NFL Betting Previews Week 18
Line: Dallas -7
Saturday’s second game carries more than a few interesting subplots.
The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have both secured playoff berths, with the former the NFC East champions and the latter a wild card. With both teams locked into the playoffs, there has been talk of resting starters.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has admitted that he’s considering resting players like nicked up quarterback Jalen Hurts. However, Dallas team owner Jerry Jones insisted that the Cowboys won’t be giving any of their stars the night off—especially with a chance to move up as far the NFC’s No. 2 seed on the line.
“We plan to play. We plan to play to win,” Jones said on his weekly radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan.
However, despite that uncertainty about who will or won’t be playing, Kenyon is putting his metaphorical moolah on the Eagles and taking the touchdown with the home ‘dog.
“They’ve had a cakewalk schedule over the past month, but the Eagles are 6-1 in their last seven games and enter week 18 as one of the NFL’s hottest teams,” he said. “I’m all-in on the Eagles right now, who have seemed to find their recipe for success with one of the league’s most dynamic rushing attacks. The Cowboys looked lost on offense in a 25-22 loss to the Cardinals at home last week. The Cowboys should rebound and still win this game, but give me the Eagles covering a touchdown at home.”
Score Prediction: Cowboys 24, Eagles 20
NFL Betting Previews Week 18
Indianapolis Colts (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
Line: Indianapolis -15
At first glance, this would appear a relatively easy call. The Jacksonville Jaguars are an absolutely putrid football team that has lost by at least two touchdowns in four of the past five games—including a 50-10 waxing at the hands of the New England Patriots last week.
The Indianapolis Colts need a win Sunday in Jacksonville to make the playoffs, and head coach Frank Reich admitted to Zak Keefer of the Athletic that for all intents and purposes the playoffs start for Indy on Sunday.
“The playoffs start for us this week,” Reich said. “We’re expecting Jacksonville’s best. We know we’ve struggled down there, and this team (the Jags) takes a lot of pride in playing us the way they play us.”
Here’s the thing though—Reich has never beaten the Jaguars in Duval County. That pigskin oddity gives O’ Donnell some pause—just not enough to take Trevor “What Are Touchdown Passes?” Lawrence and the Jags.
“The most frightening number in this game isn’t the multi-touchdown spread, it’s that the Colts have lost in Jacksonville in their last six tries going all the way back to 2015,” he said. “Both are vastly different teams now, Indy is fighting for one of the final open playoff spots, and they’ll make the most of this opportunity against a hapless Jags squad.”
Early Prediction: Colts 31, Jaguars 10
Tennessee Titans (11-5) at Houston Texans (4-12)
Line: Tennessee -10.5
It’s all coming together for the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans have already captured the AFC South for the second consecutive season. Now, thanks to Cincinnati’s upset of the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17, a win over the Houston Texans on Sunday will lock the Titans into the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
But wait! There’s more.
Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Titans designated running back Derrick Henry to return from injured reserve, opening the door for the team’s bruising star back to re-join the Titans for the postseason push.
Still, despite all that momentum, Kenyon is among half our panelists who think the Texans will give the Titans a scare Sunday after humiliating Tennessee 22-13 at Nissan Stadium in Week 11.
“Tennessee has everything to play for in this game with the No. 1 seed in the AFC on the line, but the Texans have proven to be a tougher out than people expect,” he said. “Despite their 4-12 record, Houston is 7-9 against the spread on the season. I expect the Texans to give Tennessee a fight in Week 18 and cover 10.5.”
Early Prediction: Titans 27, Texans 17
Cinncinnati Bengals (10-6) at Cleveland Browns (7-9)
Line: Browns -6
The second iteration of “The Battle of Ohio” features two teams whose fates have been juxtaposed in 2021.
The Cleveland Browns were a preseason hype darling last summer. A team some believed could make a deep playoff run. But it’s the Cincinnati Bengals who will be playing on after Week 18 after last week’s stunning win over the Chiefs gave the team the AFC North title.
The moral of this story is never, ever to believe that good things will happen in Cleveland.
This game also features a line that swung well over a touchdown on Wednesday alone. That’s when it was announced that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow would sit out the finale, while running back Joe Mixon would miss the game as well after landing on the COVID-19 list.
Of course, it’s not like the Browns are at full strength, either. Quarterback Baker Mayfield’s season is over after he elected to have surgery on the torn labrum in his left shoulder that plagued him much of the season.
Those developments sent the line swinging wildly, from Cincinnati -3 to Cleveland -6.
Early Prediction: Browns 24, Bengals 20
Chicago Bears (6-10) at Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
Line: Minnesota -3.5
Sunday’s season finale between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears is a meaningless battle between two NFC North foes—and a game between two head coaches in Chicago’s Matt Nagy and Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer, who could be looking for work come the following day.
As a matter of fact, according to WFAN’s Boomer Esiason, Nagy has already been informed that Sunday’s game will be his last as head coach (h/t NBC Sports Chicago). Sobleski believes that his team will send him out the right way.
OK, he believes that the Bears will at least keep it close. You take what you can get in Chicago this year.
“The Bears and Vikings are two teams going into Week 18 possibly playing for their respective coach’s job,” he said. “At least, Chicago is playing better as of late, albeit against inferior competition.
However, the Bears have had a rough go of it against the spread this year—the Bears are 6-10 ATS overall, 3-5 on the road and 3-9 as an underdog.
Early Prediction: Vikings 23, Bears 20
Washington Football Team (6-10) at New Yotrk Giants (4-12)
Line: Washington -7
In the local markets where Sunday’s game between the Giants and Washington is being televised, tequila should be distributed door to door.
