Here are the football locks for betting the NFL Week 3 and college football Week 4. This week’s locks include Bill Belichick owning a former Patriots employee, Bryce Love and Stanford flying by the Ducks, Scott Frost doing his best Bob Devaney impression to keep it close at the Big House, Khalil Mack’s Bears defense suffocating a Cardinals offense averaging three points per game, and Georgia earning its second SEC win of the season on the road in Columbia.
Patriots (–7) at Lions
Bill Belichick will match wits with his former defensive coordinator, first-year Lions coach Matt Patricia, who is still looking for his first win as an NFL head coach. The timing isn’t great for the Beard to beat the Hoodie. Since 2001, when Tom Brady took over as the starting QB, New England is 41–11 in games immediately following a loss. Belichick and Brady will put last week’s 31–20 loss at Jacksonville in the rearview and move on to Detroit in a Sunday Night Football showdown that could feature the emergence of two new offensive weapons — rookie running back Sony Michel (who had 10 carries last week after working his way back from offseason knee issues) and newly acquired deep-threat receiver Josh Gordon (who was traded from the Browns after tweaking his hamstring in a “photo shoot”). Detroit has staggered out of the gate with losses to the Jets and 49ers — two of the least talented rosters in the league. Expect another Lions loss against a Patriots team still trying to find its 2018 identity.
Stanford (–2.5) at Oregon
David Shaw is arguably the most underappreciated college coach in the game today, both straight up and against the spread. Stanford has outscored Oregon 101–34 over their last two meetings, including a 49–7 beatdown last year for the largest margin of victory in the history of a series that dates back to 1900. The Ducks haven’t defended their home turf in Eugene since Marcus Mariota was quack-attacking. The Cardinal are 7–3 against the spread in their last 10 September games as a favorite. Although Oregon has a 3–0 record, its wins over Bowling Green State (58–24), Portland State (62–14) and San Jose State (35–22) haven’t exactly prepped the neon Nike school for a top-10 ranked Stanford team returning Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love, who rushed for 147 yards and two TDs against UO last season.
Nebraska (+18) at Michigan
The Scott Frost era is off to a strange start. Nebraska’s opener against Akron was canceled due to lightning, the first cancellation due to weather in the program’s 128-year history. The reboot of the Big Eight/Big 12 rivalry with Colorado — which is now a matchup between Pac-12 and Big Ten schools — ended in a 33–28 loss and a controversial injury to Huskers hot shot freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez, whose leg appeared to be intentionally twisted long after the whistle had blown. Last week’s 24–19 loss to a talented Troy team featured walk-on Andrew Bunch under center, with Martinez sidelined due to his right knee. Martinez’s status is a coin toss this week, as Frost attempts to recreate Bob Devaney’s program-altering 1962 upset of Michigan at the Big House. Nebraska may not be able to pull off an outright upset, but covering a big number is within reach.
Bears (–5) at Cardinals
Chicago’s Khalil Mack should continue his early season sledgehammer campaign for Defensive Player of the Year this week in the desert. Arizona was blanked 34–0 by the Rams last week after a dismal 24–6 showing at home against the Redskins in the opener. Cardinals fan(s) are calling for the benching of Sam Bradford in favor of rookie Josh Rosen (or maybe third-stringer Mike Glennon?). But even if that happens, the result would be the first meaningful NFL action for a rookie QB. This is the type of game that Bears second-year signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky could use to prove he’s not just a highly drafted game manager, but a legit future of the franchise, a la his 2017 draft mates Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
Georgia (–14) at Missouri
How ‘bout them Dawgs?! UGA has steamrolled through its first three games by demolishing Austin Peay, 45–0; stomping out South Carolina, 41–17, in the “other” Columbia; and devastating Middle Tennessee, 49–7. Kirby Smart’s defense will have its hands full with Mizzou QB Drew Lock. But the Bulldogs defense has only allowed 40 first downs, three offensive TDs and a combined 17-of-51 conversions on third and fourth downs so far this season. Offensively, Georgia has depth everywhere. Jake Fromm and freshman Justin Fields have combined to throw for eight TDs and one INT, while the backfield trio of Elijah Holyfield, D’Andre Swift and James Cook gives the Bulldogs the luxury of rotating fresh legs in throughout the game. Smart may not get the same national attention as Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, but his program is quickly approaching Alabama and Clemson, in terms of talent and execution.