NFL Week 17 best bets
Week 17 of the 2022 NFL season: Just two weeks left to go.
Throughout the season, our VSiN experts will combine to give their best bets on every game. Check back for more picks as we get closer to kickoff.
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Dave Tuley: When it was announced that the Panthers (6-9) still controlled their own destiny in the NFC South, a lot of people chuckled, but no one is laughing now as they’re within a game of the Buccaneers (7-8) and go for the season sweep on Sunday.
The Panthers dominated the Lions on both sides of the ball in their 37-23 win on Christmas Eve as they ran for a team-record 320 rushing yards, and Sam Darnold added 250 passing yards and a TD. Carolina is 4-2 in its last six games and 5-1 ATS.
Tom Brady pulled another Houdini act in rallying the Buccaneers to a 19-16 OT on Christmas night to stay atop the division. The Bucs’ No. 6-ranked defense continues to keep them in games and rely on Brady to work his late-game magic.
That didn’t work in the first meeting in Week 7 as the Panthers shut down the Bucs until allowing a field goal with 9:33 left in the game on the way to a 21-3 victory. I love getting points with a team that has already shown they can beat the other team.
Pick: Panthers +3
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: The last two games of the season for the Browns have very little meaning. This was always thought to be a throwaway season to some degree, and last week’s loss officially ended any slim playoff hopes the team had. It’s interesting to see how much respect the Browns get by only being a small underdog here, but you have to eliminate a lot of their priors when handicapping their games.
This was a top-10 offense in the NFL when Deshaun Watson took over in Week 13. That could not be further from the case now. Cleveland is 27th in EPA/play and 24th in Success Rate in the four games with Watson. By EPA+CPOE (expected points added + completion percentage over expected), Watson ranks 22nd out of 25 qualified QBs in the last four weeks. Nick Chubb is hurt and the Browns have scored 33 points over the last three games.
The defense has done its part to hang in there, though, holding four of the last five opponents to 325 or fewer yards. Weather has played a role in a few of those games, but the Browns have eight takeaways in the last four games, doubling what they had over the first 12 weeks of the season.
Even with turnovers, the Browns can’t score. Why would they score this week against a Commanders defense that ranks in the top 10? The Browns are also at a huge special teams disadvantage with a Commanders crew that ranks fourth in ST DVOA. There is a case to be made that teasing Cleveland up through 3 and 7 makes a lot of sense, and I think they are a viable candidate in a low-scoring game, but I also think laying -2 with Washington makes a ton of sense.
I can understand the skepticism about Carson Wentz, but he’s no worse than the current state of Watson, and the Commanders have the better defense and special teams.
Pick: Commanders -2
Dave Tuley: The Commanders (7-7-1) are trying to hold onto the last NFC wild-card spot in the middle of a QB controversy. After not playing since Week 6, Carson Wentz replaced an ineffective Taylor Heinicke and went 12-for-16 for 123 yards and a TD in the loss at the 49ers last Saturday. The line didn’t change after Ron Rivera announced Wentz was the starter again.
The Browns (6-9) are 2-2 SU and ATS since Deshaun Watson took over after his suspension, but they’re playing well enough to stay within one score (in fact, they’ve lost by more than 8 points just twice all season), so we’ll use them in our teaser portfolio.
In Sunday’s early games, the best 2-team, 6-point teaser is Browns +8.5/Dolphins +9 and we’ll also use with Seahawks +8 in the afternoon and the Bengals +7 or +7.5 on Monday Night Football (if you like teasing favorites down below a field goal, you can also look at Eagles -0.5, Lions pick-’em or Chargers -0.5).
Pick: Browns +8.5/Dolphins +9 (2-team, 6-point teaser)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Dave Tuley: The Saints (6-9) still have a prayer in the NFC South, but must win their last two games (at Eagles and vs. Panthers) and also have the Buccaneers lose their last two games (vs. Panthers and at Falcons) due to being swept by Tampa Bay this season.
Since losing that second meeting 17-16 vs. the Bucs, the Saints have won two in a row over the Falcons and Browns. Their No. 9 defense is the main reason the Saints have any chance as they’ve allowed an average of 15.6 points per game in their last eight games. The offense used backup QB Taysom Hill (56 rushing yards and a TD) more in the backfield with Alvin Kamara (76 yards, 1 TD) in the frigid conditions in Cleveland last Sunday as Andy Dalton wasn’t asked to do much.
