Well, here we are – we made it. Sure, it may have been a bit of a stumble to the finish line. This is the first ever Week 18 of the National Football League. With the final week of the regular season comes the devilish concoction of playoff scenario possibilities. We are talking a concoction funkier than a one dollar bottle of vodka or a six-month old IPA. So, what teams remain alive and which have clinched? There are sites out there that list all this out. But what about the eliminated teams that will play backups and those that will continue to play for a win? Eh, not so much. You might say it’s a bit complicated. Despite that, we press on with our Week 18 Best Bets!
Texting with the SportsChump this week, he wished me good luck on ironing out the playoff scenarios and saying that it was complicated. That’s what led me here. Don’t worry, it won’t lead me to clips from Meryl Streep rom-com’s.
Before we move on, our final guest of the season is “The Barber”. Oh, cute name, you might say. Is that a unique spin tied to how he bets on spreads? No, actually, this was his nickname in college because he always needed a haircut. Now, I didn’t actually know him in college, so I’m not sure if he walked around campus looking like Cousin Itt. He is a good friend that I met during my time in Massachusetts and I’m happy to have him onboard.
Next, here is a quick rundown of the playoff landscape:
- The Packers have clinched the top seed in the NFC
- Dallas and Tampa Bay have clinched their divisions
- The NFC West remains up for grabs
- Tennessee, Kansas City, and Cincinnati have clinched division titles
- Chargers vs Raiders is a win-and-in playoff scenario
- Saints and 49ers have a lot to play for – trying to clinch
- Rams and Cardinals are battling for a division title
- Colts are in with a win
- Ravens can still get in, but a lot has to happen
- Steelers can also still clinch a playoff berth
- Four teams can still snag the top seed in the AFC (TEN, KC, NE, CIN)
A lot of possibilities and a lot of teams that still have a chance.
Finally, this week’s strategy for picking winners (at least, from my side of the fence):
- Avoid teams like the Packers, because players could be rested
- Teams that can snag the top seed in the AFC should gain your attention
- Stay away from games with no playoff implications
- Don’t forget about the weather impacts, because it is January
- Injuries and the COVID list also continue to be major factors
- Even though Cincinnati can clinch the top seed, Joe Burrow is out this week
- Contractual incentives are in play for some players (e.g. Tom Brady)
So, wait, is that all or is there more to calculate through?
The Wife Hates SportsChump: Regular Season Finale
Chris Humpherys (a.k.a. the SportsChump) – a good friend of mine through years and years of blogging – had this pick ‘em contest rolling with me for the entire football season. We pick our top five games by confidence (against the spread – ATS). Top selections can be from either the NFL or College Football slate. We invite a special guest each week to challenge us.
Here are our Week 18 Best Bets (all ATS for the NFL and College Football National Championship). The list is ranked in order of confidence, from $50 down to $10 (as the SportsChump prefers).
Week 18 Best Bets: The Wife Hates SportsChump – The Complicated Finale
DraftKings Sportsbook: Week 18 NFL Lines | College Football National Championship
KP’s Picks: The Wife Hates Sports
$50 NFL: Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5) at Denver Broncos
This is the position Andy Reid wants the Chiefs to be in. The door is open to claim the top seed, but it’s no guarantee. It keeps the Chiefs hungry. In order to land the top seed in the AFC, Kansas City will need a win in Denver and a Titans loss on Sunday. As for the game, let’s start with the “rivalry”. It’s in quotes, because the Chiefs have surprisingly won 12 straight against the Broncos. TWELVE! That includes blowout victories in Denver over each of the last two seasons. Weather will not have an impact. Drew Lock starts for the Broncos – a team that is already eliminated from contention. I don’t see a way that Lock can stick with Mahomes and Kansas City’s third-ranked offense (397.3 ypg). Chiefs cover.
$40 NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (-5.5)
The Cards are clicking again following a monstrous win over the Cowboys. Now, Arizona takes the division with a win and a Rams loss. James Conner is questionable and a game-time decision. Having him back would be a huge boost. If not, Kyler Murray and the offense have plenty of other weapons to throw at a Seattle team that has struggled all season. The Seahawks are 30th in total defense (383.8 ypg allowed). Bobby Wagner is out this week, leaving Seattle without its anchor on defense. The one thing to potentially watch is how the Rams game pans out. Both games have a 4:25pm kickoff time. What will change if the division title is out of reach? Despite that, I like the Cardinals to cover at home.
