It is hard to pick games against-the-spread in the NFL, especially in Week 17. Which teams care, what teams don’t? While some squads are making a push for the playoffs, others are booking vacations.
Motivation is a tricky beast but this week there are nine teams (Patriots, Raiders, Chiefs, Falcons, Seahawks, Lions, Packers, Redskins, and Buccaneers) with a chance to clinch a playoff berth or improve their seeding. We know they will be trying.
How do teams with something to play for perform in Week 17?
Using the Bet Labs database we pulled every Week 17 games in the last five years where at least one team had a playoff spot or seeding on the line. In those games, the team with motivation went 45-21 straight-up and 33-31-2 against-the-spread.
In games where only one team had postseason motivation, the team with something to play for went 32-8 straight-up and 20-18-2 ATS. In all but three of those games, the team with motivation was favored and went 32-5 straight-up and 19-16-2 ATS.
There were also 13 games in the last five years in Week 17 where both teams had postseason motivation to win. In those contests, the favorite went 8-5 straight-up and 7-6 against-the-spread.
Teams with motivation that are favored performed much better straight-up than expected. From 2011 to 2015, favorites won 66.6% of their games. In Week 17 teams that had motivation and were favored won 80.0% of their games. These same squads also performed better against-the-spread than expected. Favorites from 2011 to 2015 covered 49.1% of the time, while in Week 17 favorites with playoff implications had an against-the-spread win rate of 54.2%.
Sunday Night Football: Lions vs. Packers
There is a Pro System pick for this game that is 103-59 (64%) ATS all-time
Motivation matters, when there are playoff ramifications on the line in Week 17 teams that are favored perform better.
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