NFL Week 17 Damage Report: Changes in the Betting Landscape

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NFL Week 17 Damage Report: Changes in the Betting Landscape

Week 17 in the NFL was one for the ages; the week caused many NFL fans to ask “What the hell?” more often than any other week of the 2021 season, both in a positive fashion, such as in response to record-breaking stat lines or comeback wins, and a negative fashion, like the response to the continued ineptitude of the New York teams or a star receiver deciding to realize his dream of becoming a male stripper mid-game.

When the dust settled, most of the NFL playoff picture was in place. Green Bay has locked up home-field advantage in the NFC, where six of seven playoff berths are clinched, and Tennessee regained the AFC lead thanks to Cincinnati’s comeback win over the Chiefs. Five AFC playoff spots are clinched, and Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas are in tight contention for the final two spots, which sets up the Week 18 matchup between the Chargers and Raiders as a play-in game.

With most of the NFL playoff field locked in and few consequential games in Week 18, bettors who have not already been on Conference and Super Bowl winners will start to turn their attention that way; this article will get you ready with odds from DraftKings.

AB out of Tampa Bay

If Sunday was the end of receiver Antonio Brown’s time in the NFL, which seems probable, it was a sadly fitting end to the receiver’s career. A week after posting 10 receptions for over 100 yards in a win against the Panthers, Brown quit the team midway through Tampa Bay’s comeback win over the Jets, ditched half of his uniform, and did some bare-chested jumping jacks on his way out of the stadium in the top “what the hell” moment of the NFL weekend. If Brown’s antics don’t prevent him from getting into Canton, NFL fans can only hope his bust will be from the waist up.

Unsurprisingly, none of this phased Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who reverted to his New England roots as he continued his dominance of the Jets. Brown’s defection is a blow for the Buccaneers, particularly on top of their recent rash of injuries, but Brady is still at the controls, which will give Tampa Bay a chance when they get to the playoffs. Every player in the Buccaneers’ starting lineup was a Pro Bowl-caliber performer with Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, and Brown in the fold, but Tampa Bay still has Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski, as well as receivers such as Cyril Grayson and Breshad Perriman, who can play complementary roles around Tampa’s lead weapons.

Tampa’s drop-off in talent would be more significant in some NFL seasons, but given the red flags around the Rams, Cowboys, and Cardinals, Brady’s presence puts the Buccaneers firmly in contention behind the Packers, who are the obvious favorite after clinching the NFC’s top seed on Sunday.

TeamDraftKings NFC Odds
Green Bay+175
LA Rams+400
Tampa Bay+450
Dallas+550
Arizona+1000
San Francisco+1600
Philadelphia+2200
New Orleans+6000

The Packers, who saw quarterback Aaron Rodgers put on a ball placement clinic in Sunday Night’s victory over the Vikings, and the Saints, who are clinging to playoff hopes despite significant obstacles at the quarterback position, stand out as the top contender and a non-contender, while the other six NFC teams split neatly into two groups. The Rams, Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Cardinals have all shown the ability to play at an elite level on both sides of the ball, but have been unable to do that consistently, while the Eagles and 49ers are run-heavy teams who rely on the ground game to support their quarterbacks.

It is a surprise to see the Rams ahead of the Buccaneers on DraftKings’ board; despite Tampa Bay’s recent obstacles, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford turned in another “what the hell” performance, a sight that has become all too familiar during his first season in Los Angeles. The Rams won despite Stafford’s performance, which included a pick-six, and their ability to win despite their quarterback’s miscues is likely driving their odds, but it seems like a stretch to put a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady behind a team quarterbacked by Stafford at this juncture.

The Buccaneers, Rams, Cowboys, and Cardinals have all played at an exceptionally high level for stretches of the NFL season, but given how Rodgers is playing, any team hoping to go into Lambeau and pull out a win will need to put on one of their better performances, and whether any of those four teams will do that in a given week seems like a crapshoot. Brady’s ability to elevate his team, which was once again on display in Tampa’s comeback win, arguably gives the Buccaneers the best chance of derailing Green Bay, but the Packers will be favored when they take the field in the Divisional Round regardless of their opponent.


Joe Burrow is a Dude

The Bengals came into this season with the longest odds, by a considerable margin, to win the AFC North. On Sunday, second-year quarterback Joe Burrow led his team to a comeback win over the Chiefs to clinch the division.

Even diehard Bengals fans wouldn’t have imagined their team would have the option to rest their starters in the final week of the NFL season, but Burrow has done the same thing he did in his time at LSU, stepping into a program and raising it to a championship level. The cast around him, from the front office to the coaching staff to his teammates, have done their part, but it was the addition of Burrow that allowed everything else to happen.

Rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase and left tackle Jonah Williams have validated last year’s draft-day decision to take Chase and give Williams another opportunity after two injury-ridden seasons. Williams has not played to the level of Chargers rookie Rashawn Slater, the second offensive tackle selected in last year’s NFL Draft, but he has been good enough for this offense to play at an elite level, and Chase has been outstanding. Chase’s mid-season drop issues prevented him from breaking the NFL’s rookie records, but he has produced in clutch moments and rivalry matchups, with no better example than his sideline catch on 3rd and 27 that set the Bengals up in the red zone for a walk-off win against the Chiefs.

