NFL Week 17 Opening Lines and Analysis
Let’s take a look at a few games that are sure to draw attention from bettors for Week 17. We will just be discussing the matchups; if you are looking for more concrete predictions and projections, be sure to check back throughout the week for our game picks.
All odds are courtesy of our friends at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Odds: Cowboys -2.5, O/U 47.5
If Washington loses, the winner of this contest will win the NFC East. Dallas is the obvious favorite despite playing on the road. They looked excellent in Week 16 and will be facing a Giants team that has struggled to score points for most of the season. If Dallas’ defensive unit can come up with an effort like they put forth against the Philadelphia Eagles, they will just need an Eagles win to make the playoffs. Dallas is easily the most talented offensive team in the NFC East, something they put on full display with their season on the line. They will need one more offensive outburst to put themselves in the best position to win. However, they may have to do so without guard Connor Williams, who exited Week 16’s contest with a knee injury.
The New York Giants are a mess. Yes, losing Saquon was a death blow to their prospects this season, but their questionable decision to draft Daniel Jones has been accentuated by the fact that the team still has no number one receiver. Darius Slayton has proven capable of manning one of the outside receiver roles but needs a quarterback capable of pushing the ball downfield consistently if he is to masquerade as a number one until they bring one in. New York has been plain bad this season, scoring 20 or fewer points in 10 of their 15 contests to date. They do not deserve to make the playoffs, but then again, no one in the NFC East does. If they can get their defense to shut down Andy Dalton, they will just need a Washington loss to make the postseason.
With a number of games not yet on the board at FanDuel, this Week 17 battle between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants becomes one of the most compelling. Both teams are technically still alive in the playoff hunt, but the -2.5 spread will attract bettors to this matchup. Dallas has opened as the road favorite, and we cannot blame the books for pegging them that way after their excellent Week 16 performance. However, there are those who are going to have definitive leans towards both sides. Prior to the conclusion of Week 16, New York was actually listed as the favorite. We could very well see some more line movement by Tuesday morning. The over/under is also interesting — 47.5 sounds high for two teams that have struggled to score points at times this season, but the Week 5 matchup between these two teams ended up 37-34 Dallas, for a total of 71 points scored. This looks like a matchup that will either fall well under or go well over the posted total.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Odds: Browns -6.5, O/U n/a
The Pittsburgh Steelers clinched the AFC North with the Browns’ inexplicable loss to the New York Jets in Week 16. Cleveland had everything to play for and still could not best what, for all purposes, may be the worst team in the league. Yes, Pittsburgh lost to them too, but they were playing down to the level of their opponent and got swarmed. The Steelers are still dealing with major injuries at the linebacker position but did welcome Vince Williams back from the reserve/COVID list. They are still missing key playmakers like Devin Bush (season), his backup Robert Spillane, and sack maven Bud Dupree. The odds here suggest we may see the backups, so take that into account before slamming action on the Steelers.
The Cleveland Browns looked horrendous in Week 16, proving once again that they can only go as far as their run game carries them. Yes, their entire receiving corps was placed on the reserve/COVID list due to being close contacts of linebacker B.J. Goodson, but they still had more than enough at running back and tight end to wipe the floor with the New York Jets. Perhaps they played down to the level of their competition. Whatever the case, they will likely need to come out with a win to make the playoffs. A loss would require Indianapolis to lose as well for the Browns to taste the postseason. As mentioned above, Pittsburgh may rest some or all of their starters, so the Browns may just need to avoid another letdown to come away with the victory. If nothing else, Cleveland helped make Week 17 must-watch television for AFC fans and bettors alike.
The Browns being tapped as large -6.5 favorites for this contest may be a little confusing at first glance, but it makes more sense when one rationalizes that the books expect the Steelers to rest their starters for some, if not all of Week 17. They have locked up the AFC North and have no need to risk their player’s health in what essentially amounts to a meaningless game. They are locked in as the division winner and will likely be in third place by the time Week 17 starts. Only a Buffalo Bills loss to the Miami Dolphins (who will be playing at the same time) can boost them back up to second since Buffalo owns the head to head tiebreaker.
Cleveland needs the win to make the postseason and will be going all out to do just that after fumbling away their clinching opportunity in Week 16. There is no over/under listed for this game at the time of writing, primarily due to the uncertainty of who the Steelers will be willing to start in Week 17. This spread could grow if it is announced that Mason Rudolph will be under center. If Pittsburgh decides to play their starters, this spread may see some major movement as the Steelers dismantled the Browns 38-7 earlier this season.
Washington at Philadelphia Eagles
Odds: Eagles -1.5, O/U n/a
Win and they are in. Washington is still in the driver’s seat to win the NFC East but will need to beat a hot divisional opponent in the Philadelphia Eagles to make the playoffs. Dwayne Haskins faltered yet again, and it is fair to wonder if he will ever start another game in the NFL. He will likely need to switch teams to get a fair shot at a starter’s role and is likely out of the team’s future plans after showing minimal improvement this season and being caught maskless at a large social gathering despite the fact that his coach battled cancer, this season. Washington’s defense is certainly a playoff-caliber defense. Heck, they are an injured player or two away from being a championship-caliber defense, but they will likely spend much of their offseason resources looking to upgrade the skill positions. It would be a surprise if they did not add a starting-caliber quarterback, as well as a running back, tight end, and wide receivers. Perhaps it is unfair to judge Haskins when the team has so many holes, but all that Washington asked him to do was to limit his turnovers and play the role of a game manager. He was unable to do that. Alex Smith has.
The Philadelphia Eagles season is over, but they can still play spoiler for Washington. They may be forced to do so without Fletcher Cox, who suffered a stinger versus the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16. Jalen Hurts appears to have shown enough to have permanently wrestled the job from Carson Wentz, but in all fairness, judging Wentz behind that offensive line, with no help at receiver for the majority of the season aside from someone who was cut from the Green Bay Packers practice squad may be a tad unfair. Either way, 2020 has proved to be another lost season for both Wentz and the Eagles. Heads should roll this offseason, with both the coaching staff and players all on the hot seat.
One can only assume that this spread was set with Alex Smith being the Week 17 starter in mind. If it was projected to be Dwayne Haskins or Tyler Heinecke, this spread would be much, much larger. Jalen Hurts looked like the raw quarterback with marvelous athletic tools many pegged him as in the Eagles Week 16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and he is going to have an even more daunting matchup against Washington’s defensive line. Washington beat Philadelphia 27-17 back in Week 1, but with both teams starting different quarterbacks for Week 17, this matchup could be very different.
There is going to be some movement on the spread, with the Eagles seeing the early juice. Alex Smith practiced in full last Friday but was not cleared to start or backup Haskins during Week 16. He should be healthy enough to play this week. There is no over/under posted for this contest yet as FanDuel likely wants to wait a little longer in order to get a more accurate gauge on whether or not Smith is poised to start. This helps protect them from sharps who abuse bad over/underlines the night they are posted.