NFL Week 17 Picks: Bets for Bears vs Lions, Vikings vs Packers, More
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images. Pictured: Amon-Ra St. Brown.
- Brandon Anderson has previewed every single NFL game in Week 17.
- Check out the games he's already bet, including both divisional matchups in the NFC North.
We've reached the penultimate week of the NFL season, and we're ready to turn the calendar to 2023.
That means the playoff picture is finally starting to crystallize, and it means we need to account for team motivations across the board. It looks like a much tamer weather week after a cold, nasty Christmas weekend slate, but not every team is playing with the same gusto, and that matters and plays into these lines.
Make sure you're familiar with playoff scenarios before betting this weekend since much is left to be determined. Seven of the 14 postseason spots are still up for grabs, along with two divisions and the 1-seed in each conference.
Let's go around the league and make picks for every game. Picks are sorted by confidence level: Bet, Lean, Pass, or Wait.
Tua Tagovailoa is in concussion protocol yet again. That means we need to wait and see who starts at quarterback for the Dolphins since their high-powered offense hasn't been nearly as dangerous with Teddy Bridgewater or Skylar Thompson.
I like under 42.5 either way if you want to grab that now before it drops. Miami's offense has plummeted to 27th in DVOA over the last six weeks, masked by a defense that's suddenly playing well. That's New England's profile too, so I think this key battle could be low scoring and close, and if Tagovailoa is sidelined, the total will only go down.
THE PICK: Wait for Tagovailoa news
OTHER ANGLES: Bet Under 42.5 now if you like it
We're waiting on Jalen Hurts news, which means we'll circle back on this one. The Eagles certainly want to win this since a victory clinches the division, the 1-seed and bye. It also improves the New Orleans' draft pick, which belongs to Philadelphia.
We saw how good Philly was even with Gardner Minshew, but it's a pretty different team so let's wait for a clearer picture before deciding. Don't forget, the Saints have a real shot at their division, so this won't be a walkover.
THE PICK: Wait for Hurts injury news
I've already played this game three ways since we hammered this on last week's Lookahead. We're sitting on Steelers +6.5 and an under 42 ticket that's dropped a full six points. But with the line moving so much, most of the value we got is now gone.
I'm not sure the line is done moving. This movement implies Lamar Jackson may not play again, which seems likely at this point. If he's ruled out, I suspect the line and total will move further, so let's wait for QB news and then circle back on Saturday. For now, I'm loving our Steelers and under positions.
THE PICK: Wait for Jackson injury news and to see where the lines settle
Our last Monday night game of the regular season is an absolute monster and could be an AFC Championship Game preview. Both teams are still alive for the 1-seed, with the Bills in the driver's seat and in control of their destiny.
For such a big matchup, I just want a little more time to think it through — plus the line is still settling a bit. Let's come back on Saturday and do a deep dive on a ginormous game.
THE PICK: Wait for the line to settle and dive in on Saturday
Even though Jacksonville is red hot and pushing for a division title, this game is virtually meaningless.
The Jags have about a 1% chance at a wild card berth, so it makes sense to use this as something of a bye week and rest opportunity before the Week 18 clash with the Titans determines the division winner. The Texans probably prefer to lose anyway since they're only a half-game up on Chicago for the No. 1 draft pick, so this could end up akin to an exhibition.
Houston has beat Jacksonville nine times in a row and 15 of the last 17; the Texans are also playing really good defense. But Jacksonville is for real, with an improving defense and the No. 2 passing offense DVOA over the last six weeks.
I think the Jags keep pushing and win with relative ease, but the mixed motivations mean I'll stay away.
THE PICK: Jaguars -4 (Pass)
I can't spot Brock Purdy six points in a tough road environment, but I'm also not trying to catch the falling knife and bet against a streaking 49ers team anymore either, especially for a Raiders team that's all but eliminated already.
The Niners could not be any hotter. They're top four in both passing and rushing, both offense and defense, by DVOA over the last six weeks. If you believe in this profile, especially with the Cowboys faltering and Eagles picking up injuries, now is the time to bet 49ers futures.
