The 2013 NFL regular season has reached its endpoint, with the Sunday slate of Week 17 games all that is left before the playoffs begin.
Gamblers who are either looking to get out of the red and into the black or just finish up a strong campaign of football betting on a high note are faced with one last opportunity to do so before the matchups become sparse and the lines tighten up.
Let’s take a look at the latest lines for every game, predict a winner against the spread for each and highlight a few stone-cold locks you will want to wager heavily on.
|Home Team||Away Team||Pick (Spread)|
|Carolina Panthers||Atlanta Falcons||Panthers (-6.5)|
|Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||Bears (+3)|
|Houston Texans||Tennessee Titans||Titans (-7)|
|Washington Redskins||New York Giants||Redskins (+4)|
|Cleveland Browns||Pittsburgh Steelers||Browns (+7)|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals (-6.5)|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Indianapolis Colts||Colts (-11.5)|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Dallas Cowboys||Eagles (-7)|
|New York Jets||Miami Dolphins||Dolphins (-6.5)|
|Detroit Lions||Minnesota Vikings||Vikings (-3)|
|Buffalo Bills||New England Patriots||Bills (+9.5)|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||New Orleans Saints||Saints (-13)|
|Denver Broncos||Oakland Raiders||Raiders (+13)|
|San Francisco 49ers||Arizona Cardinals||49ers (-1.5)|
|Kansas City Chiefs||San Diego Chargers||Chargers (-9.5)|
|St. Louis Rams||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks (-11)|
St. Louis Rams (+11) over Seattle Seahawks
Seattle’s home-field advantage has been significant in 2013, but it is being overrated here as St. Louis is being spotted double-digit points.
The Seahawks definitely still have something to play for, hence this large spread, as they host the Rams with home-field advantage throughout the postseason on the line, but it’s going to be a closer contest than expected.
Will Brinson of CBSSports.com noted that this is a tough matchup for Seattle, even playing in front of a friendly crowd at CenturyLink Field:
Everyone says Seahawks won't lose 2 in a row at home. I doubt it too, but Rams are a very bad matchup and division opponent— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 23, 2013
St. Louis is looking to finish an up-and-down year on a high note and has the potential to finish 5-2 over its last seven games. The defense deserves much of the credit for this late surge, with Robert Quinn’s 18 sacks leading the league.
Quinn and the rest of the Rams’ pass-rushers, such as Chris Long and his 7.5 sacks on the season, have been instrumental in helping this team knock off Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and a surprisingly effective Josh McCown and the Chicago Bears during a recent surge of wins.
It’s also important to remember that these two NFC West rivals met in St. Louis back in Week 8, when the Seahawks needed a goal-line stand to escape with a 14-9 victory.
Quarterback Kellen Clemens was making his first start in place of the injured Sam Bradford and had a poor showing against Seattle’s elite defense. With seven games under his belt since then, it is quite reasonable to expect Clemens to perform better on Sunday.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson incurred seven sacks in the contest and completed just 10 of 18 passes for 139 yards. He wasn’t carving up the defense with his feet either, as the second-year quarterback gained just 16 yards on three carries.
Don’t be surprised if Rams head coach Jeff Fisher employs many of the same defensive strategies against the signal-caller in Week 17, keeping the game very close and punching tickets for backers of his underdog squad.
Carolina Panthers (-6.5) over Atlanta Falcons
Few teams in the league have as much to play for as Carolina, as it could lock up the No. 2 seed and a bye with a win over NFC South rival Atlanta.
Superstar quarterback Cam Newton explained the consensus thought process heading into Week 17, as per Max Henson of the franchise’s official website: "I don't think we're going into this game looking at winning for the bye week. We're going into this game winning because we have to. Of course, we know what's riding on this game."
The Panthers' motivation is in stark contrast to that of the Falcons, a team that is just going through the motions at this point and hoping that the long-awaited offseason comes quickly and mercifully.
That isn’t the only polarizing difference between the clubs, as Carolina is dominating the ground game on both sides of the ball, while Atlanta is downright abysmal when it comes to mounting and stopping a rushing attack.
The Panthers should be able to run right through the Dirty Birds, as they average 126.1 yards per game on the ground and concede a mere 87.7 yards per contest to opposing rushers.
Considering the Falcons average just 78.1 yards per game rushing and allow 135.9 yards per game to opposing ball-carriers, it is completely reasonable to expect the Falcons to be held under 50 rushing yards and the Panthers to easily eclipse 200 yards on the ground in this one.
Which team will cover?
Even if the Dirty Birds allocate all their efforts to stopping the opposing ball-carriers, their sieve-like, 25th-ranked passing defense in terms of yards allowed will allow the Panthers to rack up big gains through the air.
To put it bluntly, Carolina is going to move the chains early and often and put tons of points on the board. It is the side you want to be behind, as the Falcons are going to struggle to do anything on offense and are on the cusp of a blowout.