NFL Week 17 Predictions: Early Slate Best Bets for Bears vs Lions, Cardinals vs Falcons, More
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images. Pictured: Jared Goff.
NFL Week 17 Odds & Picks
John LanFranca: I am going to make Desmond Ridder and David Blough prove they can send this game over the total.
There will be a heavy dose of the ground attack from both teams and I expect the clock to be running constantly. The under has cashed in six of the Falcons’ last seven games and neither team has crossed 20 points scored since Week 12 when Kyler Murray and the Cards scored 24 against a banged up Chargers defense.
The Cardinals offense has averaged only 5.0 yards per passing play, which is last in the NFL. In his career, Blough has averaged 5.6 yards per attempt on 184 passes, so I am not expecting an improvement in this category.
The Falcons defense has steadily been improving, ranking 18th versus the run according to DVOA over their past four games. James Conner may have a tougher time than most expect in this game, and if the Cardinals can’t get their running game going, I can’t see an abundance of scoring opportunities from their offense.
As long as we can avoid costly turnovers from either quarterback, this game will comfortably stay under the total.
Sam Farley: The Falcons face the Cardinals, which seems like a real opportunity for a big-priced win.
Desmond Ridder will primarily target Drake London, but we could also see him target tight ends. With Kyle Pitts on IR, that means we have to work out just which one to back.
In Ridder’s two games, he’s targeted a tight end 10 times. Of those attempts, they’ve been shared across Parker Hesse (1 reception; 1 targets), Mycole Pruitt (2 receptions; 4 targets) and Anthony Firkser (2 receptions; 5 targets).
We’ll be banking on Firkser finding the endzone at +750.
Stuckey: I believe we have another inflated favorite in a must-win spot that will have all of the pressure on them, while the Bears can come in loose in the spoiler role against a division rival.
Don’t forget the Bears closed as three-point favorites (!) at home against the Lions last month. The Lions won that game by one, primarily due to a late pick-six that flipped the game. Chicago actually out-gained Detroit 408-323 with a 7.0-5.5 yards per play edge.
Everyone fell back in love with the Lions over the past eight weeks when they went 6-2 SU and 7-1 ATS. However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that they were severely outplayed in many of those games with only one dominant performance in a great situational spot against the Jaguars. That was the only game over that eight-game stretch where they averaged more yards per play than their opponent.
Over that hot streak, the Lions benefited from plenty of good fortune on special teams, in the red zone and turnovers. The defense has some intriguing young pieces with promising upside, but this is still a horrid unit that ranked 31st in EPA per play over those eight games if you remove turnovers. And for the entire season, they are still allowing a touchdown or first down on the highest frequency of drives of any team while forcing a league-low punt rate.
The run defense is particularly bad, which Chicago should exploit with Justin Fields and company. For what it’s worth, Fields still has an eye on the single-season quarterback rushing record.
I think this is the perfect time to buy low on the Bears, who are coming off a brutal stretch against the Jets, Packers, Eagles and Bills. Their defense is still horrid, but I like them to keep this within one possession and wouldn’t be shocked with an outright upset.
Notable Nugget: Since 2020, teams that lost by 20+ points have gone 75-52-1 ATS in their next game, including 58-32-1 ATS as an underdog. This buy-low trend applies to the Bears and Broncos this week.
Anthony Dabbundo: Since 1990, eliminated teams playing teams that need to win in the final two weeks of the regular season have gone 95-57-4 against the spread. That’s a 62% win rate and that’s the exact scenario Chicago is in against division rival Detroit.
The Bears and Lions played last month in Chicago and the Bears were a three-point home favorite. Now, Detroit is laying six at home and it’s just too many points.
Chicago hasn’t been tanking or getting blown out in recent weeks. The offense has struggled for sure, but they played the Jets, Bills and Eagles in the last three games. The latter two were one-score games in the fourth quarter. All three of those defenses are top-10 units, and the Lions still have the worst defense in the NFL by EPA/play.
The Lions weren’t as bad as their record suggested during their 1-6 start, but they’re not as good as their recent form either. That was evident in last week’s game when Carolina boat-raced Detroit for eight yards per play. The Panthers have been running a lot of zone read with Sam Darnold and they completely dominated the line of scrimmage.
If Detroit struggled to contain Darnold and the Carolina ground game, they’ll struggle with Justin Fields and David Montgomery. Chicago ran for 258 yards in the first meeting and Fields himself had 147 and two touchdowns. The Bears have a top-10 run offense by success rate and EPA/play.
Jared Goff should have plenty of success offensively against a poor Bears defense too, but this number is inflated given the Lions’ major defensive flaws up front.
I like Chicago at +4 or better.
Brandon Anderson: I backed the Lions last week and got embarrassed like Detroit. A supposedly improved defense got run off the field, quite literally, by a Panthers attack that gashed them repeatedly all game long, and suddenly those playoff hopes are in trouble again.
But I’m going back to the well.
The Lions are the exact sort of team that responds to a butt whooping like that, and I expect them to play with pride and come out strong, especially at home where they’ve been much better. Besides, the Bears are awful. Chicago ranks last by DVOA over the past six weeks, including on defense.
I don’t know if I trust Detroit’s defense. Chicago has only scored 15.5 PPG over its last four outings, but Justin Fields is magic and games in this rivalry tend to stay close, with seven of the last eight by one score.
I fear the back-door cover against this porous Lions D, but I trust them to start out well and for the offense to score. Detroit averages 28.4 PPG in games with a healthy Amon-Ra St. Brown, a top five offense by DVOA. Teams that give up 25-plus points in five straight are 13-28 ATS (32%) the following week — and Chicago has given up at least that many points in eight straight!
