Another exciting NFL week is here, bringing with it a lot of games with tremendous importance for playoff positioning.
Our VSiN experts — Adam Burke, Dave Tuley, Will Hill, Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans, along with Ben Brown of Pro Football Focus — combine to give their opinions on every Sunday game in Week 17.
Note: Lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday night.
Here are our Week 17 best bets:
Sunday, Jan. 2
Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts (-7, 44)
Tuley: Jonathan Taylor has carried the Colts into the playoff hunt, and many are regarding them as a top contender, making me finally feel good about my 35-1 future-book tickets bought last winter. The Colts were favored by more than a touchdown earlier this week, but then came news Tuesday morning that quarterback Carson Wentz was placed on the reserve/ COVID-19 list and this line plummeted to as low as Colts -1.5. After it was learned that Wentz might be able to play Sunday, the line went back up to -6.5 and is now up to 7. That’s enough to put me on the Raiders, who are 8-7 and also fighting for a wild-card spot. Derek Carr has enough weapons to match the Colts score for score, and he might be getting tight end Darren Waller back this week. I would grab the 7 now in case Wentz ends up not starting, as the line would drop again if Sam Ehlinger was thrust into the starting role.
Pick: Raiders %plussign% 7
New York Giants at Chicago Bears (-5.5, 37)
Burke: The Giants and Bears are a couple of teams playing out the string on the season. One seems a lot more engaged than the other, but that team is also nearly a touchdown favorite on Sunday.
My focus in this game is on the total. It is one of the lowest totals that you will see for an NFL game in the current era, but one that is very much deserved. The Giants have scored 13.6 points per game in their last eight games, many of those played with either an injured Daniel Jones or some combination of Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm.
The Bears got some Nick Foles magic last week, but still managed just 4.6 yards per play. These are two of the worst offenses in the NFL in the YPP department. The weather won’t help this week. The forecast calls for a high temperature below 20 with a little bit of wind and wind chills around zero. I’m not sure either team will be excited to go out and play in this kind of weather. These are two bad-weather cities, but this is pretty extreme.
Some of the sharper books in the market were down to 37 early Wednesday morning. I think this total could go even lower as the weather watchers get involved.
Pick: Under 37
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-13.5, 45) at New York Jets
Burke: The Buccaneers just locked up their first division title since 2007. They did so with a depleted roster due to injury and COVID protocols. Some guys will come back for Sunday’s game against the Jets, but the Bucs can’t really do a ton of maneuvering in the NFC playoff standings. All four of their losses are against NFC teams and the second tiebreaker (after head-to-head) is conference win percentage.
This is a non-conference game against the Jets, so it doesn’t mean a ton to Tampa Bay. Bruce Arians tested positive for COVID and may err on the side of caution and take it easy this week. Tampa Bay’s coordinators are being courted by teams with coaching vacancies. Shaq Barrett is out for the next few weeks. There are some concerns in the back seven, with Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean on the COVID list. They can clear by Sunday, but won’t be practicing all week. Antoine Winfield is also questionable. Leonard Fournette remains out.
Also, the Bucs are favored by almost two touchdowns, which is an indication that they don’t really need everybody to have a good chance of winning the game. It wouldn’t be stunning to see some guys sit out. The Jets are in the process of getting guys back. Their talent level doesn’t match up with Tampa Bay’s and neither do the stats. However, the Jets are still at least playing hard.
You’ve got a Bucs team with a division title hangover going to some damp, ugly, gross conditions at the Meadowlands. They can beat the Panthers in a controlled scrimmage next week to get a little momentum heading into the playoffs. I’m just not sure we get any sort of investment or engagement from a Bucs team with a lot going on and minimal incentive and opportunity to move up in the standings. At this point, they can only move up to No. 3 and it would take a lot, as the Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Pick: Jets %plussign% 13.5
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (-14, 44)
Tuley: The Bills have somehow rallied to pass the Patriots for the lead in the AFC East as Josh Allen and Co. are playing up to preseason expectations and how they looked early in the regular season. However, they shouldn’t be favored by this much over this Falcons team. Granted, Atlanta is the worst team still in the playoff hunt, but they’re still here and capable of keeping within two TDs with Matt Ryan getting the most out of his best weapons, TE Kyle Pitts and RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson. Weather could also be a factor with a 70 percent chance of snow and temperatures in the 30s at gametime, which tends to favor a lower-scoring game, with points at a premium.
