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Sunday, 28 December 2014

NFL Week 17 Picks 2014 (December 28th)

The majority of the Play Off places have been taken, but there are still some elements to clear up including Seeding in both Conferences as we reach the final week of the regular season. Last season saw Week 17 have a whole bunch of games that had Play Off implications, but that isn't the case this time around.

With the way that Christmas has landed this season, it does mean that the picks for the final week of the regular season are the only thing I have concentrated on, although there will be a few more minimum stake ones with a lot of meaningless games on offer.

Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins Pick: Any team that is going to be playing in the Wild Card Weekend of the Play Offs next week need to be second guessed as to whether they will give their starters enough time to win games this week. Week 17 doesn't really matter to either the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Redskins in the grand scheme of things, but Jason Garrett seems determined to make sure the Cowboys keep winning going into the Play Offs and practice has seen the starters playing this week at their usual rep level.

It will be interesting to see how much Washington have left considering the effort they put into ruining the Philadelphia Eagles season and the likes of DeSean Jackson put in a huge emotional effort into that game. RG3 hasn't been consistent either this season and I wonder if he can back up a relatively good game that he produced last week.

Prior to that win over the Eagles, Washington had been a mess on both sides of the ball and while I do think they can have success against this Dallas Cowboys Defense, I also think Tony Romo, if given a full game or close to a full game, can really carve up the Secondary of the Redskins.

DeMarco Murray is unlikely to receive his usual level of carries out of the backfield, but Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle can establish the run and that should only mean Romo can make the plays downfield. Washington's Secondary is banged up and the Offensive Line hasn't had the best season protecting the Quarter Back which makes me believe Dallas can go into the Play Offs with another win behind them.

Dallas haven't been the greatest favourite to back, but they have an impressive 6-1 record against the spread on the road and they have been a team that has excelled at revenging a loss under Jason Garrett. When you consider Washington are just 2-5 against the spread at home this season and are coming off a hugely emotional win, I think the Cowboys can record an impressive win to take some confidence in their first Play Off appearance for a few seasons.

Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans Pick: This is a meaningless game for both teams, but I do think there is still something for the Indianapolis Colts to achieve by putting together a strong performance here and definitely more than the Tennessee Titans can achieve. The Colts are looking for some momentum to take into the Play Offs next weekend after being embarrassed by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16, while Tennessee would likely hurt themselves by winning the game and ruining their place in the NFL Draft.

However, this is a Divisional game and players will have some pride to try and end their 9 game losing run and give the Tennessee fans something to enjoy. Unfortunately for the Titans, I just don't think they are a very good team and Charlie Whitehurst doesn't inspire at Quarter Back for them. He might make some plays against the Indianapolis Defense which has struggled at times this season, although mainly against the better teams in the NFL, but it is a big ask for the third string Quarter Back to win the game.

Without an effective running game, Whitehurst will be under immense pressure behind an Offensive Line that has been porous and it may be tough for Tennessee to do much Offensively having scored 31 points in their last three games combined.

Indianapolis' Offense was completely out of sync in their loss at Dallas, but the return of TY Hilton and facing this Tennessee Secondary should give Andrew Luck a real chance to get on the same page as his Receivers. Hilton's ability to stretch the field should open up the passing lanes for some of the other Receivers Indianapolis have and Luck should be able to carve up Tennessee in this game.

A concern would be how long Chuck Pegano decides to play his starters, but all the noise coming out of Indianapolis suggests he wants to put in a momentum earning performance. The Colts have been a decent favourite to back all season and they have continued to dominate their Divisional rivals who they own a 13-2 against the spread record since Andrew Luck arrived in Indianapolis.

The Titans have had additional time to prepare for this game but they are 3-9 against the spread as the underdog this season and they have dropped to 2-13 against the spread against Divisional rivals over the last three seasons. That includes a 0-5 against the spread record against them this season under Ken Whisenhunt and I like Indianapolis to cover.

San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs Pick: Since the Alex Smith injury was revealed and it was stated that he would miss this game against the San Diego Chargers, the layers have chopped down the amount of points given to the road team although Kansas City remain a small favourite. That could be down to the fact that the Chiefs will put in a huge effort to ruin the San Diego season as well as the injury that Philip Rivers is dealing with, but I think the public underdog looks the right team to back.

