Week 17 of the NFL season is upon us. With just two weeks left, teams across the league are scrambling for wins to either avoid playoff elimination, secure byes, or just end the season with a grain of pride.
With a solid sample size of games to judge teams on, team-adjusted stats like DVOA have a ton of value. We also have to be aware of how injuries have affected teams to this point.
As always, context is key.
With that in mind, let’s dive into some NFL Week 17 upset predictions and best bets.
Please note that all NFL gameday odds and lines are current as of 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday, December 31.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cleveland Browns Upset Pick
Ben Roethlisberger‘s last game ever may not end with a bang, nor whimper. The Steelers and Browns are evenly matched but Pittsburgh gets the advantage of playing at home.
Big Ben is historically better when playing at Heinz Field. Even this year he has a higher completion percentage, TD/INT ratio, Y/A, and AY/A at home. Five of Ben’s wins have come at home while only two have come away.
This may seem like an extremely bland analysis and to be fair, it is, but this has been a trend across his career. The Steelers are also relatively healthy as they get budding TE Pat Freiermuth back from concussion protocols.
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The Browns have lost 7 of their past 11 games along with losing their most recent against Pittsburgh at home. They are a bad team with an unhealthy QB whose performance is not that far off from Roethlisberger’s. It is hard to fathom why they are favored.
Yes, the Steelers are down both starting linebackers Joe Schobert and Devin Bush, but neither has played particularly well this season. The only major loss is starting center Kendrick Green, who is likely out due to a calf injury.
- Read our full Steelers vs Browns Predictions & Best Bets.
Offensively, Cleveland is the only team with some sort of trump card thanks to its rushing attack, though Pittsburgh could sell out and force Mayfield to beat them. There should be doubts about this plan’s effectiveness, especially if T.J. Watt is healthy.
Upset Prediction: Steelers 24, Browns 21
Browns vs Steelers Upset Best Bets
Upset Bet: Steelers Moneyline (+150) at Caesars
Wager: 2 Units
The Steelers find a way to win this game. While corny to follow narratives, the matchup is close enough to favor the home team here unless COVID strikes in a massive way over the weekend.
Pittsburgh boasts enough talent on offense between Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Najee Harris, and the aforementioned Freiermuth to find points while the defense, though depleted, gets the benefit of facing an injured QB.
Upset Pick: Over 41 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
Both defenses are in the bottom half of the league of DVOA. While these teams did combine for just 25 total in the most recent matchup, Pittsburgh ranks 4th in total pace and 8th in neutral situations. Assuming this is a close game, even Cleveland’s sluggish 29th-placed pace will not prevent the over from hitting.
Washington Football Team vs Philadelphia Eagles Upset Pick
The Eagles recently beat Washington by double digits and have quite the stretch going with 5 wins over their past 6 games but that can all change in D.C. this weekend. The Football Team is no longer starting 3rd-string QB Garrett Gilbert and instead gets competent former backup Taylor Heinicke.
Heinicke is no world-beater, however, he is mobile, unlike Gilbert, and has some semblance of a rapport with the starting offense. Coming off a 56-14 demolition at the hands of Dallas, Washington is likely coming out guns-a-blazing despite their playoff hopes all but crushed.
- Read our full Eagles vs Washington Predictions & Best Bets.
The WFT offense is down starting RB Antonio Gibson but that may be a blessing in disguise as he has been hurt all season and it has only gotten worse as the season progressed. UDFA Jaret Patterson should be capable of carrying the load as he has flashed at times this year. Losing starting CB William Jackson III hurts though it would hurt more if Philadelphia possessed more than one competent receiver (Smith).
On the flip side, Philadelphia is down starting RB Miles Sanders (hand), potentially down backup Jordan Howard (shoulder), and stuck with backups Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell. RB is not a major deciding factor is who wins games, especially when your QB is as mobile as Jalen Hurts but it is a factor.
Upset Prediction: WFT 23, Eagles 20
Eagles vs WFT Upset Picks
Upset Pick: WFT Moneyline (+145) at Caesars
Wager: 2 Units
The Eagles are not as trampled by COVID as Washington. However, with Washington at home and Heinicke another week removed from his illness, there is a good chance that they can pull this off.
The defense is built to stop a run-first team and Jalen Hurts has not been rushing as much since his ankle injury (45 yards on 10 rushes through the past 2 games). In their last matchup, it was a tie game at halftime! These teams are evenly matched for the most part.
If Washington loads up to force Hurts to pass and prevents him from escaping, they have a good shot to win.
Upset Pick: Under 44.5 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
Philadelphia’s 15th in pace while Washington is 23rd. When Washington leads, they are the slowest team in the NFL. These stats are context-dependent and should be taken with a grain of salt of course but valuable when something as polarizing as this is shown.