Week 17 Staff Picks: Can Dolphins, Commanders Hold 7 Seeds?

Washington Commanders RB Antonio Gibson
Washington Commanders RB Antonio Gibson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 17 - Compiled by Vincent Verhei

Sometimes, gambling advice is objective—like in the NFL picks you get with FO+, for instance. But sometimes gambling advice is subjective. We're trying something new this week, with staff picks from the FO writers. We'll do this every week if it gets a good response: picks against the spread, straight-up upsets, and player prop bets the FO staff likes in Week 17 plus a bonus question each week. This week's bonus question asks about the projected league-leader in receiving yards.

Lines are taken from the consensus at Vegas Insider.

Favorite Pick Against the Spread

Bryan Knowles: Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers. This line fell from -3.5 to -2.5, which is huge; with Tyler Huntley in at quarterback for Baltimore, this feels a lot like a game where they'll grind down their opponent and win on a last-second Justin Tucker field goal. Backup quarterback or no backup quarterback, the Ravens are just a more talented team than the Steelers from head to toe, and while they haven't exactly been pouring on points in recent weeks, I have little doubt they can beat the Steelers.

Jackson Roberts: Green Bay Packers (-3.5) over Minnesota Vikings. I tabbed the Vikings as my favorite pick against the spread in each of the last two editions of this column—and the 12-3 Vikings managed to let me down twice. It’s only fitting I give them a third chance to ruin me this week on the other side of the bet slip. If national analysts concocting MVP cases for Kirk Cousins isn’t enough to karmically bring this team down, I don’t know what will.

Aaron Schatz: Jacksonville Jaguars (-4) at Houston Texans. Hey, the Texans climbed out of the bottom spot in DVOA last week. Isn't that exciting? They're no match for the Jaguars, though. I know this game doesn't really matter to the Jaguars -- it has a tiny role in the tiny chance the Jaguars could win a wild card if they lose to Tennessee next week -- but they're a much better team and I think they'll want to keep their momentum rolling as they go into the division title game against the Titans.

Tom Strachan: New York Jets (-1.5) at Seattle Seahawks. The Jets get to wash away the stink of last week's performance with the feel-good vibes of Mike White back on the field as they travel to Seattle. The Seahawks are falling apart at the seams and the Jets can compound their misery further. I like the Jets defense to keep things very close and Garrett Wilson to do the rest.

Vincent Verhei: Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) over New Orleans Saints. The Saints have hung on to the fringes of the playoff race with narrow wins over the Falcons and Browns, but I'm not impressed by narrow wins over the Falcons and Browns. Their last victory before that was a close one over the Rams, which doesn't rock my socks either. The last time the Saints definitively played well was a 24-0 curb-stomping of the Raiders, and that was before Halloween. The Eagles, on the other hand, have been the NFC's best team for most of the year. They should roll over New Orleans on Sunday.

Carl Yedor: Jacksonville Jaguars (-4) at Houston Texans. I know that the Texans have been playing better ball as of late and that the Jaguars lost to them earlier in the season, but this line feels too low to me. Jacksonville has been improving over the course of the season (up to 12th in weighted DVOA), and Houston has been one of the worst teams in the league all year. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be super complicated.

Upset of the Week

Limited to teams that are underdogs by three points or more.

Bryan Knowles: Minnesota Vikings (+3.5) at Green Bay Packers. Because we have been cursed to document the Vikings' ascendancy in the face of statistics, analysis, and logic itself. Of course the Vikings are going to win in a close game, one in which they were likely outplayed by their opponent. What other possible outcome could there be? Considering the ways the Vikings have already won this season, I'll take them winning by intercepting a Green Bay two-point conversion and returning it the other way.

