Happy New Year everyone, we are back with the Week 17 picks for the NFL. I can’t believe we are in the final week of the regular season, the time has flown by. We are ending the year on a downer, coming off a 1-5 week, my bad on that dud. But we have still have a solid 52-38-1 record and are looking to end the year on a solid note. Week 17 is normally tricky to bet, so we have a light week. We are going to go through a few Week 17 trends you should be wary of, like betting must win teams at the end.
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First, let’s start with playoff scenarios.
Below are teams that have clinched playoff spots but the playoff seeding is yet to be determined. Opt outs and rested players listed below.
Buffalo Bills: Can clinch AFC’s 2-seed with a win vs. Dolphins
Bills are playing starters, Allen may rest at halftime.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Can clinch AFC’s 2-seed with a win at Browns + Bills loss
Big Ben is resting, TJ Watt out, Marukice Pouncey, Cem Heyward- out
Green Bay Packers: Can clinch NFC’s 1-seed with a win at Bears or a Saints loss.
Resting starters are not announced.
Seattle Seahawks: Can clinch NFC’s 1-seed with a win vs. 49ers + Packers and Saints losses: Seahawks are playing their starters.
New Orleans Saints: Can clinch NFC’s 1-seed with a win at Panthers + Seahawks win + Packers loss Kamara is out with Covid, Saints are playing their starters.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can clinch NFC’s 5-seed with a win vs. Falcons
Buccaneers are playing everyone
All the varying “win and you’re in” playoff scenarios
Tennessee Titans: Clinch AFC South with win against the Texans
Miami Dolphins: Clinch playoff berth with a win against the Bills.
Baltimore Ravens: Need a win against the Bengals, and a Dolphins or Browns loss Browns clinch playoff berth with a win against the Steelers
Indianapolis Colts: Need a win against Jacksonville and a Titans/Dolphins/Ravens/Browns loss. Rams clinch with a win or Bears loss
Arizona Cardinals: Clinch with a win
Chicago Bears: Clinch with a win or a Cardinals loss.
Washington Football Team: Clinches with a win vs the Eagles.
Dallas Cowboys: Clinch with a win and Washington football team loss.
New York Giants: Clinch with a win and Washington football team loss.
Trend of the week: Teams in “Must Win” situations heading into Week 17 don’t actually win. The way the betting public normally bets Week 17, they just blindly take the teams that need to win to make the playoffs. This normally inflates the line of the game, and these teams typically don’t cover the bigger numbers or they lose outright.
According to Bet Lab’s database, teams that need to win in order to get into the playoffs- or need a win plus a loss from another team, are 15-23 ATS since the playoff expanded to six teams. Thirteen of those 23 against the spread losses, the team lost outright.
We have several games that fit into this category - Cardinals at Rams, Cowboys at Giants, Dolphins at Bills, Jaguars at Colts, Titans at Texans, and Washington at Eagles.
Simply, NFL teams like playing spoiler and have the ability to play extremely loose, while the contending teams have a ton of pressure riding on them. For some reason, the public teams that are eliminated aren’t going to try to compete. This logic is preposterous considering the competitiveness that drives every professional athlete.
There are couple contending teams that we will fade on Sunday.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Spread: Tennessee (-7.5)
So we are directly putting the above stated trend to the test. We are also playing a narrative here. JJ Watt called this Texans team out in the post game press conference, and it went viral. I think the Texans respond to their team leader. It’s going to wake this team up, there is going to be a new coaching staff and the guys that aren’t giving full effort are going to lose their jobs.
Beyond that, we already saw the Texans take this same Titans team into overtime earlier in the season. We are fading the Titans defense that ranks 29th in overall defensive DVOA, and has the worst pass rush in football. Deshaun Watson should have his way with this defense and the Texans will be able to score in bunches. Derrick Henry may have his way with the Texans' run defense, but we should get one of the better efforts out of the Texans defense.
