcus Mariota appears to not be fazed by pressure and he’s not making mistakes this season. According to PFF, he is 11-of-14 with a 142.6 passer rating under pressure.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 22
Denver Broncos at (-7.5) Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. The Packers’ offense is very much a work in progress, and starting the season against defenses like Chicago, Minnesota and now Denver hasn’t helped. Packers find a way to win a low-scoring, tight game.
Ricky: Broncos. Trap game? The Packers are coming off back-to-back hard-fought divisional games and have a Thursday night affair with the Philadelphia Eagles looming in Week 4. The Broncos, meanwhile, are a desperate team following an 0-2 start, and their defense is good enough to keep things close.
Andre: Broncos. Too many points. The Packers are 30th in yards per play and have also struggled stopping the run as they’ve allowed the third-most rushing yards per carry. Denver is first in average drive time, seventh in average drive start against and fifth in average drive start.
Detroit Lions at (-7) Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions. The Eagles will be without a pair of starting defensive tackles (Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan) and likely a pair of starting receivers (Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson). Not ideal against a running attack looking to get going and a secondary headlined by All-Pro Darius Slay.
Ricky: Lions. The Eagles are dealing with a bunch of injuries, as Mike mentioned. So many, in fact, that Doug Pederson canceled practice Wednesday. Add those ailments to Philadelphia’s slow-starting offense and secondary woes, and Detroit might win this game outright.
Andre: Eagles. Detroit got plenty of breaks in Week 2 as the Chargers literally gave the Lions the game in the second half. This is also a team that allowed the Cardinals to come back from a large deficit against a rookie quarterback. Neither team runs the ball efficiently and I trust Carson Wentz over Matthew Stafford, especially at home.
Baltimore Ravens at (-6.5) Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Baltimore played K.C. close last year — losing by three in overtime — and this team looks better, at least offensively. The Ravens’ offense hasn’t really been tested, but they should be able to run the ball on a Chiefs defense that doesn’t look a whole lot better than last year.
Ricky: Ravens. Love the Ravens as road underdogs — they’re 5-0 ATS in their last five games as underdogs and 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 road games — and Baltimore’s newfound offensive unpredictability should serve John Harbaugh’s team well in keeping up with Kansas City’s high-powered attack. This could be the week Kansas City’s offense misses Tyreek Hill, whereas Baltimore’s offense should lean heavily on Mark Andrews given the Chiefs’ struggles covering tight ends.
Andre: Ravens. The Chiefs have struggled with rush defense ever since last year. They finished last in yards allowed per carry last season and they’re allowing six yards per carry this year. Baltimore is still very much a rushing team (first in rush attempts, first in rushing yards and third in yards per carry). The Ravens are second in yards per play differential. The Ravens also have the most QB hits this year.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-6) Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Pass protection has been a bit of an issue for the Bengals this year (nine sacks allowed), and a trip to Orchard Park — in the Bills’ home opener, no less — is unlikely to fix that. The Bills racked up 14 sacks at home last year, going .500 at The Ralph.
Ricky: Bengals. Buffalo’s defense is legit, which makes this tricky. But Cincinnati seems like a team destined for multiple backdoor covers this season, with Andy Dalton racking up garbage-time yards (and points) to his rather talented receiving corps.
Andre: Bills. The Bengals have a grand total of 59 rushing yards this season. There are four NFL teams whose longest run this year is greater than that number. I can’t imagine the Bengals succeeding in the run game against Buffalo’s defense and this will put a lot of pressure on Dalton to throw the ball more. Also, Cincinnati allows nearly 7 yards per play — the second-worst mark in the league.
Atlanta Falcons at (-2) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. The Falcons have committed the fifth-most penalties, second-most turnovers and have the eighth-worst third-down offense through two weeks. Indy is just a better, more-disciplined team at the moment, especially being home, although the Darius Leonard injury is something to keep an eye on as Sunday approaches.
Ricky: Colts. The Falcons have gone 1-10 SU and 0-11 ATS in their last 10 games against AFC opponents. Unless the Colts transition to the NFC before Sunday, I’ll roll with the trend here and back an Indianapolis team that’s looked solid in the trenches, as expected, through two weeks.
