Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (7-8) at Detroit Lions (8-7)

The Packers’ season was derailed by an injury to Aaron Rodgers earlier in the season, but that’s not the only injury they are dealing with now. The Packers will also be without wide receivers Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson, outside linebacker Nick Perry, right guard Jahri Evans, and possibly outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who was missed last week’s game against the Vikings and was limited all week in practice. Given everyone that they are missing, they are currently one of the worst teams in the entire league.

The Lions, meanwhile, get right tackle Ricky Wagner and right guard TJ Lang back this week, after both missed last week’s loss in Cincinnati. That being said, I can’t be too confident in the Lions as 7-point favorites, as they really haven’t had that many blowout wins over the past couple years. Just 6 of their 17 wins over the past 2 seasons have come by more than a touchdown, which is particularly relevant given where this line is. They’ve also been worse than their record has suggested in general, finishing last year with a -1.90% first down rate differential despite a 9-7 record and having a -4.25% first down rate differential this season despite a 8-7 record. They still have a good chance to cover this line against a terrible opponent, but I wouldn’t recommend betting on it.

Detroit Lions 27 Green Bay Packers 17

Pick against the spread: Detroit -7

Confidence: Low

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (9-6)

The Cardinals’ season was derailed by injuries, particularly on offense, where they have lost quarterback Carson Palmer, running back David Johnson, and their three best week 1 starting offensive linemen (left tackle DJ Humphries, left guard Mike Iupati, and right tackle Jared Veldheer) for the season. I’ve bet against the Cardinals frequently since they have had all these injuries, but I won’t be doing that this week because I’ve been underrating their defense.

Their defense has remained strong throughout the season, as they rank 7th in first rate allowed at 31.90%, despite losing outside linebacker Markus Golden and safety Tyvon Branch for the season earlier this year. Young players like Budda Baker, Olsen Pierre, and Kareem Martin have stepped up in big ways, though the Cardinals will be without talented safety Antoine Bethea in this one. I’m still taking the Seahawks as 9-point home favorites this week because of the Cardinals’ abysmal offense with Drew Stanton under center, but I only have this line calculated at Seattle -9.5, so we aren’t getting any line value with them.

Seattle Seahawks 20 Arizona Cardinals 10

Pick against the spread: Seattle -9

Confidence: None

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (12-3)

I’ve bet the Bears frequently this season because I’ve thought they were underrated for most of the season. However, I won’t be doing so this week because they are way too banged up. They’ve had injury issues all season, but just in the last few weeks they’ve lost three starters on the offensive line (left guard Josh Sitton, right guard Kyle Long, and right tackle Bobby Massie) and a pair of valuable contributors in their front 7 (outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and defensive end Mitch Unrein). With that in mind, I’m actually taking the Vikings this week, though only for a no confidence pick. I have this line calculated at Minnesota -12.5, so we aren’t getting any line value with them at -12, even as banged up as the Bears are.

Minnesota Vikings 23 Chicago Bears 10

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -12

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (8-7) at Miami Dolphins (6-9)

Both of these teams have had a lot of close wins and big losses. The Bills’ have just 1 victory by more than 10 points, as opposed to 5 losses by more than 10 points. Their 8 wins have come by a combined 68 points (8.50 points per game), while their 7 losses have come by a combined 131 points (18.71 points per game). The Dolphins, meanwhile, have just 1 victory by more than 7 points, as opposed to 8 losses by more than 7 points. Their 6 wins have come by a combined 47 points (7.83 points per game), while their 9 losses have come by a combined 153 points (17.00 points per game). In point differential, the Bills rank 23rd at -63, while the Dolphins rank 29th at -106.

The Bills have been even worse than their point differential suggests though, as they’ve been overly reliant on winning the turnover margin, which is unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. They rank 6th in the NFL with a +8 turnover margin, making them the only team with a turnover margin of +5 or better and a negative point differential. In first down rate differential, they rank just 31st at -6.46%, even worse than the Dolphins, who rank -4.93% at 29th.

