Somehow, there's only two weeks of regular-season football remaining.
Week 17 of the NFL season got underway on Thursday night with the Dallas Cowboys earning a victory over the Tennessee Titans and pushing as a 14-point favorite. The week continues on Sunday with 14 games before the week is capped off on Monday night. Today, we're taking a look at three pairs of games on this weekend's schedule with similar point spreads and deciding which side we'd rather take if we were forced to make a choice.
Detroit Lions or New York Giants?
The Detroit Lions were in decent shape in the NFC entering last week before losing to the Carolina Panthers. Now, the Lions need to win out and get some help if they want to make the playoffs. This week, Detroit is a 6-point home favorite against the Chicago Bears. Elsewhere, the New York Giants can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Giants are 6-point home favorites. Which home favorite fighting for the playoffs would you rather back?
Greg: Detroit’s defense was playing well until it traveled down to Carolina and got tuned up for 320 yards on the ground. Was that embarrassing performance an aberration or is that who they really are and what we witnessed was them coming back down to earth? Maybe they just ate too much Bojangle’s before the game. We already saw Chicago hang with the Lions earlier this season when they ran for 258 yards but ended up blowing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Bears lead the NFL in rushing yards per game (179.7) and that’s how they’ll keep it close.
If Nick Foles couldn’t handle constant pressure at home from a Chargers defense that gets the seventh-lowest pressure rate on quarterbacks (18.6%), how is he going to handle it on the road against a Giants defense that leads the league in QB pressure rate (24.7%) and blitz percentage (40.1%)? Indy’s offensive line ranks 32nd in pass block win rate. This is an awful matchup for a Colts team that I’m not convinced is even trying to win games at this point. New York’s defense blasts them harder than Jim Irsay blasts cigs and the Giants clinch a playoff berth while Indianapolis improves their draft position. Give me Big Blue.
Pete: The Lions-Bears total is set at 52 points, which makes it the highest total of the week by a wide margin. It wouldn't be all that surprising to see the Bears hang with the Lions in a back-and-forth shootout. We already saw that play out earlier this season when the Lions squeaked out a 31-30 win in Chicago. We thought the Lions fixed their defense, but last week showed that might have been a premature declaration. I wouldn't feel comfortable laying six points with this defense at all, especially with Chicago being more than capable of running the ball just like Carolina did.
The Giants have a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday in front of their home fans against a Colts team that seemingly gets more pathetic every week. Giants fans won't see a home playoff game so their fans can treat this game like one. Nick Foles doesn't look like he belongs starting NFL games in 2023 based on what we saw last week. Giants win comfortably and turn MetLife Stadium into a party on Sunday. I'm with Greg, give me the Giants.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Green Bay Packers?
Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers enter the week with losing records, but both are still alive in the playoff race. The Buccaneers can clinch the NFC South with a victory over Carolina on Sunday. Tampa Bay is a 4-point favorite. Elsewhere, the Packers have won three straight games and need to continue that run. Green Bay needs to win out and get some help from Cleveland this week or Dallas next week against Washington. The Packers are 3.5-point favorites at home over the Minnesota Vikings. Which legendary quarterback would you rather lay over a field goal with in a big game?
Greg: I’d be willing to give my 2024 presidential vote to any person who can ensure the unpalatable Bucs don’t make the playoffs. This single-issue voter is looking at you, Steve Wilks. Tampa’s offensive line continues to struggle, granting Tom Brady just 1.88 seconds to throw the ball last week. Carolina’s front seven has some bad hombres who can swing the outcome of this game. I wish Jaycee Horn wasn’t out for this one, but the Panthers beat the Bucs 21-3 without him in Week 7.
Jaire Alexander calling Justin Jefferson’s 9/184/2 annihilation of the Packers a “fluke” is an all-time sour grapes moment. Green Bay’s offense has started to click in the second half of the season and should put up a lot of points against a Vikings defense that ranks 26th in dropback EPA. The Packers are terrible against the run, but Minnesota has been equally awful at running the ball, posting the fifth-fewest rushing yards per game (94.5). Aaron Rodgers and the Pack pull it out at home to keep their playoff hopes alive. I’ll take Green Bay.
Pete: At this point, if you're still betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I think we need to consider donating your brain to science. The Buccaneers haven't covered a betting spread on North American soil since Week 2. Their only cover since then came against Seattle in Germany. The Buccaneers are 3-11-1 against the spread on the season. I was guilty of it to a point as well thinking that Tom Brady would magically snap them out of this and the Buccaneers would figure things out. I think we have to stop that. You couldn't pay me to lay over a field goal with a team that needed overtime to beat Trace McSorley last week. Carolina plays hard.
It just feels like Green Bay is going to do this thing. That's the vibe I'm getting at least. Aaron Rodgers and the offense have been much better over the last month. We've talked all year about Minnesota being a bit fraudulent, and I don't love a dome team going to Lambeau in January. Green Bay keeps this thing going at least another week with a home win over the Vikings.
Buffalo Bills or New York Jets?
The Buffalo Bills could go a long way in reaching their goal of the top seed in the AFC with a win on Monday night over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bills are 1-point road favorites in Cincinnati. Elsewhere, the New York Jets look to keep their playoff hopes alive with a road victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The Jets are 1.5-point road favorites. Which road favorite would you rather back?
Greg: Jets fans are only happy when they’re miserable, so the return of Mike White puts them in a tough spot. Geno Smith, meanwhile, is writing back like a homesick soldier as his team trends downward harder than Tesla stock. If Seattle’s offense isn’t grooving, they’re dead in the water, and I don’t see them scoring much against a Jets defense allowing the fourth-fewest points per drive. I heart New York in this one.
I have this unshakeable feeling that the Bengals are headed back to the Super Bowl. Their offensive weapons aren’t going to let them down and that defense is no joke. This will be a great test for both of these teams. An MVP-level performance from Josh Allen may be the Bills’ only route to victory here, and we haven’t seen much of that recently. I think the Bengals get the win, but I’m not quite dumb enough to bet against Allen. I’m flying with the Jets.
Pete: I hate it when we agree on all three games, but that looks to be the case this week. Imagine a year and a half ago someone would have told you that Mike White gave the Jets a much better chance of winning a football game than Zach Wilson. Well, that's certainly the case. New York has given up one defensive touchdown in each of their last two games and somehow lost both. If the offense improves from dreadful to below average, that'll be huge for them. On the other side, it seems like the Seahawks have run out of steam. They've lost three straight and five of six. The Jets have had similar struggles, but Mike White's health gives us some hope.
The Bengals-Bills game is a true toss up. The Bengals have been an ATM for NFL bettors as they've covered in 20 of their last 23 games dating back to least season. It's just not a team I'm interested in betting against right now. I'm not convinced the Bengals are any worse than the Bills, and with Cincinnati at home in a primetime spot, I think they have a very good chance or earning this win. Give me the Jets.