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NFL Week 3 survivor pool picks, predictions: Can Vikings bounce back after blowout loss?

Minnesota is in a clear bounce-back spot against the Lions after falling apart in Philadelphia on Monday night.

Minnesota Vikings players celebrate a touchdown in a game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Minnesota Vikings players celebrate a touchdown in a game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)Read moreSTEPHEN MATUREN / Getty Images

If you read our column last week, congratulations. You’ve survived another round. If you didn’t — or if you followed our Week 1 advice — we extend our condolences. Either way, Week 3 features another slate full of landmines that seem destined to knock out much of the remaining field.

As of Tuesday afternoon, nine of the 16 betting favorites at BetMGM are on the road, and only two teams are favored by a touchdown or more. One of those teams is the Chiefs, who are 7-point road favorites against a Colts team that looked like a Super Bowl contender entering the year. The other is the Chargers, who could be without Justin Herbert (ribs) against a pesky Jaguars squad with upside.

That seriously narrows the pool for this week’s survivor picks, though we’ve got you covered with 15 weeks still on the docket. Here’s how we’d attack Week 3 of your survivor pool:

Top play

Minnesota Vikings

I know what you’re thinking: “We’re really going to risk it all on a team that got trounced on Monday night and faces a short week against a division rival?” There’s no way around it. The Vikings looked as lousy in Week 2 as they looked dominant in Week 1. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, and it wasn’t all bad for Minnesota in its prime-time loss in Philadelphia.

The Vikings had chances in that game. They should have scored a touchdown on a wide-open pass dropped by Irv Smith Jr., and they would have scored on a blocked kick had Kris Boyd not been caught by the holder. Yes, they deserved to lose that game, but I wouldn’t write off this team altogether after how explosive it looked just eight days earlier.

If Kirk Cousins has more time to throw than he did on Monday, Minnesota should have no issue moving the ball against a Lions defense allowing the second-most points per game (32.5) through two weeks. I also wouldn’t be scared of Detroit quarterback Jared Goff, who hasn’t won a road game since his final season with the Rams in 2020. In a week with few surefire options, this is as close as it gets.

» READ MORE: Only three teams have shorter Super Bowl odds than the Eagles after Week 2

Sleeper pick

Baltimore Ravens

I usually don’t advise riding such a short road favorite in your survivor pool, and the betting market clearly sees the Ravens (-165) as a risky play here. If you’re feeling adventurous, though, I just don’t see how Baltimore loses this game against a clearly inferior Patriots squad.

If you turned off your TV early in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to the Dolphins, you could be convinced that the Ravens were on their way to the Super Bowl after a truly dominant display on both sides of the ball. Of course, that’s not how things played out, though a few errant decisions by a young and developing secondary shouldn’t dismiss all the positives for this group.

The same can’t be said for the Patriots, who look downright pedestrian across the entire roster after a dreary loss to Miami in Week 1 and an uninspiring win over the short-handed Steelers in Week 2. New England’s offense lacks the talent to transcend its stale play-calling, and its defense will have its hands full stopping this MVP-caliber version of Lamar Jackson.

» READ MORE: Eagles covering two-point spread made one BetMGM bettor a millionaire

Team to avoid

Buffalo Bills

There will be plenty of opportunities to use the Bills as your survivor pick this season. Don’t waste it this week in a tricky road spot for the title favorites.

Even with how unstoppable Buffalo has looked through the first two weeks, there’s a reason oddsmakers have the Bills priced as relatively short favorites against a Dolphins team that isn’t to be trifled with. Miami erased a 21-point deficit in last week’s win in Baltimore, where Tua Tagovailoa (469 yards, 6 TDs) put the league on notice with a career performance.

I don’t expect the same showing on Sunday, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if the ‘Fins get to Josh Allen in this one and coax a signature letdown performance from Buffalo — which has ocellated between all-time highs and embarrassing lows in recent years. Maybe this is a blowout, but I’d rather stay away and use the juggernaut Bills another week.

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