The NFL Rundown: Rankings, Picks & Tips For NFL Week 3

Here’s a rapid-fire list of weekly highlights from the vast array of NFL content we publish. Of course, we’ll also share some predictions and picks for NFL Week 3 and beyond.

NFL Week 3 Power Rankings Update

Current NFL rankings

  • The top 5 ranked teams are mostly the same. There wasn’t much movement in the top five slots of our predictive rankings this week. The ordering of the top four teams (Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, and New England) remained unchanged, while New Orleans was replaced at #5 by Cincinnati, who climbed one spot this week. Two game results is a very small sample size, so our preseason ratings still exert a good amount of influence on each team’s rating entering Week 3. However, the influence of preseason ratings will continue to decay over time, as the sample size of regular season game results grows.

  • But our opinion of those teams has changed. Despite minimal changes in our top five rankings, there were some significant changes in the RATINGS of those teams. Seattle’s sky high rating of 8.3 last week (meaning that our ratings assessed the Seahawks as 8.3 points better than the average NFL team, on a neutral field), dropped a full point to 7.3 after the 9-point loss at San Diego, a game Seattle was expected to win. If Denver had played a better game against Kansas City, the Broncos almost certainly would have reclaimed the #1 ranking this week. Alas, Denver’s underperformance against a heavy underdog knocked the Broncos’ rating down too, although by a lesser degree (0.5 points). So Denver is still playing #2 to Seattle, but the gap separating those two teams has narrowed.
  • New England enters the orbit of the top three. The only top five team heading into Week 2 that actually improved their rating this past week was New England. The Pats didn’t move up in the rankings (still #4), but they now sit in essentially a dead heat with San Francisco (#3) in terms of their rating. Our ratings don’t make any special adjustments for injuries or suspensions, so Adrian Peterson’s absence may be inflating the impact of the road win over Minnesota by a slight amount, but it’s not like it was a close game.
  • 49ers drop down a rung on the ladder. San Francisco was the opposite case of New England this week. The 49ers didn’t move down in the rankings because entering Week 2, they were rated significantly higher than all the teams below them. However, their rating dropped almost 1.5 points after their home loss to 7-point Vegas underdog Chicago. So entering Week 3, we’ve got Seattle and Denver on the top rung of the ladder now, and San Francisco and New England one step down.
  • Chargers are up, but still not quite elite. San Diego increased its rating by a full point, and its ranking from #10 to #8, by dispatching the Seahawks in a home game. That result provided some nice early supporting evidence for our #10 preseason ranking of the Chargers, which compares to a much worse #20 preseason ranking according to early Vegas game spreads. Keep in mind, San Diego’s opening 1-point loss at Arizona wasn’t a bad result at all, because the Chargers were expected to lose to Arizona by more than that. They were 3-point underdogs to Arizona in Vegas, and about 2.5 point underdogs according to our ratings. Entering Week 3, San Diego’s current predictive rating of 2.4 doesn’t put them in the top tier of teams, but they’re not far off, either.
  • Was Chicago’s win mostly luck, or skill? Chicago surged all the way from #23 to #17 after the huge upset in San Francisco, improving their rating by more than 1.5 points, which is big. Obviously that’s a statement win, but as the beneficiaries of a 4-0 turnover advantage, time will tell how much of this victory should be attributed to luck vs. skill. Our ratings are driven by margins of victory, so they’re giving the Bears “full credit” for this win — but even so, they still aren’t yet convinced that the Bears are anything near a top caliber team. In fact, they still rate Chicago as (just slightly) below average.
  • The Giant slide continues. On the topic of turnover margins, Arizona’s road win at the New York Giants further bludgeoned the relatively strong rating we gave the Giants in the preseason. New York now rates at about 2.5 points worse than where we had them entering Week 1. However, like the Bears, the Cardinals also benefitted from a relatively rare 4-0 turnover advantage. Until they can rack up a solid result, though, the G-Men continue their slide, and now rank at #19 after a preseason #9.
  • Buffalo Bills…contender or pretender? Buffalo’s stomping of Miami was a solid result for the Bills, leading to a 2-0 start that few people expected. A low preseason rating is still holding Buffalo back a bit in our rankings, though; the Bills moved up from #26 to #23 this week, by far the worst ranking for a 2-0 team, behind Philadelphia at #14. But Buffalo’s -1.4 rating has improved by more than two points since the beginning of the season, and a cluster of barely-better teams currently sits directly above them. Another solid win or two, coupled with the decaying impact of preseason ratings, could result in a big surge in the rankings.
  • New Orleans Saints…same question. Despite an 0-2 start, the Saints are still clinging to a #7 ranking, propped up by a high preseason rating. It’s way too early to write off New Orleans, and our ratings are effectively giving them the benefit of the doubt after only two games. But that’s not going to last too much longer if they don’t start turning things around.
  • Just like that, the shine comes off Tennessee. Tennessee getting smoked at home by Dallas was a terrible result for the Titans, and a great one for the not so highly rated Cowboys. Tennessee’s rating dropped by 1.4 points after surging last week, and the Titans are now sitting right back where our preseason rankings had them, at #26. Dallas rocketed from #22 to #16, although that 6-place improvement overstates the result somewhat, as the Cowboys just happened to leapfrog a big cluster of bottom-half teams, and their rating still pegs them as a (barely) below average team.

