Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: Week 17 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (11-4) at Minnesota Vikings (9-6)

There are many reasons to like the Vikings here. They’ve played great football at home, going 6-1 with wins over San Francisco and Chicago, as opposed to 3-4 on the road. They played the Packers tight a few weeks back and that was in Green Bay. They’re also playing very good football right now, winning 3 in a row since that Green Bay game. In spite of all this, we’re getting more than a field goal with them at +3.5 and still the public is on Green Bay and the public always loses money in the long run.

We are getting some line value with the Vikings because, while the Packers rank 6th in net points per drive at 0.50, the Vikings rank 16th at 0.04. If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game), and shift the line in Minnesota’s favor 2.5 points for home field, you get that Green Bay should be only favored by 2.5, which isn’t much, but that is on the other side of that key field goal number. DVOA backs that up as Green Bay ranks 5th and 4th in regular and weighted DVOA, while the Vikings rank 16th and 19th respectively.

In spite of that, I’m not going against the Packers right now. Somehow the preseason favorites have managed to win 9 of 10 and fly under the radar. It hasn’t always been pretty, but last week against Tennessee it was (at least for them) in a huge blowout win and in spite of injuries, they are once again red hot at the right time this season. They are 11-4 and could easily be 12-3 if not for the replacement refs, which is right around where a lot of people had them at this point before the season (there was no way they were going to match 15 wins). Why aren’t they being talked about more? I bet Aaron Rodgers is asking that same question and he always plays very well when slighted.

Speaking of being slighted, why is Aaron Rodgers (who leads the NFL in QB rating), not being talked about as a legitimate MVP candidate. If he can win here and eliminate Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, I think he should be maybe the MVP front runner considering all the injuries around him on offense (Peterson is the favorite if the Vikings can make the playoffs). I think that’s exactly what will happen. Rodgers is 22-10 ATS on the road as dogs of favorites of 6 or fewer in his career. It’s not a big play and I wish the line were -3 flat, but I like the Packers.

Public lean: Green Bay (70% range)

Green Bay Packers 27 Minnesota Vikings 20

Pick against spread: Green Bay -3.5 (-110) 1 unit

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: Week 17 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-9) at Atlanta Falcons (13-2)

I can’t handicap week 17 games like I do other games (maybe that’s a good thing because I’ve had a rough few weeks), because one of the things I do is look for upcoming distractions and dynamic changes on their schedule. In week 17, I can’t do that, so instead I have to look at what this game means do these two teams. The Falcons have clinched the #1 seed, so this game is meaningless to them. However, I’m hearing they’ll play their starters for at least a half, as they did in 2010 after they had clinched the #1 seed and they held a 21-0 lead at the half against the hapless Panthers.

I’d suggest they treat this like a real game. They seem to have finally hit their stride and they are playing their best football of the season after that loss in Carolina woke them up and it wouldn’t make sense to take their foot off the gas at all, especially with a week off before their next game. There’s a reason that Super Bowl teams tend to come from Wild Card weekend, while teams that get first round byes tend to lose their first home game, including these Falcons in 2010.

Regardless of what Atlanta does in this one, the Buccaneers are playing terrible football here and this game might be even more meaningless to them than the Falcons. The Falcons at least have the playoffs to tune up for. The Buccaneers’ season is over and they don’t even get to play spoiler at all with the Falcons having already clinched the #1 seed.

I’m not saying they’re as bad as the 2010 Panthers or the 2011 Buccaneers, against whom the Falcons took a 42-7 halftime lead last season during week 17. However, the Buccaneers have lost 5 straight, which is especially bad news for such a traditionally streaky team. Two close losses to the Falcons and Broncos weren’t that concerning, but their home loss to the Eagles was and once they lost that game and effectively had their season ended, they seem to have mailed it in for the 2nd straight season.

At best, they’re a streaky team on a very bad streak, with the streaky Josh Freeman going 88 of 174 (50.6%) for 1082 yards (6.2 YPA), 5 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions in his last 5 games, including a 1:8 TD/INT ratio in his last 2 games, a combined 69-13 loss. At worst, they’ve quit. I’m laying the points and taking the Falcons. Mike Smith is 3-1 ATS week 17, including 4-0 SU by an average of 14.0 points per game (against an average line of -10.5).

Public lean: ?

Atlanta Falcons 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17

Pick against spread: Atlanta -3.5 (-110) 4 units

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Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins: Week 17 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (8-7) at Washington Redskins (9-6)

The name of the game is simple for the Dallas Cowboys. If they lose, they go home. If they win, they win the NFC East. For the Redskins, it’s a little bit more complicated. They clinch the division with a win, same as with the Cowboys, but they can technically still make the playoffs if they lose, assuming an improbable sequence of events happens earlier in the day before this Sunday Night showdown. I don’t think that will, however, and either way, both teams will be treating this as a must win game as the prize for both teams is a home playoff game.

