Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (2-12-1) at Seattle Seahawks (5-10)

The Seahawks are just 5-10, but they are a lot better than their record. Their point differential is just -1, as they have gone 2-5 in one score games, and that is despite the fact that Russell Wilson missed three games and was limited in about another three games with injury. The Seahawks are solid on defense (20th in schedule adjusted efficiency) and special teams (6th), so when Wilson is healthy, they are much better than a 5-10 team. 

The Seahawks lost to the Bears last week, but it was a 1-point loss in which the Seahawks won the yards per play battle in that matchup by 1.6 yards per play, losing the game primarily because of third downs (3/10 to 7/14), which are not as predictive on a week-to-week basis as early downs. I suspect the Seahawks would win that game significantly more than half of the team if they played that game a hundred times.

Now the Seahawks get an even easier game with the Lions coming to town. The Lions have been better than their 2-12-1 record this season, with just four of their losses coming by more than ten points, but they are starting backup quarterback Tim Boyle, who is one of the worst backup quarterbacks in the league, which significantly hurts their chances of keeping this game close as 7.5-point underdogs. 

The only reason I am not betting on the Seahawks is because this could be a look-ahead spot for them with a much tougher game against the Rams on deck. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at a 42.6% rate all-time against an opponent with a record more than 50% worse than their next opponents’ record, which applies here. The Seahawks are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes though, as they should be able to get their fourth multiscore win of the season against a Lions team that is missing key personnel on both sides of the ball.

Seattle Seahawks 22 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Seattle -7.5

Confidence: Low

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (7-8) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

The Chargers lost on the road in Houston in embarrassing fashion to one of the worst teams in the league, with a final score of 41-29 as 12.5-point road favorites. There are plenty of reasons to expect the Chargers to bounce back this week though. For one, their loss last week was largely the result of losing the turnover battle, as they won the yards per play battle (+0.49) and first down rate battle (+2.86%). 

The Chargers will also be healthier than they were last week, with top edge defender Joey Bosa, stud center Corey Linsley, talented starting wide receiver Mike Williams, and feature back Austin Ekeler all back in the lineup. Teams tend to bounce back from big upset losses anyway, covering at a 57.3% rate all-time after a loss as favorites of 10 points or more, as teams tend to be much more focused after getting embarrassed by a bad team.

The Chargers also get another easy game this week, as the Broncos will be the team with the significant injury issues in this game, rather than the Chargers. The Broncos only lost by four to the Raiders last week, but they lost despite winning the turnover battle by three and they lost the first down rate battle (+13.30%) and yards per play battle (+1.15) by significant amounts, especially struggling on offense in the first start of the season for backup quarterback Drew Lock. 

Lock will start again this week, but he’ll be without at least two of his top wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, as well as starting right tackle Bobby Massie. Meanwhile, their defense is expected to be without talented edge defender Bradley Chubb and stud slot cornerback Bryce Callahan, on a unit already missing a trio of talented players who began the season with the team, AJ Johnson, Josey Jewell, and Von Miller. 

The Broncos could also be without top wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who reportedly could also go on the COVID list with Jeudy and Patrick, giving Drew Lock an even thinner receiving corps. The Chargers aren’t 100% either, as they could be missing a pair of starters in the secondary in Chris Harris and Nasir Adderley, but even if they are out and Sutton plays, I still have the Chargers favored by 10 points. If they play and Sutton doesn’t, my calculated line moves to -13. I want to lock this one in at -7.5 before the line potentially increases and I may increase this play before gametime.

Update: The Broncos will likely have Sutton for this game, but the Chargers are getting Harris and Adderley back, while Broncos interior defender Mike Purcell is out, meaning the Broncos will also be without at least two (DeShawn Williams) of their interior defenders and possibly a third if Dre’Mont Jones, who is questionable, is unable to go. This line hasn’t moved from 7.5, but I am glad to have bet the Chargers at that number, as the disparity in player absences between these two teams is massive.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Denver Broncos 13

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -7.5

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) at Washington Football Team (6-9)

Many wrote the Eagles off when they started 3-6, but they were a lot better than their record suggested, having faced one of the toughest schedules in the league, while dealing with key injuries on the offensive line and still managing a positive point differential. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Eagles have climbed right back into the playoff picture at 8-7 as their schedule has gotten easier and the team has gotten healthier in recent weeks. 

