Steelers coach Mike Tomlin hasn't announced whether he'll be benching his starters this week, but apparently, oddsmakers are expecting him to rest several key plays in Week 17, because that's the only way to explain the point spread in Pittsburgh's game against Cleveland.
In the early odds for Week 17, the Browns have opened as a seven-point favorite, which is a huge number for Cleveland in this rivalry. This game will mark the first time since 1989 that the Browns have been a favorite of seven or more points against Pittsburgh. Thirty-one years ago, the Browns were a 10-point favorite over the Steelers in a game they would lose 17-7.
If you're wondering why the Steelers might leave several key players on the bench this week, it's because they can't earn a first-round bye. With no chance to get the bye, Tomlin will likely be much more concerned with getting his team rested up, especially since the Steelers never really got a bye this year. The team's bye was originally supposed to happen back in Week 8, but then it got switched due to the COVID situation involving the Titans back in October.
The Steelers were also supposed to get the mini-bye that you get after playing in a Thursday game, but they also lost that after their Thanksgiving game against the Ravens got postponed to the following Wednesday. Basically, the Steelers haven't had any time off for nearly 18 straight weeks and it won't be surprising if Tomlin decides to rest a few key players against Cleveland.
Besides the Steelers. there could be several teams that end up resting players, which is why Week 17 is usually a wild one in the NFL. With that in mind, let's get to the early odds.
NFL Week 17 early odds
(All lines from William Hill Sportsbook unless noted)
Opening line: TBA
The Bills are probably going to be pretty confident going into this game and that's because they're 6-1 straight-up in their past seven games against the Dolphins (4-3 ATS), a record that includes a 31-28 win back in Week 2 where the Dolphins covered as a 5.5-point underdog. The Dolphins are actually an NFL-best 11-4 ATS on the season and they've also covered in nine of their past 11 games. The Bills haven't been bad themselves, as they've covered in six straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL, but that streak could end on Monday against New England. One thing to keep in mind for this game is that the Dolphins will get in the playoffs with a win. There's also a chance that the Bills could rest some starters since they no longer have a chance of earning a first-round bye.
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Opening line: Patriots -5
Betting against the Jets used to be a money-maker, but not recently. Not only have they won two straight games outright, but they're also 3-1 ATS in their past four. That being said, they always seem to struggle against the Patriots. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Jets are 1-12 straight-up against New England, although they did go 8-5 ATS in those games, which includes a 30-27 Jets loss earlier this season where New York covered as a 9-point underdog.
Opening line: Packers -4
If there's one team the Packers have absolutely owned over the past few years, it's the Bears. In the past 20 meetings between these two teams, the Packers have gone 17-3 straight-up and 14-6 ATS. However, the Bears might not be a pushover in this game and that's because they're 6-2 both straight-up and ATS this season in games started by Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears have a lot to play for on Sunday and that's because a win will guarantee them a playoff spot. Of course, the Packers will also have something to play for and that's because a win for them will lock up the top seed in the NFC.
Opening line: Vikings -6.5
If you've been betting on the Vikings over the past few weeks, then you're probably almost broke and that's because Minnesota is 0-6 ATS in its past six games (2-4 straight-up). If the Vikings can end that streak against anyone, it's probably the Lions. In their past six games against Detroit, the Vikings are 6-0 both straight-up and ATS.
Ravens (10-5) at Bengals (4-10-1)
Opening line: Ravens -11
If there's one time you want to bet on the Bengals, it's when they're playing their home finale. Since 2007, the Bengals are 12-1 straight-up and 10-3 ATS when playing their final home game of the season. Over the past 10 years, the Bengals are also a wildly impressive 16-4-1 ATS when playing home or away in Week 16 or Week 17 and that includes their Sunday win over Houston where the Bengals won straight-up as a seven-point underdog. (The Bengals are 13-8 straight-up in those 21 games). Although the Ravens have won four straight in this series, the Bengals are 9-5 ATS in their past 14 games against Baltimore. The last time the Bengals were a double-digit underdog came in Week 15, when they upset the Steelers in a game where Pittsburgh was favored by 14.5. As for the Ravens, they've covered in five straight games.
Steelers (12-3) at Browns (10-5)
Opening line: Browns -7
If you're looking for a one-sided rivalry in the NFL, this one definitely qualifies. Not only are the Browns 3-7 ATS in their past 10 games this season, but they're also 2-12-1 straight-up in their past 15 games against the Steelers. However, they are 2-1 both straight-up and ATS in the past three games where they've been favored against Pittsburgh. If the point spread holds, it would mark just the just the sixth time under Mike Tomlin that the Steelers have been an underdog of a touchdown or more. In the previous five games, they went 1-4 straight-up and 2-2-1 ATS.
Opening line: Colts -13.5
With the Colts needing a win to keep their shots at the playoffs alive, this might seem like an obvious spot to bet Indy, but that might not actually be the case and that's because the Jaguars have had their number. In the past 10 games between these two teams, the Jaguars have gone 7-3 straight-up and 8-1-1 ATS, which includes a game back in Week 1 where the Jags beat the Colts for their only win of the season (The Colts were favored by seven in that game). The Jaguars have already clinched the top pick in the draft, so they can actually try to win this game.
