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December 14, 2018

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Vegas pick’em: NFL Week 17 winners against the spread

Panthers-Rams

Ryan Kang / AP

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, left, is sacked by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Eugene Sims during the first half of an NFL game Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Los Angeles.

Week 17: Panthers at Falcons

Which side would you take in Carolina at Atlanta? (Poll consensus year to date: 8-7-1)
Panthers plus-3.5 — 51.7%
Falcons minus-3.5 — 48.3%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Week 17 of the NFL is tame in some years, with the vast majority of the playoff puzzle solved, and wild in others, when there’s still much to be decided.

This year’s Week 17 falls somewhere in between. Three playoff spots remain up for grabs going into Sunday’s slate, but every division aside from the NFC South is already decided and several seeds are also already clinched.

The Carolina Panthers are the lone team locked in the playoffs with a wide range of possibilities to where they could end up. Carolina could be anywhere from the No. 2 seed with a first-round bye to the No. 5 seed traveling to Los Angeles or New Orleans.

The Panthers are also in the week’s only game between teams still fighting for playoff positioning, as they finish the season in Atlanta as 3.5-point underdogs. The common advice is to tread lightly on the rest of the schedule, because it’s difficult to discern teams’ mentalities.

But there’s always value to be found, and Talking Points intends to try and find it.

Check below for the final regular-season edition of the column picking every game against the spread. After a 13-3 Week 16, the overall record stands at 132-100-7 on the year. Picks are separated into three confidence categories, and lines are the best available in Las Vegas on the chosen side at the time of publication.

Plays (33-14)

Atlanta Falcons minus-3.5 vs. Carolina Panthers Atlanta has too significant of an offensive advantage not to capitalize on its win-and-in situation. Carolina has been great defensively overall, but average at best against the pass in allowing 6.6 yards per attempt on the season.

Green Bay Packers plus-7 at Detroit Lions Brett Hundley has rightfully taken a lot of grief for his play filling in for Aaron Rodgers but he’s still a lot better than Jake Rudock, whom the Lions might start in this meaningless game. Detroit hasn’t beaten Green Bay twice in the same season in 26 years.

Los Angeles Rams plus-3.5 vs. San Francisco 49ers Rams have made no commitment to holding out the majority of their defense, which is fourth in the NFL in sack rate. Even with a few of their starters sidelined, Los Angeles should have enough firepower to temporarily halt the overwhelming Jimmy Garoppolo hype.

Leans (38-35-5)

Indianapolis Colts minus-4.5 vs. Houston Texans Injuries have piled up to make the Texans the worst team in the league over the last month. They’ve been outgained by nearly 450 yards and close to 2 yards per play over their last four games.

Arizona Cardinals plus-9.5 at Seattle Seahawks Despite pulling out a 21-12 victory at Dallas as 4.5-point underdogs, Seattle looked almost as bad as it did in its blowout 42-7 defeat against Los Angeles two weeks ago. The Seahawks were outgained by nearly 2 yards per play, and aren’t currently in the form to lay this many points against any team.

Miami Dolphins plus-3 vs. Buffalo Bills Bills need a win and some assistance to reach the playoffs for the first time in 18 years, but they’re reeling headed into the end of the season. Buffalo is ranked No. 28 in the NFL by weighted DVOA, which emphasizes late-season opponent, or one spot behind Miami.

New Orleans Saints minus-7 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Saints proved once again that they’re superior to the Falcons last week in a 23-13 victory as 5.5-point favorites. And yet, this is the same number the Buccaneers took from the Falcons when they hosted them on Monday Night Football earlier this month.

Oakland Raiders plus-8 at Los Angeles Chargers Raiders should still have some motivation in spoiling the season of a rival and playing for the job of coach Jack Del Rio, so this point spread seems a bit on the high side. This series hasn’t seen a game decided by more than eight points since 2013.

Cleveland Browns plus-10.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers Prospects of having to back the Browns are troubling, but they’re going to be taking on what amounts to the Steelers’ B-team with many starters resting. Cleveland only lost by a field goal, 21-18, as 10-point underdogs against Pittsburgh in Week 1.

Cincinnati Bengals plus-10 at Baltimore Ravens In what’s expected to be his final game coaching, Marvin Lewis is the biggest underdog he’s ever been against the Ravens. Even in a win-and-in scenario, the Ravens remain too impotent on offense to lay double digits, a role in which they haven’t cashed since Week 10 of the 2014 season.

Guesses (61-51-2)

Minnesota Vikings minus-11.5 vs. Chicago Bears Minnesota is a cover away from finishing with the best against the spread record in the NFL for the second time in three years. The Vikings’ continued betting success means it’s not worth picking against them unless the spread is totally out of whack, and this spread is not totally out of whack.

New York Jets plus-16 at New England Patriots Worst-case scenario, there will be a golden chance for a backdoor cover here. The Jets have played inspired all season, including going 10-5 against the spread, and shouldn’t fold to a divisional rival without putting up a fight.

Dallas Cowboys minus-2.5 at Philadelphia Eagles Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has already announced his team’s starters will play in the seasn finale, while Eagles counterpart Doug Pederson has hinted otherwise. Dallas’ starters should at least be able to beat Philadelphia’s backups.

Tennessee Titans minus-3 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Perhaps the strangest of all the odd Week 17 matchups, as the Jaguars are locked into the No. 3 seed with the Titans as their most likely, and probably preferred, opponent. If the Jaguars knock off the Titans, they risk having to face a much taller task in the Chargers next week.

New York Giants plus-3.5 vs. Washington Redskins Coasts Casinos has an added the half-point hook to the game, making the Giants the play. They should at least put forth a decent effort in what’s likely Eli Manning’s final game in New York.

Denver Broncos minus-3.5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs Sometimes, the madness of Week 17 merits a straight contrarian play. No one knows what will happen in this rivalry game between two teams with nothing to play for, and yet 93 percent of the tickets at William Hill are on the road team.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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