Jackson Roberts: Carolina Panthers (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’m so sick of watching Tampa Bay sleepwalk their way through the first three quarters against awful teams (Rams, Saints, and now Cardinals) and somehow still avoid suffering the loss that finally ends their dreadful season. Carolina is playing more inspired football and has a more clearly defined team identity at this point in the season and to me, those things are just as important as season-long metrics such as DVOA. And although DVOA does favor the Bucs in most arenas, there’s one where the Panthers blow the Bucs out of the water: special teams. The two teams are ranked ninth and 30th, respectively, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a blocked or muffed punt break Carolina’s way Sunday.

Aaron Schatz: Miami Dolphins (+3) at New England Patriots. I know Tua Tagovailoa was much better than Teddy Bridgewater this year but that's not really a very large sample for Bridgewater. Bridgewater has been a reasonable quarterback over the last couple years and I think he can run this offense with the benefit of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as his receivers. (Watch for Waddle, in particular, because of the Patriots' weakness against WR2s.) Offense is more predictive than defense, and the Dolphins offense should be so much better than the Patriots' mess. Also, it's going to be surprisingly warm, the Dolphins will have no problem taking the field with the temperature in the high 40s.

Tom Strachan: Los Angeles Rams (+6.5) at Los Angeles Chargers. The Rams are a strange team right now, and the Chargers keep letting teams hang around when they should be sweeping them aside. This battle for L.A. might be quite low-stakes at the minute, but I expect the Rams to be fighting for pride in this one.

Vincent Verhei: Carolina Panthers (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This may be wishful thinking on my part, because the Bucs are one of the least interesting teams in the league right now and I have little desire to see them in the postseason. The Panthers, on the other hand, offer fascinating redemption stories at head coach AND at quarterback AND as an entire franchise, given their sorry state of affairs just a few months ago. But since Matt Rhule was fired after Week 5, the Panthers are 5-5 and 21st in DVOA, while the Bucs are 4-6 and rank 26th.

Carl Yedor: Carolina Panthers (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Carolina’s defense has really come on strong lately, and the Buccaneers struggled to do much of anything offensively against the Cardinals in prime time on Christmas. With offensive line injuries mounting for the Buccaneers, the Panthers may have just enough on offense to eke out a win here, especially if Vita Vea isn’t able to be his normal run-stuffing self against Carolina.

Do You Have a Particular Player You Like to Put Up Really Strong Fantasy Points or Go Over His Betting Props This Week?

Jackson Roberts: Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, DET. From a narrative perspective, I like it because big-time players step up with their team’s seasons on the line. From a statistical perspective, St. Brown is in line for the third-most fantasy points of all receivers this week by FO’s weekly fantasy projections. And from a matchup perspective, the Lions and Bears are the two worst scoring defenses in the league this season, so a shootout seems inevitable in the domed environment of Ford Field.

Aaron Schatz: Jaylen Waddle, WR, MIA. Patriots rank 26th in DVOA against WR2 and Waddle famously had a long touchdown against a blown fourth-and-7 coverage when these teams met back in Week 1.

Tom Strachan: Cole Kmet, TE, CHI. The Bears pass-catchers are depleted, and whilst Cole Kmet hasn’t been able to sustain the high ceiling he displayed between Weeks 9 and 10, his 5.9 targets per game since Week 9 are the eighth-most amongst tight ends. The Lions are 26th in DVOA against tight ends and surrender the fifth-most points to the position, allowing eight different tight ends to score touchdowns against them, including two by Kmet when these teams met in Week 10, when Kmet scored 23.4 PPR points.

Vincent Verhei: Travis Etienne, RB, JAX. Yes, the Texans beat the Titans last week, but they still let Derrick Henry run for 126 yards and a touchdown. So we'll stick with "running back facing the Houston defense," and this week, that's Etienne.

Carl Yedor: Travis Etienne, RB, JAX. Etienne and the rest of the Jaguars are coming off a mini-bye after strangling the Jets on a Thursday night and get to face one of the league’s worst run defenses. While Etienne took on a good-sized workload, he should be plenty fresh enough to take advantage of a plus matchup. If I like the Jaguars to cover, it only makes sense that I would like their running back to have a big day.

Bonus Question

Who will win the No. 7 seeds in each conference?

