NFL bettors looking to hit the postseason with some momentum now have to deal with the toughest week of all.
Say hello to Week 17, where pretenders may or may not put up a fight before the season ends, players leave, new ones arrive and things begin anew. Say hello to the new slate of games where playoff-bound teams might sit starters but not give anyone notice until kickoff.
Bettors don't have to look far to see how stressful the week can be, not with the formerly undefeated Carolina Panthers taking a dive last week.
Below, let's try to sift through the early lies and nail down projections.
NFL Week 17 Odds
|Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants||NYG -3||52||NYG 33-28|
|N.Y. Jets at Buffalo||NYJ -1.5||43||NYJ 20-17|
|Washington at Dallas||NL||--||WAS 30-21|
|New Orleans at Atlanta||ATL -4||52.5||NO 28-27|
|Oakland at Kansas City||KC -7||43.5||KC 28-20|
|Pittsburgh at Cleveland||PIT -11||47.5||PIT 44-28|
|Minnesota at Green Bay||GB -3||46.5||MIN 27-24|
|Baltimore at Cincinnati||CIN -9||42.5||CIN 35-17|
|Detroit at Chicago||E||45||DET 17-10|
|Tampa Bay at Carolina||CAR -11.5||46.5||CAR 36-17|
|Jacksonville at Houston||NL||--||JAC 21-17|
|Tennessee at Indianapolis||NL||--||IND 20-16|
|New England at Miami||NL||--||NE 30-13|
|San Diego at Denver||DEN -9||41||DEN 27-10|
|St. Louis at San Francisco||STL -3||37||STL 14-3|
|Seattle at Arizona||ARI -4.5||47.5||ARI 24-20|
Odds via Odds Shark. Author's predictions.
Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.
Early Odds to Bet
Oakland at Kansas City (-7)
Bettors with an eye for a good deal know how this one unfolded in Week 13.
There, the Kansas City Chiefs walloped the Oakland Raiders in 34-20 fashion behind two touchdown passes from Alex Smith and a pair of rushing scores by the offense.
The win was simply a part of Kansas City's dominant nine-game streak, something it sounds like coach Andy Reid will attempt to continue regardless of a playoff berth, according to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star:
Andy Reid says the #Chiefs will prep themselves to play the Raiders. Does not care about all the playoff scenarios.— Terez A. Paylor (@TerezPaylor) December 28, 2015
It's nothing but good news for bettors considering the Raiders look more beatable going into this one than the first meeting. The 7-8 team just needed overtime to beat the hapless San Diego Chargers while Derek Carr went just 23-of-38 with 204 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
Kansas City won't have any problems shutting down the Oakland attack again, leaning on a defense ranked second by allowing just 18 points per game. Reid might play it conservative to keep key pieces healthy, but either way the Chiefs get a win at home.
Prediction: Chiefs 28, Raiders 20
Pittsburgh (-11) at Cleveland
The Pittsburgh Steelers have to thank Carolina.
If it weren't for the Panthers taking a dive, most of the ire for ruining bets would go to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who managed to take a loss at the hands of the struggling Baltimore Ravens.
It was an odd gaffe, to say the least, with Big Ben tossing a pair of interceptions in the process, but rather par for the course for AFC North contests.
Unless the Cleveland Browns happen to take part.
Cleveland has won just three games this year and last week took a loss to Kansas City, meaning the team's only wins have still come against fellow bottom feeders such as Tennessee, Baltimore and San Francisco.
Bettors shouldn't expect the Steelers to struggle again. Big Ben and Co. have the playoffs at stake and everything to play for—and remember, the last meeting between the two was a laugher in Week 10 when Big Ben tossed a trio of scores in a 30-9 rout.
Cleveland's shutting it down while Pittsburgh aims for the playoffs. It writes itself.
Prediction: Steelers 44, Browns 28
Tampa Bay at Carolina (-11.5)
About those Panthers.
Believe it or not, the Panthers might have needed the loss to remain level and focus on the big picture, not some arbitrary number while former members of the Miami Dolphins make headlines.
"I don't see shell shock," center Ryan Kalil said, according to ESPN.com's David Newton. "He's disappointed. He puts a lot on himself. ... Losing is not fun. It's been a while since feeling like this. We have to fix it, move on and get better from it."
So no, the Panthers don't sound stunned after a 20-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, especially not while going into an encounter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The two sides met once this year, where Newton tossed two touchdowns and Josh Norman and Co. picked off rookie Jameis Winston on the way to a 37-23 road route. This weekend's contest sees the Panthers return home, and it's hard to imagine coach Ron Rivera will rest his starters after a sluggish showing.
Tampa Bay, losers of three in a row and four of its last five, coughs up more than 25 points per game on average and hasn't mustered more than 23 points in a game since Week 11.
Even if the Panthers don't get a full four frames from starters, the Buccaneers won't be able to keep pace as they continue to shut down after missing the postseason.
Prediction: Panthers 36, Buccaneers 17