This is the pure definition of an overinflated line. There is tons of sharp money coming in on the Texans. Give me Houston and the points.
The pick: Texans +7.5
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
Spread: Indianapolis (-14.5)
Call me crazy, but I believe the Jaguars may win this game outright.
The Colts had a chance to clinch a playoff spot last week, but blew an 18-point lead in the second half. Now the Colts need a win, and a lot of help. Phillip Rivers has been horrific in must win regular season games. Now he is favored by more than two touchdowns against the Jaguars. No thanks, I will gladly fade the Colts in this spot. Jacksonville pulled up the upset against the Colts in Week 1 and I think they keep this one closer here.
This is a bet on two big of a number, we will trust the trend and take the Jags.
The pick: Jaguars +14.5
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Spread: Minnesota (-4)
It’s clear Matt Stafford is not 100 percent and is hurt bad with an ankle injury, but the Lions are still insistent on playing him. Since Stafford’s injury the Lions have struggled on offense - they rank 19th in passing DVOA and 23rd in rushing DVOA.
To go along with a mediocre offense, they have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Lions rank dead last in defensive DVOA, and dead last on play per play success rate allowing 60 percent of all plays to grade successfully. Over the last five games the Lions have given up 41,30, 31, 46, and 47.
As for Minnesota, the Vikings will be missing Dalvin Cook due to a family issue, but they still have the playmakers to put up a massive number in this one. The Vikings are coming off a game where they put 33 points against the Saints top ranked defense. The Vikings rank ninth in overall offensive DVOA and their top playmakers, Justin Jefferson and Adam Theilen should feast is this one.
Take the Vikings to win this one comfortably.
The pick: Vikings - 4
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
Spread: Las Vegas (-2.5)
This is a situation where the analytical data doesn’t matchup with the spread.
The Raiders rank 20th in overall DVOA while the Broncos rank 30th. The Raiders have been competitive in all of their close losses while the Broncos have looked anemic. Las Vegas should be able to move the ball on the Broncos defense, while the Broncos have shown zero evidence throughout the year that they can move the ball on anyone, even the Raiders defense. They rank 30th in total offense and 32 in overall offensive DVOA.
We are going to fade Drew Lock and the Broncos.
The pick: Raiders -2.5
To be clear, these are not official picks. But just wanted to quickly share some thoughts on two games with playoff implications - Cowboys-Giants and Cardinals-Rams.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Spread: Dallas (-1)
This is a situation where I blatantly disagree with the line. Both teams technically have to win this game, so I’m not sure if this falls into the trend.
But the Cowboys have seemed to turn the corner with Andy Dalton at quarterback. Dallas' defense has also looked a lot better with veteran Sean Lee back. The Giants do not have the offensive firepower to take advantage of the Cowboys lack luster secondary. I think the Cowboys get the win here. The Giants have surprisingly been a pretty good story, but they have regressed back to the mean lately.
Dallas simply has more talent across the board, and should be giving more than a point in this spot.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
Spread: Arizona -3
To begin, this is going to be an extremely bias pick here. But I love the contrarian aspect of it. John Wolford is going to be starting at quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams. I had the privilege of the getting to interview him in college and I have closely followed his career for a while. At Wake Forest he was a Second Team All-ACC selection and under his leadership Wake Forest, had the No. 1 most efficient offense according to PFF. Wolford was also one of the biggest stars in the Alliance of American Football league.
Wolford will have a tough task making his first career start in Week 17 in a must win situation. But I have faith he can handle it. His mobility will add another dimension to Sean McVay’s offense. The Rams will also be missing top pass catcher Cooper Kupp.
Still, I love the Rams defense getting points here. The Rams rank fifth in DVOA and have been great against the league’s top offense. The Rams held the explosive Seahawks offense to 4.8 yards per play. The Rams quarters defense should limit the Cardinals affinity for the big play. Won’t give it out as an official pick for bias issues, but I like the Rams.
The pick: Rams +3
Make sure to follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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