The NFL regular season has just one week remaining, and I’m stoked to see some playoff football in the very near future. Before we can get to the postseason, though, there are some things to sort out this week. The Raiders and Chargers will meet on Sunday Night Football for the final playoff spot in the AFC, the Rams and 49ers will face off for significant NFC playoff implications, and plenty of teams are fighting for final positioning. I’ll have an article out later this week breaking down the stakes for each game this week, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the Week 18 odds.
My Week 17 Record: 13-3 SU, 9-7 ATS, 10-6 O/U
My record overall: 164-91-1 SU, 149-105-1 ATS, 136-118-2 O/U
Saturday, January 8
Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos
The Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals didn’t fully put them out of the running for the #1 seed in the AFC, but it came close. They now need to beat the Broncos and have Davis Mills lead the Texans to their second win over the Titans this season to finish on top of the conference. Kansas City’s defensive ascension was put to the test last week against Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, and they failed miserably as Charvarius Ward was burned by Chase repeatedly. With Teddy Bridgewater still in concussion protocol, it appears that Denver will start Drew Lock again this week, setting this up as a nice opportunity for the Chiefs’ defense to bounce back. The Chiefs have won 12 straight games against the Broncos dating back to 2015, and it’s highly likely they make it 13 here. Denver has been eliminated from the playoffs on the heels of its current three-game losing streak and currently sits in the #11 spot in the draft. This game will likely be Lock’s last start for the Broncos in his career, and the focus turns to fix a broken offense that held back this team from accomplishing its goals and resulted in a fifth-straight losing season.
My Prediction: Chiefs win 23-10, Chiefs cover, under 43.5 points
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Cowboys destroyed the Eagles on Sunday Night Football in September, but the Eagles are a much better team now than they were then. Despite starting the season 2-5, the Eagles have clinched a spot in the postseason under first-year head coach Nick Sirianni. Jalen Hurts was almost damaged by a collapsing railing on Sunday, but his reaction to the situation in dealing with the endangered fans showcased his fantastic personality and how the Eagles’ fan base has embraced him. No, his passing stats may not be the most impressive, but he’s now led this team to wins in six of their last eight games. The Cowboys, meanwhile, couldn’t knock off the Cardinals despite outsourcing them 15-3 in the fourth quarter. Dallas struggled to run the ball in that game, which is something to watch moving forward, and their defense also failed to record a takeaway, an area in which they have thrived this season. Philadelphia’s secondary has the personnel to match up with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, and if Jalen Hurts plays an efficient game, the Eagles can pull off an upset.
My Prediction: Eagles win 26-23, Eagles cover, over 42.5 points
Sunday, January 9
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
Could this be Baker Mayfield’s last game in a Browns jersey? It’s conceivable, and it’s certainly a depressing thought for Cleveland fans who saw him as the franchise’s savior not long ago. However, the Browns have far from lived up to preseason expectations this year, and Mayfield is a huge reason why. His erratic lack of accuracy and turnover-prone passing has held the team back countless times this season, and it’s difficult to trust him right now. Luckily, the Bengals may be benching several critical players, including Joe Burrow, after locking up the AFC North last week. Then again, the Bengals have every reason to be looking for revenge after getting trounced by the Browns earlier this season in potentially their worst performance of the year. Ja’Marr Chase is a freak of nature and already one of the best offensive weapons in the NFL; he should be the OROY runaway favorite. Keep an eye on the practice reports to see who takes the field in this one.
My Prediction: Browns win 20-17, Browns cover, under 46 points
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
The Packers have no reason to play their starters this week after wrapping up the top seed in the conference on Sunday, and I’d grab the Lions ATS before we get further word on the status of Green Bay’s top players. Jordan Love struggled to move the ball when we watched him start earlier this season, but that was against the Chiefs, much better defense than the Lions. Still, Love likely won’t have the help of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and the starting offensive line this week. Detroit has found a fundamental building block for their offense in Amon-Ra St. Brown, a fantasy football postseason darling for many, who has 8+ catches in five straight games and five touchdowns over that span. The Lions haven’t beaten the Packers since 2018, but I like them to end their season with a win over their division rival, with Green Bay likely not playing their starters.
