NFL Week 17 Betting Guide: Odds, Props and Picks

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 29, 2018

NFL Week 17 Betting Guide: Odds, Props and Picks

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    This year, like most, has not been good for the vast majority of those who regularly or casually bet on the NFL.

    In fact, David Payne Purdum of ESPN Chalk reported that from September through November, the betting handle at Nevada sportsbooks increased by $100 million compared to the same three-month period in 2017 ("pre-expanded legalization").

    Those books won $18.4 million on football bets (college and NFL) in November alone, according to Purdum, and "likely will set all-time records for amount wagered and amount won this year."

    With that said, let's try again! 

    Here's our latest look at Week 17 in the NFL. There's a guide for upcoming games, notes on spreads, over/unders, money lines, top picks and the lock of the week. Let it guide you, or just take a tip or two. But don't be a sucker—limit your action to discretionary income.


Money-Line Picks and Picks Against the Spread

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    Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-7, 43 O/U): Saints -7 and -320

    Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-6.5, 40 O/U): Texans -6.5 and -285

    Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-8, 44.5 O/U): Packers -8 and -335

    Atlanta Falcons (-1, 52 O/U) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Falcons -1 and +105

    Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (-5.5, 41 O/U): Cowboys +5.5 and +220

    New York Jets at New England Patriots (-13.5, 45.5 O/U): Jets +13.5 and Patriots -730

    Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-5.5, 39.5 O/U): Bills -5.5 and -230

    Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-4.5, 40.5 O/U): Vikings -4.5 and -200

    Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-14, 52.5 O/U): Raiders +14 and Chiefs -750

    Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (-14.5, 45.5 O/U): Bengals +14.5 and Steelers -850

    Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-5.5, 40.5 O/U): Browns +5.5 and +215

    Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5, 42 O/U) at Washington Redskins: Eagles -6.5 and -290

    Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-13, 38.5 O/U): Seahawks -13 and -715

    San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-10, 48.5 O/U): Rams -10 and -440

    Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5, 42 O/U) at Denver Broncos: Chargers -6.5 and -270

    Indianapolis Colts (-3, 43.5 O/U) at Tennessee Titans: Colts -3 and -175

Stay-Away Games

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Jets at Patriots (-13.5)

    New England backers were stymied by a backdoor cover from the Bills with a similar double-digit spread last week in Foxborough, Massachusetts. That might increase the likelihood that the Patriots bounce back with an actual blowout this Sunday. But big spreads in divisional games are scary, and the Jets are playing hard. 

    Since returning from a foot injury in Week 14, Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has thrown six touchdowns to one interception for a 106.2 passer rating. Gang Green have averaged 29 points per game in three outings. 

    It's a small sample, and it's possible Darnold and his squad are due for a dud to close out the season against a team that needs this victory. But the Patriots haven't been as dominant as usual, and they've won just two games by more than 14 points. 

    Nobody should be confident that they'll clear a 13.5-point hurdle in Week 17, and it's hard to trust in the inconsistent Jets with fewer than 14 points on their side.


    Dolphins at Bills (-5.5)

    It's best to avoid games between eliminated teams, especially those that are as unpredictable as the Dolphins and Bills.

    Miami beat Buffalo by four points in a tossup earlier this season, but the Dolphins were playing better football. Now they're on the road, banged up and coming off ugly back-to-back losses to the Vikings and Jaguars. 

    That has us leaning Buffalo's way at -5.5, but the Bills (5-10) have been wildly inconsistent and haven't won a home game by more than three points this season. 

    You just don't know what to expect from Bills rookie quarterback Josh Allen, who has struggled as a passer (51.7 percent completion rate) and hasn't been as effective as a rusher over the last couple of weeks. The Bills have scored just three touchdowns and 26 points during that stretch. 

    It wouldn't be surprising if they won—or lost—this game by a double-digit margin. 


