The (expanded) playoffs are coming but, well, the end of the 2020 NFL regular season is here. The first 16 weeks were quite interesting, to say the least, but there are some intriguing match-ups to monitor in the season finale. Of course, there are also some hideous football game set to take place, with nothing on the line for one or both teams taking the field. As such, Week 17 is always a minefield, and you should consider that a disclaimer in this space.
With that said, Week 16 was a nice uptick for us and, before we dive into this week’s card, it is time to take stock of the full-season progress.
- Week 16: 4-1
- 2020 Season: 39-39-2
Come get these winners.
New York Giants (+1.5) over Dallas Cowboys
This is a somewhat rare must-win for both teams in Week 17, but it could also be completely irrelevant. Washington actually holds the keys to the NFC East title, but they won’t be playing until Sunday evening. As such, the winner of Giants-Cowboys will stay alive in pursuit of a playoff berth and, at least in my view, this line is silly. The Giants were as high as 3.5-point favorites on the look-ahead, but New York lost three games in a row, which took away some of the public steam. At the same time, Dallas showed life recently, but this is an overreaction of the highest order. Give me the G-Men at home getting the small number.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+9) over Cleveland Browns
Mason Rudolph is playing quarterback for Pittsburgh, and that is the biggest reason this number is nine. I get that it isn’t ideal to back Rudolph against a team that absolutely has to win, but this number is still inflated. Cleveland is dealing with COVID-related issues, and Pittsburgh isn’t resting everyone. They are planning to play their defensive strongholds by all accounts, and Mike Tomlin also has a tremendous track record of success when leading his team as an underdog. Oh, and the Browns just can’t be laying nine points against a real team in this spot. They should win, but no thanks.
Baltimore Ravens (-12) over Cincinnati Bengals
This is weird, and I know it. Our ethos does not usually align with laying double-digits on the road in the NFL, but this is an exception. Baltimore should be at least a 14-point favorite in my view, with Cincinnati receiving a bump in the market because of their performance last week. Let’s just say the Ravens, who need to win this game for their season, will not be deploying a defense similar to Houston’s from Week 16, and Baltimore has been lights-out in recent weeks.
Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers UNDER 46.5 points
The Niners don’t have anything to play for, but this is a real rivalry and San Francisco’s defense should show up in a spoiler role. From there, I don’t trust Kyle Shanahan’s crew to do all that much offensively and, for better or worse, Seattle has decided to really grind things out offensively again in the last several weeks. It’s not a massive edge, but this is my favorite total of the week. Root for punts and field goals.
Los Angeles Rams (+3.5) over Arizona Cardinals
This is hideous, but I secretly love it. This is a must-win on both sides, but Los Angeles doesn’t have its quarterback in Jared Goff or one of its best weapons in Cooper Kupp. The Kupp absence is a big one, but the line movement (from the Rams being a substantial favorite previously) is due to Goff. John Wolford is making his first start and, yes, the line should move when accounting for a virtual unknown. At the same time, this move is far too significant, especially if you believe that Goff is a product of the system, rather than a player that the Rams have built around specifically. Los Angeles has the (much) better defense and the better head coach. Kyler Murray is terrifying, but he’s not 100 percent healthy, and the opportunity to get more than a field goal at home with the Rams is too juicy to pass up.