NFL Betting Tips, Picks & Predictions: Week 3

Leigh Copson:

The 2020 NFL season is here and each week BettingPro.com will be offering our favourite bets from the National Football League.

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Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars (Friday 01:20 BST)

Will Minshew Mania run wild on Thursday Night Football? Jacksonville failed to build on their opening-weekend win over Indianapolis as they fell to a narrow defeat in Tennessee in Week 2, but there was certainly no shame in losing a closely-contested game with a team that made it to the AFC Championship Game last season and will be challenging for postseason football once again in 2020. And there were certainly more positives to take from the performance of quarterback Gardner Minshew who once again backed up the decision to ride with him as starting QB in 2020.

Minshew was almost flawless against the Colts as he completed 19 of his 20 pass attempts for 173 yards and three scores, and while there were plenty more incompletions and a couple of picks during the loss to the Titans as he was forced to air it out twice as many times as he did in Week 1, Minshew was able to rack up 339 yards and three scores in another decent performance from him. The Jags will be keen to see him erase those types of mistakes over the coming weeks, but right now they have to be happy with where they are at when it comes to the quarterback situation.

They also have to be delighted with the running back situation too where rookie James Robinson has impressed through two games to ease any concerns following Leonard Fournette’s departure. No receiver has emerged as a standout so far, but they have proved to be reliable when the ball has been tossed their way so offensively the Jags are looking sharp. Defensively there are some issues that need to be ironed out, but on the whole Jacksonville are in much better shape right now then Thursday night’s visitors, Miami.

The Dolphins are 0-2 after two weeks and they are still awaiting some ‘Fitz-magic’ from Ryan Fitzpatrick as first-round draft pick Tua Tagovailoa continues to watch from the sidelines. Mike Gesicki and DeVante Parker have been the highlights on offense so far, but they cannot make big plays and the run game simply has to improve because offseason signings Jordan Howard and Matt Breida have made little to no impact. On the opposite side of the football the secondary is a mess – they gave up 413 passing yards to the Bills last time out and the only reason they did not give up more than 140 in Week 1 is because New England did not need to throw the football. They just ran over them instead.

This all spells trouble for Miami here. Minshew will be champing at the bit to take on this secondary after his strong showings in the first couple of weeks, and he will almost certainly add to the six passing touchdowns already on his stats for 2020. The Dolphins will not be able to keep pace with the Jags as they pile on the points, so everything points to the home side improving to 2-1 on Thursday night.

Los Angeles Rams at Buffalo Bills (Sunday 18:00 BST)

Buffalo are sitting pretty at 2-0 after two weeks of the season and the biggest reason for that is the play of quarterback Josh Allen. Allen surprisingly leads the NFL in passing yards through two games, and he has written his name into the history books by becoming only the fourth quarterback to throw for 700+ yards, 6+ touchdowns and no interceptions across the first two weeks. He has needed to perform at that level too, because the defense has suffered some serious regression through the first two weeks and have failed to live up to the pre-season expectation that they would be the unit to really determine how far the Bills go this season. They desperately need to show some signs of improvement, especially with a resurgent Los Angeles Rams team coming to town on Sunday.

2019 was a horror year for the Rams as they failed to shake off a post-Super Bowl hangover that came from the near shut-out loss to New England in the big game, but through the first two weeks of 2020 they appear to have rediscovered the form that helped them make it to the postseason and the Super Bowl in 2018. Jared Goff has been performing much better than he did a year ago and the trio of Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson are ensuring the departure of Todd Gurley has not been a hammer-blow to them. In the passing game Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee are all proving to be handfuls for opposition defenses and last weekend rookie Van Jefferson made an impression as he hauled in four of his five targets for 45 yards. Defensively they are looking much stronger than they did in 2019, with the almost unstoppable Aaron Donald leading the charge, so everything we have seen through two weeks suggests the Rams are on the up again.

But are LA good enough to end the Bills’ flawless start with a win in Buffalo? I believe they are. Goff and his offense should be able to take advantage of Buffalo’s defensive deficiencies and on the opposite side of the football Donald & Co. will make some key plays that ensure that Allen and the Bills offense are unable to keep pace. It will not be a blow-out by any means, but the Rams will get the job done and head coach Sean McVay’s impressive record against AFC teams will improve to 11-2.

