Bleacher Report's Expert Week 17 NFL Picks
Bleacher Report's betting crew needed to jump back on the positive side with their wagers, and they delivered with a record above .500 in time for the holidays. They opened the previous week with the right call on a slight underdog and finished with the correct pick on a road favorite. Now, the group aims to lead you to some new-year earnings in Week 17.
NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brent Sobleski, Kris Knox and Maurice Moton, editor Wes O'Donnell and B/R Betting host of "Winners Only Wednesdays" Greg Ivory absolutely love a couple of double-digit favorites who will face teams that won't have much to play for this week, but they also took three underdogs, two of which will face clubs already set for the playoffs.
Before we get to our picks against the spread, check out the latest leaderboard standings going into Week 17. In parentheses, you'll see last week's records.
1. O'Donnell: 118-115-7 (7-9)
2. Davenport: 115-118-7 (11-5)
3. Ivory: 113-120-7 (9-7)
4. Moton: 112-121-7 (5-11)
T-5. Sobleski: 109-124-7 (6-10)
T-5. Knox: 109-124-7 (10-6)
Consensus picks: 104-103-7 (7-6)
Lines are from DraftKings as of Wednesday, Dec. 28, at 4 p.m. ET. Check DraftKings for the latest odds info. Information on public betting trends is courtesy of the Action Network. ATS records are provided by TeamRankings.
Dallas Cowboys (11-4) at Tennessee Titans (7-8)
Editor's Note: Cowboys defeated the Titans 27-13 on Thursday night.
DraftKings Line: Cowboys -10.5
The Tennessee Titans are scheduled to host the Dallas Cowboys at Nissan Stadium on Thursday night, but they will have the final week of the season in mind.
Whether the Titans win or lose Thursday, they'll play the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC South title in Week 18. We could see Tennessee pull players early or keep them on the sideline in preparation for a high-stakes matchup next week.
Moton and most of our crew backed the Cowboys in this spot.
"The Titans have a Week 18 showdown with the Jaguars. They may dial back on running back Derrick Henry's workload if he suits up for this contest. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have an outside chance to claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a division title. Dallas has more on the line for this particular matchup, so bettors should place wagers accordingly.
"Secondly, the Cowboys should move the ball at will against the Titans' 31st-ranked pass defense. Dak Prescott could post gaudy passing numbers in a blowout victory over a squad that's lost five consecutive games.
"Finally, with rookie third-round quarterback Malik Willis under center in place of Ryan Tannehill (ankle surgery), don't expect Tennessee to register a lot of points against Dallas' sixth-ranked scoring defense."
Consensus: Cowboys -10.5
Score Prediction: Cowboys 35, Titans 10
Denver Broncos (4-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-3)
DraftKings Line: Chiefs -12.5
On Monday, the Denver Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett and announced that senior assistant coach Jerry Rosburg will take over as the interim head coach. Back in September, Hackett hired Rosburg to help him with clock management.
After an embarrassing 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the Broncos may have needed to make this move to light a fire under a 4-11 squad. Under new direction, they'll go on the road to play the Kansas City Chiefs, who are led by MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes. To make matters even more difficult, Denver won't have edge-rusher Randy Gregory, who will serve a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness rule violations.
In Week 14, the Broncos lost 34-28 to the Chiefs, but Moton expects Kansas City to smash Denver as Russell Wilson goes through his worst statistical year at the pro level.
"While Hackett contributed to the Broncos' issues with his poor game management, Denver has an even bigger problem with Wilson, who's thrown for 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 60.1 percent completion rate in 13 contests.
"Yes, the Broncos made a strong second-half comeback in the first meeting between these teams in Week 14 to shrink a 27-point deficit down to a six-point loss, but Denver just allowed the injury-riddled Rams to feed them a 50-burger.
"If Baker Mayfield can put on a clinic against the Broncos with tight end Tyler Higbee (nine receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns) and some help from Cam Akers (118 rushing yards and three touchdowns), Mahomes will eat the Broncos alive as he garners MVP buzz."
