The NFL is set for a crazy Week 17, and oddsmakers are scrambling to adjust to the rapidly changing landscape.
There are only six of the league’s 12 playoff spots filled, and some big injury news has kept experts on their toes when it comes to setting the lines.
Whether it’s the ongoing matter of Aaron Rodgers’ health or the surprise news that Tony Romo may miss the rest of the season, NFL lines for the final week of the season have fluctuated wildly recently.
Here are my picks for how the league will shake out in Week 17. All lines are courtesy of Vegasinsider.com.
|Away Team||Home Team||Point Spread||Prediction|
|Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||CAR -7||CAR|
|Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||N/A||CHI|
|Houston Texans||Tennessee Titans||TEN -7||HOU|
|Cleveland Browns||Pittsburgh Steelers||PIT -7||PIT|
|Washington Redskins||New York Giants||NYG -3.5||NYG|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN -5.5||BAL|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Indianapolis Colts||IND -11.5||IND|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Dallas Cowboys||PHI -7||DAL|
|New York Jets||Miami Dolphins||MIA -6.5||NYJ|
|Detroit Lions||Minnesota Vikings||MIN -3.5||MIN|
|Buffalo Bills||New England Patriots||NE -9.5||NE|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||New Orleans Saints||NO -12.5||NO|
|Denver Broncos||Oakland Raiders||DEN -12.5||OAK|
|San Francisco 49ers||Arizona Cardinals||SF -3||ARI|
|Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||SD -10||SD|
|St. Louis Rams||Seattle Seahawks||SEA -10||SEA|
While each of these games is significant, two stand out above the rest.
Philadelphia Eagles (-7) at Dallas Cowboys
The news that Dallas Cowboys could be without Romo for the team’s final, NFC East-deciding matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles completely changed the landscape of the league.
The line for this game started off favoring the Cowboys by 2.5 points; the news about Romo definitively altered the complexion of the game.
While the Eagles looked dominant against the Chicago Bears in their most recent game, there is still some reason to believe that this drastic shift could be an overreaction.
Kyle Orton, the Cowboys’ backup, has plenty of starting experience, most recently completing 60.8 percent of his passes for the Kansas City Chiefs two years ago.
He certainly hasn’t been perfect, but he gives the Cowboys a chance to be competitive, as NBC’s Tony Dungy asserts:
Additionally, Dallas has started putting more responsibility on DeMarco Murray this season, which could make Romo’s absence less meaningful.
Murray’s run for 376 yards in the team’s last three games alone, and scored this game-winning touchdown in Week 16.
This isn’t to say that the Eagles don’t deserve to be favored in this game, but perhaps the experts are overestimating the negative impact Orton would have on the game if he were to play.
While the Eagles could certainly still win this game, Dallas could easily cover this spread at the very least.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-6.5)
The Miami Dolphins hold the key to the rest of the AFC wild-card picture, making this game a huge one.
However, favoring the Dolphins by a little less than a touchdown seems to be a little kind to Miami’s chances.
With their playoff hopes still uncertain, the Dolphins went up to Buffalo and completely self-destructed against the Bills, as the highlights from the game suggest.
Miami managed a whopping 14 yards on the ground against the Bills’ lowly 23rd-ranked run defense, while allowing Buffalo to run for 203 yards and average four yards per carry.
Meanwhile, the Jets do have some very faint playoff hopes of their own, sitting fifth in line in the AFC wild-card hunt, and will be playing for the fate of their coach.
“We feel like we can play well the rest of the season and maybe save his job, but at the same time we don’t know,” wide receiver David Nelson told the New York Daily News.
There’s no guarantee that the Jets can keep this momentum going, but it’s certainly worth considering.
Their defense has played very well recently, piling up three sacks and two interceptions against the Browns and two sacks against the Carolina Panthers in Week 15.
The Jets may very well lose this game, but Miami may have to fight until the very end, meaning a cover is very much in play here.
The Dolphins have proven that they won’t necessarily lay it all on the line for their playoff hopes with the way they played last week, while the Cowboys showed the exact opposite with their narrow win in Week 16.
Both of these matchups represent the best Week 17 has to offer, and regardless of their big spreads, they should each be competitive.
The question will be whether these teams manage to actually win outright, or merely satisfy gamblers with some unexpected covers.