Expert NFL Picks for Week 17 Including Chiefs-Bengals, Raiders-Colts and Cardinals-Cowboys
Kevin Rogers of VegasInsider, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Kevin Rogers, a veteran handicapper for VegasInsider.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 17 games, many of which have the potential to be affected by the neverending stream of positive COVID-19 tests and gameday decisions on injured players.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Kansas City Chiefs (-5, O/U 50) at Cincinnati Bengals
A compelling matchup because … two high-powered offenses that both put up a ton of points last week and are complemented by above-average defenses will battle it out here in what could potentially be a preview of a playoff matchup next month.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Chiefs (11-4 SU, 8-7 against the spread) have won eight games in a row and just demolished the Steelers 36-10, easily covering as 10-point home favorites. Similarly, the Bengals (9-6 SU, 8-7 ATS) have won two straight and just crushed the Ravens 41-21, easily covering as 7.5-point home favorites. This line opened with the Chiefs listed as a 4-point road favorite. Big money has come in on the Chiefs, steaming Kansas City up from -4 to -5.5. Cincinnati offers value as a buy-low home dog with an inflated line. John Hussey, the lead ref, has historically favored home teams (59-48 ATS, 55%). I’ll give myself some wiggle room and tease the Bengals up from +5 to +11, which passes through the key numbers of 7 and 10.
Gable’s Guess: Patrick Mahomes played under control last week. He didn’t have any interceptions and passed for three touchdowns and 258 yards on 23 completions. Mahomes was able to spread the ball around to a lot of different receivers. The Chiefs were totally dominant and their defense has really, really stepped up and totally turned the season around for Kansas City. Cincinnati’s defense has been strong pretty much all year, surprisingly. I think their offensive line is going to be challenged here. The Bengals have a great shot at winning their division, but I don’t believe that they’re in the same class as the Chiefs. I’m going to lay the points with the Chiefs on the road.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Kansas City is on an absolute roll right now by winning eight straight games while wrapping up another AFC West title last week. The Chiefs have their eyes on the top seed in the AFC as they try to stay hot in Cincinnati. The Bengals crushed the Ravens last week for the season sweep of Baltimore, but Cincinnati also faced a team starting a third-string quarterback. Cincinnati has AFC North title aspirations at 9-6, but this team has struggled at home this season at 4-4 and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Chiefs win by double-digits. Best Bet: Kansas City -5.
Our Pick: Until Cincy wins a game like this one, they’ll be tough to trust. We’ll lay the points with the Chiefs.
Miami Dolphins (+3.5, O/U 41) at Tennessee Titans
A compelling matchup because … currently in the final playoff spot in the AFC, the Dolphins are above .500 for the first time this season since winning in Week 1. The Titans have been dominant at home this season (6-2) while the Dolphins have struggled in games outside of Miami (3-4).
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Dolphins (8-7 SU, 8-6-1 ATS) are red hot and have won seven straight, most recently beating the Saints 20-3 and easily covering as 3-point road favorites. Meanwhile, the Titans (10-5 SU, 9-6 ATS) have won two of their last three and just upset the 49ers 20-17, winning outright as 3.5-point home dogs. This line opened with Tennessee listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. The public is split, yet we’ve seen this line dip to 3 at some shops before ticking back up to 3.5. This signals some liability on Miami plus the hook (+3.5). Road dogs +7 or less are 63-29 ATS (68%) this season. Miami also has value as a dog in a low-total game (41). Shawn Smith, the lead ref, has historically favored road teams (35-22 ATS, 61%). Give me Miami plus the hook.
