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Week 17 NFL Top Matchups: Scoring Struggles in Minnesota

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers
Jordan Love #10 of the Green Bay Packers throws a pass for a first down in the fourth quarter of a game against the Minnesota Vikings. Patrick McDermott/Getty Images/AFP

The NFL’s Week 17 schedule has a special Saturday night matchup in place of a usual Monday night game:

  • On Sunday night, the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings meet in a rematch with the winner getting back to .500 and the loser likely out of the playoffs.
  • On Saturday night, the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys square off in a big NFC matchup.
  • On Thursday night, the Cleveland Browns will seek another win with Joe Flacco against the New York Jets, who declined to bring the veteran back this year.

We made our top pick for each prime-time game in Week 17, and you can find the best odds at top sportsbooks using OddsTrader.

Picks Summary


Does Defense Rule in Divisional Rematch?

With 7-8 records, both the Packers and Vikings need to keep winning to have any shot at the playoffs. The Vikings already have a win in hand over the Packers this year, though it was a low-scoring game at 24-10. Jordan Love has improved since that game, and the Vikings just scored 24 points in back-to-back losses with Nick Mullens as their starting quarterback.

But should a division rivalry rematch expect to be harder on scoring? The Packers are a 2.5-point road underdog with a total of 45.5 points. We look at the under.


Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings

Sunday, December 31, 2023 – 08:20 PM ET at U.S. Bank Stadium


Week 8 Recap: Vikings 24, Packers 10

This game absolutely should have had more than 34 points to it. The Vikings were efficient on offense behind Kirk Cousins, who left the game injured in the final quarter after he tore his Achilles. But the Vikings scored on 4-of-6 drives to start the day, and they also had a missed field goal and a blocked field goal.

On the other side, the Packers only had 270 yards of offense, their 3rd-lowest game this season. But after starting the game with 4 straight 3-and-out drives, the Packers did pick up the pace. The problem was red zone play where the Packers turned the ball over on downs twice as Jordan Love was unable to finish those drives for touchdowns.

Love was sacked 4 times and led the Packers with 34 rushing yards despite it being a game where Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon both played. So, it was not a stellar game for the offenses, but it was also a sloppy game with Green Bay having 11 penalties for 99 yards.

Beware the Turnovers

When the Vikings started 0-3, it was turnovers as the main story on offense with 9 giveaways, and many of them were fumbles. Turnovers have returned with the insertion of Nick Mullens as the team’s 4th starting quarterback this year. He moves the ball very well, but he also has thrown an interception on 7.3% of his attempts, an absurd rate for 1973, let alone 2023.

The Vikings are only 21st in scoring this year at 20.9 points per game in part because they rank 30th with 30 turnovers. They also have scored more than 28 points just once all year, so there is a ceiling on what this team is capable of on the scoreboard this year.

The Packers only have 16 turnovers and have generally protected the ball but going 1-for-4 on 4th down against Minnesota was like having 3 hidden turnovers. It also led to a season-low 10 points for the Packers, and Green Bay scored a season-low 7 points in Minnesota last year as well.

The Pick

This might be a contrarian pick as Green Bay’s last 5 games have gone over 45.5 points, and Minnesota’s last 2 starts with Mullens have gone over 50.5 points. But it was only in Week 14 when the Vikings won a 3-0 game against the Raiders.

There’s something to be said for division games and defense popping up more late in the year as the intensity and importance of these games increases. You also have to look at the styles of these teams. The Vikings want to play bend-but-don’t-break defense and force longer drives, which shrinks possessions and ultimately totals on the scoreboard.

The Vikings have the talent to move the ball well, but every play is a turnover opportunity for Mullens, which is a good way to kill drives and waste minutes off the clock with no points.

We’ll go against the grain and take the under in this one.

NFL Pick: Under 45 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook (check our Caesars Sportsbook Review)


Shootout Expected for Lions and Cowboys?

Points have been at a premium for most teams this year, but the Cowboys and Lions are 2 of the best-scoring teams in the league. The Cowboys will be happy to play a home game after rough trips on the road, and the Lions are going to treat this as another benchmark game to see where they stand in the NFC after winning the NFC North last week.

The Cowboys are a 6-point home favorite with a total of 53.5 points. We have a look at the total, tied for the highest in any game this year.


Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys

Saturday, December 30, 2023 – 08:15 PM ET at AT&T Stadium


Dallas Not Always Lethal at Home

The Cowboys are turning in a legendary home-road split this season that is probably frustrating to fans after losses to the Bills and Dolphins the last 2 weeks. All 6 times the Cowboys were held under 30 points this season were road games. They have scored at least 30 points in all 7 home games.

But this goes back to last year too. In fact, Dallas has scored at least 27 points in 12 straight home games, the 3rd-longest streak in NFL history only behind the 1997-98 Broncos (17 games) and 2012-13 Broncos (14 games).

Interestingly enough, this streak started after a 24-6 home win over Detroit last year, the game where Dak Prescott made his return from finger surgery. It was only a 10-6 game deep into the 4th quarter before the Cowboys padded the lead with 2 late touchdowns to win 24-6.