Titans (10-5) at Texans (4-11)
Opening line: Titans -7.5
The Titans are 4-2 both straight-up and ATS in their past six games against the Texans and that includes a game earlier this season where Tennessee covered as a four-point favorite in a 42-36 overtime win. The Titans will be in a spot on Sunday where a win will clinch the AFC South. On the other hand, the Texans will have nothing to play for and when they have nothing to play for, they seem to struggle. Not only have the Texans lost four straight, but they're 1-3 ATS in those games.
Opening line: TBA
Betting on the Chiefs to cover when they're playing against an AFC West team has been one of the easiest ways to make money over the past five years. Since November 2015, the Chiefs have gone 31-3 straight up against divisional opponents and 22-11-1 ATS. That total includes going 12-1 straight-up and 9-4-1 ATS against the Chargers the past 13 times these two teams have played. Of course, this might be the one time you don't want to bet on the Chiefs and that's because there's a chance they could end up resting their starters. The Chiefs have clinched a first-round bye, which means they have nothing to play for this week. Even if they had something to play for, they might not be a smart bet and that's because the Chiefs are 0-6-1 ATS in their past seven games.
Opening line: Cowboys -1
There's a lot on the line in this game and that's because the winner could end up as the NFC East champion, but only if Washington loses to the Eagles. The Cowboys are probably pretty excited to be playing the Giants and that's because Dallas has won seven straight games in this series while going 6-1 ATS in those games.The Cowboys have also won three in a row overall and are 5-2 ATS over their past seven games, which is a crazy number when you consider that they started the season 0-8 ATS. As for the Giants, not only are they 0-3 both straight-up and ATS in their past three games, but they've averaged just 8.7 points in those games.
Washington (6-9) at Eagles (4-10-1)
Opening line: Eagles -1
The Football Team might have lost in Week 16, but they still control their playoff fate. If Washington wins in Week 17, it will take home the NFC East title. Despite Sunday's loss to Carolina, Washington is still 5-1 ATS in its past six games (4-2 straight-up). As for the Eagles, although they don't have anything to play for, they have dominated Washington over the past few years. The Eagles are 6-1 straight-up and 5-2 ATS in their past seven games against Washington, but the Football Team's one win during that stretch did come this year.
Falcons (4-11) at Buccaneers (10-5)
Opening line: Buccaneers -4.5
The Falcons are generally a team you want to avoid betting against during the final week of the season and that's mainly because they've won four straight games in Week 17. The Falcons have also covered in two straight games against Tampa, including a Week 15 game that the Buccaneers won. Before you think about betting this game, you're going to want find out whether Tampa Bay will be playing its starters. The Buccaneers have already clinched a wild-card spot and can't win the division, which means it won't be surprising if Bruce Arians sits some players on Sunday.
Opening line: Saints -4
Due to the Packers' win on Sunday, it will be a long shot for the Saints to earn a first-round bye, which means there's definitely a chance that Sean Payton could end up resting a few key players for this game. With that in mind, that could make Carolina the smarter bet here. Not only are the Panthers 4-1 ATS in their past five games against the Saints, but they're also 9-4 ATS in their past 13 games overall, which includes winning outright as an underdog to Washington in Week 16.
Opening line: Broncos -1
The past five weeks of the season have been a total disaster for the Raiders. Since Week 11, the Raiders have gone 1-4 both straight-up and ATS. If the Raiders want to end their season on a high note, it's probably a good thing they're playing the Broncos and that's because the Raiders have covered in six straight games against Denver (4-2 straight-up).
Opening line: TBA
This game is simple for the Cardinals: If they win, they're in the playoffs. On the other hand, if they lose they're out. Of course, winning this game won't be easy for the Cardinals and that's because they'll be playing a Rams team that has absolutely dominated them. Since Sean McVay was hired in 2017, the Rams have gone 7-0 straight-up and 6-0-1 ATS against Arizona. One thing to keep an eye on here is the health of Jared Goff, who reportedly broke his thumb on Sunday. If Goff can't go, the Rams starting quarterback would likely be John Wolford, who's never thrown an NFL pass. The Rams will make the playoffs with a win and they also could clinch a postseason berth with a loss, but only if the Bears also lose to the Packers.
Opening line: Seahawks -3.5
The Seahawks still have an outside shot at the top seed in the NFC, but just because they have something to play for doesn't mean you should bet on them, especially since this game is on the road. The Seahawks are 0-5 ATS In their past five road games, which is the second longest active non-covering steak for road teams in the NFL (Eagles have a six-game streak). That being said, this isn't necessarily a true road game since it's being played in Arizona. With that in mind, there's lot to like about the Seahawks in this spot like the fact that they're 11-2 straight-up in their past 13 games against San Francisco and 13-4-1 ATS in their past 18 games against the 49ers.