My Prediction: Lions win 20-17, Lions cover, under 46.5 points
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
In their meeting earlier this season, I picked the Bears to cover against the Vikings, and they nearly did. Despite almost 100 yards of penalties, three lost fumbles, some infuriating calls by the referees, and some poor coaching by Matt Nagy, Chicago almost beat their divisional rival. I’ve been impressed by Justin Fields this season despite his inferior numbers, and it sounds like the Bears plan to start him against a struggling Minnesota pass defense this week. On the other side, it’s unclear if Kirk Cousins will be available this week after missing last week following testing positive for COVID-19. Regardless, Robert Quinn and the Bears’ defense are playing excellent football right now; Quinn just broke the franchise record with his 18th sack. Both Nagy and Mike Zimmer are on the hot seat following this season, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them both be fired. In the meantime, they’ll meet in this meaningless divisional game. The Bears have a two-game winning streak, the Vikings have a two-game losing streak, and I’ll take Chicago to get the win.
My Prediction: Bears win 27-24, Bears cover, over 44.5 points
Washington Football Team @ New York Giants
I don’t particularly want to pick a winner in this game, but it’s hard to find any argument for choosing the Giants right now. Mike Glennon finished the game against the Bears with just 24 passing yards and a 5.3 passer rating, while Jake Fromm has been terrible in his limited action. For the second time recently, Washington held an early 10-0 lead over the Eagles before ultimately relinquishing that lead and losing. Taylor Heinecke isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback, but he’s worlds better than either of the Giants’ passers, and that should be enough to win this game. Washington is working through a four-game losing streak, and the injuries have piled up on both sides of the ball, but they’re still in much better shape than the Giants. I wouldn’t bet on this game since there’s essentially nothing at stake, but I’m taking Washington.
My Prediction: Washington wins 20-10, Washington covers, under 38.5 points
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Plenty of teams want the Colts to lose this game, but it’s simply not going to happen. The Colts almost let the Jaguars come back to win in their first matchup after earning a 17-6 lead in the first quarter and taking their foot off the gas, but they won’t make the same mistake this week. Jacksonville allowed the Patriots to put up 50 points last week, so this profiles as an excellent tune-up game for the Colts before heading into the postseason. Jonathan Taylor needs another 266 rushing yards to reach 2,000 yards for the season, and it’s not entirely inconceivable that he could accomplish that feat in this game. Still, it’s more likely the Colts run up the score in the first half and let him rest to keep him healthy for the postseason. The Jaguars will have a long offseason attempting to find ways to help Trevor Lawrence succeed in Year Two, as his rookie season has been an unmitigated disaster. The Urban Meyer fiasco has masked what has been one of the most disappointing debut seasons by a passer we’ve seen in recent years, and Lawrence has a lot of work to do before he’s at a level that lives up to the hype. It’s not going to happen for him against the Indy defense.
My Prediction: Colts win 34-13, Colts cover, over 44 points
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
These AFC North teams technically have a chance to find their way into the postseason, but it depends on the Colts losing to the Jaguars, which I don’t see happening. It’s been an incredibly disappointing season for the Ravens as they’ve suffered arguably more injuries than any team in the NFL. Lamar Jackson reportedly could be back on the field this week. Still, the team’s issues go far beyond his availability, and their lack of healthy secondary players has completely held back the defense. Pittsburgh’s 8-7-1 record is something of a miracle considering how bad their offensive line is and how porous the run defense has been over the second half of the season. Can Ben Roethlisberger close out his season with another win, lead the Steelers to a shock playoff bid, and win my Pittsburgh over 8.5 bets preseason future bet? Perhaps not, but the Ravens are reeling with their injuries, and I’ll back the Steelers to cover.
