It only took three weeks of the season to jar our memory about how unpredictable the NFL can be, and how a few cluster injuries can drastically shift a team’s fortunes. For six days straight, we absorb as much data as possible, set our notifications for injury updates, track weather patterns, and even dissect coaches’ behavior at their news conferences. Yet, no matter how much we prepare, a few games always leave us staring at the TV in disbelief.
Two of the biggest surprises in Week 3 were the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills, albeit for different reasons. Jacksonville buried the Chargers 38-10 as the injuries continued to pile up for L.A., while the Bills ran out of time in Miami, resulting in their first loss and an epic meltdown from offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. When I see a surprising outcome, my immediate response is to mentally bookmark the teams to see how the betting market will react to the results. With both teams, the current number provides enough value for me to place a bet. So let’s dive into the angles that led to me targeting both the Bills and Jaguars as teams to fade this weekend.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5)
There isn’t a team in the NFL that saw its stock rise more over the first three games than the Philadelphia Eagles. They are one of two remaining unbeaten teams and now have the third-best odds to win the Super Bowl at +850, behind only the Bills and Chiefs. QB Jalen Hurts has earned a league-leading 88.2 passing grade through three games and has surged to +700 to win the league’s MVP award. Head coach Nick Sirianni is the current favorite (+300) to win coach of the year. It’s safe to say the betting market believes in the Eagles.
So how are the Eagles only a 6.5-point favorite to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Philadelphia? I always have been a firm believer that Doug Pederson would outperform expectations, but to set this line under the key number of seven made this an easy decision for me. The Jaguars’ consecutive wins over the Colts and Chargers were eye-opening, as they outscored the two projected playoff teams 62-10. However, both were dealing with serious injuries. The Jaguars’ opening week loss to Washington gives us a better indication of how these teams stack up.
The Commanders are a common opponent for each team. The Eagles ran up a 24-0 halftime lead in Washington while sacking Carson Wentz nine times. Washington averaged only 3.2 yards per play and Wentz averaged only 2.9 yards per passing attempt. As a result, the Eagles easily covered as 5.5-point road favorites. You can’t watch the game without leaving with the realization that there is a very wide gap between the two teams.
The Jaguars’ experience in Washington went much differently. In a game filled with squandered red-zone opportunities for Jacksonville and untimely penalties, the Commanders handed Jacksonville a 28-22 loss. Carson Wentz threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns, including a 13-play, 90-yard game-winning drive. If Wentz can do that, Hurts will surely cook this defense. The Eagles’ currently rank No. 1 in EPA per play (0.292), No. 2 in yards per play, and have the league’s best net success rate (13.4%), demonstrating that both sides of the ball are firing on all cylinders. In addition, they have consistently started fast, scoring exactly 24 first-half points in all three games. Philly’s offense will force QB Trevor Lawrence into a position he hasn’t faced since Week 1: playing from behind. That’s when the Eagles’ defensive front will take over and help Philadelphia win convincingly at home.
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (+3)
Like many other bettors, I had the Bills as my highest-rated team going into the season. While they looked statistically impressive in defeat by outgaining Miami by 300 yards, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to some of the challenges they had in the game. For example, if we disregard the final drive where time expired (which carries its own concerns), the Bills reached the red zone on all three second-half drives. But they walked away with only three points against a Dolphins defense that ranked 30th in dropback success rate allowed (54.1%) and got lit up for 38 points and 8.8 yards per play against the Ravens the previous week. Now, the Bills travel to Baltimore for a second consecutive road game to face Lamar Jackson’s offense.
Both teams are dealing with significant injuries on defense, setting this up to be a game with high offensive output on both sides. The Bills enter Sunday without their top three cornerbacks. They are also dealing with significant injuries on the offensive line with Tommy Doyle out and Ryan Bates in concussion protocol. While both teams are banged up, only one team has to cover a three-point spread. So it was an easy decision for me to bet Baltimore at this number. Jackson is playing at an elite level, and I am confident he will continue his torrid pace against this Buffalo secondary that’s held together by duct tape, bandages and bubble gum. Getting a home dog at the key number of 3 that has scored 37 and 38 points over the past two weeks is too good to pass up. I am betting Baltimore can score enough to force this one to come down the wire.
Stats provided by pff.com, rbsdm, teamrankings.com.