FansBet NFL expert John Arnette returns for week 17 of the NFL with his enhanced acca preview and betting tips for the final round of regular season action. This week John has gone for the Giants -6, Jaguars +7 and Vikings -5 in his acca with his special bet recommendation coming from the Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens clash. Check out our betting preview and tips for the weekend and take advantage of our enhanced odds available.
Cowboys @ Giants
Giants -6 v the Cowboys at 1.94
The Cowboys have locked up the NFC East and they can’t improve their playoff seeding with a win this week, so this game is essentially meaningless for them. All indications are that the starters will play… for a while, anyway. When asked this week whether his starters would get a full workload on Sunday, Dallas head coach Jason Garrett was noncommittal, saying that those types of decisions are a “challenge you have” when you’ve clinched playoff seeding prior to Week 17.
Based on what we’ve historically seen in similar situations, I would be stunned if players like Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott saw a single snap in the 4th quarter, and that reality is reflected in the line, as the 5-10 Giants are a 6-point favorite here. Frankly, I think this would be a tough one for the Cowboys even if they were playing to win— the Giants have quietly turned things around over the second half of the season, going 4-3 over their past seven games and mostly playing well even in defeat, as evidenced by last week’s 28-27 heartbreaker against an Indianapolis team that was playing at home and desperately needed a win.
Rookie running back Saquon Barkley continues to be a difference-maker, and Eli Manning has found success through the air even without the injured Odell Beckham, lighting up the Colts last week for 309 yards while throwing only eight incompletions in 33 attempts. This week, in what may be his final game in a Giants uniform, Manning will look to conquer a Dallas defense that just surrendered 336 yards to Jameis Winston last week and— again, because it needs to be emphasized— may or may not be playing its best players.
Everything is set up perfectly for a feel-good final chapter to Eli’s storied career in New York. I expect the G-Men to win this one comfortably.
Jaguars @ Texans
Jaguars +7 v the Texans at 2.01
It’s been a massively disappointing season in Jacksonville, as just about everything has gone wrong for a Jags team that was one win away from the Super Bowl last season. The offense stagnated without injured running back Leonard Fournette, QB Blake Bortles regressed behind a banged-up and ineffective o-line, and the defense couldn’t live up to 2017’s lofty standards. When adversity struck, the team collapsed— Bortles was benched, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was fired, defensive stars lashed out against both teammates and the fanbase, and the coaching staff couldn’t come up with any answers.
After an egregious 30-9 loss to the Titans on a Thursday night in Week 14, the general consensus was that the Jags had laid down and ceased to give maximum effort. They were finished. Over the last two weeks, however, we’ve seen a spark of life. The 16-13 loss to Washington in Week 15 wasn’t pretty, but the defense played hard, holding the Redskins to just 245 total yards. The Jags couldn’t get anything out of the offense, particularly quarterback Cody Kessler, but they nearly won the game anyway.
Then, last week, they went down to Miami and manhandled a Dolphins team that was still alive in the playoff race, holding the Fins to just 7 points and 183 total yards. And we even saw some life out of the Jacksonville offense once Bortles replaced an ineffective Kessler in the 2nd half, as the former 1st-round pick was 5/6 passing and led the Jags on their final scoring drive. Bortles will get the nod in Houston this week, and with no real pressure or expectations, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had some success against a Texans defense that is worse statistically than you’d think, ranking 29th in the NFL against the pass.
The Texans need a win here, but they’ve lost 2 of 3 and will surely find the going tough against a Jacksonville defense that ranks in the top-5 in both yards allowed and points allowed. Something tells me this one will be closer than the “experts” think.
Bears @ Vikings
Vikings -7 v the Bears at1.91
After a long and tumultuous season, it’s all come down to this for the Vikings: beat division-rival Chicago at home on Sunday, and you’re in the playoffs. Lose, and you’re likely out. Of course, beating the Bears is no easy task— only one team, the New York Giants, has accomplished the feat since October, and the Vikings themselves tried and failed back in Week 11, going to Chicago and falling 25-20 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.
