NFL Week Eighteen Previews And Predictions

NFL Week Eighteen Previews And Predictions

We have finally reached the 18th and final weekend of “The Biggest Season Ever” for the NFL. Normally we would be watching Wild-Card Weekend this Saturday and Sunday, but with the 17th game of the regular season, this year we will be find out who will play who next week as the NFL Playoffs begin. Here is a preview of every game this weekend with their playoff implications and what each team involved in the postseason chase needs to do to earn their spot or secure their seed in the 2021 NFL Playoffs.

Kansas City (11-5) at Denver (7-9):  The hosting Broncos are not playing for anything other than pride on Saturday afternoon when they host Kansas City while their AFC West visitors are hoping to move back into the top spot in the conference’s playoff seeding. To do that, KC will need to win and hope that Tennessee loses on Sunday.  With motivations on an uneven level, it is no surprise that KC is a 10-point favorite heading into this game, just as there is less surprise that 5-in-6 bettors was laying the points and taking the AFC West champs to add one more win to their 2021 record.  I agree with them since I foresee KC putting this game away early. KC -10.

Dallas (11-5) at Philadelphia (9-7):  The Cowboys head north as winner of the NFC East and can be the second, third or fourth seed in the conference playoffs if they win this game and depending upon what the Buccaneers, Cardinals and Rams do on Sunday.  The Eagles know they are a Wild-Card team heading into the postseason and can be either the sixth or seventh seed if they win and depending upon what the 49ers and Saints do on Sunday.  Dallas enters Philly as a 7-point favorite with the computers telling bettors to grab those points as they see an upset special in this primetime game Saturday.  By a slightly bettor than 50/50 margin, however, those laying down their cash are grabbing the points and taking the Eagles to win and give themselves and a chance for the sixth seed.  I think Dallas wants/hopes to improve their playoff seeding and convince the rest of the NFC they are Super Bowl material, so I am laying the 7-points and taking the Cowboys to win.

Chicago (6-10) at Minnesota (7-9):  These two NFC North foes are already out of playoff consideration, so the 2022 season has already begun, with coaches on both sidelines on the hot seat heading toward Black Monday after this game.  Bears’ fans will be able to see Justin Fields start at quarterback while it will be interesting to see who Minnesota puts behind center since it is unclear if the Vikings’ coaches are trying to save their jobs in this contest.  The home team Vikings are a 3.5-point favorite with three-quarters of the betting tickets laying those points.  With have the Bears team out the door and the Giants not on the other side of the field, Minnesota is the play for me in this game, and giving up a field goal is easy against this Chicago team.

Cincinnati (10-6) at Cleveland (7-9):  The Bengals travel to play their in-state rivals as AFC North champions and having a chance to be any of the top four seeds in the conference playoffs.  Those in the Dawg Pound were unable to purchase playoff tickets this year after the Browns were elimination from contention, with their only hope to knock Cincy down in the AFC Playoff picture.  With the news coming out that Cincinnati will sit their key starters and rest them for the Wild-Card round of the playoffs, the Browns have become a 6-point favorite.  Perhaps feeling the Bengals are still motivated to win, 4-in-5 bettors are grabbing those points and taking Cincy.  With the first-team linemen still out there for any team while the stars rest, it is unlikely the Bengals will do anything crazy or creative on offense, making their game plan simple to figure out, make the game was quick as possible.  That means only Cleveland will be trying to win; that’s why taking the Browns -6 is my play here, and not because Baker Mayfield deserves a new contract.

Green Bay (13-3) at Detroit (2-13-1):  Like the other team featuring NFC North teams, this game also carries no meaning toward the postseason and should be a quick (and hopefully painless) affair.  The traveling Packers have already clinched the NFC’s top seed and only opening round bye week while the Lions are ensured the second overall seed in the 2022 NFL Draft. Even with no motivation and J-Lo (Jordan Love) expected to play at QB most than A-Rod (Aaron Rodgers) for Green Bay, the Packers are a 4-point road favorite.  I think the Lions will find a way to win this game, even if it cost the organization a chance to move ahead of Jacksonville on Draft Night.  Lions +4 to win their third game of the 2021 season and roar all offseason undefeated in 2022.

Indianapolis (9-7) at Jacksonville (2-14):  The Colts know a win over the hapless Jaguars, and they are in the playoffs, with even a loss still leaving them a chance to make the Wild-Card field.  The Jags know a loss gives them the top pick in the 2022 Draft, something the organization wasn’t expected to have again this year as it did last year.  You can rest assured that whomever Indy plays in the AFC Wild-Card round of the, they will be one of those teams commentators will say “I wouldn’t want to be facing them this time of year.”  Indianapolis is a 15.5-point favorite with the computers not predicting Jacksonville will score more than ten points.  Does anyone really think the Jaguars have a shot in this game?  Colts -15.5 to win/cover and earn an AFC Wild-Card.