Consensus: Chiefs -12.5
Score Prediction: Chiefs 34, Broncos 17
New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-2)
DraftKings Line: Eagles -6.5
As of Wednesday, the New Orleans Saints have to prepare for both of the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Hurts "is going to push" to play through a sprained shoulder this weekend. If he cannot go, Gardner Minshew will make his second start of the season. The latter threw for 355 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Dallas Cowboys last week.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for the Eagles, Moton feels confident that Philadelphia will cover the spread.
"With Hurts or Minshew under center, the Eagles will beat the Saints by a sizable margin. New Orleans' 23rd-ranked run defense seems susceptible to a ground-heavy game plan that features Miles Sanders, who's averaging five yards per carry. Of course, if Hurts plays, he'll further expose the interior of the Saints defense with his rushing ability.
"Last week, Minshew turned the ball over three times (two interceptions and a fumble), but he'll likely take better care of the football if he has to make his second start this season, which would leave the Saints with few chances to take advantage of more scoring opportunities.
"Most importantly, the Eagles typically handle business at home. They're 6-1 against the spread as favorites in their stadium this season."
Consensus: Eagles -6.5
Score Prediction: Eagles 28, Saints 16
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-8) at Houston Texans (2-12-1)
DraftKings Line: Jaguars -4.5
For the first time this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars will go into a game as a road favorite. Coming off a Thursday contest in Week 16, they had extra time to prepare for the Houston Texans, but will they go full throttle with an AFC South title battle set for Week 18?
As an upstart squad, the Jaguars should keep their foot on the gas pedal before a play-in matchup for the postseason. Head coach Doug Pederson told reporters that he won't rest players, though Jacksonville could also lighten the workload for guys who have nagging injuries. Bettors must be mindful of that possibility.
Sobleski gave props to the Texans for their competitiveness in recent weeks, but he's on the side of our consensus, laying the points with Jacksonville.
"The Texans are sneaking up on teams as of late. Lovie Smith's squad played well against the Cowboys and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks before finally capturing a victory over the Titans. Don't expect the same to happen with the Jaguars, though.
"Jacksonville is peaking at the right time. Trevor Lawrence and Co. beat Tennessee and Dallas. They convincingly handled the New York Jets. During that stretch, the team's point differential is plus-36. The Jaguars have two weeks to ensure a division title and postseason berth. Houston isn't going to catch them napping in that scenario."
Consensus: Jaguars -4.5
Score Prediction: Jaguars 28, Texans 21
Carolina Panthers (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-8)
DraftKings Line: Buccaneers -3
Though the New Orleans Saints remain alive for the NFC South title, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers will square off for the top spot in the division. If the Buccaneers win, they would clinch a home playoff game because they already won the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints. Carolina needs to win this game and beat New Orleans in Week 18 to get a home playoff game.
In a high-stakes matchup, who do you trust more to cover the spread? A club led by Tom Brady or a physical, hard-nosed squad that relies on a strong ground attack? Sobleski explained why he went against the seven-time Super Bowl champion's team for the upset.
"Sam Darnold is good? Good enough may be a more apt description since he returned to the lineup. The Panthers are 3-1 upon his reinsertion in Week 12. To be fair, Darnold's performance isn't the primary catalyst for Carolina's resurgence. A strong running game and talented defense are. But the quarterback is doing what's asked of him and operating efficiently with a 4-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 104.3 passer rating.
"Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are struggling in everything they do. With the NFC South on the line, the Panthers are the team trending in the right direction."
Consensus: Buccaneers -3
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 20, Panthers 16
Cleveland Browns (6-9) at Washington Commanders (7-7-1)
DraftKings Line: Commanders -2
The Cleveland Browns lost their chance to clinch a playoff spot with a loss to the Saints last week, and they'll play against the Washington Commanders, who are clinging to the No. 7 seed in the NFC.
The Commanders haven't won a game since Week 12. As a result, we shouldn't be surprised that they huddled together to make a quarterback switch from Taylor Heinicke back to Carson Wentz.
Moton isn't moved by all of the hoopla around the Commanders' quarterback plan because he expects them to win this game on the ground.
"The Commanders will start Wentz over Heinicke, but they need to get the running game going. Over the last three weeks, the Browns have allowed an average of 162 yards on the ground and lost two of those contests. Washington has racked up at least 137 rushing yards in six of its previous seven outings.
"Running back Antonio Gibson has a sprained ankle and knee, but Brian Robinson has handled the lion's share of carries over the past month. Washington can ride the latter to a victory by field goal or more."
