At long last, week eighteen is here. I almost didn’t write an article this week because 1) I’m a terrible gambler, and 2) I don’t recommend betting on these games unless you know of an edge. There are so many players sitting out and teams having games that don’t truly matter, so whacky stuff may happen. Last week I was 1-2 yet again, bringing me to 27-35 for the season, good for about 43.5% on the season. A terrible season by my own standards, but as I’ve said time and time again, that’s why they call it gambling. I’ll skip the recap because at this point I’m not learning from my mistakes and I can’t keep making excuses for losses. The bonus pick was a winner though, so let that be my parting gift to you.
Now, let’s get to some picks.
Patrick Mahomes O/U 262.5 Passing Yards
As I said in the intro, unless you know something about the game and have a true edge, or you’re betting one of the games with direct playoff implications; I don’t recommend placing large wagers this week. That being said, for the sake of finishing what I started I’ll make three more picks this week. First up, we have the Chiefs taking on the Broncos on Saturday afternoon. The Chiefs are still in play for the one seed, while the Broncos have nothing but pride to play for. While the Broncos are only 7 -9, it’s largely been the offense that’s dragged them down. The defense has allowed just 18.4 points per game, good for third-best in the league. Kansas City would need help to secure the top seed in the AFC, but they do need to win the game to guarantee the second spot with Cincinnati holding the tiebreak over them due to last week’s head-to-head win.
For this game, I’ll take a look at Patrick Mahomes passing yards with the line set at 262.5 yards on DraftKings Sportsbook. Last time out against the Broncos at home, Mahomes was just 15 of 29 for 184 yards and an interception. The Chiefs still managed to win that game by 13 points, holding the Broncos to nine points. I see this week’s game playing out similarly, with the Chiefs knowing there’s no reason to run up the score. Going to Denver is always a difficult task, but Kansas City are 11 point favorites and should be able to make light work of the Broncos without putting their star quarterback in harm’s way. They’ve already clinched playoffs and at least one home game, and without Patrick Mahomes have virtually no chance at winning the championship. I think the Chiefs will play a more conservative game, running the ball and making sure Mahomes isn’t hit too frequently, and potentially even pulling him when the game looks won. I’ll take the under on passing yards at 262.5.
Pick: UNDER 262.5 Yards (-115, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Trevor Lawrence O/U 1.5 Interceptions
This is a foray into new territory for me, having never bet an interception prop this season. Waiting until the last week of the season to try something new may not be the best strategy, but I guess there’s no better time than the present. Last week, I watched Trevor Lawrence play the Patriots and I can only describe it as not pretty, to say the least. Lawrence was 17 of 27 for 193 yards, one touchdown (on a screen pass), and three interceptions. I still believe in Lawrence’s future as an NFL quarterback, but the deck has been stacked against him this year with the hiring and subsequent firing of Urban Meyer, among other things such as the Jaguars’ lack of overall talent.
The line for Lawrence interceptions is just 1.5, with the over-coming with +175 odds. As I’ve said all season long, the oddsmakers are smarter than me so you should always be cautious betting with plus odds, Vegas is saying it’s an unlikely outcome, but I like the value on the over here. Lawrence is leading the league in interceptions with 17 through 16 games. The Jaguars let him throw the ball frequently and will likely continue to do so with nothing to lose in the last week of the season. The Colts still could miss the playoffs, so the Jaguars will be motivated to play spoiler and will pull out all the stops on Sunday. I don’t expect the Jaguars to win, but I do expect them to give it their best shot which plays right into the hands of Indianapolis. Indy is second in the league with 2.1 takeaways per game. There’s some level of randomness to interceptions, but if Lawrence throws the ball frequently, I could see a few balls ending up in the hands of Colts’ defenders. Over 1.5 at plus money is too good to pass up for this one.
Pick: OVER 1.5 (+175, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Raiders Second Half Points O/U 10.5
Here we are with my last (NFL) pick of the year, in more territory that I’ve left unexplored – a second-half point total. I think this game is probably the best to bet on this week because the stakes are very clear: win and you’re in. It’s a playoff game in everything but name. Win the game and you’re in the playoffs, truly a beautiful thing; I teared up a little just thinking about it. Pure, no-frills, NFL football. Okay, I’ll stop now. ANYWAYS, the Raiders are hosting the Chargers in the biggest game in the Las Vegas Raiders era, at their beautiful new stadium where the Raiders faithful will be rowdy. The Chargers are 2.5 point favorites, but I wouldn’t be surprised to that move closer to a pick ’em by game time.
The line for the Raiders’ second-half points is set at 10.5. Before I dive into my rationale for this pick, I should say I like the Raiders to win this game so I am Raiders-biased. It’s hard for me to pick against the home team in a win or go home type atmosphere. I don’t have any stats to back this up, but the beginnings of these games are always filled with a ton of adrenaline and nerves, causing defenses to have the advantage. I’m not sure I would take the full game over, or the first half over, but I do like the second half. Coming out of halftime the team should have their feet under them and be able to better execute on offense. The Chargers’ defense hasn’t been particularly good outside of Joey Bosa and can be vulnerable to allowing big numbers. I like the Raiders to come out of halftime and move the ball, scoring at least two touchdowns in the second half.
Pick: OVER 10.5 Second Half Points (-105, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Last week I handed out Alabama spread against Cincinnati in the semi-final as my bonus pick. This week, I’m going right back to the same well and taking Alabama yet again. This is another pick where you don’t need to overthink it. The two teams played a few weeks ago and Alabama dominated from wire to wire. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart have squared off what feels like one million times, and it goes the same way every single time: Saban wins. For some reason, Bama is the underdog on Monday night in the national championship. I’ll take the points for a safety net, but the moneyline isn’t a bad bet either for the extra payout. Bama wins this game nine times out of ten, don’t overthink it.
Pick: Alabama +3.0 (-110, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Featured Image by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)