Welcome to the Week 17 edition of our NFL Bets of the Week column. Here, I’ll strive to identify a handful of games I feel have profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sports, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics for one game. We’ll strive for quality over quantity here as well — the focus will only be on spots that seem to truly be advantageous. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager that we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.
Let’s take a quick look at how things went in Week 16 and follow that up with a leap into two interesting scenarios for Week 17.
Recapping Week 16
Week 16 winners: Falcons -3.5, Falcons moneyline, Steelers +5.5
Week 16 losers: None
Season record to date:
ATS Picks: 23-10 (.696)
ATS Leans: 4-2 (.667)
Moneyline: 10-7 (.588)
Over/under: 1-1-1 (.500)
Week 17 NFL Betting Picks
Dallas Cowboys (9-6) at New York Giants (5-10)
Over/Under Total: 41.5
How They Fared in Week 16
The Cowboys clinched the NFC East with a 27-20 home win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dak Prescott turned in an efficient performance. He completed 20 of 25 passes for 161 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions while adding another score on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott was solid but not spectacular: 18 carries for 85 yards supplemented by a 5-24 line through the air. Michael Gallup (3-53-1) and Cole Beasley (5-50) paced the pass catchers while Amari Cooper was limited to four receptions for 20 yards. Meanwhile, the defense sacked Jameis Winston thrice, causing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown on one of those hits.
The Giants fell to the Indianapolis Colts by a 28-27 margin on the road. A Chester Rogers one-yard touchdown grab with 55 seconds remaining capped Indianapolis’ comeback. Eli Manning did have an impressive game. He completed 25 of 33 passes for 309 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Saquon Barkley was held in check by a stingy Colts front, rushing for just 43 yards and a touchdown despite logging 21 carries. He added a 5-34 line as a receiver. Sterling Shepard was the star of the receiving corps in Odell Beckham’s absence. He tallied 113 yards on six catches. Evan Engram was a fine complementary option with a 6-87 line.
Notable Matchups and Metrics
As with several Week 17 matchups, this game may not have an abundance of reliable data to fall back on when trying to predict an outcome. That’s due to both motivation and personnel issues, with the two going hand-in-hand in certain cases. The Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC and have no room for upward or downward movement. The Giants, by contrast, long ago surrendered any playoff hopes.
Consequently, how many series Dallas affords the likes of Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper is up in the air. The same could go for many of their offensive linemen as well as their defensive starters. The most likely scenario is that we see front-line Cowboys exit for good in waves throughout the first half. Naturally, the already conservative Dallas offense is likely to have an even harder time moving the ball down the field consistently with Cooper Rush and/or Mike White under center, Rod Smith and Darius Jackson in the backfield and Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns potentially helming the receiving corps.
Then, on the Giants side of the equation, Manning is the confirmed starter. However, it wouldn’t be farfetched to see coach Pat Shurmur give rookie Kyle Lauletta and/or journeyman Alex Tanney some reps in this meaningless finale. Beckham is also already ruled out for Sunday’s game with the thigh injury that will end up costing him the last four contests of the 2018-19 campaign. Barkley will see action in this game, but whether he goes all four quarters is also up for debate. Shurmur would face unfathomable criticism should the brightest star of New York’s depressing season go down with a severe injury.
The Dallas defense has also been exceedingly stingy this season. The ‘Boys check in allowing the fourth-fewest points per game (19.3). That figure rises only to 20.1 on the road. Dallas is also ranked in the top 10 in passing yards per game allowed (230.5, ninth fewest) and rushing yards per game allowed (91.3, fifth fewest). The Cowboys’ strong defensive resumé also includes the 10th-fewest yards per drive allowed (31.3) and seventh-fewest points per drive surrendered (1.86). Dallas’ staunch defensive effort in their one prior meeting with the G-Men back in Week 2 also bears mentioning: they limited Barkley to 28 yards on 11 rushes. And while he racked up a whopping 14 catches that night, they went for a modest 80 yards (5.7 YPC).
