NFL Week 17 Odds, Lines, Spreads for Each Game
We've reached Week 17 of my NFL picks against the spread, and I can say I learned one thing this season: It's much more fun when you have something on the line.
Sunday, I arrived at my friend's house for the Detroit Lions game. We watch it together just about every week.
This week was different, though.
He was visibly more excited than me. It was all because he was in the finals of our fantasy football league and had a chance at claiming the top spot in a pick 'em contest.
Myself? I was knocked out in the semifinals and was apprehensive the Lions would blow it (they did, but you already knew that since I typed "Lions").
Some teams don't have anything on the line this week. That will matter in these picks.
Don't judge me. I know it's a gimmick I came up with to keep me motivated, but it's working. And I'll do the same thing next week when we start the playoffs.
Last Week's Record: 6-10
Six-Week Challenge Record: 40-36-2
Season Record: 106-129-8
All lines are courtesy of FootballLOCKS.com. All stats, advanced metrics and rankings are provided by Pro Football Focus and require a subscription.
Carolina Panthers (-7) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Solely for the 2013 season, would you have rather been an Atlanta Falcons fan or a Detroit Lions fan?
Think about it. The Falcons came in as Super Bowl favorites but promptly gave up that description. The Lions limped in from a 4-12 season, stormed to a 6-3 record and then turned the ball and their season over.
Some might say the Lions at least had hope as recently as a week ago. I'd say hope is a dangerous thing.
I'm not bitter. Really. I've moved on. I've accepted it.
I hate football.
Regardless, the Falcons have nothing except draft positioning on the line against the Carolina Panthers, who love blowing out bad teams and have done so twice this year. A touchdown is not nearly enough to scare me off from the second-seeded Panthers.
Pick: Carolina (-7)
Green Bay Packers (off) vs. Chicago Bears
The Battle for the NFC North won't be a question of who wants it more but who wants it less.
With a chance to win the division a week early, the Chicago Bears were annihilated by an Eagles team that gave up 48 points to the Vikings just a week prior. That's not good.
But the Green Bay Packers weren't much better. They squandered leads to the Pittsburgh Steelers as Matt Flynn reminded everyone why he was expendable in his last three vocation locations.
I wish there were points that could be taken here because picking a straight-out winner is a brutal task.
In the end, Chicago's complete lack of a defense, including a league-worst rushing defense, can't be trusted. Not when Eddie Lacy is mounting a strong Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign and might actually be accompanied by Aaron Rodgers after a long-awaited comeback.
Pick: Green Bay (OFF)
Houston Texans (+6) vs. Tennessee Titans
It's extremely difficult to lose 13 games in a row. Yet, the Houston Texans have accomplished that feat.
That said, it's even harder to lose 14 in a row. And the last opponent the Texans beat?
The Tennessee Titans. And that was when the Titans still had something play for and had their starting quarterback.
Besides, are the Texans two points worse than the Jaguars, whom the Titans only beat by four?
Six points is too much. Don't pay a premium for a subpar product. That's the key to living within your means.
Pick: Houston (+6)
Cleveland Browns (+7) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
If this weren't a division game, I'd lean toward laying the points with the Pittsburgh Steelers. They can give themselves a shot at the playoffs, unthinkable after their 2-6 start, with the win at home.
But the Cleveland Browns are in the AFC North. They're familiar with the Steelers. There's not only a rivalry but certainly some jealousy from the Cleveland fanbase.
Last week's debacle in New York aside, this team has kept games close for the last month despite having zero reason to win. Now it has a chance to ruin the rejuvenated Steelers' season.
The Browns won't, but they won't get crushed either. The Browns love messing with their fans. This seems like the perfect opportunity to do so.
And don't point to their last meeting. Brandon Weeden was heavily involved.
Pick: Cleveland (+7)
Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants (-3.5)
Believe me. I'm as shocked as you are.
I can't believe I'm taking the Giants giving more than the standard home-field advantage (3).
But there's something special about this Washington Redskins. And it's especially horrible.
Washington ranks as the second-to-worst defense according to Pro Football Focus' grading system and to the naked eye. Only Chicago can make this defense look good.
While the New York Giants aren't a good team, they're at least average when Eli Manning isn't sailing interceptions at an alarming rate. And giving head coach Tom Coughlin a walk-off win in what could be his final game is just enough to put this team over the top.
