Week 3 of the 2018 NFL season is upon us, as the New York Jets visit the Cleveland Browns.
Here are our best bets on the game from Preston Johnson, Mike Clay and Warren Sharp.
Note: Odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of Thursday morning.
New York Jets at Cleveland Browns (-3)
PickCenter public pick: 63 percent on Cleveland
Johnson: The Browns are the favorites this week in a game — and they deserve to be. My raw number projects them to win this game 66 percent of the time, which equates to roughly a -194 favorite on the money line. I elected to treat this bet like a money line wager in baseball and took the Browns at -160. While there is still an edge betting the Browns at -3 (3.3 percent edge), the expected ROI is actually higher playing the money line (4.5 percent edge) in this instance, partly due to the high rate at which this game lands Cleveland by exactly three points (about 9 percent of the time).
Sam Darnold and the Jets struggled to score at home to the Dolphins in Week 2 after Matthew Stafford made things easy in the season-opener and gifted New York with five interceptions ( Tyrod Taylor threw four picks all of last season). The Browns lead the NFL in takeaways with eight and will rely upon their defense and ball-control game with Taylor under center to grind out a home win against an inferior opponent.
Pick: Browns -160
Bilal Powell, receiving yards: Over 15.5 (-150)
Sharp: The book is out on the Saints. They are a one-dimensional team that simply cannot run the ball. Last week, the Browns held them to 2.7 yards per carry (39 percent success rate) on 23 rushes. It is easier to defend a team that you know won’t be able to successfully run, and that’s what the Browns did. Thanks to strong interior pressure, which hurts Brees the most as compared to edge pressure, the Browns defense did enough to win this game, holding the Saints to just three points through three quarters.
While the Saints rank No. 28 in rushing efficiency, the Jets rank even worse at No. 30. As such, I expect the Jets will need to get efficiency from Darnold in the passing game. One area against which the Browns struggle versus RBs. In Week 1, they allowed five catches on six targets for 57 yards, and a 67 percent success rate to James Conner. Last week against the Saints, Alvin Kamara caught 6-of-6 targets for 53 yards and a 100 percent success rate.
On the other side of the ball, the Browns offense ranks No. 30 in passing efficiency and is going up against the Jets and their No. 2-ranked pass defense. It will be difficult for Tyrod Taylor to move the ball consistently through the air. However, the Jets rank just No. 22 in run defense. If the Browns can’t pull away via the pass, this looks like a game where the Jets can be in it from wire to wire unless Darnold turns the ball over.
Sam Darnold, TD Passes: Over 1.5 (+180)/Under 1.5 (-220)
Clay: Both of these defenses have been better than expected this season, so it’s very possible — if not even likely — that this will be a low-scoring affair. Cleveland’s defense has had two tough challenges thus far in the form of Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, the latter of which was in the Superdome. Those two passers combined for three touchdowns. Darnold, meanwhile, chucked two touchdowns while benefiting from outstanding field position against an atrocious Lions defense in Week 1.
Despite more good opportunities at home against Miami last week, Darnold threw for just one score — the team’s only touchdown on the day. The Jets offense has scored five touchdowns, despite a 2.9 OTD, including three passing scores (2.4 pass OTD). This suggests they’ve over-performed their “expected” total based on the location of their plays, which is likely to regress to the mean. Betting on touchdowns is always risky and they’re begging you to take the over here, but I’d lean toward the under.
The pick: Under