The NFL playoff picture just got a lot clearer.
Notable developments from Week 16 included:
- Tampa Bay clinching an NFC playoff spot with an impressive blowout win over the Detroit Lions
- Seattle garnering the NFC West crown by toppling the LA Rams
- Dallas knocking Philadelphia out of postseason contention while remaining alive for the NFC East crown
- Pittsburgh securing the AFC North title with a memorable 21-point second-half comeback at home against the Colts
BETMGM SPECIAL - New Customers Bet $1 and Win $100. For more details - Click This Link
That gets us to the always interesting Week 17, where sportsbooks and bettors can often encounter unique challenges in trying to determine the different motivation levels for each team and what squads will be resting their front-line players ahead of the postseason. While there will undoubtedly be some disinterested teams taking the field in the first NFL Sunday of 2021, games such as Dolphins versus Bills, Ravens versus Bengals, Steelers versus Browns, Jaguars versus Colts, Cardinals versus Rams and Cowboys versus Giants will all have playoff implications for at least one of the teams involved.
NFL Week 17 odds
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills – 1 p.m. ET
What’s turning into an unforgettable season for the Dolphins continued last Saturday night with a wild one-point win over the Raiders.
Miami heads into this contest in a “win and in” situation with respect to an AFC wild card spot. Additionally, if the Bills notch a victory over the Dolphins, they’ll clinch the No. 2 seed. Buffalo blasted the Patriots in Foxboro on Monday night, 38-9.
The Dolphins received some rough news on Thursday when it was learned that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had tested positive for COVID-19. He will not play Sunday, so the game will be in the hands of Tua Tagovailoa.
The Bills will look to likely attack a fair amount on the ground, where the Dolphins have allowed 139.7 rushing yards per game.
New York Jets at New England Patriots — 1 p.m. ET
The Jets appear intent on sending Adam Gase to the unemployment line with at least a shred of dignity. New York notched its second straight win last Sunday, tripping up a Browns team that was missing its top four wideouts due to COVID-19 protocols. The Patriots – already eliminated from the postseason – were pounded by the Bills on Monday Night Football, 38-9.
The Jets’ quest to head into an offseason that’s sure to bring about plenty of change with some momentum will see them catch the Patriots on a short week. Whether that amounts to any tangible advantage remains to be seen, but both coaches could be throwing caution to the wind here a bit with neither team having anything on the line. It’s worth noting the Pats had trouble with New York in the first meeting before edging them by a 30-27 score, so this could be another winnable scenario for Gang Green.
One of the big questions surrounding the Patriots as they close out their first non-playoff season in over a decade is whether Bill Belichick will have Jarrett Stidham get at least one start on his 2020 resume. This game would seem like the natural opportunity for such, considering the lack of stakes. If the second-year signal-caller does get the nod, he’ll be set up for success against a Jets defense that’s allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game (278.1) and fourth-most passing touchdowns (30).
New York’s recent success has made an impact on oddsmakers. The Patriots are currently listed as modest home favorites.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals — 1 p.m. ET
The Ravens continued their impressive stretch run in Week 16 with a two-touchdown victory over the Giants. Meanwhile, the Bengals – much like the Jets – continued to show late-season life by squeaking past the Texans in a high-scoring win.
Baltimore had little real trouble with New York and now boasts a four-game winning streak. The Ravens have put themselves into a “win and in” situation for one of the AFC’s three wild card spots with their recent success, and, given the 27-3 shellacking they gave Cincy in the first meeting of the season with Joe Burrow still under center, they walk into this game rightfully considered sizable favorites.
That’s not to say the Bengals will lay down for their division opponent. In fact, they’ll likely approach the matchup with a bit of confidence after seeing Brandon Allen throw for 371 yards and two touchdowns and the Samaje Perine/Gio Bernard duo rush for 160 combined yards and two Perine TDs against the Texans. Naturally, they’ll have a much stiffer test in this contest, but the potential return of Tyler Boyd from a concussion could give them some solid firepower to go into battle with.