Assuming we were getting enough points, I was thinking of thinking the Cowboys here. A very good trend is on their side. Road dogs are 52-26 ATS trying to avenge a same season home loss as favorites. The logic behind this is simple: when the location of the game between two teams determines who is favored and who is not, that generally means those two teams are evenly matched and I’d say that’s about right with these two teams. When two teams are evenly matched, they tend to split the season series and if one team wins as dogs on the road, it generally evens out with the other team getting revenge and at least covering as dogs on the road in the next game (40-41 SU).

However, we’re just getting no line value with the Cowboys. These two teams are fairly even, but the Redskins are the better team. They rank 13th in net points per drive, 11th in DVOA, and 8th in weighted DVOA. Meanwhile, the Cowboys rank 17th, 14th, and 15th respectively. If you take the difference between the Redskins’ net points per drive and the Cowboys’, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per game per team), and add 2.5 for home field, you get that the Redskins should be favored by 4.5, a figure that is pretty well supported by DVOA.

Furthermore, as bad as the Cowboys generally are in December, I can’t take them to win this game and that would be what I would be doing taking them plus a field goal. Tony Romo is 12-21 ATS after week 14 in his career, though slightly better, 9-12 ATS, as dogs. They’re also 11-6 ATS as road dogs since 2009 (while they struggle as home favorites). Still, I can’t pick them to win here. Games in which a team is a dog are generally a low pressure situations, which is where these Cowboys thrive, but this is far from a low pressure situation, so I have to lay the points. I really wish we were getting at least 3.5, but it’d have to be more than 4 for me to feel comfortable.

Public lean: Washington (50% range)

Washington Redskins 31 Dallas Cowboys 27

Pick against spread: Washington -3 (-110) 1 unit

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St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks: Week 17 NFL Pick

St. Louis Rams (7-7-1) at Seattle Seahawks (10-5)

Everyone knows about the Seahawks’ home prowess, but it’s really, really significant, possibly even more than people realize. At home, they are 47-20 ATS since 2005, including 6-0 ATS as double digit favorites and 16-3 ATS as touchdown plus home favorites. For contrast, they are 24-43 ATS on the road in that same time period.

On average, they outscore opponents at home by an average of 7.3 points per game. On the road, they are outscored by 5.1 points per game. For this reason, I don’t feel that using 2.5 as a home field adjustment for them is inappropriate. I feel that using 6 (split the difference) or something around there is a more appropriate adjustment (either way: add 6 at home and subtract 6 on the road).

Even using the standard 2.5, we’re getting significant line value with the Seahawks. The Seahawks are all the way in 2nd at net points per drive at 0.90 now, while the Rams are at -0.34 in 24th. If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game), and add that standard 2.5, you get that Seattle should be favored by 16 here. If you use that 6 point adjustment, you get a line of Seattle -19.5. DVOA backs this all up, as Seattle ranks far and away best in both regular and weighted DVOA, while the Rams are 17th and 16th respectively, not bad, but not good enough for me to even consider taking the points here.

For this reason, I don’t even care that this line has moved 3.5 points since last week. Seattle -7.5 was ridiculous anyway. Even Seattle -11 right now is too low for this dominant home team. I don’t care that the public is all over the Seahawks. I don’t care that teams tend to struggle off of back-to-back blowouts. Teams are 28-42 ATS since 1989 off of two straight wins by 24 or more, but the Seahawks were in this spot last week and didn’t seem to care. Now they’re the 6th team since 1989 to have three win straight by that many and just the 2nd (2004 Colts) to win 3 straight by 29 or more. They’re also the first team in that time period to outscore opponents by 120 or more over a 3 game stretch.

I don’t care that the Rams are 10-3 ATS as dogs this year and that they haven’t lost a divisional game and that the Seahawks seem due for a letdown because no one is this good and that everything I normally like to do is telling me to stay away from the Seahawks this week because nothing is this easy. I don’t even care that I don’t like to lay more than a touchdown for a significant play. I’m doing that here. I’m expecting another blowout. There’s just too much line value. The Seahawks are too good at home. And it’s not like Pete Carroll has any qualms about running up the score.

Public lean: Seattle (70% range)

Seattle Seahawks 38 St. Louis Rams 10

Pick against spread: Seattle -11 (-110) 4 units

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Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots: Week 17 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (7-8) at New England Patriots (11-4)

I can’t handicap week 17 games like I do other games (maybe that’s a good thing because I’ve had a rough few weeks), because one of the things I do is look for upcoming distractions and dynamic changes on their schedule. In week 17, I can’t do that, so instead I have to look at what this game means do these two teams. The Patriots can move into a first round bye here with a win if Houston loses (not completely unlikely) and actually into the #1 seed with a Houston loss and a Denver loss (pretty much completely unlikely). Meanwhile, with a loss, Baltimore could jump them (assuming they beat Cincinnati) and New England could end up as low as 4th.

Obviously, there’s a lot at play for the Patriots, but most of it will be played out before this game even happens. If Houston wins and Baltimore doesn’t in the 1 PM block, the Patriots will be locked into the #3 seed barring a Denver loss as 16 point favorites against the Chiefs (translation, they’re the #3 seed). However, even if Denver gets up big against Kansas City early, the Patriots will not pull their starters. They always go full out for these week 17 games, even the meaningless ones (which this one isn’t completely). Belichick is 9-2 ATS on week 17.