    Panthers at Saints (-7)

    This might be tantamount to betting on a preseason game. The Panthers are down to their No. 3 quarterback (Kyle Allen) and are looking to "evaluate some young players" in their meaningless finale against the Saints, according to Joe Person of The Athletic. New Orleans, which clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs last week, has hinted that backup signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater could see plenty of action

    Not only does neither team have anything to play for, but also, both are being coy about how much they care about this game. 

    Considering that the seemingly out-of-gas Panthers have lost seven in a row and nine of their last 10 road games, we'd lean Saints minus a touchdown at the Superdome. But there's no telling what we'll see from their key players or what Bridgewater will look like. 

Prop Bets You Can Take to the Bank

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Bengals at Steelers: Over 5.5 total touchdowns (+120)

    Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have scored a combined 97 touchdowns in 30 games this season. The Steelers have the best red-zone offense in the NFL, according to Team Rankings, while the Bengals rank second. Meanwhile, both red-zone defenses rank below the league median

    Pittsburgh is also a big favorite at -14.5. The Bengals might forgo field-goal attempts while trying to keep up. Add in garbage time, and it's easy to imagine seven or eight touchdowns in this one. 


    Colts at Titans: Under 18.5 first-half points (+150)

    With everything on the line, there's a good chance both the Colts and Titans will be tight early Sunday night, with neither wanting to make the first mistake. There's also a good chance the Tennessee offense, which is already without key starters Jack Conklin and Jonnu Smith, will be adjusting to life with backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

    And even if Marcus Mariota plays with his stinger, that injury could have an impact. 

    The Colts have averaged just 8.5 points per first half this month, and they've allowed just 6.8. The Titans have scored the fourth-fewest first-half points per game, and Indy and Tennessee rank above the league median in first-half points allowed. 

    At best, look for this to be 10-7 or 13-3 at the half. 


    Jets at Patriots: Jets most turnovers (-120)

    The Patriots haven't lost the turnover battle in a home game since Week 1, and they've won that fight outright in four of their last five games at Gillette Stadium. Only three teams have turned over the ball more than Gang Green (27 giveaways), while New England ranks sixth with 25 takeaways. 

    You could also make the argument that turnover-prone Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (league-leading 15 interceptions) is due to regress to the mean after going back-to-back games without a pick for the first time in his NFL career. 

    The odds are almost always in favor of a split here, but this might be a safe roll of the dice. 


    Falcons at Buccaneers: 4-5 total turnovers (+200)

    Since Week 10, only the Panthers have had more turnovers than the Bucs (13), while only four teams (Carolina, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Chicago) have had more turnovers than the Falcons (12). To boot, the suddenly awake Atlanta defense has seven takeaways in its last two games, while Tampa Bay is tied for second with 10 takeaways since Week 12 (just ahead of Atlanta, which has nine). 

    Take those beauty odds, and hope that both teams will turn over the ball twice. Or play it safer at +115 (bet $100 to win $115) for two-to-three turnovers. Regardless, expect mistakes in this meaningless finale. 

Spreads to Bet

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    Bears at Vikings (-4.5)

    Do the Bears really have something to play for? Barring a shocking Rams loss to San Francisco, Chicago is locked in as the No. 3 seed in the NFC. That could mean a rematch in the Wild Card Round with the Vikings, who are likely facing a win-or-go-home scenario.

    Chicago probably realizes it has little to gain by putting the pedal to the metal, especially if it means giving the Vikings something extra to work with in preparation for that potential NFC Wild Card Game.

    Meanwhile, the Vikes have looked strong since replacing offensive coordinator John DeFilippo with Kevin Stefanski in mid-December, scoring 68 points in consecutive blowout victories over Miami and Detroit. And it's not just the offense that has taken off.

    That talented D, which has underperformed for much of the season, has given up just two touchdowns and 40 points in its last three games, holding opposing quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford to a 51.3 percent completion rate, a 3.9 yards-per-attempt average and a 55.6 passer rating. 