The number has moved by two points toward the Bengals since the open at some sportsbooks, with the Ravens now listed as road favorites.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns — 1 p.m. ET
The Steelers appeared to be on their way to another frustrating defeat –one that would have made them the first team to ever start 11-0 and lose four straight – but they were able to mount a furious second-half comeback and escape with a 28-24 win over the Colts. The Browns were unable to overcome the loss of their top four receivers to COVID-19 protocols, dropping a 20-16 decision to the Jets.
Whether Sunday’s second half snapped the Steelers offense out of its doldrums for good will be proven or disproven over time. However, the surge did serve as a clear reminder of what Pittsburgh is capable of when hitting on close to all cylinders.
The Browns were steamrolled, 38-7, in the Week 6 meeting between these squads, but these are drastically different teams coming together for the rematch.
Despite the tough matchup against the Steelers on the ground, the Browns, which need a victory to clinch an AFC wild card spot, will likely lean heavily on Nick Chubb. The star running back missed the Week 6 game with a knee injury, so he’ll be getting his first crack at Pittsburgh. Having suffered multiple injuries at linebacker, the Steelers have been more vulnerable to the run recently with 127.7 rushing yards per game surrendered over the last three contests. In the passing game, Baker Mayfield will hope to have all of Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge and Donovan Peoples-Jones back from COVID-19 protocols, which would naturally make a substantial difference in the potency of the air attack.
The Steelers will be giving starting QB Ben Roethlisberger a rest, meaning Mason Rudolph will get the start. Because of that, oddsmakers currently have Cleveland listed as home favorites.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants — 1 p.m. ET
The Cowboys continued an improbable late-season surge and knocked the Philadelphia Eagles out of the playoffs for good measure Sunday, setting them up for a potential NFC East-clinching win here if it’s paired with a Washington loss. Meanwhile, the Giants are unbelievably in the same boat despite a 5-10 record and a third straight loss Sunday to the Ravens.
Andy Dalton has gotten increasingly comfortable the more he’s played in Dallas, and his 377-yard, three-touchdown performance versus the Eagles gave him a new season high in yardage while extending his streak of multiple scoring tosses to four games. Dalton now faces the same Giants squad he began his current starting stint against while in emergency duty back in Week 5, but the best matchup may belong to Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard – Big Blue has given up 171.7 rushing yards per game over the last three contests, the fourth-highest figure in the league during that stretch.
Daniel Jones returned from a one-game absence Sunday against Baltimore, throwing for 252 yards and a touchdown in the loss. However, New York presumably will have to step up its play on offense a couple of notches at minimum to keep up with an improving Dallas attack. The Cowboys have also shown some improvement against the run in their current three-game winning streak, so Jones may be leaned on pretty heavily.
In a must-win contest for both teams, the visiting Cowboys are currently listed as .
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions — 1 p.m. ET
The Vikings got a lump of coal Christmas Day from Alvin Kamara and the Saints, which handed Minnesota a 52-33 thrashing on the strength of a record-tying six TDs by the running back. The Lions appeared to barely show up less than 24 hours later for a Saturday afternoon matchup against the Buccaneers, dropping a 47-7 decision in a game Matthew Stafford exited with an ankle injury.
Neither team has anything but pride to play for, so it remains to be seen if coach Mike Zimmer opts to give some of his top offensive players time off during the latter stages of the contest. Minnesota should have its pick on how to attack what appears to be a very disinterested Detroit squad at this point. The Lions are now giving up an NFC-high 413.9 total yards per game following their Week 16 debacle and were notably eviscerated by Dalvin Cook to the tune of 206 yards and two TDs the first time these teams met.
The sprain Stafford suffered is reportedly not serious, but interim coach Darrell Bevell, who’s expected back this week after missing Saturday’s game while in COVID protocol, could opt to hold out the veteran anyhow. Chase Daniel and/or David Blough would helm the offense in such a scenario. With Kenny Golladay (hip) likely to be out as well, Detroit could be going into battle notably undermanned, even as the Vikings present a vulnerable defense in their own right that isn’t far behind the Lions with 391.7 total yards per contest.
