Week 18 NFL Picks
By: Grant Poarch
1/7: Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals (-7, O/U 37.5), 1:00PM EST, CBS
Now that the Browns are locked into the 5 seed in the AFC playoffs, they are resting starters. This year, Cleveland has been a shocker and I am excited to see what they can do in the dance.
On the other hand, Cincinnati has been eliminated from the playoffs. If Joe Burrow wasn’t injured earlier this year, I highly doubt they would have missed the playoffs. Regardless, that is the reality the Bengals face.
As for the game, I don’t think I’ll be keeping much of an eye on this one. This will be a low scoring bloodbath. It’s still a divisional game, but all the fun has been removed due to the circumstances.
Prediction: Cincinnati wins, Cleveland covers +7
1/7: Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions (-3.5, O/U 45.5), 1:00PM EST, FOX
Both teams are technically still alive for the playoffs but Minnesota is essentially on life support. They need to win and won’t have an easy time doing so as Detroit is angry from last week.
Sure, there were bad calls on both sides at the end of the Dallas-Detroit game. However, what happened to the Lions with the whole ‘reporting as eligible’ thing has Detroit pissed. I’m sure Detroit would love nothing more than to win and give themselves the best chance at the two seed while also knocking a divisional rival out of the playoffs.
In the last game these two played, Detroit survived a scare against a Nick Mullens’ led team. I’m sure the Lions won’t be taking this one lightly. Give me Detroit in a big way as they will look dangerous going into the playoffs next week.
Prediction: Detroit wins, Detroit covers -3.5
1/7: Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5) @ Tennessee Titans, O/U 41, 1:00PM EST, CBS
Will Trevor Lawrence play in this game? The Jaguars should be hoping so as they would clinch the division with a win. They face a Titans’ team that they beat with ease earlier in the year and has lost six of their last seven.
I’m sure the Titans would love to play spoiler in this situation, but I don’t see them being good enough to get it done. It probably will be uncomfortably close for the Jaguars for a while because it is a road divisional game. The spread certainly indicates that.
Jacksonville has tripped in situations like this in the past so I’m sure they will be ready for the challenge. What gives me faith in Jacksonville is the poor play from the Titans. Tennessee got smashed a week ago against the Texans. They have also been poor against the pass all year long. With Christian Kirk and Trevor Lawrence trending toward playing, give me Jacksonville to clinch the AFC South.
Prediction: Jacksonville wins, Jacksonville covers -3.5
1/7: New York Jets @ New England Patriots (-2.5, O/U 30.5), 1:00PM EST, FOX
Could this be Bill Belichick’s last game in New England? It feels so weird just saying that. There is no secret the Patriots haven’t been the same since Tom Brady left and it seems like the front office has had enough of the pure mediocrity.
If it is really Belichick’s last game, expect a good showing from New England. Bill Belichick is not a fan of the Jets and I’m sure he wants to go out the right way.
It certainly helps his case that Trevor Siemian will be starting for the Jets. The offense has been bad under him and that doesn’t make the defense’s job any easier if you’re back on the field just as fast as you got off it.
Make no mistake, this will be an ugly game. However, look for Bill Belichick to beat the Jets once again for old time’s sake.
Prediction: New England wins, New England covers -2.5
1/7: Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (-3, O/U 42), 1:00PM EST, CBS
Can you believe that both of these teams still have a chance at the playoffs? I guess that’s what happens when you play in the NFC South these days. Atlanta can get in the playoffs by winning the division. They would have to win this game and have Carolina beat Tampa Bay. On the other hand, New Orleans can get in the playoffs by winning the division or getting into the wild card. Their division title scenario is a win in this one and a Tampa Bay loss to Carolina. The wild card scenario is a win in this game plus a loss from both Green Bay and Seattle. Safe to say, neither team will be sniffing a chance at the Super Bowl this year.
As for this game, New Orleans should be the play here. They lost the last game against the Falcons when they really could have won the game. They didn’t score a touchdown the entire game and threw a pick-six when they were about to go up by multiple possessions early in the game. Given that New Orleans gets out of their own way, they should come out on top.
The Superdome is sure to be rocking and with Alvin Kamara returning the Saints will go marching in to a 9-8 record to close out the regular season.
Prediction: New Orleans wins, New Orleans covers -3
1/7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4) @ Carolina Panthers, O/U 37.5, 1:00PM EST, FOX
Win and you’re in. That seems easy enough for the Buccaneers. That’s especially true when you’re going up against the Panthers. You would think that, but that isn’t what the spread indicates? I know this is a divisional game but could the spread be this close for another reason? I think the reason for that is the health of Baker Mayfield. Mayfield was injured late in the game against the Saints a week ago and has been dealing with a rib injury all week. He seems like a tough guy so I would expect him to play. Although, don’t be surprised if he looks hurt at times during this one.
Regardless of that, the Panthers are atrociously bad. They lost 26-0 to the Jaguars last week. To make things worse, Trevor Lawrence wasn’t playing. As much as I would like to see this upset happen, it won’t happen. With that said, I did say the same thing about the Saints not beating the Bucs a week ago and look what happened.
Tampa will be more than motivated to win this game as a win gives them the division. In a way, the Buccaneers losing in the fashion they did a week ago was a good thing for them. They were supposed to win and got humiliated. That will likely be the wakeup call they needed to beat Carolina this week.
Prediction: Tampa Bay wins, Tampa Bay covers -4
1/7: Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers (-3, O/U 45), 4:25PM EST, CBS
This should be a good one. Green Bay needs to win and get in while Chicago can win this game and still have the number one pick. Safe to say that my attention will be on this game.
