The first two weeks of the NFL season are a perfect example of why betting on football can be so difficult. After the favorites dominated in Week 1, Week 2 saw nine underdogs win outright.
Week 3 could be just as unpredictable, since most of the teams that haven’t won a game yet are favored. The Seattle Seahawks are the biggest favorites of the season, thus far, even though they are 0-2 and haven’t looked like the defending NFC champs. The Indianapolis Colts are favored on the road after losing two games by 26 total points.
There’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to gambling, but here are the three best bets for Week 3 of the 2015 NFL season.
Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
No team has been as dominant as the Cardinals to start the 2015 season. As one of nine teams that are 2-0, Arizona leads the NFL with a plus-37 point differential, highlighted by a 25-point road victory in Week 2. Considering their opponent and the way they’ve played since the start of last season, the Cardinals should have another big win in Week 3 when they host the San Francisco 49ers.
Carson Palmer missed more than half of last season with injuries, but Arizona has been unbeatable with him on the field. The Cardinals have won eight in a row with Palmer at the helm, and they’ve won six of Palmer’s last seven starts by double-digits. San Francisco might have won by 17 points in their home opener, but they lost by 25 points at Pittsburgh in Week 2. They’ll have trouble in Arizona, where the Cardinals have covered the point spread in seven of their last eight games. The 49ers have lost each of their last three road games by double-digits.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5)
The Steelers were favored over the St. Louis Rams by one point earlier in the week, and the betting line might be up to two points by Sunday. But the point spread is still small enough that a win for Pittsburgh almost guarantees that they will cover the spread, making them one of the safest bets in Week 3.
The New England Patriots would have likely beaten any team when they opened the season right after Tom Brady’s suspension was lifted, and the Steelers showed how good they are a week later. Pittsburgh put up 43 points against a team that didn’t allow a touchdown in Week 1, and now that Le’Veon Bell is returning from his suspension, the Steelers might have the best offense in football. The Rams could be dangerous at home, but they just lost to the lowly Washington Redskins, and rank 25th in points allowed. Meanwhile, the Rams' running game has not been impressive this season at No. 23 in yards per carry (No. 23), and the Steelers rush defense is No. 6 in the league at 3.5 yards per carry.
Oakland Raiders (+3.5)
It’s hard to have any confidence in the Raiders, who have won just 12 games since the start of the 2012 season. But they have a good chance to win when they visit the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, and they are getting more than a field goal in a game that’s essentially a tossup.
Oakland bounced back from their Week 1 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and showed that they could have a decent offense this season. With Derek Carr healthy, the Raiders put up 37 points on the Baltimore Ravens, and their young stars had big games. Cleveland is going back to Josh McCown, who has a 76.1 passer rating in 70 career games. The Browns won in Week 2 because Johnny Manziel threw two touchdown passes of at least 50 yards, and Travis Benjamin returned a punt for 78 yards. Cleveland isn’t a very good team, and they could lose if they don’t have a few more big plays.