Pittsburgh (8-7-1) at Baltimore (8-8):  These AFC North rivals need two things to reach the postseason this year, a win in this game, and some help.  The Steelers hit the road needing a win and losses from the Colts and Raiders, so even if they prevail, they won’t know their postseason fate until well into the evening.  Ravens’ fans also need to see a win on Sunday, but they are rooting against the Chargers, Colts and Dolphins in their quest to reach the playoffs.  Oddsmakers have deemed Baltimore a 5.5-point favorite with 60% of early bettors taking those points and seeing the road upset pulled off by Pittsburgh, perhaps in support of the departing Ben Roethlisberger.  Laying 5.5 points in a game between these teams is almost always a bad idea since they normally play close games … and with the Ravens in a season-ending tailspin, those points are valuable in this game.  Taking Pittsburgh +5.5 to win one for Big Ben and maybe make the playoffs.

Tennessee (11-5) at Houston (4-12):  The Titans are already the AFC South winner and have control of the conference’s top seed in their hands since all they need to do is win in Houston to secure the home field advantage.  A loss, and chaos would ensue across the AFC landscape with the other three divisions winners all able to move up or down depending on this weekend’s outcomes.  Houston, of course, is not playing for anything in this game, that, along with their weakened roster is whey the Texans are a 10-point underdog and nearly two-thirds of early voters are laying those points in favorite of the motivated Titans.  Tennessee is not exactly the star-studded team the NFL might be rooting for to reach the Super Bowl, but the Titans are going to win this game and force the rest of the AFC to go through them to reach the big game next month.  Tennessee -10 to win, cover and secure home field, throwing down the gauntlet for the AFC.

Washington (6-10) at NY Giants (4-12):  Is this the last game for the Washington “Football Team” now that the franchise has announced their new name will be made public on 2/2/22?  Either way, a name change, and a new quarterback will be the two biggest upgrades Washington will make this offseason, while the Giants are expected (or at least hoped) to blow things up this spring, with perhaps only the head coach surviving the carnage.  With the players still liking their head coach, Washington is a decided 7-point favorite on the road against a Giants; team that has barely scored seven points during games since Thanksgiving.  Bettors agree with the oddsmakers since also three in four foresee Washington ending the Giants season on a Big Blue note.  I agree with everyone here (except the computers, who see a close games in the low 20’s), Washington -7 to win by 10+.

Carolina (5-11) at Tampa Bay (12-4):  The Panthers are a 2-11 team who happened to start the season 3-0 before needing to bring back Cam Newton to play quarterback.  Tampa Bay is already the reigning Super Bowl Champion and are looking to enter the postseason on a high note to defend their title as the NFC South winners.  The Buccaneers know reaching the NFC’s top seed is not possible, however, moving up to second is if the Rams fall and Tampa Bay wins their late afternoon games.  The Bucs are an 8-point favorite, which is more points than the computers believe the Panthers can score in this game, putting the outcome of this NFC South mismatch in little doubt.  The biggest question might be how long the team who won’t release WR Antonio Brown will allow Tom Brady to take the field after the score is lopsided.  Tampa Bay -8 to win by 14 or more.

NY Jets (4-12) at Buffalo (10-6):  The Jets season need to last a few extra hours for television purposes and competitive balance reasons, that’s why their final game of the season, a wonderful trip to Buffalo, will begin at 4:25 ET on Sunday.  The Bills know a win over the AFC East rivals will give them the divisional title, with a loss throwing them into the conference’s Wild-Card Pool.  In the crazy AFC, Buffalo can land anywhere from second to seventh in the playoff picture, with a win eliminating the bottom half of those options.  Since New York probably doesn’t have enough talent to match up with a much better Buffalo squad, the Bills are a 16-point home favorite, but there is a lot of support for the hard playing Jets as 4-in-5 early bettors are grabbing those points and chatting “J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!”  With temps being too warm for snow on Sunday, I expect the Bills to rain down points against Gang Green with enough to cover.  Buffalo -16.