THE PICK: Raiders +6 (Pass)
Nathaniel Hackett is gone two months too late, and teams typically tend to have a dead cat bounce in their favor the week after ejecting an expired coach. But are we sure Hackett was the problem, not Russell Wilson? Denver outright quit on Christmas, and it remains to be seen who the players were quitting on.
Patrick Mahomes is a perfect 10-0 against Denver, but he's only 12-18-1 ATS (40%) as more than a seven-point favorite. The trends lean pretty strongly in Denver's direction. It's typically a good idea to back a huge division underdog this late in the year, especially one that just got embarrassed.
With a line so long, it's Broncos or pass, but I just can't interest myself in backing this garbage team. I'll be happy to take a reduced K.C. moneyline live if Denver starts strong and gives me an opportunity.
THE PICK: Broncos +13.5 (Pass)
Both teams are eliminated, but neither has a huge incentive to tank with an ostensible franchise quarterback already in tow.
Is Desmond Ridder really the answer for Atlanta? He hasn't had much of a chance yet, but he hasn't been any good either, and I certainly can't make him a four-point favorite for a bad team with a terrible defense. Kliff Kingsbury is 16-5-2 ATS (76%) as a road underdog and 15-3-1 ATS (83%) as a dog against coaches who haven't won a Super Bowl.
It's Cardinals or pass, but I can't get too excited about a glorified exhibition game. Still, if you're giving me +170 on a moneyline that feels like a coin flip, I guess I'll play.
THE PICK: Cardinals +4
OTHER ANGLES: Sprinkle Cards +170 ML
What do we do with the Bucs at this point?
They have one win all season against a team that's over .500 right now, and it was from Week 1 against Dallas and an injured Dak Prescott. Three of Tampa Bay's last four wins have been late comebacks after being down double digits in the fourth quarter against the Rams, Saints and Cardinals.
The Bucs rank in the bottom quarter of the league over the last six weeks by DVOA on offense, defense, special teams and overall. It's all bad.
And yet … here we are. Even after this disaster of a season, the Bucs can clinch the NFC South and rest their guys next week before hosting a playoff game at 8-9 overall. Even if Tampa loses to Carolina, the Bucs could still beat Atlanta next week and win the right to host a playoff game, with a little help. Life isn't fair.
Still, are the Bucs any good? They remind me of the Tim Tebow Broncos, a team everyone knew wasn't any good but had a horseshoe so far up its butt it could not stop winning late games. That's where we're at with Tom Brady now, plus a non-existent run game, a banged-up defense and an offensive line down to third- and fourth-stringers.
Carolina is absolutely playing better football at the moment. The run game is winning physically and, believe it or not, the numbers say Sam Darnold and the passing game are a serious advantage over Brady right now. The Panthers have a huge special teams edge, too.
I know it seems like the Bucs will finally flip the switch and blow out the Panthers to roll into the playoffs, but there's just nothing we've seen thus far that tells us to expect that.
My gut says, "Just back Brady, you idiot!!" just like yours does, but the numbers say to back Carolina — and not just here.
The Panthers are +450 to win the division at Bet365, an implied 18%. Their true odds are 27.9% at Football Outsiders, and I personally make it nearly double that.
The Saints are +3200 at FanDuel, so I'll play a bit on both as a way to fade the Bucs at an implied +372 combined. Brady will just have to take my money again.
THE PICK: Lean Panthers +3
OTHER ANGLES: Both Panthers +450 and Saints +3200 both to win the NFC South as a Bucs futures fade
We played under 42.5 for this game on the Lookahead. That total has since dropped to 40.5, but I still like the under.
Cleveland's offense has gone kaput under Deshaun Watson. The Browns offense has scored just 39 points in 16 Watson quarters, an ugly 9.8 PPG, with both the pass and run attack bottom 10 by DVOA.
Washington doesn't have a set QB and is now stuck between Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz. But both defenses are playing well, both top five against the pass over the last six weeks. Sounds to me like a whole lot of defense and not much offense.
