It’s here. And it is quite the wild one.
Week 17 is never welcomed with open arms. It is dreaded. It brings both the end of the regular season and nothing but uncertainty. It is far more difficult to project than Opening Day, and it is often what decides both playoff berths and office pools. We must proceed with caution.
We must also take risks.
One of the reasons why it is so important to work through each week of the regular season with small victories is so that we can build up a large enough lead to withstand whatever happens in the finale. Because we will be told lies by head coaches. We will be tricked. And we will be left trying to get inside the minds of multiple athletes and executives. What makes matters worse is that we don’t even have numbers to use as support for many of the games.
The good news is that we’ve been here in the past, and can navigate through this. We just need to pick our spots using everything and anything at our disposal.
Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.
*Confidence Picks – 2018 Season: 57-44-4 (Last Week: 5-3)
(2017 Season: 53-48-4) (2016 Season: 53-67-3) (2015 Season: 69-45-2) (2014 Season: 61-46-2) (4-Year Total: 236-206-11)
All Picks Against Spread – 2018 Season: 121-108-11 (Last Week: 5-9-2)
(2017 Season: 137-119-11) (2016 Season: 123-136-8) (2015 Season: 143-117-7) (2014 Season: 149-114-4) (4-Year Total: 552-486-30)
When searching for which teams will have a reason to play in Week 17, the Dallas Cowboys jumped out as the one to which we need to pay attention. Because, while other teams have the ability to, at least, improve their seeding, the Cowboys are completely locked into its slot. Nothing can be gained nor lost and, more importantly, nothing will prevent the team from playing in the first round of the playoffs.
Which means that Dallas is the ideal candidate to rest its players.
The spread agrees.
Following the simplest line-of-reasoning we can apply to the numbers, in a week in which there is so much unknown that multiple games do not have spreads listed through Tuesday night, any one in which a non-playoff team is favored over a playoff team should be an immediate indication that we will see a lopsided contest. And, Dallas has a history of doing this. Two years ago, with nothing to gain, the Cowboys handed the ball to Mark Sanchez instead of Dak Prescott. Dallas lost by two touchdowns.
If something were to suddenly change without our knowledge, then so be it. We would get burned. Otherwise, we will side with the numbers that are specifically designed to protect against the unknown as best as possible. In this case, it means that the New York Giants have as much of a chance to steal a ‘free win’ as we will ever see in the National Football League. Teams don’t miss these opportunities, especially after such a dreadful start to the year.
New York wins by two touchdowns and covers the spread.
Confidence Pick: New York Giants (-6)
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins
Because of how averse I am to buying into a hot streak without probable cause, it wasn’t easy for me to pick the Philadelphia Eagles, last week. It’s nothing against quarterback Nick Foles or the defending champions, as a team, but I am not one to jump on the ‘hot’ pick because of a small sample size. What led me to pick Philadelphia was actually as much about its opponent – the Texans – than the Eagles.
Oddly enough, this is exactly the same case for Sunday’s game. The Washington Redskins not being sold at an alarming rate. They are not dropping in the eyes of the football-watching world. They are not being considered a team with little chance due to the liability at the quarterback position.
And they should be. They should be doing all of these.
Washington entered last week as double-digit underdogs, despite the team still being alive in the playoff race. To the surprise of many – including myself – the Redskins performed quite well for the majority of their time in Tennessee, and the final score of their game was inflated by a meaningless interception returned for a touchdown as time expired. It does appear as if the good performance by Washington is being considered in the spread, as it is not an astronomical number. And not one over which we need to be concerned.
The Redskins did just enough to allow people to consider them a viable threat to the Eagles on Sunday. And, while a division opponent is usually the most likely to pull off a surprising ‘upset,’ this is not the typical game. This is the defending Super Bowl champions, once again, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, turning to a quarterback that continues to defy the odds.
Will I always believe in Nick Foles? Of course not, and I barely “believe” in him, now. But, I won’t deny the unifying effect he has had on the Eagles when there is no other quarterback ready to take back his job. Basically, the entire squad – which was considered, collectively, one of the best in the league, last year – needs to play its best to continue to win with Foles. And it does.
Again, Sunday’s game comes down to Philadelphia’s opponent more than anything else, and this is where the Eagles have the massive edge. Quarterback Josh Johnson has led his team to no more than 16 points in both of his starts, and it will take a Herculean effort, by comparison, to beat Philadelphia as it plays a ‘must-win’ game. Johnson is simply not capable of this, and we saw his flaws when he failed to keep pace with a Titans offense led by Blaine Gabbert in the second half of last week’s game.
The Eagles were never going to be as dominant as they were, last year, but they have now regressed so quickly that one more push is still waiting to happen. We see it on Sunday, as the Eagles win by two touchdowns and cover the spread.
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5)
Click here to sign up for Sporfolio to see the rest of Mario Mergola’s NFL picks against the point spread. Mergola finished with the highest total of correct NFL picks against the spread for 2015 and 2016 – tracked by NFLPickwatch, and finished 2015 with an accuracy of 60.53% for his confidence picks. His 4-year record for all NFL games against the spread is 552-486-30!