With Jalen Hurts sidelined, the Eagles (13-2) still need one more win to clinch the NFC East and also the NFC’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. Gardner Minshew (24-for-40, 355 yards, 2 TDs) was more than serviceable in the 40-34 loss at the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, but did throw two INTS and fumbled twice, losing one. But it was the Eagles’ No. 2 defense that let them down the most, allowing 419 yards and squandering a 27-17 third-quarter lead.
The Saints’ defense fares better against pocket passers like Gardner Minshew and will continue to try to grind out wins with their QB-by-committee, or at least stay within the spread.
Pick: Saints +6.5
Wes Reynolds: While Jalen Hurts has not been officially ruled out, this line looks like it will be Gardner Minshew going for the Eagles.
Quarterback injuries are obviously what move point spreads the most, but the loss of RT Lane Johnson, who ranks 7th out of 81 tackles according to PFF and is rated as the third-best pass blocker in the league, may prove to loom even larger. The Eagles are 3-10 when Johnson misses a game since 2020.
Philadelphia is also banged up in the secondary with Avonte Maddox and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson out. Rookie DT Jordan Davis, the Eagles’ best run-stopper, also has a concussion. RB Miles Sanders is also questionable for this one.
New Orleans still has a slim chance of winning the NFC South and their defense has remained solid all season.
Pick: Saints +6
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Dave Tuley: The Jaguars have actually passed the Titans to become the favorites to win the AFC South, but they’re another team in the unfamiliar chalk role after so much success as underdogs.
Don’t forget that they were 7-point home favorites when the Texans upset them 13-6 in Week 5. They’re 0-3 SU and ATS as chalk as they also lost to the Giants in Week 7 and the Broncos in Week 8.
Besides, the Texans are playing even better now than they were in that first meeting as they nearly beat the Cowboys in Week 14 and Chiefs in Week 15 before upsetting the Titans on Saturday. They would love to play spoiler against their AFC South rivals.
Pick: Texans +4.5
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: In Week 10, the Bears were -3 at home vs. Detroit. Chicago led 24-10 through three quarters. The Bears outgained the Lions 408-323 (7.0-5.5 ypp), but costly penalties and a fourth-quarter pick-six thrown by Justin Fields, plus a Cairo Santos missed PAT led to a Lions 31-30 victory.
Detroit is still alive for the playoffs, but their postseason chances took a massive hit last week in a 37-23 defeat at Carolina. The Lions’ defense gave up 320 yards on the ground and allowed Sam Darnold to throw for 250 yards on just 22 passing attempts. They gave up 8.8 yards per play to an offense that rated 29th in DVOA going into last week.
The Lions and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn love to blitz, but if they do, Fields can make them pay as he has a 105 passer rating against the blitz versus an 82 when not blitzed.
Detroit had a six-game winning streak and a seven-game cover streak broken last week. Recall last week that Detroit was in an unfamiliar role as a road favorite for this first time and came up lame. This week is the biggest number the Lions will have laid all year at home and an inflated one at that.
Pick: Bears +6
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: Teddy Bridgewater will get the start for Miami this week as Tua Tagovailoa is back in the concussion protocol. Aside from going with a backup quarterback, Miami seems to have been figured out offensively. In Weeks 1-12, Tua was ranked # 1 in the NFL in EPA/play. In the last four weeks, he has ranked dead last in the same category.
Meanwhile, the Patriots offense has been a struggle of late with not only play calling but quarterback play. Miami will blitz often and Mac Jones has just a 56 passer rating against the blitz, dead last amongst qualified quarterbacks.
With these teams currently sitting in the 7 and 8 spots respectively in the AFC, this looks like a lower-scoring game where these offenses should be tight.
Furthermore, outdoor divisional games have gone under at a clip of 33-15-1 this season.
Pick: Under 41.5
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Brady Kannon: This will be the Broncos’ first game under interim head coach Jerry Rosburg, with the firing of Nathaniel Hackett earlier this week.