My Prediction: Ravens win 21-17, Steelers cover, under 42 points
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
The Titans can clinch the top seed in the AFC with a win here, and their win against the Chiefs earlier in the season remains incredibly impressive and perhaps the most crucial win of the year for any team. The return of A.J. Brown is significant for the Titans’ offense, and he exploded against the 49ers in his return a couple of weeks ago. Still, the emergence of D’Onta Foreman has been the biggest difference-maker, and he had 132 rushing yards and a touchdown last week against the Dolphins. Of course, Derrick Henry is gearing up for a playoff return and will resume his typical role once he does come back. Mike Vrabel deserves to win Coach of the Year for the several wins over top teams Tennessee has this year despite being at a talent deficit compared to most contenders. It’s doubtful they lose to the Texans twice in one season, and they won’t let this opportunity to be the #1 seed pass them by.
My Prediction: Titans 27-13, Titans cover, under 43 points
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
The Saints almost had a catastrophic loss to the Panthers last week, but they’re now in a position to grab a playoff spot with a win and a 49ers’ loss. New Orleans has one of the best defenses in the NFL, arguably the best in the NFC playoff field, and they sacked Sam Darnold seven times last week as Cameron Jordan turned in a DPOW-caliber performance. That elite defense allowed the Falcons to score 27 points earlier this season, but Atlanta hasn’t scored that many points in a game since. Cordarelle Patterson hasn’t been as productive lately. While Kyle Pitts is on his way to breaking Mike Ditka’s rookie receiving yardage record for tight ends, the offense is lacking consistent playmakers. With New Orleans completely taking away the run the first time these teams played, expect Matt Ryan to be a bit less productive through the air this week. I like the Saints to end their season with a road win.
My Prediction: Saints win 20-13, Saints cover, under 40 points
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
The Jets showed some fight last week as they almost knocked off the Buccaneers, and all they have to show for it is a 17-point line against their division rival this week. Zach Wilson played efficient football against Tampa as he finished with a passer rating over 80 for the fourth time in five weeks while Braxton Berrios scored another two touchdowns, his third and fourth scores over the past three weeks. Josh Allen struggled mightily last week despite facing a mediocre Atlanta pass defense as he completed just 42% of his passes for 120 yards and threw three interceptions. It goes without saying, but that kind of effort won’t get the Bills very far in the postseason. Luckily, Devin Singletary has emerged as a reliable part of the offense with 23 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns last week. The Bills beat the Jets by a final score of 45-17 earlier this season, but New York has gotten better week by week, and they will see this as an opportunity to make a statement before the end of the year. Buffalo still needs to win this game to clinch the division, but don’t be surprised if the Jets make it tough on them and look to play spoiler.
My Prediction: Bills win 26-17, Jets cover, under 43.5 points
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins’ miraculous late-season surge came to a screeching halt against the Titans last week as their 34-3 loss eliminated them from the postseason. New England has clinched a spot in the postseason but still has an off chance of winning the division if the Jets can upset the Bills. The Patriots bounced back nicely from their double-digit-point loss to the Bills a couple of weeks ago by dropping 50 points on the Jaguars last week, and Mac Jones quietly put together perhaps his best game of the season with a pristine 128.1 passer rating on the back of three touchdowns and no turnovers. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson scored two touchdowns, and they are one of the best RB duos in the league right now. Jones has progressed impressively since making his pro debut against the Dolphins earlier this season, but Miami’s defense has rounded into form since that game and could present a challenge. Still, I trust Bill Belichick’s defense to keep Tua Tagovailoa in check and limit what Miami can do offensively. I’ve probably picked too many unders this week, and 40 is a low point total, so I’ll lean a slight over here, but I don’t have a solid lean on a seven-point spread that could prove to be too much depending on which version of the Dolphins we see.
