Well, we’ve reached the end of the road. 18 weeks. 90 games (for three of us). Lots of fun. We’ve enjoyed breaking down these games and hopefully providing you with at least some entertainment throughout the season. If you tailed the new guys this season, congratulations because you made some money! Erik and I can still finish above 50%, but it was mostly a ‘meh’ year for us.
How do the Week 18 picks shape up? Well, the Bucs show up on everybody’s card, and the Chargers, in their chase for a playoff bid, land on three. Erik likes three underdogs this week, I’ve taken two, and Brennan and Justin are all about the favorites. We’ll see how these picks shape up over the next 36 hours or so, so come along on the ride with us!
Gamblers know that 60% is the magic number to come out ahead, so that’s the goal again this season. We didn’t make it last year, which just motivates us, even more, this season. Every week the four of us will pick five games against the spread or on the over/under. We’ll track the picks every week and see where we end up. Feel free to play along in the comments or find us on Twitter!
Let’s get to the lines and picks for Week 18!
The following lines were captured on Friday this week. Betting lines can vary by site and move throughout the week so check yours to make sure that you have similar information.
|Football Team||Giants||Football Team -7||38|
|Analyst||Justin Dunbar||Brennan Rampe||Erik Smith||Bryan Sweet|
|Pick #1||Chargers -3||Titans -10||Steelers +5||Chargers -3|
|Pick #2||Packers -4||Packers -4||Bengals +6||Titans -10|
|Pick #3||Buccaneers -8||Buccaneers -8||Buccaneers -8||Bengals +6|
|Pick #4||SEA/ARI U48||49ers +4.5||Patriots -6||Eagles +4.5|
|Pick #5||LV/LAC U49.5||Chargers -3||49ers +4.5||Buccaneers -8|
Justin Dunbar: Justin puts together an article analyzing some of his picks in more detail. Check out his Week 18 Betting Preview for more! Here is a snippet from his pick for this week.
The atmosphere will be crazy in Las Vegas on Sunday night, but I’m confident that Herbert and co. will be able to come away with a win, and most importantly, the final playoff spot in the AFC. LAC -3
The betting markets appear to be assuming that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play in this game, but I’m not sure it was the case. Based on the line movement the last time Rodgers missed a game, the market has Rodgers worth about seven points over Jordan Love. Thus, you can see the massive surplus value if Rodgers decides to play. At the very least, it is looking like Rodgers plays the first half, which would be enough time for him to carve up PFF’s lowest-graded secondary. If Rodgers plays, this is a no-brainer. If he doesn’t, I still can see them covering against the team with the league’s fourth-worst point differential. As they say, go Pack go! GB -4
Two weeks ago, the Bucs were a 10.5-point favorite on the road against the Panthers. Now, it’s just an eight-point spread with them at home? There is plenty of motivation for the Bucs to win this game – they can get the #2 seed if they win and the Rams lose – and head coach Bruce Arians has already stated that the team will play all of its starters. The Panthers haven’t scored more than 14 points in any of their past three games, while Sam Darnold has averaged a 44.7 PFF passing grade in the two games since coming back from injury. With the league’s second-worst offensive line, it’s going to be mightily difficult for them to score points against a strong pass rush; they only scored six points the last time they faced. All I have to say is Tom Brady vs Sam Darnold. The Bucs won by four scores against Carolina two weeks ago, and a similar result should be expected here. TB -8
This should be a reasonably fast-paced game. That being said, I don’t have much confidence in the Seahawks’ offense against the Cardinals. Arizona has been a run-funnel this year, and if we know one thing, it’s that head coach Pete Carroll will gladly run the ball against them. That’s exactly what we’re looking for in an under. This season, the Seahawks are averaging the fewest plays/game, while Arizona hasn’t posted a PFF team offense grade over 70 since Week 9. They are still only averaging 19 points over the past month, and Seattle looked completely lost against the aggressive Cardinals defense in their prior matchup. With all of this in mind, I’ll expect a lower-scoring game here. SEA/ARI Under 48