Pick: New York (-3.5)
Baltimore Ravens (+5.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Welcome to this week's biggest overreaction line.
Yes, the Baltimore Ravens got crushed last week.
Yes, the Cincinnati Bengals made short work of the Vikings.
But this is a division game with the playoffs on the line for the Ravens. They aren't going to fall victim to one of Cincinnati's 40 bombs that the Bengals have dropped every two or three weeks recently.
There are too many proud veterans (Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, etc.) for it to happen two weeks in a row, right?
Uh oh. I'm already wavering.
But the Ravens are like Jason. You have to kill the heart to rid yourself of them. And even after you dissolve it in acid, some money-grubbing producer will find a way to revive them to make more money.
That's some serious football-related analysis right there.
Pick: Baltimore (+5.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars (+11.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts are a funny team during a strange season. They've beaten some good teams, pounded some bad ones and also mailed in entire games.
Remember, the recurring theme for Week 17 and this slideshow is motivation. And there isn't a ton of it for the Indianapolis Colts.
The AFC South was sown up on December 8th—fittingly—with a loss. They can move up one spot in the seedings, but that's not nearly the same pressure as win and you're in.
And the Colts just blew the doors off the Chiefs. With a home playoff game just a week away, there's a heavy scent of anticipation for the next game and a definite dusting of not-paying-attention-to-the-Jacksonville-Jaguars in the air.
Plus, the Jags have something to play for. Head coach Gus Bradly, who has done a better job than you realize, will sell his team on the importance of establishing a winning foundation to build upon this offseason.
Lastly, Jacksonville has kept every game relatively close since its bye week. It's a bit much to predict an upset, but a closer game than anticipated is certainly in the works.
Pick: Jacksonville (+11.5)
Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5) vs. Dallas Cowboys
When the NFL started scheduling division games at the end of the season in 2010, this is the exact scenario it envisioned: two hugely public teams battling for a division title and a playoff spot.
What it didn't want was for one team to lose its star quarterback that week.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, via kfoxtv.com, Tony Romo will miss the rest of the Dallas Cowboys' season. The line jumped five points as soon as the news broke.
It should have gone higher.
The Philadelphia Eagles are an offensive powerhouse. The Dallas Cowboys simply don't have the horses to keep this a low-scoring affair that backup Kyle Orton can manage.
Don't take my word for it. The Cowboys haven't graded positively in a single category defensively this season save for penalties.
So do you expect Dallas to keep this remotely close when it has to face LeSean McCoy, who should be getting at least a smidge of MVP chatter? This is the league's leading rusher. He just happens to play with the league's highest-rated passer. Don't punish McCoy for Nick Foles' success.
Romo, whether you want to believe it or not, was Dallas' only hope for this game. At least the Cowboys faithful won't have to suffer through a close loss to end this year.
Pick: Philadelphia (-7.5)
New York Jets (+6.5) vs. Miami Dolphins
The NFL loves it some parity, but to what effect? The last spot in the AFC will have no better than a 9-7 record. One could say the league got what it deserved.
So, if the last playoff team, currently the Baltimore Ravens, isn't very good, why would you lay 6.5 points with it?
The New York Jets will be fighting hard for Rex Ryan. He's a players' coach who has taken one of the least talented teams and coached it to within a losing conference record of the playoffs. It's truly amazing when you think about it.
Plus, the Jets can play the role of spoiler for a division opponent, something that has factored into a few games this week. Well, except for the Cowboys, but I covered that pretty heavily in the Dallas slide.
Oh, one last thing. The Jets are only one game behind the Dolphins. One game! Yet, they're getting 6.5 points.
If this is Ryan's last game with New York, I have one hope, which is that his team wins and then carries him off the field so he can go get an expletive-deleted snack.
Pick: New York (+6.5)
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings (-3)
It's too bad the Detroit Lions aren't embroiled in the same type of nickname controversy that has surrounded the Washington camp all season. They need an image makeover.
All they do is hand out turnovers. It's like they've been inspired by all of those Christmas commercials.
And at this point, watching one of the main perpetrators, Reggie Bush, is like hanging out with a guy when you know his girlfriend cheated on him. You're not good enough friends to tell him, but it makes the whole experience uncomfortable.
