Week 17 NFL Picks: Underdogs That Will Cover the Spread

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 30: Quarterback Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles scrambles against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on September 30, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Week 17 in the NFL is always a bit of a kerfuffle. Fantasy players, especially the ones who fittingly end their season in Week 16, know this to be quite true.

And handicappers are no different.

At the time of publication, just two days before kickoff, three lines remain unlisted at the Las Vegas Hilton. Bookmakers are fastidious with their caution in Week 17, making sure not to get burned by funky lineups and backup QBs.

But still, like any other week, there is value to be found for wagerers who dig deep enough. Especially the ones, like me, who prefer to bet underdogs.

So without further adieu, here are three dogs that present good value in Week 17:


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (+7.5) at New York Giants

Could you think of a more fitting end to the Andy Reid era than a playoff-hope-crippling upset in the Meadowlands?

Michael Vick makes his triumphant return to the lineup on Sunday, leading an Eagles team that, while continuing to lose, has shown signs of life the past two weeks.

Vick insists that he won't be "auditioning" for other teams against the Giants, but that's not how opposing GMs see it. They want to see what Vick has left in the tank, and Vick is well-apprised of that fact.

With no game to play for next week, Vick will not have to worry about taking too many hits or keeping his body healthy. He will be unshackled from the burdens that often grounded him during his tenure in Philadelphia. Look for him to run all over the field with reckless abandon and create tons of plays with his legs.

That could be trouble for the Giants, who, despite still having faint playoff hopes, are one of the coldest teams in football. They're late-season magicians, sure, but during the past two weeks, they've bungled their slight of hand.

7.5 points is a lot to cover for a team playing this poorly. Take the points and run.


Green Bay Packers at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (+3.5)

I'm not blind. I'm privy to the Packers' four-game win streak, and I watched their effortless rout of the Titans last week. I've also seen the Vikings offense look, at times, like one of the worst units in the league.

I don't care.

In the Metrodome, with their entire season on the line, I can't see a scenario where the Vikings lay an egg this weekend. They played the Packers close in Green Bay this season—leading at halftime before eventually losing by nine—and are playing their best football of the season.

Minnesota is 6-1 at home this season, their only loss coming on a short week against the Buccaneers. That resume of wins includes games against San Francisco and Chicago, too, so it's not like they were feasting on cupcakes.

Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 210 yards in the teams' first meeting, should be able to move the chains and control the clock, especially against a Packers' run defense that's nothing to write home about.

I'm not sure they come out with the outright win. But Minnesota is on the right side of three, a key number in handicapping, which makes them a solid bet.


CAROLINA PANTHERS (+5) at New Orleans Saints

Carolina hasn't just been one of the league's best teams in recent weeks. They've secretly been one of the league's best teams all season.

Of their nine losses, only two came by more than six points. They've struggled in close games, sure, but the extent of those struggles are more of an outlier than a cause for concern.

According to Football Outsiders' team efficiency rankings—one of the most respected metrics in all of sports—Carolina is the NFL's ninth-best team. That puts them ahead of NFC-leading Atlanta (who ranks 11th), AFC-leading Houston (who ranks 13th), and AFC North-leading Baltimore (who ranks 10th).

New Orleans has also improved upon a miserable start, but not quite to the extent of Carolina. They rank 18th in the Football Outsiders rankings. I could understand a line of Saints -2.5, but five seems way too high for me. Even in the Superdome.

Take the Panthers with confidence.