Your curated list of wagers for Week 17 of the NFL season, from moneylines and player props to overlooked underdogs.
Ah, the penultimate week. This is the last time things will really feel normal before most organizations pack up their stuff and hibernate for the spring after next week’s finale.
NFL Week 17 Best Bets Overview
Best Over/Under Bet of Week 17
- Over/Under: 49.5
This year’s Monday Night Football slate comes to a close with a proverbial bang.
Two of the NFL’s six highest-scoring teams will meet, wrapping up a rather unspectacular debut campaign for Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on MNF — that’s not meant to be a dig at one the sport’s iconic announce pairs going back awhile; it’s that the schedule was mostly just bleh.
Notably, 11 of the 17 Monday Night affairs were decided by double digits. In the process, unders went 11-6 (64.7 percent), continuing a surprising prevailing theme this season in which such bets are 33-19 (63.5 percent) in prime time.
This particular matchup won’t be part of that latter narrative, however. Start with the basics; that these are two of the best offenses in the league set for a shootout. The AFC’s No. 1 seed is also on the line.
Buffalo comes in as one of the two clubs cranking out more than 400 total yards of offense on a weekly basis. They’re very well-balanced, also being one of the only two teams that rank in the top 10 with both passing and running the football.
Josh Allen won’t win the Most Valuable Player Award but he is having an MVP-caliber year en route to again leading his Bills to the top of the East. He actually still has a shot at setting new career-best marks in yards and touchdowns as well.
His counterpart, Joe Burrow, is arguably showcasing even more of a showing-out. The former No. 1 overall draft pick currently ranks second in the NFL in both passing yards and touchdowns, while his 102.3 passer rating sits him sixth among all qualified quarterbacks. With the Bengals on the verge of securing a second straight division title, Burrow should garner some MVP talk (but won’t).
Of course, summoning a high-scoring meeting won’t be that simple. In addition to boasting very good offensive units, the same can be said on the defensive side of the ball, as both Buffalo and Cincinnati rank in the top 10 in fewest points allowed.
Hmm, something has to give, and given how hot both playoff-bound squads have been the last couple of months when on offense, I’m willing to wager that will be the two defenses having some difficulty.
The Bills enter having won six in a row, plating 28.3 points per game within this span. Not to be outdone, the reigning-AFC-Super-Bowl-representative Bengals are carrying a seven-game winning streak, during which they’ve compiled an average of 29.2 points on the scoreboard.
Key matchups to enable an over could be on display in the trenches. Cincy has notched the fourth-fewest sacks in football with 26, and if Allen is given ample time to cook up whatever he wants through the air and on the ground, that’d be beneficial for an offense-heavy script.
On the opposite end of the equation, the Bengals offensive line surrenders a decent amount of sacks but they’ve improved considerably throughout their current win streak. Opponents have only sacked Burrow 10 times in the last seven contests.
Not that he really needs much extra time anyway. Only Tom Brady disposes of the football quicker than Burrow, who unwinds his throws every 2.48 seconds per dropback. A lot of damage is done after that with a receiving trio (Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd) that is the only one in which all three wide-outs have accumulated at least 700 receiving yards.
Buckle in for what could very well be one of the games of the year. To add a little insurance, I recommend having this over on the key number of 48, meaning we survive in the event of a 28-20/31-17 final.
The Pick: OVER 48 (-140)
Best Point Spread Bet for Week 17
- Spread: Panthers +3 / Buccaneers -3
If anyone were to predict before the year that Tom Brady and his Bucs could possibly only be a three-point favorite against a Sam Darnold-led team, they would’ve been roasted more than the camp counselors in Addams Family Values (my attempt at a Wednesday reference).
Yet here we are, in the penultimate week of the season — with the division still up for grabs as well! — and that is exactly the situation we find ourselves in: The Greatest of All Time is barely favored standing opposite… Sam Darnold.
I’m not arguing, of course, if the number is correct. Given how lethargic Tampa has looked on offense for the majority of the campaign, combined with the Panthers’ fun, spirited, resilient surge to vault them into contention (when everyone left them for dead at 1-5), this spread is correct.
But with the much-added importance, how do we not take Brady here in what has to be considered the biggest game of the season? And remember it’s at home.
A lot of credit should go to interim coach Stevie Wilks and how he’s led Carolina back from the grave all the way to this point of even playing a meaningful game in January. They were trending toward the No. 1 overall draft pick with Matt Rhule.
But how long can this fairy tale run continue? And now it must require going into Tampa Bay and beating TB12 himself.
Darnold has showcased a transformation (in a year of Jets reject restarts, apparently) that should relight all thoughts of him maybe being a successful starting quarterback in the NFL after all.