With Stafford’s status up in the air to begin the week, the Vikings are currently listed at .
Sunday, 1/3 Update: Stafford will reportedly give it a go for the Lions, but Minnesota remains favored across the board.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 1 p.m ET
The Falcons’ authored another ugly chapter to their cruel 2020 story Sunday in Kansas City, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with a dropped INT in the end zone that would have sealed an upset road win and then seeing Pro Bowl kicker Younghoe Koo miss a field-goal attempt for only the second time this season on a kick that would have forced OT. The Buccaneers had a radically different Week 16 experience, lambasting the Lions by a 47-7 score to clinch an NFC wild card spot.
Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris is gunning to upgrade his title this offseason and his players certainly seem to appreciate his fire and leadership, so Atlanta is very likely to play hard in this game. The Falcons also likely have a chip on their shoulder after blowing a 17-0 halftime lead to Tampa Bay in Week 15. The Bucs remain very difficult to run on and pressure the quarterback exceedingly well, which could make life difficult on Matt Ryan even if he does have Julio Jones (hamstring) back in the fold.
The Bucs will actually have some incentive in this contest despite having punched their postseason ticket. A victory here would mean the No. 5 seed and a trip to the site of the NFC East “winner”, which will be a borderline playoff squad if there ever was one. However, a loss and a Rams win leads to a No. 6 slotting for Tampa Bay, which would entail a much less appealing trip to either Green Bay, New Orleans or Seattle.
With the only postseason-based incentive belonging to the host Buccaneers, Tampa Bay is currently listed as a home favorite.
Sunday, 1/3 Update: Jones will sit out the finale for the Falcons, helping keep the Bucs a strong favorite. Meanwhile, Ronald Jones is back from the COVID-19 list for Tampa Bay.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans — 4:25 p.m. ET
The Titans ran into an offensive buzz saw in the form of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, dropping a 40-14 decision at frigid Lambeau. Meanwhile, the Texans were upended by the Bengals at home in a high-scoring affair, 37-31.
Tennessee’s defeat Sunday dropped them to 10-5, but the Titans get into the playoffs with a win in this game. If they were to stumble for a second straight contest, they’d have to rely on a Ravens, Dolphins or Colts loss. The Titans had quite the battle with the Texans in Week 6 before notching a 42-36 overtime win against Houston, but the Texans are now without Will Fuller (suspension), Randall Cobb (IR-toe) and Bradley Roby (suspension) and have a banged-up Deshaun Watson (arm).
The Texans continue to put up plenty of points, but their defense just can’t keep up. J.J. Watt ripped his team’s effort after the latest defeat, and it’s fair to question how motivated Houston will be in a game they have absolutely no stake in. If they’re up for it, there’s a path to success on offense against a Titans defense that was steamrolled through both the ground and air Sunday and that’s particularly struggled against the deep ball all season.
With the scenario pretty straightforward here, oddsmakers currently have the Titans listed at .
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts — 4:25 p.m. ET
The Jaguars went back to Mike Glennon at QB to no avail in Week 16, as they ultimately got thumped by the Bears, 41-17. The Colts had an unpleasant afternoon in their own right, blowing a 24-7 halftime lead to fall to the Steelers, 28-24.
Jacksonville has the No. 1 seed in April’s draft locked up and Doug Marrone is almost certainly out the door this offseason. That could be a recipe for the Jags to play very loose here and let it all hang out on offense in an effort to play spoiler against a division opponent. The Jags will be going in very short-handed if James Robinson (ankle) remains out of action, however, even as Dare Ogunbowale was solid in fill-in duty Sunday.
The Colts have had some defensive lapses during the second half of the season, but Indy will have an opportunity to fine-tune its unit ahead of a possible postseason run in this matchup. Speaking of the playoffs, the Colts win the AFC South with a win and a loss by the Titans. However, with Tennessee in a very winnable matchup against the Texans, Indy’s more likely route may be a wild-card berth that would come virtue of a victory in this game and a loss by either the Ravens, Dolphins or Browns.