$30 NFL: Indianapolis Colts (-14.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
This would be my highest confidence game of the week if not for recent history in the Jags-Colts rivalry. Surprisingly, the Jags own the Colts when playing at home. Jacksonville has won five straight home games against the Colts. That’s no typo. So, yes, that is in the back of my mind. But I simply can’t ignore the talent gap and what is at stake here. The Jags can lock up another top pick in the NFL Draft. Jonathan Taylor faces the 25th ranked Jacksonville run defense. Most importantly, the Colts can clinch a playoff berth with a win. History in this rivalry is finally going to change. Colts cover in a rout.
$20 NFL: New York Jets (+16) at Buffalo Bills
Here’s a different spin. Think of the bulleted list earlier on this post. Yes, the Bills are playing for a division title. However, this line is a bit steep for my liking – but that’s more so for one reason: WEATHER. Sunday’s forecast in Buffalo calls for rain with a potential for snow to mix in. Winds are expected to be 20-30mph. This has the likelihood to be a sloppy game. On top of that, Robert Saleh is a fiery guy and a defensive mind with next-level energy. This just feels like a game where he’ll have his underdog team ready to fight, despite the fact it has no meaning on New York’s season. In the end, Buffalo wins this game, but it’ll be closer than the line suggests. Give me the Jets and the points.
$10 NFL: Los Angeles Chargers (-3) at Las Vegas Raiders
For my final pick, I’m returning to the Chargers, a team I have been high on for the duration of the season. This is a “win and you’re in” situation for both teams. Perhaps not ideal this week’s top five. Still, I liked it better than the other options. This game screams shootout. The Chargers rank 4th in total offense (387.1 ypg) and the Raiders are 11th (364.9 ypg). L.A. ranks 30th against the run, but Vegas has the 29th ranked rushing offense. Both teams have 32 sacks on the season. When he’s on the field, a healthy Derwin James makes a huge difference defensively for the Chargers. L.A. has more balance offensively and in a shootout, give me the Chargers to cover on the road.
Take a little off the top, because it’s time for The Barber’s debut…
The Barber’s Picks
After painstaking research, here are the picks:
It’s all east coast as we look at the Jets and Buffalo. I think this is a trap game. The Bills need to win to get the division, but either way they will probably be playing the Patriots in the Wild Card round. But…don’t know if you noticed but the Patriots suck at home this year and Buffalo just beat them there. So…if you’re the Bills, what do you do? YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! And that means the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets will end up getting spanked. Bills cover an absurdly high line.
($50: Buffalo -16)
Let’s move over to Chicago – my current hometown. Two teams left playing for pride after being knocked out of the playoff race. Word on the street is it is Nagy’s last game as Bears coach so he’s got something to prove. Just wish the players did too. Unfortunately I think the Vikings cover easily. And my good friend’s wife will finally get her husband back – until September. Just kidding – she’s had him back since they were knocked out of the playoffs. When was that, November?
($40: Minnesota -5.5)
The WFT covers against the New York Football Giants. Why? Maybe I still harbor a grudge that Eli somehow beat Brady twice in the Super Bowl and will never pick the Giants as a result. Maybe I should stop living in the last decade. Bonus – over-under on the number of railings that collapse at FedEx field – 0.5. Take the over.
($30: Washington -7)
Keeping it in the NFC East, Dallas wins but Philadelphia covers. Philadelphia keeps it close but can’t close it out. And off we go into the playoffs pretending Dallas has a shot when they will probably get bounced in the first round. But, hey, this is Dallas, so when the NFL has to relocate the Super Bowl due to COVID numbers and California mandates, Jerry Jones still wins the Super Bowl!
($20: Philadelphia +4)
Miami covers but New England wins. At least, they were going to until I made this pick. Look – Miami in December has been the Patriots haunted house. For some reason, the Patriots aren’t like the rest of the New England snowbirds that enjoy Miami. They go there and freeze up and lay eggs. What, what’s that you say? The extra week of the season means this is January and the Patriots will surely win in January? Okay, maybe they will win after all and I’ll look like a genius.