Current Odds to Make Playoffs

Miami Dolphins (-180)
New England Patriots (+600)
New York Jets (+650)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+1000)

Washington Commanders (+170)
Green Bay Packers (+190)
Seattle Seahawks (+280)
Detroit Lions (+320)

Bryan Knowles: Miami Dolphins (-180) and Green Bay Packers (+190). Obviously, Tua Tagovailoa's health is the big question mark for Miami, but the Dolphins are in solid shape with a one-game lead over the pack and a chance to lock up the AFC East tiebreaker if they beat the Patriots this weekend. One win should be enough to get Miami into the seventh seed, and with both New England and New York floundering in recent weeks, I like Miami to pick up one win. The Dolphins-Patriots winner (and ONLY the Dolphins-Patriots winner) will control their own fate for the No. 7 seed after this week, and I'm picking Miami in that one, so yeah. As for the NFC, the Packers are too hot and too experienced to bet against right now. The Commanders just went to Carson Wentz in a desperation move; the Seahawks will almost assuredly lose the tiebreaker to Green Bay; and the Packers get to knock out the Lions themselves in Week 18. All the dots are there for the Pack—they just need to figure out how to connect them.

Jackson Roberts: New York Jets (+650) and Green Bay Packers (+190). The value in the AFC is undoubtedly betting on the Jets, as Miami could look as hapless as they did in Weeks 5 and 6 with Teddy Bridgewater back at quarterback. After what I have seen from New England the past couple of weeks, I’m far from inclined to back them heading into Buffalo. In the NFC, I’ll back Green Bay, whom I had rated as the best of the NINE 7-8 teams at the start of the week. It’s high time Minnesota throws up another clunker, and I think whichever quarterback Washington starts is going to lose to the Browns this week (rule of thumb in picking between those two franchises this late in the season: whichever team actually needs the win will lose!)

Aaron Schatz: Miami Dolphins (-180) and Green Bay Packers (+190). Well, if I'm calling for a Dolphins upset of the Patriots, that basically means I'm calling for the Dolphins to snag that last playoff spot. Our playoff odds simulation actually gives the Dolphins the No. 7 spot more often if they lose to the Patriots... but only because they still have a shot at No. 6 with a win. They're 86% to make the postseason if they win this game but still 64% if they lose. In the NFC, man, I am really rooting for Detroit, but it looks like Green Bay is hot on offense at the right time and their defense is better than Detroit's, even if it isn't particularly good. The Packers are probably out if they lose to Minnesota, but the Vikings' string of one-score victories has to end at some point. Right. RIGHT?

Vincent Verhei: New York Jets (+650) and Green Bay Packers (+190). The Jets are a game behind Miami in the standings, but they already beat the Dolphins in Week 5 and have a chance to beat them again in Week 18, so I believe they will control their own destiny if they beat the Seahawks this weekend. (Please don't bother correcting me if I'm wrong, I really don't care.) In the NFC, the Packers have winnable games against Minnesota and Detroit, both at home, while Washington closes the season with a tough game against Dallas.

Carl Yedor: New York Jets (+650) and Washington Commanders (+170). My answer for the AFC depends a lot on Tua Tagovailoa’s status in Miami for this week. Should Miami win this week against the Patriots, they’ll be in pretty good shape, but if Tua can’t play and Mike White does in both weeks, I’m interested in a longshot bet on the Jets. In the NFC, there is a good chance Dallas has nothing to play for in Week 18, which makes the Commanders seem like a decent choice there, but I don’t feel confident enough to bet on it. It really depends on which Minnesota team we see this weekend against the Packers because if Green Bay loses, the Commanders are in pretty good shape.


1 comment, Last at 29 Dec 2022, 6:17pm

#1 by KnotMe // Dec 29, 2022 - 6:17pm

I'll take them winning by intercepting a Green Bay two-point conversion and returning it the other way.

I'm hopeful the Vikings can pull off the 1 point safety. It's pretty much the only thing left

Points: 0

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