Avoid these Week 3 NFL traps


It’s been an unusual season already in the NFL, and we’re only through Week 2.

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— Several teams that looked horrible in Week 1 bounced back in Week 2 and vice versa. 

— Only six undefeated teams remain, with three of them being among the Super Bowl favorites (Bills, Chiefs, Buccaneers). 

— Seven teams are winless, highlighted by four AFC teams that were expected to be playoff contenders (Bengals, Titans, Colts, Raiders). 

Typically after two weeks of NFL games, bettors are already forming distinctive opinions about most teams and, in turn, oddsmakers try to take advantage. I’m going to try to help you avoid some “traps” the books are going to set this week.

You’ve probably read sob stories about the Monday night bloodbath the books took with the favored Bills and Eagles winning handily, or how they’ve taken a hit on other games this season. Regardless of what has happened in the first two weeks, Week 3 has had a history of evening the scales. Tread cautiously this weekend, and perhaps have the courage to go against the grain. Bettors who have done so have normally reaped the rewards.

In this report, I’ll look at some Week 3 handicapping systems that have thrived in recent years, using logic that might not seem all that sensible. Backing these types of angles helps bettors avoid what I feel are traps. Odds are from DraftKings as of Wednesday afternoon.

1. Teams that start 0-2 SU are 20-23 SU but 30-13 ATS (69.8%) against 1-1 teams in Week 3 since 2010.

There’s a tidal wave of negativity associated with winless teams after two weeks, and while these 0-2 teams have performed poorly against 2-0 teams, they have done quite well against 1-1 opponents. In most cases, 1-1 teams have shown early signs of inconsistency. Trust that the desperate 0-2 teams will bring their best effort, motivated by the fear of going 0-3 and what that has historically meant to a team’s playoff chances.

The 0-2 teams (in caps) against 1-1 teams in Week 3:

— CINCINNATI (-5) at N.Y. Jets

— CAROLINA (%plussign% 3) vs. New Orleans

— ATLANTA (%plussign% 2) at Seattle

If you consider the lines of these three games, the chance of a winless team going to 0-3 and still covering are minimal. In fact, Cincinnati is a 5-point road favorite after its 0-2 start. Carolina has lost a pair of tough games and plays as a home dog to a divisional foe, while Atlanta takes a long road trip to Seattle to face a Seahawks team that has played awful since halftime of its opener.

2. Winless teams after two weeks are 17-31-1 SU but 32-17 ATS (65.3%) when playing as underdogs of %plussign% 3.5 points or more in Week 3 since 2010.

This system wreaks of pure desperation from the 0-2 team. Only six teams since 1980 have reached the postseason after an 0-3 start, about one team every seven years. In other words, you can almost kiss your playoff chances goodbye if you start 0-2 and lose again. That’s enough to motivate even the worst teams. 

The one winless team that fits the system this week is actually 0-1-1, not 0-2:

— INDIANAPOLIS (%plussign% 6.5) vs. Kansas City

There is the possibility that the Panthers, Titans and/or Texans end up qualifying for this angle after the lines settle, but for now it’s just the Colts. If history is any guide, expect the Colts to be very competitive against the Chiefs and perhaps threaten or even pull off the upset. It’s difficult for bettors to back a team that looks hopeless and may be playing one of the league’s better teams, but the system has produced good results.

3. Teams allowing more than 6.5 yards per play through two weeks are 22-15 SU and 24-13 ATS (64.8%) in Week 3 since 2015.

This goes against all logic. Why would any self-respecting bettor consider backing a team playing such poor defense in Week 3? Well, this is exactly how sportsbooks trap their customers. Typically, teams that were this bad defensively in the early going find a way to rebound. They might be motivated by bad press or they might make necessary adjustments. In many cases, their Week 3 opponent has a weaker offense than they faced in the first two games. 

