Against the Spread: Free Picks and Best Bets for Week 3

By Todd L. Frank  |   Friday, September 24, 2010  |  Comments( 0 )

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The weekend is here so it’s time for some Free Picks and Best Bets for Week 3 in the NFL, as well as a bonus college pick this week. As always, point spreads are as of Friday morning. The Best Bet is the first team listed and the home team is in ALL CAPS.

West Virginia +9.5 at LOUISIANA STATE
Let’s start with a rare college football pick. LSU might be the better team, and playing a night game at home on national TV, they will likely get the win. But West Virginia has a way of staying undefeated just long enough to break the hearts of their faithful fans. They’ve fared relatively well against SEC foes, and they’ve got a lot of talent and athleticism on the offensive side of the ball. After their dramatic comeback win over Marshall, WVU is confident that they are never out of a game. Of course, Marshall aint LSU and Huntington aint Death Valley. Before jumping on the home team on TV at night, keep in mind that LSU is 4-11 against the spread (ATS) in their last 15 home games. I think this line is inflated because the conventional wisdom is that the SEC is so dominant and the Big East isn’t so great. While there might be some truthiness in there, the Mountaineers have shown they can hang with the big boys. Take WVU +9.5.

Washington Redskins -3.5 at ST.LOUIS RAMS
So the Redskins survived an ugly game to get a win over the mistake-prone Cowboys and then choked away a big lead to lose to the possibly for-real Texans, both at home. So they’re not world beaters and now they’re favored on the road. Granted, the Rams stink and have a rookie QB, but Washington’s general mediocrity is keeping this point spread down to a manageable number. But Shanahan and McNabb will be sure to beat the teams they are better than, and this could be the week that the offense starts to click. Meaningless stat: the road team is 7-2 ATS in the last 9 Rams-Redskins games (including Washington’s horrid home “win” last season). Not so meaningless: the Rams are 9-21 ATS in their last 30 home games. Take the Redskins and give the points.

Pittsburgh Steelers -3 at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
This is my lock of the week. This “battle of unbeatens” is misleading as Tampa has beaten Cleveland and Carolina, two teams shaping up to be among the worst in the league. The Bucs haven’t been good for a while, so they’ve likely been given points at home by Vegas, and yet they are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 home games. Pittsburgh, with QB Ben Roethlisberger out on suspension, has notched wins against a good Atlanta team and a decent Titans team (on the road).

This Steelers defense seems to be back to its nastiest, and Bucs young QB Josh Freeman is about to get his first taste of Troy and Co. There will be blood. Sure, with Roethlisberger still not available and Dennis Dixon now hurt, Pittsburgh turns to Charlie Batch at QB and the game is in Tampa. But they could probably sign JaMarcus Russell and win this game the way that defense is playing. And Batch has always looked good in spot duty (until he eventually gets hurt). Already sporting a 1-game lead over both Cincy and Baltimore, the Steelers will be focused on notching another win over a lesser club. Mike Tomlin will not let his team overlook the Bucs with Baltimore coming to town next weekend. As he said the other day, “We have a business trip to Tampa this weekend, and our business is winning.” Lay the small number and bet the house on Pittsburgh.

BALTIMORE RAVENS -10.5 vs. Cleveland Browns
At first glance, this seems like one of those "wow, that line is WAY too high!" games but Baltimore is pretty good about blowing out bad teams at home. And it's their home opener. Smells like 31-6. Take the Ravens.

MIAMI DOLPHINS -2 vs. New York Jets
Despite their win over the Patriots, the Jets still have some distractions (Braylon Edwards’ DUI, Darrel Revis out with an injury) and seem like the kind of team to let down following that home win against New England. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are flying under the radar despite a beat down of the Vikings in Minnesota last week. Miami is playing their first home game of the year, at home against a division rival in a national-TV night game and they’re giving less than 3 points. Take the Dolphins.

Last week: 3-4
Season: 12-10
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