Thursday Night Football and NFL Week 17 Best Bets
Wednesday was a day of catching up on some bowl previews and tracking the lines on our NFL Week 17 Best Bets, including Thursday Night Football.
It was also very profitable with a win on our Best Bet on Texas Tech (+3.5) as the Red Raiders beat Mississippi 42-25 in the Texas Bowl. We also won our second play of the day with the NHL’s Red Wings (+175) beating the Penguins 5-4 in OT. That wasn’t as easy as the Red Wings fell behind 4-0 and we were wondering where the “swagger” was from them snapping a 6-game losing streak in their prior game, but they then scored 5 unanswered goals to get us the cash.
The Texas Tech win snapped a 2-game losing streak of our own, so we improved to 38-22-2 ATS (63.3%) with our daily top play the last 62 days. We’re pretty proud of that as we haven’t seen anyone else doing that over a nearly 9-week run to end the calendar year and sincerely hope our readers have been along for the ride on most of the plays (it should have paid for your VSiN subscription and then some!).
Let’s get to our daily recaps of yesterday’s betting action in the major sports and then our Best Bet for Thursday Night Football. Then, as has become our custom here, we’ll repeat our Wednesday column in which we give our “takes” on the full NFL Week 17 schedule, including our original post on tonight’s game. We then add updates in italics based on how the lines are moving.
CFB: Texas Tech (+3.5) upset Mississippi 42-25 in the Texas Bowl late Wednesday (stayed Under betting total of 72.5 points). Oregon (-13) rallied to beat North Carolina 28-27 in Holiday Bowl, but didn't cover (stayed Under 76.5). Earlier, Arkansas (-1.5) outlasted Kansas 55-53 in 3OT at Liberty Bowl, covering vs. the closing line but not earlier, higher lines (went Over total of 70.5 even before the OTs) and Duke (-3) covered in 30-13 win vs. Central Florida in the Military Bowl (stayed Under 62.5).
More CFB: Faves went 3-1 SU on Wednesday, but split 2-2 ATS. The upset was by Texas Tech (+3.5) while North Carolina (+13) covered in loss. Unders led 3-1.Overall in bowl season, faves improved to 16-10 SU while dogs still lead 14-12 ATS (53.8%). Unders improved to 16-9-1 (64%).
CBB: LSU beat No. 9 Arkansas 60-57 as 4-point home underdog. Missouri upset No. 19 Kentucky 89-75 as 3-point home dog. In Wednesday's only game between Top 25 teams, No. 8 Alabama beat No. 21 Mississippi State 79-67 as 1.5-point road favorite.
NBA: Faves/dogs split 4-4 SU, but dogs dominated 7-1 ATS. The upsets were by the Warriors (+4.5 vs. Jazz), Bulls (+2.5 vs. Bucks), Wizards (+2.5 vs. Suns) and Pistons (-102 vs. Magic). The Hawks (+7 vs. Nets), Timberwolves (+6.5 at Pelicans) and Nuggets (+3 at Kings) all covered in losses. Home teams 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS. Over/Unders split 4-4.
More NBA: On the season, faves lead 327-186 SU with 9 game closing pick-'em, but dogs improved to 261-236-16 ATS (52.5%). Home teams lead 319-203 SU and 270-237-15 ATS (53.3%). In totals wagering, Overs lead 267-249-6 (51.7%).
NHL: Faves went 3-2 on Wednesday. The upsets were by the Red Wings (+175 at Penguins) and Ducks (+143 vs. Golden Knights). Road teams went 3-2 while Unders led 4-1. On the season, faves lead 324-207 with 16 PKs. Home teams 285-258 with 4 neutral-site games. Unders 268-257-22.