Andre: Colts. These aren’t your father’s Colts. They thrive on defense and in the run game instead of the passing game. They have the sixth best pass rush and third best run block according to Pro Football Focus. The Colts will control the line of scrimmage and when Matt Ryan is pressured this year, he has a passer rating of 39 with just one touchdown and four picks.
Oakland Raiders at (-8) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. When Mike Zimmer is favored by seven points or more, he’s 6-1 straight-up, winning those games by an average of 18 points. After Kirk Cousins’ putrid performance last week, the Vikings will get back to the ground game, and they are 5-1-1 ATS when rushing the ball at least 25 times the last two seasons.
Ricky: Vikings. Adding to Mike’s point, the Vikings are 15-5 ATS in 20 games against AFC opponents under Zimmer. More importantly, however, Oakland’s defense ranks 28th in both coverage and tackling grades through two weeks, according to Pro Football Focus, which doesn’t bode well for a matchup against a Minnesota offense featuring the likes of Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Dalvin Cook.
Andre: Vikings. I’ve spent the last two weeks dumping on Cook and he’s responded by leading the league in rushing and he’s done so while going up against a couple of solid defenses in Atlanta and Green Bay. Minnesota is sixth in yards per play differential and as long as Cook continues to run well, there will be less pressure on Cousins to throw.
New York Jets at (-22.5) at New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. The Jets just scored three points at home against Cleveland. Now, they have to go on the road on a short week with a no-name quarterback to face a Patriots team that hasn’t allowed a touchdown since January. It’s hard to see where or how they score.
Ricky: Patriots. What’s the most points the Jets could possibly score in this game — three? seven? 10? Considering the Patriots probably will hang 30-plus at home, I’ll close my eyes and choose the defending champs against a quarterback making his first career start.
Andre: Patriots. Bad news for Luke Falk: Quarterbacks with fewer than 20 games of experience are 3-10 ATS and 0-13 SU against New England with 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions since the start of the 2016 season (playoffs included). The only quarterbacks to cover the spread? Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen — all of whom are slightly better than Mr. Falk.
Miami Dolphins at (-21.5) at Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. The Cowboys have opened the season with a pair of important divisional games, and a big matchup with the Saints looms next week. Not saying this is a trap game, but Dallas might just look to get in and get out without too much hassle.
Ricky: Dolphins. The Dolphins might end up being the worst team in NFL history when all is said and done. Their overall dearth of talent is alarming. But people have been defecating on their name for the better part of two weeks. At what point does personal pride drive a team to more respectable results?
Andre: Dolphins. When Dallas gets ahead by a couple touchdowns, it’ll probably stick to the running game and let the clock wind down. Dallas is also 12-17-1 when favored at home in their last 30 home games and has never been a double-digit favorite during that span let alone 20-plus point favorites.
New York Giants (-6.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. Credit where it’s due: Todd Bowles has done a very nice job with the Tampa Bay defense, a unit which definitely needed the help. The Bucs have been stout against the run, too, slowing down both San Francisco and Carolina, two teams who can move it on the ground. They should be able to slow Saquon Barkley enough to put the pressure on rookie QB Daniel Jones.
Ricky: Bucs. Tampa Bay won’t play at home again until Week 10 after hosting the Giants this Sunday. That’s a stretch of 49 days. The Bucs desperately need a win here to build a little momentum, and the potential volatility of Jones versus Tampa Bay’s decent-looking defense is enough to justify laying the points.
Andre: Giants. The Bucs should never be favored by more than a touchdown. The Giants don’t have a single interception this year, but that’ll change on Sunday thanks to Jameis Winston’s propensity to throw the ball to the other team. The G-Men should force some turnovers and give Jones some good field position. The Giants average more than 7.5 yards per carry thanks to Barkley and they should be able to kill some clock.
(-2.5) Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. As long as Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t give away a bunch of points down by the goal line again, he should be looking at his first win as an NFL head coach.
Ricky: Cardinals. The Panthers stink on the road, going 2-8 SU and ATS in their last 10 road games. So long as the Cardinals contain Christian McCaffrey — an admittedly tall task — this figures to be an upset. Kyler Murray and Arizona’s offense should progress each week.
Andre: Cardinals. Even if Cam Newton plays, a banged-up Newton isn’t much better than Kyle Allen. Newton suffered a shoulder injury in October of last year and he’s lost his last eight starts and thrown 10 interceptions in the process.