Chase Daniel has 200 passing yards and 1 Touchdown in his Week 17 appearance against the San Diego Chargers last season and he will be fortunate to have both Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis at Running Back who could have some real success against this Defense.

Rivers will also need to deal with the very impressive Kansas City pass rush that should cause him some problems, but he has shown he is willing to take a hit and make the throws downfield. Like Daniel, Rivers will also be able to hand the ball to Brandon Oliver who should make some plays running the ball and this looks like a chance for Rivers to cement his place as one of the better Quarter Backs in the NFL.

The Chargers have won twice in a row at Arrowhead Stadium so this San Diego team should not be intimidated by having to come here and win to make the Play Offs and they are 3-1 against the spread as a road underdog of 3 points or fewer this season.

Over the last three seasons, Kansas City are a poor 1-4 against the spread as the home favourite of a Field Goal or less and San Diego have so much motivation behind them to win this game. While the Chiefs would love to spoil their Divisional rivals season, I can see Brandon Flowers making a huge play against his former team and giving the Chargers the sixth spot in the AFC Play Offs.

New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins Pick: After putting in a huge effort to try and derail the New England Patriots season and with a loved Head Coach already clearing his office in anticipation of being fired, the New York Jets might have too much to deal with from an emotional level to be able to compete in this final game of the season.

There is no doubt that the players in New York love playing for Ryan, so they might want to raise their game to give him a fitting farewell present, but the Jets really had to dig deep within themselves a week ago and I am not sure how much is left in the tank.

However, the Jets showed when they met the Miami Dolphins at home that their Offensive Line is capable of opening holes for the Running Backs to take advantage and I think Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson can continue doing that for them. It will make it easier for Geno Smith to make some plays too and prove he is capable of becoming the franchise Quarter Back that the Jets have been craving for a long time, although the Jets have to finish drives with Touchdowns and not Field Goals as they did against the Patriots and in the first game with Miami.

The Secondary of the Jets has been a problem, but that is not really where the Offense of the Miami Dolphins concentrate on attacking, unless down big as they were against the Vikings last week. Ryan Tannehill had some big numbers in that game, but this Jets Defensive Line will give him some issues and the short passes will be music to the ears of Ryan who can devise another strong game for his team.

New York have been good against the spread when trying to revenge a loss and the Dolphins are not a good favourite to back. I am restricting stakes because of the effort the Jets put in last week, but I will take the points.

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots Pick: No one can really second guess Bill Belichick and what he wants to do as the Head Coach of the New England Patriots, but it would be something of a surprise if he decides to rest his starters and perhaps risk the team losing their rhythm ahead of the Play Offs. The bye and home field have been secured, but the Patriots weren't quite on the same page against the New York Jets last week and that could be a risk to go into the Play Offs without the Offense at least trying to put some points up.

This is a meaningless game against the Buffalo Bills who were knocked out of Play Off contention by losing at the Oakland Raiders last week. There has to be some real disappointment that the Bills couldn't give themselves a chance going into the final week of the season as the longest Play Off drought in the NFL continues for another year.

Marcel Dareus could be missing on the Defensive Line which may at least give Tom Brady a little more time to make his plays from the Quarter Back position and New England have dominated the Bills with 13 straight home wins against them.

Kyle Orton will get the chance for the Buffalo Bills despite some people calling for Doug Marrone to check what EJ Manuel has learned on the bench over the last couple of months. Orton is a limited Quarter Back and might not have much help on the ground in this one which means he is throwing against a Secondary that has been playing better and better as the season wore on.

The Bills have been a strong underdog to back this season, but New England will be looking for more momentum and I like the Patriots to cover. With the season already over for Buffalo, they might not have a full effort in the game and the Patriots could run away with this one as long as they keep the starters in for at least three quarters.

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: The NFC South will be won by a team with a losing record and that winner will be decided on Sunday afternoon with the Carolina Panthers visiting the Atlanta Falcons.

Both teams have actually been playing with some momentum in recent weeks and may feel they will have a 'winnable' Play Off game as they could potentially be hosting the Arizona Cardinals next week which makes this a very important game.

The Panthers have won 3 in a row and Atlanta have won all 5 Divisional games they have played, and they do have Julio Jones back fully healthy for this game.

I like Carolina with the points in this game because I do think they are about as healthy as they have been all season and Cam Newton showed no discomfort from the automobile accident he had a couple of weeks ago when playing last week. The Panthers have also found something of a pass rush in the absence of Greg Hardy and may put some pressure on Matt Ryan who isn't backed by a deep rushing Offense and is also missing Steven Jackson.