NFL Thursday Best Bet
Titans +12.5 vs. Cowboys: Yes, we know the Titans have lost five straight games and are 0-4-1 ATS during that run. And their No. 30 offense is even worse with QB Ryan Tannehill being out with a right ankle injury and replaced with rookie Malik Willis. This line opened Cowboys -9.5 at the Westgate SuperBook on Sunday afternoon, but when it crossed the semi-key number of 10, I couldn’t resist taking the Titans. Double-digit underdogs are 14-8 ATS (63.6%) this season, but are actually perfect at 4-0 ATS when they’re at home: Panthers +13 vs. Buccaneers in Week 7, Texans +14 vs. Eagles in Week 9 (also on Thursday Night Football), Jets +10.5 vs. Bills in Week 9 and Texans 14 vs. Chiefs in Week 15. With the move to Cowboys -12 at most books on Wednesday (as high as 13 at the Westgate) with Derrick Henry downgraded to doubtful, I like it even more.
Here's the rerun of our weekly column, including updates in italics:
Welcome to the weekly Wednesday version of “Tuley’s Takes Today” where we break down the complete NFL Week 17 card with our “takes” on each game, and even if we don’t have a Best Bet on a given matchup, we give our “pool play strategy,” especially for those in contests where they have to make a pick on every game.
After one of our best weeks in NFL Week 15, we had one of our worst in Week 16 as we went 2-5 ATS with our top plays as we had wins on the Texans +3.5 and Cardinals +7.5 but losses on the Bears +8.5, Patriots +3, Falcons +7, Eagles +5.5 and Colts +5. Fortunately, we cut our losses with 2-team, 6-point teasers starting with the Jaguars on Thursday Night Football and continuing on Christmas Eve with the Saints, Panthers, Texans, 49ers and Raiders.
So, let’s get to the NFL Week 17 schedule, and then – as has become the custom here – we’ll update this column in our daily “Tuley’s Takes Today” columns through the weekend..
Note: Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of early Wednesday morning unless otherwise noted. Check out VSIN.com's live NFL odds page for current odds.
Dallas Cowboys (-10) at Tennessee Titans
Yes, we know the Titans have lost five straight games and are 0-4-1 ATS during that run. And their No. 30 offense is even worse with QB Ryan Tannehill being out with a right ankle injury and replaced with rookie Malik Willis. This line opened Cowboys -9.5 at the Westgate SuperBook on Sunday afternoon, but when it crossed the semi-key number of 10, I couldn’t resist taking the Titans. Double-digit underdogs are 14-8 ATS (63.6%) this season, but are actually perfect at 4-0 ATS when they’re at home: Panthers +13 vs. Buccaneers in Week 7, Texans +14 vs. Eagles in Week 9 (also on Thursday Night Football), Jets +10.5 vs. Bills in Week 9 and Texans 14 vs. Chiefs in Week 15. With the move to Cowboys -12 at most books on Wednesday (as high as 13 at the Westgate), I like it even more.
Best Bet: Titans +12 (pool play: Titans in my rare ATS contests that use TNF, but Cowboys in all my SU pools). Thursday update: See Best Bet section above as Titans are up to +13 at some books.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
When it was announced that the Panthers (6-9) still controlled their own destiny in the NFC South, a lot of people chuckled, but no one is laughing now as they’re within a game of the Buccaneers (7-8) and go for the season sweep on Sunday. The Panthers dominated the Lions on both sides of the ball in their 37-23 win on Christmas Eve as they ran for a team-record 320 rushing yards and Sam Darnold added 250 passing yards and a TD. Carolina is 4-2 in its last six games and 5-1 ATS. Tom Brady pulled another Houdini act in rallying the Buccaneers to a 19-16 OT on Christmas night to stay atop the division. The Bucs’ No. 6-ranked defense continues to keep them in games and rely on Brady to work his late-game magic. That didn’t work in the first meeting in Week 7 as the Panthers shut down the Bucs until allowing a field goal with 9:33 left in the game on the way to a 21-3 victory. I love getting points with a team that has already shown they can beat the other team.
Best Bet: Panthers +3 (pool play: Panthers 60/40 in ATS contest – lower at 2.5 – but Buccaneers 60/40 in SU pools). Thursday update: A few books are showing added juice on Panthers +3, so grab it ASAP.
