NFL Week 17 Picks: Expert Bets for Rams vs Chargers, Vikings vs Packers
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Joey Bosa.
NFL Odds & Picks
Chris Raybon: Though the Rams hung 51 points on a checked-out Broncos defense last week, they figure to come back down to Earth against a Chargers defense that has allowed just 34 points over its past three games.
Per our Action Labs data, the under is 33-25 (57%) since 2003 when one of the teams scored over 50 points the week before.
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The Rams posted team totals of 17 and 12 in Baker Mayfield’s first two starts, which is more indicative of the true talent level of an offense starting four backups on the line plus Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell and Brandon Powell at wide receiver. While safety Derwin James (concussion) will miss this game for the Chargers, they get edge rusher Joey Bosa (groin) back for the first time since Week 3.
The Chargers face a Rams defense that plays zone at the third-highest rate in the league in an effort to limit explosive plays. It’s been a successful tactic, as the Rams have allowed the sixth-lowest rate of 20-plus-yard pass plays (11.2%) and the second-lowest rate of 16-plus-yard run plays (5.4%).
Justin Herbert and company have been far less explosive against zone coverage, averaging 7.4 yards per targeted pass attempt compared to 8.2 versus man. The better a defense’s ability to force the Chargers to drive the length of the field and sustain long drives, the more likely it is that the Bolts’ shaky red-zone offense will be a factor.
The Chargers have scored touchdowns on just 49.1% of their red-zone drives, which ranks 26th. That rate doesn’t figure to improve against a Rams defense that has limited opponents to a 44.7% conversion rate in the red zone, which is the second-best mark in the league.
While the lack of familiarity in inter-conference matchups can lead to high-scoring games, these teams aren’t total strangers — Brandon Staley was the Rams’ defensive coordinator in 2020 before leaving to become the Chargers’ head coach.
The market tends to be too optimistic on the scoring potential of inter-conference games, particularly when the total falls close to the league average. According to our Action Labs data, inter-conference matchups with a total between 41 and 46.5 have seen the under go 160-109-3 (60%) since 2015.
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Jefferson has posted at least 107 receiving yards in 10-of-15 games this season, including 184 against the Packers in Week 1.
He has posted 123-plus receiving yards in four of his past five games and will have added motivation to do it again after Jaire Alexander called his Week 1 performance a “fluke.”
Jefferson is also 208 yards shy of Calvin Johnson’s single-season record (1,964) and 244 shy of 2,000. The Vikings are underdogs for only the fifth time this season, which could help from a game-script perspective, as only 26% of Jefferson’s receiving yards have come when the Vikings are leading.