Week 17 Edition
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*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
**Note – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider
***Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records Entering Week 17
Straight Up: 166-74 (.692) Last Week: 13-3 (.813) Total: 330-175-2 (.653)
Spread: 136-93-11 (.590) Last Week: 10-6 (.625) Total: 286-202-19 (.582)
Over/Under: 132-102-6 (.563) Last Week: 9-7 (.563) Total: 274-227-6 (.546)
Locks: 22-4 (.846) Last Week: 1-0 (1.000) Total: 54-10 (.844)
Best Bets: 63-40 (.612) Last Week: 5-2 (.714) Total: 192-140-1 (.578)
*Note: Total records date back to 2016 season.
CAPITAL Letters indicate pick with spread
*Aster-risk denotes LOCK
Green Bay Packers (7-8) vs Detroit Lions (8-7)
Spread: DET -7 Over/Under: 43
DVOA: GB (14) > DET (18)
Public Betting: DET 56%
The main thing you should be aware of with these Week 17 games is that it is difficult to assess a team’s motivation. Both the Packers and Lions, for instance, have already been eliminated from the postseason. So who wants this game more? Tough to say, but I do know that the Packers are extremely depleted. Bear with me as I go through the long list of Green Bay starters who will miss this meaningless game: Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, running back Aaron Jones, guard Jahari Evans, tackle Jason Spriggs, and outside linebacker Nick Perry. Oh, and Clay Matthews and starting corner Damarious Randall are questionable with injuries, as well. I’ll take a healthier Detroit side.
DETROIT 34, Green Bay 17
Houston Texans (4-11) vs Indianapolis Colts (3-12)
Spread: IND -5.5 Over/Under: 41
DVOA: HOU (32) < IND (25)
Public Betting: IND 62%
Third-string quarterback T.J. Yates’ Total QBR over the past two weeks is 2.2 (out of 100)….so the Colts should have little trouble, in theory, beating this injury-ravaged Texans team that will now be without star wideout DeAndre Hopkins (calf).
INDIANAPOLIS 23, Houston 17
Chicago Bears (5-10) vs Minnesota Vikings (12-3)
Spread: MIN -12 Over/Under: 38
DVOA: CHI (20) < MIN (5)
Public Betting: MIN 68%
The Bears’ 29th-ranked scoring offense will be without its two best offensive lineman, guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bobby Massie. That’s not a good recipe for success against the NFL’s top defense.
*MINNESOTA 27, Chicago 10
New York Jets (5-10) vs New England Patriots (12-3)
Spread: NE -15.5 Over/Under: 43
DVOA: NYJ (23) < NE (4)
Public Betting: NE 63%
The Jets have absolutely no chance in Foxboro this Sunday. Since taking over for an injured Josh McCown three weeks ago, Bryce Petty has completed just 47.4% of his passes for a per attempt average of 4.11. Unsurprisingly, New York is averaging a league-low 8.7 points per game over this stretch, so the Patriots should clinch home-field in convincing fashion.
*NEW ENGLAND 34, New York 3
Washington Redskins (7-8) vs New York Giants (2-13)
Spread: WSH -3 Over/Under: 39.5
DVOA: WSH (17) > NYG (30)
Public Betting: WSH 73%
With absolutely no help around him (receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram have both been ruled out with injuries), Eli Manning’s possible finale in a Giants uniform will be uneventful.
WASHINGTON 27, New York 9
Dallas Cowboys (8-7) vs Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)
Spread: DAL -3 Over/Under: 39
DVOA: DAL (11) > PHI (3)
Public Betting: DAL 68%
Eagles coach Doug Pederson stated that he doesn’t plan to let the starters play for more than a half. But even if Pederson did let Nick Foles and company play the full game, I’d still take Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys based on how dreadful Philadelphia looked last Monday night.
DALLAS 24, Philadelphia 13
Cleveland Browns (0-15) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3)
Spread: PIT -6 Over/Under: 36.5
DVOA: CLE (29) < PIT (6)
Public Betting: PIT 66%
Wait a minute…the Steelers still technically have a chance at the AFC’s number one seed, yet Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell are both projected to sit, along with a few other key Pittsburgh starters? Come on Cleveland, this is your chance!
Pittsburgh 20, CLEVELAND 17
Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) vs Denver Broncos (5-10)
Spread: DEN -4 Over/Under: 38
DVOA: KC (15) > DEN (31)
Public Betting: KC 74%
The Chiefs are locked into the fourth seed, so they’ll start highly-touted rookie Pat Mahomes in place of Alex Smith. Who knows what to expect from Mahomes, but I bet he can’t be worse than Paxton Lynch, who will get his last chance to prove he can be Denver’s quarterback for the future.
KANSAS CITY 17, Denver 13
Carolina Panthers (11-4) vs Atlanta Falcons (9-6)
Spread: ATL -3.5 Over/Under: 45
DVOA: CAR (8) > ATL (13)
Public Betting: CAR 61%
The key to victory for Atlanta, who needs a win (or a Seattle loss) to clinch a postseason berth, will be to execute in the red zone. Last week, for instance, the Falcons were on New Orleans’ doorstep multiple times, yet only converted on 25% of their red zone opportunities. This has been a problem for Matt Ryan and company all season, as they rank just 20th in this category. It remains to be seen whether Atlanta will be able to break through against Carolina’s solid defense, too. However, the Panthers rank only 13th in red zone defense and 14th in opponent third down conversion rate. In other words, they’re not impenetrable, so I’ll take the desperate Falcons to win.