Gable’s Guess: I give the Titans all the credit in the world for what they’ve been able to do without Derrick Henry. They’ve been able to win games without him and they’ve done it with good defense. Miami has turned around their season and Brian Flores should definitely be in the conversation for Coach of the Year if they can get to the playoffs. It’s been night and day with the Dolphins. It’s somewhat of a lower total here. That’s not surprising because both these defenses have been playing very, very well. I would not be surprised to see this end up being a 17-14-type game. It’s low, but I’m still going to go with the under.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Miami’s season was going nowhere at nearly the halfway point with a 1-7 record, but the Dolphins have rebounded with seven consecutive victories. There has been a lot of criticism about the quality of quarterbacks the Dolphins have faced during this stretch due to injuries and inexperience from their opponents, but Miami has allowed 17 points or fewer six times during their hot streak. Tennessee slipped past San Francisco last Thursday night, but the Titans are still without Henry and will not have Julio Jones this week. Miami is the hotter team and there’s no reason to jump off the bandwagon now. Best Bet: Miami +3.5.
Our Pick: Revenge game for Titans QB Ryan Tannehill? Maybe. We’ll lay the points with Tennessee.
Las Vegas Raiders (+6, O/U 44.5) at Indianapolis Colts
A compelling matchup because … with a somewhat surprising win last week, the Raiders were able to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Colts have those same hopes and have been stacking up impressive wins of late but are not guaranteed a spot in the postseason. A loss would be a major blow to playoff aspirations for either team.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Raiders (8-7 SU, 6-9 ATS) have won two straight and just edged the Broncos 17-13, winning and covering as a home pick’em play. Meanwhile, the Colts (9-6 SU, 10-5 ATS) have won three straight and are now 8-2 over their last 10 games. Indianapolis just upset Arizona 22-16, winning outright as 3-point road dogs. This line opened with the Colts listed as a 7.5-point home favorite. We saw this line fall all the way to 2.5 on the news that Carson Wentz might miss this game due to COVID. However, with the new protocols, Wentz may be able to suit up, which drove this line back to up to Colts -6. Indianapolis has a rest advantage, having played on Saturday while the Raiders played Sunday. As long as Wentz plays, I’ll tease down the Colts -6 to a pick’em and root for them to stay hot and win the game.
Gable’s Guess: This is a tough spot for the Raiders. I personally make this a nine-point game, but the market has it at 6.5. The Colts are playing so well right now on both sides of the ball. Jonathan Taylor was able to get a 100-yard game even with the majority of the starting offensive line out on Sunday. I certainly expect him to be able to run on the Raiders. I‘m going to lay the points with the Colts.
Rogers’s Recommendation: A wrench was thrown into this crucial AFC matchup when Wentz entered the COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday. He might be out for Sunday’s big game against the Raiders, who are coming off back-to-back wins over the Browns and Broncos to remain in the Wild Card mix. Las Vegas has actually been impressive as a road underdog this season by winning outright at Pittsburgh, Denver and Dallas. The Raiders have also allowed 17 points or fewer in three of the past four games. Indianapolis is dealing with plenty of COVID issues outside of Wentz at this point and this may be a time to fade them as a home favorite after two huge victories against New England and Arizona in the last two weeks. Best Bet: Las Vegas +6.5.
Our Pick: The Colts are in a different class than the Raiders and they’re at home. Lay the points.
Denver Broncos (+6.5, O/U 45) at Los Angeles Chargers
A compelling matchup because … seemingly capable of beating, and losing to, any team in the NFL, the Chargers will play host to a Broncos team that has gone 1-3 in divisional matchups like this one so far this season. A loss would officially be the nail in the coffin for Denver’s playoff chances. This is also a must-win game for LA.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Broncos (7-8 SU, 7-8 ATS) have lost two straight and just fell to the Raiders 17-13 as a pick’em. Similarly, the Chargers (8-7 SU, 7-8 ATS) have also dropped two straight and just suffered an embarrassing 41-29 defeat to the Texans, losing outright as 13.5-point road favorites. This line opened with Los Angeles listed as a 6-point home favorite. Early in the week, the line dropped to 5.5 before ticking back up to 6.5 on some positive COVID-19 news for the Chargers. Road divisional dogs are 26-20 ATS (57%) this season. Road dogs +7 or less are 63-29 ATS (68%) this season. Craig Wrolstad, the lead ref, has historically favored road teams (68-50 ATS (58%). I’ll back the desperate Broncos in a teaser (+6.5 to +12.5), which goes through the key numbers of 7 and 10.
