Let’s back some underdogs for Week 17 contest picks

I’m in an NFL contest submitting five ATS picks each week. The lines are set spreads released every Wednesday and selections are submitted by Friday night. Here are the five ATS contest picks for Week 17 in the NFL:

Texans +4.5 vs. Jaguars

The Texans defense has really stepped up in recent weeks, forcing eight turnovers in its last three games. In those games, Houston has covered three straight ATS, including an outright win against the Titans last week as 3.5-point underdogs. Here’s my full reasoning for backing the Texans:

Panthers +3 at Buccaneers

In recent weeks, when facing vulnerable rushing defenses, the Panthers have rushed for at least 185 yards per game, winning three of their last four games and rushing for a franchise-record 320 yards in a win over Detroit. The Bucs fell into that “susceptible against the run” category, allowing 209 rushing yards to San Francisco and another 190 to Cleveland. The Panthers, with running backs D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, are live dogs.

Bears +6 at Lions

Chicago quarterback Justin Fields rushed for 147 yards against the Lions in the first matchup in early November. The same needs to happen here. The Lions last week allowed 320 rushing yards to the Panthers. With Fields, plus running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, the Bears are capable of doing the same, ranking first in the league in rushing yards per game.

The Lions’ defense is beyond vulnerable and not just against the run. Opponents have punted at the lowest rate in the league against Detroit, while also scoring touchdowns at the highest rate. The Bears have a big opportunity to capitalize this week.

Colts +6 at Giants

I may regret this one. However, this is as good a matchup for the Colts and the Giants because both defenses are inept. In the past six games, the Giants are allowing touchdowns at the second-highest rate in the league, while allowing red-zone touchdowns at a 73% clip, also second-worst in the NFL.

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is coming off a stellar showing with 334 passing yards (his second 300-yard game of the season), eight yards per pass and 34 rushing yards on four attempts. That was against the league’s worst secondary in the Vikings. Jones should have more difficulty against a Colts defense that held Chargers QB Justin Herbert to zero passing touchdowns on Monday.

Broncos +12.5 at Chiefs

Who in the world would want to back a Russell Wilson-led offense against one of the best teams in the NFL? Four interceptions were thrown last week between Wilson and backup quarterback Brett Rypien, leading to 24 Rams points. There was fighting on the Broncos’ sideline and head coach Nathaniel Hackett was fired. The Broncos may have hit rock bottom. However, not all is lost. Receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler took to social media to defend Wilson.

Wilson had one of his best showings against the Chiefs just two weeks ago, throwing three touchdowns (the most in a single game for him all season), while rushing for 57 yards (also his most in a game this season). I’m willing to give the Broncos one last shot with Hackett now gone and after Wilson had his worst game of the year. There’s only one way to go when you’ve hit bottom.

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