NFL Week 3 Season Projections Update

Current NFL season projections

  • Week 2 opened up the field for 2014-15 NFL champion. The Seattle, Denver, and San Francisco results from Week 2 made a sizable impact on Super Bowl odds, since all three of those top teams significantly underperformed expectations. Denver (15.7% odds to win the Super Bowl) and Seattle (14.3%) are still running 1-2 in terms of top NFL champion odds, but those numbers are down from 20.5% and 19.7% last week.
  • San Fran blew its chance to be king of the hill. Poor San Francisco. The Niners most likely would have leapfrogged Seattle, and Denver too, to become the current Super Bowl favorites if they had beaten Chicago. As it stands, San Francisco’s NFL champion odds are down to only 8.7%, almost a 40% drop from last week. They’ll need some quality wins, or more poor performances from Denver and Seattle, to claw their way back up the totem pole.
  • New #3 and #4 NFL champion contenders. Leapfrogging San Francisco in the Super Bowl odds this week are New England (10% odds to win it all, third best) and Cincinnati (8.2%, fourth best). Miami’s division loss at Buffalo contributed to a big boost for New England’s odds, along with the fact that our ratings still aren’t quite convinced Buffalo is a big threat. It’s going to be fun to see how the AFC East plays out.
  • The Panthers have a decent shot. The current Super Bowl sleeper pick is probably Carolina, with a 7.2% chance to win it all right now. The Panthers were expected to be at least a good team by both our preseason ratings and Vegas. They could turn out to be great, and Carolina’s competition in the NFC South has started off less than impressively.
  • AFC division winner projections. Our current projected division winners in the AFC are New England (58.4% AFC East, vs. 44.5% last week, thanks to a solid win and a big Miami loss), Cincinnati (60.8% AFC North, vs 55.5% last week), Houston (62.8% AFC South, vs. 43.6% last week, thanks to upset losses by Tennessee and Indianapolis), and Denver (72.5% AFC West, vs. 82.3% last week, thanks to a poor showing plus a huge San Diego win). Outside of these favorites, San Diego is the biggest division winner threat now, with 25.4% odds to unseat Denver and win the AFC West.
  • NFC division winner projections. Our current projected division winners in the NFC are Philadelphia (43.3% NFC East, vs. 41.3% last week), Green Bay (35.0% NFC North, and back into division favorite status thanks to a win and a Detroit’s loss), Carolina (59.8% NFC South, vs. 43.9% last week, thanks to a big win and the rest of the division going 0-3), and Seattle (43.6% NFC West, vs. 51.9% last week, but still in top dog position thanks to the San Francisco loss).
  • Overall, the NFC looks wide open. The NFC is shaping up to be an exciting conference early on, with very strong challengers to our current division winner favorites in three of the four divisions: Dallas (24.9% to win the NCF East over Philly), Detroit (still at a solid 29.8% to win the NFC North, not far behind Green Bay), and San Francisco (32.3% chance to win the NFC West over Seattle). In addition, every division currently features at least three different teams with at least 15% odds to win the division — Washington, Chicago, Atlanta, and Arizona are still very much in the hunt. The NFC North is particularly up for grabs, as even the team with the lowest chance to win the division, Minnesota, still has 16.5% odds to win it.
  • Kiss Those Playoff Hopes Goodbye? At this point, our season simulations are giving five teams less than a 10% chance of making the playoffs, down from six last week: Jacksonville, Kansas City, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis. Chicago didn’t just crawl out of the playoff odds cellar with the big win over San Francisco — coupled with big losses by Detroit and Minnesota, the Bears’ playoff odds shot up from less than 10% to almost 30% in just one week!
  • Woe is you, Arizona. It sucks to be Arizona right now. You start out 2-0; you’re our #10 rated team in the entire NFL; you’re currently projected to win 9 or 10 games this year; and you only have a 50/50 chance of making the playoffs right now, because you live in the NFC West. Ouch.