Gable’s Guess: LA losing to Houston last week has to be one of the most embarrassing losses of the year for any team. The Chargers were down quite a few key players, but Houston was without a lot of players in that game too. There’s no excuse to lose a game like that to the Texans this late in the season, but Justin Herbert is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The Broncos aren’t technically eliminated, but they really have no chance at making the playoffs. The Chargers need to win out and some help to get in. LA has struggled against Denver. Their offense just doesn’t look real fluid when they’re playing the Broncos. I think this is going to be a closer game than some people suspect. I’m going to hold my nose and take the points with the Broncos.
Rogers’s Recommendation: The Chargers are coming off a humiliating loss to the Texans last week as nearly two-touchdown favorites. Los Angeles is back at home to host the Broncos, who are a wreck offensively after scoring a combined 23 points the last two weeks. Denver routed the Chargers as a home underdog earlier this season while intercepting Herbert twice. L.A. was in a major letdown spot last week after the disappointing overtime defeat to Kansas City the week before, but the Chargers’ season is on the line here in their home finale. Expect a good outing here against the punchless Broncos. Best Bet: L.A. Chargers -6.5.
Our Pick: Healthy and desperate for a win, the Chargers have to come through here. Lay the points.
Arizona Cardinals (+5.5, O/U 51.5) at Dallas Cowboys
A compelling matchup because … once believed to be the class of the NFC, the Cardinals have stumbled down the stretch and are no longer in first place in the NFC West. To have any shot at getting back the top spot in their division, Arizona will have to knock off the first-place Cowboys in their home building. Dallas has only lost a single in-conference game this season. That was in Week 1 when Dallas took on Tom Brady and the Bucs.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Cardinals (10-5 SU, 9-6 ATS) have dropped three straight and just fell to the Colts 22-16, losing outright as 3-point home favorites. On the flip side, the Cowboys (11-4 SU, 12-3 ATS) have won four in a row and just demolished Washington 56-14, easily covering as 10-point home favorites. The lookahead line was Dallas -2.5 at home. We’ve seen this line get steamed up to Cowboys -5.5. Arizona is the epitome of a buy-low play but I just can’t get behind this team right now, so I’ll lay the points with the Cowboys.
Gable’s Guess: Dallas’s game against Washington last week was basically over in the first quarter. The key was Dak Prescott. Tor the first time since his injury, it looked like he finally had his legs back. Not that he ran for a bunch of yards, but he was able to move in the pocket very well and looked like the Dak of old, when he was putting up big numbers. When the defense plays well, this is a very, very dangerous team in the NFC. The Cardinals’ fall from grace has been pretty swift. It was a lot of self-inflicted wounds for the Cardinals against a tough Indy team last week. I make Dallas a 3.5-point favorite here so I should take the Cardinals in this spot. I can’t do it with the way that Dallas looked last week. I’m going to lay the points here with the Cowboys.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Dallas put together its most impressive offensive showing in years by crushing Washington on Sunday night, 56-14. The Cowboys square off with the struggling Cardinals at home as Dallas is looking to improve its playoff seeding in the NFC. Arizona has lost two straight games, but the Cardinals are flipped to an underdog this Sunday as they own a strong 5-0 ATS mark when receiving points this season. Dallas can’t play any better than they did against Washington, while Arizona needs a rebound here in the worst way and getting points with them is not a bad thing. Best Bet: Arizona +5.5.
Our Pick: These teams seem headed in opposite directions. This isn’t a get-right spot for Arizona. Lay the points.
Last Week: 1-3-1; Season: 33-43-2 … (We blame COVID-19!)
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors such as COVID-19. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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