NFL Week 17 preview and picks: In The Pocket

Betting Week 17 in the NFL can be a risky prospect, with a slate of games that may mean nothing for one or both teams, and the possibility of players on elite teams being rested for half or a full game in an attempt to keep them fighting fit. As such, there are more than a few games without a line set by Australian bookies as yet. In The Pocket likes to consider week 17 games with one proviso – if a teams’ heart or best players might not be in it, assume they’re not when you consider the lines. Having said that, here’s the most promising matches:

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh currently have the whip hand in the AFC North and the inside lane on the #2 seed in the AFC, but they’ll need to win this one if they want to keep it from Baltimore (who also have an early game, and can push them down to #5 if the Steelers lose and they win). As such they will have their game faces on for this divisional game. The Browns are well out of contention and have been for some time – they won’t roll over against Pittsburgh though, and the Steelers know it. However, Cleveland has an injury cloud over RB Peyton Hillis (ribs) who forms the mainstay of their attack. As such, In The Pocket anticipates 100% effort from Big Ben and his crew this week, and the Browns to struggle with the ball. Steelers -6 @ 1.91 (multiple sites)

St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
This is it – the title game for the putrid NFC West. If the Seahawks can pull this off, they’d be the first division winner with a losing record in the history of the NFL, whereas if the Rams get up they’ll have the comparatively stronger standing of 8-8. The Seahawks have been a reasonable home team this year and have that advantage, but their destiny lies in the very shaky hands of QB Charlie Whitehurst. The Rams have lost some close games on the road to much tougher teams than this, and rookie QB Sam Bradford has performed much better than expected. Backing rookie quarterbacks on the road in clutch situations is always a risky proposition, but up against Charlie Whitehurst? Rams –2.5 @ 1.80 (Sportsbet)

Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers
Running short of promising lines here, but no-one needs a victory more than the Packers. QB Aaron Rodgers tore up the Giants secondary last week in a crunch game, and whilst the Bears will provide much stiffer resistance after the catch, the Bears do not really need this game. Chicago are locked into the NFC #2 seed, and while they can move up to the #1 seed and home field advantage through the playoffs if they win, they also need both Atlanta and New Orleans to lose, and that is a highly unlikely scenario. It would be very easy for the Bears to be looking forward to their bye week and some quality time getting over those niggling injuries. As the Pack need this victory to ensure the NFC #6 seed remains in their possession, they look a solid proposition this week. This may be the oldest rivalry in the NFL, but in the modern game the playoffs take precedence. No start up as yet, but expect it to be in the area of 6-7.5 as bookies sweat line-up announcements. Be way of any lines over 10 though as Green Bay’s lack of any quality at the running back position makes it difficult for them to protect leads.

Other games
Of the other games with no line, the Detroit Lions can make a bit of a statement in the NFC North by knocking off the Minnesota Vikings and climbing out of the basement for the first time in seven years. Overseas bookies have this line tentatively at 3.5 but the Lions have been covering left right and centre in the 2nd half of the season and look the goods for this game. In another match of eliminated teams, the San Francisco 49ers are giving 6.5 points to the Arizona Cardinals. If you subscribe to the bounce-back theory after firing your coach (3-1 this season against the spread), the Niners will be looking to finish the season strong at home and could be worth a look against the terrible Cards.

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