For the sake of entertainment value, I really hope you had to chance to catch the Chiefs-Bengals game last week. Mahomes and Burrow going at it down to the wire, and a potential look at the future of the AFC; it was one of the best matchups of the week. Playoff football is the best, and a lot of these games are starting to get that feel to it.
Today, let’s take a look at the Week 18 slate. Every week, I’ll be providing my projections on the outcome of each game, and then contextualizing what to do with that information: best bets, teasers, parlays, survivor picks, and much more!
These projections started with me using projected PFF grades to decipher the true talent of every team. From there, I utilized those projections to establish each team’s offense and defense rank, which allowed me to derive how talented each team is compared to the average team with a neutral field; as the season goes, I’ll be analyzing PFF data and other key metrics to continue to update each team’s offense and defense ranking. Adding in an adjustment for home field, and, what do you know, each game had a projection! The combination of the foundation of it starting objectively, and then the mixture of subjective analysis to make it less of a “blind” projection, will hopefully lead us to where we want to go. You can consider these, based on the subjective touch, predictions instead of pure projections, but, hey, it gets us in the same place! Now, I will say that these personal projections matter less considering that several teams will be resting their players, but, hey, they’re still fun to look at.
Enough rambling; it’s time to get to the point of this article! Let’s completely preview Week 18 from a betting perspective!
All Stats via Pro Football Focus
Week 18 Personal Projections
- *DAL at PHI, GB at DET, CLE at CIN assuming full starters
- The Cowboys and Eagles could rest players, the Packers have nothing to play for, and the Bengals are likely to rest several starters on Sunday. Thus, the projections aren’t reliable for those two teams.
LAC (-3) at LV
It all comes down to this; on Sunday Night Football, the Chargers and Raiders will play for the final playoff spot in the AFC, assuming the Colts take care of the Jaguars earlier that day. If you’re not fired up about this, I don’t know what to tell you.
With identical records, you might assume the Chargers and Raiders are both playoff-deserving teams, but that isn’t actually the case. Just take a look at each team’s peripheral metric ranks:
As you can see, Los Angeles simply shape out as the better team by a notable margin. That’s particularly true if you look at the recent performance of the Raiders. Over their past nine games (since the loss of Henry Ruggs III), they are averaging just 17.67 points per game, and have eclipsed 20 points just twice. Furthermore, in their past five games, that number goes down to 16. Really, outside of a Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys that is starting to look like an outlier, they have not been an effective offense as of late.
The Chargers, on the other hand, have been one of the league’s best offenses all seasons, especially as of late. They are averaging 33.8 points per game over their past five contests, and have scored 28+ points in all but one of their past seven games. Meanwhile, Justin Herbert is Pro Football Focus’ third-highest graded quarterback, and can neutralize Las Vegas’ pass rush with the fifth-lowest pressure rate among quarterbacks this season. With that in mind, I’ll gladly take my chances with one of the league’s most talented quarterback.
There is no other way to put this: the Chargers are clearly the superior team here. The Raiders have battled all season long, but, as of late, they’ve been as close to a mediocre team as you can be, while the Chargers have been performing like they high-powered offense that they are. 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.
ARI (-0.5) vs SEA
WSH (-0.5) vs NYG
Both of these favorites can be teased to under one point, essentially a pick-em. It’s unclear, with a 38-point game total, if the Washington Football Team will score enough points to beat the Giants by more than 6.5 points, while the Seahawks are unpredictable with a big-play oriented offense. That being said, you should have confidence in both these teams winning, which is why teasing them rather than laying 6.5 points is ideal.
Parlay (Four Games and Eight Games)
LAC (-3) at LV
GB (-3.5) at DET
TB (-9) at CAR
SEA at ARI (Under 48.5)
LAC at LV (Under 49.5)
SF at LAR (Over 44.5)
ATL (+3.5) vs NO
JAX (+14.5) vs IND
I’m forcing myself to deliver an eight-game parlay, which is a significantly worse option than the four-game parlay this week. I’m betting on both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady playing on Sunday, which would make the current spreads way too small for the Packers and Bucs, respectively. Meanwhile, I’m betting against the Raiders offense, as we discussed, while the Seahawks’ big-play oriented offense makes them volatile from a week-to-week basis. Meanwhile, the 49ers have had consistent offensive success against the Rams, while the Saints and Colts have enough warts to not support them; the underdogs (Falcons and Jaguars) are getting points past a specific key number, making them a value pick.
BUF vs NYJ
IND at JAX
Really, it comes down to which teams you still have to use. The Bills and Colts are each over two-touchdown favorites, making them the best picks of the week. If not, the Chiefs (-11.5 at DEN), Bucs (-9 vs CAR), and Titans (-10 at HOU) are other possible picks. A sleeper pick? The Washington Football Team, who will be facing a Giants team, who have scored just one touchdown in their past three games. If you’ve used all the big favorites at this point, they’re an optimal pick.
Parting Bold Predictions
Chargers Blow Out The Raiders By Over Two Touchdowns
Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady Combine For Seven Passing Touchdowns
The Raiders Fail To Score Two Touchdowns
Remember, these are BOLD predictions! All of these align with my betting picks, but allow us to get a bit spicy here. Enjoy an exciting week of football, and please remember to bet responsibly!
(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)