Kansas City still has a shot to secure the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but they are one of the worst teams in the league against the spread at 4-10-1. Before winning and covering last week over the Seahawks, they had fallen five straight times to the number. Every week it seems, my numbers come out substantially lower on KC than what the actual line is. My look-ahead number for this game came to Kansas City -3.5. This week, my calculations come to Chiefs -6.5, Chiefs -9, and Chiefs -5. The actual look-ahead line was 10 and now we are at Chiefs -12.5 or -13.
Oftentimes, the fired head coach angle is a successful one in sports betting. We saw it work earlier this year when Jeff Saturday replaced Frank Reich in Indianapolis. In Saturday’s first game, the Colts won outright as underdogs in Las Vegas. Will the Broncos pull off the outright upset here at Arrowhead? I doubt it, but I did take the points in this game, based upon the Kansas City spread seemingly being inflated every week and the change at head coach being a possible spark for the Broncos. This particular line may be inflated even more so because of the general perception entering the contest.
The average sports fan or bettor is going to remember Denver getting steamrolled by the Rams last week and their coach being fired, and think that because Kansas City is still playing for something, they will find another gear this week in their pursuit of that No. 1 seed. It is possible that some of this is the reason the look-ahead line was 10, and this week’s opener was 13.5.
The initial money has come in on the underdog, as we have seen the line dip to 13 and even 12.5. The higher percentage of bets, however, are on the favorite. I will side with the initial move here, betting that Kansas City’s record ATS does not improve, the change at head coach will serve Denver well, and that this line is indeed inflated too much.
Pick: Broncos +13
Dave Tuley: NFL double-digit underdogs are 14-8 ATS this season heading into this week (granted, just 10-8 ATS for big road dogs). As great as the Chiefs can be, they’re just 2-2 ATS when laying 10 or more points, and that includes me grading the closing line at 15.5 when they beat the Rams 26-10 in Week 12, while some dog players were able to get +16.5 for a win or +16 for a push. They tend to let teams stick around, though they did cover -10 in their 24-10 win vs. the Seahawks on Christmas Eve.
In the first meeting between these AFC West rivals just three weeks ago in Week 14, it wasn’t double digits as the Chiefs were favored by 9, but failed to cover in a 34-28 win. As terrible as the Broncos have been all year, this line is again too high.
And don’t forget that teams often play well after a coach is fired as the players try to save their own jobs for next year (see Jeff Saturday winning his debut with the Colts vs. the Raiders this year). We don’t even need that, just for the Broncos to again stay within two TDs.
Pick: Broncos +13
Wes Reynolds: Despite covering double-digit spreads in their last two home games, the Chiefs have not been covering big numbers lately. In fact, while Patrick Mahomes is a perfect 10-0 SU against Denver, he is only 12-18-1 ATS in his career as more than a seven-point favorite.
Denver, which was No. 4 in Defense DVOA heading into last week, gave up 51 to the Rams last week in a game where it looked like they had quit. Perhaps they did quit on Nathaniel Hackett, which is likely why he was given his pink slip on Monday.
The Broncos should show a little more pride here against a division rival and have one last decent effort in them.
Pick: Broncos +13
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Wes Reynolds: After what we witnessed on Monday Night Football, it is difficult to bet the Colts here. Indianapolis has been long eliminated from playoff contention, and the Giants are in a ‘win and in’ situation. However, that is already well-priced into this number. Since 1990, in the final two weeks of the season, eliminated teams are actually 95-57-4 ATS against teams that “need to win.”
All of the G-Men’s eight victories this season have been by one score or less. This team has not been able to get margin on opponents all season, and Daniel Jones is in the second-largest favorite role of his career.
Granted the Colts were bad this past Monday Night and have been disappointing all season. However, they are 3-0 ATS this season off bad losses. After being shut out in Week 2 at Jacksonville, they beat the Chiefs the following week. Following a 26-3 loss at New England in Week 9, they won in Las Vegas in Jeff Saturday’s debut. In Week 13, the Colts were outscored 33-0 in the fourth quarter to lose 54-19 at Dallas. They blew a 33-0 lead in Minnesota the next week but still covered the number. So Indianapolis has responded off bad losses.
