Eli’s NFL Week 17 Best Bets: Falcons, Saints To Cover Spread?

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Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
NFL Week 17 Best Bets

With NFL Week 17 odds nearing kickoff, this article will hopefully aid sports bettors with price discovery and handicapping point spreads, moneyline odds, and totals while shopping on NFL betting sites. In particular, the Falcons at Bears and the Saints at Buccaneers stick out — compared to my betting model. Let’s break down my NFL Week 17 best bets with that in mind.

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Bet: falcons to lose by three or fewer points (or win outright)

Some bettors may be unfamiliar with the aforementioned term, price discovery. The process commences when wagers are made on the opening spread or total. Early action is used to adjust the number. Shops may also follow the same script of operators that are considered “market makers,” tinkering with pricing because a competitor repositioned its own. Liability tolerance (or lack thereof) could be enough to reshape the odds at other sportsbooks.

Regarding the Falcons’ odds, this spread didn’t shift an inch from the look-ahead line. But my numbers illustrate that there should’ve been, thanks to the recent reinforcements on both sides of the ball.

Boost Under Center?

Deservedly so, Chicago’s defense deserves praise after acquiring defensive end Montez Sweat. Since Week 9, the Bears have surrendered the second-fewest EPA per play. They’ve also received positive variance, tallying a plus-seven turnover differential in the last five games — two of them leading to defensive scores.

As alluded to, Falcons coach Arthur Smith reverted to signal caller Taylor Heinicke in their win over the Colts, sending the turnover-prone Desmond Ridder to the bench for a second time this season. Heinicke isn’t an immense upgrade, yet his 0.15 passing net expected points (NEP) per dropback gifts Altanta’s offense more upside — and a lesser probability of turning the ball over — than Ridder does (-0.01).

That’s even more significant if the winds are 20+ mph, assuming his ankle injury (limited in practice Wednesday) doesn’t force him to miss this contest.

Battle In The Trenches

Granted, the Bears’ defensive front sets up well versus the league’s most ground-heavy attack. However, Chicago’s offense is no slouch in that department, accruing the fourth-highest rushing percentage, led by dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields.

With nose tackle David Onyemata back in the lineup in Week 16, Atlanta let up the third-fewest EPA per carry. Overall, it owns the second-best ranking in that category, directly behind Chicago. If defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen can force the Bears away from their strength, that puts Fields at a disadvantage.

Neilsen’s bunch employs the highest percentage of Cover 3 across the NFL. Although Fields has made refinements since returning from a thumb injury, his passer rating is still 17.1 points lower against zone coverage. Chicago offensive coordinator Luke Getsy has consistently failed to find a cure for his woes, relying on a bevy of screen passes and underneath routes.

That plays right into the Falcons’ hands, especially with stud cornerback A.J. Terrell matched up with the elusive DJ Moore. Additionally, Moore’s teammate Cole Kmet (ankle) is expected to be sidelined. His absence would be significant for Fields, as Atlanta has struggled to limit opposing tight ends.

STATS
Falcons logo Falcons ATL
Bears logo Bears CHI
Offense Ranking OFF RNK 25th 28th
Defense Ranking DEF RNK 27th 29th
Offense Net Yards Per Game OFF NET YPG 318.6 307.9
Defense Net Yards Per Game DEF NET YPG 362.1 375.9
Passing Yards Per Game PASS YPG 158.8 130.5
Turnovers Committed Per Game TOC PG 1.2 1.5

Final Thoughts

Per my power ratings, there isn’t much of a difference between these teams. Couple that notion with the Bears winning three of their last four games, and this line is inflated at a key number. Join TheLines.com’s free sports betting Discord to get an immediate alert whenever I post a bet. Head over to the #roles server to enroll in the push notifications.

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Bet: saints to lose by two or fewer points (or win outright)

Unlike the previous matchup, this spread has been on the move. After the Buccaneers’ odds were stationed at -1.5 on the look-ahead line, they reopened as three-point favorites. That’s when I grabbed the Saints’ odds as field-goal underdogs, as you’ll see below. On Wednesday afternoon, the spread dipped below the key number of three.

Sell High On Tampa Bay

Not only have the Bucs covered three of their last four games, but they’ve also won each of those contests straight up. Hence, they’re at the peak of their market value. Similar to the Bears, they’ve benefited from takeaways, which aren’t predictive. In fact, they’re tied with the Ravens and Steelers for the NFL’s best turnover differential (+10).

Todd Bowles’ unit was aided by three Saints giveaways in their Week 4 victory. With another win over New Orleans, Tampa Bay will clinch the NFC South title.

Baker Mayfield has boosted his resume with first-year offensive coordinator Dave Canales, as he’s tied for the eighth-most adjusted EPA per dropback among qualified QBs. Yet, he showcases the same defect as the aforementioned Fields — zone defenses. Regarding man-to-man coverage versus the former, Mayfield’s passer rating has shrunk by 20.3 points in 2023. The Saints use Cover 3, which looks at the league’s fifth-highest rate. Their defense should benefit from a mini-bye after last facing the Rams on Thursday, too.

Admittedly, backing Mayfield’s counterpart, Derek Carr, isn’t for the faint-hearted. Carr represents one of the least efficient signal callers in the red zone, and New Orleans’ pass protection (or lack thereof) hasn’t helped his cause.

Nevertheless, New Orleans was the victim of negative luck in its Week 16 loss, going scoreless on four possessions in plus-territory. With Bucs stud corner Carlton Davis (concussion) likely sidelined, Carr and wideout Chris Olave could undergo some positive variance against an otherwise vulnerable secondary.

STATS
Saints logo Saints NO
Buccaneers logo Buccaneers TB
Offense Ranking OFF RNK 18th 15th
Defense Ranking DEF RNK 5th T9th
Offense Net Yards Per Game OFF NET YPG 333.8 346.7
Defense Net Yards Per Game DEF NET YPG 314.8 324.3
Passing Yards Per Game PASS YPG 217.2 269.8
Turnovers Committed Per Game TOC PG 1.5 1.3

Final Thoughts

In a must-win game for the Saints’ postseason hopes, I’d bet them down to +2. Good luck with the rest of your NFL Week 16 best bets.

  • Editor’s note: This wager was made ahead of the news that Saints tailback Alvin Kamara (illness) could miss this contest.

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