Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: Week 17 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (6-9) at New Orleans Saints (7-8)

Aside from this being a divisional matchup, this is a completely meaningless game for these two teams. Both are out of the playoffs. I have a rule against making significant plays on completely meaningless games. If the teams might not care about a game, I shouldn’t either. There’s just no way to predict what kind of effort either side is going to give.

However, if I had to pick a side, I’d take the Panthers, who I think are really underrated. They’ve lost just 2 games by more than 6 points this season and as a result, they rank a modest 19th in net points per drive. That’s actually a good amount of spots behind the Saints, who rank 12th and we’re not really getting any line value with the Panthers using the net points per drive method, as that says this line should be New Orleans -5, which is right where it is.

That being said, the Panthers rank much better in DVOA, which is net points per drive based, but also takes other things into account. The Panthers rank 12th in DVOA, while the Saints rank 20th and the Panthers rank even better in weighted DVOA, which puts greater weight on more recent games, ranking 9th, while New Orleans ranks 18th. This is because the Panthers have won 4 of 5, only losing in Kansas City after the Jovan Belcher incident. Of those 4 wins, 3 have come by double digits.

We’re also getting a chance to fade a heavy public lean with the Panthers, as the public is all over the Saints. I like this because the public always loses money in the long run. The Panthers should be the right side, but again, it’s hard to like either side. I also hate going against the Saints in the Superdome, but these underrated Panthers should at least keep it close.

New Orleans (70% range)

New Orleans Saints 27 Carolina Panthers 24

Pick against spread: Carolina +5 (-110) 2 units

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Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers: Week 17 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (4-11) at San Diego Chargers (6-9)

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. I have a rule against making significant plays on completely meaningless games. If the teams might not care about a game, I shouldn’t either. There’s just no way to predict what kind of effort either side is going to give.

The Raiders do have a powerful trend on their side as they are road dogs off a road loss. Teams are 86-51 ATS in this spot since 2008. The Chargers are also 1-5 ATS in their last 6 home games (3-3 ATS on the road in that same time period). This is also a game they’re expected to do something in. They are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 as favorites or dogs of a field goal or less and 2-0 ATS as 3.5+ dogs in that same time period.

However, the Chargers do have one trend on their side as sub .500 home favorites are 24-10 ATS during week 17 since 2002. I haven’t used that one in any other games where it applies because I didn’t like the lack of line value we were getting with the host, but here I do. The Chargers rank 21st in net points per drive at -0.18, while the Raiders rank 29th at 0.80. 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 the Chargers should be favored by 9.5. That doesn’t even take into account that the Raiders will be starting Terrelle Pryor in his first NFL start.

The Chargers are also, as bad as they’ve been, 4-1 ATS inside the division this year (3-7 ATS outside the division). On top of that, they do always close seasons out well under Norv Turner, going 21-8 ATS in week 14 or later since 2007, including 7-1 ATS in the division. As bad as they’ve been over the past 3 years, they are still 8-3 ATS in weeks 14-17. I expected them to send Norv Turner out in style, but again, it’s hard to back either side.

Public lean: ?

San Diego Chargers 23 Oakland Raiders 10

Pick against spread: San Diego -10 (-110) 1 unit

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Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers: Week 17 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (5-10) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8)

Aside from this being a divisional matchup, this is a completely meaningless game for these two teams. Both are out of the playoffs. I have a rule against making significant plays on completely meaningless games. If the teams might not care about a game, I shouldn’t either. There’s just no way to predict what kind of effort either side is going to give.

The Browns do have a powerful trend on their side as they are road dogs off a road loss. Teams are 86-51 ATS in this spot since 2008. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh could be completely flat after getting eliminated from the playoffs. The Browns also have a lack of losses by more than 10 points over the past 3 years. As bad as they’ve been, they tend to play teams close. They have just 8 of those losses in the last 3 seasons, including three this year. That’s important because this is a 10 point line. The Steelers, meanwhile, are 4-10 ATS as double digit favorites in the last 4 seasons.

However, I just can’t take the Browns and 3rd stringer Thaddeus Lewis in his first NFL start. He was recently activated off the practice squad. Normally betting on 3rd stringers is a very bad idea, but Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 17-2 SU against rookie quarterbacks. Lewis isn’t technically a rookie, but he’s never thrown a pass in a regular season game. He’ll also be without Trent Richardson.

