Early NFL Week 3 Lines and Predicted Movement (2021)

With another NFL week under our belts, the sample size on the data for these teams continues to grow. Around the league, numerous quarterback injuries were a storyline of Week 2. How will the severity of various those injuries impact the line movement across the NFL in Week 3? Let’s jump right into the numbers, all coming to you this week courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

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Thursday, September 23 — 8:20 p.m. EDT

Carolina Panthers (-7.5) at Houston Texans
O/U 44

Let the Davis Mills era begin in Houston? The Texans continue to deactivate Deshaun Watson every week to perpetuate the strangest roster situation in the entire NFL this season. That process strikes an even more angsty tone in the aftermath of a hamstring injury to Tyrod Taylor in Week 2. Now the Texans gear up to host an undefeated Panthers team with their third-round rookie under center. It’s conceivable that Mills is better than we think. He may show the world what he’s all about on Thursday night. But it’s more likely that the upstart efforts from Matt Rhule’s Carolina crew carry over for another week. -7.5 is a huge number for a road team, but given the circumstances of the short week for the newly-installed rookie starter in Houston, it doesn’t seem like there would be any reason for this line to move in favor of the Texans ahead of Thursday’s contest. The opposite movement should surprise no one.

Sunday, September 26 — 1:00 p.m. EDT

Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns -7.5
O/U 46.5

Andy Dalton’s status is up in the air following a knee injury he sustained in Week 2. Though Bears fans are probably ready to see Justin Fields take the reins in Chicago, it should be noted that he looked decidedly mediocre after taking over for the injured Dalton in the Bears’ 20-17 win over Cincinnati. If Fields is confirmed as the Week 3 starter, I’m not convinced that would do any favors for the Bears when it comes to this point spread. A road trip to Cleveland to take on a feisty Browns defense could be less than sunshine and roses for a rookie quarterback in his first start. Though -7.5 generally feels like a pretty high number considering the Bears are a relatively competent team, bettors might be wary of a rookie starter on the road. Of course, Bears fans might be so elated to see Fields that they’ll pour money onto their side and give us some wonky line movement.

Baltimore Ravens -9 at Detroit Lions
O/U 49.5

The Ravens are coming off of a thrilling Sunday Night Football triumph over the defending AFC champions. The Lions were markedly less successful in their primetime battle with the Packers on Monday. Though Detroit gets this game at home, it seems that Lamar Jackson can successfully run circles around opposing defenses no matter where the game is held. The total seems like the primary number to watch for this match-up, as any game involving the Lions has the potential for some garbage-time adventures. Both the Ravens and Lions have played two games so far, and all four of those contests have sailed over the current total of 49.5. This line should go up as the week progresses.

Arizona Cardinals -7.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars
O/U 51.5

The Kyler Murray show rolls on. The Cardinals’ gunslinger looks like a legitimate MVP candidate through a couple of games. He should have every opportunity to further pad the stat line on Sunday when Arizona heads to Jacksonville. The Urban Meyer era has gotten off to an inauspicious start both offensively and defensively. The Jaguars look bad. The Cardinals’ offense looks unstoppable. It might just be as simple as that for this contest. Despite a pedestrian performance in Week 2, even the Arizona defense has at least flashed the ability to wreak havoc with what it did against the Titans in the season-opener. We’re seeing several heavy road favorites in the early lines this week, but this is one for which I wouldn’t be surprised to see the lines tick even farther in favor of the road team leading up to the game.

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs -6.5
O/U 55.5

Expectations pointed to a shootout between the Chargers and Cowboys in Week 2, but reality offered up a 20-17 struggle from which Dallas emerged victorious on a last-second field goal. Though the Chiefs and Cowboys are in different tiers, there are similarities given both have quality offenses and underwhelming defenses. I make this comparison to illustrate that, although an AFC West shootout seems plausible for this Week 3 battle, there may be something Charger-y going on here that once again limits the overall ceiling for this match-up. As for the spread, Kansas City at home should be able to bounce back from its disappointing road loss to Baltimore, but the Chargers are good enough that the spread shouldn’t rise above a touchdown differential.

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots -3
O/U 43

So Jameis Winston came back down to earth, eh? After looking like total juggernauts in an opening throttling of the Packers, the Saints were a disjointed mess in a Week 2 loss to the Panthers. And now, they have to ensure another road trip to take on Bill Belichick. No rest for the weary. The Patriots haven’t been particularly impressive, though they easily handled their business against the Jets in Week 2. Getting this game at home seems notable given the Saints’ debacle in Carolina last week. They lost that game 26-7, and I’m not sure they fare all that much better in this one. The line should move in favor of New England throughout the week. And if it doesn’t, you should probably attack it.

Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans -5.5
O/U 48

The Titans pulled off arguably the most surprising win of Week 2 in their come-from-behind victory over the Seahawks. Derrick Henry typically gets better as a game evolves—this one was no different. Kudos to Tennessee for sticking with him and the ground game even as they trailed in the contest. It paid off. Their issues offensively aren’t completely resolved—Ryan Tannehill hasn’t yet found his form this season—but some home cooking in Nashville is a chance to get him back on track. The Colts have faced a tough early schedule, so they might be better than their 0-2 record indicates. Their problem is the status of Carson Wentz and his two sprained ankles. This spread already reflects the possibility that Wentz won’t be able to suit up. Even if Wentz does play, it stands to reason that he would be limited. The Titans probably win this game handily, and the line movement could reflect that possibility as more information on Wentz emerges this week.

Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills -8.5
O/U 46

Taylor Heinicke looked capable in his first start of the year in Week 2, guiding the Football Team to a win over the Giants in a surprise shootout last Thursday. Meanwhile, the Bills and Josh Allen regained their swagger with an impressive shutout over the Dolphins. Buffalo games will be difficult to handicap if Allen endures a Jekyll and Hyde season following his 2020 mastery of the quarterback position. The oddsmakers here suggest he won’t have much trouble with a Washington defense—overlooking that unit feels foolish, though. WFT won’t win this game, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see their defense turn it into a sluggish affair. Even a 21-13 loss would cover this large spread. The line should float between 7.5 and 9 throughout the week.

Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants -3
O/U 48.5

It might be time for a full-fledged panic about the Falcons. We knew the defense wouldn’t be very good, but Matt Ryan hasn’t been able to help his offense keep pace over the first two weeks. The man isn’t built for garbage time, either. The offense has weapons, but Atlanta seems incapable of thriving under tough circumstances. The New York defense doesn’t look as stout as it did in 2020, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Ryan and Co. struggle again in Week 3 in a tough road environment. Given the location of an NFL game typically adds 2 to 3 points to the line in favor of the home team, that would indicate the current line would be something of a pick ’em in a neutral site.

I’m no Giants believer, but Daniel Jones can do enough with his legs to move the chains for his offense—heck, he might even be able to throw successfully against the Falcons secondary. The Giants should probably be favored by more points, so look for the line to continue to slide in their direction this week.

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers -4
O/U 44

Pittsburgh could be without their top wideout Diontae Johnson for this game. That news could influence things as the week goes, but the spread feels pretty proper where it is. It might fall to -3.5, but any more movement than that would seem to flip the money too heavily onto the home team. The Steelers defense is a weapon at home, and that has to count for something. The total should stick in the mid-40s, but this game feels like a total wild card. A 31-27 Pittsburgh win feels just as likely as a 17-16 Cincinnati upset. Keep an eye on the line if it continues falling toward the Bengals, but otherwise, this feels like a game to stay away from.

Sunday, September 26 — 4:05 p.m. EDT

New York Jets at Denver Broncos -10.5
O/U 41

The Jets are still bad. Zach Wilson might have a future in this league, but against a slew of tough defenses early in his debut campaign, he’s not wowing anybody just yet. The Broncos are on tap for Week 3, so it’s not about to get any easier. Denver has jumped out to a 2-0 start on the strength of their defense, but ‘Teddy Two Gloves’ is more than holding his own behind center for this offense. Given the Jets might see another week of single-digit points, it’s hard to imagine the total moving any higher than it is. It’s conceivably it would touch 40 or below later in the week. The Broncos should win the game by double digits, but I’m not sure the spread can move any higher in their favor, given the low overall game total.

Miami Dolphins at Las Vegas Raiders -3.5
O/U 45

The Raiders are 2-0. They’ve defeated two of last year’s playoff teams. Derek Carr looks great. The Dolphins didn’t score last week. And they’re probably starting Jacoby Brissett in this game. I truly have no earthly idea how this line is only -3.5. It has to go up, right?

Sunday, September 26 — 4:25 p.m. EDT

Tampa Bay Buccaneers -1 at Los Angeles Rams
O/U 55.5

This is absolutely the Game of the Week in the NFL. Tom Brady plays his first-ever NFL game in Los Angeles. The defending Super Bowl champs against a group that many analysts were touting as Super Bowl contenders before this season began. Sean McVay and Matt Stafford have done little to disprove those notions through two weeks. Bruce Arians is another offensive guru. Nobody would be surprised to see both teams land in the 30s for this game, which has already been reflected in the early movement on the total from 54.5 to 55.5. That total might have more helium in it yet. As for the spread, it feels like a virtual pick ’em. You’re going to find fervent believers on both sides of this line, which is what makes it such a fun game to look forward to on Sunday afternoon.

Seattle Seahawks -2 at Minnesota Vikings
O/U 55

This is a timely match-up given how both teams finished out Week 2. The Vikings lost when their kicker missed a late field goal. The Seahawks lost in overtime after politely declining to deter Derrick Henry in any way for the entirety of the second half. Both games were high-scoring affairs, so keep your eye on the total.

Sunday, September 26 — 8:20 p.m. EDT

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers -3.5
O/U 49.5

Packers fans saw enough from Aaron Rodgers Monday night to keep this line close—but how will Green Bay fare when forced into the road environment of San Francisco? The 49ers are kind of a mess due to their never-ending carousel of injuries right now, but the Packers were unfathomably bad away from Lambeau Field in Week 1. And that was merely a neutral site contest against the Saints, who the Panthers have since exposed. Nothing about a Jimmy G-led unit suggests that the 49ers should be favored by more than a field goal against Rodgers and Co. The total is already fighting its way toward 50. Before this game kicks off on Sunday Night Football, it probably gets there.

Monday, September 27 — 8:15 p.m. EDT

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys -4
O/U 52

After lighting the world on fire in the opener of the NFL season on Thursday of Week 1, Dak Prescott really didn’t do much against the Chargers this week. Jalen Hurts hasn’t thrown a touchdown against a non-Falcons defense yet this year. Folks love betting overs in Cowboys games because of their poor defense and electric offense. But their last game went way under after everyone anticipated a shootout. And Philly’s defense has been sneaky good through the first couple of games. I’m not convinced this total should get much higher than it already is.

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Brenden Schaeffer is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Brenden, check out his archive and follow him @bschaeffer12.