Pick: Falcons %plussign% 14
Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5, 45) at Washington Football Team
Reynolds: These two teams will have their second matchup in just 12 days. Philadelphia won a “Tuesday Night Football” meeting 27-17 behind 238 yards on the ground and 519 yards of total offense. The WFT was down to third-string quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who did not turn it over, but also was unable to sustain drives.
Washington has lost its last three games to all but end its playoff hopes. Last Sunday night, the WFT was humiliated in Dallas and had fights on the bench between teammates. Meanwhile, Philadelphia got to face Jake (From State) Fromm in his first-ever NFL start en route to a 34-10 victory. However, the Eagles were not exactly sharp and have been getting a little fat and happy against a weak schedule over the last month. In fact, the Eagles, currently in the 7 spot in the NFC, have not beaten a team over .500 all season.
The playoff implications for Philadelphia are already baked into the line. The WFT are also getting some missing players back from the COVID/reserve list.
Pick: Washington %plussign% 3.5
Kansas City Chiefs (-4, 51) at Cincinnati Bengals
Youmans: Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are unstoppable again — at least that’s the perception. KC has won eight straight, but only two of those wins were on the road and the home schedule was relatively weak. While I do believe the Chiefs have overcome most of their early-season issues and deserve to be AFC favorites again, this point spread is inflated. KC’s blowout of the Steelers a week ago is being overblown. Pittsburgh is a below-average team with a pitiful offense and declining defense. The Bengals also blew out the Steelers 41-10 in late November. Justin Herbert and the Chargers recently dropped 28 points — and it should have been more — on the Chiefs. Joe Burrow has the hot hand after passing for 525 yards last week and Cincinnati should be a live home dog.
Pick: Bengals %plussign% 4
Tuley: The Chiefs are on a roll with eight straight wins and six straight covers as the defense has made a complete turnaround from early in the season and Mahomes is looking more like a game manager, which is just fine. But don’t sleep on the Bengals, who are looking more and more potent with Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, etc. and an unsung defense that is playing as well as the Chiefs. This line is creeping higher, so I’ll take as many points as I can get as this looks like another game for the Bengals to make a statement that they belong.
Pick: Bengals %plussign% 4
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (-16, 41.5)
Burke: Bill Belichick's dominance against rookie QBs has been brought up with every opportunity against a first-year signal caller. It's almost not even worth mentioning anymore. What is worth mentioning is that the Jaguars are absolutely playing out the string on a season from hell and will now do so without their best offensive player in James Robinson.
Trevor Lawrence has been set up for failure and the Jaguars organization should be ashamed. Not only was Urban Meyer a terrible hire, but Lawrence is extremely limited with what he has to work with at wide receiver and the play designs and route concepts have had guys running into each other or not separated to create throwing lanes.
Maybe New England doesn't score enough to cover this enormous spread. Maybe the Patriots are deeply flawed, as the last few weeks have suggested. However, this defense is in a "get right" spot against an offense that shows no signs of being efficient or effective against any team, let alone one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Pick: Jaguars Team Total Under 12.5
Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans (-3.5, 39.5)
Hill: I made the case a month or so ago for the “Dolphins To make the Playoffs” at 1000 odds, based mainly on an upcoming pillow-soft schedule. They have become the first team in NFL history to win and lose seven straight games in the same season, going from 1-7 to 8-7. However, let's review for a moment who exactly they’ve beaten – Mike Glennon, Zach Wilson, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, Joe Flacco, and you can safely rip up your Ian Book MVP tickets after an ugly debut Monday night.
This is not to dismiss the Dolphins winning streak, the Chargers last week are the latest example that no game is a given in this league, as we all know. But, this list provides context for what the Dolphins have done and who they’ve beaten. The Saints were decimated with Covid issues, and Miami was unable to pull away until late in the third quarter, even against a fourth-string quarterback. They now enter Tennessee, against a more rested Titans team that hasn’t played since beating the 49ers two days before Christmas last Thursday night. Meanwhile the Dolphins are on a short week, having played on the road Monday night. The Titans can still realistically get the No. 1 seed, and will take care of a Dolphins team that will struggle against the better competition.
