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NFL Football Best Bets: Week 17 (2021)

by December 31, 2021
Taylor Heinicke

Best Bets: 29-17, Up 1458%

After our 10th winning week, let’s get into this week’s selections.

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Best Bet #1: Washington Football Team +3.5 vs Philadelphia Eagles (-115)

This selection is rooted in 2-3 key tactics that frankly have little to do with objective data. I know, very atypical of me, but it’s too strong to pass up. I will add that if you have the appetite, the Straight Up ML play at +155 is just as strong here, and technically has a better EV.

Let’s start with the fact we have a chance to leverage the strongest play in the history of betting: the “Win one for the Gipper” play. As we alluded to back in Best Bets Week 12, this is a very strong play, and has to do with the emotional/subjective edge a team has when a coach, front office guy, or anyone closely connected to the team passes away. As we found out, Montez Sweat’s brother passed away earlier this week. Granted this is not the purest “WOFTG” play, but we have found this tactic working on just about anyone in a team’s orbit.

Beyond that subjective edge, we have a divisional rival that is at home, still technically fighting for a playoff spot (5%), and getting points across a key number. A number, by the way, that has moved in the right direction (from +3 to +3.5) to get some closing line value.

Finally, as you all know, we’re not fans of “chasing steam”. However, if there is steam, we’d rather be on the “right”side of it, as currently the sharps are on Washington to win this game outright:

Philadelphia to Win SU Washington to Win SU
Cash 7% 93%
Ticket 80% 20%

You all know we love to be on this side: heavy Cash / inverse of heavy tickets (volume of bets, not money wagered), which means a small number of people are betting a lot of money on one side (i.e. sharps that know more than you), and may “know something”.

Bet: Washington Football Team +3.5 vs Philadelphia Eagles (-115)

Best Bet #2: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers UNDER 47

This play has both our model and intuition sparking here.

Let’s start with the basics:

Although this game has the 6th highest O/U of the week, according to PFF, the two teams combine for the 11th best Net OFF v DEF Grade (these numbers typically move together):

OFF Grade DEF Grade  OFF – oppDEF nOFFBOTH Weekly O/U Rk
Minnesota Vikings 77.9 65.1 3.7 20.4 11th
Green Bay Packers 81.8 74.2 16.7

This on its own is usually a good place to start.

Secondly, this game will be in Green Bay, where it will be 8 degrees. I don’t need to add any charts for this one. A temperature that low tends to be bad for offenses.

Third, based on how the Tampa Bay and Rams games go earlier in the day (and possibly the Cowboys game at half), the Packers may have incentive to sit Rodgers and company in the second half (regardless of the score).

Finally, there is also a small matchup advantage for the Packers, as their defense has performed considerably better vs 12 personnel (relative to 11 by EPA/play) during the season, and the Vikings run heavy sets (not just 12) at a top 5 rate in the league.

All of this leads me to believe this will be a game where the Packers just run the heck out of the ball.

*Be careful though as it looks like the market may be following suit and bringing this number down

Bet: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers UNDER 47

Best Bet #3: Dallas Cowboys -5.5 (-105) over the Arizona Cardinals

This play is heavily based on our macro view of the Cardinals: we believe they are in a lot of trouble. This is based on two key objective reasons:

  1. Kyler Murray’s injury is clearly affecting his accuracy (85% On Target Rate before the injury, 77% since)—he has not been the same QB post-injury.
  2. The absence of DeAndre Hopkins is tanking the passing offense (Kyler Murray goes from .31 EPA/play to -.01 EPA/play with and without Hopkins on the field). The absence has caused a semi-personality crisis on offense, as the team has all but stopped using their famed 10 personnel without Hopkins on the field (dropping from 22% to 7%). 

Also, there are a few matchup-based angles that point to the Cowboys here. The NET QB vs Blitz angle for instance, which we profited from back in week 15. Basically, Dak AND Kyler both have a higher positive play rate WHEN BLITZED. And since the Cardinals blitz a lot (4th most) and Cowboys rarely (21st), this can be seen as a legitimate edge for the Cowboys QB.

*There is also a smaller “matchup based” angle here (siding with the Cowboys): Kyler Murray is 10.7 success rate percentage points WORSE vs. MFC defenses (Middle Field Closed), and the Cowboys run MFC at the 6th highest rate in the league. I’m not “officially” including it as we have not tested this play in the long run yet.

**Finally, thanks to our friends at Sharp Football Analysis, we found another strong angle: Dak throws out of the pocket 5-6 times a game (about 6th most in the NFL) and the Cardinal Defense is atrocious on passes outside of the pocket by EPA/play.

As long as this number doesn’t pass 7, we feel it is a strong play.

Bet: Dallas Cowboys -5.5 (-105) over the Arizona Cardinals

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Ryan Newman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Ryan, check out his archive.