Week 17 NFL Picks: Examining Best Bets Against the Spread

Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 22:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Week 17 is usually one of the most maddening weeks of the year when it comes to betting on the NFL due to the fact that many teams tend to have things sewn up. However, with only the Kansas City Chiefs locked into a playoff spot without the possibility of rising or falling, Week 17 will play out like any other week this season.

Bettors won't have to worry too much about teams sitting their starters or putting in less than 100 percent effort due to the fact that there is a lot riding on almost every game. That is great for the NFL first and foremost, but it is also very helpful when it comes to handicapping.

With all of that in mind, here are the three biggest locks against the spread in Week 17 that will have gamblers celebrating come Sunday night.

NFL Week 17 Picks Against the Spread
Away TeamHome TeamSpreadPick ATS
Carolina PanthersAtlanta FalconsCAR (-6)ATL
Houston TexansTennessee TitansTEN (-7)HOU
Cleveland BrownsPittsburgh SteelersPIT (-7)PIT
Washington RedskinsNew York GiantsNYG (-3.5)WAS
Baltimore RavensCincinnati BengalsCIN (-6)BAL
Jacksonville JaguarsIndianapolis ColtsIND (-10.5)IND
New York JetsMiami DolphinsMIA (-5.5)NYJ
Detroit LionsMinnesota VikingsMIN (-3)MIN
Green Bay PackersChicago BearsGB (-3)GB
Buffalo BillsNew England PatriotsNE (-8.5)BUF
Tampa Bay BuccaneersNew Orleans SaintsNO (-12)NO
Denver BroncosOakland RaidersDEN (-12)DEN
San Francisco 49ersArizona CardinalsOFFSF
Kansas City ChiefsSan Diego ChargersSD (-9.5)KC
St. Louis RamsSeattle SeahawksSEA (-11.5)SEA
Philadelphia EaglesDallas CowboysPHI (-6.5)PHI
Spreads courtesy of Vegas Insider

 

Denver Broncos (-12 @ OAK)

The Denver Broncos have been the AFC's dominant team this season, and even though it would be very easy for them to look ahead to the playoffs, there is still work to be done in Week 17.

The Broncos have not yet clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC since they are just one game ahead of the New England Patriots, and the Pats hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. Because of that, Denver needs to defeat the Oakland Raiders in Week 17 in order to ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Winning in Oakland is never an easy endeavor, but the Raiders are clearly among the weaker teams in the league. Denver beat the Raiders by just 16 points in Week 3, but the score wasn't indicative of just how much the Broncos dominated that game.

The Broncos are favored by 12 points on the road this week, and it's tough to imagine Oakland keeping up offensively. In addition to the No. 1 seed, the Broncos are chasing a record, as they can become the most prolific offense in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Peyton Manning already set the single-season record for touchdown passes in Week 16 with his 51st strike through the air. He will almost certainly pad that record with Denver tuning up for the playoffs. The Broncos can afford to play all of their starters since a first-round playoff bye is looming, and that will almost certainly lead to a one-sided victory in the Broncos' favor.

 

Buffalo Bills (+8.5 @ NE)

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 01:  Fred Jackson #22 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates scoring a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons at Rogers Centre on December 1, 2013 in Toronto, Ontario.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Despite suffering through a myriad of injuries on both sides of the ball this season, the Patriots are somehow still in line to secure a first-round playoff bye in the AFC, and they have an outside shot at earning the No. 1 seed. The Pats would need to defeat the Buffalo Bills in Week 17, and the Broncos would have to lose to the Raiders in order for the latter scenario to happen, so while it isn't likely, it is possible.

Because of that, the Patriots will be playing full bore on Sunday. Even so, that doesn't guarantee an easy victory over the Bills. The Pats needed a last-second field goal to beat the Bills way back in Week 1, and Buffalo is far more dangerous than its 6-9 record suggests.

Buffalo's defense is particularly scary, as it leads the NFL in sacks and is tied for second in the AFC in takeaways along with the Patriots. The big question for the Bills relates to their quarterback situation, as rookie EJ Manuel has been limited in practice after missing Week 16 with a knee injury. According to the Bills' official Twitter account, Manuel will sit in favor of backup Thad Lewis once again in Week 17.

Some might view that as a major blow to the Bills' chances, but Lewis has performed admirably this season, and he is coming off a win over the Miami Dolphins.

Running the ball is Buffalo's forte on offense anyway, as it is second in the league in rush yards per game. The Pats are No. 29 in the league against the run, so even if the Bills are unable to pull off the upset, running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller should allow them to stay within one score at the very least.

 

Green Bay Packers (-3 @ CHI)

This season has been a trying one for the Green Bay Packers due primarily to injury issues. No injury has been bigger than the one suffered by quarterback Aaron Rodgers about two months ago. Green Bay has managed to stay in the NFC North race without Rodgers due primarily to missteps by the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.

Because of that, the Packers now find themselves in what amounts to a one-game playoff for the NFC North in Week 17. The winner of their game against the Bears will move on to the playoffs, while the loser will go home.

If the Bears lose, then they won't have to go far since they'll be hosting the Week 17 game. Winning at Soldier Field may be a tall order for the Pack; however, they will be boosted by the long-awaited return of Rodgers, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Although backup Matt Flynn performed admirably in Rodgers' absence, there is no comparison between the two quarterbacks. As illustrated by this stat courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, the Packers are simply a different team with Rodgers under center.

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is understandably excited to have Rodgers back in the fold.

"To be honest with you, I feel good for Aaron," McCarthy said. "I don't think people realize the stress he's been under. He's been on board with playing for quite some time now. We were holding him out of the game, and that's tough. That's a tough thing to go through."

"It's the first time I've ever been through it, especially at this extent, especially with Aaron Rodgers. We're talking about the best player in football, and just to see what he had to go through. Yeah, I feel good about it."

The Bears can't be counted out completely, especially with home-field advantage, but their defense has been a joke. Chicago has especially struggled against the run, while Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy has excelled. Coupling that with the return of Rodgers makes Green Bay a safe bet to emerge victorious.

 

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