I can see this game starting out close, maybe 3-3 early, while I’m sitting there thinking “I should have blindly followed the road dog off a road loss trend,” but then it becomes a blowout in the 2nd half as Lewis throws at least one pick six to a Pittsburgh defender before it eventually ends with Pittsburgh up by at least two touchdowns. I don’t like either side, but I’d take the Steelers if I had to.

Public lean: ?

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Cleveland Browns 9

Pick against spread: Pittsburgh -10 (-110) 1 unit

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: Week 17 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) at Tennessee Titans (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. I have a rule against making significant plays on completely meaningless games. If the teams might not care about a game, I shouldn’t either. There’s just no way to predict what kind of effort either side is going to give.

However, if I had to take a side, it’d be Jacksonville. The Titans have no business laying more than a field goal against anyone. They are worse than even their 5-10 record would suggest they are the 3rd worst team in the NFL in points differential, thanks to a league leading 6 losses by 21 or more. They rank 31st in net points per drive, DVOA, and weighted DVOA as a result, even worse than the Jaguars.

They Jaguars may only have 2 wins, but they rank 30th, 30th, and 29th in those 3 things respectively. They already beat the Titans once this season and they have a good chance to do so again. If you take the difference between the Jaguars’ net points per drive and the Titans’, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that Tennessee should be just 2 point favorites here , rather than 4. Even if they don’t win, I like getting the points with the Jaguars.

Public lean: Tennessee (60% range)

Tennessee Titans 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 23

Pick against spread: Jacksonville +4 (-110) 2 units

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Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos: Week 17 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (2-13) at Denver Broncos (12-3)

This is the biggest line of the season, tied with San Francisco/Arizona at -16.5, but unlike that game, this game actually merits a 16.5 point line. This line really can’t be high enough. Kansas City ranks dead last in net points per drive, DVOA, and weighted DVOA, while the Broncos rank 4th, 2nd, and 2nd respectively in those 3 categories.

If you take the difference between the Broncos’ net points per drive and the Chiefs’ net points per drive, multiply by 11 (the average amount of points per drive), and add 2.5 points for home field, you get that Denver should be favored by 20.5 and I think it’d take them all the way up to that. The only way the Chiefs can move the ball offensively is on the ground and the Broncos rank 3rd against that. This should be a complete blowout. I just hate laying this many points, so it’s a small play.

Public lean: Denver (60% range)

Denver Broncos 27 Kansas City Chiefs 3

Pick against spread: Denver -16.5 (-110) 1 unit

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Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals: Week 17 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (10-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-6)

In spite of that big win in Pittsburgh last week, Andy Dalton and these Bengals still have a lack of success against playoff teams over the past two years. After going 0-8 against playoff teams last year, they’ve had very limited action against playoff teams this year. They have played 3 games against Pittsburgh and the Giants, but neither of those two teams is likely playoff bound.

These Ravens, who blew them out 44-13 week 1, are. The Broncos, who beat them earlier this year, are. The Bengals did beat the Redskins in Washington earlier this year in a game in which Washington left tackle Trent Williams got hurt and that’s the closest thing they have to a win over a playoff team (if Dallas qualifies over them, they won’t have a single one).

In those 12 games (8 last year and Baltimore, Denver, Washington, and Dallas this year), Dalton is a combined 256 of 448 (57.1%) for 3013 yards (6.7 YPA), 13 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. In the other 18 games, he’s 390 of 631 (61.8%) for 4234 yards (6.7 YPA), 33 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Even against Pittsburgh (in both games against them), he didn’t play well.

Cincinnati is talented enough on both the offensive and defensive lines to beat teams like the Steelers and Giants despite Andy Dalton’s struggles against those types of teams, but I don’t think that will be enough here. Given that, I’m grabbing the points with the team for whom this game means more too (Cincinnati is locked into the 6th seed, while Baltimore has a chance to move up to #3).

Public lean: Baltimore (50% range)

Baltimore Ravens 24 Cincinnati Bengals 20 Upset Pick +120

Pick against spread: Baltimore +2.5 (-110) 2 units

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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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