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Clarifying the NFC Playoff Picture in Week 17 NFL Betting

Posted by Matthew Forrester on 1/3/2016 8:56:28 AM

One of the only things we know for sure as we had in to Week 17 NFL betting is that Washington is hosting a playoff game next weekend. The muddled NFC playoff picture is confusing as hell. Almost every seed is up for grabs, but the three major games of consequence are outlined below along with my choice for the best picks in each. Enjoy and Happy New Year!

CAROLINA PANTHERS -10.5 over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4:25pm EST)

Think there’s nothing to play for here? You’re wrong. If Arizona wins and Carolina loses, the Panthers give up the number one seed. Considering that the Panthers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games, they’ll want home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s also imperative that they roll in to the post season with some momentum after losing to Atlanta last weekend.

Tampa is just too reckless with the football, and are also 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. With Carolina having every reason to play this game to the wall with a guaranteed bye week in wild card weekend, it makes sense to back Carolina here despite the big Week 17 NFL betting line. The Panthers need to remind everyone that they are the team to beat in the conference.

They might be the team to beat in the whole league.

ARIZONA CARDINALS -6.0 over Seattle Seahawks (4:25pm EST)

This is where things in the NFC get really interesting. Arizona can move ahead of Carolina if the Panthers somehow lose to Tampa, and they won’t know their fate since the games are being played at the same time. It’s probably a moot point because the Cardinals will be waging war against a division rival that they need to send a clear message to. Focus will be paramount here for Bruce Arians’ boys.

The situation for the Seahawks in the NFC playoff picture is a lot more confusing. If they end up beating Arizona, they would play the Vikings or the Redskins. If they lose to Arizona, they’re playing the winner of the Vikings-Packers game in Week 17 NFL betting. Got it? Sort of? Good enough.

The point is that they probably won’t beat the Arizona considering how they performed against St. Louis last week in a loss. It also doesn’t help Seattle’s case that this line doubled from it’s opening mark of ARI -3.5 because of injuries to Kam Chancellor (tailbone), Russell Okung (calf) and Tyler Lockett (concussion) which leaves them thin at areas of massive need.

The Cardinals also thwarted Seattle 39-32 in mid-November, and are full systems go after a rousing beatdown of Green Bay last weekend. With a chance at the top seed, and an opportunity to send a decisive message to the reigning conference champions, Arizona will step on Russell Wilson’s throat in this one.

Minnesota Vikings +3.0 over GREEN BAY PACKERS (8:25pm EST)

It’s becoming a time honored tradition for the Vikings and Packers to play for all the marbles in Week 17 NFL betting, but this Sunday night football bonanza has a big chance to impact the NFC playoff picture for obvious reasons. If the two situations above pan out as myself and the oddsmakers expect, Seattle will be the expected opponent of whomever wins this game.

That might not be a promising prospect since Seattle has been ridiculous in the playoffs and may choose to rest players this week to be ready for whomever they play in the playoffs during wild card weekend. Nobody should want to play Seattle in the playoffs despite what you want to think of them.

There are plenty of reasons to take Minnesota here, the biggest being that they know who they are. The Vikings have played with a sheepish identity throughout the year to protect Bridgewater from being bogged down by mental errors. But now, they’ve taken off the blinkers. Bridgewater has thrown for 244.7 yards in his last three games on average, while amassing 7 touchdowns and zero picks.

The Vikings are still predominantly a rushing team, ranking out as the 5th best in that regard, and get to feast on a Packers’ defense that has been getting mauled lately. Green Bay gives up the 21st most yards on the ground, and panic too easily when teams with an obvious identity put them on their heels.

Anyone taking the Packers in the final game of the regular season are really just leveraging a Week 17 NFL betting play on name value. The Vikings are far and away the more logical take.

So if all goes according to my master plan, you’re looking at Minnesota-Seattle and Green Bay-Washington in the first round of the NFC playoff picture. Best laid plans almost always get torn asunder but it’d be surprising for any other scenario to play out.

That’s why we play the games.

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