A 10-win AFC team will not make the playoffs, and a team under .500 will be a top-four seed in the NFC. Such is life in 2020.
Week 17 of the NFL season is always the craziest and most volatile betting week of the season. There are plenty of games where both teams have nothing to play for, and some where both have everything to play for. In addition, there are cases like the Washington-Philadelphia matchup where one team is playing for their playoff lives while the other is relegated to playing spoiler.
This week more than ever, it is important to pay attention to the reports coming out of various NFL cities to gain insight into what teams are playing all their starters or who is resting key players. While there is line movement each week in the NFL, no other week has as much fluctuation in its line than Week 17. Thus, bettors who time their wagers correctly can stand to gain a huge advantage or be at a huge disadvantage relative to the closing number.
Here is a look at the early NFL Week 17 lines and their predicted movement throughout the week (Odds courtesy of BettingPros consensus odds).
Compare odds from all major sportsbooks for the NFL’s Week 17 matchups>>
Sunday, January 3rd — 1:00 PM EST
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-2)
Predicted Movement: Both Buffalo and Miami have something to play for this week. The Bills would need a win to secure the No. 2 seed in the AFC, which would allow them at least two home playoff games. The Dolphins will be fighting for their playoff lives and would clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Bills, or losses by either the Ravens, Browns or Colts. As is the case with many teams this week, it will be important to follow the news out of Buffalo in case they are to rest players in the season finale. It would not seem they would do so with the No. 2 seed on the line, but they cannot fall lower than No. 3 and this line suggests they may rest more key players than one would think. As far as the total is concerned, all indications are that Miami will once again announce Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback. However, if they pull a surprise and go with Ryan Fitzpatrick, this total would tick up considerably given his gunslinger style of play.
Baltimore Ravens (-11.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
Predicted Movement: There were not many bigger winners in Week 16, as the Ravens went from the eighth seed and out of the playoff picture to controlling their own destiny in a “win and in” scenario in Week 17. Baltimore dominated Cincinnati 27-3 in Week 5, and that was with Joe Burrow under center. However, Cincinnati has shown some fight to end the season with two consecutive wins over the Steelers and Texans. Given that Cincinnati’s offense has averaged 32 points per game over the last two weeks and that Baltimore has averaged 37 points per game over the last four weeks, the total is the most likely number to rise throughout the week.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (-7)
Predicted Movement: The Browns were hoping that the AFC North would be on the line this week, but that door was slammed shut when they loss to the Jets and the Steelers beat the Colts. However, the large spread indicates the Steelers enter this week having clinched the AFC North, while the Browns need a win to secure a playoff spot. Pittsburgh will either be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, depending on what Buffalo does. While that might seem like a big difference, it would potentially mean the difference between playing a home game or road game in the Divisional Round. Is that enough to have the Steelers go all out in this game, or will they choose to rest some starters like Ben Roethlisberger who may be playing with a hurt knee this whole time? Either way, Cleveland will be a very motivated bunch. They would clinch a playoff berth with a win, while there are still some scenarios where they could get in if other teams lose. Be sure to keep an eye out for word out of Pittsburgh with their plans on who will play, as the line could move through the key number of seven if they choose to rest key players.
Minnesota Vikings (-6.5) at Detroit Lions
Predicted Movement: It is debatable which of these teams had a more pathetic Week 16 performance. While Minnesota’s loss to New Orleans was much loser than Detroit’s loss to Tampa Bay, the Vikings allowed Alvin Kamara to tie an almost 90-year old NFL record with six rushing touchdowns. It is unclear if Chase Daniel or David Blough will be under center for the Lions, but not much is expected of either. Despite bettors’ lack of confidence in Detroit’s quarterback situation, the historically bad effort from both of these defenses a week ago should lead to higher total by kickoff.
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-4.5)
Predicted Movement: Much like the Cincinnati Bengals’ surprising play to end the season, the New York Jets have won two straight games after 13 consecutive losses to begin the season. The Jets are locked into the No. 2 pick in next year’s draft, so they can focus on playing good football and ending the season on a high note. They will be a live underdog against a Patriots team that is guaranteed to finish under .500 for the first time since 2000. New York’s mindset entering this week is clear while New England’s is not, so look for the line to continue to move in the Jets’ favor, especially with New England playing on a short week.
Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) at New York Giants
Predicted Movement: The winner of the Cowboys-Giants game will turn into big Eagles fans on Sunday night, as they would be NFC East champions if Philadelphia knocks off Washington. The Giants have lost three consecutive games by at least 14 points, while the Cowboys are riding high off three straight wins. Given that Dallas has won seven consecutive games in this series and has covered the spread in six of those seven, do not be surprised if this line gets to the key number of three by week’s end.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5)
Predicted Movement: The Buccaneers can no longer win the NFC South, but a win over Atlanta would clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs. That is likely a big motivating factor for Tampa Bay, as it means they would face whoever wins the NFC East in the Wild Card round, and they would likely be decent-sized road favorites in that game. Every week it seems the Falcons find devastating ways to lose games, but give them credit for battling. They were a dropped interception away from beating the Chiefs, and still could have forced overtime if Younghoe Koo did not miss just his second field goal attempt of the season. With the Falcons seemingly a pesky underdog each week, this line should never get to seven. However, the over/under should come down considerably given that Atlanta has held four of its last five opponents to 21 points or less.