Washington games are under 40.5 in 10 of its last 13, and Kevin Stefanski road unders with a total of 44 or fewer are 8-4 (67%). I like the under better than a side, and a low total beckons me to take the points in a toss-up.
The Commanders just aren't moving the ball well, and it's tough to see them making the playoffs. Maybe they fall out of the picture with a loss here.
THE PICK: Lean Under 40.5
OTHER ANGLES: Browns +2.5 (Pass)
On the one hand, the Colts are terrible. They looked lifeless and incompetent before a national audience on Monday night and never competed in a winnable game against the Chargers. It will not feel good betting on Indianapolis, no matter which decrepit QB the team rolls out there.
On the other hand, the Giants have won eight games, all by one score, and have only covered this spread four times all season. Daniel Jones is 4-7 ATS (36%) as a favorite and this would be his second-biggest spread ever.
The Colts defense is probably the best unit on the field, but Indy's terrible offense shouldn't do much even against a beatable Giants D. I like the under.
Danny Dimes home unders are 19-8 (70%), including 4-1 with a total at 43 or fewer. And if the game goes under such a low total, that's all the more reason to back the underdog.
The Colts have screwed everything else up this season — maybe they can also screw up New York's playoff chances. I'll play the under and the Colts together as a correlated same game parlay at +244.
THE PICK: Lean Colts +5.5 and Under 40.5 together at +244 as a SGP
The Chargers punched their playoff ticket in that Monday night win over the Colts, and I'm not sure they have much to play for. It's hard to care too much about seeding when the opponents aren't set, and the Rams have no need to tank since they don't own their picks.
The Rams were not competitive at all in seven games this season, but six of them were against the Bills, Cowboys, 49ers (twice), Chiefs and Packers. The Rams aren't good, so of course they got crushed by those teams. But the other nine games they've played include two blowout wins and six one-score affairs.
So do the Chargers belong in that group of good teams or are they everyone else? I'm still firmly in the latter camp. The Chargers have played in 11 one-score games. They're 1-4 against current playoff teams, the only win against the fading Dolphins. The offense is blah, and the team is bad on early downs on both sides of the ball.
Believe it or not, these teams are practically mirror images by DVOA and many advanced metrics. The Chargers defense is looking good lately, but lucked into a downswing from the Dolphins, Titans and Colts, while the Rams have looked like a perfectly competent team over the last month and a half.
This line feels way too high in a game that doesn't matter much for either team, with zero home field advantage. I'll take the points and the Rams, and I'm compelled to sprinkle the +250 moneyline.
THE PICK: Lean Rams +6.5 and +250 ML
This is the most important motivation spot of the week. Tennessee, besieged by injuries, has lost five in a row after a 7-3 start. But that hot start in a bad division means the Titans still have a chance if they win in Week 18 in Jacksonville — and it means this Thursday night game means absolutely nothing for Tennessee.
This is the most obvious non-final-week rest spot I can recall. The Titans have injuries up and down the defense, on the line, at receiver, and, of course, at QB. There's nothing to play for, especially on a short week, and every reason to rest everyone of note and save for Week 18.
The Cowboys can still win the division and even the 1-seed. That may be moot if Hurts plays this week, or if the Eagles win without him, but with this game on Thursday night, Dallas has every incentive to win. The Cowboys should throw all over a defense that ranks 31st against the pass over the last six weeks.
Thursday night favorites of seven or greater are 39-26 ATS (60%), and teams on a short week after winning a division game by more than a field goal are 74-47-2 ATS (61%) since 2010. There's still a Dallas -9.5 out there at BetMGM as of Tuesday early evening. I expect this line to rise to at least -13 by kickoff, so grab it now.
THE PICK: Bet Cowboys -9.5
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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Is it disrespectful that the 12-3 Vikings are underdogs yet again to a sub-.500 team? I'm not so sure, not when we all see the same thing the numbers say — that the Packers are the better team.
