Week 17 NFL Picks: Predictions, Odds and Over/Under Tips for Season Finales

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2018

Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson (4) and Demaryius Thomas (87) celebrate after Watson's touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

While the NFL's goodbye-for-now slate in Week 17 is perhaps the most fun viewers will have all season, it can also be the most volatile from a bettor's perspective. 

When it comes time to make picks, an unusual factor comes into play—motivation. Who is playing for the playoffs? For pride? Who has an eye on the booked vacation? 

It sounds funny, but it is one of the many factors that make up the typical wild ending to seasons where upsets pulled off by spoilers and big blowouts happen while contenders weigh whether to play starters or rest up. 

With weekend kickoff hours away, these are the updated odds after a week's worth of alterations. 

      

Week 17 NFL Odds

Atlanta at Tampa Bay (-1) | O/U 51

Carolina at New Orleans (-7.5)| O/U 43

Chicago at Minnesota (-4.5) | O/U 41

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-14.5) | O/U 45.5

Cleveland at Baltimore (-5.5) | O/U 41

Dallas at N.Y. Giants (-6) | O/U 42.5

Detroit at Green Bay (-8) | O/U 43.5

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Tennessee |  O/U 43.5

Jacksonville at Houston (-7) | O/U 40.5

Miami at Buffalo (-5.5) | O/U 38.5

N.Y. Jets at New England (-13.5) | O/U 45.5

Oakland at Kansas City (-13.5) | O/U 54

Philadelphia (-7) at Washington | O/U 42

Arizona at Seattle (-13.5) | O/U 38.5

L.A. Chargers (-6.5) at Denver | O/U 41.5

San Francisco at L.A. Rams (-10) | O/U 50

        

Carolina at New Orleans (-7.5)

Bill Feig/Associated Press

The fact Teddy Bridgewater will start this one for the New Orleans Saints doesn't mean too much. 

Bridgewater won't have any lack of motivation given his individual situation: 

Remember, Bridgewater is the guy in 2015 who threw for 3,231 yards and 14 touchdowns while looking like one of the next big things despite playing in a run-first offense up in Minnesota. 

Now he's playing with guys like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas after taking the time to learn a thing or two from Drew Brees

Keep in mind part of the reason the outlook for this one doesn't change too much is because not only are the Carolina Panthers one of the league's bigger disappointments, they won't start Cam Newton under center. 

A week ago with Newton out, the Panthers continued their losing ways by dropping a home game against Atlanta, 24-10. Written another way, it completed the season sweep at the hands of a six-win team. Written yet another way, it continued the seven-game skid. 

Back in Week 15, these two met in Carolina and the Saints stole the game 12-9—a nice showcase that they are quietly one of the more well-rounded teams in football. Not only can they run or pass at will, but the complementary defense also ranks eighth by only allowing 21.3 points per game. 

If this Saints defense held Newton to an interception on the road, it can surely keep Taylor Heinicke in check a week removed from his one touchdown and three interceptions. Look for the Saints to secure the season sweep here even without Brees. 

Prediction: Saints 20, Panthers 7

       

Jacksonville at Houston (-7)

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The Houston Texans have plenty to play for in Week 17 considering a longshot No. 1 AFC seed could still be on the table. 

That likely isn't happening considering it would take a Texans win along with three other losses and a tiebreaker coming into effect, but readers get the idea—Deshaun Watson and the rest aren't going to take the foot off the pedal. 

And when they don't, the Texans are borderline unbeatable. Watson is completing 68.1 percent of his passes with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions despite 56 sacks, all while doing things like this:

Watson also has a matchup nightmare like DeAndre Hopkins to lean on, and J.J. Watt's defense has tallied 40 sacks while allowing 20.9 points per game, good for the sixth-best mark in football. 

The parallels to the first matchup examined here continue. The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the NFL's most disappointing teams, with the bravado from last year's playoff run gone despite a 3-1 start featuring a win over New England. Since the 3-1 start, the Jaguars have bumbled to a 5-10 record, at one point losing seven in a row. 

The Jaguars do enter Week 17 coming off a win, though besting the 7-8 Miami Dolphins isn't so impressive at this point. When a game requires Blake Bortles coming off the bench in the third quarter to key a victory, things have gone south in an irreparable way. 

Back in Week 7, Houston took care of business in Jacksonville with a 20-7 win while slamming the door on anything the Jaguars tried offensively. Sunday should be a similar story in Houston given the talent differences, not to mention motivation levels. 

Prediction: Texans 24, Jaguars 10

         

Arizona at Seattle (-13.5)

Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

The Seattle Seahawks have clinched a playoff berth, and Week 17 will only decide whether they hold the fifth or sixth seed. 

Yet it doesn't sound like the Seahawks will hold back much on the downtrodden Arizona Cardinals: 

This aligns well with how Seahawks coaches have treated similar scenarios in the past—and Russell Wilson and the starters only need one half of play to get a lead in a game like this and relax. 

After all, Wilson has thrown 34 touchdowns to just six interceptions this year, and he's finally getting some help from a revived running game averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Unsurprisingly, deep threat Tyler Lockett has scored nine times and Doug Baldwin is still his usual self, sitting on 591 yards and five scores in 12 games. 

More surprising is a Seattle defense that has lost a ton of name power lately yet still ranks among the top 11 by only allowing 21.5 points per game. The result is a nine-win campaign so far highlighted by most recently taking down the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The Cardinals won't get a ton of space here, which makes sense for one of the league's worst teams rebuilding around a rookie passer.

While the arrow is pointing up, inept coaching marred the usage of David Johnson to start the season, and the three paltry wins this year have come over four-win San Francisco twice and a down Green Bay team that ended up firing a coach right after because losing to the Cardinals is so inexcusable. 

It might seem harsh, but the line from oddsmakers says it all—there isn't any reason to bet against the Seahawks. 

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Cardinals 10

      

Odds via OddsShark  

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