There’s a full slate of 16 NFL games this Sunday – but only a handful that truly matter. Those would be the games with playoff ramifications. Making NFL picks in Week 17 is always easier when there’s something on the line; these games will most closely resemble what we usually see on the gridiron, while the others will be more like exhibition contests.
Well, almost. The coaches usually tell you what the game plan is ahead of time during the preseason. Those are great games for sharp bettors; it’s more like a crapshoot in Week 17. So let’s get right to it with the opening NFL odds for the games that matter most on Sunday – starting with a win-and-you’re-in battle of AFC South rivals.
We were bullish on the Indianapolis Colts (9-6 SU, 7-7-1 ATS) here at the home office, and lo, it has come to pass. A full year of Andrew Luck has done wonders for the Colts, who would earn the last AFC wild-card berth if the season ended in Week 16. But it doesn’t, so they’ll need a win on the road over the Tennessee Titans (9-6 SU, 8-7 ATS), who will vault into the No. 6 seed if they get the duke instead.
Just to shake things up, the league has “flexed” the Colts-Titans matchup into the 8:30 p.m. ET slot on NBC. The oddsmakers had yet to post their opening lines at press time; it remained to be seen whether Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota (stinger) will play this game, which means the Titans might have to rely on Blaine Gabbert to get them into the postseason. The horror. The horror.
There are two other AFC games that matter bigly in Week 17. The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1 SU and ATS) can earn a wild-card berth if they beat the Cincinnati Bengals (6-9 SU, 8-7 ATS) at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS – and if the Colts-Titans game ends in a tie. Highly unlikely.
But the Steelers can also win the AFC North title if they beat the Bengals, and the Baltimore Ravens (9-6 SU 8-7 ATS) fall to the Cleveland Browns (7-7-1 SU, 9-6 ATS) – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Beating the Bengals is the easy part; the Steelers opened as 17-point home faves (+100) before falling to -14, with most early bettors on Cincy. The Ravens, meanwhile, are 5.5-point home faves, with 57-percent consensus on Cleveland.
The NFC playoff race boils down to two games that will determine the wild-card picture. The Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1 SU and ATS) are in the driver’s seat; they’ll clinch with a victory over the Chicago Bears (11-4 SU and ATS), who have already nailed down the NFC North. The Bears are 6-point road dogs at press time after opening at +7, with two-thirds of early bettors on Chicago. Kick-off is at 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox.
Even if the Vikings lose, they’ll make the playoffs if the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles fall. Philadelphia (8-7 SU, 6-9 ATS) needs a win over Washington (7-8 SU, 9-6 ATS), also at 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox, and the Eagles look good as 7-point road dogs with 57-percent consensus. Philly also needs Chicago to beat Minnesota, and the Bears aren’t totally disinterested here – they’re one of a handful of teams jockeying for playoff seeding. Bet accordingly, and may the prolate spheroid be with you for the holidays.
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