NFL Week 17 Line Movement: Market Done Respecting Pittsburgh

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on January 2, 2022
NFL Week 17 spreads

Each week during the 2021 NFL seasonTheLines will examine how the coming week’s NFL lines have changed relative to preseason or prior expectations. Often, early lines can give an objective look at teams’ relative talent levels, absent week-to-week recency bias when the weekend results take hold. Let’s take a look at NFL Week 17 spreads and see which numbers have changed and, potentially, why.

Tracked lines below come from FanDuel Sportsbook. Prices are -110, unless otherwise noted.

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One Especially Big NFL Week 17 Spread Move

GameLook-Ahead LineDec. 30, 3 p.m. ET
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh SteelersSteelers -1Browns -3.5 (-105)

Browns At Steelers

The Browns let yet another potential win slip away late. This time, Baker Mayfield’s fourth pick of the day ended things, albeit on a missed call that would have given the Browns a critical first down. Still, they did outperform market expectations against the Packers, and statistically speaking, they were the better team with 6.2 YPP to 5.4.

The Steelers, meanwhile, came very far from market in a blowout loss to the short-handed Chiefs.

So, it’s not really a surprise at all that the line moved toward the Browns. However, the magnitude of the move might count as a surprise. Surely, potential blowout losses for a bad team on the road against an inner circle Super Bowl contender can’t move the line this far?

One can see a disconnect between the Browns’ performance and their team strength has developed. PFF, for example, rated them a top-10 team entering Week 16. Yet, they have lost three games in the past month that arguably should have been wins.

With the Steelers potentially circling the wagons for Ben Roethlisberger’s last home game, we must consider whether the market has over-adjusted here after reasonable results in Week 16.

Other Notable NFL Week 17 Spread Moves

Several other games moved in notable fashion among NFL Week 17 spreads, and we will briefly discuss each one.

GameLook-Ahead LineDec. 30, 3 p.m. ET
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo BillsBills -13.5Bills -14.5 (-105)
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football TeamEagles -3Eagles -3.5 (-104)
Miami Dolphins at Tennessee TitansTitans -3Titans -3.5 (-105)
LA Rams at Baltimore RavensRams -3Rams -4.5
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers49ers -1549ers -12.5 (-106)
Detroit Lions at Seattle SeahawksSeahawks -9Seahawks -7 (-106)

Falcons At Bills

Are the Bills back? Just when everyone wondered if it was time to leave this team dead, they came out with a statement win, easily defeating New England on the road.

Meanwhile, the Falcons have had a discernible pattern all year. They win against the worst of the worst, while they get whitewashed by the strong teams on their schedule. Even their win against the Lions this week was less than impressive as they let Tim Boyle march down the field with a chance to win the game until he threw a pick in the dying seconds.

The market expects a crushing victory for Buffalo and it’s hard to see much else happening if these teams play to form.

Eagles At Football Team

We can’t take a ton away from the first meeting between these two even though it happened just a couple of weeks back. Garrett Gilbert filled in for an emergency start at QB for Washington.

Still, the Eagles have been trucking bad teams for going on two months now. They have the unique quality of still frequently driving for TDs while salting away with the lead with their running game, thanks to their league-leading 5.1 YPA on the ground.

The Eagles ran for 238 yards on 41 carries last time these teams played, and it wouldn’t be a shock to see them come up with something similar here. If they do, the market moving off the key number and giving the hook will look prescient.

Dolphins At Titans

Both of these teams earned victories in Week 16, yet one team earned it against a vastly superior opponent.

The Titans managed to steal one against the 49ers, albeit in pretty unimpressive fashion as they got heavily outgained.

The Dolphins got basically a free win playing against a QB in a country mile over his head in Ian Book. Blitzing every play and watching a confused QB flail his way into eight sacks and two picks does not seem likely to work out as well against a vet like Ryan Tannehill.

It’s pretty hard to build a seven-game winning streak in the NFL that doesn’t impress in the slightest, the but the Dolphins have managed to do just that. The market seems to expect the other shoe to drop.

Rams At Ravens

A high-volume passing game completely destroyed the Ravens in Week 16 as they allowed an unheard of 498 yards passing to the Bengals. Consider that of their Week 1 expected starters in the secondary, only S Chuck Clark remains.

Sometimes, they can disguise this weakness with a hail of blitzes. However, the Rams possess the top-rated pass-blocking unit according to PFF and do not look like an easy mark for such a strategy.

Furthermore, the Ravens’ offensive situation looks murky with Lamar Jackson likely to miss another week. Tyler Huntley has returned from the COVID list, though, so they should have competence. Huntley believers are getting a nice price based partly on a game he missed and should pounce here.

Texans at 49ers

Who are these Houston Texans? Sure, it’s a small sample and the competition has not been strong, but they rank eighth in offensive EPA/play since Davis Mills retook the reins to the offense ahead of the Seattle game.

Davis Mills looks like a playable QB, and the defense had always maintained a professional level of play.

With the 49ers in a bit of QB limbo following the hand injury to Jimmy Garoppolo, it’s easy to see why the Texans have dropped below a somewhat key number of two touchdowns here. A rookie QB with Trey Lance’s level of uneven play can’t be counted on to cover this many points against a suddenly frisky Houston team, and if Garoppolo plays, we can’t know how effective he will be.

Lions At Seahawks

Speaking of bad teams bringing professional efforts, the Detroit Lions certainly fall into that category among NFL Week 17 spreads. They have covered six of their last seven now and had a chance to win outright in several of them.

The Seahawks have not brought the same level of intensity. In a dead season, expecting them to cover almost double digits against a Lions team playing decent football was probably never reasonable.

These teams also have vastly different coaching philosophies, with the Lions consistently turning the aggression up to max while the Seahawks fail to push small edges.

If the Seahawks bring their full effort, they can definitely cover this buy-low number. But, can you trust that from a team that entered the season with fringe title expectations and wound up playing out the string against fellow bottom-feeders?

NFL Week 17 Spreads, Movement Tracker

GameLook-Ahead LineDec. 30, 3 p.m. ETJan. 2, 9.30 a.m. ET
Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis ColtsColts -8.5Colts -7 (-106)Colts -8
NY Giants at Chicago BearsBears -4.5Bears -5.5 (-114)Bears -6 (-115)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at NY JetsBuccaneers -12Buccaneers -13Buccaneers -13.5 (-108)
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo BillsBills -13.5Bills -14.5 (-105)Bills -14.5 (-105)
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football TeamEagles -3Eagles -3.5 (-104)Eagles -6
Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati BengalsChiefs -4Chiefs -5.5 (-108)Chiefs -3.5 (-112)
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England PatriotsPatriots -16Patriots -16.5Patriots -16.5
Miami Dolphins at Tennessee TitansTitans -3Titans -3.5 (-105)Titans -3
LA Rams at Baltimore RavensRams -3Rams -4.5Rams -6 (-115)
Denver Broncos at LA ChargersChargers -6Chargers -6.5 (-115)Chargers -7.5 (-115)
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers49ers -1549ers -12.5 (-106)49ers -13
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas CowboysCowboys -3.5Cowboys -6 (-105)Cowboys -6.5 (-114)
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans SaintsSaints -7Saints -6.5 (-114)Saints -6.5 (-114)
Detroit Lions at Seattle SeahawksSeahawks -9Seahawks -7 (-106)Seahawks -7.5 (-114)
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay PackersPackers -6.5Packers -7 (-106)Packers -13.5 (-105)
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh SteelersSteelers -1Browns -3.5 (-105)Browns -3.5 (-105)
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Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

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