The final stretch of the NFL regular season is here, with a stacked slate of games this weekend. Several teams have already locked up playoff spots, some have been eliminated, and others are vying for one of just a handful of vacant seeds.
As we turn the page to 2023, we’re treated to 14 games on a loaded New Year’s Day. Although a few matchups featuring eliminated teams don’t seem as appetizing, our NFL Week 17 betting picks and predictions look at a couple of the weekend’s biggest games.
We have a crucial divisional matchup in South Florida that may determine who represents the NFC South, an AFC West showdown, and a can’t-miss MNF headliner featuring two of the AFC’s hottest teams.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) Pick
Few expected the NFC South race to be this contentious but with just two weeks left of the regular season, three of the division’s four teams have life. Tampa Bay currently sits at the top at 7-8 but the Carolina Panthers (6-9) can gain ground with a win.
Tom Brady and the Buccs have struggled offensively this season and needed overtime to defeat the Cardinals last week. They rank in the bottom five in points per game this season but have been buoyed by a strong defense. Hosting the Panthers for a rematch of Week 8, Tampa Bay is laying three.
Things in Carolina haven’t gone smoothly this season either, firing head coach Matt Rhule in October and starting a carousel of quarterbacks. P.J. Walker was at the helm in the first matchup and led the Panthers to a 21-3 win.
Sam Darnold will lead Carolina in the rematch and will look to continue the momentum from last week’s 37-23 upset over the red-hot Lions. Darnold has been the best of Carolina’s assortment of quarterbacks this season with a 4-1 record, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
Despite Darnold’s recent performance, it’s hard to bet against a Brady team with their backs to the wall. The Bucs are losers of three of their last four and this is a must-win game. As a whole, the Tampa Bay roster is superior to Carolina’s — execution has been the issue down in Tampa.
One of our best bets of NFL Week 17, we like Brady and the Bucs to keep their postseason hopes alive with a win and cover.
Denver Broncos (+13.5) at Kansas City Chiefs Pick
Nathaniel Hackett is out as the head coach for the Broncos amid a disappointing season in Denver. Fans expected a new era of Broncos football with Hackett and a blockbuster trade for quarterback Russell Wilson. The plan went up in flames with a 4-11 season, putrid offense, and the ouster of their rookie head coach.
Denver, with Senior Assistant Jerry Rosberg serving as interim coach, heads to Kansas City as big underdogs to the divisional rival Chiefs. An experienced coach who spent the bulk of his career with Baltimore, he’ll look to rejuvenate a Broncos team that’s posted a league-worst 15.5 points per game this season.
The Broncos defense has kept Denver in most games this season but looked suspect last week in a 51-14 loss to the Rams that got chippy on the sidelines. New blood at the coaching position may give a spark to a defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest yards per game.
Denver showed a bit of fight in their first game against the Chiefs, covering in the 34-28 loss in early December.
Kansas City is flying high behind quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his MVP-caliber season. They haven’t been great against the spread, however, with just a 5-9-1 record against the number. They especially haven’t fared well as a big favorite. In three games as a favorite of 13 points or more, they’ve failed to cover in each one.
Moving on from Hackett may give the Broncos a much-needed boost in a season that slipped away weeks ago. Although the Chiefs need a win to keep up with the Bills for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, 13.5 points are too much for a team that has struggled to cover double-digit spreads.
Our NFL Week 17 predictions have the Chiefs winning 23-13, but the Broncos covering as a near-two touchdown underdog.
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals Pick (Over 49.5)
By far one of the most intriguing matchups of New Year’s weekend, Week 17 concludes Monday night with the Bills and Bengals in an AFC showdown. The Bills are a one-point favorite, but we look at the total as one of the best bets of NFL Week 17.
Featuring two of the league’s top talents at the quarterback position, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow face off with the No. 1 seed in the AFC on the table. The Bills, the current holders of the seed, hold a one-game lead over the Bengals and the tiebreaker over the Chiefs. With two games remaining, all three teams have a shot at a bye and home-field advantage in the postseason.
Both teams are on impressive win streaks — six-straight for the Bills and seven-straight for the Bengals. After reaching the Super Bowl last season, Cincy started this year with two straight losses — a skid that gave credibility to the notion the Bengals were a fluke — but have bounced back to be 11-4 with a one-game lead in the AFC North.
Cincinnati got off to a fast start against New England last week, going into halftime with a 22-0 lead. They allowed the Pats to climb back into the game but still managed to secure the 22-18 win.
Buffalo entered the year as one of the favorites to hoist the Lombardi in February. Despite a midseason slump, they’re 12-3 and have won the AFC East for the third-straight year. They took care of business handily last week, beating the Bears 35-13.
This matchup has the making of a classic quarterback duel. Both teams are among the league’s best at turning drives into points, with the Bills and the Bengals averaging the fourth- and fifth-most points per game, respectively.
One of our best bets of NFL Week 17, we like the over to hit in one of the most exciting games of the weekend. Picking a winner is difficult with these evenly-matched AFC contenders, but both teams should score north of 24 points.