The Bills are better with Tyrod Taylor under center instead of Nathan Peterman, who has seen some action this season, but the Dolphins have been better since promoting running back Kenyan Drake to the feature back role. At the very least, these two teams are about even right now. Given that, we’re getting good line value with the Dolphins as 2.5 point home underdogs in this matchup. I would need a full field goal with the Dolphins to bet on them, but the money line is worth a small bet at +110, as this game is no worse than a toss up for the Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins 19 Buffalo Bills 17 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Miami +2.5

Confidence: Low

Washington Redskins at New York Giants: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (7-8) at New York Giants (2-13)

The Redskins got off to a disappointing 5-8 start, but that was largely the result of a tough schedule, as they had the toughest schedule in the league through 13 games. Their schedule has gotten a lot easier over the past few weeks and they have gotten better results because of that, as they have beaten the Cardinals and Broncos in Washington by scores of 20-15 and 27-11 in the past two weeks, covering the spread in both games.

This week, they are 3-point road favorites in New York against the Giants, who have the 2nd worst record in the league at 2-13. Making matters even worse for the Giants, they enter this game very banged up, as safety Landon Collins, tight end Evan Engram, and wide receiver Sterling Shepard have all gone down in the last week. The Giants struggled mightily on the road in Arizona last week in a 23-0 loss, especially struggling after those players went down with injuries.

The Redskins have a good chance to cover this spread, but I’m not that confident in them because they aren’t healthy either, losing left tackle Trent Williams, center Spencer Long, running backs Rob Kelley and Christian Thompson, wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, tight end Jordan Reed, defensive end Jonathan Allen, middle linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster, and safety Montae Nicholson since the start of the season. If this was earlier in the season when the Redskins were competitive with teams like the Seahawks, Saints, Rams, Chiefs, and Vikings, I would take the Redskins in a heartbeat, but I only have this line calculated at Washington -4 because of the Redskins’ injury situation, so this is just a low confidence pick.

Washington Redskins 24 New York Giants 20

Pick against the spread: Washington -3

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-11) at Indianapolis Colts (3-12)

Both of these teams are absolutely terrible. The Texans’ defense has not been the same since losing both JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus back in week 6 and their offense has been abysmal since losing quarterback Deshaun Watson for the season in practice in week 9, thanks to horrible quarterback play and arguably even worse offensive line play. Things have actually gotten even worse for them in recent weeks, as they are now down to 3rd string quarterback TJ Yates, who is somehow noticeably worse than Tom Savage, and they are now without #1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who will miss the first game of his career this week with a calf injury.

Hopkins has been their entire offense since Savage went down, accounting for 294 of their 459 passing yards over the past 3 weeks, a ridiculous 64.05%. The only success Yates has had has come when he’s tried to force the ball to Hopkins, who might be the best contested ball receiver in the league. Even with Hopkins out there, the Texans have been outscored 105-29 over those 3 games, although their competition has been pretty tough (the Jimmy Garoppolo led 49ers, the Jaguars, and the Steelers).

The Colts are a major step down in competition. Outside of the Texans, the Bryce Petty led Jets, and the Browns, the Colts are the worst team in the league right now. Their 3 wins have come by a combined 12 points, while their 12 losses have come by a combined 162 points, giving them a point differential of -150, 2nd worst in the NFL, despite the fact that they actually have a positive turnover margin at +4. They enter this game dead last in first down rate differential at -6.70% and have a league high 5 losses in which they won the turnover margin.

They have also lost safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, outside linebacker John Simon, defensive end Henry Anderson, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and left guard Jack Mewhort in the last couple months, all of whom were key players, so this team is even worse than they were earlier in the year, a big part of the reason why they haven’t won a game in about 2 months. All 3 of their wins have come against terrible teams, the Browns, the Brian Hoyer led 49ers, and the Tom Savage led Texans and none of those wins would have covered this 6-point spread.

Their only win by more than a field goal was their 20-14 win in Houston back in week 9, but, just because the Colts won by 6 in Houston doesn’t mean they are necessarily going to win by more than 6 at home in Indianapolis in this game, even though the Texans are now starting Yates and are now without Hopkins. For one thing, the Colts are also more banged up than they were then, as Henry Anderson, Johnathan Hankins, and Rashaan Melvin played in that game and played well defensively for the Colts.

