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Opening Line Report - Week 3

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It’s only Week 3 of the NFL season. Cold weather isn’t a factor. Yet already there are five totals less than 38 points. That’s nearly one-third of the games.

“That’s very rare,” said Mike Seba, a senior linesmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants. “It’s a combination of defenses catching up with spread and no-huddle offenses and a lot of quarterbacks getting hurt.”

It’s not a coincidence that there are quarterback shortcomings in each of the five totals of less than 38.

The lowest is a 34 ½ in the Miami-New England matchup. The Patriots are down to second-string quarterback Matt Cassel. The Dolphins are averaging 12 points and have no passing threat.

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Oakland doesn’t have a passing threat either. That’s one factor why the Raiders-Buffalo total opened 37 and has dropped to 36 ½ at some places.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons lack downfield throwing, too. That’s why the ‘over/under’ on their matchup is 35 ½. The Chiefs already have used three quarterbacks. Maybe they can coax Len Dawson out of retirement at 73.

Tampa Bay is using Brian Griese at quarterback. He started the season behind Jeff Garcia. The Buccaneers meet Chicago, quarterbacked by Kyle Orton. Both teams have good defenses. So no surprise the Buccaneers-Bears total is 35 ½.

Star wide receiver Steve Smith is back for Carolina. The Panthers are playing on a fast track, inside the Metrodome, against Minnesota. But because Tarvaris Jackson remains the Vikings’ quarterback, the ‘over/under’ on this matchup is 37.

Easily the highest total is 51 ½ on New Orleans-Denver. The Broncos opened as four-point home favorites. Early money has pushed the number up to minus five. LVSC’s send-out number to their many Nevada hotel clients was Denver minus four.

“I would not play Denver here,” Seba said. “It’s a real flat spot for the Broncos playing a non-conference game at home.”

The Broncos may be overpriced after their dramatic victory this past Sunday against San Diego. The Saints are off a loss to Washington.

One of the toughest opening lines to make this week was Cleveland-Baltimore. The LVSC oddsmakers suggested the Browns minus 1 ½.

The Ravens, though, opened the favorite with the line fluctuating between minus two and minus one.

The Browns are 0-2 with home losses to Dallas and Pittsburgh.

“Cleveland absolutely has to have this win,” Seba said. “The Browns have a team they can beat.”

Some bettors may be attracted to Baltimore since the Ravens were given a bye this week when hurricane damage caused postponement of their scheduled road game against Houston.

Probably no team wants to take their bye in Week 2, though. It’s not like the Ravens have had two weeks to specifically game-plan for Cleveland since up until Saturday they were anticipating meeting Houston.

The highest spread numbers are on the New York Giants minus 13 hosting the Cincinnati Bengals and New England laying 13 at home to Miami.

Since the Dolphins-Patriots also have the lowest total, a parlay of ‘dog and ‘under’ might make sense if you like Miami to cover.

The Patriots are going back to a grind-it-out style rather than last year’s high octane attack spread formation with the season-ending knee injury to Tom Brady.

Buffalo is favored by nine points at home against Oakland. That line could climb. There were some 9 ½ available on Monday morning.

The Bills haven’t been this high of a favorite since 2004. The Raiders are traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast with an early start time.

That scenario worked against Seattle in Week 1 when the Seahawks had to play at Buffalo. The Bills buried a flat Seattle, 34-10.

Buffalo had the most players go on injured reserve last season. The Bills are healthy this season. The return of holdout offensive left tackle Jason Peters is huge for Buffalo’s offense. Peters missed opening week.

San Francisco is a four-point home favorite against Detroit. It has been two years since the 49ers were laying more than 3 ½ points.

It’s unusual to see the 49ers this high of a favorite, but the Lions have character issues. Their offense doesn’t seem to be on the same page and their defense has yielded a staggering average of 41 points and 460 yards per game.

“Detroit is just horrible,” Seba said.

And that’s putting it kindly.

  
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