NFL Picks

NFL Best Bets: Week 17

George Pickens

NFL BEST BETS

Week 17 of the NFL season is upon us and we’ve been on a roll for the last six weeks, going 12-5-1 in our Best Bets. I hate to see the regular season end just as we’re hitting our stride. I hate to see the regular season end just because I love it so much. But with the playoffs coming up, there’s no reason to be sad just yet. 

Looking at some of the trends this year, they’re quite different from last season. This year, favorites are covering the spread 52% of the time. Away favorites have performed the best, at 53.4%. Last year, underdogs were the key to profiting. For game totals, betting only “unders” would give you a 56.4 winning percentage. Interestingly, I bet only on “overs” last week and went 12-3. This week, betting the over also seems to be optimal. Vegas is ever-changing, so trends are really nothing more than just something to try to exploit for a limited time until the market delivers a course correction. If you’re lucky, you’ll profit before that happens, but it’s one reason I’ve never put too much stock into trends. 

I do take into account my record when picking specific teams or my record when picking favorites and underdogs or home and away teams. For example, I’ve done best picking road favorites this year and my worst record is picking road underdogs. I’ve picked Carolina games correctly 80% of the time and got Ravens games wrong almost 87% this season. These factors do matter to me, and I think it’s one reason my picks have performed better the second half of the son. So I would recommend keeping records on all your picks so you can see how you’ve performed in every scenario and try to exploit that in your favor. It’s not a coincidence that one of my best bets is a road favorite this week, while the other two involve teams I’ve had a lot of success picking this season.

 

BEST BETS

Rams -5.5 at Giants

I mentioned earlier that road favorites have been a great bet this year. The problem is, there aren’t a lot of road favorites in the NFL. There are only two this week and my favorite is the Rams. They have been playing some of the best football in the league, winning five of their last six, with their only loss in overtime at Baltimore. Matthew Stafford is playing great and the offense has averaged 32.4 points the last five games. The Giants, on the other hand, are averaging just 14.3 points per game this season. 

LA is coming off of 10 days rest and is one of the healthiest teams in the league. New York will be on six days rest after a tough game against Philadelphia and they’ll be playing with Tyrod Taylor at QB. While he may be an upgrade over Tommy Cutlets, it’s doubtful the Giants will be able to keep up with the Rams on the scoreboard. Their offense has the lowest points per play in the league, and their defense gives up 5.7 yards per play to opponents. That’s not a winning recipe. 

I think Los Angeles is going to run all over New York. Literally. The Rams are one of the best-rushing teams and they’ll be going against the second-rushing defense in the league. I don’t think this game will be particularly close and I’m a little surprised the line is closer to -7 for the Rams. 

Commanders +13 vs 49ers

San Francisco is the other road favorite this week, so it seems like a no-brainer to pick them, right? Maybe so, if you’re only looking at past results, but I think it warrants a closer look than that. First, the 49ers are playing on a short week and traveling across the country. San Fran has traveled to the east coast twice this year and won both games handily, but one of those games followed a bye week and the other followed a Sunday West Coast game, so fatigue wasn’t an issue. Secondly, this a huge spread for a road team to have, especially when there’s some question about the quarterback’s health. There has been some slight line movement towards the Commanders, so that’s an indication the edge may stand with Washington. I have the line at -11 for the 49ers, for what it’s worth. 

Perhaps the biggest boost for the Commanders is Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. The offense responded well when he entered the game last week and helped bring them back from a 20-point second-half deficit. The 49ers have given up 29 and 33 points the last two weeks, so I think Washington could put up a decent score in this game. I think they’ll be playing from behind a lot, but there’s enough talent on the Commanders offense to keep it close-ish. 

Steelers +3.5 at Seahawks

This is an interesting game between two teams that, in my opinion, are lucky to be 8-7. There are playoff implications for both teams, so there will be no shortage of motivation for either team. These are two evenly matched-teams, for the most part. I have Pittsburgh slightly ahead in my power rankings, but the home field advantage nullifies that. 

For the Steelers, veteran backup Mason Rudolph is likely to get the start, replacing veteran backup Mitch Trubisky. That is, unless Kenny Pickett clears concussion protocol in time. Whichever quarterback is on the field, they will be facing a Seattle defense that ranked 26th overall. 

While Geno Smith and the Seahawks offense have the edge on Pittsburgh, they have been erratic this season, scoring 20 or fewer points in five of their last six games. The Steelers defense ranks 7th in DVOA, so Seattle will have a tough time finding the end zone. This game feels more like a 21-20 type game that either team could win. 

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