The Panthers, Colts and Raiders can ride their ground game to wins in Week 17.
Carolina Panthers atTampa Bay Buccaneers (-5.5)
Tampa Bay, sans Doug Martin, needs a win and lots of help to squeak into the playoffs, but Carolina will give the Bucs all they can handle on Sunday.
The Panthers committed four turnovers when these teams met in October but only lost by three. Carolina’s been much better in the turnover department lately, putting up a plus-5 margin in their last three contests. Also, the Panthers had won six straight against the Bucs prior to that clash.
Carolina should be able to attack the vulnerable Bucs’ run stoppers (over 100 rushing yards allowed in four of their last five contests), so expect healthy doses of Johnathan Stewart and designed runs for Cam Newton in this one.
The Bucs have not been a good bet as big favorites lately; they’re 0-5 straight-up and against the spread in their last five games as a favorite of four points or more.
Oddsmakers know that bettors will favor the team that has something to play for (no matter how small) over a team that’s already been eliminated, which creates value in taking a team like Carolina.
The pick: Panthers +5.5
Jacksonville Jaguars atIndianapolis Colts (-4.5)
Jacksonville “woke up” for a big win over Tennessee after head coach Gus Bradley was shown the door one week prior, but that performance is not sustainable for a team that had won just two games all year.
The Jaguars are heading back out on the road, where they’ve dropped their last five contests. The Colts played the Raiders tough last week, but once again, their defense came up short. However, Jacksonville’s offense (26th in YPG) presents a much easier challenge for Indy’s stoppers.
Andrew Luck faces a stern test through the air (the Jaguars are third-best in passing YPG allowed), but the Colts running game (115.4 YPG last five tilts) should be able to slash through Jacksonville’s shoddy ground defense (20th in YPG).
This is not too big a number to lay with a team that has great offensive firepower.
The pick: Colts -4.5
Oakland Raiders atDenver Broncos (-1)
An overreaction on the part of oddsmakers had the Broncos as high as 3.5-point favorites, but that line has quickly dropped. Matt McGloin represents a downgrade at QB over the injured Derek Carr, but Oakland can still beat a reeling Denver squad on Sunday.
The Raiders typically fare well on the road (9-1 ATS) and create turnovers (plus-8 differential in their last five games) while Denver has made a habit of coughing up the ball (minus-5 turnover differential in the same span).
McGloin should be handing the ball off to Latavius Murray early and often in this one, as the Raiders have a tremendous advantage in that department (the fifth-best rushing attack in the NFL vs. the league’s fourth-worst run-prevention unit).
Oakland’s defense has been a liability most of the season (20th in YPG allowed) but Denver’s anemic offense has put up just 23 points in their last three games combined. Take the playoff-bound Raiders at a generous price.
The pick: Raiders +1
Best of the rest (picks inbold)
Dallas Cowboys@ Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)
Buffalo Bills (-3.5) @New York Jets
New England Patriots(-9.5) @ Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns @Pittsburgh Steelers(-6)
Chicago Bears@ Minnesota Vikings (-5.5)
Houston Texans@ Tennessee Titans (-3)
Baltimore Ravens @Cincinnati Bengals(-1)
New York Giants@ Washington Redskins (-7.5)
Arizona Cardinals(-6) @ Los Angeles Rams
New Orleans Saints @Atlanta Falcons(-7)
Seattle Seahawks(-9.5) @ San Francisco 49ers
Kansas City Chiefs(-5.5) @ San Diego Chargers
Green Bay Packers(-3) @ Detroit Lions