The bulk of NFL Week 17 picks and predictions kick off on New Year’s Day, not only giving football bettors a clean slate to start off 2023 but also time to reflect on past wagers.
It’s a perfect chance to set some “New Year’s Resolutions” around your NFL gambling habits, rather than the usual hollow personal promises like losing weight or calling your parents more.
No matter how far up or down the sports betting food chain you sit, you can always be better. Here are some of my resolutions for betting NFL odds in 2023. Feel free to tail:
- Beware the 4-point favorite: The 4-point spread is the “no-man’s land” of lines and has been a Bermuda Triangle for betting in recent years: money goes in and doesn’t come back out. These teams that are good enough to be favored by more than a field but not great enough to warrant a 6-point spread are just 13-33 ATS since 2020 — covering 28% of the time. That said, the moneyline for the 4-point chalk usually hovers around -200, which provides a little more stability for those 4-point faves you think are the correct side.
- Meet the Double Result: The Double Result may not be on the radar of newer sports bettors, but it’s been around as long as online bookies. It often presents plus-money value with a little extra risk while avoiding the pitfalls of the spread. Also known as “First Half/Full Game” odds, you can select which team will lead at the halftime break and which one will win the game outright. The Double Result is a good way to deal with bigger favorites you might be on the fence about.
- Love look-aheads: While only a select number of books used to post “look-ahead” lines for the next week’s slate, most major operators now offer these spreads and totals. While limits are usually lower, the look-ahead lines give you an opportunity to get ahead of market moves, and using the current lines and expected results, you can either catch a favorite at a shorter spread or snag a dog with some bonus points. Look-ahead lines are also a great way to look at the market perception of a team, comparing what the line was before the most recent result and what the line sits at now.
OK, that’s enough preaching for one column. I hope you have a smart and successful 2023 when it comes to your NFL picks and predictions. Here are my best NFL Underdogs for Week 17.
NFL picks against the spread for Week 17
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Carolina Panthers (+3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers pick
The NFC South title — and the ticket to the postseason that comes along with it — could come down to this matchup between the Panthers and Buccaneers in Week 17.
Tampa Bay has been the most buoyant turd in this toilet bowl of a division, but Carolina is playing some of the best football not only in the NFC South but the entire NFL for the past month and a half. The Panthers are 4-2 straight up and 5-1 against the spread since Week 10, ranking out alongside the league’s elite in terms of EPA metrics in that span.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, have done just enough to stay on track for the tournament. They’re 2-3 SU and 0-5 ATS since in their last five showings, including barely getting past the sad-sack Cardinals and a third-string QB this past weekend.
The market is hot and heavy on Carolina as well. Personally, I took the Panthers +5.5 when this line hit the board early on Dec. 26 (before I wrote this column on Dec. 27) and it has since moved as low as +3 with the potential to dip to +2.5 if more money shows up on the Panthers.
That adjustment is warranted, considering this defense has been playing up to its potential thanks in large part to support from the offense. Carolina’s stop unit was often fighting against the tide for major minutes in the first half of the season due to the ineptitude of the offense. But ever since Sam Darnold got the nod at quarterback in Week 12, the Panthers' playbook is 10th in EPA per play and grinding out rival defenses with an efficient and methodical attack.
Tampa Bay lost at Carolina 21-3 back in Week 7 — a game in which the Bucs were 13-point road favorites and facing a Panthers team led by P.J. Walker. In his time at QB, Darnold ranks out No. 1 in the EPA+CPOE analytics (expected points added + completion percentage over expectation) and seems to be getting better by the start.
PICK: Panthers +3 (-107 at Pinnacle)
Pittsburgh Steelers (+3) at Baltimore Ravens pick
Lamar Jackson’s status will impact the spread for this AFC North rivalry. But with the market moving away from the Ravens and head coach John Harbaugh being cagey about Jackson’s potential to play, we’re grabbing all the points we can with Pittsburgh right now.
Even with Jackson under center, the Steelers are playing much better football than a bruised Baltimore squad missing bodies all over the depth chart. Pittsburgh is 5-2 SU and ATS in its past seven showings, including a thrilling comeback win against the Raiders on Xmas Eve.
Pittsburgh’s defense has returned to glory ever since T.J. Watt came back from injury, flipping this stop unit from 26th in EPA allowed per play in the first nine weeks to No. 9 in that advanced measurement since Week 10.
Baltimore was able to score a win at Pittsburgh just a few weeks ago, edging the Steelers 16-14 as a 1.5-point road underdog. However, Pittsburgh’s starting QB Kenny Pickett went down with a concussion after throwing only one pass in the first quarter of that game. And while the Ravens had to turn to QB3 Anthony Brown with Tyler Huntley also suffering a concussion, it came late in the third quarter after the damage was done.
That weird win over Pittsburgh stacks up next to some other “victories” for the Ravens in recent weeks, with fugly W’s coming against Atlanta and Denver — two very broken teams — in the past four games. Baltimore’s offense is missing plenty of skill players and has ranked 21st in EPA per play since the calendar flipped to December. The Steelers, though, have actually improved on offense in that span, sitting No. 8 in EPA per play since Week 13.
These teams know each other very well and Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is a career 7-8 SU at Baltimore but 9-6 ATS in those road games. Overall, the Steelers are 10-2-2 ATS as an underdog against the Ravens since 2007.
PICK: Steelers +3 (-105 at WynnBET)
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (+2.5) pick
In my years of doing this weekly NFL Underdogs column, there are some pups just too good to pass up. The Bengals are exactly that and then some in Week 17, catching points at home hosting the Bills on Monday Night Football.
I’ve been down on Buffalo for a while now, as the Bills are still being priced like the juggernauts we watched in the first half of the season and not the team that’s covered only three times in the past nine outings. Even the 35-13 win over Chicago in Week 16 was an uncomfortable contest until the levees broke in the final four minutes.
Cincinnati enters this potential AFC Championship preview as the hottest team in the land. The Bengals have won and covered in seven straight and while there have been some blips along the way (1H vs. Bucs and 2H vs Pats), I can’t pass up points on a team this great.
Unlike most opponents, Cincinnati can stand toe-to-toe with the Buffalo offense and is operating at an insane level during this winning streak, sitting No. 1 in EPA per play since Week 9. Buffalo’s stop unit may not be up to the task considering it slipped from No. 5 in EPA allowed per play in the first eight weeks to 13th in the previous nine contests.
Buffalo has bullied bad offenses like Chicago, the Jets, and the Patriots in recent weeks but got pantsed down to the butt cheeks against legit attacks like Miami, Detroit, and Minnesota. And no one is more legit than Joe Burrow & Co. right now.
The early action is buying up the Bengals, with this spread shrinking as much as Cincy +1. I’m paying a little extra juice and getting the biggest Bengals line still available as of this writing.
PICK: Bengals +2.5 (-125 at 888Sport)
Last week: 1-1-1 ATS, -0.13 units (Risking 1 unit per play)
Season: 21-25-2 ATS, -4.51 units (Risking 1 unit per play)