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September 21, 2014

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Week 17 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Unofficial NFC East and NFC North championship games feature home underdogs

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this Nov. 28, 2013, photo, Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Kyle Orton (18) and Tony Romo (9) warm up for an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Arlington, Texas. Orton will make his first start at quarterback in his two seasons with the Cowboys on Sunday night, Dec. 29, unless Romo can recover from a herniated disc. Dallas will be playing a winner-take-all game at home against the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East title and a playoff berth.

Handicapping the final week of the NFL regular season can prove as tricky as defending a double-reverse flea flicker.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 17

Which team is the best bet in Sunday's win-or-go-home games?
Eagles -6.5 — 45.2%
Packers -2.5 — 33.2%
Cowboys +6.5 — 13.7%
Bears +2.5 — 7.9%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Motivation and playoff implications are just two of the factors bettors must keep in mind for every contest on the board. All-or-nothing games, where both teams are competing at full strength for a postseason berth, will annually draw the largest betting handle on week 17.

The two this year, Green Bay at Chicago kicking off at 1:25 Sunday and Philadelphia at Dallas finishing off the regular season with a 5:25 start, will also go a long way in determining the Sun’s 2013 handicapping contest. So before getting into the picks — available at the bottom of the page — here’s a look at some potential reasons for backing each of the four teams facing off directly to keep their season alive.

The case for Green Bay minus-2.5: One name should suffice: Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ quarterback, who returns to play in his first game since breaking his collarbone against these same Bears on Nov. 4, is perhaps the most valuable player in the league according to oddsmakers.

He’s worth a minimum of 7.5 points to the spread, meaning sports books could be undermining the impact of his presence here. The line for the game without Rodgers projected at Bears minus-4.5, according to the LVH Superbook’s SuperContest spread. Rodgers got the 7.5-point treatment around town Thursday when the Packers announced he would play with Green Bay shifting to a 3-point favorite. But early action on the Bears drove the line down a half-point.

Evidence shows sports books never adjusted Green Bay enough without Rodgers, as it went 1-6 against the spread (2-4-1 straight-up) in his absence. In his career against the archrival Bears — not including this year’s first meeting when he was hurt on the first possession — Rodgers has gone 9-2 both straight-up and against the spread.

The case for Chicago plus-2.5: Who’s to say Rodgers is fully healthy anyway? Some bettors with the capital to back up their stances are suspicious, or just really like the Bears in this spot.

As previously mentioned, the spread moved a half-point in Chicago’s favor Thursday upon opening at most sports books. The shift comes despite reports of the public betting on the Packers at a disproportionate clip. That means the big wagers are on Chicago. It now requires taking a bad number, but lining up with sharp bettors on the Bears is a more comfortable position than joining the public with the Packers.

It’s not outlandish to believe the Bears can score with the Packers even if Rodgers is mostly himself. Chicago’s offense — thanks to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery arguably becoming the best one-two receiving punch in the league — ranks No. 6 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings to Green Bay’s No. 9. The Packers were second before Rodgers went down. Both defenses appear helpless, but Green Bay’s to a greater degree. The Packers are 29th in defensive DVOA to the Bears’ 26th.

The case for Philadelphia minus-6.5: Watching and laughing as the Cowboys’ season withers away in the final regular season game of the year has become a national tradition. In the same Week 17 Sunday Night Football slot the last two years, the Cowboys have dropped elimination games to the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles without coming close to covering.

Might as well make it a trifecta of NFC East rivals. No unit in the NFL is as maligned as the Dallas defense, which has fallen all the way to No. 30 in DVOA in leading the team to a 1-6 against the spread record (4-3 straight-up) down the stretch.

That’s a tasty matchup for quarterback Nick Foles and the No. 2 ranked offense of the Eagles, a team that by the way isn’t too shabby. Philadelphia is 7-2 straight-up, 6-3 against the spread with Foles as the starter. They’re also 5-2 against the spread on the road this season.

The case for Dallas plus-6.5: The last passable game for the Dallas defense came when these teams first met. It doubled as Foles’ darkest hour, as the Eagles benched him in a 17-3 Cowboys massacre.

Although Dallas hasn’t officially ruled out quarterback Tony Romo, the spread moved four points in anticipation of backup Kyle Orton getting the start. While Orton is a clear downgrade, he’s also a veteran with a decent history taking points. Orton has gone 24-20-2 against the spread as an underdog throughout his career.

It seems appropriate that a home underdog would cash in the final game of the year in a season where they’ve bounced back to the tune of 43-38-2 against the spread. Dallas had one of those covers, when it lost to Denver 51-48 as 7.5-point underdogs in week 5. The Cowboys have managed to beat the spread in each of the three instances where they’ve taken points at AT&T Stadium since moving into the mega-venue four years ago.

Check below to find all of the Sun’s week 17 picks. Games are listed in order of their sports book rotation numbers.

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 46-46-4 (4-2 last week)

Falcons plus-6.5 vs. Panthers

Steelers minus-7 vs. Browns

Giants minus-3.5 vs. Redskins

Ravens plus-6 at Bengals

Eagles vs. Cowboys over 52.5

Patriots minus-9 vs. Bills

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion)

Record: 46-48-2 (4-2 last week)

Texans plus-7 at Titans

Bengals minus-6 vs. Ravens

Cowboys plus-6.5 vs. Eagles

Dolphins minus-6 vs. Jets

49ers minus-1 at Cardinals

Seahawks minus-11 vs. Rams

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 43-50-3 (3-3 last week)

Bears plus-2.5 vs. Packers

Titans minus-7 vs. Texans

Ravens plus-6 at Bengals

Cowboys plus-6.5 at Eagles

Vikings minus-3 vs. Lions

Raiders plus-12.5 vs. Broncos

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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