The (Under) Dogs Are Barking: Week 17

Photo credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-The Record via USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a week of holiday cheer, where the Ravens delivered us a winning week, we’re back to close out 2023 with another litter of adorable puppies that are (almost) guaranteed to cause you to pop the bubbly well before midnight.

Giants +5 ½ vs. Rams

The Rams are that hot team that no one wants to play in the playoffs, holders of that title for the past few weeks now. They haven’t punched their ticket yet, and likely need to win out to get there. Their offense is humming, but Wink Martindale has no interest in making things easy for Matthew Stafford, who has struggled against the blitz this season. Stafford has been a bit better the last few weeks, though. No team, not even the Vikings, blitz more than the Giants, and Dexter Lawrence could make things a little dicey.

While weather won’t be a big factor, Stafford typically struggles late in the year on the road. The switch to Tyrod Taylor at QB gives the Giants a much better chance to compete against Aaron Donald and that average defense. The Rams just may be looking ahead to next week’s finale in San Francisco, too. Feels like they squeak out a two or three-point win — 5 and a hook is just too many points.

Panthers +6 at Jaguars

No, I’m not getting carried away by my Packers’ late-game defensive struggles at Carolina last week. This pick is more about the current state of the floundering Jags, who have played like one of the league’s worst teams on both sides of the ball during its current four-game slide. They have gone from the AFC’s top seed to a team that may fall out of the playoffs altogether.

Trevor Lawrence is banged up all over his body and may or not play, but that matters not one bit to me. Carolina’s defense isn’t great, but it’s playing hard and will make the Jags earn everything they get. Bryce Young will have gained some confidence, after a strong fourth quarter that almost resulted in a bigtime comeback last week. This line is at least two points too big — the plucky Panthers will keep it close.

Chargers +3 ½ at Broncos

I debated long and hard between LA and Washington here. But I ultimately chose the divisional rematch that features a Broncos team that looked at their P&L statement and decided to make a financial decision and put Russell Wilson on ice, to protect themselves against an injury that could cost them tens of millions in future guarantees. Of course, this comes on the heels of a complete meltdown against the Pats that eliminated them from the playoffs.

I don’t know how benching Russ is playing in the locker room because I don’t know how the team feels about Mr. Unlimited. But I know that the Chargers are playing much harder since the coaching change and their beleaguered defense should be able to handle an offense that will likely be without Courtland Sutton for its new QB, Jarrett Stidham.

They’re running the ball better with Austin Ekeler lately, and Easton Stick is looking more and more comfortable each week. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a Chargers win here; in a low-scoring game, it figures to be a tight one.

Last Week: 2-1

Season: 24-22-2

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