Even when at full strength, the Giants offense has struggled to maintain consistency. New York ranks in the bottom 10 in points per game (22.3). Surprisingly, they’ve been appreciably worse in that category at MetLife Stadium, averaging the fourth-fewest points of any team on their home field (18.1 per game). New York is averaging nearly 50 fewer passing yards at home than on the road (224.3, compared to 272.4 on the road) and has tallied a modest 102.0 rushing yards per MetLife tilt as well. Those numbers may all take more of a tumble because many second- and third-team players could spend significant time on the field Sunday.
On the defensive end, it’s worth noting the Giants have tightened up a bit in recent games. That furthers the probability of a low-scoring contest. New York is allowing 20.3 points per game over their last three — nearly five points fewer per contest than their 25.1 seasonal figure. They’ve particularly shored up in the secondary during that stretch, allowing 214.3 passing yards per game (compared to 245.1 per game on the season). And the Giants have been tough versus the pass at home all season anyhow. Moreover, while New York has been the diametric opposite versus the run — 154.4 ground yards per home game for second worst in the NFL — that becomes much less of a factor when considering Elliott’s cameo isn’t likely to extend very deep into the first half.
By the Numbers
The Cowboys have gone under their projected total in nine of 15 games this season (60.0 percent). That includes in six of their seven away games (NFL-high 85.7 percent) and five of six games as road underdogs (NFL-high 83.3 percent).
The Giants have gone under their projected total in four of their seven home games (57.1 percent). New York has also scored under their projected total in three of five division games (60.0 percent).
The Final Word
It’s anyone’s guess what each team’s level of motivation will be in this game. As alluded to earlier, the Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed with no chance of improvement or regression. All signs point to a preseason-like contest with two potentially less-than-focused teams. Consequently, the under seems like the likelier outcome.
The Pick: Under 41.5
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) at Houston Texans (10-5)
Over/Under Total: 40.5
How They Fared in Week 16
The Jaguars upended the Miami Dolphins by a 17-7 score in South Florida. Cody Kessler completed 12 of 17 passes for 106 yards and also lost a fumble. He initially was forced from the game late in the first half with a shoulder injury but was then replaced for good by Blake Bortles in the third quarter due to ineffective play. Bortles wasn’t much better, totaling 64 yards of offense (39 passing, 25 rushing). Leonard Fournette was bottled up for 43 yards on 18 carries and added 28 yards on three receptions. Dede Westbrook (7-45) and Donte Moncrief (4-43) spearheaded the pass-catching corps. The defense sacked Ryan Tannehill on three occasions and also forced a fumble from running back Brandon Bolden.
The Texans came up short, 32-30, in a classic interconference clash against the Eagles on the road. Deshaun Watson completed 29 of 40 passes for 339 yards with two touchdowns through the air. The second-year phenom added 49 yards and another pair of scores on the ground on eight carries. Outside of Watson, the running game was virtually non-existent with Lamar Miller (ankle) missing the contest. However, DeAndre Hopkins contributed a 9-104 line as the top pass catcher, while DeAndre Carter stepped up to provide six receptions for 61 yards. Demaryius Thomas mustered three grabs for 37 yards before suffering a torn Achilles in the fourth quarter.
Potential Playoff Implications
The Texans have clinched a playoff berth. However, they take the AFC South with a win Sunday, while a loss leaves them as a Wild Card team. What’s more, there are scenarios too numerous to list here that even garner Houston the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, with all of them naturally hinging first and foremost on a Houston win. Suffice to say, they’ll have plenty of motivation to notch a victory.
Notable Matchups and Metrics
The Texans roll into Sunday’s finale in the rather odd position of having lost two of their last three games. Houston got used to residing in the win column prior to that stretch, as they rattled off nine straight victories. They’ve been especially proficient at home this season. Bill O’Brien’s club has a 5-2 record at NRG Stadium, with only one loss there since Week 3. One of the wins they logged during their aforementioned hot streak was a 20-7 road domination of the Jaguars in Week 7. Fournette did miss that contest for Jacksonville with a hamstring issue. However, he’s also listed as doubtful for the finale Sunday due to foot and ankle injuries. Houston limited the Jags to 259 total yards and 3.8 yards per play in that contest.