Ryan should still be able to hit the likes of Jones and Roddy White downfield, but I think the Panthers can control the clock with their power running game and keep the Falcons Offense on the sidelines. Running the ball effectively will also open things up for Newton to hit Greg Olson and Kelvin Benjamin up the field and the Panthers did win here outright last season.

It would have been a lot more fun getting the points from the start of the week, but even the three points being offered look like they could be productive and I will back Carolina in this game.

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers Pick: The Green Bay Packers have been incredible at home this season and haven't lost to the Detroit Lions here for over two decades and the expectation is that they prove too good again while winning the NFC North and earning a bye in the Play Offs next week.

While Detroit have struggled to run the ball this season, their Defensive Line has been very stout and the key for the Lions is getting Matt Stafford to play one of his better games on the road. Stafford hasn't been as effective on the road and it could be cold for a team that plays in the Dome, although Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate are two Receivers that can win their battles.

However, Stafford has to be given time by the Offensive Line which is dealing with a Green Bay team that have changed where they line up the likes of Clay Matthews, which in turn has improved their ability to get to the Quarter Back.

Aaron Rodgers is likely to be under pressure too from the Detroit Defensive Line, particularly if his calf is still bothering him from last week. However, Rodgers has been very good at home and has the ability to move around in the pocket and allow his Receivers to get free and earn some big gains.

However, this is a Defense that has seen Rodgers often enough to know some of his tendencies and have given him some trouble in the past, although mainly back at Ford Field rather than at Lambeau. I can see the the Lions slow down Rodgers to keep him below the 41 points he is helping the Packers average at home this season, although I do think Green Bay still win the game.

That might only be by a Touchdown because Stafford should have success throwing the ball to his own Offensive weapons and I will take the points in this one.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers Pick: The AFC North is up for grabs on Sunday Night Football and both the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers have to feel they would have a better chance of progressing in the Play Offs by hosting a game next week rather than visiting the Indianapolis Colts.

That makes this an important game for both teams with the winner becoming the Number 3 Seed in the AFC and the loser getting ready to go on the road and I do think the Pittsburgh Steelers have a slight edge.

I'd always favour Ben Roethlisberger over Andy Dalton in a big game, even if that didn't work so well for me last week when picking Peyton Manning to beat Dalton in a primetime game. However, the Cincinnati Bengals had a huge game Defensively which was an exception to their general performance this season and I actually think the Steelers Offense is in a better place than Denver right now.

Big Ben should be able to hurt Cincinnati downfield if Le'Veon Bell tramples all over the Bengals as he did when the teams met in Cincinnati and Roethlisberger has a number of Offensive weapons that are capable of plenty of yards after a catch.

Jeremy Hill should have a solid game for the Bengals too as long as they don't get away from the run too early, although he will need AJ Green's presence just to keep the Steelers honest. However, I don't think I am ready to trust Dalton to make the big throws under pressure with so much on the line and that is where the Steelers could force a turnover that allows them to win this game.

One concern is the very good 6-1 record against the spread that Cincinnati have as the underdog this season, although they haven't been that good at trying to avenge a loss. The Steelers are notoriously one of the worst favourites to back too, especially as a fairly big home favourite, but this Pittsburgh team is playing with some momentum and I will back them to win this one by a Touchdown at least.

MY PICKS: Dallas Cowboys - 3.5 Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Indianapolis Colts - 7 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
San Diego Chargers + 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
New York Jets + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
New England Patriots - 5.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
Carolina Panthers + 3 Points @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Detroit Lions + 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Pittsburgh Steelers - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Week 16: 5-6, - 3.55 Units
Week 155-4, + 1.56 Units
Week 142-10, - 14 Units
Week 134-7, - 6.36 Units
Week 123-6, - 4.36 Units
Week 115-4, + 1.20 Units
Week 104-2, + 3.90 Units
Week 94-3, + 1.42 Units
Week 81-8, - 13 Units
Week 78-1, + 11.20 Units
Week 62-3-1, - 2.46 Units
Week 53-4-1, + 0.84 Units
Week 44-4, + 0.02 Units
Week 38-2, + 9.82 Units
Week 25-3, + 1.50 Units
Week 13-6, - 3.18 Units

Season 201465-73-2, - 15.45 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

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