The 2021 NFL season continues to be a weird one, as another double-digit underdog was able to win outright in Week 15. The Texans upset the Chargers in a 41-29 blowout where Los Angeles’ defense struggled to stop anything that Houston did. As a result, the Chargers are now teetering are on the brink of playoff contention while the Dolphins, who began the year 1-7, are on the inside of the bubble right now.
So, yeah. It’s been a totally normal year for the NFL!
Even despite these weird results — there have been seven double-digit underdogs that have win outright this year — bettors are finding ways to successfully handicap games by scanning the latest odds, trends, results and injuries that are impacting line values across the NFL.
The final weeks of the regular season may get dicey for gamblers. Why? Because there are so many unknowns with the COVID list. The NFL has instituted new virus protocols that have shortened the amount of time that players have to quarantine if they test positive for COVID, but there are still many questions about who will and will not be available each week. And where there are key roster moves that deactivate players, it can have a big impact on point spreads.
We’ve already seen that this week with the Colts. Indy opened being favored by more than a touchdown. However, Carson Wentz tested positive for COVID, so that line dropped to 2.5 briefly when it looked like Wentz would be out. Now, it’s possible that he might be back because of the new protocols, so the line is back up near -7.
Be sure to keep a close eye on line movement this week. Savvy bettors will keep an eye on the latest injuries and COVID-related absences to see if they can find lopsided lines. It may also be a smart idea to make some bets early in the week to take advantage of lines that could change with COVID additions. Playing teasers isn’t a bad option either, as those can give you immense line value if a game moves four point sand you’re on the correct side of it.
For more expert NFL predictions, check out Sporting News’ picks straight up and against the spread for Week 17.
NFL PICKS WEEK 17: Against the spread | Straight up
NFL odds for Week 17
Below are the latest Week 17 NFL odds, including point spreads, money lines and over-under totals for every game, according to FanDuel Sportsbook .
Last updated: Wednesday, Dec. 29.
NFL point spreads Week 17
NFL money lines Week 17
NFL over-unders Week 17
NFL best bets for Week 17
Cardinals (+5) at Cowboys
I know, I know — you want nothing to do with the Cardinals after their loss to the Colts. After all, they’ve lost three straight games and are taking on a Cowboys team that just demolished Washington on “Sunday Night Football.” What’s to like about the Cardinals in this spot?
Well, the answer is twofold. First of all, this line is just a bit too high. It was set to open with the Cowboys as a 2.5-point favorite, but in wake of their massive win, the line jumped up 2.5 points to Cowboys (-5).
You certainly could make a case that the line should have risen, as Dak Prescott put forth his best performance of the second half of the season. That said, it’s also worth noting that Washington was extremely undermanned on defense and was missing its top corner and all of its starters at linebacker. So, Dallas should have played that well on offense, all things considered.
The second part of the equation is that the Cardinals played better against the Colts than the final scoreline indicates. They were just without key personnel whose absences directly cost them points.
For example, punter Andy Lee was out for the Colts-Cardinals game. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal, but he was the holder on extra points and field goals. Without Lee, Matt Prater struggled to kick the ball, as he missed two field goals and an extra point. That cost the team seven points in a six-point loss.
Meanwhile, the absence of center Rodney Hudson proved costly as well. Max Garcia shifted over from right guard while Josh Jones came into the lineup in place of Garcia. Jones was whistled for three penalties while Garcia committed the most egregious error of all. He tossed a bad snap to Kyler Murray near their own end-zone and it resulted in a safety.
If guys like Lee and Hudson return, the Cardinals will be in better shape to compete with the Cowboys. They may not win, but they should be able to cover a five-point spread. Murray will have to play a bit better to make that happen, but he has the explosive, game-changing talent needed to do that.
BetQL agrees that the Cardinals are the right side here. They have a three-star value on them and their projected spread lists the Cardinals as 4.5-point favorites. A half a point of line value may not seem like a lot, but it still shows that the Cardinals are being slightly undervalued due to their recent stretch of poor results.
For more top betting picks from BetQL, click here .
Texans (+12.5) at 49ers
The 49ers are coming off a loss to the Titans and this looks like a great bounce-back spot for them. However, it may be difficult for the team to cover a 12.5-point spread with Trey Lance at quarterback.
Lance has a lot of upside, but he will be making just his second career NFL start with Jimmy Garoppolo, thumb, sidelined. His lacking experience could be an issue for the 49ers as they take on a well-coached Texans defense.
While the Texans have had their share of issues this season, Lovie Smith’s defense has typically played well against rookie quarterbacks. Houston has faced a rookie starter four times this year and the team has posted a 2-2 record in those contests. And Smith’s defense has limited opponents starting rookies at quarterback to just 20.8 points per game.
Rookie QBs against the Texans defense
In their two losses against rookies, the Texans have been beaten by margins of three and seven points. That hardly justifies being nearly a two-TD underdog even against a team as strong-looking as the 49ers.
If the Texans can continue their strong performance against rookies and limit Lance and Co. to around 21-24 points, they should be able to cover this spread. Winning outright against a strong 49ers defense may prove difficult, but Houston has scored 71 total points in its last two games, both wins. So, if Davis Mills and the offense play well again, they should cover here.
Broncos (+5.5) at Chargers
It’s a really good week to trust underdogs, as there are some lines that are just a bit lopsided. This qualifies as one of them.
The Chargers certainly have a better quarterback and a more explosive offense than the Broncos, but it’s important to remember just how bad they are on defense. The Chargers have allowed 140.3 rushing yards per game this season and were just gashed by Rex Burkhead. Granted, they were without some key defensive players, including Joey Bosa and Derwin James, but they still have the league’s fourth-worst run defense and have struggled even when all of their players have been healthy.
The Broncos have a great running game. They have a strong one-two punch of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, so it will be hard for the Chargers to slow them down. As such, Denver should be able to stay in this game regardless of who is at quarterback, though Teddy Bridgewater and his 43-21 career against the spread record are preferable to the inconsistent Drew Lock.
Still, the Broncos should be able to cover if Lock starts. The Chargers’ defense isn’t good and Justin Herbert has never performed well against the Broncos. Los Angeles is 1-2 against Denver with him at quarterback and their lone win was by three points.
Could the Chargers pull away and win this one big? Maybe, but it’s far more likely they’ll struggle to slow the Broncos’ strong running attack. After all, the Chargers have given up 75 points over their last two games combined so even if they have an offensive outburst, the Broncos should be able to match them.
Source: Read Full Article