In all seriousness, this line would have been Detroit by at least seven just a month ago. This spread is a testament to the crumbling Lions. Based on Matthew Stafford's body language and linebacker DeAndre Levy's comments that this team was already looking ahead when it was 6-3, we can go ahead and write this one in ink.
Notice how I didn't spend a word until now about the Minnesota Vikings? That's because I don't have to. It's that bad in Motown.
Pick: Minnesota (-3)
Buffalo Bills (+8.5) vs. New England Patriots
Have you noticed the other theme besides motivation?
That's right. I'm riding dogs in most of the divisional games.
The reasons are simple.
The New England Patriots aren't going to find a lot of rushing lanes against the Buffalo Bills. While the Bills have given up an unimpressive 119.7 yards per game on the ground, that's due to a few bad games as opposed to sustained poor play.
Next, the Bills are legitimately good against the pass. Tom Brady might be turning in one of the more impressive performances of his career considering the supporting cast he's working with, but Buffalo has done well all season, as its fifth-ranked pass defense can attest.
Finally, these two usually play close games. With Buffalo's ability to run the ball, and injuries creating too many holes in the defense for New England, this game will be short and violent.
In that situation, you always take the points, especially when it's more than a touchdown.
Pick: Buffalo (+8.5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints (-12.5)
Despite all of their road woes, the New Orleans Saints aren't completely out of the NFC South race. If the Panthers stumble in Atlanta and the Saints win, New Orleans will grab a bye and, just as importantly, host a playoff game.
That's why this line won't deter me from taking the Saints.
They play lights-out at home (pun intended). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are limping to the finish line, having lost their last two games by an average of 14.5 points.
Don't overthink this. You'll be kicking yourself come Sunday.
Pick: New Orleans (-12.5)
Denver Broncos (-12.5) vs. Oakland Raiders
Different slide, different teams, but this game will play out exactly as the prior slide.
And if you think he doesn't take that scrutiny and add it to his already roaring fire of motivation, you're nuts. These guys are competitive as all get-out (always wanted to use that phrase). They'll take any edge they can find.
Plus, the Denver Broncos are playing the Oakland Raiders with the top seed in the AFC on the line. I can't think of a single reason not to lay the points.
Pick: Denver (-12.5)
San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals (+3)
This is the hardest game of the weekend to predict. And will probably be the best.
The Arizona Cardinals can make the playoffs with a win and a Saints loss. The San Francisco 49ers have a chance at the No. 1 seed and the NFC West with Seahawks and Panthers losses or at least a first-round bye and the division title with a Saints loss.
So nobody is lacking for motivation. Or defense.
This game will be a bruising affair, but Carson Palmer is a better passer than Colin Kaepernick, and Palmer is comfortable at home. It's not much. I'm just not ready to trust a quarterback who has only thrown for seven more touchdown passes in his career than Palmer has this year.
However, the better quarterback, the home team and three points is a nice combination.
Pick: Arizona (+3)
Kansas City Chiefs (+10) vs. San Diego Chargers
This is the second-hardest game to peg because it's impossible to know what Andy Reid will do with the Kansas City Chiefs starters. They have nothing to gain with a win this week, but we've seen what happens when teams sit their starters in anticipation of the playoffs.
They get out of sync.
Plus, they lost last week. Nobody wants to back into the playoffs. And you have to remember this team has lost four of its last six games and hasn't beaten a quality opponent since 2011 against the Packers.
Anytime you can knock a team out of the playoffs, you need to. What if you see that team again? Do you want it walking in with confidence?
The Chiefs will at least play hard, and they're getting 10 points. Oh, and I hate the San Diego Chargers again. I'm positive I'm 1-14 picking their games this year.
Pick: Kansas City (+10)
St. Louis Rams vs. Seattle Seahawks (-10)
Well, if it happened once, it can surely happened again. Right?
No. Absolutely not. Do not take the points because the Cardinals walked into Seattle and left with a victory.
That was a weird game. It was an inspired effort from a borderline-great defense from the desert, and somehow Carson Palmer was able to overcome four interceptions to throw the game-winning touchdown.
But that isn't happening with Kellen Clemens. Not against a ticked-off Seattle Seahawks team trying to right the ship before the playoffs.
Pick: Seattle (-10)
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