NFL Picks Against the Spread Week 17: Underdogs That Will Cover the Odds

Tyler Brooke@TylerDBrookeSenior Analyst IIDecember 26, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 22: Robert Quinn #94 of the St. Louis Rams celebrates after recording a sack against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Edward Jones Dome on December 22, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Rams beat the Buccaneers 23-13.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

There is one week left in the NFL season, and while there will be some teams playing in meaningless games, there are still some underdogs playing in Week 17 that will be able to cover the odds.

With just 16 total NFL games remaining, all four division titles have been clinched in the AFC, while none of the divisions have been locked up in the NFC, although three teams have clinched playoff berths.  Some games will be meaningless for some, but others will be fighting for dear life to grab a playoff spot.

Below is a look at a few underdogs that will be able to cover the spread, breaking them down and explaining why they will be able to do so.

Note: All betting lines provided by Bovada.com and are up to date as of December 25.

 

Houston Texans (+7) at Tennessee Titans

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 22:  J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans enters the field before the game against the Denver Broncos at Reliant Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Date: Sunday, Dec. 29

Time: 1 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

The Houston Texans are simply having a terrible season, losing their last 13 games.  But even if they don't win this week, they should be able to stay within a touchdown of the Tennessee Titans.

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 15:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #4 of the Tennessee Titans throws a pass against the Arizona Cardinals at LP Field on December 15, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The last time these two teams met was in Week 2, with the Texans pulling out the exciting 30-24 win in overtime.  But this is a different team now, as they're without Brian Cushing on defense and Arian Foster on offense.  On the other hand, the defense has still been solid all year, allowing just 318 yards and 27.5 points per game.

For the Titans, they haven't been an efficient team since losing Jake Locker.  They've gone 2-5 over their last seven games, including an embarrassing 29-27 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars back in Week 10.

Although the Texans haven't won since Week 2, six of their 13 losses have been decided by five points or less.  I expect much of the same this week, as I don't see the Titans winning this game by more than seven points.

 

New York Jets (+7) at Miami Dolphins

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets looks on from the sidelines during the  first half against the the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium on December 22, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ron Antonell
Ron Antonelli/Getty Images

Date: Sunday, Dec. 29

Time: 1 p.m. ET

Time: CBS

Even though the Miami Dolphins are fighting for a playoff spot, they're still going to have to get through a New York Jets team that could be playing their last game with head coach Rex Ryan.

According to NFL: Around the League, Ryan reportedly told his team that he expects to be fired after this season.

Even though Ryan may be fired, the Jets have done a lot without a ton of talent, going 7-8 this season, even with a struggling Geno Smith.  The defense has been very solid without a lot of help from the offense, as they have the third-best run defense, allowing just 88 yards per game.

If the Jets can make the Dolphins a one-dimensional team, that could spell big trouble for Ryan Tannehill, as they could pressure him frequently.  The offensive line that had held up so well after losing both Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito gave up seven sacks this past week against the Buffalo Bills, and that could be a big problem for them.

Not only do I think that the Jets will rally around their coach and make this a close game, but I also expect them to get the win and finish the season at 8-8.

 

St. Louis Rams (+11) at Seattle Seahawks

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 22: Head coach Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams watches from the sidelines during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Edward Jones Dome on December 22, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Image
Michael Thomas/Getty Images

Date: Sunday, Dec. 29

Time: 4:25 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

With a win, the Seattle Seahawks can grab the No. 1 seed in the NFC along with home-field advantage in the playoffs, but the St. Louis Rams have been having a pretty solid season of their own, especially recently.

Over the past six games, the Rams have gone 4-2 with wins over the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints.  This isn't a team with a top-tier offense, but the emergence of Zac Stacy has been welcome, and Kellen Clemens has been doing the best he can as a backup quarterback forced into the starting role.

But the big story for the Rams has been their intimidating front seven on defense.  With a league-leading 18 sacks this year, Robert Quinn is making a strong case for the Defensive Player of the Year award, while others like Chris Long and William Hayes have had strong seasons as well.

Although they have the best team in the NFC, the Seahawks haven't looked like themselves since their 34-7 win over the Saints.  They've gone just 1-2 since, including their first regular-season loss at home since 2011 this past week against the Arizona Cardinals.  

In today's league, winning by more than 11 points isn't an easy thing to do, even against weaker opponents.  The Rams are an underrated team, and they should be able to make this a closer one than the betting line believes it will be.