New England (10-6) at Miami (8-8):  Despite their best efforts and putting together a seven-game winning streak, the Dolphins’ playoff hope ended last week, leaving them to play the role of spoiler this week against New England.  The Patriots, if they can find it in themselves to root for the Jets, are still playing for an outside shot at the AFC East, and at the very least playoff seeding in this game, with all three Wild-Card spots will a potential landing spot for them.  Bill Belichick and his team also have a way to obtain the AFC’s top seed if they win and Buffalo, Tennessee and Kansas City all lose.  The Pats hit South Beach at a 6.5-point favorite with 75% of those laying down money early in the week giving up those point to be on New England.  While the computers see a close game and Miami even winning, I don’t, because this Patriots’ team knows how important a win is and won’t blow this game to in inferior squad, even on the road.  New England -6.5.

New Orleans (8-8) at Atlanta (7-9):  This NFC South matchup is simple for both teams: The hosting Falcons are out of the playoff picture and cannot get back in, the Saints go to Atlanta knowing they need to win while also having San Francisco lose in order to earn the final Wild-Card Spot.  If both things don’t happen, New Orleans will go home after Sunday’s game and begin their offseason.  Motivation has the Saints listed as a 4.5-point road favorite against the Falcons, with Atlanta drawing nearly 60% of the early money from bettors as many feeling New Orleans has run out of gas this season.  As their records indicate, both teams have had average seasons at best, with probably both squads playing over their head a times to reach the records they have.  A few go free agent signings and draft picks should make the NFC South a difficult neighborhood to play in 2022, but for now, both of these average teams will play a ho-hum game Sunday, with the Saints keeping one eye on Atlanta and the other on the scoreboard. New Orleans -4.5 to win.

San Francisco (9-7) at LA Rams (12-4):  This NFC West game has playoff implications for both teams:  The 49ers go to LA needing a win to secure a Wild-Card berth while a Rams’ win gives them the divisional title over Arizona and could knock out the ‘Niners if the Saints win their game.  The hosting Rams are a 4.5-point favorite with the public taking those points by a 3-to-2 margin.  The computers are putting this game right on the betting line with the Rams projected to win by four or five points, which I believe is selling LA short in a big way.  The Rams need to justify giving up so much for Matthew Stafford and bringing in ringers like Von Miller and Odell Beckham, Jr., and the first step towards that end is winning the divisional title.  The pressure of making the Super Bowl and being able to play on your home field will catch up with the Rams during the postseason, for this week, however, winning the NFC West and keeping the second seed will be enough to carry them to victory.  LA Rams -4.5 to win/cover and knock the 49ers from the NFC Wild-Card race.

Seattle (6-10) at Arizona (11-5):  The Seahawks playoff hopes ended over a month ago, leaving Seattle to play spoiler to as many teams as they could over the last several weeks.  This week they go to the desert to try and stop the Cardinals from winning the NFC West, and keeping them on the road for the postseason as a Wild-Card.  Arizona has already clinched a playoff berth and can be no longer than fifth (the top Wild-Card) when the weekend is over; but if they win and the Rams fall to the 49ers, the Cardinals can fly up to the second or third seed depending upon the outcome of other NFC games.  When motivation is lopsided, so too is the betting line, which is why Arizona is a 6.5-point favorite and why 75% of those placing bets early in the week are taking the Cards.  Seattle might have the heart to upset the Cardinals, but not the talent to keep up with them on the field with Arizona’s season on the line, so unless the Rams blow out the ‘Niners and the Cards start pulling their players, there’s no good reason to take Seattle here.  Arizona -6.5 to win/cover.

LA Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas (9-7):  The final game of the 2021 season could very well be a win-or-go-home game between these two AFC West rivals.  The Chargers only have one path to the playoffs, win this game, because a loss means they are out no matter what anyone else does.  The Raiders, in theory, may already have a playoff spot locked up before they take the field Sunday night because a loss by the Colts and Steelers gives Las Vegas a Wild-Card spot and makes this game interesting in a different way.  The fun little drama that could play out is seeing the Colts lose to the Jags, giving the Raiders a playoff spot; would Las Vegas still try to win Sunday to keep the Chargers out of the postseason?  Oddsmakers have set the Chargers as a 3-point road favorite to win their way into the postseason with almost two-thirds of early bettors laying the field goal.  This season has been too crazy for someone wild not to happen at the end … and as much as I don’t think the Raiders deserve a playoff spot after the season they have had off the field, seeing them steal a spot for the Chargers on the final night of the season is very much the Raiders’ way.  Taking Las Vegas +3 to win and knock LA from the AFC playoffs and give another team life late on Sunday night in the desert, just as so many of those gamblers will find on The Strip this Sunday. 


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NFL Week Eighteen Previews And Predictions

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