Oddsmakers aren’t placing much faith in the Jags reprising their surprising Week 1 win over the Colts, however. Indianapolis is currently listed as home favorites.
Sunday, 1/3 Update: Robinson and DJ Chark (shin) will both be out for the Jags, helping make them the biggest underdog of the week.
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos — 4:25 p.m. ET
The Raiders found a way to play themselves out of the postseason with some suspect defense and strategy in a wild 26-25 Saturday night to the Dolphins in Week 16. The Broncos, already out of playoff contention, fell to the Chargers by a 19-16 margin.
Las Vegas is now playing to at least finish at .500 to close out Jon Gruden’s third season and get to that mark for the first time under the coach’s current tenure. Derek Carr has been one of several bright spots for the Raiders this season and will head into this matchup with three straight 300-yard performances in non-injury-shortened games. Vegas had no trouble in a Week 10 matchup with the Broncos that they won by a 37-12 margin, a game in which Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker combined for 193 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The Broncos’ Drew Lock threw four interceptions in that first game against the Raiders and has tossed nine picks over the last six contests. While the second-year QB has certainly made strides in his first full season in the top job, turnovers have been a persistent issue and he’s also seen a 7.1 percent drop in completion rate over that of his five-game rookie-season sample. Melvin Gordon, now in a lead role with Phillip Lindsay on IR, has an especially appealing matchup versus a Raiders defense that’s surrendered 145.6 rushing yards per road contest.
Week 17 games between two non-contending teams are always tricky to prognosticate. Currently, the host Broncos are listed at .
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs — 4:25 p.m. ET
The Chargers added another late-season victory Sunday by edging the Broncos, 19-16, in a game they played without Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Hunter Henry (COVID-19). The Chiefs were fortunate not to get saddled with their second loss, squeaking by the Falcons courtesy of a dropped INT and a rare Younghoe Koo missed field goal.
Despite the fact they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention for several weeks, the Chargers have continued to play hard for coach Anthony Lynn. That shouldn’t be any different Week 17 against a division rival that’s reportedly going to rest starters with the No. 1 seed already locked up. The Bolts also have a vested interest in seeing rookie QB Justin Herbert, who’s proven every bit worthy of the No. 6 overall pick last April, finish the season strong. The Chiefs secondary has been stingy versus receivers; however, Herbert burned them for 311 yards back in Week 2 in his first pro start, one that took place at a moment’s notice when Tyrod Taylor suffered a punctured lung during a pregame pain-killing injection.
With the likes of Chad Henne, Darrell Williams, Darwin Thompson, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle likely constituting the Chiefs offense for all or at least a significant portion of this game, the inconsistent Chargers defense will be catching a break. Los Angeles has been especially vulnerable to the run (124.4 RYPG allowed) and Williams looked impressive Sunday while compiling 73 total yards on 14 touches with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle/hip) out of action.
With the uncertainty regarding who’ll actually play for the Chiefs, this is another game that won’t hit the sportsbooks until later in the week.
Sunday, 1/3 Update: The Chiefs have confirmed essentially all of their front-line players on offense will sit, leaving them as much more modest favorites than they otherwise would be.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears — 4:25 p.m. ET
The Packers kept themselves in position for the NFC’s No. 1 seed with an impressive and thorough 40-14 lashing of the Titans on Sunday night. The Bears did the same with respect to their NFC Wild Card hopes, leaving themselves poised for a win-and-in opportunity in this game, or alternatively, clinching with a Cardinals loss in a game that will be played concurrently.
Green Bay has now rattled off five consecutive victories. Their Week 16 win helped reinforce why they may indeed be the odds-on favorite to come out of the NFC. Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams were once again clicking, while rookie AJ Dillon (124 yards, two TDs) was a hit while filling in for Jamaal Williams (quadriceps). The matchup against the Bears defense is tougher than that versus the Titans’ suspect unit, but the Pack notably rang up 41 points in their Week 12 win over Chicago.