Jared Goff turned it over 4 times in that game (2 fumbles, 2 interceptions) and took 5 sacks. Detroit’s last 4 drives all ended in turnovers.

That was also a game where both quarterbacks only combined for 11 incompletions between them, so it’s not like they weren’t moving the ball. It just came down to 5 turnovers for Detroit. This game won’t be 24-6 again, but the Cowboys play better defense at home too, not just offense.

Detroit Not Immune to Road Duds

The Lions generally score a lot indoors like this game will be, but we have seen them falter on the road a few times this year:

  • Detroit only beat the Chiefs 21-20 to start the season, a game that featured a pick-6 by the Lions after Kadarius Toney dropped a pass.
  • The Lions won 20-6 in Tampa Bay, though the Buccaneers are playing much better now than they were in Week 6.
  • Detroit was blown out 38-6 in Baltimore, the worst performance of the season for the team.
  • The Lions lost 28-13 in Chicago a few weeks ago, turning the ball over 3 times and looking generally poor on offense.

The Cowboys did hold Miami to 22 points in Miami last week, so it’s not like Dallas is incapable of slowing down a hot offense. The Cowboys also held the Philadelphia offense out of the end zone in Week 14 in a game that ended 33-13.

In fact, none of Dallas’ last 3 games have gone over 46 points since that wild 41-35 shootout with Seattle and Geno Smith in Week 13.

The Pick

In games with a total of 50-plus points this year, the under is 10-1. The only game that went over was Dolphins at Bills, a 48-20 game with a line of 53 points. It has been that kind of season where the expected shootouts turn into offensive duds.

While it would be a fun game to see this go 41-35 like Dallas’ game with Seattle a few weeks ago, both teams still pride themselves enough on defense to think we can get a 27-24 type of game. That would still be exciting and feature multiple touchdowns from both offenses, but it ultimately finishes under the total.

NFL Pick: Under 53.5 (-110) at Bet365 (check our Bet365 Review)


Will the Jets Break 10 First Downs vs. Cleveland?

The Jets nearly blew a 20-point lead against Washington last week, but if the Browns play defense like they can, good luck to the Jets even sniffing anywhere close to 20 points in this matchup. Quarterback Joe Flacco also has his hands full with an above-average secondary in a game where neither team should expect to find much rushing success.

The Jets are a 7-point road underdog with a total of 36.5 points. We are looking at the team total for the Jets (over/under 13.5).


New York Jets vs. Cleveland Browns

Thursday, December 28, 2023 – 08:15 PM ET at Cleveland Browns Stadium


Good Luck, New York

A big reason the Jets nearly blew Sunday’s game after leading by 20 points is because that lead was built on a shady foundation. The Jets took advantage of tipped interceptions, a blocked punt, and a bad punt to set up short fields for a quick 17 points despite the Jets only gaining 68 yards of offense on those 3 drives.

After that fluky start, the Jets scored 13 points the rest of the way, a number they are used to seeing this year no matter who the quarterback was. The Jets have been held under 13.5 points in 9-of-15 games this year.

The Jets have only scored more than 13 points on the road once this year, and that was the 31-21 win in Denver, not long after the Broncos allowed 70 points in Miami.

With Trevor Siemian at quarterback, the Jets have no vertical passing game, and Garrett Wilson will find one of the toughest secondaries to face this year from the Browns. If Zach Wilson returns at quarterback, the Jets still have to contend with a bad running game and a quarterback who takes sacks on over 11.1% of his dropbacks.

This is not a game for the Jets to get on track offensively. In fact, it could be one of their worst games of the year, and that is saying something for this offense.

Cleveland’s Defense

The Browns started this season in historic fashion on defense when it held its first 3 opponents under 10 first downs, something that had not happened in the NFL since 2000.

It’s only been done in 1 more game since by the Browns when they got to play the Cardinals with Clayton Tune at quarterback, but it’s not like the Jets are a formidable opponent. In fact, it is clearly one of the weakest offenses the team will face all year.

It is true the Browns have only held 4-of-15 opponents to under 13.5 points this year, but they were all home games and favorable matchups against flawed offenses, which this game qualifies as on both fronts.

Turnovers are also a big deal as the Bears wouldn’t have scored 17 points on Cleveland if not for a pick-6 by Joe Flacco, who does get careless with the ball at times. As we saw last week, New York’s only hope of manufacturing scoring drives is to get takeaways and short fields. The offense cannot drive on its own.

The Pick

Look for Flacco to avoid the pick-6 issue and play a safer game against a team he knows won’t be able to score much. Trust the coverage of the Cleveland defense to shut down Wilson, and Myles Garrett and that front should eat against this poor offensive line.

While the Jets have cracked 30 points in 2-of-3 games, those were at home. They also have failed to reach 14 points in 7-of-9 games since the bye. We’ll count on this as another and take the under 13.5 points.

NFL Pick: Jets Under 13.5 Points (+100) at Caesars Sportsbook

*The line and/or odds referenced in this article might have changed since the content was published. For the latest information on line movements, visit OddsTrader’s free betting odds tool.

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