Cleveland Browns at Washington Commanders (-2.5)
The Commanders (7-7-1) are trying to hold onto the last NFC wild-card spot in the middle of a QB controversy. After not playing since Week 6, Carson Wentz replaced an ineffective Taylor Heinicke and went 12-for-16 for 123 yards and a TD in the loss at the 49ers last Saturday. This line isn’t expected to move much regardless of who Ron Rivera names as the starter. The Browns (6-9) are 2-2 SU and ATS since Deshaun Watson took over after his suspension, but they’re playing good enough to stay within one score (in fact, they’ve lost by more than 8 points just twice all season), so we’ll use them in our teaser portfolio. In Sunday’s early games, the best 2-team, 6-point teaser is Browns +8.5/Dolphins +8.5 and we’ll also use with Seahawks +8 in the afternoon and the Bengals +7.5 on Monday Night Football (if you like teasing favorites down below a field goal, you can also look at Eagles -1, Lions pick-’em, 49ers pick-’em or Chargers -0.5).
Best Bet: Browns +8.5/Dolphins +8.5 and other teasers (pool play: Commanders 55/45 in ATS contests and 60/40 in SU pools).
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles (-7)
The Saints (6-9) still have a prayer in the NFC South, but must win their last two games (at Eagles and vs. Panthers) and also have the Buccaneers lose their last two games (vs. Panthers and at Falcons) due to being swept by Tampa Bay this season. Since losing that second meeting in 17-16 vs. the Bucs, the Saints have won two in a row over the Falcons and Browns. Their No. 9 defense is the main reason the Saints have any chance as they’ve allowed an average of 15.6 points per game in their last eight games. The offense used backup QB Taysom Hill (56 rushing yards and a TD) more in the backfield with Alvin Kamara (76 yards, 1 TD) in the frigid conditions in Cleveland last Sunday as Andy Dalton wasn’t asked to do much. With Jalen Hurts sidelined, the Eagles (13-2) still need one more win to clinch the NFC East and also the NFC’s No. 1 seed and first-round bye. Gardner Minshew (24-for-40, 355 yards, 2 TDs) was more than serviceable in the 40-34 loss at the Cowboys on Christmas Eve, but did throw 2 INTS and fumbled twice, losing one. But it was the Eagles’ No. 2 defense that let them down the most, allowing 419 yards and squandering a 27-17 third-quarter lead. The Saints defense' fares better against pocket passers like Gardner Minshew and will continue to try to grind out wins with their QB-by-committee, or at least stay within the spread.
Best Bet: Saints +7 (pool play: Saints 60/40 in ATS contests – higher at 7.5, lower if only offered 6.5 – but Eagles still 70/30 in SU pools). Thursday update: We were ahead of this line move as it's down to 6 at most books and even 5.5 at others.
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5)
When I’m going over the next week’s schedule when the lines are posted on Sunday afternoons, the plays usually jump off the page at me. But I’ve waffled more than usual when it comes to this game. The Cardinals did come through for us on Christmas night vs. the Buccaneers, but I’m not sure if I can pull the trigger here. I probably will if Colt McCoy returns at QB as long as the line stays above a field goal as the Falcons are just 1-1 ATS in the unfamiliar role of being favored, failing to cover as 4-point favorite vs. the Panthers in Week 8 and covering as 2-point fave vs. the Bears in Week 11, winning by a FG each time. Check back later in the week to see if I add the Cardinals as a play.
Best Bet: Pass for now (pool play: Cardinals 55/45 in ATS contests, but Falcons 60/40 in SU pools).
Jacksonville Jaguars (-4.5) at Houston Texans
The Jaguars have actually passed the Titans to become the favorites to win the AFC South, but they’re another team in the unfamiliar chalk role after so much success as underdogs. Don’t forget that they were 7-point home favorites when the Texans upset them 13-6 in Week 5. They’re 0-3 SU and ATS as chalk as they also lost to the Giants in Week 7 and the Broncos in Week 8. Besides, the Texans are playing even better now than they were in that first meeting as they nearly beat the Cowboys in Week 14 and Chiefs in Week 15 before upsetting the Titans on Saturday. They would love to play spoiler against their AFC South rivals.
Best Bet: Texans +4.5 (pool play: Texans 60/40 in ATS contests, but Jaguars still 60/40 in SU pools).