Besides, this team desperately needs a tune up before the playoffs as their last two games have featured a home loss and a “closer than it should have been” game in Jacksonville as 14 point favorites. However, even with last week’s game, the Patriots have no shortage of blowout wins on their schedule, winning 6 games by 21 or more this season and I think it’s very doubtful that Belichick allows the team to have 3 bad games in a row. Since 2008, they’re 6-2 ATS off of back-to-back non-covers, including a 45-7 win against the Rams earlier this year. This situation reminds me a little bit of that. They lost to the Seahawks and then barely beat the Jets, but bounced back in that 3rd game in a huge way.

We’re also getting plenty of line value with the Patriots, more than last week as this line has moved from -12 to -10 because of the Patriots’ less than stellar showing in Jacksonville and because of some unfounded speculation that this game won’t mean anything to the Patriots (even if it technically doesn’t, they won’t care). The calculated line using the net points per drive method is New England -13, with the Patriots 1st in net points per drive and the Dolphins being 15th.

My concerns and reasoning for not making this a significant play are threefold. The first is that the public is all over New England and they always lose money in the long run. The second is that I just generally don’t like laying more than a touchdown in a significant play. The third is the Patriots’ less than stellar ATS record as home favorites of more than a touchdown over the past 3 years. They are 5-9 ATS in that situation, pretty crazy considering they are 24-12 ATS in all other situations over that time period. Still, I like the Patriots this week. I also once again like the over as Patriots’ game, especially in the 2nd half of the season and in the division, tend to go over.

Public lean: New England (70% range)

New England Patriots 31 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against spread: New England -10 (-110) 2 units

Total: Over 46 (-110) 1 unit

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New York Jets at Buffalo Bills: Week 17 NFL Pick

New York Jets (6-9) at Buffalo Bills (5-10)

Aside from this being a divisional matchup, this is a completely meaningless game for these two teams. Both are out of the playoffs by a long shot and both could easily have new Head Coaches and starting quarterbacks next season. I don’t like to make big plays on games involving two teams completely out of the playoff race. There’s just no way to predict what kind of energy either side of going to come out with. Meaningless games should be completely meaningless to bettors. However, if I had to pick a side, I would take the Jets.

The first reason is that I think they’re a better team, but this line doesn’t show it. In fact, at -3.5, it says the Bills are slightly better which isn’t true. The Jets rank 26th in net points per drive, 25th in DVOA, and 25th in weighted DVOA, while the Bills rank 28th, 24th, and 24th respectively. At best, these two teams are even, but we’re getting line value with the Jets using the net points per drive method. The Jets’ is at -0.39, while the Bills are at -0.64. If you take the difference, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that this should be a pick em.

The second reason is that the Jets, for whatever reason, dominate this “rivalry,” winning the last 6, including 5 covers, winning those 6 by an average of 16.8 points for game. The third reason is that, again, for whatever reason, the Bills always seem to struggle late in the season under Chan Gailey, going 4-10 ATS during weeks 13-17 since he took over in 2010. The final reason is that, in spite of all the above stuff, we’re getting a chance to fade the public as the public is all over the Bills. The public always loses money in the long run. Still, I can’t make it a significant play.

Public lean: Buffalo (70% range)

New York Jets 17 Buffalo Bills 16 Upset Pick +155

Pick against spread: NY Jets +3.5 (-110) 2 units

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Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: Week 17 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (9-6) at Detroit Lions (4-11)

Chicago is in a must win game here, but that doesn’t mean that this means more to them. The Lions would love nothing more here than to play spoiler and eliminate a division rival. However, unlike the Eagles against the Giants, I don’t really like the Lions here. The Bears have won every game this year in which they’ve been favored by more than 4 (going 8-0 SU and 6-1-1 ATS), but in their other 7 games, they’ve won just once, in Dallas, going 1-6 SU and ATS.

In their 7 games in which they’ve been favored by 4 or more, they’ve won 41-21, 23-6, 41-3, 13-7, 23-22, 51-20, and 28-10, 28-13, winning by an average of 18.2 points per game. 6 of those 8 wins were by 15 or more and only the game against Carolina was actually close. They shut out the Lionsfor 59 ½ minutes before they got a backdoor touchdown to push and finish 13-7.

The Lions aren’t 4 point dogs here because they are much better in things like net points per drive, DVOA, and weighted DVOA than their record would suggest, but they are as bad as the teams that the Bears have been 4+ point favorites over, just for a different reason. They just don’t seem to be able to close out games and win when anything is expected of them. As dogs of 3.5 or less or favorites, they are 3-10 ATS this season.

Furthermore, while they are better in net points per drive, DVOA, and weighted DVOA, we’re still not getting any real line value. The Lions may keep it closer than a lot of the bad record teams the Bears have faced this season (because they don’t have a lot of blowout losses), but the Bears should win and cover here as I don’t trust the Lions unless we’re getting a ton of points with them, especially without dynamic interior defensive lineman Nick Fairley (two big losses without him).

Public lean: Chicago (70% lean)

Chicago Bears 24 Detroit Lions 19

Pick against spread: Chicago -3 (-110) 2 units

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