($10: Miami +6.5)
Now, let’s see if the SportsChump ends the year on a high note…
Let me have $50 on the San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-4 ½)
This is a bigger game for the Niners than it is for the Rams, sort of. If the Niners win, they’re in. But if the Rams win, they lock up the two seed. Clearly no team wants key injuries heading into the post-season, so I think you’ll see the Rams do just enough to win. Jimmy Garoppolo will be a game-time decision which means you’ll see the rookie go up against the Rams defense. Not ideal.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t think it will matter who the Niners start at quarterback. When they played earlier this season in Santa Clara, the Niners handled their business, beating the Rams 31-10 but L.A. was just adjusting to life without Robert Woods. That won’t happen again. The Rams will want to make a statement this final week of the regular season that they are not to be taken lightly. I like the Rams to cover easily. Rams minus the four-and-a-half.
I’ll take $40 on Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8)
It’s been a rough week at Bucs camp. The whole Antonio Brown thing escalated quickly. The defending Super Bowl champs went from having three top tier wide receivers (Evans, Godwin and Brown) to having potentially none (gimpy, IR and certifiable). No receivers? No problem. They still have the GOAT who does goat-like things and that means showing everybody in the NFC they’re still a factor. Brady might not play the entire game, especially if they’re up big at half-time, but the Bucs still want that three seed and they’ll be damn sure they get it. The Panthers have the worst quarterbacking tandem in the league (Darnold, Newton) and the Bucs defense will be lined up to ensure they have their wounded offense’s back. Bucs cover the number.
I’ll wager $30 on the Pittsburgh Steelers (+5) at Baltimore Ravens
Last Monday night, we regaled in the career of Ben Roethlisberger who likely played his last game at Heinz Field. That was not, however, his last game as a Steeler as he has (at least) one more this Sunday at Baltimore. The Ravens are a shell of their former selves and have gone from leading the AFC North to almost out of the playoffs. Lamar Jackson will sit this one out once again. I’m not sure how the outcome of this game will affect who is in and who is out, but I can assure you the loser is home for the winter.
The game is at Baltimore and the Steelers are getting five. While I have little faith in the Steelers, I have equally as little faith in the Ravens who have lost five straight games after winning six of their first eight. Whoever wins this game will likely be bounced in the first round of the playoffs, but they have to be in it to win it, which neither might be. The Big Ben farewell tour rolls on. I’m betting he’d like to go out with a W so give me the Steelers plus the points in a game that might not matter at all. Steelers cover.
I’ll take $20 on Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders (+3 ½)
Don’t quote me on this but I think the Raiders can still make the playoffs if they win the final game of the regular season, this Sunday night against the Chargers. The game will be held in their fancy new stadium in front of an amped crowd. After the season, they’ve had, they sure could use a dose of good news. There’s no way you can experience the drama 2021 brought Las Vegas and not find a bonded locker room. Derek Carr emerged as their true leader and the face of their franchise.
I fully expect them to win this game for their coach Rich Bisaccia who likely won’t be their head coach next year. They’re hosting the Chargers. On paper, the Chargers are the better team. But they’re not playing this game on paper. I think emotions will be running too high in Vegas on Sunday night. Give me the Raiders to shake up the world, or at least cover the three-and-a-half.
And for my final pick of the regular season, let me have
$10 on New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (+7)
A few years ago, I won one of those eliminator pools. I’ve been participating in those regularly, three a season, for the past ten years or so. One finally paid out. A $30 investment paid off almost six grand. The reason I’m telling you this is because the game that won the pool for me was when the heavily favored Patriots went down to Miami on a Monday night and former Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler carved up the Pats.
Jay Cutler is no longer with the Dolphins. Tom Brady is no longer with the Pats. But the point of this exercise is me telling you the Dolphins always play the Pats strong in Miami, even when they’re not supposed to. The Dolphins are out of the playoffs. They have no reason to play this game other than for pride’s sake. The Pats don’t want to take any chances as they’re assured a playoff seed. So I’ll take the Dolphins at home to finish strong. Fish plus the seven please.
Add your Week 18 Best Bets in the comments section below. As always, thank you for visiting and supporting The Wife Hates Sports!
Image Credit: The Hangover
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Yeah, it went pretty well this season. Next year I’m hoping for similar.
By my calculations, sir, heading into this weekend, you were picking games at a 61.45% clip on the season.
That, my friend, is impressive.