Expect the Seahawks to take out their anger from last week's loss to the Cardinals on the Rams. (Greg Trott/AP)
The NFL's regular-season finale is here. Time to place your bets.
Joe Fortenbaugh: Saints -12.5 vs. Buccaneers. Four weeks ago the Saints were at Seattle playing for a chance to earn the top seed in the NFC playoffs. Fast forward to Week 17 and you’ve got a reeling New Orleans team that has dropped three of its last four and is on the verge of missing the postseason altogether, should Arizona beat San Francisco on Sunday and the Saints lose to Tampa Bay. But the latter part of that equation won’t happen, as we all know Sean Payton’s crew plays much differently at home than they do on the road. New Orleans is 7-0 straight-up and 6-1 ATS at the Superdome this season, winning by an average of 17.4 points per game. And don’t forget that the Saints are 35-17 ATS over their last 52 home games and 5-1 ATS over their last six outings following a loss. Tampa’s midseason three-game winning streak quickly morphed into a run that featured three losses, and we assume the Buccaneers are more enticed by what the current issue of Travel + Leisure has to offer than Week 17.
Tom Mantzouranis: Seahawks -10 vs. Rams. Losing to the Cardinals was the best thing that could have happened to the Seahawks. Their dominance at home was reaching mythical levels, and if you've followed this space before you know that I'm a big believer in the law of averages; Seattle was destined to drop a game at CenturyLink -- better now than in two or three weeks. On paper, this looks like another potential close one, as their last three contests have all been decided by a touchdown or less, the Seahawks are just 4-3 ATS at home this year and St. Louis's defense matches up favorably with Russell Wilson and company. But games aren't played on paper, and hell hath no fury like a Carroll scorned. The Seahawks need a win or a 49ers loss to clinch the division and No. 1 seed, and they won't have the luxury of watching San Francisco first (both teams play at 4:25 p.m. ET) to know how hard they need to step on the gas.
NFL Week 17 Betting Odds
Stay Away From
Fortenbaugh: Giants -3.5 vs. Redskins. A game featuring two inconsistent and utterly disappointing franchises with absolutely no reason to show up makes for a volatile equation I’d rather not attempt to solve. You’d have more success predicting which golf courses these guys plan on playing next week than you would forecasting the outcome of this meaningless affair.
Mantzouranis: Giants -3.5 vs. Redskins. Can't say it much better than Joe.
Best Of The Rest
Fortenbaugh: Bengals -6 vs. Ravens. The Bengals are a perfect 7-0 both straight-up and ATS at home this season, winning by an average of 17.7 points per game. In addition, while it’s somewhat of a long shot considering the Patriots are playing host to the Bills, Cincinnati still has a chance to earn a first-round bye. The Ravens are 2-5 on the road in 2013 with a -3 turnover differential and a team passer rating of just 69.0. Note that Baltimore is 2-9 ATS over its last 11 December games while the favorite in this series is 4-0-1 ATS over the last five meetings.
Vikings -3 vs. Lions. If Detroit couldn’t get up in the wake of the injury to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, why the hell should we expect this team to perform at a high level after being eliminated from the playoffs in Week 16? This is a classic late-season instance in which a team with some fight is challenging a franchise that has packed it in for the year.
Seahawks -10.5 vs. Rams. Embarrassed on their home turf last Sunday in a defeat to the Cardinals, the Seahawks need either a win this weekend or a San Francisco loss in order to claim the division as well as the top seed in the NFC. Pete Carroll’s crew is lethal at CenturyLink Field (36-17-1 ATS over last 54 games) without any extra motivation, so imagine what this team is going play like now that its hair is on fire.
Mantzouranis: Saints -12.5 vs. Buccaneers. The Saints are hitting the skids as January approaches, but they get a nice salve in the Bucs to help heal their wounds before having to (likely) go to Philadelphia in the wild-card round. The Saints' home-road disparity has been one of the most talked-about #narratives this season, especially lately, so you don't need me to rehash all that stuff. Despite a mirage-like midseason surge, the Buccaneers haven't had a "quality" win since beating the Dolphins in mid-November.
Colts -11.5 vs. Jaguars. The Colts seem to be recovering from whatever the hell happened to them midseason, and they've still got some motivation in that they can take the third seed with a win and Bengals loss (the second-seed and a bye is still possible too, albeit very unlikely). The difference between No. 3 and 4 is playing the Chiefs or whoever emerges from the Dolphins/Ravens/Chargers/Steelers/Jets mush. Even though the Colts just beat the Chiefs, I know which fate I'd rather face next week. The Jaguars' mini-revival is nice, and projects well for their future under Gus Bradley, but they're not ready to compete in this type of game yet, not with the Colts sharpening up for the playoffs.
Eagles -7 at Cowboys. Let's cut the mirage -- Tony Romo isn't playing this week. The Cowboys are just trying to keep the Eagles on their toes with a little gamesmanship, but it doesn't really matter one way or the other. The Eagles are better than the Cowboys in pretty much every significant way, and Kyle Orton hasn't started a game in two full years.