Despite their recent strong stretch, the Eagles still remain a better team than their record suggests, as their wins have come by an average of 18.0 points per game, while their losses have come by an average of 9.1 points per game, giving them a point differential of +80, 10th best in the NFL. One of their recent wins was against Washington a couple weeks ago and they will face them again this week. The Eagles only won by 10 in the first matchup in Philadelphia and now will play in Washington, but the Eagles dominated in the first down rate (+7.40%) and yards per play battle (3.03), winning the game despite losing the turnover battle by two, which is not nearly as predictive of a metric as first down rate and yards per play. 

Washington was missing their top two quarterbacks (Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, their top offensive lineman (Brandon Scherff), and their top two defensive backs (Kamren Curl and Kendall Fuller) in the first matchup and they will all be available in this game, but they still have a shaky situation at quarterback and they still are not healthy around the quarterback, missing their two best running backs (Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic), a trio of starting offensive lineman (Ereck Flowers, Chase Rouiller, Samuel Cosmi), their top edge defender Chase Young, and a pair of starters in the secondary in William Jackson and Landon Collins. Rouiller, McKissic, and Young were out in the first matchup as well, but Washington still isn’t that much healthier than they were in the first matchup.

Washington was blown out last week in Dallas, losing by 42 points, which normally puts a team in a good spot, as teams cover at a 56.1% rate after a loss by 35 points or more, but that tends to be because a team is undervalued after one bad week. In this scenario, the line only shifted from favoring the Eagles by a field goal on the early line last week to favoring them by 4.5 this week, despite Washington’s blowout loss and the losses they have had at running back and on the offensive line since last week (Flowers, Cosmi, Gibson). The line was too low at a field goal on the early line and is still too low at 4.5. Washington ranks 22nd in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency and are far from 100%, while the much healthier Eagles rank 7th and have blown out almost every below average team they have faced

The Eagles are 8-1 against losing teams with seven multiscore wins, with their only loss coming in a game in which they still won the first down rate battle and yards per play battle in New York against the Giants with a banged up Jalen Hurts throwing three of the nine interceptions he has thrown this season. My calculated line has the Eagles favored by eight points, so we’re getting great value with the Eagles. I want to make sure there are no unexpected COVID positives for the Eagles before locking this game in, but I will almost definitely be placing a bet on the Eagles at -4.5 this week.

Update: Nothing unexpected has happened here, other than this line moving to 4. At that number, I like the Eagles even more and I am confident making this a bigger play. Like most of their other games against sub-.500 opponents, the Eagles should win with relative ease against a relatively short-handed Washington team.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Washington Football Team 16

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia -4

Confidence: High

Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (7-8) at Buffalo Bills (9-6)

The Bills are just 9-6, but they lead the NFL in both point differential (+163) and schedule adjusted mixed efficiency (10.5 points above average) and they could easily have a few more wins, as they have gone 0-5 in one-score games, while all nine of their wins have come by double digits, with an average margin of victory of 23.6 points per game. The Falcons, meanwhile, only have a couple fewer wins, but they don’t have any wins by more than one score, while six of their eight losses have come by double digits, leading to them ranking 5th worst in point differential at -122 and 30th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency (6 points below average)

With the Bills having nine double digit wins and the Falcons having six double digit losses, a blowout seems likely here, but the spread already takes into account that these two teams are nowhere near as evenly matched as their records suggest, favoring the Bills by 14.5 points. My calculated line is Buffalo -16.5, so we are getting line value with the Bills, even though the Falcons are the healthier team, with the Bills missing top cornerback Tre’Davious White for the season, but there isn’t enough here for the Bills to be worth betting. I would still take Buffalo for pick ‘em purposes, but nothing more.

Buffalo Bills 33 Atlanta Falcons 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -14.5

Confidence: Low

Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

The Bengals are in the driver’s seat in the AFC North right now, only needing to win one of their next two games to clinch the division, but they’re going to find it very difficult to get that win this week, with the Kansas City Chiefs coming to town. The Bengals point differential of 9th is +86 best in the NFL, but they have also faced the easiest schedule in the league in terms of opponents’ efficiency, which doesn’t even take into account that they played a skeleton crew Ravens team last week. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Bengals rank just 17th, 16th, and 7th respectively, while ranking 13th in overall mixed schedule adjusted efficiency. That schedule will be getting a lot tougher this week, as the Chiefs are arguably the best team in the league. 