On top of that, teams tend to cover in same season revenge games, as road underdogs are 68-39 ATS since 2002 in regular season divisional revenge games against a team that previously defeated them earlier in the season as road underdogs, as the Colts were in Houston. I have no interest in actually betting on this game because both teams are terrible and both teams could have one foot in the off-season at the end of an awful season, but this line is too high, so the Texans are the pick for pick ‘em pool purposes.

Indianapolis Colts 17 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Houston +6

Confidence: Low

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (6-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6)

These two teams met way back in week 1, when the Ravens shut out the Bengals in a 20-0 victory. A lot has changed since then. After failing to score an offensive touchdown in either of their first two games of the season, the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and replaced him with Bill Lazor. Lazor has done a better job with this offense, but only by default, as the Bengals have struggled on the offensive line all season and have been without guys like John Ross, Tyler Boyd, and Tyler Eifert for most of the year, leaving Andy Dalton without a capable 2nd option in the passing game after AJ Green.

On the season, they rank just 23rd in first down rate at 32.04%, but their defense has been pretty solid all season, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 33.04% rate, 11th in the NFL, giving them a first down rate differential of -1.00%, 21st in the NFL. The Ravens, meanwhile, have continued their strong defensive play since week 1, allowing opponents to move the chains at a mere 31.03% rate, 3rd lowest in the league. That’s largely the result of a weak schedule of quarterbacks though, as 5 of their 9 wins have come against teams starting backup quarterbacks, the EJ Manuel led Raiders, the Matt Moore led Dolphins, the Tom Savage led Texans, the Brett Hundley led Packers, and the Jacoby Brissett led Colts.

Baltimore has also had issues on offense, like the Bengals have, moving the chains at a 32.96% rate, 20th in the NFL. Their first down rate differential is +1.93%, 10th best in the NFL, solid, but unspectacular when you consider the schedule they’ve faced. I have this line calculated at Baltimore -6.5. Given their issues on offense and the Bengals’ solid defense, they could have a tough time scoring enough points to cover this 10-point line without winning the turnover battle, which is far from a guarantee.

In the previous matchup, the Ravens won the turnover battle by 4, a huge part of the reason why they won the game by 20. Turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis though. For example, teams that lose the turnover battle by 4 or more in a divisional game, on average, have a turnover margin of -0.1 in a same season rematch and, as a result, they are 47-37 ATS in that rematch as underdogs. If we assume turnover neutral football in this game, the Bengals have a very strong chance of covering as 10-point underdogs.

Teams tend to cover in same season revenge games anyway, as road underdogs are 68-39 ATS since 2002 in regular season divisional revenge games against a team that previously defeated them earlier in the season as road underdogs, as the Ravens were in Cincinnati. This was going to be my Pick of the Week, but the Bengals are without stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict and their defense is not the same without him out there, so I will limit this to a medium confidence pick. I still think it’s worth a bet though, as this line is way too high. Even with Burfict out, the Ravens are unlikely to score a bunch of points in this one.

Baltimore Ravens 20 Cincinnati Bengals 13

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +10

Confidence: Medium

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (6-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

I’ve bet the Chargers frequently this season, as they’ve been on my underrated list all season. They are just 8-7, but they have a point differential of +63 that ranks 10th in the NFL and they have 43 more first downs and 8 more offensive touchdowns than they’ve allowed, giving them a first down rate differential of +5.09%, 5th best in the NFL. However, I’ve always been hesitant to bet them at home (where they are 3-4 ATS this season, as opposed to 6-2 ATS on the road), given that they’ve had a lot of trouble attracting home fans in their first season in Los Angeles. This week is no exception, especially since they are hosting the Raiders, who still have a ton of fans in Los Angeles from when they used to play there in the 80s and 90s.

