Saturday, January 22, 2022

NFL Week 17 best bets: Eagles can smell postseason, plus Steelers give Ben Roethlisberger one last home win

Had a solid enough Week 16. Went 2-1. I can live with that. Brings us to 22-17 on the season. The COVID factor remains very significant and is altering the landscape of many of these games by the day as new positive results trickle in and as players return from the reserve/COVID list as well. Even doing these picks on Friday gives me pause because there has been more Saturday afternoon roster activity this season than I can ever recall before — especially when it comes to players previously believed to be available suddenly becoming out for basically five days.

So, buyer beware in general here. There are still way more variables at play than we would experience pre-pandemic.

That in general has led me to be fairly judicious with how I make these picks, wanting to limit the sample size because of so much uncertainty. We’re going to stick with that philosophy this week.

Philadelphia Eagles -3.5 at Washington Football Team

Latest Odds: Washington Football Team +4.5

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I have been riding the Eagles with some regularity in this space, believing them to be a playoff team and a value play since the middle of the season. Seems Vegas was slow to come around on this, and even now this line looks low to me. Especially with COVID continuing to wreak havoc on WFT. The Eagles figured out who they were and what they do and the coaching staff generally puts Jalen Hurts in position to succeed. They run the ball on everyone, and the WFT defense is certainly hurting right now. 

This won’t be as one-sided as two weeks ago, but the Eagles tend to get better as the game goes along and Washington tends to not, and Philly will wear down this depleted roster over four quarters and win by a touchdown or more. Sure, Miles Sanders is out, but the scheme is the star here — along with Hurts in option looks — and lest we forget just two weeks ago the Eagles beat WFT by 10 at home and ran for 238 yards. Going to Washington won’t be a problem: the Eagles are well-rested from barely having to travel in the second half of the season and they can smell the playoffs. Their defensive front will give WFT fits, especially with no Antonio Gibson as a pressure valve and they will better their seven QB hits from the first meeting.

Pittsburgh Steelers +3 vs. Cleveland Browns (Monday)

Latest Odds: Pittsburgh Steelers +3.5

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Big Ben’s final home game (in all likelihood). A Monday night football crowd with the playoffs on the line. Facing a Browns team that ended its season in Pittsburgh a year ago. Renegade.

What am I missing here? 

Mike Tomlin doesn’t have losing seasons and every time it looks like the Steelers are left for dead, they save their season. The Browns have been a stumbling and bumbling bunch, the offense cannot put up points — just like Pittsburgh — and not having Jack Conklin at right tackle is going to be a big deal on the road as T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward take turns harassing Baker Mayfield. The Steelers had no business beating Baltimore or Tennessee in their last two homes games but won both. Watt had five sacks, 18 pressures, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in those two games. I suspect he will be the difference here as well.

The Browns don’t seem to have that same belief and swag they had a year ago, and they are walking into a hornets nest here. Even if the Steelers don’t run the ball that well, they will eat clock and get carries. My only concern is Pittsburgh’s porous run defense, but the unit held the Browns under 100 yards rushing in its twin at Cleveland and Kevin Stefanski has been a little too pass-happy lately as well. The Steelers are turning teams over at home with great regularity and that has become a big issue for this Browns team. This is a moneyline play for me as well. I think the Steelers win outright.

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