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks (Sunday 21:25 BST)

Russell Wilson has been in sensational form through the first two weeks of the season – pretty much unstoppable through eight quarters. The Seattle QB has completed 52 of his 63 pass attempts for 610 yards, nine touchdowns and just one interception, and he has done some damage on the ground too with 68 yards coming off eight carries. Those performances, along with the efforts of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf in the passing game, have been integral to Seattle’s 2-0 start with wins over Atlanta and New England, and Wilson has needed to be special because he has had very little help from the defense. At their peak a few years back Seattle were renowned for having a dominant defense, but those days are long gone with this current unit coughing up 55 points and almost 1,000 yards through two games. Making life even more difficult for them is the fact that Bruce Irvin is done for the season, so if Seattle are to move to 3-0 on Sunday they will do it on the back of Wilson.

The good news is that Wilson is coming up against a Dallas defense that has also been pretty dismal through two games. The Cowboys have not given up anywhere near as many yards as their hosts, but they have allowed 59 points across Weeks 1 and 2 and they would have been sat with an 0-2 record right now had it not been for another trademark Atlanta Falcons collapse a week ago. Thankfully the offense is firing so the Cowboys were able to take advantage of that, but until they sort themselves out on the defensive side there is going to be huge pressure on Dak Prescott & Co. to rack up high points totals each and every week. Dallas look nothing like the Super Bowl contenders that they were tagged to be in preseason, but a win in Seattle could change all of that in Week 3 and they should be able to put plenty of points on the board against this porous Seahawks defense.

However, I am backing Seattle to come out on top in a shootout that will keep the scoreboard operator at CenturyLink Field very busy. First off, they are 16-1 in home games in the month of September since Pete Carroll was named head coach a decade ago – that is an incredible stat! And of course, in a shootout you are always going to favour Wilson over Prescott. The Seahawks QB has made a career out of making magical plays to lead his team to victories and if Matt Ryan can pick apart this Cowboys secondary, then Wilson is certainly more than capable or torturing them on Sunday. And one final point, although the Seattle defense is clearly underperforming, it is still creating turnovers and it should force a couple of decisive ones against a Dallas offense that gave up the football three times in the narrow come-from-behind win over Atlanta.

Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints (Monday 01:20 BST)

These two teams are both expected to make deep runs in the playoffs this season, but before Green Bay and New Orleans can even think about playoff football there are 15 more weeks of regular season football to be played, and for both of them it starts with this Sunday Night Football showdown at the Superdome. Can the Packers maintain their 100% record or will the Saints bounce back from the Monday night defeat in Las Vegas?

The Packers stand at 2-0 after knocking off NFC North foes in each of the first two weeks. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams beat up on the woeful Minnesota Vikings in Week 1, but they made much harder work of the Week 2 defeat of the Detroit Lions and that leads me to this question, just how good are Green Bay? For many the 2019 group were arguably one of the worst teams to ever make it to the NFC Championship Game, where they were destroyed by San Francisco, and so far they have not exactly faced sterling opposition. Rodgers does look like a man possessed in the wake of the Packers’ decision to draft his successor, Jordan Love, in April, and running back Aaron Jones goes into the game on the back of a sensational performance against the Lions that saw him rack up 236 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. There are concerns over the fitness off Rodgers’ favourite target though, and if Davante Adams sits this one out it will be a huge blow.

New Orleans are also dealing with an injury to their own star receiver, with Michael Thomas likely to sit this on out, and there is a statistic that will send shivers down the spine of Saints fans. Since Thomas was drafted, Drew Brees has gone 0-2 without his favourite receiver on the field, recording a 69.0 passer rating while throwing four picks and just one touchdown. One of those defeats came on Monday night as they fell to the Raiders in Vegas, and there are plenty of question marks surrounding the Saints in the wake of that loss. The biggest one being is Hall of Fame-bound QB Brees finally on the downturn in his career? He uncharacteristically missed open targets throughout the Week 1 win over Tampa Bay and was no better as his team fell to defeat in ‘Sin City’ in Week 2. Brees admitted that the team are “not even close” to where they want and his assessment is on the money, but on a personal level I am not about to write off a player like him after two bad games. He has earned the benefit of the doubt and if he can get going here the Saints should bounce back.

So can Brees rediscover that old magic? I believe he can. He certainly has the weapons around him despite the absence of Thomas and he is going to need all of them in what could dissolve into a straight-up shootout between two of the best quarterbacks the NFL has seen over the past 20 years. Brees and Rodgers are going to go toe-to-toe on Sunday night and at the end of the game I expect the Saints to be the ones taking the all-important ‘W’ into the locker room.