Week 17 of the NFL season is here. In the past, this was the final week of the regular season. However, we get one extra week of football this year and I don't think many people are complaining. Even though it's not the final week of the regular season, it's still a big one with plenty on the line. Teams look to clinch playoff spots, win their division and improve their seeding.
We're taking a look at six games on this weekend's schedule and analyzing them from a betting point of view. If we absolutely had to pick one side, which side would we pick and why? All betting lines are as of Thursday afternoon and courtesy of BetMGM.
Would you rather back the Atlanta Falcons or Jacksonville Jaguars getting over two touchdowns on the road?
The Atlanta Falcons are still alive in the NFC wild-card picture, but Atlanta is a 14.5-point underdog in Buffalo this week against the Bills. Elsewhere, the New England Patriots look to get back on track after back-to-back losses. The Patriots are a 15.5-point favorite over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Which underdog getting more than two touchdowns would you rather back?
Pete: I know Trevor Lawrence was supposed to be the best quarterback prospect in a decade, but he's hardly come close to meeting those expectations. We know what Bill Belichick does to rookie quarterbacks, and Lawrence looks extremely vulnerable to a classic Belichick schooling right now. I would not be shocked at all to see the Jaguars get shut out. I'm not big on the Falcons at all, but with Kyle Pitts and Cordaralle Patterson, I think they have enough talent to score a few points and keep it somewhat close against the Bills. Give me the Falcons.
Greg: Everyone thought Jacksonville would just magically get better after they gave Urban Meyer the old heave-ho. If a leopard can’t change its spots, I guess it makes sense that the Jaguars can’t, either. Even the Germans don’t have a word for how hilariously sad and embarrassingly broken Jacksonville’s game-ending two-minute drill against the Jets was. Now poor Trevor Lawrence has to go into New England to face one of the top defenses in the NFL. The Patriots have been pounding outmatched teams since the second half of Week 5. Our German friends do have a word for Damien Harris, and it’s “bestie.” In the States, we say “beast.” Harris is PFF’s highest-graded running back this season and will face a Jags defense allowing 150 rushing yards per game over their last three outings. The Falcons may be the worst team that has a somewhat respectable record. They’re 7-8, but they only have one win versus a team that’s above .500 and they’re ranked dead last in overall DVOA. Jacksonville is the only opponent with a losing record that Buffalo hasn’t thrashed this season. The Falcons’ inability to get pressure on the quarterback means that Josh Allen is going to have all day to do whatever he wants. I think both of these teams roll but the Bills play faster on offense, so they have a chance to hang a bigger number. I'm going to take the Jaguars.
Would you rather get 6.5 points with the Minnesota Vikings or the Denver Broncos?
It looks like Drew Lock will start at quarterback again for the Broncos Sunday. Denver is a 6.5-point underdog in Los Angeles against the Chargers. Elsewhere, in an NFC North match-up on Sunday night, the Vikings are a 6.5-point road underdog against the Packers. Which road favorite would you rather back?
Pete: Drew Lock is intriguing. Theoretically, the Broncos have a great collection of offensive weapons with Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and Javonte Williams. Lock has a much lower floor than Teddy Bridgewater, but theoretically, he also has a much higher ceiling. Unfortunately, he spends a lot more time near the floor. It's hard to trust this offense with Lock under center. The Chargers are coming off an embarrassing loss, but Justin Herbert hasn't really given us a reason not to trust him. On the other side, the Vikings are the kings of playing close games and with their season basically on the line, I can see them keeping it close here as well. Green Bay hasn't been overly impressive in their last two wins over the Ravens and Browns. I'll take the Vikings to keep it close.
Greg: Minnesota has given the Packers fits over the years, going 7-5-1 against Green Bay since 2015. They’re not exactly looking like world-beaters right now, though. Adam Thielen just went on the shelf for the rest of the season, they looked awful in recent games versus the Lions and Bears, and the Vikings defense ranks 28th against the run and 27th against the pass. The Packers activated Jaire Alexander off IR this week, which is concerning news for Minnesota’s passing game if he ends up playing. Denver may be my favorite play this week. Their defense is allowing just 15.4 points per game since their bye and you’re giving me 6.5 points? In this economy? I love the Broncos like I love delegating menial tasks, so sign me up.
Would you rather lay 7 points with the Seattle Seahawks or the New Orleans Saints?
The Seattle Seahawks are fresh off a loss to Andy Dalton and the Chicago Bears. This week, the Seahawks are a 7-point favorite over the Detroit Lions. After a disgusting performance on Monday night against the Dolphins, the Saints offense should get their top two quarterbacks back this weekend. As a result, the Saints are 7-point favorites over the Carolina Panthers. Which home favorite would you rather lay the touchdown with?
Pete: I think I just threw up in my mouth. For the record, I will absolutely not be betting either of these favorites this weekend. To me, this comes down to a referendum on the opponents these teams are facing rather than the teams themselves. Detroit has not quit, will not quit and is a covering machine. Dan Campbell looks to have potential to actually be a good coach. On the other side, the Carolina Panthers absolutely look like they have quit. Sam Darnold has been named starter, but I'm sure we'll see Cam Newton get snaps and maybe they'll even mix in P.J. Walker for some snaps. I had high hopes for Matt Rhule, but it really doesn't look like he's it. I'll go with the Saints, but this is a fade of the Panthers rather than a bet on the Saints.
Greg: You won’t catch me fading Dan Campbell’s Lions against subpar teams. They’ve covered six of their last seven games and I think they’re going to make it seven of eight. Seattle ranks 32nd against pass-catching running backs and Detroit gets D’Andre Swift back this week. Pete Carroll is the second-worst coach when it comes to going for it on fourth down when analytics say you should. The best? Campbell. Which is more depressing: Carolina’s QB carousel or the one in the abandoned amusement park in Chernobyl? The Panthers have lost 10 of their last 12 games. New Orleans is no powerhouse, but with Taysom Hill back, they have enough to put Carolina out of its misery. I’ll take the Saints.