While it’s only been four games, the former No. 3 overall draft pick is maintaining a passer rating above 100.0 — something he accomplished in a single game only once in the last two seasons.
It’s not going to continue at this stage, however. Tampa may be the toughest defense Darnold has faced and this group is arguably one of the best in the league. They’re one of seven clubs that yield less than 200 passing yards per game and also generate a good amount of pressure, evidenced by their 41 sacks on the year.
When the Bucs faced Darnold twice last year, the result was advantage: defense. Tampa held him to a 78.0 passer rating in the two meetings while recording an interception. Darnold notably hasn’t turned the ball over yet this season but considering he was averaging an interception per game prior to 2022, that’s just not sustainable.
We’d be remiss not to factor in the first encounter between these two NFC South clubs earlier on. That was Wilks’ first victory, a 21-3 mauling of Tampa but I’m not expecting anything close to that result. Adjustments will be made, plus the rematch has a completely different feel.
All along, everyone thought Brady would squeak into the postseason. Well, this division bout helps hammer that home.
The Pick: BUCCANEERS -3 (-118)
Best Teaser Bet (4 team, 13 points) of Week 17
As we’ve touched on several times already, whenever the equivalent of a free bingo space emerges, bettors would be smart to capitalize on such spots in a bet.
That should certainly be the case this week when Kansas City hosts the laughingstock that is the Denver Broncos. All the Chiefs have to do is win straight up, and considering Patrick Mahomes is 10-0 in his career against this division rival, there need not be any second thoughts.
San Francisco arguably qualifies as a free bingo space, too. Though they’re currently depending on the literal Mr. Irrelevant of last April’s draft, any doubters of Brock Purdy should be silenced by now considering he just became the second QB in history (Dan Marino being the other) to churn out multiple touchdown passes and a 100.0-plus passer rating in each of his first three career starts. That’s special.
But even if Purdy does come crashing back down to earth — as many are anticipating at some point — he has the cushion of an outstanding defense to fall back on. After the Raiders’ chaotic mess of benching Derek Carr for scrub backup QB Jarrett Stidham, don’t expect much offense opposite the best D in the NFL.
A total looks to be worth teasing as well. As it is, the Giants are far from a high-scoring bunch, and now they get a truly dreadful team — the Jeff Saturday Colts — at home. I’m calling for a combination of a slowed-down G-Men game plot alongside the ineptitude of Nick Foles.
And finally, we’ll add this chunk of points to an already-questionably-tagged underdog. The Vikings are undoubtedly the superior team compared to the Packers considering they’re decisively ahead of them in the standings and even destroyed them in Week 1. With the additional points to the spread, Minnesota can still fall by two TDs and we’re good. It should be a close encounter either way.
Best Prop Bet of Week 17
- Justin Jefferson Over/Under 6.5 Receptions
At this late juncture in the season, it can be extremely valuable identifying what contract incentives are still in play for certain players. Or better yet, maybe what pro football records could be up for grabs.
In the case of Justin Jefferson, there is indeed NFL history within his grasp (albeit with one extra game played), that being the all-time single-season receiving yards mark. Jefferson currently paces all wide receivers with 1,756 yards, putting him in sight of the record set by Calvin Johnson in 2012, when Megatron recorded 1,964 yards. Another 209 yards for Jefferson will give him this position in the record books.
Rather than take his yardage prop, though, I think it’s wiser in general to attack his total receptions since either way, we know Jefferson will be peppered with balls all game long. The LSU product comfortably leads the National Football League in both catches (123) and targets (174).
That’s an average of 11.6 targets per game, and in this special scenario where the Vikings have already clinched the NFC North, perhaps Kirk Cousins will feel like he can focus more on getting his No. 1 weapon this monumental season record.
Two other factors can come into play. One, Jefferson publicly defended his QB1 earlier this week in regards to those who consider Cousins a potential weakness come playoff time. Maybe that favor will be returned in the form of extra coddling.
Perhaps above all, Jefferson gained some juicy bulletin board material from the man he’ll largely be squaring off with, Jaire Alexander. Look what he said on Thursday:
Yeah, uh, not the smartest thing to do. Don’t trash-talk the best wide receiver in the NFL, young man. Jefferson will eat.
The Pick: OVER 6.5 Receptions (-138)
NFL Best Bets Record for the 2022 Season
- Over/Unders: “7-9“
- Spreads: 5-6-2
- Teasers: “5-8-1“
- Props: “10-9“
- Overall Record*: “27-32-3,” -15.8 units
*Each over/under is graded to win 2 units; everything else for 1 unit
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