Since Henry Ruggs III was arrested, the Raiders have averaged just 17.6 points per game. In that span, they have only eclipsed 20 points twice, and are averaging 16 points per game over their past five games. Tight end Darren Waller should be back, but this is likely to be a scenario where they try to grind it out with running back ash Jacobs against a poor Chargers run defense that is focused on not allowing explosive passing plays. The betting markets have them projected for 24 points this week and considering they have only reached that mark one time since Week 7, I will gladly bet against them reaching that number here. LV/LAC Under 49.5
Brennan Rampe: The Titans destroyed the Dolphins 34-3 in a very impressive victory. The offense had nearly 200 rushing yards, and the defense prevented the Dolphins from scoring a touchdown. The Texans got beat up by the 49ers, and could only score seven points. The Texans pulled off one of the upsets of the year in the first meeting between these divisional rivals. Ryan Tannehill threw four interceptions and there was also a muffed punt that set up a Texans touchdown. Tyrod Taylor started the first meeting, but this time, rookie quarterback Davis Mills will get the start. The Titans’ defense should be able to confuse Mills and shut down the Texans’ offense. The Titans would be the first seed in the AFC with a win. They realize how important this game is, and they will get their revenge for what happened in the first matchup. Inside the Numbers: Tennessee is 13-10 against the spread in division games under Mike Vrabel. TEN -10
The Packers secured the first overall seed in the NFC last week in a victory over the Vikings. Despite securing home-field advantage, it appears that the plan is to start every major player on offense and defense, including David Bakhtiari, who hasn’t played all year. The Packers crushed the Lions in the first meeting. They started slow but then proceeded to blow them out. The Packers have been banged up all year long, but are starting to get healthy just in time for what they hope is a Super Bowl-winning playoff run. Randall Cobb, Jaire Alexander, and Za’Darius Smith are all expected to return for the playoffs. In my opinion, this is the best team that Aaron Rodgers has ever had, and that includes the Super Bowl-winning 2010 team. This is a pretty low spread, and the Packers should cover it with no problems. Inside the Numbers: Green Bay is 12-5 in division games against the spread under Matt LaFleur. GB -4
The Buccaneers, despite wide receiver Antonio Brown quitting on the team in the middle of the game, held on last week to beat the Jets. The wide receiver depth of the defending champions is about to be tested as they enter the playoffs, as Chris Godwin suffered a torn ACL and Brown has been released. There is still talent at the position, but players are going to have to step up into bigger roles. Their odds of repeating as champions have started to decrease, but anything is possible with Tom Brady. They will have no problems with the Panthers, who lost to the Saints last week. Their defense was fine, but the offense only scored ten points. They have the worst quarterback situation in the league, and they must find a solution at the position in the offseason. The Buccaneers destroyed the Panthers on the road two weeks ago, and they should easily be able to do it again at home. Inside the numbers: Tampa Bay is 11-5 against the spread at home with Tom Brady at quarterback. TB -8
The Rams beat the Ravens last week, but it wasn’t easy, despite the Ravens being the most injured team in the league, only winning by one point. The 49ers took care of business against the Texans, winning 24-7. Rookie quarterback Trey Lance had his first career win and played pretty well. It seems like Jimmy Garoppolo will return as the starter this week, however. The 49ers have won five straight matchups against the Rams. The 49ers get into the playoffs with a win or a Saints loss. Whenever these two teams meet, the Rams just seem to have no answer on offense or defense against the 49ers. I thought Jared Goff might’ve been the reason why the Rams have lost so often in this rivalry, but the Rams got blown out in Matthew Stafford’s first meeting against the 49ers. Stafford threw two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six. The 49ers know that their playoff fate is determined with this game, and until the Rams prove that they can beat them, I’m picking the 49ers to win six straight games in this rivalry. Inside the Numbers: As mentioned, San Francisco has won five straight against their divisional rival Rams. SF +4.5