Mitchell Trubisky and David Montgomery, who’ve each faced varying degrees of criticism during their pro tenures, are legitimately the driving factors behind Chicago winning three straight and getting to the edge of the postseason. This game will naturally serve as a major test for Trubisky in particular, considering he was guilty of five turnovers (two INTs, three lost fumbles) the first time these teams met.
Both teams have plenty to play for, but oddsmakers rightfully see the Packers as the clearly superior team and currently list them at .
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers — 4:25 p.m. ET
The Saints had a Christmas Day to remember, routing the Vikings by a 52-33 score on the strength of Alvin Kamara’s record-tying six touchdowns. The Panthers finally got back in the win column, toppling former coach Ron Rivera and his Washington squad by a 20-13 score.
New Orleans remains alive for the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but they’ll need a win, a Seahawks win and a Packers loss. With both of those teams playing in the late window as well, Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints’ offensive starters should be out there to take advantage of a Panthers defense giving up 360.9 total yards per game. Carolina’s suspect run defense could especially lead to another explosion for Kamara – Carolina is surrendering 118.7 rush yards per game and gave up 148 total yards (83 rushing, 65 receiving) on 22 touches to the star back in a Week 7 loss to New Orleans.
The Panthers will be looking to play a bit of spoiler while wrapping up Matt Rhule’s first season as head coach on a positive note. Carolina is unlikely to have Christian McCaffrey (thigh) back for the finale as per Rhule himself, so it will go into battle at less than full strength. However, Teddy Bridgewater and his explosive group of pass catchers will have a chance to put the finishing touches on what has been a reasonably successful first season together.
New Orleans is only the more talented team – even without Michael Thomas (IR-ankle) – but clearly the more incentivized one as well. As such, the Saints are currently listed as road favorites.
Sunday, 1/3 Update: Kamara was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday, while fellow backs Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington and Michael Burton also received the designation as close contacts. That leaves New Orleans with Ty Montgomery and Taysom Hill as its top two backs against Carolina. The Panthers are expected to be down both McCaffrey and Mike Davis (ankle), so the passing games might take center stage.
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams — 4:25 p.m. ET
The Cardinals dug a hole for themselves with a rather surprising 20-12 loss to the 49ers on Saturday, a game from which Kyler Murray emerged with a lower-leg injury of unknown severity. The Rams also suffered a Week 16 loss to the Seahawks, which clinched the NFC West crown at their expense. Additionally, Jared Goff suffered a dislocated/broken thumb in the contest and will be out for this critical matchup, an elimination game with an NFC wild card spot at stake.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday that he’s optimistic about Murray’s availability for this game. He’s indispensable to the Cardinals’ chances of walking away with a win. While he was limited to 173 passing yards in the Week 13, 38-28 loss to Los Angeles, Murray threw for three TDs in the contest. The Rams defense is still comfortably tops in the league in total yards allowed per game (286.5), so Arizona will need all hands on deck in this spot.
John Wolford, who’s yet to make an NFL start but did gain pro experience as a starter for the AAF’s Arizona Hotshots back in the spring of 2019, is the next man up. The Cardinals’ defense hasn’t been a shutdown unit by any stretch this season but is at a significant advantage against the inexperienced Wolford. L.A. has recently been having some trouble scoring points with Goff at the helm. A return to health by rookie RB Cam Akers (ankle) would certainly be a boon for LA.
For the time being, the Rams are listed as .
Sunday, 1/3 Update: Cooper Kupp was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier in the week, so Wolford will be operating without the team’s top receiver in his start. Meanwhile, Akers will reportedly try to play on his gimpy ankle for Los Angeles. On the other side, Murray is good to go for Arizona, but Christian Kirk was placed on the COVID-19 list Saturday and will therefore sit out, while Larry Fitzgerald (groin) is trending toward an absence. The flurry of developments has flipped the line to the Cardinals as road favorites as of early Sunday morning.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers — 4:25 p.m. ET
The Seahawks have the NFC West crown in hand thanks to their 20-9 victory over the Rams on Sunday. Meanwhile, the 49ers were able to get the best of a contending division rival in the Cardinals on Saturday, notching a 20-12 victory behind third string QB C.J. Beathard.
