NFL Week 17 Tipsheet: Dolphins could run aground in chilly Buffalo

Miami Dolphins in action against New England
The Dolphins could struggle at Buffalo

As the NFL season reaches week 17, it's a tricky time to bet, but Mike Carlson still finds three appealing selections for this weekend's action...

Best Bet: Buffalo (-4.5 at 19/20 v Miami)

"What I like about this game is the reverse juju of the Dolphins leaving sunny Miami and playing in the frozen tundra of Buffalo, even though the forcecast is for a sunny and relatively mild 35F (2C)."

Thank heavens the gift of outside bets. They were my salvation last week, with the first half under for Chargers and Baltimore and the Bills plus 13.5 at New England both covering to spare me having the guts to take the Browns and Colts at -10 and the Saints -5.5, all of whom won but none of whom covered. In fact I was 13-3 straight up over at my weekly straight-up column where there's no downside except to pride when I get it wrong.

NFL week 17 is one where excuses can easily trump pride. You have the meaningless games (well, meaningless except that they still keep score, and you still play to win) where teams, thinking of next season, may not risk playing players who are hurt, and players, thinking of where they can get reservations on New Year's Eve, might not have both eyes on the ball, so to speak. There are the games where one team has everything to play for, everything meaning a place in the playoffs, or sometimes just a better seeding and home field advantage for a week or two in the playoffs, while the other has the bittersweet glory of being a spoiler--in games between division rivals. Being the spoiler sometimes carries more glory than you would think.

And then there's that rare thing, the game which is one and done for both teams, which this year is the Colts at the Titans, and which the NFL has quite rightly made the prime time match up Sunday night. The winner of this game is in the playoffs, as division champs should Houston lose to Jacksonville, otherwise as a wild card. The loser is out.

And speaking of New Year's Eve, the team that wins may celebrate less, getting ready for the Wild Card round of playoffs, but they will certainly enjoy the first month of the New Year more.

Back Buffalo to overcome travelling Dolphins

Best Bet: Buffalo (-4.5 at 19/20 v Miami)

What I like about this game is the reverse juju of the Dolphins leaving sunny Miami and playing in the frozen tundra of Buffalo, even though the forcecast is for a sunny and relatively mild 35F (2C). The Bills' D will hold Miami in check, and their offense, based around Josh Allen's scrambling, won't be held as totally as New England managed to do last week. The Dolphins will look to run the ball, and that should keep the score low, but even so the Over (40 at evs) looks tempting.

Overs is the way to go in Maryland

Value Bet: Baltimore v Cleveland (Over 41 at evs)

Even though this promises to be a defensive battle, the Cleveland defense is much better against the pass than the run, and the Ravens are a run-first team. The big question is whether the Browns' passing game can get them enough points to make this over viable and I think they can. It's more an outside bet, but I would also be tempted by Cleveland (+6 at 4/5) though I'd like it better if it were 7.

Colts can edge out Titans

Outside Bet: Indianapolis (-3 at 4/5) at Tennessee

I really think the Colts win this one, but I don't think it will be easy, despite Jurrell Casey being out for Tennessee and Marcus Mariota either being out or less effective with a recurrence of the nerve problem in his throwing arm. I was tempted to call this one a best bet, but with the Colts in Nashville I hesitate, even though Andrew Luck is 10-0 for his career against the Titans. The over/under at 43 is tempting me with an over call at 17/20, and notice the under is evens, which is trying to draw you down... Beware.

Happy New Year to you all, and let's hope for a 2019 just as entertaining in the NFL.

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