The Chargers got back on track in a dominant win over their divisional rival Broncos. The offense and defense both performed well. The Raiders upset the Colts on the road, and there’s no doubt that their performance was inspired by the death of their legendary coach and broadcaster John Madden. The Chargers won the first meeting in Week 4. In the first meeting, the Raiders still had Jon Gruden as their coach and both Henry Ruggs III and Damon Arnette were still on the roster. Things have changed drastically for the Raiders since then, but they somehow are still in a position to make the playoffs, despite all of the drama. Both teams are 9-7, and everything is on the line for these teams. The winner is in, and the loser will miss out on the playoffs. The fate of the Raiders coaching staff hangs in the balance. In this important divisional matchup, I think the Chargers will get into the playoffs by sweeping the Raiders and covering. Inside the Numbers: The Chargers are 7-4 against the spread in division games with Justin Herbert at quarterback. LAC -3
Erik Smith: Both the Steelers and the Ravens have a glimmer of hope to make the playoffs, so they will be giving it a good effort in Week 18. But the Ravens are a beaten-down team full of injuries who just had the season from hell, while the Steelers are playing what could be the final game of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. If both teams are scoreboard watching and things don’t go their way, I have faith that the Steelers will play this one as their Super Bowl regardless, and their pass rush could keep this game close to the very end. I wouldn’t fault the Ravens for packing it in once their hopes are dashed and restocking for September. PIT +5
I realize the Bengals are sitting Joe Burrow and have their eyes on the playoffs, but the Browns are sitting Baker Mayfield in a meaningless game and seem to be dealing with some internal issues in a disappointing season. While the Bengals are sitting starters, they do still have to play some of their regulars, just based on the math of an NFL roster size. Give me the happy, motivated team getting six points over the team who isn’t sure who their QB will be next year. CIN +6
New England has some playoff seeding at stake as well, but this is more a pick against the Dolphins than anything. Miami just got smoked with their season on the line last week, so I don’t think a divisional rivalry against the Patriots is enough to bring out an above-average game from them. New England rolls into the playoffs on a big win. NE -6
The 49ers have the Rams’ number while also having more at stake in Week 18 than the Rams do. This line feels a point and a half too high, so give me the 49ers, regardless of who the quarterback is. SF +4.5
Bryan Sweet: The last regular-season game of the year will determine who secures the final playoff spot in the AFC when the Chargers host the Raiders. When two teams are fairly evenly matched, go with the team with the better QB and the Chargers have the better QB heading into this game. Derek Carr has shown promise in his young career, but Justin Herbert is on another level right now. Plus, the Chargers have more playmakers and should be able to best their division rivals and start their playoff run. LAC -3
The Titans welcomed Derrick Henry back to practice this week and will look to earn an extra week of rest for The King with a victory over the hapless Texans on Sunday. Tennessee has been almost as good without Henry as they were with him and with a first-round BYE on the line I can see them dropping the hammer on Houston and trying to put the game away early. I like Tennessee easily as they secure the #1 seed in the AFC. TEN -10
Despite my belief the Titans win easily and lock up the #1 seed, Cincinnati still has a convoluted path to the #1 seed which starts with a victory over the Browns. There are still questions on how many starters will play for the Bengals given the myriad of things that have to happen for them to claim the #1 seed but I think they are the superior team and I’ll gladly take nearly a TD in this one. CIN +6
Neither Dallas nor Philadel[hia have a lot to play for in their Saturday night matchup as Dallas has already secured the NFC East and Philadelphia has secured one of the wild-card slots. I think this will be a close, lower-scoring game and I’m getting a home underdog. I don’t know which team will come out victorious, but I think whoever wins will do it by less than 4. PHI +4.5
Tampa Bay has clinched the NFC South and can’t catch Green Bay for the #1 seed and the focus for them right now has to be on health, but with no rest, before the start of the playoffs, you want to end the season on a high note. I think Tampa puts together one final tuneup before defending their Super Bowl title with an easy win over Carolina. TB -8
What are your favorite picks of the week? Put in your comments below to play along. We’ll be updating our records all season!
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)