Pick: Titans -3.5
Los Angeles Rams (-4.5, 46.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Youmans: Baltimore has lost four in a row, with three of the decisions by two points or fewer, and looks to be the definition of a desperate home dog. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday he hopes to have starting quarterback Lamar Jackson (ankle) and backup Tyler Huntley (COVID-19) back on the field this weekend. With two home games to finish the regular season, the AFC North title still is within reach for the Ravens. It’s obvious the Baltimore defense is beat up, but it’s difficult to trust Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford laying more than a field goal on the road against a well-coached team.
Pick: Ravens %plussign% 4.5
Brown: The Los Angeles Rams control their own destiny in the NFC West and have a 77 percent chance of winning the division, per PFF’s latest simulation. This is a big game for the Rams’ chances to secure a home playoff game.
Los Angeles ranks second in EPA generated per pass attempt but struggles to run the football, ranking 23rd in EPA per rush attempt. Their strength plays into the weakness of a Ravens defense that has been decimated by injuries in the secondary. Joe Burrow lit up that unit in Week 16, hitting multiple receivers on deep targets for touchdowns. Stafford hasn’t pushed the ball down the field in the same way, but he should have a couple opportunities to hit Van Jefferson deep. If those don't connect, then Cooper Kupp should be frequently open underneath, just as he’s been all season long.
All of the incentives and prior performance point toward the Rams accomplishing whatever they want through the air — they should be able to rack up receiving yards and subsequent touchdowns with ease in this matchup. Stafford has already cleared his closing touchdown prop in nine of 15 games this season and should have little resistance going over the number once again. With a 38.2 percent break-even percentage at %plussign% 162, Stafford to go over his touchdown prop is the second-highest value prop in PFF’s betting tool for Sunday’s Week 17 action.
Pick: Stafford Over 2.5 Passing TD’s ( 162)
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5, 45.5)
Tuley: The Chargers were in control of their playoff destiny just a week ago before their inexplicable 41-20 loss to the Texans as 13-point road favorites. The most troubling aspect of the loss was that the Chargers were able to get within 2 and 4 points of the Texans in the second half but then couldn’t stop the Texans’ No. 32-ranked offense, as RB Rex Burkhead ran for 149 yards and 2 TDs and QB Davis Mills went 21-of-27 for 254 yards and another 2 TDs.
I wrote last week that I wouldn’t feel comfortable laying the points with the Chargers, as they have a long history of being unreliable favorites going back through the Philip Rivers era. And you can’t just blame Rivers or former coach Anthony Lynn as Justin Herbert and Brandon Staley fell to 4-6 ATS this season and 1-4 ATS in their last five games as chalk.
So, again, we don’t feel it’s a good bet to lay the points with the Chargers, even though they’re in the proverbial “must-win situation.” Besides, while the 6.5-point spread is half the 13 points from last week, the Broncos are twice as good as the Texans.
In backing the Broncos plus the points, I also like the fact they dominated the previous meeting just five weeks ago in a 28-13 victory while rushing for 147 yards against the Chargers’ porous run defense in building a 28-7 lead. Herbert did throw for 303 yards in that game, but that’s because he had to as Austin Ekeler only rushed for 31 yards and the Chargers were down so early. Herbert was intercepted twice by Pat Surtain II, the second of which was returned 70 yards for a TD.
Denver RBs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams were both limited in practice earlier this week, but the Broncos’ running game should be fine as long as one of them is able to play.
I would feel better backing the Broncos if Teddy Bridgewater were to be cleared from concussion protocol, but if the Chargers can’t stop the run, Drew Lock won’t have to do much in game-manager mode.
Pick: Broncos %plussign% 6.5
Brown: Herbert’s interception props have been a bit of a letdown in 2021. He has gone over his prop number in 10 of 15 games this season, despite having the seventh-lowest percentage of turnover-worthy plays. Among current starting quarterbacks, Herbert has the highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays that ended up leading to an interception. He is the only quarterback in the NFL with more interceptions than turnover-worthy plays in 2021. All of this points to one thing: Herbert has had an unprecedented amount of bad interception luck in 2021.