NFL Week 3 Pick’em Pools Update

Week 3 NFL pick’em pool picks

  • We’re all equals in Week 2. 8-8 was the magic record last week for picking NFL game winners. The public (i.e. the ESPN user consensus picks), Vegas spreads, and our game winner prediction models were all 50% accurate. We liked Carolina over Detroit and Baltimore over Pittsburgh, which the public got wrong. Public opinion beat us on Arizona over the New York Giants, and Philadelphia over Indianapolis.
  • Some really cool pick’em performance data coming soon. This year, we’ve begun collecting extensive data from users of our Football Pick’em Pools product, asking how they are currently doing in their pick’em pools while using our pick recommendations. We’re going to start publishing this data in periodic blog posts, so stay tuned.
  • Point spread and confidence pools best so far. Here’s a quick preview, though. Our early performance in NFL confidence pools looks strong, and NFL point spread pool performance has been outstanding through Week 2. See the Betting Picks section below for more context there, but we received many comments this week from users who won weekly prizes in their spread based pools. On account of the public’s freakishly outstanding Week 1 picking NFL game winners, our results haven’t been outstanding so far in non-confidence based NFL game winner pick’em pools, though. We expect that to change, but it could take several weeks.
  • Another great week for underrated picks. As upset madness continued in the NFL, seven of the top 10 most underrated picks (defined as teams with the biggest difference between win odds and public picking percentage) listed in our pick’em pools Data Grid were winners last week. Cleveland over New Orleans was the top value pick (35% odds to win, yet only 3% picked by the public in pick’em pools!), and playing that one in a large pool with weekly prizes would have been huge. Other high-value upset pick opportunities last week included San Diego over Seattle (33% win odds, 5% picked) and St. Louis over Tampa Bay (36% win odds, 10% picked). One top value pick, Baltimore, was actually a Vegas favorite over Pittsburgh, which is pure pick’em gold. In a classic example of overreaction to Week 1 results, the Ravens had 57% odds to win yet were only 33% picked.
  • Week 3 strategy for season prize pools. For Week 3, your best strategy in most NFL pick’em pools with season prizes is to remain conservative, and not go too crazy picking upsets. Some picks this week may test your resolve, though. Coming off the road upset of San Francisco, Chicago looks hugely overvalued at the Jets, especially with New York currently favored by both Vegas and our models. Green Bay is also getting too much love as an underdog at Detroit.
  • Week 3 strategy for weekly prize pools. Pools with weekly prizes call for a different strategy, one that needs to give much more weight to how your opponents are likely to pick this week. Per the last point, the Jets and Lions both look like solid picks this week from a “fade the public” perspective. And if you want to go deep with a long shot upset, it looks one good option in Week 3 is to roll the dice on Tennessee again. The Titans will probably lose to Cincinnati, but like Cleveland last week, they are currently only 3% picked against 30%+ odds to win.
  • Week 3 strategy for YOUR pool. Just remember, the optimal strategy for your specific pool, including how many favorites vs. upsets you should pick this week, depends on a lot of factors: the number of entries in your pool, the rules, the scoring system, the payout structure. That’s why we developed our Football Pick’em Pools product to apply our analytics to your specific pool.

NFL Week 3 Survivor Pools Update

Week 3 NFL survivor pool picks

  • Once again, a big week for eliminations. Roughly 30% of survivor pool players were eliminated in Week 2, thanks primarily to Cleveland’s upset of New Orleans. The 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th most popular survivor picks (Saints, Buccaneers, 49ers, and Seahawks) all lost.
  • But it was almost mass destruction. The bloodbath was almost one of epic proportions, though, as the two most popular picks also survived big scares. Green Bay (picked by 29%) had to come back from a 21-3 deficit against the Jets, and Denver (picked by 27%) had to stop Kansas City on 4th-and-goal from the 2 yard line with 15 seconds left. If the Packers and Broncos hadn’t narrowly escaped, nearly 90% of entries that survived Week 1 would have been eliminated in Week 2!
  • Our top Week 2 survivor pick was Washington, which worked out nicely. We saw New Orleans as a terrible option last week, and Green Bay as a clear second-tier pick. On balance, Washington offered the best combination of relatively low elimination risk, low popularity, and low future value, so the Redskins were our top choice. A big win over the Jaguars also means we still have Denver and Green Bay in our quiver, which is great. On the downside, the Buccaneers also rated as a solid pick and we recommended using them as part of multiple-entry pick portfolios.
  • Don’t pick this team in Week 3! In Week 3, as usual, there is at least one popular pick you need to avoid if your goal is to maximize your chance to win your survivor pool. That team would be the Patriots, who are way too popular and have too much future value to burn in this situation. If you trust math — and again, if your goal is to actually to win your pool, versus just to survive for the next few weeks — then you have nothing to gain by following the lemmings and picking the Pats this week. There are at least three other picks we rate much higher. Go Raiders!