The Giants are 31st in Rush Defense DVOA and 31st in EPA per rush. The Colts should be able to run the ball a bit here as they ran it fairly well in their last game, but they did not run it enough against the Chargers. The running game should take pressure off Nick Foles, who was obviously rusty making his first start in a calendar year.
The pressure is all on the Giants here.
Pick: Colts +6
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Dave Tuley: The Pack is back. Sort of. Seen as dead less than a month ago, the Packers (7-8) have won three straight games and are still alive in the NFC wild-card chase, though they still need some help. The Packers are still a middling team at No. 16 in total offense and No. 17 in total defense on the season as they try to get back to .500, but the defense has stepped up by allowing an average of 17 points per game in the winning streak. Aaron Rodgers and the offense have picked up the pace, averaging 26 per game in the three wins.
The Vikings (12-3) escaped with another narrow win in their 27-24 victory vs. the Giants on Greg Joseph’s 61-yard FG as time expired. They are still hoping to catch the Jalen Hurts-less Eagles for the NFC’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. Kirk Cousins and the No. 12 offense is carrying the team, as the defense is ranked No. 31 and often has Cousins playing from behind. These teams met in the season-opener with the Vikings dominating in a 23-7 win after closing as 2-point favorites. I would usually be all over an underdog in this spot, but I just fear that if the Eagles win in Sunday’s early window that the Vikings will have even less incentive to put forth a top effort even against a hated division rival.
I do, however, like the Under. This will be played on the nearly frozen tundra (36 degrees forecast for gametime), though with minimal wind With both teams knowing each other, the total is set a little too high at 48 (again, see previous meeting), as we expect both offenses to try to establish the run and shorten the game.
Pick: UNDER 48
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: The 51-point explosion from Baker Mayfield and the Rams was one of the biggest outliers of the 2022 NFL season. I think reality sets back in this week against a Chargers team that has really improved defensively with better health. However, I also don’t expect the Chargers to hang a big number in this one.
This is a home game for the Chargers at SoFi Stadium against their roommates. There’s some pride on the line here for the Rams, who have not given up on the season and are getting nearly a touchdown head start. You have to look at how the Chargers have not converted their yards into touchdowns and ask yourself if you really want to back them to win by margin.
The Chargers are fifth in the NFL in red-zone attempts and 26th in TD%. They’ve settled for way too many field goals, and the red-zone play calling has not improved as the season has gone along. The Rams have had all sorts of problems, but at least they’re 12th in RZTD%. Truth be told, I don’t know if Mayfield really is the guy. The Rams built a 17-0 lead on scoring drives of 38, 34 and 11 yards and really did damage with long drives after the Broncos completely quit.
The Chargers won’t quit here. The Rams seem to be playing hard to finish out the year. We’ve got one offense to be skeptical of and one that can’t score touchdowns. It would seem to me that the under is the way to look in this game.
Pick: UNDER 42
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: The rough-and-tumble AFC North is back, baby! How many times in the past did we see a line between the Steelers and Ravens sitting at -3 for the home team with a low total? That’s what we’ve got here with the host Ravens laying the field goal and a total in the mid-30s. There is a lot on the line here. The Ravens are vying for the division title. The Steelers are vying to keep Mike Tomlin’s streak alive of not having a losing season since taking over in 2007. Pittsburgh is also not completely eliminated from the playoffs, but they need a ton to go right in order to get in.
As the season has gone along, the Steelers have shown a ton of improvement. They’re a top-10 offense by EPA/play over the last four weeks. They’ve moved the ball on the ground and through the air. Turnovers have hurt at various points from Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky, but there are flashes of a really good offense here.
I’m not sure we can say the same about the Ravens, at least until Lamar Jackson comes back. He has returned to practice, but there aren’t many strong signs that he’ll give it a go this week. Baltimore clinched a playoff spot last week, so they may opt to look at the bigger picture. The Ravens have scored 36 points the last three weeks without him and 46 points in the last four games, as he was hurt early in Week 13.
I think the Steelers can win this game. I’ll take the three points in what should be a low-scoring affair, but Pittsburgh has the better offense at present and still has a solid defense. After a 2-6 start, the Steelers are 5-2 cobbling everything together and could have beaten the Ravens a few weeks ago with Trubisky at QB.
Pick: Steelers +2.5