Something to dull the pain.
This is a pair of bad football teams. Washington is riding a four-game losing streak of NFC East games that includes a 56-14 annihilation at the hands of Dallas, in which teammates Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne came to blows on the sidelines. The Giants, on the other hand, have lost five straight by double-digits, the last being a 29-3 drubbing at the hands of a bad Bears team.
In each of the last two games, the Giants have failed to amass 200 yards of total offense, and Sunday the G-Men will trot out Jake “Belongs in the XFL” Fromm at quarterback. Laying a full touchdown with a mediocre team that is 6-9-1 ATS this season isn’t a play for the squeamish, but for Gagnon it’s an easy call.
Early Prediction: Washington 23, Giants 6
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) at Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Line: Baltimore -5
Now this should be a football game!
Any time the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens lock horns, you know it’s going to be a hard-fought, physical game. But in Sunday’s game, the stakes are that much higher.
Simply put, the team that wins this game has at least a chance of playing on, although both need help. Both teams need the Jaguars to upset the Colts. The Steelers need the Raiders and Chargers to not tie. The Ravens, on the other hand, need the Patriots to beat the Dolphins and the Raiders to down the Chargers.
That the Ravens are in this position at all would have seemed unthinkable a month and a half ago—after downing the Browns in Week 12, the Raiders were 8-3 and in the hunt for the AFC’s top seed. But with Lamar Jackson sidelined by an ankle injury, the Ravens have since dropped five straight, leaving their postseason hopes dangling by the slimmest of threads.
There’s hope that Jackson will return for this game, which could also be Ben Roethlisberger’s last as a Steeler. For his part Davenport isn’t especially confident in either team to win outright, but he is confident that the spread is too big for his tastes.
“Neither of these teams are making the playoffs,” he said. “The Colts are going to make sure of that by curbstomping the Jaguars. But that won’t stop this from being a knockdown, drag-out brawl of a game, as so many Ravens-Steelers matchups are. Pittsburgh has won three straight in the rivalry by a combined 10 points, and just one of the last five meetings were decided by double digits. Give me the road team and the points.”
The majority of the panel agrees.
Early Prediction: Ravens 23, Steelers 21
Green Bay Packers (13-3) at Detroit Lions (2-13-1)
Line: Green Bay -3.5
That that line doesn’t have an extra digit is what you call in technical terms a sign that something weird is afoot.
At 13-3, the Green Bay Packers have already locked up the NFC North title and the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC playoffs. There is literally nothing to play for this week—and as a result many expect that Green Bay’s second-stringers are going to see a lot of action against the Lions.
Still, for what it’s worth, Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur said that he’s more worried about keeping his starters sharp than injuries, indicating that Aaron Rodgers and company will play at least part of the game.
“I know that you can look at it a million different ways and there’s never a right answer unless it works out,” LaFleur said, via the team’s website. “If somebody goes in there and gets injured then, ‘Well, why’d you play your guys?’ But if you go out there in that first playoff game and you lay an egg, ‘Well, why’d you rest your guys?’ So there’s not a right answer.”
Early Prediction: Packers 26, Lions 23
New York Jets (4-12) at Buffalo Bills (10-6)
The Buffalo Bills are in the postseason again. That much we know. But this week’s tilt with the New York Jets still carries weight for Josh Allen and Co.
With a win, the Bills will claim the AFC East title for the second consecutive year. And with a third game against the rival Patriots potentially looming in the Wild Card round, ensuring that game is in Buffalo carries more than a little weight.
The last time the Bills met the Jets, things got ugly in a hurry—Buffalo wrecked New York 45-17 in a game where Josh Allen threw for 366 yards and the Bills defense intercepted Jets quarterback Mike White four times.
Buffalo is an impressive 8-6-2 against the spread this season, and hasn’t failed to cover when the spread was between 15 and 18 points (although there was one push). But with the Jets playing more competitively over the past month or so, and the possibility the Bills could pull starters if staked to a lead, laying over two touchdowns is a bridge too far for O’Donnell.
“This is simply too many points in a division rivalry game where records don’t often matter,” he wrote. “The Jets haven’t beaten Buffalo since 2019, but they won’t roll over and will not have forgotten the 28-point beating they suffered earlier this season. Whether a backdoor cover or a closely contested game all the way through, I’ll take the points.”
Early Prediction: Bills 27, Jets 14
Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
Line: Chargers -3
There’s a reason why the AFC West battle between the Chargers and Raiders was “flexed” to Sunday night. The stakes are as simple as they are high: Win and you’re in, lose and go home.
OK, OK, if the Jaguars beat the Colts and the Raiders and Chargers tie, both teams would make the playoffs. But if frogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump their butts when they hop.
For the Raiders, it’s a chance to put an exclamation point on a season that has seen the team overcome distraction after distraction. For Justin Herbert and the Chargers, it’s a chance to join teams like the Bengals as up-and-coming contenders led by superstar quarterbacks in the making.
We’ve seen this movie before. In Week 4, the Chargers doubled up the Raiders thanks to three passing touchdowns from Justin Herbert and 145 total yards from running back Austin Ekeler. The Raiders have shown capable of flipping that script with wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts, but Rogers believes the Chargers will once again get the win in the rematch.
“Two of the most unpredictable teams in football with potentially everything on the line, this should be a Sunday night thriller,” he said. “Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler had little issue against this squad earlier in October, and I think we’ll see a repeat of that. The Raiders defense has forced one turnover in their last six games. It’s hard to believe that’s even possible.”
It should be a fitting finale to a wild regular season.
Early Prediction: Chargers 34, Raiders 30