As Thursday Night Football previewed, the stars will not all be out and about for #NFLWeek17 action. The Tennessee Titans rested what felt like their entire starting lineup in their loss, other contenders could follow suit. The Jacksonville Jaguars will be in a do-or-die game no matter what happens on Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and San Francisco 49ers could all err on the side of caution if a particular playoff spot seems inevitable. Which teams can we trust, even without a full starting lineup?
*All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise stated.*
Who is covering in the early slate?
Let’s just get the worst game of the week out first. The Arizona Cardinals looked dreadful under the quarterbacking of TikTok quarterback Trace McSorley. They teased a Colt McCoy return, but have turned to former Purdue Boilermaker David Blough. Their opponent? An Atlanta Falcons team trying out Desmond Ridder, who hasn’t been particularly impressive. If the over (41 points) hits, it will be a result of poor defense, not good offense. Regardless, I’ll take Atlanta’s run-heavy offense at home.
The Pick: Falcons -5.5 (-110), Tyler Allgeier Over 75.5 Rushing Yards (-119)
I’m fairly certain the New York Giants will beat the Indianapolis Colts. It’s just a matter of severity. The Colts failed to cover on a really generous spread on Monday Night Football, but I can see why the spread isn’t huge here. The Giants are limited offensively whether they admit it or not and are yet to secure a two-possession win. Obviously there is still room for a one-possession with a spread of 5.5, but still, they’re playing a lot of close games–and winning them, too. That trend should continue on Sunday, even.
The Pick: Colts +5.5 (-110)
Trap game. Trap game. Trap game. They won’t say it, but they’re focused on Week 18. We shouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is to win division games on the road, either, and the Houston Texans are fighting to play themselves out of the first overall selection. Players always want to win, even if fans and front offices are aligned against them.
The Pick: Texans +3 (-110)
Despite Deshaun Watson playing the worst football of his career, the Cleveland Browns very well could have the quarterbacking advantage. That’ll have to be the case if this Washington Commanders defensive front does what it has all year. I don’t trust Washington to stray too far away from mediocrity. Losing a pivotal game to an inferior team because they botched a quarterbacking decision fits like a glove. 🧤
The Pick: Browns +2 (-110), Browns Moneyline (+105)
I think Houston fans will be terrified for a few moments on Sunday as their Texans keep Sunday’s game close. They may find relief in checking the out of town scoreboard. The key to beating the Detroit Lions has been broadcasted for all to see: run the damn ball. Who better to do so than Justin Fields, headlining a rushing attack that ranks 9th in the league in EPA/Play? The Fields developmental boom has been awesome, but hasn’t resulted in much success. That could change on Sunday, effectively ending Detroit’s playoff hopes.
The Pick: Bears +6 (-110)
For all the marbles. Almost. The Carolina Panthers win the NFC South by winning out. Vegas has given them +300 odds to do so, meaning a $100 bet would net $300 in profit. If you’re backing the black and blue, be sure to use this promotion from Caesars: 100% UP TO $1,250 + 1,000 CREDITS.
Their hardest test will be beating Tom Brady against the wall in Tampa Bay. Without star cornerback Jaycee Horn, things can get difficult. I love what Steve Wilks has done, and the Sam Darnold brief resurgence has been cute, but I remain unconvinced that Carolina will come through when it truly matters.
The Pick: Buccaneers -4 (-110)
Earlier this week, I wrote that Tua Tagovailoa should not take another snap for the Miami Dolphins this season. We’re halfway there. Fortunately for them, the New England Patriots coaching staff is collapsing in on itself and Mac Jones has been left to dry. Throw in a few injuries to the Patriots’ defensive backfield and there is an opportunity to steal a victory in New England.
The Pick: Dolphins +2.5 (-110)
The Denver Broncos have fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett in hopes of a brighter future and a less annoying present. This, plus a team-wide show of support for its quarterback may mitigate the strains on the locker room that have pulled Denver apart. Make no mistake, they are still awful. However, the Kansas City Chiefs have failed to cover multiple times this year, including against Denver a few weeks ago. I like Denver to keep this one closer than most would be comfortable with. 😅
The Pick: Broncos +12.5 (-110)
Gardner Minshew has stepped up admirably in Jalen Hurts’ absence. He gets another tough test against the New Orleans Saints. Minshew won’t be asked to put up as many points as he did against Dallas, but the Saints are feistier than their record dictates. Given New Orleans’ run defense is below average, I like Philadelphia’s chances at using the ground to get ahead and close out this game.
The Pick: Eagles -5.5 (-110), DeVonta Smith To Score a Touchdown (+135)
Who is winning in the late afternoon window?
The best defense in football against a bad collegiate quarterback that has somehow stuck to an NFL roster long enough for it to implode. Jarrett Stidham against Brock Purdy sounds dystopic, but the San Francisco 49ers are so talented that this game is single-handedly redeemed. In this Battle of the Bay, I think the 49ers strike gold and run away with the NFC’s second seed.
The Pick: 49ers -9.5 (-110)
Good teams are not supposed to be field goal underdogs against teams five games worse than them in the standings. In fact, we’ve seen this one before, back when the Lions covered as favorites against this same Minnesota Vikings team. When Vegas is shouting, don’t turn on the noise-canceling headphones. Put $115 down to win $100 on the Green Bay Packers to cover. 🎧
The Pick: Packers -3 (-115), Aaron Rodgers Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns (-135)
Coincidentally, my fantasy championship and fanhood playoff aspirations both rely on one man: Mike White. The New York Jets are in striking distance against a reeling Seattle Seahawks team. Favored on the road, we should expect New York to perform as if their own playoff hopes are on the line (they are). A win here makes Week 18 do-or-die, assuming New England loses before the season ends. I’m looking forward to Garrett Wilson showing Tariq Woolen who the best rookie corner is. 👀
The Pick: Jets -1.5 (-110)
I can’t really explain last week’s explosion for the Los Angeles Rams. What I can explain, though, is why this matchup scares the hell out of me. Cam Akers looks better than ever, and the Los Angeles Chargers cannot stop the run. They have also clinched a playoff spot, potentially putting out the fire they played with in Indianapolis. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, the Chargers are no strangers to chaos or close games.
The Pick: Rams +6.5 (-110)
What are the best bets for the primetime games?
More primetime games means more bad quarterback matchups. At least it isn’t Denver again. This AFC North division rivalry could be influential in the seeding between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens, who will be without superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson. Ultimately, I trust Mike Tomlin’s team to win a gritty game on the road.
The Pick: Steelers +2 (-110)
Last week’s Game of the Year candidate came through despite an injury to an MVP candidate. This week, two healthy MVP candidates square off in Cincinnati. Joe Burrow and Josh Allen will be must-watch television. The Bengals are just as good as the Buffalo Bills, but I’m not sure they survive this one, even at home. The surplus of offensive talent is certainly a luxury, but Allen can do things physically that Burrow couldn’t dream of. Sometimes that’s all the difference.
The Pick: Bills -1.5 (-110), Over 50 (-110)
This article largely features against the spread (ATS) bets. In order to hit\, teams “cover” the spread if they win by more than that number. Underdogs, denoted with a (+) next to their spread, can either win or lose by less than the given amount. An example this week would be the Rams. If they win or lose by six or less, the Rams would cover. A 7+ point-loss would mean the Chargers would have recovered.