NFL Week 17: Overcoming The Odds – 3 games to watch

Richard Graves

Richard Graves

Presenter, Writer and Broadcaster

NFL Week 5: Overcoming the Odds - 3 Games to Watch

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys (Cowboys -6)

For the first time since 1993 the Detroit Lions are division champions and if they win their final two games, along with the 49ers dropping one, they will be the number 1 seed in the NFC.

Meanwhile the Cowboys outside hopes of claiming that number 1 seed all but disappeared with defeat in Miami; however, if they win out and the Eagles drop one of their last two games, Dallas will claim the NFC East title and the number 2 seed.

Detroit are running hot – they’ve scored 72 points in their last two games! In contrast Dallas have scored just 30 and conceded 52, losing both! There is a caveat though. Both of those games were on the road where Dallas have a 3-5 record this season. Back at AT&T stadium, they are a perfect 7-0, averaging 40 points per game. In fact, they’ve won 15 straight regular season games at home!

This has all the makings of a classic shootout. Dallas have the no. 2 scoring offense. Detroit, the no. 5. Which may make it all the stranger to suggest it’s defense which may decide this encounter.

The Cowboys haven’t forced a turnover in two games, but they have 21 this season – the same number as the Lions have given the ball away. This is the key. Whichever team wins the turnover battle, likely wins this game. When Jared Goff plays well, the Lions win but if Jared Goff feels pressure and is hurried – as shown by the Packers and the Bears over the last month – turnovers tend to follow. Align that with a defense which isn’t playing at an elite level and that allows team such as the Vikings last week, and the Saints a few weeks earlier, not only to hang around but force their way back into games.

The Cowboys are better on both sides of the ball than either of those teams – particularly at home. Even in defeat last weekend, we may have witnessed Dak Prescott growing before our eyes on Dallas’s final touchdown drive.

The Lions win this game if the commit to the run. If they don’t they play to the strength of Dallas and if this does become a shootout, it’s likely Detroit relies more on the arm of Jared Goff. In that instance the Cowboys win this game. All 4 defeats for the Lions this season have been by 6 points or more.

PICK: Dallas Cowboys – 6

 

Miami Dolphins @ Baltimore Ravens (Total points under 47)

Just like that the Baltimore Ravens hold the best record in football and victory this weekend will ensure the no. 1 seed in the AFC and a first round bye. However, if the Dolphins can pull off a repeat of last season’s win in Baltimore, they then hold the destiny of the no. 1 seed in their own hands.

After taking down the 49ers in San Francisco on Christmas night, Baltimore have been the talk of the NFL and Lamar Jackson is now the favourite to be named NFL MVP. It’s been a strange few weeks though in the NFL. A fortnight ago Dak Prescott was being touted as the leading MVP candidate but back to back defeats appear to have ended that. Then Brock Purdy was the MVP favourite, but last weekend’s loss has dampened those calls. Now it’s Lamar Jackson but could a defeat here lead to Tua Tagovailoa leapfrogging all of them?

Tua’s arm prompted that remarkable upset comeback in Baltimore last year – a game the Dolphins trailed by 21 points in the second half. This season, if Miami were to win out, he would have led the Dolphins to back to back wins over Dallas, Baltimore and Buffalo in the final 3 weeks of the season to clinch a first round bye. Unlikely? Maybe. Possible? Certainly.

The Ravens are enjoying their best form at exactly the right time of the year though. They’re riding a 5 game winning streak. They’ve just taken down the Niners and their defense is coming off a game where they snatched 5 interceptions!

Despite a raft of injuries, they still claim the no. 1 rushing attack in football. They’re averaging 28 points per game BUT their passing offense ranks just 21st with 212 passing yards per game.

Miami’s explosive offense is the key here. They are the no. 1 offense in the game this year. No. 1 in passing, no. 1 in scoring, no. 5 in rushing. IF Miami can put points on the board and force Lamar Jackson to throw the ball down field – with Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard in the Dolphins secondary, this is where Miami cause the upset.

However, they couldn’t do it last weekend against Dallas. Despite winning the game, Dallas held them to 20 points and only 1 touchdown. That won’t get it done against Baltimore. Miami’s 5th ranked run defense has to shut down the Ravens’ run game – and that includes Lamar Jackson making plays with his legs. It’s a big ask – especially when you’ve got to do it in Baltimore’s back yard.

PICK: Total Points – under 47

 

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings (Packers +2) 

The Vikings come into this Sunday Night Football clash having lost 4 of their last 5. The Packers have lost 2 of their last 3! However, last weekend’s win in Carolina means both teams head into week 17 knowing they can still edge into a wildcard spot IF either Seattle or the Rams were to lose at least one game. That means there’s everything to play for in this NFC North battle.

Green Bay’s win last weekend was much needed and halted a 2 games losing run. For Minnesota, it appears their injuries at quarterback have finally caught up with them. They pushed the Lions all the way last weekend, but Nick Mullens 4th interception of the game ended their hopes. This is their issues. The Vikings defense has been transformed this year, but they’ve had to contend with starting 4 different players at quarterback and while for a time it looked as though they might find a way to make it work, in December, things have fallen apart. Yet, it says something about the way Green Bay have played this month that Minnesota start this game as favourites.

The Vikings have a top 10 ranked offense. The Packers are 17th. The Vikings have the 3rd best passing game. The Packers 18th. The Vikings average 21 points per game. The Packers 22. However, Minnesota have given the ball away 30 times already this season, Green Bay, half of that with just 16. If you don’t look after the ball, you don’t win games in the NFL.

With Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon in the back field, Green Bay are able to establish an element of control in their offense and that has unquestionably helped Jordan Love, in what has been an up and down season. The quality he brings to the field could likely be the difference in a match up between to middle of the road teams, looking to sneak into the playoffs.

PICK: Green Bay Packers: +2

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