The holiday time brings with it lots of things every year. Between the hustle and bustle of family events, coupled with everything else that the season brings, sports can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. While the Broncos vs. Raiders game may have been on a lot of televisions on Christmas Eve, not many people probably got the chance (or cared) to tune in and watch.
The holidays can also be very thought-provoking, too. “What the heck is the green stuff in this casserole my great aunt brought?” “How many glasses of spiked eggnog has Cousin Eddy had?” “What on earth can I do with a size XXL neon sweatshirt grandma? I only wear a medium.”
In all seriousness, though, the holidays provide a great opportunity to reflect and think about life. One thing I found myself thinking about during some downtime this holiday season was the true greatness of professional athletes. I pondered on end about what, aside from talent, sets the best athletes apart from their peers. The best conclusion that I could come up with was that the best athletes in the world can think about what they’re doing, while not letting brain activity affect their play.
Many times, pro athletes fall out of their league because they aren’t smart players. It’s seen time and time again.
On the other hand, great quarterbacks, point guards, catchers, and so on are constantly barking out commands. The best players stay one step ahead of the competition cerebrally. To take it a step further, the best of the best make the process look effortless. They’re able to let their talent out at its highest level while continually thinking about their next moves. Patrick Mahomes provides the perfect example of this in the NFL currently. Quarterbacks have to be constantly thinking on the fly to be successful, and Mahomes makes the whole process seem like a breeze. By his demeanor, it’s hard to tell if he’s quarterbacking an NFL game or playing a pick-up game at a local YMCA. Deep down, though, you know his mind is constantly ticking.
The craziest part about this notion comes via the fact that sports betting is not that different. As we look to the final week of this NFL regular season, it’s about three things: being able to process all of the information the first 16 weeks have provided us with, mixing that information with the craziness of teams resting players or players giving up, and not overreacting. Just like the best athletes in the world, the best sports bettors must think and process info, while still letting their strategies and talents shine through. And just like athletes, not everyone is great. Only the best stand out and are successful.
Hopefully this will help.
Here are your best bets for Week 17 of the NFL season.
NEW YORK JETS (+13.5) @ New England Patriots: Sunday – 12 PM ET (CBS)
New England has to play to win this one to stay in front of Houston. Don’t get me wrong, I think New England will win. But if you check out New England’s style of play the last two weeks, however, nothing tells you that they are going to win any games anytime soon in massive blowout fashion. Last week, they couldn’t even beat the lowly Bills by more than 12. Believe it or not, the Patriots are currently a run first team. With Sony Michel and the trio of running backs leading the way, Tom Brady isn’t at the forefront. Bill and that coaching staff know exactly what they’re doing, but they’re also not trying to cover spreads.
On the flip side, don’t look now, but Sam Darnold has actually lived up to some of his hype these last few weeks. The Jets have actually either won or stayed within seven points their last four games. Give me Darnold and the Jets to hang within 13.5 of the Pats this week.
CHICAGO BEARS (+5) @ Minnesota Vikings: Sunday – 3:25 PM ET (FOX)
Unless Cap’n Kirk and the Vikes get it done against a good football team, I’m not a believer. Until their win against the Dolphins in Week 14, the Vikings were winless against teams above .500. The Dolphins are not a good football team. The Vikings struggle against teams that can pressure the quarterback, and if you haven’t heard, the Bears can do that. Even though Chicago has clinched the division, his one also still matters for home field advantage and a bye for them. I like the Bears to not only cover in this one, but also win.
Dallas Cowboys @ NEW YORK GIANTS (-6.5): Sunday – 12 PM ET (FOX)
If you were just checking into the NFL for the first time in a few weeks, you’d probably be flabbergasted by this prediction. But for this one, throw all of your numbers and stats up to this point. Jerry says his boys are going to play to win, but why would they in a cold, meaningless Week 17 away game? No more should this one start and Dak and Zeke should be just about done. I’m betting Odell plays, the Cowboys’ starters don’t play all game, and Eli gives the Giants fans one last hoorah. (C’mon, this has to be his last game as a Giant, right?) Vegas obviously agrees somewhat, as the spread is -7. Don’t let the big spread scare you off in this one, though.
Cleveland Browns @ BALTIMORE RAVENS (-6): Sunday – 3:25 PM ET (CBS)
The Ravens might just have the biggest bandwagon of anyone in football right now. A few short weeks ago, Jim Harbaugh was on the hot seat, and Joe Flacco had finally settled the debate of whether or not he was elite. (That answer was a resounding “nope.”) But Lamar Jackson entered into the picture, and the Ravens are soaring.
Here’s a piece of information to chew on for a bit; The Ravens have covered the spread in every single game since Week 9. Defense has been winning lately in the dog days of this NFL season, and the Ravens defense has been mind-bogglingly good since Week 8. Since Week 8, the Ravens have given up 18 ppg. The last two weeks, that number has dropped to 11. That’s also against two good offenses in the Bucs and Chargers. The point is, the Ravens are good, and they’ve been covering spreads. Bet on them until they prove otherwise.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-6.5) @ Denver Broncos: Sunday – 3;25 PM ET (CBS)
Hopefully, I’m just one week off on my Chargers pick. Last week, the Chargers were just off. Give credit where credit is due to that Baltimore defense. Los Angeles has already clinched a playoff spot, but they can still pass the slumping Chiefs and somehow jump from the five seed all the way up to the number one seed in Week 17. Call me crazy, but that sounds like some good motivation.
Speaking of motivation, that’s something Denver flat out doesn’t have. If you did get a chance to catch the Monday night game, Denver’s officially mailed it in. They look like a team eliminated from playoff contention that knows their head coach will be fired on Black Monday. Typically, that’s not a great recipe for success in a Week 17 game. Bolt up in Week 17.
Alex Altmix is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive.