NFL Betting Predictions: Week 17 Opening Line Report and Picks
Being as this is my final Opening Line Report story of the 2017 season - although of course we will have you covered through the Super Bowl here at Doc's - let's project what next Monday might look like around the league: i.e. Black Monday, when disappointing teams generally fire their head coaches.
It could be an unprecedented year of coaching turnover as now every NFL owner wants his general manager to find the next Sean McVay, the clear Coach of the Year favorite with the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams at just 31 years of age. Here are the teams I believe will make a change and the current coaches: New York Jets (Todd Bowles), Cincinnati Bengals (Marvin Lewis), Cleveland Browns (Hue Jackson), Houston Texans (Bill O'Brien), Indianapolis Colts (Chuck Pagano), New York Giants (Ben McAdoo already has been canned), Detroit Lions (Jim Caldwell), Chicago Bears (John Fox), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Dirk Koetter) and Arizona Cardinals (Bruce Arians - he probably steps away on his own due to health reasons).
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The "hot" coordinators this offseason are expected to be Patriots OC Josh McDaniels and DC Matt Patricia (although most owners are going to lean offense because that sells more tickets), Vikings OC Pat Shurmur and DC George Edwards, and Eagles OC Frank Reich and QBs coach John DeFilippo. Maybe DC Jim Schwartz too. Keep in mind that teams can only interview coordinators on playoff teams if said club has a first-round bye. Otherwise, they have to wait until the team is eliminated. But the Eagles and Patriots have earned a bye, and Minnesota can in Week 17.
The Bengals reportedly are interested in the Redskins' Jay Gruden and Browns' Jackson if they are let go; both are former Cincinnati offensive coordinators. You hear more and more chatter that Jon Gruden is finally ready to leave the ESPN booth and return as the Bucs' coach. He lives in the area and already is calling around the NFL in regards to gauging interest of possible assistants. There will no doubt be props on most of these openings at sites like Bovada once the jobs official open.
Here are some Week 17 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Browns-Steelers, Jaguars-Titans or Panthers-Falcons as I will be previewing them here individually.
Packers at Lions (-7.5, 43): Caldwell's fate was likely sealed with Sunday's inexplicable 26-17 loss at a Bengals team that that had completely quit on the season and had been outscored 80-14 in its previous nine quarters. That eliminated Detroit from wild-card contention. Tion Green's 5-yard TD run to give the Lions a 17-16 lead at 9:49 of the fourth quarter and was Detroit's first rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter in more than two years. That's almost impossible to believe. I'd be a bit surprised if Matthew Stafford plays here as there's just no point and he's banged up. Plus, three starting offensive linemen missed the Cincinnati game. The Packers were eliminated from the playoffs in Week 15 and then barely showed up Saturday night in a 16-0 home loss to the Vikings. Crazy story in that teams around the league believe the Packers should be forced to put Aaron Rodgers on waivers. Gee, think he would be claimed? That's because he was put back on injured reserve last week but not because of any new injury. NFL rules require that a player must have suffered a new injury that would sideline him at least six weeks to be placed on injured reserve. If that's not the case, the team is obligated to release the player when he is healthy. Obviously, the NFL isn't going to make the Packers put Rodgers - who would have played Week 16 if the game mattered -- on waivers, but you could see some sort of rule change and/or fine. The Pick: Love the "under," especially if Stafford sits it out (total would drop if so, however).
Saints at Bucs (+7, 50.5): New Orleans has clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2013 and wins the NFC South with a victory or a Panthers loss in Atlanta. The Saints can't get a first-round bye, however. Perhaps no team had a better 2017 draft than New Orleans, which landed big-time contributors in defensive back Marshon Lattimore (potential NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year), offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, safety Marcus Williams and running back Alvin Kamara (he will be the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year) within the first 67 picks. In Sunday's win over the Falcons, Drew Brees joined Brett Favre and Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with at least 70,000 career passing yards. Tampa dropped its fifth straight Sunday, 22-19 at Carolina despite 367 yards passing from Jameis Winston. He had another childish outburst on the sideline, though. That's Job No. 1 for Gruden to fix. The Saints routed the Bucs in Week 9, 30-10. The Pick: Buy Saints down to -6.5 and take them.
Bengals at Ravens (-9.5, 40.5): I could see the Ravens moving on from Coach John Harbaugh if they lose this game and miss the playoffs. Baltimore can earn a wild-card spot by either beating the Bengals, the Titans losing at home to the Jaguars or Bills losing at the Dolphins. The Ravens can't get in if they lose while both the Bills and Titans win as Baltimore would lose the 9-7 tiebreaker. A victory here sends the Ravens to AFC West champion Kansas City in the wild-card round. Baltimore did all it could Saturday in trying to hand a win to the Colts as the Ravens dropped two potential interceptions, fumbled twice and got a punt blocked, but they prevailed 23-16. Cincinnati snapped its three-game losing streak with that upset of the Lions. Top linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned after missing two games with a concussion, but hurt his right shoulder shortly before halftime and didn't return. Rookie running back Joe Mixon, who also missed the previous two games with a concussion, left with an injured right ankle in the first quarter. Baltimore opened the season with a 20-0 win in Cincinnati. The Pick: Ravens and under.
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