Situational plays aplenty this week
Week 3 of the NFL season is upon us and while it's still not time for overreactions, we are beginning to pick up things about certain teams. Situational plays become even more a part of my card because teams get up for different opponents.
You may find yourself backing some teams that you'd never thought, but the situation is too good for you to pass it up. With that, let's take a look at Week 3.
Record: 5-2-1 (3-1-1 last week)
Note: All games are on Sunday, Sept. 24 and all times ET
Baltimore Ravens (2-0) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1), 9:30 a.m. (London)
The Ravens’ defense has been fantastic forcing 10 turnovers in their wins over the Bengals and Browns. Now, neither of those offenses should be confused with the Patriots, but you could say the same for the Jaguars, who continue to use Blake Bortles at QB. Jacksonville has scored 45 points this season against Houston and Tennessee, but I don't think the Jags are surprising anyone anymore. The passing game is mediocre without Allen Robinson and teams stack the box against Leonard Fournette. The good thing is that the Jags’ defense has been very good for the most part. It struggled against the ground game of the Titans, but the Ravens don't present the same challenges. Baltimore doesn’t have a game-breaker in the backfield so this could be a battle of field position and whichever team makes fewer mistakes. Add in the overseas factor and I think this one is a low-scoring affair. Baltimore has gone under in 28 of its last 36 games against the AFC South. Selection: Under 40
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) at Chicago Bears (0-2), 1 p.m.
This is one of those hold your nose situational plays. The Steelers are not as good on the road as they are at home. If you look at the splits for Ben Roethlisberger and this offense, this team just isn't as strong away from Pittsburgh. The Steelers beat the Browns in Cleveland in Week 1, eking out a 21-18 victory. Looming is another divisional clash with the archrival Ravens, so focus could be an issue. Chicago is 0-2 with one good game and one bad one. The Bears hung tough with the Falcons at home before getting blasted by the Buccaneers on the road. The defense has put up some respectable numbers as Vic Fangio continues to do good work. Chicago has covered in five of six and 19 of its last 28 games as a home underdog of 3.5 to 7 points. Three of Pittsburgh's last four games before Baltimore have been decided by one score. As long as this stays at seven or above, I'm taking Chicago. Selection: Bears +7.5
Denver Broncos (2-0) at Buffalo Bills (1-1), 1 p.m.
This is another situational play although we're going to approach it a little differently. Denver is coming off two wins at home over the Chargers and Cowboys. They have played some incredible defense clamping down on both rushing attacks. The Broncos are also staring at an important home game against Oakland on Monday night in Week 4. But first is a trip to Buffalo against a Bills team that doesn’t seem to have much going for it this season. They beat a bad Jets team barely in Week 1 and managed just 176 yards of offense in a 9-3 loss at Carolina. Buffalo's defense has played well both weeks and may continue that against a potentially unfocused Denver team. I think you see where I'm heading as the defenses in this one keep the offenses down. Denver has gone under in 21 of its last 37 games including 15 of their last 23 as a favorite. I don't think I can take Buffalo but the under will do. Selection: Under 40
Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-2), 4:25 p.m.
Two teams going in different directions play as the Chargers host the Chiefs. Los Angeles could be 2-0 if the Chargers had a more reliable kicker (and a little better clock management). The offense needs to get Melvin Gordon going so Philip Rivers has less pressure. Luckily for Los Angeles, the defense has done some work on the strength of a strong secondary and disruptive pass rush. The Chiefs have been very impressive in wins over the Patriots and Eagles. Kansas City’s defense has been leaky at times and Rivers is the king of one-possession losses. I see another one potentially here. Jason Verrett’s absence looms large for the home team. It also would be nice if the Chargers had some sort of home-field advantage. Selection: Chargers +3
Oakland Raiders (2-0) at Washington Redskins (1-1), 8:30 p.m.
The Redskins head home after a very good trip out west. They found a run game and some resiliency to win under some adversity. We still haven't seen the good Kirk Cousins yet and he may find that against a vulnerable Oakland secondary. The Raiders’ defense is still an issue, but they haven't faced anyone yet to take advantage of it. The Skins’ secondary with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland will be a good matchup against Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Marshawn Lynch could struggle against a Skins D that has done well against the run thus far. Oh yeah, Oakland has to play Denver in Week 4 and that game means just a bit more. Washington is 15-8 ATS the last three years as an underdog. I think the Redskins are a live dog in this one. Selection: Washington +3
— I came really close to adding New Orleans to my card. The Saints are around a six-point underdog at Carolina and while they are 0-2, the Panthers haven't been that awesome despite their 2-0 record. They beat the 49ers and Bills, something plenty of teams should be able to do. My problem is that the Saints’ defense is so bad, that I don't know if Drew Brees can keep up on the road. The Saints have covered in four straight in this series. Something to consider.
— If the Cardinals had a healthy David Johnson, I'd probably take them to win on Monday night. Of course, the line would be different if he was there I'm sure. Arizona's defense matches up nicely against Dallas, but will the Cowboys struggle to get the ground game going again? I don't think so which is why this seems like a trap line. Carson Palmer has had mixed results through two games so I don't want to trust him to win this.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.