NFL Week 3 Betting Picks & Game Predictions Update

Week 3 NFL game winner picks | Spread picks | Most Likely Upsets

  • Spread picks had another solid week. The highlight of our Week 2 NFL picks were our point spread picks, which went 11-5 overall. 3-star spread picks went 3-1 (6-1 so far this season), with wins on Cleveland +6 vs. New Orleans, Kansas City +13 at Denver, and NY Jets +7.5 at Green Bay, while Miami -1 at Buffalo got slaughtered.
  • Ditto for money line value picks. Our money line picks also did great in Week 2, with 2-star rated picks going 2-for-4, but with wins on underdogs Cleveland +231 and Dallas +151. We also had 1-star money line value picks on Chicago +273, St. Louis +193, and Philadelphia +135, although we definitely caught some breaks in those games.
  • Regression is coming alert. Now would be a good time to reiterate: Unless our algorithms somehow made a pagan sacrifice to the gambling gods that we don’t know about, hell will freeze over before we hit 85% of our 3-star point spread picks this season. Week to week performance can vary greatly on account of randomness alone, and weeks like these make up for the losing ones that are bound to happen. With that said, our NFL spread picks had a brutal start to last season after a solid 2012, so this rebound is nice to see.
  • Couple tough breaks on totals. Playable over/under picks were 4-4 in Week 2. Losing Baltimore-Pittsburgh Over 44 was particularly painful; there were 8 scores in that game, and 5 of them were field goals of 30 yards or less. We also lost our first 3-star totals pick of the year, Chicago-San Francisco Under 47, by a point. Unfortunately, our official result was victimized by line movement there, since we currently track our pick performance against the last pick our models make before kickoff. In this case, the over/under line opened at 48 at Pinnacle Sports, got as high as 48.5 for a few days during the week, then came sliding down in the direction of our Under pick to close at 47. So we officially report a loss against 47, but if you played that pick earlier in the week, you most likely either pushed or won. Future TeamRankings feature: Reporting our performance against the FIRST picks we make each week for every game.
  • Game winner picks still behind the public. As mentioned in the pick’em section, both our models and the public went 8-8 this week picking game winners. So we’re still lagging the ESPN user consensus overall this season in terms of game winner accuracy, by three games, after the public’s freakishly stupendous performance in Week 1.
  • More upsets than we expected. Overall, out of the 11 games listed on our Most Likely Upsets page, we expected four or five upsets to happen based on our win odds. Six happened. Three of our four most likely upsets came through (Arizona over the NY Giants, who were favored by Vegas; Dallas over Tennessee; and Buffalo over Miami). In games where the Vegas spread was at least 3 points, our top two most likely upsets also won (St. Louis over Tampa Bay and Cleveland over New Orleans).
  • Week 3 playable NFL betting picks. As of posting time, we had 7 playable spread picks, 7 playable totals picks, and 3 two-star money line value picks for NFL Week 3. We actually opened up with five 3-star spread picks this week, which is quite high for us, but early line movement has already downgraded one.
  • Don’t call them the Week 3 locks of the week. The top confidence NFL Week 3 game winner picks from our models are currently New England over Oakland (84%), New Orleans over Minnesota (77%), and Philadelphia over Washington (74%).
  • Most likely Week 3 upsets. The most likely upset of the week is currently St. Louis over Dallas, with a 49% chance of happening. The most likely upset of a Vegas favorite of more than 3 points is Kansas City over Miami, with a 39% chance of happening.

One-Day Fantasy Challenge Update

Get an invite to our Week 3 NFL contest

  • We’re up to almost 100 players! Our second one-day fantasy football tournament on FanDuel attracted 97 players, up from 73 in Week 1. Thanks to everyone that played! We plan to keep doing these contests, so watch your email for invites to this week’s private tournament. If you want to get in on the action with us, see the link above. 50 players won cash last week.
  • monst4r crushes the field. Huge props go to the our Week 2 tournament winner, monst4r, who rode “monst4r” days by Jordy Nelson and Jimmy Graham to win the contest running away — here’s the full dominating lineup. On the way to outscoring the second place finisher, adondarski, by over 10 points, monst4r set a new record for our private tournaments with a score of 156.44, crushing the old record of 148.08. Amazing job, monst4r! We’ll be contacting you soon so you can claim your free premium Football Season Pass to TeamRankings, in addition to your cash prize from FanDuel.
  • We, on the other hand, sucked up the joint. After quite the promising 5th place finish in Week 1, the TeamRankings Nerds had our hopes high for cashing again in Week 2…and we got smoked, finishing in 60th place. We’ll dive deeper in a blog post this week, but it looks like our strategy to go long on the Eagles was a loser, dang it. So to whomever just won our ten bucks: We hope that burger and fries you just bought with our money gives you indigestion. 🙂
  • Come play with us! We’d love to have you play in these private tournaments with us. Again, click the link above for the details on how to get an invite.