The Chiefs got off to a slow start this season, sitting at 3-4 through the first seven games of the season, but their biggest problems were the turnover margin (-10 through the first 7 games of the season) and their horrendous defensive play. Since then, their defense has since gotten healthy (cornerback Charvarius Ward, safety Tyrann Mathieu, defensive end Frank Clark, and defensive tackle Chris Jones all missed time early in the season) and added edge defender Melvin Ingram in a key mid-season acquisition, which has led to a huge defensive improvement, while their turnover margin has predictably swung as well, as they have been at +13 in the eight games since their slow start.

Between the turnover margin and their much improved defensive efficiency, the Chiefs have won all eight games by an average of 17.0 points per game since their 3-4 start, leading to them now being all alone in the #1 seed in the AFC at 11-4, despite the fact that their offense has not been as healthy in recent weeks as it is now, with starting right tackle Lucas Niang, top wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and stud tight end Travis Kelce all back in the lineup. 

This line, favoring the Chiefs by five points on the road, might seem high, given that the Bengals are a division leader, but my calculated line is actually at 6, so I think this line is not high enough, as this is just such a step up in competition from most of the Bengals’ schedule. The Chiefs rank 2nd in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, 2nd on special teams, and their defense (25th on the season) has been a complementary unit in recent weeks. There isn’t enough here to bet on the Chiefs, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes, in a rare battle of two relatively healthy teams this week.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Cincinnati Bengals 20

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -5

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) at New York Jets (4-11)

There is obviously a big talent gap between these two teams, but this line, favoring the Buccaneers by 13 points on the road, is too high, given all that the Buccaneers are missing right now. At the very least, they will be without talented wide receiver Chris Godwin, starting running back Leonard Fournette, top linebacker Lavonte David, and their top two edge defenders Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, while their other two talented wide receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Evans are both legitimately questionable, as are their top safety Antoine Winfield and their top cornerback Jamel Dean. 

The Jets are not healthy either, missing their top three wide receivers Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, and Corey Davis and talented center Connor McGovern, while top cornerback Bryce Hall and top interior defender Quinnen Williams both legitimately questionable, but even in the worst case scenario for the Jets and the best case scenario for the Buccaneers, I have the Buccaneers favored by 12 points, so we’re getting line value with the Jets regardless. Even in the best case scenario for the Jets and the worst case for the Buccaneers, my calculated line is still 9, so I don’t know if I see myself betting on the Jets in any scenario, but they should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 New York Jets 20

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +13

Confidence: Low

2021 Week 16 NFL Picks

Pick of the Week

KC -8.5 vs. PIT

High Confidence Picks


Medium Confidence Picks

SEA -6.5 vs. CHI

PHI -10 vs. WAS

NO +3 vs. MIA

Low Confidence Picks

CLE +7.5 @ GB

LAR -3 @ MIN

NYJ -1.5 vs. JAX

LAC -10.5 @ HOU

BAL +7 @ CIN

ATL -6 vs. DET

ARZ -3 vs. IND

No Confidence Picks

SF -3.5 @ TEN

NE -1 vs. BUF

TB -10 @ CAR

WAS +10 vs. DAL

Upset Picks

NO +135 vs. MIA

Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (7-7) at New Orleans Saints (7-7)

The Dolphins have won six straight games after their 1-7 start to surprisingly climb back into the playoff race in the AFC, but they have faced a pretty easy schedule over that stretch and have not been impressive in many of the wins. Of the six wins, five of them came against teams that are a combined 18-52 right now, while their only victory over a team with a record better than 5-9 came against the Ravens, who were in a near impossible spot playing on a short week after an overtime game, a spot in which teams have covered just 3 out of 28 times historically. 

Despite the weak schedule in recent weeks, the Dolphins still have a negative point differential at -27 and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, they have been even worse as, not only have they faced a relatively easy schedule overall, but they have significantly overperformed expectations on third downs on offense, ranking 11th in third down conversion rate, but just 30th in both first down rate and in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency. Over-performing on third downs tends not to be sustainable long-term and, while the Dolphins do rank 17th in schedule adjusted efficiency on defense, their poor offensive rank drags their overall mixed efficiency down to 28th in the NFL.