New Orleans Saints at (-4) Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. Obviously, the quarterback thing gets a lot of attention here, but the Saints having to play two consecutive road games — including this one in a raucous atmosphere — is a tough draw. Not having Drew Brees’ intangibles might really hurt in this spot.
Ricky: Seahawks. Seattle is such a tough place to play, especially early in the season, with the Seahawks going 15-0 SU and 12-3 ATS in September home games under Pete Carroll. While Teddy Bridgewater might be fine in Brees’ absence, one can’t help but think New Orleans’ offense initially will become a bit too predictable, ultimately lessening the impact of playmakers like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.
Andre: Seahawks. The Saints faced the Texans a couple of weeks ago and the Texans are kind of similar to the Seahawks in that they both have questionable offensive lines with great quarterbacks who can make plays with their feet. The Saints would’ve lost that game if it wasn’t for some Brees heroics. The Saints are also allowing 5.6 yards per carry. Seattle should be successful running the ball, take pressure off Russell Wilson and use their home crowd to faze Bridgewater.
Houston Texans at (-4) Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. Hate taking the Chargers right now, as they have been decimated by injuries. But it’s been two weeks, and we haven’t seen any evidence Houston is going to be able to protect Deshaun Watson, and a matchup with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram is unlikely to change that.
Ricky: Chargers. The Texans have shown several weaknesses that play right into the Chargers’ hands: Offensive line, secondary and tackling. Expect Los Angeles to mitigate Houston’s pass rush by getting the ball to Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson in space, and don’t be surprised if the Texans struggle to defend Mike Williams, a big-bodied receiver whose physicality could pose problems.
Andre: Chargers. The Texans allow six yards per carry and are 31st in rush defense according to PFF. Ekeler and Jackson should be able to go off. The Chargers are fourth in yards per play differential and they should be able to put pressure on Watson. The Texans have allowed the most sacks in the first two weeks.
Pittsburgh Steelers at (-6.5) San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. The line moved five or six points after Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out, and that feels a little too high. The 49ers don’t have left tackle Joe Staley, and rushing the passer is one of the few things the Steelers do well defensively.
Ricky: Steelers. Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t going to totally suck with Mason Rudolph under center, despite what you might have heard. And the Steelers acquiring safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins will go a long way toward showing that locker room they’re still very much a threat this season. Too many points here against a desperate team.
Andre: 49ers. San Francisco is third in yards-per-play differential and Pittsburgh is 28th. James Conner is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry, so it might be a tough day for Rudolph, who will be going up against a tough secondary that has the third-best grade in terms of coverage defense on PFF. Ahkello Harrington and Richard Sherman have two picks between them and have allowed just 10 combined receptions on 21 total targets.
(-3) Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Sean McVay will have his team ready to play, and I’m not sure I can say the same for Freddie Kitchens. McVay is 6-1 ATS when his team has a rest advantage (Cleveland played Monday night) and 14-1 straight-up when the Rams win the turnover battle. L.A. has also only allowed one “explosive” pass play this season, which is how the Browns have gotten a lot of their offense so far.
Ricky: Rams. Just not ready to buy the Browns hype. Cleveland has issues along its offensive line, despite an improved performance in Week 2, and those will prove crucial against Los Angeles. Baker Mayfield was sacked seven times in nine games last season, but he’s already been sacked eight times in two games this season. Good luck stopping Aaron Donald and Co.
Andre: Rams. The Browns are going to be a team that will beat bad teams, but struggle against good ones. L.A.’s corners are great this year. According to PFF, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib have allowed a combined 76 yards and 17 yards after the catch. I’m not sold on the Browns yet, who beat a bad team with a third-string quarterback on Monday night.
MONDAY, SEPT. 23
(-4) Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Bears. It’s been tough sledding for Chicago so far this year, but only three teams have allowed more points per play than Washington. This should be a good place for Matt Nagy, Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense to get right.
Ricky: Bears. The Redskins don’t do anything for me. They’re a whatever team that historically struggles in primetime. This is a nice opportunity for the Bears to build some momentum — especially offensively — after last week’s dramatic victory over the Broncos.
Andre: Bears. Chicago has started off the season against some really tough defenses. Now the Bears go up against Washington, which has allowed the fourth-most yards per play. The Bears only allow 4.4 yards per play — the best mark in the NFC.
Thumbnail photo via Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports Images