NFL: Week 17 - Tighten up with playoff berths at stake
The focus this week is on teams that still have all to play for ahead of the playoffs. The Cowboys fight to keep their dream alive. Will Philip Rivers extend his career at the Colts into the post-season? While the Cardinals take on the Rams in a must-win scenario.
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Shakespeare once famously wrote that the night is “dark and full of terrors”. Well, so might be Week 17 be, but we're here to help.
The NFL is exceptionally tricky at this time of year, as some of the teams who have locked in their playoff hopes may rest starters, and others who see no benefit in winning games, well, simply may not try to.
In this regard, we need to find teams that are neither. So, our focus turns to teams in the playoff bubble that need results – and we reckon we’ve found a few lines that offer value in the new year.
Week 17 action
Tony Pollard - RB Dallas Cowboys. Over 27.5 Rushing Yards (1.83)
As of now, Ezekiel Elliott is expected to start for the Dallas Cowboys, but that could change in a must-win game for Dallas, especially as he’s still clearly nursing an ailment and Tony Pollard looked the best back in football over the last fortnight.
Dallas may not possess the riches it once had up front, but their schematics - aided by the shrewd play calling of Kellen Moore - means that there’s gaps for Pollard quite frequently on downs that aren’t traditionally catered for the run.
Now, of course the caveat here is the volume of touches he gets, but we suspect the answer will be plenty.
If he’s taking on ball-carrying responsibility, even in a support role, this line looks very low. And you know what to do with low-hanging fruit, don’t you?
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T.Y. Hilton - WR Indianapolis Colts. Take the Over on Receiving Yards
By now, teams are aware that Jacksonville are the worst team in the league against the pass. By now, you should know that Philip Rivers’ career record against the Jaguars is nothing short of impeccable.
Granted, that could be said of most NFL quarterbacks, but you know where we’re going with this. There was a great interview recently with Rivers, where a reporter made him realise that, should they not win this game, it could be his last time ever lacing up his boots.
Rivers won’t go gently into that good night just yet, and with Michael Pittman still in the concussion protocol, expect his newly discovered favourite target to get plenty of looks from the slot as the Jags’ depth at cornerback is ruthlessly exposed time and time again.
Kenyan Drake - RB Arizona Cardinals. Take the Over on Rushing Yards
The Arizona Cardinals need to win on Sunday, and the Rams really can’t afford to lose. These two teams are some of the best-coached units in the league and for that reason, we expect Arizona to try to isolate Aaron Donald and keep the ball for as long as possible.
This will be done by read-options and counter plays - with the primary source of those plays being Kenyan Drake, who is now the primary back in Arizona again after Chase Edmonds left the Niners game early and hasn’t practiced yet this week.
Drake is hardly a bell cow, but he’s quick enough in small spaces to crack off a few long runs. And that space will most certainly be small with Donald around.
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