Consensus: Commanders -2
Score Prediction: Commanders 24, Browns 20
Miami Dolphins (8-7) at New England Patriots (7-8)
DraftKings Line: Patriots -3
Barring a tie, one of these slumping AFC East teams has to win this game. The Miami Dolphins have dropped four consecutive contests, and the New England Patriots have lost four of their last five outings.
The Dolphins have to overcome an additional obstacle with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa out because of a concussion. Teddy Bridgewater will start in his place.
This season, Bridgewater left his only start after one snap because of a head injury. He was able to return the following week, but it was as a backup to rookie seventh-rounder Skylar Thompson. Half of our crew believes that Bridgewater will benefit from a full week of practice as the starter, but Knox provided an opposing opinion with a key trend that favors New England.
"This pick is predicated on the fact that Tagovailoa won't play Sunday. With all due respect to Bridgewater, the Miami offense isn't the same with him under center. The team is 0-2 in games in which he's had double-digit pass attempts.
"New England isn't dominating the AFC East as it has in the past, but it still has a solid defense (ranked fifth in scoring) and provides a tough place to play in the winter. The red-hot Cincinnati Bengals narrowly escaped last week, and Miami has won just two of its last 13 games in New England by a combined four points.
"The Dolphins have lost all four of their December games, but they can clinch a playoff spot this week with a win and a Jets loss or tie. A tie and a Jets defeat plus a Pittsburgh Steelers loss or tie would also get them into the postseason, though the Patriots will be motivated to play spoiler and keep their own faint playoff hopes alive. I think head coach Bill Belichick will find a way to scheme up a win-and-in scenario against the Buffalo Bills in Week 18."
Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Dolphins 20
Chicago Bears (3-12) at Detroit Lions (7-8)
DraftKings Line: Lions -6
Last week, the Detroit Lions stumbled in their quest to make playoffs in a 37-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers, which capped their winning streak at three games. They'll try to get back on the right track against the Chicago Bears, who have lost eight consecutive contests.
Despite Chicago's shortcomings, Moton backed the Bears because he sees how they can emulate the Panthers' blueprint to exploit the Lions' 28th-ranked run defense.
"In a copycat league, the Bears will likely take a page out of the Panthers' Week 16 game plan with a run-heavy approach. They field the No. 1-ranked ground attack with the league's top rushing quarterback and a two-man backfield. Justin Fields along with running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert could be in line for a big day as ball-carriers.
"Chicago 12th-ranked pass defense could slow down Lions quarterback Jared Goff a bit, which may allow the Bears to win the possession battle if they establish the run. Detroit will find a way to pull out a tough win, but Fields and Co. will make this a close division battle."
Consensus: Bears +6
Score Prediction: Lions 27, Bears 23
Arizona Cardinals (4-11) at Atlanta Falcons (5-10)
DraftKings Line: Falcons -3.5
The Atlanta Falcons will continue to evaluate rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, who's set to make his third start Sunday. He'll have an opportunity to put together his best performance against the Arizona Cardinals' 26th-ranked pass defense.
On Christmas Day, the Cardinals nearly upset the Buccaneers but came up short 19-16 with third-string quarterback Trace McSorley under center in place of Colt McCoy, who cleared concussion protocol Wednesday.
Moton thinks McCoy will give the Cardinals offense a bit of a boost, which will allow the team to cover the spread.
"Assuming McCoy plays, Arizona has a much better shot to cover this line. McSorley doesn't have enough chemistry with wideout DeAndre Hopkins to lead a respectable offense," he said. "Hopkins hauled in just one out of 10 targets for four yards against the Buccaneers last week.
"With McCoy back in action, he can do enough with Hopkins, Marquise Brown and Greg Dortch against Atlanta's 25th-ranked pass defense to keep the score within a field goal or outright pull off an upset over the Falcons, who have offensive limitations with a rookie quarterback."
Consensus: Falcons -3.5
Score Prediction: Falcons 21, Cardinals 16
Indianapolis Colts (4-10-1) at New York Giants (8-6-1)
DraftKings Line: Giants -6
Because the Texans have played in competitive games as of late, the Indianapolis Colts may be the worst team in the league since Week 11. They've dropped their last five games, squandered a 33-point lead and lost two of those games by 17 and 35 points.
