Patriots (PK) and first half under 24 One thing about Super Bowls is they don't tend to start with a bang.
Week 17 picks
Packers (-7.5) vs. Lions
The Packers look to be in a favorable situational spot. They get a home game for the NFC North championship, which is also doubling as a revenge game after their 19-7 loss to the Lions in Week 3 at Ford Field. Lambeau has been a house of horrors for the Lions, who haven’t tasted victory there since 1991. And the Packers have been dominant at home, going 7-0 straight up and 5-1-1 ATS this season, with their only loss against the number coming on Monday night in Week 14 vs. the Falcons in a game they led 31-7 at halftime. The strength of the Lions lies in their defensive line, which will have to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers if they want to be in a position to win. The Packers rank 14th in the league with a 5.35 percent sack percentage, but they’ve done an exceptional job of protecting Rodgers over the last three weeks, allowing sacks on just 2.48 percent of his drop backs, the fifth-best rate overall. The Lions, meanwhile, must protect Matthew Stafford, who is known to get frazzled and make mistakes in the face of a sustained pass rush. That appears to be exactly what he’ll be dealing with vs. a Packers defense that ranks ninth in the NFL with a 6.94 sack percentage, a mark that jumps to 10.68 (No. 4 overall) in the last three weeks. Detroit’s pass protection, conversely, hasn’t been great all year, ranking a pedestrian 21st with a 7.10 percent sack rate. Given the advantages the Packers look to have in the trenches, as well as the weight of history on the Lions, bettors can count on a thorough performance from the home team with a division crown and guaranteed No. 2 seed in the NFC on the line.
Jets (+7) at Dolphins
Rex Ryan’s future is all but sealed in New York, but that doesn’t mean the Jets will be rolling over in the swan song of their coach. On the contrary, bettors can expect a fired up team intent on doing everything it can to go out on a winning note for Ryan. Despite their season long being over, the Jets have continued to play hard and have been in every game since a 38-3 debacle vs. Buffalo in Week 12. Since then, they’ve gone 3-0-1 against the number while coming within a play or two of knocking off the Dolphins, Vikings and Patriots. Miami, on the other hand, is not the same team that crushed opponents in wins and was narrowly beaten in losses earlier this season. One of the reasons they’re 0-4 ATS this month is because the market continues to price them on the strength of their first 11 games. When factoring in the nature of this hotly-contested AFC East rivalry – the teams have split their last four season series – to be catching a full touchdown on the underdog makes for a solid play.
Steelers (-3.5) vs. Bengals
All signs point to the home team here. Since dropping a 35-32 shocker to the Saints, the Steelers have come alive during a three-game winning streak that began with a 21-point throttling of the Bengals in Cincinnati. Pittsburgh has excelled at situational football during that span, scoring touchdowns on 63.64 percent of its red zone trips (eighth in the NFL) while holding opposing offenses to a 33.33 mark in the same category on defense (fifth). The Steelers have also resurrected their pass rush over the last three games, compiling a 7.09 sack percentage (11th) while protecting Ben Roethlisberger to the tune of a 1.98 percent sack rate (No. 3). On the other side, the Bengals are in a major letdown spot after beating Denver to clinch a playoff spot in a game few gave them a chance to win. Playing at Heinz Field hasn’t gone very well for the Bengals of late, as they’re just 1-3 there and 2-7 overall vs. Pittsburgh since 2010. As impressive as the win over the Broncos was, it was on the strength of the defense – which intercepted Peyton Manning four times – as opposed to Andy Dalton, who was good but not great. On a short week, he’ll have to be great to knock off Roethlisberger and the surging Steelers.
Last week: 2-1
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