Three teams allowed at least 6.5 yards per play through the first two games, and one of them is actually 2-0:

WASHINGTON (%plussign% 6.5) vs. Philadelphia

TENNESSEE (%plussign% 2) vs. Las Vegas

MIAMI (%plussign% 5) vs. Buffalo

All three teams are home dogs, including Miami, which has scored 31.0 PPG in its first two games but is a heavy underdog to Buffalo. The Dolphins are coming off a dramatic come-from-behind win in Baltimore and are riding a ton of momentum.

4. Teams allowing 14 PPG or less through two weeks are 25-19 SU but just 14-29-1 ATS (32.6%) when favored by 3 points or more in Week 3 since 2005.

It’s obvious from this system and the previous one that bettors shouldn’t put too much stock into defensive performance in the first two weeks. Early defensive statistics are often a reflection of the opposing offenses teams face. Those that played elite attacks are often misjudged. Again, this is a trap many bettors fall into. After two weeks, the Titans are ranked 30th in points allowed after ranking sixth last season. Would it be an overreaction to suggest a defense that has been really good for most of the last decade is suddenly this bad after two weeks? Likely yes. On the other hand, the Jaguars have allowed a combined 28 points (14 PPG) after allowing 26.9 PPG last season. Sudden revival or good fortune? I lean on the latter. 

Five teams are allowing 14 PPG or less through two weeks (Buccaneers, Bills, Broncos, 49ers, Jaguars), but only one qualifies for the system. Tampa Bay is favored but falls short of the 3-point threshold, Denver and San Francisco face each other with a very tight point spread, and Jacksonville is a heavy underdog against the Chargers in L.A. The one qualifier:

— BUFFALO (-5) at Miami

This is the second straight system indicating that Miami should give Buffalo a run Sunday. It’s an intriguing trap matchup featuring the league’s No. 2 defense in points per game (Buffalo) against the No. 32 defense in yards per play (Miami).

5. Teams gaining more than 6.75 yards per play through two weeks have continued their impressive play in Week 3, going 15-5 SU and 15-5 ATS (75%) since 2015.

This isn’t a trap system, but I included it in this report to remind bettors that offense rules the day in the modern NFL. Offense is the more consistent factor on a team’s resume and should be relied on more than defense. 

So far, five teams have been truly elite offensively. These offenses are clicking and, historically speaking, it makes no sense to step in front of the train until a key injury or other factor has a negative impact. Buffalo and Miami play each other, so those teams are not on the list for this system in Week 3. Here are the other three teams averaging at least 6.75 yards per play:

— KANSAS CITY (-6.5) at Indianapolis

— BALTIMORE (-2.5) at New England

— PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) at Washington

If the system holds up, expect at least two of these teams to continue to roll in Week 3.

6. The league’s best undefeated teams after two weeks (those with a %plussign% 25 point differential or more), are 24-18 SU but just 15-25-2 ATS (37.5%) in Week 3 since 2008.

These are the teams oddsmakers have tended to shade the lines heavily toward in Week 3. Some of the teams may have actually warranted the respect. Others, though, may have been the beneficiary of turnover luck or a favorable schedule. Recognize that If you’re backing a team that has won its first two games by a combined 25 points or more, you are probably paying too high of a price. Be prepared to see your team struggle to cover an inflated point spread. 

Three teams meet the criteria this week: 

— BUFFALO (-5) at Miami

— KANSAS CITY (-6.5) at Indianapolis

— TAMPA BAY (-1.5) vs. Green Bay

For the third time in this report, a system is suggesting Miami is the play Sunday, at least from a point-spread perspective. This system might be the toughest one to swallow for bettors. No one has ever said winning consistently at sports betting was easy, have they?

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As one of the original founders of StatFox, Steve Makinen has been in the business of sports betting and data analysis for almost 25 years now. In his time in the industry, Steve has worked in a variety of capacities on both sides of the betting counter, from his early days of developing the StatFox business, to almost a decade of oddsmaking consulting for one of the world's leading sportsbooks, to his last seven years as Point Spread Weekly and Analytics Director with VSiN. Steve has always believed that number crunching and handicapping through foundational trends and systems is the secret to success and he shares this data with VSiN readers on a daily basis for all of the major sports.