Though the New York Giants had to swallow a tough 27-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings last week, they can clinch a playoff spot with a victory against the downtrodden Colts.
Our panel expects Big Blue to win, but a couple of bettors took the points because, as Davenport highlighted, the Giants don't have the offensive knockout power to beat opponents by sizable margins.
"Nick Foles is obviously an evil mastermind who has concocted the cleverest of ruses: By appearing to be the worst quarterback since Kim McQuilken, he has lulled future opponents into a false sense of security. This week, he will spring the trap and stun the Giants by actually completing passes to his own team.
"Delusions aside, the Giants aren't a team that rolls up the score. Their next double-digit win will be their first of 2022. So, while it's possible (I guess) that Foles is just terrible, this is also a game with the potential for the Colts to hang around before Folesing (like waltzing, only with more falling down) through the backdoor late."
Consensus: Giants -6
Score Prediction: Giants 26, Colts 17
San Francisco 49ers (11-4) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-9)
DraftKings Line: 49ers -10
The Las Vegas Raiders need a football miracle to make the playoffs. Peter Schrager went through the details on NFL Network's Good Morning Football show, though in reality, the Steelers stuck a fork in the Silver and Black's postseason aspirations on Christmas Eve.
On Wednesday, head coach Josh McDaniels pushed that fork in a little deeper when he announced that the team will shut down Derek Carr for the final two weeks of the regular season, which leaves Jarrett Stidham in line to start against the San Francisco 49ers.
With McDaniels' move at quarterback, Moton expects the 49ers to roll the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on New Year's Day.
"This season, Stidham has completed eight out of 13 passes for 72 yards in a 24-0 loss to the Saints. He's familiar with McDaniels' offensive system from their shared time with the Patriots, but the fourth-year signal-caller will face the league's stingiest defense in points and yards allowed.
"In addition to the big news around Carr, Vegas placed linebacker Denzel Perryman and edge-rusher Chandler Jones on injured reserve Wednesday, two significant losses for its defense.
"As the Raiders prepare to play a 49ers squad with the league's longest active winning streak and the second-best point differential (plus-145), this feels like an obvious double-digit blowout. Take San Francisco to the bank."
Consensus: 49ers -10
Score Prediction: 49ers 35, Raiders 16
New York Jets (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-8)
DraftKings Line: Jets -1.5
New York Jets fans likely exhaled with relief when head coach Robert Saleh announced that quarterback Mike White will start against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
White sat out the previous two games with a rib injury. His return should give the Jets offense a boost following an abysmal showing from Zach Wilson, whom the team benched for Chris Streveler last Thursday.
White has thrown for only three touchdowns and two interceptions in three contests, but Moton thinks he'll have a decent performance against the Seahawks that complements his team's fourth-ranked scoring defense.
"White will put on a cape to preserve the Jets' postseason hopes. Even though Gang Green lost to a couple of playoff squads (the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills) in his previous two starts, the 27-year-old should help New York snap a four-game losing streak in a matchup with the Seahawks, who have faded down the stretch with three losses in four December outings.
"Since Week 13, Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith has seen his passing numbers drop. He's thrown for only one touchdown in each of his last two games. Going against the Jets' fifth-ranked pass defense and with wideout Tyler Lockett's status up in the air after finger surgery, take New York to win by a field goal. On the road, Gang Green is 5-2 against the spread."
Consensus: Jets -1.5
Score Prediction: Jets 26, Seahawks 23
Minnesota Vikings (12-3) at Green Bay Packers (7-8)
DraftKings Line: Packers -3
The Green Bay Packers cannot afford to lose any more games. They must win out and get a little help to claim an NFC wild-card spot.
Aaron Rodgers has done enough with a complementary run game to keep the Packers' playoff hopes alive, but they will face a Minnesota Vikings squad that keeps finding ways to win close games. That could make bettors nervous about picking the Packers to cover this spread.
Knox acknowledged the Vikings' impressive record in one-possession contests, but he believes that the surging Packers will put an end to that trend.