But despite their gaudy record, the Bears have shown signs of slippage in recent weeks, particularly on offense, as they’ve averaged fewer than 20 points per game over their last four victories and haven’t topped 25 points since Week 10. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a mediocre pocket passer whose effectiveness has been greatly limited since opposing defense became aware of his scrambling ability, and the receiving corps certainly isn’t scaring anybody.
The Vikings have an excellent defense that ranks 3rd in the NFL in both total yards allowed and pass yards allowed, so they should make life difficult for Trubisky, just as they did in Week 11, when they held him to 165 passing yards and intercepted him twice. The question, then, is whether Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense will be able to get anything going against the fantastic Chicago defense. Cousins did throw for 262 yards the last time he met these Bears, but he was largely ineffective for the first 3 quarters and turned the ball over twice.
He’s surrounded by terrific skill-position talent, however, and lately he’s finally been getting some help from a running game that has been dormant for much of the season. The Vikes have now won back-to-back games for the first time since October, and you get the feeling that they’re playing better than they were six weeks ago, while the Bears may be playing a bit worse. All things considered— the venue, the stakes, the quarterbacks— I think Minnesota is a good bet to cover the 5-point number.
NFL Week 17 Best Bet – Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
Recommendation: Cleveland +6.5 at 1.91
The Browns have been a playoff-caliber team since Gregg Williams replaced Hue Jackson as head coach in late October, and they’ve taken their bettors for a very profitable ride over these past six weeks. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield looks like the long-term answer at the position, and his fellow rookie, RB Nick Chubb, is already one of the top backs in the AFC. The defense has turned it around, too— after surrendering 30+ points four times in the season’s first nine games, the Browns have held 5 of their past 6 opponents to 20 points or fewer despite facing four Pro Bowl quarterbacks in that stretch.
This week they get to play spoiler, as the Ravens would win the AFC North with a victory here but would likely miss the playoffs with a loss. Based on what we know about Mayfield, “spoiler” seems like a role he would relish, and Williams is not expected to be given the permanent head-coaching job even after his remarkable work this season, so I fully expect Cleveland to match Baltimore’s intensity level here— both teams will be laser-focused on winning this game. It should be a playoff-like atmosphere.
Of course, the Browns are going to need more than intensity and effort if they hope to pull off the upset— they must find a way to crack a Ravens defense that has been the NFL’s best by almost any measure, leading the league in both yards allowed and points allowed. This won’t be a game where Mayfield slings it 40 times, and if it is, it’s not a good sign for Cleveland. The teams that have had success against the Baltimore defense this season have been able to run the ball— specifically, they’ve been able to run it between the tackles. Carolina, Pittsburgh, New Orleans… in all three of those teams’ victories against Baltimore, the quarterbacks failed to reach 300 yards passing, but the running game produced 100+ yards and averaged better than 4 yards per carry. It’s a difficult formula— being an excellent running team while also having a quarterback capable of keeping defenses honest— but it’s what you need against the Ravens, and it’s a description that fits this Browns offense pretty well. Baltimore should expect a heavy dose of Nick Chubb in this game, but Mayfield can certainly hurt them if they decide to crowd the box.
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens are led by a rookie QB of their own, but unlike the Cleveland offense when they switched from Tyrod Taylor to Mayfield, Baltimore has actually become significantly more one-dimensional since handing Jackson the keys. This is out of necessity, of course— Jackson is a great runner who also happens to be one of the worst pocket passers in the entire NFL, if not the single worst. He’s attempted 25 passes or fewer in all six of his NFL starts, and last week was the first time he’s reached the 200-yard mark, finishing 12/22 for 204 yards in a win over the L.A. Chargers. The Baltimore passing attack can best be described as remedial at this point, and Gregg Williams’ defenses are known for their aggressiveness, so I fully expect the Browns to roll the dice with plenty of man coverage and pressure looks in an attempt to rattle Jackson and force him to put the ball in the air. This is going to be a real fight for the Ravens— Cleveland has been playing some good football, and Baltimore has vulnerabilities on offense that can be exploited. I look for a close, hard-fought game here, the type of game where 6.5 points could really come in handy. Gimme the Browns.
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