    It's also worth noting that the Vikings seem to excel when they're not in a prime-time spotlight. They've won each of their last five non-nationally televised Sunday matinees by an average margin of 17.4 points. 

    Don't be surprised if they win this by a double-digit margin.


    49ers at Rams (-10)

    In five games this season against teams that are currently 5-10 or worse, the Rams are 5-0 with an average margin of victory of 33-10. 

    The 49ers are 4-11, and they fell at home by 29 points to the Rams in October. Now they're on the road for a game they'd be better off losing—a game the Rams need to win to keep a first-round bye in the playoffs. 

    Welcome to blowout city. 

    We've seen time and again that the best way to beat the Rams is to neutralize their pass rush by establishing the run while flustering Rams quarterback Jared Goff into making mistakes. But the 49ers running game has the second-worst DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), according to Football Outsiders, while the San Francisco defense ranks dead last with seven takeaways.

    The 49ers might have beaten the Broncos and Seahawks before hanging with the Bears last week, but those three games came in Santa Clara. Tampa Bay and Seattle crushed the 49ers in their most recent road games, and this depleted team might be out of gas without running back Matt Breida in its finale. 

    Rams by a million.


    Browns (+5.5) at Ravens

    You just know the Browns are going to pull out every stop in an attempt to play spoiler and finish their season with a winning record, and they certainly have the talent to do that. 

    With young stars Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers all rolling, the Browns have lost just one game since Nov. 5, and four of their five victories during that stretch have come by at least six points. 

    They haven't been as crisp on the road as at home, which is why it's not ludicrous for them to be getting more than a handful of points from a desperate Ravens team in Baltimore. But this feels like a field-goal game, especially considering that the Browns beat the Ravens earlier this season and have an opportunistic defense that might present Lamar Jackson with his biggest challenge yet. 

    Jackson's first five starts for Baltimore came against low-ranked defenses, but he continued to succeed against the well-respected Chargers defense in a crucial prime-time road game last week. Still, this Cleveland D has nearly twice as many takeaways as the Bolts defense, which could be problematic for the raw, mistake-prone rookie. 

    There's little reason to believe this won't be a close game. 

Line Movement

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Jaguars at Texans: Texans -10 to -6.5

    Early-week injury concerns about key Texans DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller are basically gone, which is why it's weird to see this line moving in Jacksonville's direction. That said, congrats if you grabbed the Jags when they were getting more than a touchdown because there's plenty of reason to believe they can put up a fight. 

    The Jaguars suddenly found life in a Week 16 victory over Miami, while the Texans' backs are against the wall following a three-game stretch that included losses to Indianapolis and Philadelphia.


    Colts at Titans: Titans -1 to Colts -3

    You can easily find the Titans +3.5 right now, which is mainly a reaction to Marcus Mariota's cloudy status. The oft-injured quarterback was a limited participant in practice Thursday and Friday and is officially questionable, but this line hasn't swung back Tennessee's way. 

    It could be that the public is backing the Colts heavily based on talk of Andrew Luck's 10-0 history against Tennessee and Mariota's injury, not to mention Indy's more favorable health situation in general. 

    It's hard to find anyone who feels good about the Titans. 


    Chargers at Broncos: Chargers -4 to -6.5

    This is mainly a product of Denver's atrocious performance in a loss to Oakland on Monday night, as well as the season-ending injury to breakout Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay. The Bolts are rested and relatively healthy, while the Broncos are just a mess at this point. 

    It's surprising Los Angeles isn't laying more than a touchdown. 


    Jets at Patriots: 48 O/U to 45.5 O/U

    This dropped below 45 at a wide variety of books midway through the week. This came without an obvious explanation because the line didn't move, and there was no significant personnel news on either side. 

    For more on this, scroll the tiniest bit. 

Easy Over/Unders

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Jets at Patriots: Over 45.5 points

    The Jets and Pats may have combined for just 40 points when the two met last month, but New York didn't have Sam Darnold in that game. Since Darnold returned from his foot injury in Week 14, the Jets have averaged 29 points per outing. 

