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Back in 2009, I learned a valuable lesson from The Hangover: never walk away from the table when you’re on a heater. Surely, the same principle could be applied to sports betting. With an incendiary 7-1 two-week stretch, there is no reason to stop now. We are back for Week 17 to find the edge.
Arizona Cardinals (51.5) @ Dallas Cowboys (-5.5) | Just how legit are these Dallas Cowboys?
Arizona, we meet again. Last week, the Cards did not disappoint. We predicted their will to live would be crushed by the rolling Indianapolis Colts…and it was. Having been beaten down now in three straight, the Cardinals face the real possibility of losing out with the Cowboys and Seahawks left on the schedule.
Thankfully, the month of December is over for them. Since 2019, the Kliff Kingsbury-led Cardinals are now 5-8 SU, 5-7-1 ATS in December. Not good. While their overall off-a-loss record under their head coach is equally unimpressive at 7-13 SU, 8-11 ATS, there is a reason to circle the 10-5 red birds in Week 17.
With Arizona closing out their final road game (7-1 SU and ATS) of the regular season, they should be back in their comfort zone flying to Dallas. Aside from their dreadful loss in Detroit in Week 15, Zona has been night and day away from home in 2021 averaging 30.25 PPG on foreign soil compared to a criminal 21.7 PPG in their own building. On the road, the Cards have compiled 30-point efforts in six of eight matches this season.
In order to neutralize the Cowboys’ NFL-best scoring offense (30.5 PPG), the Cards will need to play keep away and get back to the heavier ground approach with James Conner and Chase Edmonds. Arizona is 9-0 when they tote the rock 27 times, and 1-5 when they fail to do so.
In three of their four losses this season (and even the wild OT win against the Patriots), Dallas struggled to slow the offenses that hammered the rock (Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs). The Cardinals’ run game includes their QB1. Kyler Murray might look like a toddler throwing a tantrum when he is scampering around the field, but Arizona has been more effective when their signal caller has taken it upon himself to carry the pigskin; 8-2 when he eclipses five or more rush attempts, 0-2 when he does not. More importantly to keep the ground game in play, Zona is just 1-3 when Murray attempts over 35 passes this season. Balance is key.
It is fair to wonder if the Cowboys are the NFC version of the Buffalo Bills. Though they both have the ability to hang 40 on any given night, their number of quality wins are roughly the same as the number of nationally televised games for Bishop Sycamore this year.
In the case of the NFC’s current #2 seed, the Cowboys are fortunate to play in the worst division in the NFL over the past four seasons.
Facing the Cards with monumental stakes, the 12-3 ATS (NFL-best) Dallas team not only has the ability to pressure an opponent offensively, but defensively too. The Cowboys’ defense has totaled 159 QB pressures this season (4th most in NFL) despite possessing only the 11th most sacks (37). Led by Defensive Rookie of the Year mortal lock and Defensive Player of the Year favorite Micah Parsons, the Dallas defense can likely create pressure and take the ball away (33 takeaways, NFL-best) against an Arizona offense that has allowed a combined 119 QB pressures between Murray and Colt McCoy. Aside from the fact that Zona is 1-4 this season when down 10 points (1-3 with Murray), forcing the Cardinals into abandoning the run should exponentially increase Dallas’ odds of limiting the Cards’ 10th best scoring offense (26.3 PPG).
Offensively, Dak Prescott has been hit or miss. Though it is likely he will be able to navigate a solid scoring effort against a defense that has yielded an embarrassing 82 points over their past three outings, the ground game must hold up their end. With once-upon-a-time stud Ezekiel Elliott moving slower than the Tin Man from Wizard of OZ (six straight games of under 4.0 YPC until closing at 4.1 YPC vs. WFT), the onus may fall on the shoulders of the slippery Tony Pollard to keep the chains moving. If the Cowboys want to notch their fifth consecutive win, they must keep Pollard involved and run the ball down the throat of a Cards’ team that is 0-4 when an opponent eclipses 30 carries.
The opening line for this matchup was Dallas (-2.5), so with this line ballooning another three points, bettors not only caught a break having Arizona past a field goal but caught the hidden magic number. It is not a key number in football, but 5/5.5 is a spread where alarm bells should go off. This being one of the most difficult numbers for books to handicap has more-often-than-not resulted in a near blind hammer of any road dog in this spot. While this is one of those anomalies that is difficult to describe, do not just take my word for it. Since 2010, road dogs getting 5 or 5.5 points are 72-50-1 ATS (+ $1,545 on $100 bets). This season, they are 8-1 ATS. Outrageous. There are two certainties in life: we, as a society, took Avril Lavigne for granted in the early 2000’s and, always play the road dog with this number. While it is not an automatic hit every time, it cashes far more often than it misses. You are welcome.
