NFL Spreads Week 17: Breaking Down Best Bests of Season's Final Sunday
For as long as the 16-game schedule has been in effect, Week 17 has either a gambler's paradise or where you go to lose this month's mortgage payment.
Much like the season's first week, the oddsmakers have little knowledge of how teams' game plans will work. Oftentimes, that leads to the sportsbooks taking middle-of-the-road stances on games in order to avoid taking a bad beat.
Will the Falcons play their regular starters or treat Sunday's game like a preseason contest? We really don't know. However, there are a few games that stand out among the crowd as ones the oddsmakers just got plain wrong.
With that in mind, here is a look at a few of the best bets in Week 17's slate of action.
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (+3)
Though the Packers may have already locked up the NFC North, they'll be playing for something equally important on Sunday: a first-round bye. The team has been decimated by injuries all season (especially in the secondary and at wide receiver) and a one-week reprieve from the NFL schedule means nearly as much as the playoff berth itself.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are playing both for their playoff life and Adrian Peterson's MVP chase. Like it or not, history tells us that AD's team will need a postseason berth to even sniff a chance at voters writing his name atop their ballot. The last MVP to miss the postseason was O.J. Simpson way back in 1973 and he didn't have Peyton Manning standing in his way.
Unfortunately, Peterson's run for top honors will end on Sunday, exactly for the reason you expect: Christian Ponder. He may have brought some glee to the Minnesota faithful last week by managing the game well in the Vikings' victory over the Texans, but remember, this is a Houston secondary that has been beaten all over the field in the season's second half.
Green Bay, on the other hand, already has a boatload of success against Ponder. Heading into Week 17, the Vikings signal-caller is 0-3 against the Packers and has completed just 45.1 percent of his passes against the division rival, his worst rate against any opponent.
The Packers' success against Ponder has even come despite massive games from Peterson, who rushed for 202 yards in Green Bay's 23-14 win four weeks ago. There's too much pressure on Ponder and too much at stake to see anything but a relatively easy Green Bay victory.
Peterson may hit the 2,000-yard mark, but he'll be watching games from home in January.
Score Prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 14
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (+6.5)
Believe me, I want to hop on the Colts' bandwagon. I'm behind the whole #ChuckStrong movement and it would be nothing short of delightful if Indianapolis got a touching home victory in Chuck Pagano's first game back with the team.
Unfortunately, there's just absolutely nothing that would objectively point to that happening. The Colts' last eight wins have come against teams that have a combined 35-85 this season, which is essentially like they're playing 4-12 or 5-11 teams on a regular basis. Their two losses in the past 10 games have come against Houston and New England, teams that are competing for first-round byes.
Coincidence? Not at all. Indianapolis is a team that barely beats worse squads on a weekly basis and falters against top talent.
What's more, the Texans' biggest strength (rushing offense) coincides directly with the Colts' biggest weakness (run defense). Last week, Indianapolis became the first team in NFL history to win despite giving up 350 rushing yards and overall the team ranks 30th in run defense.
In the teams' first meeting, Arian Foster rushed for 165 yards on 27 carries and the Texans mostly coasted to a 29-17 victory. Look for much of the same to happen on Sunday, especially considering Houston needs this game while Indianapolis is already locked into the No. 5 seed.
Score Prediction: Texans 31, Colts 17
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (-7)
Other than being the defending Super Bowl champs and desperately needing this game, are there any truly logical reasons for the Giants to be favored by a touchdown? They've been abjectly destroyed the last two weeks by the Ravens and Falcons, 67-13, and their championship-worthy performances seemingly come at completely random moments.
After starting 6-2 and looking like a juggernaut, this team has fallen completely off a cliff and may be worse than anyone cares to admit. New York's vaunted pass rush ranks 19th in sacks, which has forced an already banged-up secondary out on Exile Island. And just take a look at Eli Manning's splits from the first-half and second-half of the season:
First Half: 62.6 PCT, 287.6 YPG, 12 TDs, 8 INT, 89.1 QB Rating
Second Half: 56.1 PCT, 205.6 YPG, 9 TDs, 7 INT, 76.3 QB Rating
That's indicative of a team and quarterback far more in disarray than any other second-half swoon we've seen from the Giants. They're not a sleeping giant. They're just a mediocre football team.
Granted, the Eagles aren't great shakes, either. They have only four wins on the season and it's likely that the men coaching and quarterbacking the team won't be back in 2013. But Michael Vick is an improvement over Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy's return essentially gives Philadelphia its preseason offense back, minus DeSean Jackson.
If Andy Reid has any pride remaining, he'll pull out all the stops on Sunday. The Eagles fall short, but it's a far closer game than the seven-point spread indicates.
Score Prediction: Giants 24, Eagles 21
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