The Texans’ metrics on both sides of the ball are appreciably better on their home field. To begin with, the Texans are just outside the top 10 in points per game at home with 26.7. Then, Houston is also compiling 246.7 passing yards per home tilt (compared to 230.8 on the road), rushing for 138.0 per NRG Stadium contest as well. The latter figure not only ranks as the fifth-highest total for any team on its home field but also represents a drastic spike from their 115.1 road figure.
The Texans enjoy just as much home cookin’ on the defensive side of the ball. Houston is tied with the Vikings for the seventh-fewest points per game allowed at home (19.0). Then, the Texans come in allowing the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game overall (86.2), including 87.7 per home tilt. Their per-drive stats further enhance their impressive body of work on defense. Houston comes into Week 17 ranked in the top 10 in yards per drive allowed (30.6, seventh fewest), points per drive allowed (1.84, sixth fewest), and turnovers forced per drive (.145). The Texans even shine in where they allow the opposition to begin their drives. Their opponents’ average starting field position of just behind the 26-yard line (25.58) ranks Houston as tops in the NFL.
Then, the Jaguars essentially are bringing a knife to the proverbial gunfight Sunday. Bortles has replaced Kessler as the starter. That development doesn’t really move the needle in terms of helping the Jags keep the game close. In fact, considering Bortles’ 14 turnovers in 12 games, it arguably worsens their chances. The Jacksonville offense has been a disappointment of massive proportions throughout much of the season, irrespective of who’s been under center.
The Jags come in scoring an anemic 16.1 points per game, third fewest in the NFL. That includes an average of just 13.0 per contest over the last three. They also put the seventh-fewest passing yards per game (201.3). While they’re rushing for a modest 109.5 yards per road contest, that number is likely in for a dip with Fournette projected to sit. You can also find Jacksonville bringing up the rear in offensive per-drive stats. They’re averaging the fifth-fewest yards per drive (27.51), third-fewest points per drive (1.33), and committing the second-most turnovers per possession (.164).
Finally, the Jags’ defense hasn’t been nearly as effective outside of TIAA Bank Field. For starters, the 24.9 points per road game they’re allowing is a full 11 points more than their 13.9 home figure. The same level of disparity is evident in their pass and rush defense metrics. Jacksonville yields 208.8 yards through the air on the road. That’s still a solid figure, but a notable jump from the 176.4 they yield at home. And they’ve been one of the worst teams at stopping the run on the road. The Jags’ 144.1 rushing yards allowed per away contest ties them with the Raiders for the third-highest figure surrendered in the NFL.
That includes a particular vulnerability to running QBs. Jax has allowed the most rushing yards (405) to signal-callers this season and has done so at a generous clip of 5.1 yards per tote. They’re also tied with several other teams for most rushing TDs (four) allowed to quarterbacks. Needless to say, those numbers spell nothing but trouble versus Watson.
By the Numbers
The Jaguars are 5-8-2 (38.5 percent) against the spread overall this season. That includes a 2-4-1 mark (33.3 percent) against the number on the road and 1-2-1 (33.3 percent) against the number as a road underdog. The Jaguars are also 1-3-1 (25.0 percent) against the spread in division games.
The Texans are 3-2 (60.0 percent) versus the spread in division games this season.
The Final Word
The gulf in the motivation levels for each team will be expansive. With the Texans having an abundance of incentive and the Jaguars having none except pride, Houston is already at a significant advantage. Homefield naturally adds to their edge. And it’s hard to say that the insertion of Bortles into the starting lineup is an upgrade given how he’s looked at times this season. Then, Fournette’s likely absence only dampens Jacksonville’s chances. Ultimately, I’m banking on Houston’s need for a win and their superior talent leading them to at least a touchdown win.
The Pick: Texans -6.5, Texans moneyline