Stat(s) of the game: The Cardinals are 7-1 ATS when they score 30 points. Dallas is 0-3 SU when they allow 30 points.
PREDICTION: Cardinals cover the road 5.5.
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Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) @ Baltimore Ravens (46.5) | Will the Ravens show up with their season on the line?
Veni, vidi, vici. Like Julius Caesar, the Rams came, saw, and conquered last week in Minnesota. Now firmly in the driver’s seat for the NFC West crown, the Rams have the ability slam the door shut on the Cardinals like an angry teenager arguing with their parents. Ah, the good old days. After Santa slid down the chimney and left LA the gift of dropping a luscious 30 bean on the Vikings, they are now in position for an encore performance against a Baltimore defense that rolled out the red carpet for the Bengals offense letting them hang 40 last week.
While the 11-4 Rams have been basically pumping out 30 bombs at will this season (seven 30-point games), their offense has refreshed their approach over the last month; run the rock. As it was touched on last week, LA has averaged about 26 carries per game during this recent four-game win streak.
Though free agent pick-up Sony Michel has been ripping over the past four weeks to the tune of 4.75 YPC (89 carries over this span), the impending match-up against a ferocious Ravens run D that averages an NFL-best 85.6 rush YPG may alter their approach. This Baltimore unit has yielded only one back to hit 75 yards on the ground this season; Dalvin Cook (110 yards) back in Week 9. Not to say the Rams should be abandoning the run game, but merely highlighting the likelihood that it could be stymied. If that holds true, it will be up to Matthew Stafford to rebound after a let-down game and lead the passing offense to the Promised Land vs. a Ravens’ secondary that has been torched like Will Ferrell in Old School (280.5 Pass YPG- Most in NFL). Ironic. With Stafford getting back to business, the Rams would have a great shot to total their magic number of 26 points, a threshold Baltimore has surrendered six times this season. LA is 10-1 when they break this plateau.
Right now, the Ravens’ season is exactly how I love my Johnnie Walker Blue…on the rocks. After dropping four straight, the 8-7 black birds are on the cusp of missing the postseason. With four of their seven losses this season by one possession (a combined ten points in those four), Baltimore has some serious soul searching to do in these critical moments.
Though Lamar Jackson’s status is still wildly unknown, HC John Harbaugh said he is “hopeful” Jackson would play Sunday. I mean I’m hopeful that Charlize Theron will just show up on my doorstep one day, but that does not mean she will. Fortunately, backup QB Tyler Huntley is expected to be available this week after finding himself on the Covid list early in the week. It is fair to wonder if Huntley gives them a better chance to win right now (5 TD’s/0 TO’s in two starts) after nearly pulling off two consecutive double-digit comeback wins against the Browns and Packers. While the Ravens have enjoyed home cooking this season (5-2 SU; five 30-point outings), they have a tall task of slowing down a Rams’ squad that has traveled in style under HC Sean McVay. Since 2017, LA is 11-3 SU, 10-4 ATS in the Eastern Time Zone.
Though their aforementioned run defense remains stout, it is their passing defense against Cooper Kupp and Stafford that will likely keep DC Wink Martindale up at night. If Kupp having eclipsed 90 yards in 14 of 15 games was not enough to make his hair turn even more gray, then maybe his defense allowing the 3rd most yards (2,779) to wideouts this season will. Better yet, the final straw may be the Baltimore defense allowing the most pass YPG AND passing yards overall (4,433) by a wide margin.
Facing a signal caller in Stafford who has moved the ball downfield with ease this season (11 games with at least 275 passing yards), the equation circles back to LA having carte blanche through the air. For the Ravens, the best way to negate that is to run the ball and move the chains. More importantly, it is imperative they start fast and make their opponent play from behind. While the Rams are 45-0 with a lead at half time under McVay, they are 6-25 when trailing.
This is a difficult one. After a 2.5-point opening number, the spread has pushed past 3 points. There is enough sharp money on the Ravens to keep this at 3.5, as well as the uncertainty of who will be under center for them. If Lamar plays, it’s tough to envision him being near his electric self. That said, the line likely stays between 3-3.5 points, whereas a Huntley start could draw a number near 6-6.5 points. Both of those would still be advantage LA.