    You might have also picked up on a bit of a pattern with the inconsistent New England defense.

    It surrendered 31 points in Week 7 against the Bears and then was strong in back-to-back games against the Bills and Packers. It surrendered 34 points to the Titans in Week 10 and then was strong in back-to-back contests against the Jets and Vikings. It surrendered 34 points to the Dolphins in Week 14 and then was strong in consecutive games against the Steelers and Bills. 

    Expect the Pats to give up 20 or so points to the Jets, but they should be hustling offensively in what is a critical Week 17 affair. That shouldn't be a problem against a Jets defense that ranks 28th in the league with 26.9 points allowed per game, and this Pats team is averaging 32.1 points per game in Foxborough this season.  

    Look for 31-21 type of score.


    Bears at Vikings: Over 40.5 points

    The Vikings are allergic to prime-time football, but in their last five Sunday afternoon games that weren't nationally televised, they've averaged 31.2 points per outing. That includes two consecutive wins with new coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who has introduced some much-needed balance to the offense. 

    At home with everything on the line, the Vikes should push 30-plus points against a Bears team that might be on autopilot if it becomes apparent it'll be stuck in the NFC's No. 3 spot regardless of the outcome in Minneapolis. 

    The Chicago defense is superb, but it has surrendered 30-plus points on the road twice this season. And the Bears have scored at least 14 points in every game. 

    This one might hit the 50-mark. 


    Panthers at Saints: Under 43 points

    It's odd that this total has dropped by only one or two points in sportsbooks despite the fact that it looks as though key offensive players such as Drew Brees and Christian McCaffrey could receive limited playing time in a game that already doesn't contain Panthers quarterback Cam Newton

    Even with McCaffrey, the Panthers offense has scored just 19 points over the last two weeks. And with Brees, the Saints have been held to 12 or fewer points in two of their last four games. 

    Throw in that the New Orleans defense has surrendered a league-low 14.6 points per game since Week 10, and it's easy to understand why 60 percent of Saints games have fallen short of the over/under total this season. 

    Carolina and New Orleans combined for just 21 points when they met two weeks ago, and it's doubtful that number will more than double Sunday. 


    Browns at Ravens: Under 40.5 points

    Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson Fever might explain why this total is above 40. But Jackson has made just six starts so far, and none has come against a defense with the playmaking ability of Cleveland's (AFC-high 30 takeaways). Mayfield hasn't been as crisp on the road, and the Browns and Ravens have both surrendered fewer than 20 points per game on defense since Week 10. 

    Mayfield has more interceptions (four) than touchdown passes (three) and a 78.9 passer rating in away games this month, while Jackson has fumbled 10 times this year and completed just 58.2 percent of his passes despite his overall success. 

    When Cleveland and Baltimore met in Week 5, they combined for just 21 points. There's little reason to expect that number to essentially double in their Week 17 meeting. 

Value Bets

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    Browns (+215) at Ravens

    Not to dwell too much on this Cleveland-Baltimore matchup, but it is one of the most intriguing games of the week. And the numbers look so damn bettable. The Browns are paying the equivalent of $215 on a $100 money-line bet. 

    It's understandable if you'd prefer to hit the Browns with 5.5 points in your back pocket, but if you figure they'll put up a fight and want to make a run at a more lucrative payout, note that Cleveland can pull off the upset. 

    The league could catch up to Lamar Jackson at any moment. He hasn't excelled as a passer yet, the Browns defense has plenty of playmaking ability and Cleveland recently limited mobile quarterbacks Cam Newton and Jeff Driskel to just 44 combined rushing yards on 10 attempts. 

    If Jackson hits a wall and/or Mayfield shines again, Cleveland could beat the Ravens outright for the second time this season, which would eliminate Baltimore in a Week 17 upset for the second year in a row. 