The Packers have everything on the line in this one while Chicago has nothing to lose. If I were a Green Bay fan, this one would have me nervous. Justin Fields has been playing a lot better and Chicago is finally gaining confidence.
It won’t be a walk in the park either way as Jordan Love has come into his own as of late. No doubt this will be a classic. I don’t have many football reasons as to why but I sense a Chicago upset coming.
Prediction: Chicago wins, Chicago covers +3
1/7: Denver Broncos @ Las Vegas Raiders (-3, O/U 38), 4:25PM EST, FOX
Denver has been such a disappointment this season. With Sean Payton coming in, they were supposed to turn things around from a year ago. While they are a much better team than they were in 2022, they certainly have not met expectations.
On the other hand, the vibes are good in Vegas. Interim head coach Antonio Pierce has the Raiders playing much better. He also has the verbal support to be the head coach next season from Davante Adams and Maxx Crosby.
The way I see this game going is the Raiders having their way. They want this win badly to help convince the front office that AP is the guy and they are going against an offense that is mid at best. Give me the Raiders.
Prediction: Las Vegas wins, Las Vegas covers -3
1/7: Philadelphia Eagles (-5) @ New York Giants, O/U 42, 4:25PM EST, CBS
Are the Eagles okay? After the first 11 games they looked like a sure bet to win the division and get back on a deep playoff run. Now, after losing four of their last five, the Eagles are likely to find themselves on the road in the first weekend of the playoffs instead of being at home as division champions.
The good news for Philly is that one win in this abysmal streak was against the Giants. That being said, Tyrod Taylor gave them a bit of a scare. A 33-25 win at home is normally a good thing, especially in a divisional game. However, Philadelphia is better than what the score indicated.
I may look stupid for laying a team on the road who is on a cold streak but that’s what I’m going to do here. Philly is going to have a bounce back game today as they will have an offensive field day and the defense is going to make a few stops to keep Philly in a comfortable lead.
Prediction: Philadelphia wins, Philadelphia covers -5
1/7: Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) @ Arizona Cardinals, O/U 48, 4:25PM EST, FOX
Similar to a week ago, Arizona can play spoiler again today. With a win, they would knock their division rival out of the playoffs. While the Cardinals might mess up their draft pick slightly with a win, they face a defense that was just picked apart entirely by the Steelers.
With the way Kyler Murray has been playing as of late, don’t be shocked if the upset happens. This is a divisional game after all so weird things can happen.
To me, Seattle isn’t impressive. They have been inconsistent all year long and if they are fortunate enough to get in the playoffs it won’t end well. That being said, we won’t see them in the playoffs this year as Arizona will pull off the upset.
Prediction: Arizona wins, Arizona covers +2.5
1/7: Kansas City Chiefs @ Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5, O/U 35), 4:25PM EST, CBS
The Chiefs are locked into the three seed in the AFC. With that, starters will be sitting out of the game. Clearly, the Chiefs are going to struggle without Mahomes. However, are they really going to struggle so badly that they lose to Easton Stick?
If you chose to watch this game and aren’t a fan of either team, I’m not sure what is wrong with you. This will be a snooze fest.
I’m assuming that the Chargers will win because Mahomes is out and teams with interim coaches normally show up for their guy. Look for LA to end the year on the right note as they continue to build this team around Justin Herbert in the offseason.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins, Los Angeles covers -3.5
1/7: Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers (-4, O/U 41), 4:25PM EST, FOX
With San Francisco already clinching a first-round bye, they will be resting several players in this game. They face a Rams’ team who has been one of the most hot as of the last month or so. Los Angeles has motivation in this one as they clinch the six seed with a win or a Green Bay loss to Chicago. The Rams could also end up as the seven seed if they lose and the Packers win.
As for the game, I see LA pulling off the road upset. They are the more hungry team in this matchup and come into the game with a passing attack that is a migraine to deal with. The Rams will head into the playoffs as a dark horse that either the Cowboys or Lions will have a tough time beating.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins, Los Angeles covers +4
1/7: Dallas Cowboys (-13) @ Washington Commanders, O/U 46, 4:25PM EST, FOX
There is no way Dallas will take Washington lightly as it appeared they did a year ago in a similar situation. The Cowboys are a win away from the NFC East crown and the NFC’s two seed. According to my friend who is a lifetime Cowboys’ fan, “it would be very on brand for the Eagles to lose to the Cardinals to give us a chance at the division just for us to lose to the Commies to blow our shot.” Well, Phil, that isn’t going to happen.
Dallas is far better than Washington and that will show. It might be uncomfortable for a while but the final score will convey a dominant message from the Cowboys going into the playoffs.
Prediction: Dallas wins, Dallas covers -13
1/7 (SNF): Buffalo Bills (-3) @ Miami Dolphins, O/U 48.5, 8:20PM EST, NBC
I’m not sure what is longer… the Epstein list or the Dolphins injury report? Regardless, Miami is going to have their hands full tonight. Josh Allen and the Bills had their way against the Dolphins in the first matchup as Buffalo won 48-20.
For whatever reason, Josh Allen goes off against Miami. He has a 10-2 record against the Dolphins in his career along with an almost 5-1 interception to touchdown ratio. I expect more of the same tonight. Miami has struggled big time against winning teams and their defense is going to have a bad night. Last week, they gave up 56 points to the Ravens and are now without Bradley Chubb for the foreseeable future.
No doubt this will be an entertaining game with a raucous crowd. I’m certainly looking forward to it. Look for tables to be smashed tonight as Buffalo will pull this thing off and fly home with the AFC’s two seed.
Prediction: Buffalo wins, Buffalo covers -3