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-6)
The Lions qualify as yet another team in the unfamiliar role of favorite (they lost badly last week in a 37-23 loss as 2-point road faves at Carolina, though they did cover their preview two games as chalk vs. the Jaguars and Vikings). Justin Fields’ improvement has made the Bears competitive, but they’ve lost eight straight games since their upset of the Patriots in Week 7 and only 2-6 ATS in that span. We’ll pass even though the Lions have the No. 32 yards allowed per game – unless this steams to +7.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Lions 60/40 in ATS contests and 75/25 in SU pools).
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-2.5)
The Dolphins were actually short favorites earlier this week until it was announced Tua Tagovailoa was back in the concussion protocol as the line flipped to New England -2.5. The Patriots need to win as they’re one game behind the Dolphins for the AFC’s last wild-card berth. They had their chances last Saturday in their 22-18 loss vs. the Bengals as their No. 8 defense again gave them a chance but the offense came up short. Teddy Bridgewater will start for the Dolphins if Tagovailoa isn’t cleared in time. He didn’t fare too well when subbing for him earlier this season (3 TDs, 3 INTs), but has a long history of coming through for bettors as he’s 42-21-1 ATS (66.7%) in his NFL career. We’re not as confident in him pulling the minor upset, but this completes my top teaser in the early Sunday games.
Best Bet: Dolphins +8.5/Browns +8.5 and other teasers (pool play: Patriots 55/45 in all SU and ATS contests).
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-13.5)
As we stated in the Cowboys-Titans game, NFL double-digit underdogs are 14-8 ATS this season (granted, just 10-8 ATS for big road dogs). As great as the Chiefs can be, they’re just 2-2 ATS when laying 10 or more points, and that includes me grading the closing line at 15.5 when they beat the Rams 26-10 in Week 12 while some dog players were able to get +16.5 for a win or +16 for a push. They tend to let teams stick around, though they did cover -10 in their 24-10 win vs. the Seahawks on Christmas Eve. In the first meeting between these AFC West rivals just three weeks ago in Week 14, it wasn’t double digits as the Chiefs were favored by 9, but failed to cover in a 34-28 win. As terrible as the Broncos have been all year, this line is again too high. And don’t forget that teams often play well after a coach is fired as the players try to save their own jobs for next year (see Jeff Saturday winning his debut with the Colts vs. the Raiders this year). We don’t even need that, just for the Broncos to again stay within two TDs.
Best Bet: Broncos +13.5 (pool play: Broncos 67/33 in ATS contests, but Chiefs still 90/10 in SU pools). Thursday update: This is another game moving in our direction, so hopefully followers grabbed it earlier.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants (-5.5)
Speaking of the Colts (4-10-1 in a lost season), the offense looked worse than ever on Monday Night Football in their 20-3 loss at the Chargers with RB Jonathan Taylor out and Nick Foles in at QB. I would normally love to fade an overachieving team like the Giants (8-6-1) as they haven’t been favored since losing to the Lions in Week 11 as 3-point chalk. But I can’t trust the Colts again.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Giants 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools). Thursday update: Line is up to 6, but I'm still passing.
New York Jets (-2) at Seattle Seahawks
I’m not alone in saying these two teams have been tough to figure out all season. Both are clinging to wild-card hopes, though they both need some help. This line was pick-’em and went to Jet -2 when it was announced that New York QB Mike White was cleared to play. The Jets have the edge with the No. 3 defense in the league in yards allowed per game while the Seahawks rank No. 29. Still, I don’t expect White and Co. to run away in a rout, so we’ll tease the Seahawks through the key numbers of 3 and 7 at home. This is our lone teaser option in the afternoon slate of games, so if you haven’t already linked the Seahawks with an earlier game, the best option is to use them with the Monday nighter.
Best Bet: Seahawks +8/Bengals +7.5 and other teasers (pool play: Jets 55/45 in all SU and ATS contests, and hopefully we middle it with our teaser play). Thursday update: line is down to 1.5, but still teasable over a TD.