Denver typically isn’t the type of defense we would target for an interception under prop, as the unit sits 13th in PFF’s opponent-adjusted defensive rankings and moves up to 11th when looking at only their coverage unit. They don’t generate pressure at a high rate, however, and have struggled to make quarterbacks feel uncomfortable in the pocket.
Los Angeles is in a must-win spot to keep its slim playoff hopes alive, and there’s an expectation that Herbert will play one of his best games of the season as a result. His receiving unit should finally be back to full strength, with all of PFF’s modeling pointing toward a clean, efficient game for Herbert through the air. It is late in the season, but expecting things to regress for him from an interception standpoint looks like one of the best betting opportunities in Week 17.
Pick: Herbert Under 0.5 Interceptions (-115)
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers (-12, 44)
Tuley: Yes, the Texans upset the Chargers on Sunday, but they will face a tougher challenge here against the San Francisco defense. We do have some added uncertainty with Jimmy Garoppolo’s status due to his injured thumb and whether Trey Lance will be forced into action. Either way, we feel the Texans have shown enough to take as double-digit dogs, as it’s obvious they’re not tanking and Davis Mills isn’t looking as much like a deer with its eyes caught in the headlights. The line has dipped a little from a high of 15, but we’ll take them as long as it’s still double digits.
Pick: Texans %plussign% 12
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5, 52)
Youmans: It’s a distant memory now, but the Cardinals started 7-0 and quarterback Kyler Murray was a leading MVP candidate. Murray has not been the same dynamic playmaker since returning from an ankle injury, with Arizona averaging 17 points during its three-game losing streak. Still, the Cardinals are not as bad as they have appeared in December. Dallas is not the beast it appeared to be in Week 16 when the Dak Prescott-led offense totaled 497 yards in a 56-14 win against Washington. Buy low on the underdog here and sell high on a Cowboys team that has dropped home games to the Broncos and Raiders.
Pick: Cardinals %plussign% 6.5
Reynolds: It’s getting late in the season and that means that Kliff Kingsbury coached teams are fading down the stretch. It happened at Texas Tech and now it’s happening with the Arizona Cardinals, who have lost three straight. Kingsbury fell to 4-10 ATS as a home favorite with the loss to the Colts last Saturday night.
The Cardinals are crashing while the Cowboys are a league-best 12-3 ATS. Dallas just clinched the NFC East and scored 56 points in primetime (the franchise’s most since 1980) against Washington on Sunday night. How can you bet against the Cowboys now?
Well, if you look at some advanced metrics, these two clubs are relatively even. In expected points added (EPA) per play, the Cardinals are No. 7 in offense (0.084); the Cowboys, No. 10 (0.058). On defense, the Cowboys are No. 1 (-0.121); the Cardinals, No. 4 (-0.081).
Dallas is obviously a tad overvalued here with the disparate primetime performances for these two teams last weekend. Furthermore, Kingsbury is back in his best role as an underdog. He is 17-7-2 ATS as an underdog for his career and is 12-3-2 ATS as a road underdog. While he doesn’t get it done at home, Kingsbury plus his Cardinals have been road warriors.
Pick: Cardinals %plussign% 6.5
Tuley: Besides the Chiefs, there is no team getting more hype these days than the Cowboys. Granted, they’ve won and covered four straight and are up to the No. 2 seed in the NFC, but let’s not crown their ass quite yet. The advance line for this game was Cowboys -2.5 last week before the Cardinals lost to the Colts and the Cowboys routed the Washington Football Team. The line was reopened at Cowboys -3 on Sunday, but now it’s up to 5.5 and getting out of control. The Cardinals are reeling with three straight losses to fall from the NFC’s No. 1 seed to No. 5 as they’ve been passed by the Rams for the NFC West lead, but they still have plenty of talent and should be able to match the Cowboys score for score. The only fear is the Cowboys’ ability to get turnovers, led by cornerback Trevon Diggs’ 11 interceptions. The closer the turnover battle is, the closer the game will be.
Pick: Cardinals %plussign% 6.5
Brown: Gallup has exceeded his receiving yardage prop in 50 percent of games played this season. Dallas blew up offensively last week, yet Gallup squeezed over his prop number by just seven yards. With the entire receiving unit back and healthy, there is some uncertainty about his usage in this offense, especially in a game where the Cowboys don’t put up 56 points.
