What is betting in NFL week 17 good for? Hedging!

Thursday, 31 December 2020 15:18 EST

Betting in the NFL’s final week of the season, coronavirus outbreak or no, is usually problematic. Some teams play the second-string, others have the starters go full bore; some head coaches plumb the depths of the playbook, others practice the vanilla fundamentals; and any number of wackiness can happen in a game between two also-rans long since eliminated from playoff contention.

Week 17 is nearly as extensive an NFL bettor’s minefield as is week 1 – but at least this final week of the season can be a good opportunity to hedge on those division winner and Super Bowl proposition bets made weeks or even months ago. So, as the time of year demands, NFLbets today considers the playoff scenarios and related parlay odds.

(Note that, in order to preserve some semblance of sanity, the outcomes calculated below do not include the possibility of any of the relevant games ending in a tie – though to be honest, we’re half-expecting it in the Washington-Philadelphia game…)

Probably the best example for would-be hedgers in the upcoming playoffs will be the Baltimore Ravens. NFLbets figured that the Ravens, after going 14-2 the year previous, were a solid bet in the “To Win Super Bowl LV” proposition bet. And were hardly alone in that supposition, either: Most sportsbooks had Baltimore as second-favorite in the proposition bet as of opening day. Only one scenario causes the Ravens to miss the playoffs altogether: To bet against the Ravens making the playoffs, parley a Baltimore ML loss at Cincinnati, a Cleveland win vs Pittsburgh and an Indianapolis win vs Jacksonville at about 9/1.

You’d think that the weirdness of the 2020 NFL season would be the perfect environment to create a Cleveland Browns Super Bowl winner, but this might not be the year. (Would you settle for a Buffalo Bills championship instead? That’s gonna be pretty freakin’ weird…) The evidence: Two scenarios for the Browns to miss the playoffs still exist, one is completely out of their hands, and wouldn’t finishing 11-5 yet missing an expanded playoff pool be the Browniest outcome ever?

On the other hand, the Browniest outcome ever might be to win the Super Bowl before zero of their lifelong diehard fans…

In either case, bet on the Browns’ bad karma and parlay a Cleveland ML loss vs Pittsburgh and Indianapolis win vs Jacksonville at +390; and parlay a Tennessee ML win at Houston, a Miami loss at Buffalo and a Baltimore loss at Cincinnati at about 16/1.

If you’re nutty enough to have bet on the winner of the AFC South, you’ll want to know that the Indianapolis Colts win the division with a Tennessee loss at Houston and an Indianapolis win vs Jacksonville (parlay odds +325), while the Titans need only to win at Houston (current money line -360).

All Indianapolis needs to make the playoffs is win plus a loss by Baltimore, Cleveland or Tennessee; a 2-team parlay on each combination currently pays +575, +333 and +325, respectively; the sportsbooks are strongly implying here that the race for the final spot in the AFC playoffs will come down to the outcome of the Dolphins-Bills game.

Want one last chance to bet against the 2020 Miami Dolphins? You just might get it this week. To hedge against the Dolphins making the playoffs, parlay a Miami ML loss at Buffalo, a Baltimore win at Cincinnati, a Cleveland win vs Pittsburgh and an Indianapolis win vs Jacksonville at +150. Suddenly, Miami’s chances don’t look so good, eh…?

Luckily, the situation in the NFC is far clearer, even if they have that monstrosity of an East division.

“Thanks” to their recent 1-4 jag and 3-5 play since their bye week, the fate of the Arizona Cardinals has come down to their week 17 game in Los Angeles. Because they lose the tiebreaker to Chicago, if the Arizona loses to L.A. – the Cards are currently the favorite with a ML of -180 – they’re out.  

As for the Los Angeles Rams, certainly along with the Ravens a vogue pick in Super Bowl props earlier in 2020, need only a win against Arizona to get a postseason bid; without Jared Goff at QB this weekend, the sportsbooks are nevertheless considering L.A. the underdogs in this game at +155 on the money line.

Want to bet on the Rams missing the playoffs altogether? Parlay a Rams ML loss against Arizona with a Chicago win vs Green Bay at +366.

The Chicago Bears are the third team in the mix for the 6 and 7 seeds; as a 6-point, +200 ML underdog against the Packers, the Bears may have to depend upon Arizona in the second game. If you’re a Trubiskaholic, take the Bears ML +200 vs Green Bay. If you’re trying to quit, parlay a Chicago ML loss vs Green Bay and an Arizona win at Los Angeles for +120.

Last and certainly least is the NFC East. To add to the general hilarity of a 6-10 team getting to host Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a playoff game is the awesome opportunity to hedge against a hedge thanks to the bizarre position of the Washington Football Team, who will play the 2020 regular season’s final game at the Philadelphia Eagles to determine the winner of this train wreck division.

Here’s the formula for the Team: If they win (current money line odds are -135), they’re in. If they lose, the winner of the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game takes the division, so  if you like the Cowboys’ chances, parlay a Dallas ML win and a Washington loss for +290; to back the Giants as division champs, parlay a New York ML win and a Washington loss for +360 – though NFLbets must admit that betting on these teams in this situation requires greater intestinal fortitude than we have…

–written by Os Davis