Fortunately for the Dolphins, they get another break in the schedule this week. The Saints are 7-7 and are the best team record wise the Dolphins have faced since their Thursday Night Football game against the Ravens back in week 10, but the Saints are dealing with significant absences, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The Saints pulled the upset in Tampa Bay as 11-point underdogs last week, but they primarily won because they won the turnover battle by two, which is not predictive week-to-week, and they lost both the first down rate and yards per play battle, which are more predictive week-to-week. Teams tend to struggle anyway after big upset wins like that, covering at just a 41.4% rate after a win as double digit underdogs, as teams tend to be flat after such a big win.

It also took a truly dominant performance from their defense, which held the Buccaneers to 4.14 yards per play and a 22.93% first down rate, to mask a very poor performance by their skeleton-crew offense, which averaged 3.53 yards per play and a 18.03% first down rate. In total, the Saints’ offense was without their original starting quarterback in Jameis Winston, a trio of expected started offensive linemen in Terron Armstead, Ryan Ramcyzk, and Andrus Peat, with Armstead and Ramcyzk being arguably the best offensive tackle duo in the NFL, their expected #1 wide receiver Michael Thomas and his replacement Deonte Harris, who leads the team in receiving and is an asset in the return game as well. 

There was some hope that the Saints might get some of those players back this week, most notably their offensive tackle duo, but, not only are none of those players expected to return, the Saints will now be down to fourth string quarterback Ian Book, with backup quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian both being added to the COVID protocols this week and expected to miss this game. Book was deemed worthy of a fourth round pick by the Saints in this past year’s draft, but is very raw and the Saints have not seemed eager to get him into action as a rookie, despite a need at the quarterback position, so he should be a downgrade even from the poor quarterback play the Saints have gotten since Jameis Winston went down.

When the Saints’ defense is healthy, they are arguably the best in the league and they showed that last week, in just the fifth game all season in which the Saints had their dominant trio of defensive linemen (David Onyemata, Cameron Jordan, and Marcus Davenport) available at the same time, but defensive performance tends to be less predictive week-to-week than offensive performance and, even with those three aforementioned defensive linemen expected to play, the Saints defense is no longer at full strength, as they are expected to be without stud every down linebacker Demario Davis due to COVID protocols. 

We are still getting line value with the Saints, whose defense should still play at a high level even without Davis, but that line value is only because the Dolphins are an overrated team and I am not confident enough in the Saints to bet on them against the spread, especially since they could be in a bad spot after a huge win last week. The money line is worth a small play at +120, as the Saints should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game at home (my calculated line is New Orleans -1.5), but I would need at least a full field goal to consider betting on the Saints against the spread.

Update: This line has jumped to three today, probably because the public is realizing that Terron Armstead is unlikely to play, as the “limited” practice he got in yesterday was an estimation, with the Saints not actually practicing on Christmas, meaning Armstead still has not practiced in two weeks. I factored in that Armstead would be out yesterday when I did this write up, so that doesn’t change anything for me, but I like the value at +3 a lot more, enough to bet the Saints.

New Orleans Saints 17 Miami Dolphins 16 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: New Orleans +3

Confidence: Medium

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (8-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

Earlier in the week, the Ravens looked like an intriguing bet. These two teams met in Baltimore earlier this year, with the Bengals pulling the upset, but that doesn’t always mean that the Bengals will be able to win even easier now that they are at home in the rematch. Divisional road underdogs cover at a 42.1% rate in a same season, regular season rematch against a team that previously pulled the upset against them as road underdogs earlier in the season. Not only do they cover at a high rate, but they also pull upsets at a high rate, winning almost at a 50% clip as underdogs of less than a touchdown.

The Bengals’ win in Baltimore earlier this season came in blowout fashion, with a final score of 41-17, but it wasn’t as lopsided as the final score suggests, as it was close for most of the game before the Ravens were forced to go for it on several 4th downs late (1 of 4 in the game) and failed. In terms of first down rate differential, the Bengals held the edge by just 1.52%, which is more predictive than anything on a week-to-week basis.

