Last Updated: 2017-12-26
It is not easy for me to spend a day away from work. The sports calendar never stops. There is always something to talk about and something to write about. The Christmas holiday simply didn’t allow me the chance to write about everything I usually do on Mondays, so most things are pushed back a day, including this week’s Opening Line Report for the NFL.
Fortunately, this week is an odd duck in the NFL, in that the sportsbooks are going to be very cautious with the numbers that they post and may hold off on posting some. Teams have very different motivations this week. With those varying motivations, some players will play backup quarterbacks or sit star defenders in hopes of staying healthy for the postseason. There are a lot of playoff scenarios and battles for seeding that carry importance, but there are also some games that mean nothing more than pride. Is that worth fighting for in Week 17 of a lost season?
Some games are open across the board. Some games are only open at certain shops. We’ll sort through it all in the Week 17 Opening Line Report:
Cincinnati at Baltimore (-10, 40.5) – One of the “win and get in” scenarios this week belongs to the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens would make the playoffs with a Titans loss or a Bills loss as well. Notice that this game is atop the rotation order, but will be played at 4:25 p.m. ET. The NFL flexed this game to run alongside the other AFC Wild Card Chase games, with the Jaguars vs. Titans (no line), Oakland vs. LA Chargers (-7) and Buffalo (-3) vs. Miami. Cincinnati stepped up at home in Marvin Lewis’s final game in the Queen City. Will the Bengals have anything left here? The line suggests that they won’t, but the betting action is tilted towards the road team, with some shops down to 9.5.
Green Bay at Detroit (-7.5, 42.5) – The Lions are officially out of the postseason. The Packers already knew that they were going into Week 17. Detroit’s loss at Cincinnati sealed the deal for the NFC North hopefuls, so they will wrap up the season either 8-8 or 9-7. Some believe that teams will go out and play for a winning record. Others wonder how much it matters when the playoffs aren’t happening either way. Green Bay put Aaron Rodgers on IR and promptly got blanked by the Vikings, but the defense played quite well. Changes are coming in Green Bay. Will the players show up here? It’s really hard to say, but some shops are dealing -115 on the dog.
Buffalo (-3, 43) at Miami – The Bills still need help to end their long playoff drought. Buffalo hasn’t been to the postseason since 1999 and it looks unlikely this season. The Bills need either a win and a Ravens loss or a win and losses by both the Titans and Chargers. These Wild Card play-in games have all been flexed to the 4 p.m. timeslot, so Buffalo will be playing right alongside the other hopefuls. Going on the road with expectations is rare air for the Bills. Some shops opened right on -3. Others opened on -2.5. We haven’t seen a ton of movement either way, with reduced juice on the -3 and heavier juice on the -2.5.
Carolina at Atlanta (-4, 46.5) – The Panthers have punched a ticket to the postseason. The Falcons have not. If they win, they are in. The market knows that, so the opening line of -3 has been pushed up to -3.5 or -4 market-wide. Here, however, is the interesting thing about this game. A Panthers win and a Saints loss means that the Panthers win the NFC South. They would host the Wild Card Weekend playoff game against the Saints instead of going to New Orleans. Carolina could actually move all the way up to #2 if every domino fell in the Panthers’ favor. It is very unlikely, so the focus here is Atlanta making the playoffs or Carolina maybe winning the NFC South. Atlanta would still make the playoffs with a loss if the Seahawks also lose to the Cardinals.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-15.5, N/A) – The Steelers have an outside shot at the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs, but they’ll have to hope that New England loses as a similarly-sized favorite to the New York Jets. How invested will the Steelers be to send the Browns to 0-16? Who knows. What we do know is that backup QB Landry Jones does have a lot of experience and the Browns looked every bit of a winless team against the Bears this past weekend. This number comes from BetOnline, which opened -14.5, then moved to -16.5, and then back down to -15.5. Most of the market is not open.
Washington (-3.5, 38.5) at New York Giants – The end of era is the story at the Meadowlands this weekend. Eli Manning’s future with the Giants is cloudy at best. A new regime will be in place. The shops that opened the Redskins a three-point favorite for what could be Kirk Cousins’s final game with Washington are still there and those that opened -3.5 are also still there. This won’t be a very popular game, to say the least.
Chicago at Minnesota (-12, 39.5) – The Vikings are all but assured a bye. It isn’t clinched yet, but a Vikings win or a bevy or scenarios with a loss will give Minnesota a week off in the Wild Card Round. The Rams, who are currently third, cannot pass them. It would be the Panthers, the current #5 seed, that could get the #2 spot if everything goes right. Since it probably won’t, the Vikings can put it on cruise control this week. We’ll likely see some Teddy Bridgewater, which makes Minnesota an interesting squad laying a huge number. A lot of the notable players on both sides of the ball are likely to sit this week out, but a team playing for Teddy may show up.
Arizona at Seattle (-8, 39) – We’re kind of all over the market for this game, with Pinnacle at 7.5, BetOnline at 7, other shops at 9, and 8 serving as something of a consensus middle ground. The Seahawks need a win and an Atlanta loss. After last week’s no-show two weeks ago, it’s fair to see why some in the market prefer the Cardinals in early-week betting, but Seattle has something to play for after showing up last week and that should limit the Cardinals money.
Kansas City at Denver (-3.5, 39) – The wave of Broncos money is a little bit surprising, to be honest. The Chiefs are in and they cannot move. They will be the #4 seed win or lose. Patrick Mahomes II should get the start this week in place of Alex Smith and there is a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding the kid. Denver’s defense has gotten back on track over the last several weeks. Mahomes may be going into this game without guys like Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, so the deck will be stacked against him a bit, but he’s certainly an intriguing player to follow this week. This line opened -1 and Broncos money hit the board swiftly.
San Francisco at Los Angeles Rams (-4, 44) – The Jimmy G hype train rolled on for another week with a resounding win over the suddenly-slumping Jaguars. The Rams have absolutely nothing to play for this week. They’ll host a playoff game against an NFC South team and that’s about all that they know. They could finish third or fourth, but cannot move up. Punting that last game, though, can throw off a team’s rhythm going into the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how rookie head coach Sean McVay handles this spot and what Wade Phillips dials up to show to Jimmy Garoppolo.
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