Green Bay is a top-10 offense by DVOA; Minnesota is 19th. The Packers rank better defensively too, and they're elite defending the pass by DVOA and won't likely leave Justin Jefferson to do whatever he wants like they did in Week 1 when Minnesota won comfortably. The Packers have come a long way since, with a healthier offensive line, far better chemistry between the receivers and Aaron Rodgers, and a defense that's starting to find some answers.
Green Bay's biggest weaknesses are its run defense and special teams. But the Vikings run game has disappeared over the back half of the season, and they are even worse on special teams.
The Packers rank 11th overall by DVOA. The Vikings have played six games against top-12 DVOA teams. They got a miracle comeback win against the Bills, beat Skylar Thompson's Dolphins and won against the Packers in Week 1 when Green Bay's starters hadn't played all preseason. The other three games were ugly blowout losses to the Cowboys and Eagles, plus a double-digit loss to the Lions.
Minnesota has been bad against quality teams, and it sure looks like Green Bay is a quality team. In a cold January game at Lambeau Field with a playoff feel to it, do you want your money on Rodgers or Cousins?
Rodgers is 64% ATS as a division favorite, 63% ATS as a one-score favorite and 65% ATS at home. He's also 47-28 ATS (63%) in games at 45 degrees or below like this will surely be, the second-most profitable cold weather QB in our Action Labs system behind only Tom Brady. Rodgers is 7-2 SU lifetime in cold weather games against the Vikings.
Close your eyes and imagine this game. Did you imagine a sad, cold Kirk Cousins alone on the sidelines after his third interception with 112 yards total deep into the game as Justin Jefferson stomps around looking for a QB that can get him the ball, while yet another Packer Lambeau Leaps into the stands?
Yeah — me too. Grab the -3 while it's there.
THE PICK: Bet Packers -3
I regret to inform you that I have abandoned Seattle Island.
The island took on water for weeks, with rising tides, storming winds, a faltering offense and little tackling to be found. Our once promising +1500 playoff tickets looked so good at 6-3 before Seattle lost five of its next six, failing to cover in all of them. I cashed out my Seahawks futures weeks ago, went back to the Island for one more visit last week, and now I'm out for good.
Give me the Jets.
This is an elimination game. The Jets are out with a loss, while the Seahawks drop below 5% with one week to go. The winner isn't necessarily in the playoffs, but the loser is done.
It feels like this Seahawks team is cooked. The defense turned back into a pumpkin, the run game has mostly disappeared and Geno Smith and the offense have been bad against good defenses.
The Seahawks have played a top-10 defense by DVOA three times. They went down 21-3, 21-3 and 20-0 in those games, basically dead on arrival. The Jets defense is elite and playing about as well as anyone. New York has the corners to eliminate DK Metcalf and the pass rush to give Geno trouble.
Now that Mike White is good to go, New York has an offense that should put up points on a faltering Seahawks defense. The Jets offense was an ugly 27th by DVOA with Zach Wilson, but they're 16th with any other QB. That puts New York's offense about on par with Seattle's, and if that's the case, the Jets defense is the clear difference.
The Jets defense has earned our trust, so I like playing a cover and under 42.5 together at +233 as a correlated SGP. New York's games have gone under that number in eight of the last 10, and its unders are 10-5 this season, while home underdog unders are hitting at 65% on the season.
If you like the Jets, you should be looking at futures as well.
New York is +500 to make the playoffs. If they win in Seattle and Miami — possibly without Tua Tagovailoa — the Jets are near 90% to make the postseason. Win this weekend and they get to around 35%. That number is way too long. The Jets are still in this.
This game is also the Offensive Rookie of the Year kingmaker. If Seattle wins, it'll probably mean a big game from Kenneth Walker head-to-head against Garrett Wilson, so betting Walker OROY at +500 could be a sneaky way to play a Seattle ML. If Seattle loses, that should clinch for Wilson and probably knocks Geno out of the Comeback Player of the Year race too.
However you decide to play, I'm abandoning Seattle Island for good and riding the Jets and their defense. New York's last four wins covered and went under, so I'll play both together.
J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!
THE PICK: Bet Jets -1.5 and Under 42.5 correlated SGP at +233
OTHER ANGLES: Jets to make the playoffs +500