Last week, Gallup played his lowest percentage of offensive snaps since Week 10 and saw 10% of the team target share for the second straight game. He morphs into the downfield threat with everyone back and healthy and has seen by far the lowest percentage of catchable targets among pass-catchers in this offense. Gallup will need one big play to break right to go over this receiving yardage number, which is the perfect setup to fade in this matchup.
Pick: Gallup Under 44.5 Receiving Yards (-118)
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-6.5, 38)
Burke: The Panthers just might be beyond repair, but at least Sam Darnold represents an upgrade over Cam Newton. Newton's return was a desperate ploy by the Panthers to regain some sort of relevance by tapping into the past, but it was clear pretty much right away that the former MVP had nothing left in the tank.
The Saints will get Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian back this week, which represents a huge upgrade over Ian Book, but why would anybody want to lay almost a touchdown with the Saints? Even with Hill and Siemian for most of the action, this is a team that has exceeded 17 points once in the last five games. That came against the Jets and happened because the Saints had three fourth-quarter scoring drives of 51 or fewer yards.
If nothing else, Carolina still has a stout defense. In a game where scoring opportunities seem rather limited, getting a 6.5-point head start with a good defensive team against a suspect offense seems like a good investment.
Pick: Panthers %plussign% 6.5
Brown: Mark Ingram II simply hasn’t handled the necessary volume to go over his rushing yardage prop. He took just 19 percent of the New Orleans Saints’ rush attempts in a game where the team started rookie fourth-string quarterback Book. With the mobile Hill expected to draw the start in Week 17, Ingram will be even further down the pecking order for rush attempts.
Ingram also hasn’t been at all dynamic when given the opportunity, recording a 61.1 PFF rushing grade across 14 games with the Texans and now the Saints. Additionally, now that Alvin Kamara is back from injury and handling a full workload — as evidenced by his 51 carries over the past three weeks — it’s doubtful that Ingram will garner enough carries to reach 30-plus yards, especially against a number of expected stacked boxes due to Hill’s running ability.
Carolina’s defense has fallen off a cliff in the latter half of the season and now ranks 22nd in PFF’s opponent-adjusted defensive rankings. The team’s run defense ranks even worse, posting the second-lowest grade in that facet. This could be a reason to not fade Ingram, but if the more dynamic runners in the Saints’ offense are successful early, it’s tough to see head coach Sean Payton straying away from a working recipe. With New Orleans clinging to a 28 percent chance at making the playoffs, expect Ingram to turn into an afterthought in a matchup the team absolutely has to win.
Pick: Ingram II Under 30.5 Rushing Yards (-118)
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks (-7, 42.5)
Tuley: The Lions continue to cash for us as dogs as they’re now, unbelievably, 10-5 ATS despite a 2-12-1 SU record. We lucked out on Sunday as Dan Campbell chose to take a late FG trailing by 7 to get us the cover in a 20-16 loss to Falcons, though it again showed how this team keeps showing up each week and outperforming expectations, at least from an ATS perspective (which is all we care about here). We’re a little surprised this line is so high (though it was Seahawks -9 before coming down) as the Seahawks 2-5 SU & ATS in their last seven games and just lost 25-24 to the Bears at home. But, hey, we’ll continue to take whatever points they give us with this cover machine from Motor City.
Pick: Lions %plussign% 7
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-6.5, 45.5)
Tuley: I had the Vikings circled as a potential best bet earlier this week, but the 7’s mostly disappeared when we were going to press on Point Spread Weekly. However, we’re seeing some 7’s come back by Thursday night, though many books charging -115 or -120 to get the 7. That’s good enough for me. We cashed with the Browns last week in their 24-22 loss at the Packers — and should have won outright if they had stayed with Nick Chubb running through the Green Bay defense, or if Baker Mayfield wasn’t throwing so many interceptions. The Vikings can certainly have the same game plan with Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison as long as Kirk Cousins takes care of the ball. And, don’t forget that the Vikings beat the Packers 34-31 in their earlier meeting, so we know they can play with them even with the change of home fields.
Pick: Vikings %plussign% 6.5 (shop for a 7)