"Have the Packers finally figured it out? It's probably not that simple. However, Green Bay is 3-0 since Week 13 and has settled into a winning formula of playing aggressive defense with a balanced offense. Injuries are a concern—especially those of right tackle Yosh Nijman (shoulder) and budding rookie receiver Christian Watson (hip)—but this is a must-win game for Green Bay, and I expect the Packers to pull every single trick out of their bag. If the Packers win out and get a loss by the Commanders or two losses by the Giants, they'll make the playoffs.
"With Philly playing in the early afternoon, Minnesota's shot at the No. 1 seed could be gone by kickoff. So, there's a chance that the Vikings will have little to play for here. That may or may not factor into lineup decisions.
"Regardless, the Vikings defense is atrocious and will keep the Packers in the game. Minnesota is 11-0 in one-score games this season, but I just have a feeling that the streak comes to an end here, as Green Bay pulls out a close one by more than a field goal."
Score Prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 23
Los Angeles Rams (5-10) at Los Angeles Chargers (9-6)
DraftKings Line: Chargers -6.5
This past Monday, the Los Angeles Chargers clinched a playoff spot with a 20-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts, who have lost five games in a row under interim head coach Jeff Saturday.
The Chargers cannot move any higher than the AFC's No. 5, though they may want to gain some momentum on offense, which may be a tough task this weekend. The Los Angeles Rams field a solid defense that has allowed an average of only 18 points per contest over the past three weeks.
Moton chose not to back the Chargers with their lackluster offense going against a competitive Rams squad.
"The Chargers may be the most unimpressive team with a playoff spot. They haven't scored more than 23 points in four consecutive games, and quarterback Justin Herbert has more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two) in that stretch.
"Los Angeles has won three of its last four outings in large part because of its defense, which has surrendered three touchdowns on the ground or through the air since Week 14 if you exclude Tyreek Hill's fumble recovery for a score. A team with a sluggish offense and a stout defense isn't one to bet on with a spread that's larger than a touchdown.
"Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield has played well since the Rams claimed him off waivers on December 6. He's thrown for four touchdowns and only one interception with a 69 percent completion rate in three outings (two starts).
"Take the scrappy Rams to cover in a home battle for both clubs."
Consensus: Rams +6.5
Score Prediction: Chargers 23, Rams 20
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (10-5)
DraftKings Line: Ravens -2.5
The Baltimore Ravens clinched a playoff spot last week, but they can still win the AFC North. They only trail the Cincinnati Bengals, whom they beat in Week 5, by one game with a Week 18 matchup ahead on the schedule. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive with a win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Eve.
In other words, you'll probably see another closely contested AFC North battle between these teams.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson hasn't practiced since he sprained his PCL against the Denver Broncos in Week 13, but that didn't stop O'Donnell from straying away from the group consensus to lay the points with Baltimore.
"The Steelers have won five of their last seven games and are clinging to faint postseason hopes. One of those two losses was a two-point defeat at home to Baltimore without either side sporting its starting quarterback. Jackson's status is still unknown, so this line makes sense, especially if the Ravens hope to protect him for a postseason appearance that they're already guaranteed.
"The Ravens haven't done much to inspire confidence without their star quarterback, but I'll bank on the Steelers making a mistake or two that allows Baltimore to cover this spread and stay in the hunt for the AFC North title with the Bengals looming in Week 18."
Consensus: Steelers +2.5
Score Prediction: Steelers 21, Ravens 20
Buffalo Bills (12-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)
DraftKings Line: Bills -1
The Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals are headed into Week 17 as the hottest teams in the AFC, and both are in the mix for the AFC's No. 1 seed. What more can you ask for in the final Monday Night Football game of the regular season?
While these teams match up evenly, the public has sided heavily with the Bengals (66 percent), who have a 5-1 home record against the spread. While most of our crew expressed some concerns about Cincinnati's fifth-ranked aerial attack with the loss of right tackle La'el Collins, O'Donnell sided with the home underdog.
"Cincinnati has won seven straight, while Buffalo has won six straight. I would say "someone has to lose," but we've already had two ties in the 2022 NFL season. This has the making and feel of a playoff game on Monday Night Football with potential home-field advantage in the postseason still at stake.
"I think the Bills are the better team, but I'll take the home side in this one with the gut feeling that the Bills would avenge this potential loss in the postseason should they meet again."
Consensus: Bills -1
Score Prediction: Bills 30, Bengals 28
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