NFL Week 17 Picks: Latest Predictions and over-Under Odds

Sterling Xie@@sxie1281Correspondent IIDecember 25, 2014

Dec 15, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) shake hands after their game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Week 17 may provide as much drama as any week, with 16 games jam-packed into a single Sunday, but it's also arguably the most frustrating week for bettors.  Trying to predict how much starters will play is a frustrating and usually fruitless exercise that typically leads to exasperation.

Thus, to stay ahead of the curve, keeping attuned to each team's potential plans is vital.  Lines shift drastically on the final Sunday—for example, after opening as 10-point favorites against the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots are now favored by just five after clinching home-field advantage via the Denver Broncos' Monday night loss. 

Games like that seem untouchable, especially when one attempts to decipher a Bill Belichick press conference transcript.  Examining the ever-changing over-under odds via Odds Shark, here's advice on how to keep up and exploit some of the most currently favorable lines.

Week 17 Over-Under Picks
GameO/UO/U Pick
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans46.5Under
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons47.5Over
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens42.5Under
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins49Over
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers48Over
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans40.5Over
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs42Over
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins42Under
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings44Under
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots44Over
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants52Under
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers46.5Over
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos47.5Under
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers36.5Under
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks41Under
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers47.5Over
via Odds Shark

Browns vs. Ravens (Under 42.5)

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 21: Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens tackles Taylor Gabriel #18 of the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Ravens defeat the Browns 23-21. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Im
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

One of the lowest lines of the week, taking the under here largely reflects how hopeless the Cleveland Browns offense has become.  During their four-game losing streak, the Browns have averaged a league-low 11.8 points per game, while their 4.2 yards per play is the third-lowest mark during that span.

Regardless of whether a battered Brian Hoyer or undrafted rookie Connor Shaw starts on Sunday, it's difficult to envision the Browns even reaching double digits against a stout Ravens defense in desperate need of a win to keep their postseason hopes alive.  For now, reports suggest that Shaw is the likelier candidate, given that he'll take nearly all the first-team reps in practice:

That would put the burden on the Ravens to push this line to the overs.  While Joe Flacco is unlikely to replicate his 4-of-22 start from last Sunday, Baltimore's offense is also quite battered.  Starting tackles Eugene Monroe and Ricky Wagner are likely out (Wagner is already on IR), and the clock is quickly striking midnight on Justin Forsett's Cinderella season.

Even though injuries have thinned out the front seven and taken away top ball hawk Tashaun Gipson, the Browns have still yet to allow more than 30 points in a game this season.  The Ravens look like an unlikely candidate to eclipse that mark, making this a safe bet for the unders.

Saints vs. Buccaneers (Over 46.5)

Even though neither team has anything left to play for, it's puzzling to see this line so low.  In a game featuring two poor defenses—Tampa Bay ranks 20th in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted DVOA metric, while New Orleans ranks 31st—it would hardly be surprising to see the combined score reach the 50s.

In particular, the Saints' combination of a disintegrating defense and a still-efficient offense make them over-under darlings.  According to Pro-Football-Reference, New Orleans has hit the over in six of their past seven weeks.  On the season as a whole, the Saints have hit the over in 10 of 15 games.

Of course, Tampa's wretched offense provides reason for pause.  The Bucs offense, which ranks dead last in DVOA, has scored over 17 points just once in their past 10 games.  However, Tampa's best offensive output of the season happened to come at the Superdome, when they posted 31 points in a tough overtime defeat.

The Saints secondary has regressed from its already lousy levels since then, which should allow Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson to feast downfield.  While New Orleans is a fairly safe bet to continue putting up points, look for Tampa to chip in its part to push this to the overs.

Bengals vs. Steelers (Over 47.5)

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 7:  Adam Jones #24 of the Cincinnati Bengals attempts to tackle Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on December 7, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The regular-season finale pits two teams with significant defensive holes, even if the recent results haven't revealed them.  When Cincinnati and Pittsburgh met three weeks ago, the teams combined for 62 points, as the quality of skill position talent on both offenses overwhelmed several overmatched defensive starters.

Those defensive lineups haven't changed in that time, so stars like A.J. Green and Le'Veon Bell will still get to exploit the likes of William Gay and Rey Maualuga.  The Steelers offense, which ranks first in weighted DVOA, has been on a serious roll of late:

Similarly, the Bengals have averaged 25.2 points per game since their Week 10 Thursday night debacle against Cleveland, the 10th-best mark in the league over that span.  This line is likely a bit lower because of the frigid conditions at Heinz Field.  Over the last five seasons, eight out of 12 December games at Pittsburgh have gone to the unders, per PFR, including last week's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Still, Cincy overcame its prime-time stage fright last week, while the Steelers offense is nothing to doubt.  Even in adverse conditions, the recent trends suggest that the combined total should go over the current line.

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