The Ravens were always likely to be without starting quarterback Lamar Jackson in this game, set to miss his second straight game with an ankle injury, but backup Tyler Huntley has been impressive enough that I would have been willing to bet on them with the right line. Unfortunately, Huntley will now miss this game as well, leaving third string Josh Johnson to start, just a few weeks after joining the team. The line has shifted up to favoring the Bengals by a touchdown, but we’re not getting any line value with them at that new number with a third string quarterback under center, especially given the rest of the Ravens’ absences.

Many of the Ravens’ absences have been out for an extended period of time, but, in total, they will be without their two best quarterbacks, their two best running backs (Gus Edwards and JK Dobbins), a pair of offensive line starters (Ronnie Stanley and Ben Powers), their two top cornerbacks (Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters), one starting safety (DeShon Elliott), a key reserve in the secondary (Jimmy Smith), and at least two expected starters in the front seven (Justin Houston and Derek Wolfe) and potentially a third, with Calais Campbell questionable to return from a one-game absence. 

The Bengals, meanwhile, are one of the relatively healthiest teams in the league, in total missing talented interior defender DJ Reader, starting right tackle Riley Reiff, and top linebacker Logan Wilson, but no one else of note. We were still getting some line value with the Ravens earlier in the week when Huntley was likely to play, but with Johnson under center now and the line only moving up to a touchdown, we aren’t getting any line value with them at all, as this is exactly where my calculated line is. 

I am still taking the Ravens for pick ‘em purposes, but only because they should be in a good spot in this rematch, even with that, this is a no confidence pick and could easily end up as a push. I may bump this up to low confidence if Campbell plays, but it would be hard to bet on the Ravens confidently in their current state and if Campbell doesn’t play I might switch to a no confidence pick on the Bengals. That’s how close this one is for me.

Update: Campbell is active, which is huge news for an otherwise skeleton crew defense. I am increasing the confidence slightly on this.

Cincinnati Bengals 23 Baltimore Ravens 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +7

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Houston Texans (3-11)

The Texans have managed to win three games, but none of their wins have been impressive and they are still arguably the worst team in the league. Two of their wins, including their win last week, came against the Jaguars, who are also arguably the worst team in the league. Their first win over the Jaguars came way back in week one when veteran Tyrod Taylor was starting at quarterback instead of raw rookie Davis Mills and when the Texans’ offensive line was much healthier. The second win came last week in a game in which the Texans lost both the first down rate and yards per play battle by significant amounts, only winning the game because they overperformed on third down (10/18 vs. 3/14), which is not predictive.

The Texans’ other win came in Tennessee against a Titans team that is at least capable, but the Texans also lost the yards per play and first down rate battle by significant amounts in that game, only winning because of a +5 turnover margin, which is also not predictive. On top of that, the Texans 11 losses have come by an average of 18.55 points per game. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate and is more predictive than final scores, the Texans still rank just 32nd, 31st, and 9th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively, while their mixed efficiency not only is dead last in the league, but they are five points behind the second worst team. 

The Chargers are favored by 10.5 points here on the road, but they rank 10th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, about 16 points better than the Texans, and they travel pretty well because they don’t have much homefield advantage (22-14 ATS on the road since moving to Los Angeles) and the Texans are so bad that my calculated line has the Chargers favored by 13.5 (using a lesser adjustment for homefield advantage), so we’re still getting line value with them. 

A lot has been made about all the Chargers are missing due to COVID, including dominant center Corey Linsley, dominant edge defender Joey Bosa, talented starting wide receiver Mike Williams, and featured running back Austin Ekeler, but the Texans are also missing key players to COVID, with top wide receiver Brandin Cooks and top edge defender Jonathan Greenard both out, among others. 

If anything, the Texans’ losses may be more damaging, as they don’t have the talent on the rest of this roster to make up for the absence of two players who are arguably the two best on the entire roster at their respective positions. I am hoping this line will drop to 10 before gametime as bettors overreact to the Chargers’ COVID absences and ignore the Texans’ absences, but even at 10.5 I would take the Chargers for pick ‘em purposes. This is a low confidence pick for now, but could be updated if the line moves.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Houston Texans 10

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -10.5

Confidence: Low