Atlanta 23, CAROLINA 20
New Orleans Saints (11-4) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11)
Spread: NO -5 Over/Under: 49
DVOA: NO (2) > TB (26)
Public Betting: NO 59%
The Saints need a win to secure the NFC South title. But a victory won’t necessarily come easily against a pesky Buccaneers team that has lost three consecutive games to over .500 opponents (Detroit, Atlanta, and Carolina) by just three points apiece. Nonetheless, Tampa Bay ranks 28th in defensive DVOA, so Drew Brees and company should have little trouble putting up points.
NEW ORLEANS 31, Tampa Bay 17
Arizona Cardinals (7-8) vs Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
Spread: SEA -9 Over/Under: 38
DVOA: ARZ (19) < SEA (12)
Public Betting: SEA 60%
Seattle’s defense returned to form last week against Dallas, as it held the Cowboys to only 12 points despite getting no help from Russell Wilson and company, who totaled just 136 yards of offense. The odds of the Seahawks playing that poorly offensively again are low, though. So I’ll take Seattle to roll past the Cardinals.
SEATTLE 27, Arizona 13
San Francisco 49ers (5-10) vs Los Angeles Rams (11-4)
Spread: SF -4 Over/Under: 43.5
DVOA: SF (21) < LA (1)
Public Betting: SF 75%
Rams coach Sean McVay is making the correct decision by sitting starters like Jared Goff and Todd Gurley in order to position themselves to play the Carson Wentz-less Eagles in the divisional round rather than the Vikings, should LA hold serve next weekend. This is obviously great news for the 49ers, who should win their fifth game in a row after inserting Jimmy Garoppolo under center.
SAN FRANCISCO 31, Los Angeles 17
Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) vs Baltimore Ravens (9-6)
Spread: BAL -9.5 Over/Under: 40
DVOA: CIN (24) < BAL (7)
Public Betting: CIN 62%
Now we’re onto the key AFC games with playoff implications. The team in most control of its own destiny is Baltimore, who needs a win (or, if needed, losses from the Titans or Bills) to make the postseason. Beating a banged-up Cincinnati team that ranks 28th in scoring shouldn’t be too difficult, as the Ravens have scored at least 23 points in each of their past six games.
Baltimore 26, CINCINNATI 17
Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5) vs Tennessee Titans (8-7)
Spread: TEN -2.5 Over/Under: 41.5
DVOA: JAC (9) > TEN (22)
Public Betting: JAC 61%
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone insists that the starters will play even though Jacksonville has nothing to play for. That’s bad news for the Titans, who have completely collapsed in the second half of the season: their only wins over the past six weeks have come against Indianapolis (3-12) and Houston (4-11). I don’t see Marcus Mariota (12 TD, 15 INT in ’17) having success against the league’s top-ranked pass defense, meaning Tennessee will need help from others in order to make the playoffs.
JACKSONVILLE 19, Tennessee 13
Buffalo Bills (8-7) vs Miami Dolphins (6-9)
Spread: BUF -2 Over/Under: 42.5
DVOA: BUF (28) > MIA (27)
Public Betting: BUF 66%
Since I’m projecting Tennessee to lose, the Bills will have a chance to end the longest postseason drought in sports (17 seasons). Nothing ever comes easy for Buffalo, though, particularly since its offense ranks 30th in the NFL in yards per play. However, given the stakes, I have enough confidence in the Bills to beat Jay Cutler and a Dolphins team that has no postseason opportunity to play for.
BUFFALO 20, Miami 17
Oakland Raiders (6-9) vs Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)
Spread: LAC -7 Over/Under: 42
DVOA: OAK (16) < LAC (10)
Public Betting: OAK 68%
Unfortunately for the Bills, they’ll still need the Chargers to lose because LA owns the tiebreaker for the final wild card slot in the AFC should the two teams each finish 9-7. But I don’t see the Raiders, who looked dreadful in their five-turnover lose last Monday to the Eagles, spoiling the Chargers’ playoff hopes, particularly since LA’s fifth-ranked passing offense possess a massive edge over Oakland’s 27th-ranked secondary.
LOS ANGELES 28, Oakland 20
So here is my projected playoff field:
1 New England Patriots (13-3)
2 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
3 Jacksonville Jaguars (11-5)
4 Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)
5 Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
6 Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)
1 Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)
2 Minnesota Vikings (13-3)
3 New Orleans Saints (12-4)
4 Los Angeles Rams (11-5)
5 Carolina Panthers (11-5)
6 Atlanta Falcons (10-6)
And lastly, here are my Best Bets for Week Seventeen…
- DETROIT (-7) over Green Bay
- TEASER: MINNESOTA (-5.5) over Chicago & NEW ENGLAND (-9) over New York
- WASHINGTON (-170) over New York
- NEW ORLEANS (-245) over Tampa Bay
- TEASER: SEATTLE (-2.5) over Arizona & CINCINNATI (+16) over Baltimore
- Buffalo vs Miami UNDER 42.5
- TEASER: LOS ANGELES (-0.5) over Oakland & Jacksonville vs Tennessee UNDER 48