With that in mind, I really like the Raiders to cover in this one and not just because the crowd will be on their side. The Raiders are also an underrated team that has been better than their 6-9 record, as they rank 13th in first down rate differential at +0.78%, despite Derek Carr missing time with injury early in the season. That’s actually a better first down rate differential than they had last season, when they finished 19th at -0.49%, despite finishing with a 12-4 record.

The big difference between 2016 and 2017 for the Raiders is turnover margin, as they finished tied for first in turnover margin at +16 last season, but rank 4th worst in the league this season at -12. Turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis and year-to-year basis, so I don’t hold that against them too much (case in point, the 2016 and 2017 Raiders). Just like they weren’t as good as their record suggested last season, they aren’t as bad as their record suggests this season. We’re getting good value with them as 7.5 point underdogs in Los Angeles against the Chargers, especially when you take into account the Chargers’ lack of homefield advantage.

The Raiders are also in a couple of great spots. For one, this is a revenge game for them, as the Chargers narrowly defeated them in Oakland earlier this season when the Raiders missed a 4th quarter extra point that ended up being the margin of victory (17-16). Road underdogs are 68-39 ATS since 2002 in regular season divisional revenge games against a team that previously defeated them earlier in the season as road underdogs, as the Chargers were in Oakland.

On top of that, road underdogs are 122-81 ATS since 2008 in their second of two road games after a road loss and the Raiders are coming off of a road loss in Philadelphia. That trend results from the fact that teams typically do better in their second of two road games than they do in an average road game, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 262-283 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.96 points per game. On average, road teams get outscored by about 2.60 points per game over that same time period, a difference of about 2 points.

The Raiders are dealing with a major injury with left tackle Donald Penn out for the season, but no one is completely healthy at this point in the season and, even with Penn out, they are relatively healthy. The Chargers have their own injury issues, as they were without left tackle Russell Okung, middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, tight end Hunter Henry, and defensive tackle Corey Liuget in an underwhelming performance against the lowly Jets last week.

Okung, Liuget, and Perryman have a chance to return for this game, but none of them practiced in full during the week, so all three are still major question marks, as is running back Melvin Gordon, who left last week with an ankle injury and only got in limited practices on Thursday and Friday this week. Even if all 4 somehow play, they’re unlikely to be 100% and Henry, a valuable pass catcher and run blocker, remains out. The Raiders are my Pick of the Week.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Oakland Raiders 20

Pick against the spread: Oakland +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

New York Jets at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

New York Jets (5-10) at New England Patriots (12-3)

Since losing Josh McCown for the season with injury a few weeks back, the Jets have become arguably the worst team in the league, along with the Browns and the TJ Yates led Texans. They weren’t blown out by either the Saints or the Chargers, but that was because they won the turnover battle in New Orleans (and still lost by 12) and because they got a couple long runs against the Chargers, who were missing key players on both sides of the ball. Neither of those are sustainable ways to win, as both turnover margin and big plays tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. The lost the first down rate battle by a wide margin in both games (-9.91% and -11.31%).

New starting quarterback Bryce Petty has been terrible, as he was last season when he was forced into starting action down the stretch, completing less than 50% of his passes in both starts so far this year. Even before having to start Petty, the Jets had no success away from home this season, as they have a -74 point differential in 7 road games this season (10.57 points per game), even though the Saints are the only difficult team they’ve faced on the road this season (Buffalo, Oakland, Cleveland, Miami, Tampa Bay, and Denver are the other 6).

The Patriots are an obvious step up in class and should be favored by much more than 15 in this one. The Patriots covered as 11-point favorites at home last week against the Bills in a game in which they won the first down rate battle by 22.06%. I don’t buy that the Bryce Petty led Jets are only a few points worse than the Bills. The only explanation I can think of for why this line is only 15 is that the oddsmakers think the Patriots could pull their starters in the second half if they are up big, but that’s not historically how they’ve done things in week 17. In fact, they are 12-4 ATS in week 17 games in the Bill Belichick era. The Patriots may pull their starters late in the game if the game is completely out of hand, but by that point they’ll likely have already covered, so I’m not too worried. This is a high confidence pick.

New England Patriots 34 New York Jets 13

Pick against the spread: New England -15

Confidence: High