My Prediction: Patriots win 23-20, Dolphins cover, over 40 points
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The resolve that it required for the Buccaneers to come from behind and beat the Jets last week following the bizarre Antonio Brown incident was impressive. Still, the more significant takeaway is that this team could be in trouble without Brown and Chris Godwin in the playoffs. Cyril Grayson scored the game-winning touchdown, and the team still has Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski, but their depth has been tested on both sides of the ball all season. The Packers have clinched the #1 seed in the NFC, and the Buccaneers have clinched the NFC South title, so they don’t have a ton of incentive to be gunning for this game, but it may not matter against Carolina’s putrid offense. The Panthers have a lot of work to do this offseason to resolve one of the worst offensive lines in the league and a mess of a quarterback room that has held them back all year. Carolina has scored just 12.2 points per game over the past five weeks, and they managed just six points against this same Buccaneers team a couple of weeks ago. Keep an eye on practice reports and whatnot to see if Tom Brady and friends will suit up this week, but assuming they do, I can’t fathom suggesting you bet on the Panthers to cover the spread.
My Prediction: Buccaneers win 27-10, Buccaneers cover, under 42.5 points
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams
I was surprised that this game wasn’t selected as one of the three primetime games for Week 18, as it arguably has the highest stakes of any game on the slate. The Rams can clinch the NFC West title with a win here, while the 49ers need to win to hold onto a playoff spot. Trey Lance struggled as the starter last week, and San Francisco hopes to get Jimmy Garoppolo back for this matchup, which would be a big deal. Lance would have a tough time moving the ball against a ferocious pass rush featuring Aaron Donald and Von Miller. Los Angeles has seemingly won despite Matthew Stafford in recent weeks as the veteran quarterback has had five interceptions over the past two weeks and has to find a way to take better care of the football. Cooper Kupp deserves to be mentioned in the MVP conversation and needs another 171 yards to surpass 2,000 receiving yards this season, although he said himself that it wouldn’t be right for the record to be broken in the 17th game of the season. He had 11 catches for 122 yards against the Niners earlier this year. The 49ers have won five straight games against the Rams, but that streak ends this week regardless of whether or not Garoppolo is healthy.
My Prediction: Rams win 27-20, Rams cover, over 44.5 points
Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals will have some regrets about not taking hold of the NFC West when they were the hottest team in football for the first part of the year. Still, this game provides an excellent opportunity to tune some things up before they likely head into a first-round matchup against a Cowboys team they just beat last week. Despite being without DeAndre Hopkins, James Conner, and Rondale Moore, Kyler Murray played an excellent game in Dallas that featured some designed runs to help kill the clock late in the game. Christian Kirk has stepped up in the absence of Hopkins with 6+ catches in three straight games, while the return of Chase Edmonds is helpful, as well. Seattle’s defense likely can’t compete with Murray regardless of which skill position players are healthy. It may have been Russell Wilson’s last home game in Seattle last week, and he certainly gave Seahawks fans something to remember with four touchdowns. Rashaad Penny has also been on fire lately with 170 yards and two touchdowns last week. With both offenses rolling, this could be a sneaky high-scoring game, but the Cardinals won’t relinquish the opportunity to put themselves atop the division if the Rams can’t beat the 49ers.
My Predictions: Cardinals win 28-24, Seahawks cover, over 48 points
Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders
Both of these AFC West teams have had rocky seasons, but they’ve put themselves in a position to earn a playoff berth with a Week 18 win. It may mean they have to go on the road to face Kansas City, however, putting them in an unenviable position. Nonetheless, both teams would love to end their year in the playoffs. The Raiders have overcome a lot of off-field controversies this year to get to this point, and their win over the Colts last week was another example of how you can’t quite count this team out. The continued absence of Darren Waller has made things tougher on Derek Carr and the offense, but head coach Rich Bisaccia reportedly hopes to have him back for this game. Last week, the Chargers needed a win after dropping a surprising loss to the Texans, but they didn’t need to do much to keep Drew Lock in check. When these teams played earlier this season, Justin Herbert far outclassed Derek Carr, as he has continued to do all season. Hunter Renfrow and Zay Jones have stepped up in the passing game, but the Raiders are at a disadvantage compared to the Chargers’ trio of Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams. Both of these teams are relatively healthy compared to most this late in the year, and we should be in for a treat of a matchup between two teams desperate for a win. I’m siding with Herbert, the better quarterback, in this one, but I’m excited to see some fireworks in this game.
My Prediction: Chargers win 27-24, Chargers cover, over 48.5 points