NFL SuperContest: Week 17’s challenging picks
Las Vegas — Welcome to Week 17 of the Las Vegas SuperContest and the end of this wild ride of picking five games against the spread each week. The end of an NFL season means the playoffs, and for some, the chance for your team to become a Super Bowl champ.
Yet for purposes of the SuperContest, this week IS the Super Bowl.
Week 17 of the most prestigious handicapping competition in Vegas brings some unique challenges, and it is widely regarded as a slate of games full of unpredictable outcomes. That’s not what the leaders of this contest want to hear, of course.
Team Granny’s Boy (57.5 points) has a 2.5 point lead for the $1.3 million first-place prize. So, barring a complete collapse, they will walk away with the championship. However, the volatility of the final scores surely will make this week a stressful one for everyone hoping to finish in the money.
So far, we know the Rams won’t play their stars against the 49ers, but how many others will pull their starters after the first quarter? Halftime? We just don’t know. That makes this week as hard as predicting games ATS as in the preseason.
For my entry, Team Gamenight (44-31-5), I’m currently sitting tied for 150th place with 46.6 points after a 3-2 Week 16. I need to jump over more than 150 teams to get into the top 50 and the money. That’s a long, long shot, but at least I have one after 80 picks, right?
Eagles +3 vs. Cowboys
I’m going to lean HEAVILY on our Action Network brothers at SportsInsights.com for this pick. They have some really interesting stats that are going against the Cowboys on top of the fact that this is a meaningless game for Dallas. For starters, the line has flipped to the Eagles being favorites here. However, for the purpose of the contest, we get to use the Eagles +3. From SportsInsights.com: The Cowboys are the second-least profitable team in our database as favorites against division rivals since 2003, compiling a 20-32-3 ATS record (-$1,353 for a $100 bettor). That’s an eye-opener right there and a trend I will ride. If that wasn’t enough, the windy conditions in freezing Philly also favor the Eagles’ outstanding rush defense against a Dallas team that looked really off last week. Now, if the game starts and the Eagles pull all their starters, I’m going to be crying, but I think the Eagles will want to end the year on a high note against their one of their biggest rivals. Give me the points at home here.
Panthers +3.5 at Falcons
If you’ve been around sports gambling for a while, I’m sure you have heard the line that “trends are for suckers.” Sometimes that is correct, but other times it can help you see the potential for an upset. I’m seeing one here with the Falcons. How often have we seen teams that lose the Super Bowl not make the playoffs the following year? In fact, 43.5 percent of teams that have lost the big game have not made the postseason the following season. I think the Panthers win this game outright and send the Falcons into an offseason full of questions. I picked Atlanta last week, but something isn’t right with the team’s coaching staff and their in-game decision making. Carolina QB Cam Newton is 5-1 SU in games where his team is the underdog, and I really like the Panther defense. There is also this stat from SportsInsights.com that I like: The Falcons need a win to get into the playoffs. Since 2003, home teams in must-win games (Weeks 15-17) have gone 84-116-5 (42%) ATS. I really like the hook here and will take the 3.5 points.
Seahawks -9.5 vs. Cardinals
If I’m going to take the Falcons to blow their shot at the playoffs, I have to think that Seattle won’t do the same. In a week of uncertainty, the Seahawks are one of those teams that you have to trust to take care of business. I don’t love the line here because it’s nearly double digits, but the fact that it’s under 10 makes it acceptable to me. QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawk offense will have to put some points up against a stingy Cardinal defense, but the Falcons game will be played at the same time as this one. There is real pressure on the Seahawks to put this game away early and hope that Carolina can beat Atlanta. Several key veteran players on Seattle’s roster could be playing their last game for the Seahawks in this game. I expect them to be motivated against a divisional opponent and to ride the emotion of the home crowd for a big win.
Patriots -15.5 vs. Jets
The Patriots must win this game to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and Bill Belichick hates the Jets for a bunch of reasons. Last week, I forgot my own rule to always bet on the Patriots to cover at home against a divisional opponent. (The Pats have fared exceedingly well against the spread in recent home games.) The Patriots are not a team that rests their starters in Week 17, and they will play hard knowing that they will get a week off following this game. There has been a lot made of the health of Tom Brady and his six interceptions over the past five weeks, but I think New England will pound the rock in the cold against the Jets. Both teams have several players who are questionable with injuries, but I’ll take the Pats to rip New York to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
49ers -3 vs. Rams
I’m all in on Jimmy GQ. The new QB of the 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo, is undefeated as a starter in the NFL (6-0), and the Rams have already thrown up the white flag in this one. I predict this will be the most popular pick in the SuperContest, but I need points and can’t make a contrarian pick here. The 49ers are the hottest team in the NFL and will want to go into the offseason with a big win over one of the top teams in the NFL. San Francisco will try to be one of only two teams over the past 23 years to win five straight games to end the year and not make the playoffs. Jimmy GQ is 3-0-1 ATS over the past four weeks, and I think he’ll have a big game against mostly backups in this one. The Rams have already told their players that the team will cover contract incentives missed out by starters not playing this week due to a coaches’ decision, so there isn’t even that motivating factor here for Los Angeles. Gotta ride this run by San Francisco and lay the points.
Just Missed The Cut
Browns +11 at Steelers
Sharps are loving this line for Cleveland, but I just couldn’t do it. It’s the Browns, and I can’t risk a last-second, heartbreaking, backdoor cover for the Steelers. I think Pittsburgh will rest a bunch of their starters, and if the Pats game gets out of hand, I think the Steelers will pull everyone knowing they can’t win the No. 1 seed. Too much uncertainty for me, so I passed.
Chargers -7.5 vs. Raiders
If this line was 7, I probably would have taken this game over the Seahawks, but the hook scared me off. I think the line is about right, and I think the Chargers are going to win this game. Awesome SportsInsights.com stat here: Philip Rivers has played 40 home games in his career where he was favored by a TD or more. Rivers is 36-4 SU and 25-15 ATS in those games. He has won his past 10 straight up in the situation and is 13-0 SU in Weeks 14-17, as well. I just couldn’t take it at -7.5.
Other Sports Action Picks
Team Bet The Process (40-37-3) is rolling with the Bengals (+9.5) at the Ravens, the Packers (+6.5) at the Lions, the Dolphins (+2.5) against the Bills, the Texans (+3.5) at the Colts and the Raiders (+7.5) at the Chargers.
Team Sports Action (36-41-3) is taking the Saints (-7.5) on the road at the Bucs, the Texans (+3.5) at the Colts, the Giants (+3) at home vs. the Redskins, the Bears (+11.5) at the Vikings and the Rams (-3) against the 49ers.
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