NFL Week 17 Betting – The Ultimate Challenge for Handicappers

Motivation, incentive, and uncertainty are the buzz words making it the NFL's toughest betting week.

Betting tips for the final week of the NFL season

The last dance is upon us. The final NFL regular season week we receive opportunity to select upon a full menu of games to wager upon.  Not only is that disappointing but wouldn’t you know it, January 3rd offers the toughest test thus far to choose the right games to wager upon for several legitimate and proven reasons.  Among them are:


Let us start with the most obvious one. Just which teams are motivated to win, and which ones truly are not.

NFL playoff implications We could only wish it were as easy as scanning the NFL playoff scenarios and making decisions. It is not. If that were the case, you could search through a historical ATS (against the spread) perspective and head to the bank.  Often casual sports bettors assume any team or players involved eliminated from playoff potential are waiting for the season to end and will not give 100%.

For selfish reasons, it has been proven that players give their best efforts to save their own job or improve their contract status. Or for unselfish reasons, perhaps playing for a coach who wants to loyally retain them. Bottom line . . . nobody dogs it out of pride and more often personal reason rather than any playoff scenario.

Assuming Team & Players Involved Will Not Play for Lame-Duck Coach

By week 17 there are usually a named group of NFL head coaches that are either certain to be fired or at least on the hot seat. Naïve bettors often assume their teams are likely to play poorly due to their lame duck status. That is not always the case.  Loyalty is often involved to thank them or perhaps playing hard to impress next year’s assistant coaches remaining on the staff.  That is not forgotten when next season rolls around.

For example, if it were that easy, we would not have seen the resurgent play of the New York Jets for Adam Gase, who has been theoretically out the door since late October.

Who is Playing?

Now more than ever is it critical to check the injury list for who is playing week 17, especially with COVID-19’s looming presence. Although this must be done according to NFL rules and reported in advance, it is wise to utilize all sources prior to wagering.

Week 17 also offers up the season’s greatest challenge in that many NFL coaches looking toward the playoffs will be resting key players. Some for at least a half and some for an entire game. Again, reading all sources to accrue information will give a bettor a truer indication of which team they are wagering upon.

Chiefs Chargers betting tipsNo greater example is this Sunday’s Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs game. The line as posted by most top online sportsbooks tells the story.

Los Angeles Chargers -3.5
Kansas City Chiefs     +3.5

Chief's head coach Andy Reid has made it no secret to rest most of his starters with no incentive whatsoever at stake. The Chiefs have locked up the #1 AFC seed for the playoffs.  But again, it would be a mistake to believe they would be laying down and the Chargers are a guaranteed cover. The practical decision is to avoid these types of games altogether.

Draft Implications

This theory always boggles my mind.

Draft implications NFL bettingConsidering the highly physical, violent state of professional football, do you believe any specific player is focused upon his team receiving potential higher draft position order next season? Would you be risking potential career-ending surgery to allow your team to draft say fifth instead of seventh next season? 

We already know Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence is looking for estates in Jacksonville and the New York Jets have their pick of the rest of the NCAA. Do not waste any time this weekend scanning point spreads for any possible draft choice motivational edge.

A Basic Strategy

Although week 17 offers the season’s only opportunity to bet on the entire list of NFL teams on one day, it is best to proceed with caution.

A reasonable plan is to pinpoint the limited list of games where BOTH teams have full motivation to win and will be playing all their best players possible. That suggested list includes:

Dallas Cowboys – New York Giants
Buffalo Bills – Miami Dolphins
Green Bay Packers – Chicago Bears
Arizona Cardinals – Los Angeles Rams

In these select games all teams will either have incentive to be making the NFL playoffs or seeking some sort of higher seeding potential to gain advantage by winning. No distraction about draft position, players potentially laying down or any team's head coach not returning next season.

Overall, week 17 offers up the NFL season's greatest test of uncertainty. Smart handicappers know it is wiser to keep their majority of money in their pocket and wait for the playoffs to begin next week. 

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.

Sign-up for the OSGA Newsletter!

Every week get news and updates, exclusive offers and betting tips delivered right to you email inbox.