Each week, we break down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule. Here are four of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 3:
New York Giants at Carolina Panthers (-1, 45.5)
Giants’ deep threats vs. Panthers’ thinning secondary
When they’re not busy coughing the ball up, the Giants have been able to explode for big gains. New York leads the league in passing (390.5 ypg) but more importantly averages 14.2 yards per completion, and has struck for 12 plays of 20-plus yards through the first two games.
Carolina has given up 8.2 yards per pass attempt – fourth highest in the NFL – against Seattle and Buffalo – two conservative passing attacks. On top of facing the Giants’ deep threats, the Panthers secondary is a mess, with five DBs on injury watch his week and two S going on IR.
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints (-9, 49)
Cardinals’ red-zone defense vs. Saints’ red-zone offense
The Saints offense has stalled to start the schedule, averaging just 19.5 points through the first two games. The problem is the red-zone attack, which has punched the ball into the end zone only once and has a TD percentage of just 14.29 percent inside the 20-yard line.
Arizona’s underrated defense was among the best at shutting the door in the red zone last year, holding foes to a 44.44 TD percentage inside the 20-yard line (third lowest in the league). This year, the Cardinals have allowed three touchdowns on five trips inside their own red zone but have been able to lockdown the run. Arizona has budged for only 58 total yards on the ground – third fewest in the league.
Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins (-1, 44.5)
Falcons' fourth-quarter falloff vs. Dolphins' fourth-quarter frenzy
The Dolphins’ surprise 2-0 start has a lot to do with their ability to close out games in the final frame. Miami hasn’t allowed a single point in the fourth quarter in its first two outings and is limiting opponents to an average of three second-half points heading into Week 3.
The Falcons offense is fading down the stretch. After building quick leads in the first two quarters – 17.0 points per first half (fourth in NFL) – Atlanta has run out of gas in the closing 30 minutes. The Falcons average seven points in the second half – just 3.5 in the fourth quarter – through the first two games of the year.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks (-19, 40.5)
Jaguars’ coach Gus Bradley vs. Seahawks’ No. 1 defense
Just like how Dr. Frankenstein had to face his monstrous creation, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley takes on a Seahawks stop unit he helped mold. The former Seattle defensive coordinator was with the franchise for four years and knows the ins and outs when it comes to his pupil Dan Quinn, Seattle’s new DC.
The Seahawks stop unit has picked up the slack for Seattle’s lack of scoring pop. Seattle’s offense shot itself in the foot with 10 penalties in Week 2 and is picking up just 18.5 first downs per game (20th in the NFL), sandwiching them between two teams with rookie QBs at the helm – Buffalo and New York. If the defense is exposed by its original architect, the Seahawks offense may not have enough fire power to cover this massive spread.