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This is the penultimate week of the NFL regular season and the Circa Million IV contest. But, the Bill-Bengals Monday Night Football bout is the only Week 17 game between two winning teams.
Week 16 Recap (2-3):
- Bills at BEARS (+8.5) ❌
- BENGALS (-3) at Patriots ✅
- Packers at DOLPHINS (-3.5) ❌
- Raiders at STEELERS (-2.5) ✅
- Texans at TITANS (-3.5) ❌
My slump continues after a third consecutive losing week, falling into a tie for 1,170th place of 4,683 Circa Million entries with a 41-35-4 record.
Here are the Circa Million IV lines for NFL Week 17 followed by my picks …
Circa Million IV NFL Week 17 Picks
Listed by order of confidence. First is most confident, and fifth is least.
- Steelers (+2.5)
- Dolphins (+3)
- Browns (+2.5)
- Saints (+5.5)
- Bears (+6)
Circa Pick #1: Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5) at Baltimore Ravens
The NFL rightfully flexed Steelers-Ravens up to Sunday Night Football considering all the other crappy games scheduled Sunday. Bills-Bengals couldn’t be flexed up because it’s a MNF game.
That said, you always take the underdog in these AFC North slug matches. Since 2012, underdogs of +2.5 or more in this Steelers-Ravens series is 13-2-2 against the spread (ATS).
Baltimore beat Pittsburgh 16-14 as 1.5-point road underdogs in their first meeting this season earlier this month. Steelers rookie QB Kenny Pickett exited early with a concussion and backup QB Mitch Trubisky blew the game.
Pittsburgh converted five more first downs and out-gained Baltimore 6.2-5.1 in yards per play (YPP). But, Trubisky three 3 INTs, all on Baltimore’s side the field and the Steelers went 0-for-4 in the red zone.
If we get this kind of production out of Pittsburgh’s offense this time around, the Steelers +2.5 should be easy money. Pittsburgh’s defense is much better with T.J. Watt on the field and Baltimore’s offense is atrocious without Lamar Jackson.
Watt is a force multiplier and forms a Steel Curtain alongside Steelers LB Alex Highsmith and DT Cameron Hayward. The Ravens haven’t scored more than 17 points per game since backup Tyler Huntley replaced Lamar in Week 13.
Circa Pick #2: Miami Dolphins (+3) at New England Patriots
Miami can clinch an AFC playoff berth with a victory. vs. New England and a New York Jets loss at the Seattle Seahawks Sunday. If the Patriots lose, their season is over.
My first, and main, factor of this handicap is the line movement since news broke Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa would be sidelined with a concussion.
The Dolphins opened as 2.5-point favorites and, post-Tua news, Miami fell to as far as +3. Dolphins second-string QB Teddy Bridgewater is one of the best backups in the NFL and has experience from a similar situation.
Bridgewater went 5-0 in relief duty for an injured Drew Brees while playing for the New Orleans Saints in 2019. Granted, Bridgewater hasn’t looked great when backing up Tagovailoa this season.
But, at the end of the day, there isn’t 5 points worth of difference between Bridgewater and Tua. Bridgewater has the arm strength and veteran savviness to make all the throws Tagovailoa can make.
The Dolphins were cruising vs. the Packers last week prior to Tua’s concussion. Green Bay ended up beating Miami 26-20 because a concussed Tagovailoa threw 3 INTs.
If Tua spoke up about his concussion earlier in the game, the Dolphins could’ve replaced him with Bridgewater and still would’ve beat the Packers. Miami out-gained Green Bay 8.4-4.6 in YPP.
If you asked New England coach Bill Belichick if he’d prefer Bridgewater or Patriots QB Mac Jones, Belichick is saying “gimme Teddy.” Jones is awful and fading him has been one of my best moves in this season.
New England’s defense has six TDs and Jones has passed for 9 TDs. Jones has the second-worst QBR in the NFL. He has zero game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks. Miami’s defense dudes and this is the exact situation a talented defense steps up.
Circa Pick #3: Cleveland Browns (+2.5) at Washington Commanders
There’s an expression in football handicapping that says, “teams in a ‘must-win’ must not be that good.” Cleveland’s season is over and Washington is holding to the final NFC wild-card seed for dear life.
But, again, if the Commanders were that good, they wouldn’t be in this position. Washington’s motivational edge is already accounted for the number.
Home teams usually get a 2.5-to-3-point bump for home field so the “Commanders -2.5” is the House’s way of saying Washington is only slightly better than Cleveland, if at all.
Commanders coach Ron Rivera going from QB Carson Wentz to QB Taylor Heinicke back to Wentz for Week 17 wreaks of desperation and confusion.
Also, Browns QB Deshaun Watson has struggled since being reinstated in Week 13. But, if people are selling Watson’s stock as a quarterback (football-only) then I’m buying. Especially in this spot.
The strength of Washington’s defense is the defensive line whereas Cleveland offsets that with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Anyone comparing Watson’s contract to Broncos QB Russell Wilson is doing so prematurely. Wilson has been a disaster and Watson is just rusty. I’m literally betting that Watson turns it around this week or next.
Finally, there is more money on the Browns and more bets have been placed on the Commanders in the consensus market, according to Pregame.com.
Typically, the cash column is considered the sharp side of the betting splits because professionals wager a lot more dough than your average Joe.
Circa Pick #4: New Orleans Saints (+5.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Saints-Eagles opened up with Philadelphia as 7-point favorites but that has trickled down all week. Presumably, Eagles injured QB Jalen Hurts will miss his second straight game and backup QB Gardner Minshew gets another start.
This line movement toward New Orleans is almost certainly professional money. Per VSIN, roughly 80% of the action and cash at DraftKings Sportsbook is on Philly.
Minshew looked pretty good last week vs. the Cowboys. Yet he did throw 2 INTs and had several close calls. Going from Hurts to Minshew is definitely a downgrade and I’d argue it’s greater than 1.5 points.
On top of that, the Saints have an above-average defense — 12th in points per play and seventh in YPP allowed — and the Eagles are missing one of their best players: RT Lane Johnson.
Philly is 3-10 overall since 2020 in games Johnson has missed. Also, if it weren’t for bad turnover luck, NOLA would have a better record. The Saints has a -12 turnover margin but ranks sixth in net YPP.
Lastly, New Orleans’ offense can have success Sunday. The Eagles have a banged-up secondary and the weak part of Philadelphia’s defense is stopping the run. Philly is 24th in yards per rush allowed.
Circa Pick #5: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
The Bears are the last team to make my Week 17 Circa Million IV card because they burned me last week and vs. the Lions earlier this season.
Chicago got crushed by Buffalo 35-13 at home last week despite Bills QB Josh Allen throwing a couple of bad INTs. The Bears also lost to the Lions 31-30 in a game Chicago should’ve won.
Detroit tied Chicago 24-24 in the fourth quarter thanks to a horrible pick-six by Bears QB Justin Fields. Plus the Bears out-gained the Lions 7.0-5.5 in YPP. But, they were 0-for-1 on fourth-down attempts with nine penalties for 86 yards.
Also, I’m anticipating a bounce-back game from Fields. He gained just 11 yards on seven carries last week vs. the Bills but Detroit’s defense is light years away from Buffalo’s.
Fields has a shot at breaking the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season and he rushed for 147 yards on 13 carries with 2 TDs.
Again, we are fading the narrative of this being a “must-win” for the Lions. They are in this spot because they kinda suck too. Detroit is 24th in net YPP and 25th in net EPA/play.
Lastly, road ‘dogs in division games are 28-18-1 ATS in 2022.
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