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It’s hard to believe but after next week’s games the NFL regular season will be one quarter complete. The short 16 game schedule makes each and every game very meaningful and an upset loss or a surprise win can have a significant impact on a team’s chances of making or missing the Playoffs.

The difference between 9-7 and 7-9 is not that great. Neither is the difference between 6-10 and 10-6 that much greater.

Through three weeks of the season just three teams are 3-0 and two of them had losing records last season – Buffalo and Detroit. The third unbeaten through three games is defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay.

A fourth team that would joined the list is Washington – another team that missed the Playoffs last season – if the Redskins had won at Dallas on Monday night. The Skins were slightly more than a FG underdog as game time approached.

Five teams have started the season 0-3 – Indianapolis, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota and St Louis. Of the group both Indianapolis and Kansas City made the Playoffs last season. Both have had significant injuries at the start of this season, none more significant than the Colts losing starting QB and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. He will probably be place on IR within the next few weeks and miss the entire season.

That may not be all bad as if the Colts have the disastrous season now expected they might well earn the top spot in next April’s draft. They’d almost certainly use that pick to select Stanford QB Andrew Luck, considered by almost all of the so called experts as a “can’t miss” player.

Luck could start his career as a backup to Manning for a couple of seasons (much as Aaron Rodgers did behind Brett Favre in Green Bay). If all plays out as expected, the Colts could have a QB dynasty that might stretch more than three decades with first Manning and then Luck at the helm.

In evaluating what has happened thus far in 2011 keep in mind the importance played by scheduling. Some intrinsically good teams have had to face pretty tough competition to start the season. Teams with lesser talent and expectation may have faced far easier competition.

Over the course of the season schedule difficulty does tend to even out to a large degree. But over the first month or two scheduling dynamics will often point to undervalued underdogs or overpriced favorites and the results of such games, though surprising to many, will not be surprises to those that have scoped out the schedules in advance.

Through nearly three complete weeks Home Underdogs have posted a slightly losing record ATS (Against the Point spread) of 13-14-1. Home Underdogs have been profitable with their 11-6-2 mark.

Sunday’s results saw just 6 games go OVER the total with 9 staying UNDER. But thus far OVERS still predominate to the tune of 28-17 with a pair of pushes.

Scoring remains high with the average total points at 45.2 through 47 games.

Here’s a preview of Week 4 games.


Lions (NL) at Cowboys: The Lions are 3-0 for the first time since 1980. Both teams have the capability to stretch the field on offense and each defense is still a work in progress. OVER.

Saints -7 at Jaguars (46½): Expect the Saints to put pressure on the Jags’ rookie QB Blaine Gabbert. Despite this normally being a good spot for the home dog, the Saints are likely to extend a second half lead. SAINTS.

49ers (NL) at Eagles: Even if the Eagles are forced to use a backup in place of Michael Vick, they will still be solid favorites and in an angry mood. A bad spot for the Niners, who step up in class to face a quality team off of a tough loss. EAGLES.


Redskins +2 at Rams (44): St Louis should be able to execute much better on both sides of the ball against the Redskins than in their first three games. Rams will be highly energized and motivated to bounce back from last week’s 37-7 loss on this field to Baltimore. RAMS.

Titans +1½ at Browns (38): Neither team has significant big play ability in the passing game. Both are more risk averse than risk taking on offense. Expect each to be content to grind it out and play the field position game, waiting patiently for scoring opportunities. UNDER.

Bills (NL) at Bengals: Cincy has gotten better than expected play from their defense while the offense should continue to make steady, albeit slow, progress behind rookie QB Andy Dalton. The Bills defense has been vulnerable in their last two games, allowing 35 and 31 points. BENGALS.

Vikings -1 at Chiefs (40): Kansas City has traditionally been a strong home team and returns home following a pair of road trips. Look for the Chiefs to erase the bitter taste from their home opener loss to Buffalo. CHIEFS.


Panthers +6½ at Bears (44): Using a tried and true horse racing analogy, the Bears are dropping down significantly in class and figure to win rather handily. BEARS.

Steelers +3 at Texans (46): In terms of overall talent the gap between these teams in narrowing. But the proven class and pedigree – and the better defense – makes Pittsburgh attractive as an underdog. STEELERS.

Falcons -4½ at Seahawks (41½): Atlanta has too many weapons that will be the biggest test yet for the Seattle defense. In what’s becoming more and more a passing league, the Falcons’ edge at QB is decisive. FALCONS.


Giants -1 at Cards (45): It’s a terrible spot for the Giants but until such time as NFC West teams perform better when stepping out of Division against average or better teams, the preference is to side with the more complete teams. GIANTS.


Dolphins +8 at Chargers (45½): The Chargers are clearly capable of winning in blowout fashion but Miami will bring a great sense of urgency and intensity to this game. Dolphins at least have shown a much better ability to run the football and control some clock. DOLPHINS.

Broncos +13 at Packers (48): Factoring in sack yardage lost, neither team has over 300 net passing yards in a game this season. UNDER.

Patriots -4½ at Raiders (53): The Patriots will be in a foul mood after last week’s loss in Buffalo. With both teams performing much better on offense than on defense the expected shootout should materialize, even with a fairly high posted total. OVER.

Jets +3½ at Ravens (40): Fundamentally these are a pair of teams that rely on defense to win games and there’s little reason to believe things have changed dramatically since these teams opened last season with the Ravens winning a tight 10-9 contest. UNDER.



Colts +10 at Bucs (41½): With the Colts offense struggling the Bucs should not have to take too many chances to secure a win. That should mean a steady dose of RB LaGarrette Blount and mates as Tampa Bay controls clock and shortens the game. UNDER.       


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About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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