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NFL’s biggest betting mismatches: Week 3
By Jason Logan

Each week, Jason Logan breaks down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule and setting your daily fantasy lineup. Here are four of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 3:

Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys (+1, 45)

Falcons’ pass protection vs. Cowboys’ poor pass rush

Kyle Shanahan has done a good job implementing his new offensive schemes in Atlanta, and the most obvious improvement is that quarterback Matt Ryan is staring at the stadium roof a lot less through the first two games of the season.

After allowing 44 sacks in 2013 and 31 last season, the Falcons have given up only three sacks and watched Ryan get hit 11 times in his 85 total dropbacks in 2015. Atlanta is throwing far less, 59.29 percent compared to 64.06 percent of the time in 2014, but when he does have the ball in the pocket, he’s got ample time to find his deep threats – more specifically WR Julio Jones.

Dallas’ defense is once again toothless when it comes to the pass rush. The Cowboys struggled to get pressure on opposing passers last season, recording only 28 sacks and 48 QB hurries in 2014, and are on a similar path with only two sacks and two hurries through two games this fall.

Losing rookie DE Randy Gregory to injury was bigger than people think, and Dallas hasn’t really faced a deep threat like Ryan-Jones this season (both Giants and Eagles throw quick, short passes). Dallas’ weak secondary will be tested – and likely exposed – if the pass rush keeps getting pushed around.

Daily Fantasy Watch: QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (-2.5, 43.5)

Bills’ penalty problems vs. Dolphins’ defensive line

The Bills have a discipline issue and head into Week 2 of the season as the most penalized team in the league, with 25 flags flying for a grand total of 253 penalty yards against. Buffalo was whistled for 14 infractions in the loss to New England last weekend, handing the Patriots 140 free gains.

The biggest culprit has been the Bills’ protection, which has been flagged for six offensive holding penalties in two games – almost double the league average. Those holds are a killer for a run-heavy offense, leading to a 34.62 third down percentage in the first two weeks.

Miami’s defense has a lot to prove in Week 3, coming off an embarrassing waxing at the hands of the Jaguars. The Dolphins defensive line, which was supposed to be the nastiest in the NFL after adding Ndamukong Suh this offseason, has a big goose egg in the sacks column after two games.

If anything, the Fins’ formidable front line has caused a lot of clutching and grabbing from opposing pass protectors, creating six offensive holding calls this year. Overall, Miami has done a good job drawing penalties, with foes forcing 20 flags to fly for a total of 181 yards in the Dolphins favor – sixth most in the league.

Daily Fantasy Watch: Miami defense

San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5, 44)

Niners’ red-zone defense vs. Cardinals’ red-zone offense

With Carson Palmer back under center, the Cardinals have picked up where they left off before their veteran QB went down with a knee injury last November. Arizona is 2-0 and leads the league in points scored, averaging 39.5 per game.

The Cardinals don’t pass up a chance to strike pay dirt, going a perfect 7-for-7 in the red zone in the first two games. And we’re not talking field goals, either. Arizona has scored a touchdown every time it’s entered the 20-yard line, and that’s made bettors happy. Picking up seven instead of three is the reason why the Cards have covered the spread by an average of 16.5 points so far this fall.

San Francisco’s defense is still trying to figure out how to plug all those holes in the dam. The 49ers’ offseason losses are starting to show when push comes to shove, magnified when opponents creep inside the red zone.

The Niners, who held Minnesota to 0-for-1 inside the twenty in Week 1, were blown up by the Steelers last Sunday, with Pittsburgh posting a perfect 5-for-5 inside the red zone – all of which were for touchdowns. This isn’t anything new for San Francisco after allowing teams to pick up six on 61.36 percent of their red-zone chances last season. That ranked fifth worst in the NFL.

Daily Fantasy Watch: QB Carson Palmer, WR Larry Fitzgerald/Jaron Brown, RBs Chris Johnson/David Johnson

Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions (+3, 44.5)

Broncos’ third-down dependency vs. Lions’ third-down defense

The Broncos offense isn’t what it used to be but is still getting the job done. The run game is failing and Peyton Manning’s dead arm isn’t posing a deep threat anymore, but we’re still talking about Peyton Manning here. The Broncos aren’t moving the chains as easy as past season, using up all three downs to pick up the next set.

Denver boasts a league-high 17 third downs per game – converting only 41.18 percent of those – but that has helped it chew up clock and hog the football for 34:09 per game – almost four more minutes than last season. Manning’s favorite target in those crunch spots is WR Emmanuel Sanders, who has 11 catches for 117 of his total 152 yards and two touchdowns on third down.

Detroit’s defense is forcing 12.5 third downs per game to start the season but has allowed opponents – San Diego and Minnesota – to convert on 52 percent of those, which stands fifth worst in the league heading into Week 3. This stop unit was among the stingiest in the NFL in third-down conversions in 2014, giving up the first down just 37.56 percent of the time.

However, the Lions pass rush has just seven QB hurries and three sacks in 2015 and can’t duplicate the pressure of last year in those blitz situations. Last Sunday, the Vikings moved the chains on seven of their 14 third downs and converted on a fourth-and-1 for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Daily Fantasy Watch: WR Emmanuel Sanders