Though Baltimore is at home and should be a tough out with their season on the line, their depressing offense and leaky defense puts them in a tight spot against a team that can drop 30 points in a flash. Assuming they do not dilly dally; the Rams should put baby in the corner.
Stat(s) of the game: The Ravens are 2-4 when they allow a team to score 26 points.
PREDICTION: Rams win and cover the road 3.5.
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Jacksonville Jaguars (41) @ New England Patriots (-15.5) | Can the Patriots prevent a back door cover?
Have you ever just looked at something and said, “Let’s blow it up and start over again?” That sums up the Jacksonville Jaguars. Whether it is super creep ex-head coach Urban Meyer getting canned after less than a full season, losing their best offensive weapons for the season at some point (DJ Chark, Travis Etienne, James Robinson), or all bad karma from not paying the ever-deserving star Maurice Jones-Drew after his explosive season (1,606 rush yards) back in 2011, things have just not panned out for the Jags in this decade (excluding the 2017 season). The 2-13 Jacksonville team has showed some heart this year. Hanging with Arizona, Cincinnati, Indy and beating the Dolphins and Bills is admirable. Rookie QB Trevor Lawrence has had major growing pains this season, and they are unlikely to stop in Week 17 when the Jags travel to face the Patriots in Foxboro.
Between their league worst scoring offense (14.5 PPG), 6th worst scoring defense (26.4 PPG), and unlucky break of playing a team desiring to take their souls, they have no chance to win. I would love to try and keep this suspenseful but come on, it is more tedious than trying to keep up the “Santa Claus is real phase for your kids.” The only shot this 4-11-1 ATS team that just lost their best offensive player for the season has at covering this behemoth of a spread is…to pray…or hit the back door.
Is the jury out on the Pats? After a brutal two game beatdown from the Colts and Bills, the league is questioning the legitimacy of a team that had a realistic shot for the AFC’s number 1 seed a few weeks ago. With a butter match-up on deck vs. the Jags, it will by no means re-establish any faith as a dominant force, but should help the Pats get some momentum back. Typically, I have no love for playing spreads this big, but in this case, I had to make an exception; the rookie QB. As the Pats’ head coach, Bill Belichick is 24-6 against rookie QB’s; 14-0 at home. Of those 24 victories, only seven have been by fewer than 10 points. BB is licking his lips harder than when SpongeBob tried to play Squidward’s clarinet. Ranking 5th in the NFL in takeaways (27), the New England D should have plenty of opportunities to ransack a Jags’ offense that has committed a league-high 26 giveaways.
Seeing how Jacksonville is 0-7 ATS on the road this season and have failed to cover their last six spreads, it lines up as a good spot for the Pats to high step their way to a three-possession win. The Jags have allowed 26 points or more eight times and have only scored over 20 points four times this year. With New England going up against a team that has issues scoring as well as stopping an opponent from scoring, do the math.
This might end up biting me but based off the information it is absolutely worth a play. There may be some anticipation of this line moving closer to 14.5 points, so the lower it goes the more you can play it. If the back door caves, so be it. The Patriots need to get back on track, and it should be all systems go for them to throw down 35 vs. this Jags’ team that has endured too many dark days this season.
Stat(s) of the game: The Jags have lost by 14 points seven times.
PREDICTION: Pats win and cover the home 15.5.
Week 17 NFL Teaser Play (+6):
The two-team teaser looks have been heating up. Bombs away.
Arizona Cardinals +11.5 (originally +5.5): Moving Zona to double digits? Don’t mind if I do. With the Cardinals having only one loss of more than 10 points (with Kyler Murray playing), it is a strong proposition for this team to keep themselves within the money zone against a Cowboys’ team that has only beaten Washington, Atlanta, New York, and Philadelphia by 11 points or more. The Cards should come to play in a must win.
Green Bay Packers -0.5 (originally -6.5)
Pushing for the NFC’s number 1 seed at home and under the lights in prime time against a divisional opponent that you are looking to get even with? That is the stuff bettors live to see. While the 6.5 spread can cause some serious indecision this week, taking GB basically on the money line is almost always a win. With their NFL-best 12-3 record, the Pack has an opportunity to not only virtually seal the deal but knock out a pest of a divisional opponent for good. The last time GB got swept by the Vikings (excluding 2017 when Rodgers missed both games)? Hop in the time machine and travel back to 2009!
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