    Falcons (+105) at Buccaneers 

    You're allowed to classify this as a stay-away game since there's nothing to play for on either side. But the Falcons are the better team and the slight favorite, and they're paying plus in a few spots on the money line. 

    There's no point in laying a point or two with worse odds if that's the case. 

    While the Bucs have lost three straight games, the Falcons have suddenly shown signs of life with consecutive one-sided victories over the Cardinals and Panthers. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw five touchdown passes to zero interceptions while posting a 110.3 passer rating in those outings, while the Atlanta defense recorded seven takeaways. 

    That makes for a bad matchup for the Bucs, who rank 30th in pass-defense DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, and have committed a league-high 34 turnovers this season. 


    Cowboys (+220) at Giants

    This all depends on if you buy that the Cowboys are giving this game 100 percent. But what incentive is there for team owner Jerry Jones to lie? This isn't a home game, so it's not like he's trying to trick anybody into getting tickets. 

    "We're all-out," Jones said early this week, per Pro Football Talk's Charean Williams. "We've got work to do. We've got some work to do out here, I think we'll all agree. We don't want to, if we can, go into the playoffs with dangling participles—loose ends."

    "Anybody who is healthy and ready to play is going to play in the ballgame," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett added Wednesday, according to Williams

    Star running back Ezekiel Elliott has also stated that he's playing, and we know that Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is not

    Under those circumstances, it's a little strange the Giants are laying 5.5 points in a game they'd be better off losing. They've also dropped four of their last six games against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium, and Dallas beat them earlier this season in Texas. 

    Forget the spread. Take that +220 and run. 

Sucker Bet: Giants -240 over Cowboys

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    You might be thinking the Giants are at home, and the Cowboys could still rest key players. You might also be scared away by a 5.5-point spread in favor of New York in what feels like a field-goal type of game. So you might suck it up with an unfavorable payout by taking Big Blue at -240 on the money line. 

    Don't do it. 

    That's a horrendous number for a 5-10 team that is in the running for a top-five draft pick, especially against a playoff team that has its number on the road. 

    The Giants are probably out of gas following a shutout home loss to the Titans and a second-half collapse in Indianapolis. They're without Beckham, and Sterling Shepard was a limited participant in practice earlier this week with a hip injury (though he's expected to play Sunday). Even with those guys, New York hasn't won by more than a field goal at home this season. 

    The Giants aren't the type of team you take on the money line, especially lower than -200.

    Oh, and while you're at it, stay away from the Bears (+200), who pay out well but might phone it in against Minnesota, and the Titans (+165). Tennessee's line might be tempting, but the team could be running on fumes. 

Lock of the Week: Colts -3

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    This spread is -3.5 in about as many places as it is -3, but we're hoping you can do some line shopping or buy back that hook to be safe. Regardless, the Colts should take care of the Titans on Sunday night to punch the league's last playoff ticket. 

    That's not just because Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has a 10-0 record against the Titans or because Indianapolis embarrassed Tennessee 38-10 when the two met last month (although those factors count for something). 

    It's also because Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is hampered by a stinger (and might not play) and because Tennessee will be without key offensive players Jack Conklin (knee) and Jonnu Smith (MCL) as well as key defensive players Jurrell Casey (MCL) and Logan Ryan (broken left fibula). 

    Mariota, Conklin, Casey and Ryan are four of the most important players on that roster, and they've all suffered significant injuries in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the Colts are relatively healthy and should have pass-catchers Eric Ebron (concussion/knee) and T.Y. Hilton (ankle) on Sunday. 

    This might not be lopsided because the Titans are at home, but Indy is the stronger, healthier team. It has the better quarterback, and its defense has surrendered 10 or fewer points in four of the team's last nine games. 

    This isn't much of a debate.  


    All money lines, spreads and over/under totals are via OddsShark and accurate as of Friday evening. All other bet types are through OddsChecker and accurate as of Friday evening. 

    Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.