I like Detroit to win and cover, but I don’t love giving the 5.5 or 6 points. I considered the team total over at 28.5, but that hook is annoying. I suspect both of those may cash anyway, but I’ll play just the first half Lions -3.5.
Detroit is 11-4 ATS (73%) in the first half this season while the Bears are 5-10 (33%). Chicago’s defense is league-worst in both the first and second quarter, while Detroit’s defense is better early but near the bottom of the league late.
I like the Lions to make a statement right away to get last week’s bad taste out of their mouths. If you agree the Lions get an easy win here, you might think about their +350 playoff odds. A win here takes them to around 30%, and they get to around 40% with at least one loss by the Seahawks, Packers or Commanders, with better than coin-flip odds with two or more losses.
Detroit can still do this.
THE PICK: Bet Lions 1H -3.5
OTHER ANGLES: Lions -5.5, Lions +350 to make the playoffs
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Sam Farley: Bears at Lions is one of the most interesting games to attack from an anytime touchdown scorer angle.
The points total line started at 48.5 but it’s risen and risen and currently has the highest number of any game on the slate.
With that in mind, we can expect to see touchdowns. All of the usual suspects are a short price, but there’s one player who looks like huge value at +700 — the Lions’ Jameson Williams.
Williams has only played four games since returning from injury. In that time, he’s had five targets and hauled in one touchdown.
He’s been caught liking posts on social media about getting more targets and given the high point total here, it feels like a real opportunity against this Bears defense.
Nick Bretwisch: The Chiefs secondary has been bleeding production to wideouts this season, and based on Vegas’ pre-match numbers, this could be a perfect game script for Sutton and the Broncos’ pass-catchers.
Sutton led Denver with a 28% target share when Greg Dulcich was injured to begin the season and averaged over 80 yards receiving during that time. Now that Dulcich is back on the IR, we should expect Sutton to move around the formation more and fill some of those “hybrid” routes that Dulcich was running.
As long as the Chiefs can get ahead early like we expect, Sutton should eclipse this number in the third quarter.
Stuckey: I bet the Colts in what I think is a super inflated line. Both of these teams lost by a field goal in Minnesota over the past two weeks. The Colts closed +3.5, and the Giants closed +4.5, implying the Colts are actually a point better on a neutral field. But now they are catching six points in New York?
I know there are other factors to consider (Jonathan Taylor injury, short week for Colts), but it’s still way too inflated of a line after adjusting for home-field advantage, in my opinion.
Nick Foles will in all likelihood get the start under center again for Indianapolis. He was horrible in a loss on Monday night against the Chargers, but he should look much better after shaking off the cobwebs.
Ultimately, I just don’t see much of a difference from a point-spread perspective between him and the ghost of Matt Ryan. Plus, the Colts should get their ground game going against a horrendous Giants rush defense.
This week will mark the fourth time the Colts will be listed as an underdog of over a field goal after a double-digit loss. They have responded very well in these buy-low spots all season.
Following their three previous double-digit defeats, they have gone 3-0 ATS against the Chiefs, Raiders and Vikings. If not for a historic blown 33-0 lead in Minnesota, they would have three outright victories as underdogs in those spots.
Buy the stock low.
Lastly, I have no issues fading a Giants team that will need to win by a touchdown-plus to beat me. That might be difficult for a squad that has eight wins on the season, which have all come by one score with a number of fortunate fourth-quarter comebacks.
New York has a major coaching advantage, but I can’t pass up taking the six with the Colts, especially in a game with this low of a total.
Notable Nugget: In the last two weeks of the regular season, teams with a winning percentage of 40-69% and have a +5% to +35% winning percentage differential against their opponent have gone just 57-88-5 ATS (39.3%) over the past 20 years.
That speaks directly to some of the inflated lines we see late in the season with teams who need to win against perceived corpses. This ominous trend applies this week to the Commanders, Ravens, Bucs, Dolphins, Giants, Lions, Jaguars and Chargers.
Brandon Anderson: Tua Tagovailoa is out, and it remains to be seen if or when we’ll see him again this season. Miami has the league’s best pass offense by DVOA and are third overall in full Tagovailoa games versus 25th in the other four games, so it’s fair to say his absence looms large.
Both secondaries are in shambles injury-wise. Miami has dealt with this all season and may not be too worried against an anemic Patriots attack, but New England is extremely short-handed at corner and could be in trouble against Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill.
But can Teddy Bridgewater get them the ball?
This is technically Bridgewater’s second start of the season, but he was injured in the opening minutes of the first, and he came off the bench in two other games where he played a big role. This is his first chance to start for Mike McDaniel’s offense with a full week of preparation, and that could be key.
Besides, they don’t call him Teddy Covers for nothing. Bridgewater is 42-22 ATS (66%) as a starter, including an incredible 24-7 ATS (77%) on the road. He’s also 26-9 ATS (74%) as an underdog, the single most profitable quarterback in our Bet Labs system.
Miami’s offense has really struggled over the past month, but in a toss-up game, those Bridgewater trends are enough to back the Dolphins.
I prefer the total, though, and I like under 41. Bridgewater also has good trends to the under, 14-10 (58%) with a total below 44 and 20-10-1 (67%) on the road. Miami’s defense has quietly played well over the last six weeks, up to eighth in DVOA to offset the struggling offense, and we know New England can defend without offering much of a threat offensively.
Unders in division games from Week 14 forward hit at 58% with a home favorite under a TD and at 56% with a total from 40 to 47. Patriots games are under this line in six of the last eight, and for all the hype of Miami’s offense, the Dolphins have scored 21 or fewer in nine of 15 games (60%), including all four without Tagovailoa.
I bet the under 43 earlier in the week but I still like it at 41, and I lean Miami and the points in a close, unpredictable game.