Sunday, January 3rd — 4:25 PM EST
Green Bay Packers (-5.5) at Chicago Bears
Predicted Movement: The Packers-Bears matchup is one that carries some of the biggest playoff implications. Green Bay can clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win or a Seattle loss to San Francisco. Meanwhile, Chicago will clinch a playoff berth with a win or a Cardinals loss to the Rams. Thus, with both teams highly motivated and with neither side resting players, oddsmakers decided the Packers were the clear favorites with both teams at full strength. This is a rematch of a Week 12 game that the Packers won 41-25 on a Sunday night at Lambeau Field. The 41 points allowed by the Bears defense was the most they let up all year, as only one other opponent was able to score 30 or more against them. Aaron Rodgers is 45-27 ATS against NFC North opponents, while the Bears are 11-19-1 ATS under head coach Matt Nagy since the start of last season. With both offenses playing at a high level, the total is the most likely number to rise.
Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5) at Denver Broncos
Predicted Movement: To say that the Raiders have stumbled down the stretch is a massive understatement. They have lost five of their last six games, which includes two losses to losing teams. While the Broncos have lost four of five games themselves, they have been playing all of those games without the prospect of making the playoffs, unlike the Raiders who were just eliminated this past week. Las Vegas has the feel of a team playing out the string, while Denver nearly won a game versus the Chargers last week that they were trailing 16-3. This line should move closer to a pick’em by kickoff.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-14)
Predicted Movement: The Jacksonville Jaguars have lost three straight games by 21 or more points. The writing was on the wall for their blowout loss to the Bears last week when they announced Mike Glennon as starting quarterback and that running back James Robinson would have to miss the game. They are in line to take another pounding from a Colts team that needs a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Given that Jacksonville’s lone win of the season came against the Colts in Week 1, this line is not likely to balloon too high. The Colts need a win and a loss from either the Titans, Ravens, Browns or Dolphins to secure a playoff berth. Three of those four teams kickoff at 1:00, and if all three win there may be less motivation for Indianapolis when they take the field.
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (OFF)
Predicted Movement: The Chiefs have clinched the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The line has remained off the board as we await news from head coach Andy Reid on what if any players will rest on Sunday.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-1.5)
Predicted Movement: Both the Cardinals and Rams are in the playoffs with a win this week. The Rams remain short favorites despite it being announced that quarterback Jared Goff will miss the game after having surgery to repair a thumb fracture. The starter will be John Wolford, an undrafted free agent from Wake Forest who has never appeared in an NFL game. It is only a matter of time before bettors swing this line in Arizona’s favor.
Seattle Seahawks (-4.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Predicted Movement: The Seattle Seahawks clinched the NFC West with last week’s win over the Rams. They can be no worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC, and still have an outside shot at the top seed with a win and losses by both the Packers and Saints. If either of those teams get out to big leads, it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks scoreboard watch and start pulling players from the game as a result. That scenario as well as San Francisco’s surprising upset of the Cardinals should have sharps backing the 49ers who have clearly not quit on the season.
New Orleans Saints (-6.5) at Carolina Panthers
Predicted Movement: Like the Seahawks, the Saints also need three things to go their way to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC. New Orleans needs to beat Carolina, and have Green Bay lose to Chicago and Seattle beat San Francisco. Given how injured Drew Brees has been this year, Sean Payton is more likely to pull him at some point than Pete Carroll is to pull Russell Wilson. Either way, there should not be enough momentum to get this like to the key number of seven, especially considering how knowledgeable sharps are of Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s penchant for covering big spreads as an underdog.
Tennessee Titans (-7.5) at Houston Texans
Predicted Movement: The Titans clinch the AFC South with a win, or a loss by either the Ravens, Colts or Dolphins. Head coach Mike Vrabel is likely to call an aggressive game in an attempt to enter the playoffs on a high note. Last week they were blown out 40-14 by the Packers, but that still does not seem as bad as the Texans losing to the previously three-win Bengals. The Titans beat the Texans 42-36 earlier in the year, and a similar offensive explosion may be in order this week. Both the spread and over should tick up slightly.
Sunday, January 3rd — 8:20 PM EST
Washington Football Team (-1.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Predicted Movement: The Eagles opened as -1.5 point home favorites early on Monday morning, but the line has since jumped the fence. The biggest reason for this line move is the optimism surrounding Alex Smith’s ability to be healthy enough to be under center for Washington. Smith has missed the last two games with a calf injury, and Washington’s offense has struggling scoring an average of 14 points in two consecutive losses. We know that Dwayne Haskins will no longer be the starter this week, as he was waived by the team Monday afternoon. In the event that Smith’s injury does not heal by Sunday, Washington will turn to Taylor Heinicke as their starting quarterback. If that were the case, the Eagles would certainly go back to being favored.
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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.