NFL Week 3 Picks and Predictions: Buying Low on Rookie Quarterbacks

Week 3 of the NFL season gives us a slew of intriguing games including Houston vs. Jacksonville. Jason Logan tells you why grabbing the points with the Texans is a solid play ahead of Sunday's AFC South clash.

Last Updated: Sep 24, 2023 7:20 AM ET Read Time: 4 min

Fall officially kicks off this weekend, bringing it with crisp autumn air, pumpkin spice baby wipes, and harvest season.

These days, we simply saunter into the grocery store and buy whatever we want – regardless of what month it is. But harvest time used to be vital to our survival.

Folks gathered up all the fruits and veggies they carefully cultivated over the summer, storing, jarring, and pickling all they could to sustain themselves over the cold winter months.

If you’re a fan of betting on NFL underdogs, you know the fall is also harvest time at the sportsbook.

As the new NFL schedule rolls out the first few weeks, there’s a window to pillage teams getting the points and stock your bankroll for the rest of the football season.

Going back to 2010, NFL underdogs cover at a blind 56.7% clip in the first three weeks of action. That trend has had an even louder bark in recent years, with NFL Week 3 odds boasting a 152-107-8 ATS record in the opening three weeks since 2018 in favor of the underdogs. 

So far, 2023 is following suit. NFL odds have Dogs going 18-11-2 ATS through the opening two weeks of play – a 61% winner – giving way to a 4-2 ATS column record for my NFL picks and predictions.

Chalk it up to overreactions, offseason underestimations, or the fact that everyone’s still got a chance (bad teams haven’t started tanking). Whatever the case: September is Underdog season.

Last week 2-1 ATS
Season 4-2 ATS

NFL Week 3 picks and predictions for Week 3

Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting points for the third week in a row. And for the third week in a row, they’ve made the column cut.

Pittsburgh won an ugly game over Cleveland at home Monday, thanks in large part to the play of the defense. The offense, on the other hand, is getting lambasted from all angles.

From the armchair internet QBs to the Terrible Towel faithful, chants of “Fire Canada” are echoing across the Steel City. Of course, that grievance is with offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Pittsburgh is puttering on that side of the ball, with the Steelers dead last in EPA per play and Offensive DVOA. But you don’t need those fancy advanced metrics to see just how rough things have been for Canada’s play calling.

Luckily, Pittsburgh heads to the bright lights of Las Vegas, a place renowned for its “luck”. If Week 3 was a slot machine, the Steelers would have just pulled triple cherries.

After running into foes ranked No. 2 and No. 3 on the defensive side of those statistical measurements, they face a Silver and Black stop unit sinking to the bottom of the league (31st in EPA allowed and Defensive DVOA).

The Raiders are equally as bad defending the pass and they are stuffing the run. They’ve stunk on third-down stands, disappeared inside the red zone, and are among the most penalized defenses through two weeks.

Vegas has generated the lowest pressure rate (10.5%), has zero takeaways (versus four turnovers), and the Death Star will have a healthy contingent of Black and Yellow in attendance (I know so many Yinzers that live in Vegas).

It’s everything a struggling offense could want!

PICK: Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 (-110 at bet365)

Kentucky: Sports betting is coming!

Kentucky sports betting will launch on September 28 — but you can pre-register now!
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If you read my weekly NFL spot bets article, you’ll see that this is a tricky situational angle for the Jaguars.

Jacksonville not only has to ride one of the biggest letdowns in terms of competition – going from the Chiefs to the Texans – but will also be planning for an extended stay on the other side of the pond while prepping for Houston, with the following two games in the UK.

That situational sandwich has a spicy layer of AFC South sauce as well, with Houston being a thorn in the paw of the Jaguars in recent seasons. The Texans are 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS versus Jacksonville since 2018.

OK, now I have your attention.

Heading into the season, the promise of the Jags was high. After two games, however, the offensive output is low. Maybe too low to scale this mountain of a spread.

Jacksonville sits 31st in EPA per play heading into Week 3 and treads in the back third of most offensive stats, anchored to uninspired efforts from Trevor Lawrence.

The golden-haired QB ranks out worse than Kenny Pickett and just a step above a one-legged Joe Burrow and shrinks like a "polar plunge" whenever the Jaguars get inside the red zone (36.4% completion inside RZ).

Hey, guess what quarterback is rated much higher than T-Law? A lot of them. Also, Houston rookie passer C.J. Stroud.

Stroud has played well against two solid defenses in Baltimore and Indianapolis and was especially sharp against the Colts, finishing Week 2 with 384 passing yards and two touchdowns.

He looked much more comfortable pushing the ball downfield - but not too far - and took what the Indy zone gave him in the middle of the field. Stroud’s completion percentage and lack of mistakes are even more impressive when you consider he’s been under fire on almost a third of his dropbacks.

I’m not asking Stroud to light up a very stout Jacksonville defense, but a little offense goes a long way when you’re getting double digits. 

PICK: Houston Texans +10 (-125 at Pinnacle)

The Carolina Panthers passing game has had a tough couple of weeks.

Carolina clashed with NFC South rivals Atlanta and New Orleans, who just so happen to have two of the stingiest secondaries in the land. Add to that an ankle injury that sidelined rookie QB Bryce Young in mid-week practice, and Carolina could be headed for disaster on a short week.

Enter the Seattle Seahawks, and disaster seems like such a strong word.

Comparing the Seahawks secondary to that of those NFC South foes is like asking folks what they’d rather sit on; a gopher or a porcupine. One’s a little more dangerous than the other.

Seattle sits at the bottom of most pass defense stats, allowing opponents to complete better than 71% of throws and average 8.9 yards per attempt. The Seahawks aren’t getting any help up front either, generating one of the lowest pressure rates and recording two sacks on the season.

Bryce Young’s injury doesn’t change much for Carolina, at least according to head coach Frank Reich. Some books went from Panthers +5.5 to +6 when word came out on Wednesday afternoon and while it’s only a half-point adjustment, it pushes this spread to the key number of six.

As for the Carolina defense, it’s kept this team competitive in the opening two weeks. The Panthers have been especially solid against the pass, sitting 10th in EPA allowed per dropback with a success rate of 41.8%.

While Carolina lost LB Shaq Thomson to the IR this week, the pass rush already has eight and goes after a Seahawks o-line dealing with injuries. Geno Smith has faced the fifth-highest pressure rate through two games (29.7%) and is dismal under duress, averaging only 4.1 yards per attempt and completing only 50% of throws when under pressure.

Six is just too much for a team as flakey as the Seahawks.

PICK: Carolina Panthers +6 (-108 at FanDuel)

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