Seattle still has a chance to garner the No. 1 seed in the NFC, even if what it will take is relatively improbable. The Seahawks need both the Packers and Saints to lose their contests, which will be played concurrent to this game. Therefore, coach Pete Carroll, who played his starters the last time he was in such a position two seasons ago, is highly likely to do the same here. The matchup against the 49ers defense certainly isn’t quite as daunting as it was last season, thanks in large part to key injuries – San Francisco is allowing 31.9 yards per game more in 2019.
The Niners will turn back to Beathard under center for this game. Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to remain on IR with his ankle injury and Nick Mullens is facing the prospect of Tommy John surgery. The young signal-caller threw for three touchdowns against Arizona and benefited from the return of George Kittle (foot) from IR. The star tight end commemorated his return to action with a four-reception, 92-yard effort. Jeff Wilson’s 183-yard effort was the standout performance Saturday, and with Raheem Mostert (IR-ankle) out, he should have bell cow duties again versus a tough Seattle front seven (96.2 RYPG allowed).
The Seahawks certainly have more to play for, and as such, Seattle is currently listed as .
Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles — 8:20 p.m. ET
Washington fell to the Panthers by a 20-13 score in Week 16, but despite their second straight loss, remain in the hunt for the NFC East title. Meanwhile, the Eagles officially fell out of contention with a 37-17 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday.
Coach Ron Rivera decided he’d seen enough of Dwayne Haskins both on and off the field and waived the 2019 15th overall pick Monday instead of waiting until the offseason to see about the possibility of getting some draft compensation and/or a player in return for him. The move was made even with Washington potentially down to third string QB Taylor Heinicke for this must-win game. Alex Smith (calf) was thought to have a chance to play Week 16 before regressing Friday, and every effort will undoubtedly be made to have him and top receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle) ready. Washington takes the NFC East crown with a win in this contest.
The Eagles will directly help the team that just knocked them out of the postseason if the Cowboys win again in Week 17 and Philadelphia upsets Washington. That sequence would give Dallas the NFC East title and knock the WFT out of the playoffs in the process. Philly will undoubtedly look to send Jalen Hurts into the postseason on a strong note, following three solid efforts in his first trio of starts, including a pair of 300-yard efforts. Washington’s defense remains one of the toughest in the league, however – the Football Team is giving up the fourth-fewest total yards per game (310.5), has picked off 14 passes and has recorded 43 sacks – so Hurts will have his work cut out for him.
With Smith and McLaurin uncertain, Washington is currently listed at .
Sunday, 1/3 Update: As of early Sunday morning, Smith, Antonio Gibson and McLaurin are all expected to play in the must-win game. Meanwhile, the Eagles will be without both Dallas Goedert (calf) and Miles Sanders (knee), making Washington firm road favorites as of early Sunday morning.
Week 17 lookahead line vs. current spread
A glance at NFL Week 17 odds from FanDuel Sportsbook.
|Game||Lookahead line||Current spread|
|Atlanta at Tampa Bay||Buccaneers -7||Buccaneers|
|Baltimore at Cincinnati||Ravens -13.5||Ravens|
|Dallas at New York Giants||Cowboys -2.5||Cowboys|
|New York Jets at New England Patriots||Patriots -5.5||Patriots|
|Pittsburgh at Cleveland||Browns -3.5||Browns|
|Tennessee at Houston||Titans -7.5||Titans|
|Green Bay at Chicago||Packers -6||Packers|
|Jacksonville at Indianapolis||Colts -13.5||Colts|
|Las Vegas at Denver||Raiders -1.5||Raiders|
|New Orleans at Carolina||Saints -4.5||Saints|
|Seattle at San Francisco||Seahawks -4.5||Seahawks|
|Arizona at LA Rams||Rams -4||Rams|
|Washington at Philadelphia||Washington -1||Washington|