NFL Week 17 Betting Preview
LAS VEGAS, NV (The Spread) - The NFL regular season concludes this Sunday and 12 teams will continue playing into January.
This week we’ll review the key games for existing or potential playoff teams. For those making NFL picks and studying the betting odds, here is what you can expect each team to do to win and hopefully this puts money in your pocket.
(301) CAROLINA at (302) ATLANTA FOX
SUNDAY DEC. 29 / 1:00 E
Panthers Game Plan: While last week’s win was big for Carolina, any letdown could cost them the NFC South title and take them from a bye week to wild card status with a loss. On offense, Carolina should be able to run and throw with Atlanta 31st rushing yards allowed and the 25th most passing yards allowed. The Falcons are still dangerous on offense with Matt Ryan throwing to WR Roddy White and future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. Carolina has to pressure Ryan and stuff the run game.
Falcons Game Plan: Atlanta figures to be motivated, trying to ruin Carolina’s playoff position and sending Gonzalez out in style. Even if the Falcons were to play a good first half with Ryan leading the way, they have to be ready in the third quarter, where they have been outscored 86-49 this season. Both coaches and players are to blame for this as not enough strategy has been in place and execution has not been proficient.
Key sports betting number: Atlanta is 4-17 ATS as a home underdog of 3.5 to 7 points the last 21 years.
(303) GREEN BAY at (304) CHICAGO FOX
SUNDAY DEC. 29 / 4:25 E
Packers Game Plan: Aaron Rodgers is back, which is terrific news for Green Bay and its fans. But let’s not lose sight he’s missed seven weeks and no matter how much preparation, he’s bound to be rusty, it’s just a matter of how long. This is where running backs Eddy Lacy and James Stark come into play against the NFL’s worst run defense (by almost 20% vs. No. 31 Atlanta) to ease the transition. Green Bay's maligned defense will be without its top player, outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who has bothered Jay Cutler repeatedly in the past. If the Packers give Cutler time, Green Bay is in trouble no matter who plays quarterback.
Bears Game Plan: Expect Chicago to bring a lot of heat on Rodgers to prevent him from finding any rhythm in the passing game. At this point, the Bears can only hope to disguise how dreadful their run defense is and they are keeping the fingers crossed linebacker Lance Briggs is able to be more a factor in his second game back. The Green Bay defense is not much better than Chicago’s and Cutler could have a large day throwing to his large receivers. Matt Forte had 125 yards rushing the last time and could repeat again.
Key sports betting number: Chicago is 4-12 ATS when the line is +3 to -3 the last two seasons.
(315) PHILADELPHIA at (316) DALLAS NBC
SUNDAY DEC. 29 / 8:30 E
Eagles Game Plan: Mentally, the Philadelphia defense cannot concern themselves about who plays quarterback for Dallas; instead they need to have the same intensity they played with last week in bottling up the Bears with continual pressure to force mistakes and miscues. On offense, coach Chip Kelly will want to play fast against the NFL’s worst defense in yards allowed. Though the Eagles certainly want to win the NFC East, the pressure is definitely more on Dallas to come through at home.
Cowboys Game Plan: It is hard to imagine Tony Romo could make it through an entire football game with a bad back if he can even go at all. Almost assuredly, Dallas will rely on the running game and try to play ball control football to take the pressure off of backup quarterback Kyle Orton. They will try and set him with quick throws to build confidence, with the intent of controlling the clock to keep the high-octane Eagles offense off the field to protect their suspect defense. On defense, the Cowboys must stop the run and make quarterback Nick Foles one-dimensional and uncomfortable if they have any hopes of slowing down the Eagles offense.
Key sports betting number: Dallas is 0-6 ATS at home off a division game the last three seasons.
(323) TAMPA BAY at (324) NEW ORLEANS FOX
SUNDAY, DEC. 29 / 4:25 E
Buccaneers Game Plan: After winning four of five, Tampa Bay is struggling on offense with quarterback Mike Glennon having hit the rookie wall. The Tampa Bay offensive staff has to help Glennon with quicker, safer throws on the perimeter and have running back Bobby Rainey start fast to keep the pigskin away from the New Orleans offense. The Bucs have to get in Drew Brees face and hopefully hold up in the secondary.
Saints Game Plan: With their last minute loss to Carolina, New Orleans could finish with a No. 2, 5 or 6 seed or be out of the playoffs all together depending how they and others do this Sunday. The Saints have to get off to a good start against the Bucs, so that means an early emphasis on the passing game. At home, they have been dominant this season in averaging 432.6 total yards and 32.9 points per game. Sean Payton and Drew Brees will have the foot on the gas pedal in trying to attack a pass defense that is middle of the pack statistically. On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints will want to be super aggressive against a Bucs' offense that ranks last in the league in yards a game, passing and 29th in scoring.
Key sports betting number: New Orleans is 9-1 ATS at home off a road setback.
(331) ST. LOUIS at (332) SEATTLE FOX
SUNDAY, DEC. 29 / 4:25 E
Rams Game Plan: St. Louis could finish .500 with an upset and has similar components to do what Arizona accomplished last week. To beat Seattle, the Rams must run the ball effectively with Zac Stacy and hold the Seattle offense down by stopping the run and getting pressure on QB Russell Wilson. They essentially did this back on Oct. 28 in a narrow 14-9 loss to Seattle, but were minus two in turnovers.
Seahawks Game Plan: The Seattle offense has been stagnant as opposing teams are doing a better job stopping the run against Seahawks and keeping Wilson contained in the pocket. Seattle might be better served to implement a similar game plan like they had against New Orleans, rolling Wilson out and using tight end Zack Miller and others on throws to the short side of the field to loosen up the defense and relieve the pressure. With success, the running game will click. When the Rams have the ball, stop Stacy and make Kellen Clemens beat them throwing.
Key sports betting number: Seattle is 8-1 ATS at home when the total is between 42.5 and 45 points.