Chase, who posted 11 catches for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns, is one player in an exceptional class of rookie playmakers who posted “what the hell” type of numbers on Sunday and will be hot topics of discussion in next year’s fantasy draft. While Chase set the single-game rookie receiving record, Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts joined the legendary Mike Ditka as the only rookie tight ends with 1000-yard receiving seasons in NFL history, and Lions rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown showed he might be the steal of the draft, as the former fourth-round pick posted two carries for 23 yards and a touchdown along with eight receptions for 111 yards and a second touchdown. St. Brown has thrived with both Jared Goff and Tim Boyle at quarterback, and his shift to the “offensive weapon” role the 49ers and Falcons created for Deebo Samuel and Cordarrelle Patterson has allowed St. Brown to get touches in a variety of ways.

The performance of Cincinnati’s young cast over the last two weeks has made them a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They are not a perfect team, but they knocked off the Chiefs, who are arguably the best team in the NFL, in spectacular fashion this weekend. The AFC contender picture is difficult to sort out; Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a “what the hell” kind of game in his three-interception performance against the Falcons, but there isn’t a quarterback in the AFC who hasn’t had some similarly baffling performances this season, and Allen was the best player in the NFL in Week 16. Such ups and downs in performance make it difficult to predict what NFL fans will see once the playoffs roll around.

TeamDraftKings AFC Odds
Kansas City+225
Buffalo+300
Tennessee+500
New England+750
Indianapolis+800
Cincinnati+900
LA Chargers+1600
Las Vegas+5000
Baltimore+10000
Pittsburgh+25000

The AFC will likely come down to which of the conference’s talented quarterbacks is hot for the playoffs, and there are several potential values at DraftKings. If we assign each team a 50% chance of winning each game, the one seed has a 25% chance to win the AFC and the other six teams have a 12.5% chance, which arguably makes the Titans a value at +500 (break-even 16.67%), given that they are likely to beat the Texans and clinch the top seed this week. It could be a good week to bet on the Chiefs, given their dip in odds following Sunday’s loss; were it not for the odd sequence that allowed the Bengals to run the clock down, Patrick Mahomes would have had an opportunity to tie the game or win it outright on the game’s final possession, but he never got the ball back.

Beyond the favorites, the Bengals may offer the best value. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and while Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill, New England’s Mac Jones, and Indianapolis’ Carson Wentz all have had their moments, it is easy to envision Burrow lifting the Lombardi Trophy after his performances in the last two weeks.

Bad Teams Stuck in their Ways

Week 18 features high-profile matchups, including the Chargers and Raiders and 49ers and Rams, but with the NFL season drawing to a close, many teams have already turned the page to 2022, and for a handful of hard-luck organizations, the future appears as bleak as the present.

Giants head coach Joe Judge went on a post-game rant about how his organization “isn’t a clown show”, a “what the hell” type of comment that seems like a bad sign regardless of whether the statement is true. Judge also set the bar for competence at not having his players fight on the sidelines, a thinly-veiled shot at the equally inept Washington Football Team, who had a brief glimmer of hope in 2020 before the Curse of Daniel Snyder exacted its vengeance on veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick along with defensive end Chase Young and a once-promising defense.

With Dallas reclaiming a spot among the NFL’s most talented teams and the Eagles making the playoffs with the quarterback tandem of Jalen Hurts and Gardner Minshew, who cost less than two million combined, and three first-round picks in the upcoming draft, it is difficult to see the Giants or the Football Team competing in 2022.

Things are as bad for the other team in New York, where their inability to communicate a play call during a timeout helped the Jets snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson has improved in recent weeks, but his stock is down after his rookie season, which is also true of last year’s first overall pick, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was overmatched against Bill Belichick and the Patriots on Sunday. The beatdown that the Patriots, who are also quarterbacked by a rookie in Mac Jones, put on the Jaguars was a reminder that while there are a few exceptional quarterback talents, most signal-callers will rise and fall with their organization. The shortcomings of the Jets’ young, inexperienced coaching staff and the disaster that was Urban Meyer are big reasons why the top two picks from last year’s draft have flopped.

Justin Fields faces a similar challenge in Chicago, where the Bears will presumably join the Jaguars on the head coaching market given how Matt Nagy’s tenure has gone. Injuries have been a significant issue for Fields, but the lack of talent on the roster around him is as big a problem, and as Chicago traded this year’s first-round pick to move up for Fields, it will be difficult to make significant upgrades in one offseason. Granted, Chicago should be happy to have Fields, given that quarterback-needy teams like the Panthers, Lions, and Texans have picks at the top of a draft that features a lackluster quarterback group, but it is hard to see Chicago putting an average supporting group around Fields by next year, particularly when Nagy is starting aging veterans like Jason Peters over Teven Jenkins, a rookie drafted in the second round whose development is crucial to the team’s future.

In all, there are nine teams in the NFL with records of 6-10 or worse, and all of them could be drafting in the top fifteen again two years from now. Seattle stands out as the likeliest exception, as they still have Russell Wilson at quarterback, but they also sank an exceptional amount of draft capital and cap space into safety Jamal Adams, who some NFL analysts see as an average player. However, those who point to Seattle’s current lack of resources as a reason to trade Wilson need look no further than Detroit’s situation for a counter-argument; draft capital is great, but if the picks don’t align with a quarterback, a franchise can end up in the unenviable position of searching for a dude at the game’s premier position for a very long time.

Conclusion

This article recapped developments from around the NFL this weekend. For more of The Professor’s content check him out on BeerLife Sports!

About the author:

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.

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