San Francisco 49ers (-6) at Las Vegas Raiders
These former Bay Area neighbors are heading in opposite directions. The 49ers (11-4) have won eight games in a row, including 7-1 ATS, even with needing to go with third-string QB Brock Purdy. The San Fran defense is No. 1 in yards allowed per game and gives up just 15.3 points per game while the offense averages 25. The Raiders were back in the wild-card discussion but blew late leads to the Rams and Steelers in two of their last three games. If anything, this line seems too short at anything less than 7.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: 49ers 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 80/20 in SU pools). Thursday update: Line has steamed to 49ers -10 with the Raiders replacing Derek Carr with Jarrett Stidham -- I might have to get on the Raiders as double-digit dogs, but waiting to see how high this line goes.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-3.5)
The Pack is back. Sort of. Seen as dead less than a month ago, the Packers (7-8) have won three straight games and are still alive in the NFC wild-card chase, though they still need some help. The Packers are still a middling team at No. 16 in total offense and No. 17 in total defense on the season as they try to get back to .500, but the defense has stepped up by allowing an average of 17 points per game in the winning streak while Aaron Rodgers and the offense have picked up the pace, averaging 26 per game in the three wins. The Vikings (12-3) escaped with another narrow win in their 27-24 victory vs. the Giants on Greg Joseph’s 61-yard FG as time expired. They are still hoping to catch the Jalen Hurts-less Eagles for the NFC’s No. 1 seed and first-round bye. Kirk Cousins and the No. 12 offense is carrying the team as the defense is ranked No. 31 and often has Cousins playing from behind. These teams met in the season-opener with the Vikings dominating in a 23-7 win after closing as 2-point favorites. I would usually be all over an underdog in this spot, but I just fear that if the Eagles win in Sunday’s early window that the Vikings will have even less incentive to put forth a top effort even against a hated division rival.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Vikings 55/45 in ATS contests but Packers 60/40 in SU pools).
Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5)
Before the season, this was a marquee matchup and was actually scheduled as the Sunday Night Football game before being flexed out. The Rams (5-10) are putting together one of the worst seasons for a defending Super Bowl champion while the Chargers (9-6) have already secured an AFC wild-card spot. We usually love fading the Chargers as favorites, but they burned us Monday night against the Colts and this line seems a little too short.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Chargers 55/45 in ATS contest and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-3)
This game was flexed to the Sunday Night Football spot. The Ravens have already clinched an AFC wild-card spot while still trying to catch the Bengals in the AFC North. The Steelers (7-8) are somehow still alive for a playoff spot and are trying to win their last two games to help coach Mike Tomlin avoid his first losing season. We’re still waiting to hear if Lamar Jackson will return for the Ravens, though Tyler Huntley has done enough (though only two offensive TDs) to go 2-1 in the last three games, including a 16-14 win at these same Steelers three weeks ago as the defense hasn’t really picked up the slack in Jackson’s absence, allowing an average of just 11.3 points the past four weeks. If this line was 3.5, I would consider taking the points with the Steelers, but it doesn’t look like it’s headed that way.
Pass (pool play: Ravens 55/45 in ATS contests – higher at 2.5 – and closer to 65/35 in SU pools). Thursday update: line has dipped to 2.5, so we're looking to add it to our teaser portfolio.
Buffalo Bills (-1.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Monday nighter is the game everyone is talking about as it’s the only Week 17 matchup with both teams sporting winning records. The Bills (12-3) are trying to hold off the Chiefs for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and first-round bye, with the defending AFC champion Bengals (11-4) just a game behind as this game could have a huge impact on playoff seeding. After an 0-2 start, the Bengals are arguably the hottest team in the league at 11-2 SU and 12-1 ATS. The Bills, who still have the No. 2 offense and No. 7 defense, but they let teams stick around a lot as they’re only 5-8 ATS in their last 13 games, and that includes covering as 7.5-point favorites in a 31-23 win vs. the Browns in Week 11 that a lot of people graded at -8 and a push. We believe the Bengals will be in this the whole game, so we’ll tease them up over a TD. We’ll have some teasers from Sunday to the Bengals, but if you don’t have those, I’d go with teasing the Under to 55.5 as this should be a playoff atmosphere.
Best Bet: Bengals +7.5/Under 55.5 and other teasers (pool play: Bills 55/45 in all SU and ATS contests). Thursday update: line down to 1, making it a dicier teaser play, but still leaning that way.