NFL betting breakdown: Week 18
Wagertalk.com handicapper Tony Mejia (@MejiaDinero) analyzes every NFL Week 18 game, with odds, trends and final score projections.
Tony Mejia, Wagertalk.com, wt.buzz/tm, @MejiaDinero
Jets (7-9) at Dolphins (8-8)
Time: 10 a.m., KVVU-5
Line/total: Dolphins -3, 36½
Analysis: Rookie QB Skylar Thompson will battle Joe Flacco, who turns 38 next week, and try to help the Dolphins reach the playoffs with a win if the Bills beat the Patriots. Miami is one of the most banged-up teams in football, and its depleted secondary will be challenged with Flacco starting over the inconsistent Zach Wilson. The Jets won 40-17 in Week 5, when Thompson helped produce only three second-half points.
By the numbers: Miami has won the teams’ last six meetings in South Florida. … The under is on a 4-0 run in Jets games. … Both teams are on five-game losing streaks.
Pick: Dolphins 23, Jets 20
Browns (7-9) at Steelers (8-8)
Time: 10 a.m.
Line/total: Steelers -2½, 40
Analysis: Pittsburgh fans will split their attention between the Steelers game and the action in Miami and Buffalo, as the Jets and Bills need to win to leave the door open for a playoff berth. QB Deshaun Watson has struggled for the Browns since returning to action. Steelers rookie QB Kenny Pickett has made mistakes but has impressed with his grit under pressure. DE Jadeveon Clowney was banished from the Browns on Friday, so Pickett will have one less pass rusher to deal with.
By the numbers: The Steelers are in danger of their first losing home record since 1999. … The under is 6-0 in the last six Browns games. … Pittsburgh is on an 0-5 skid against the spread as a favorite against AFC North foes.
Pick: Steelers 20, Browns 16
Texans (2-13-1) at Colts (4-11-1)
Time: 10 a.m.
Line/total: Colts -2½, 37½
Analysis: Since taking over for Frank Reich, interim Colts coach Jeff Saturday won in Las Vegas but has since gone 0-6 and presided over the largest blown lead (33-0) in NFL history. The Colts have been outscored 107-16 since taking that lead over the Vikings on Dec. 17. But they’re favored here since the Texans would fumble away their grip on the No. 1 pick in the draft with a win and a Bears loss. Sam Ehlinger will start at QB for Indianapolis, and Davis Mills will be at QB for Houston. Yuck.
By the numbers: The under is 6-0 in the teams’ last six meetings. … These teams tied 20-20 in Week 1 when the Colts were 7-point road favorites. … Indianapolis is 1-5 ATS against AFC South foes. … Houston will close the season having been an underdog in every game.
Pick: Colts 20, Texans 16
Buccaneers (8-8) at Falcons (6-10)
Time: 10 a.m.
Line/total: Falcons -4, 40½
Analysis: With the NFC’s No. 4 seed locked in, Tampa coach Todd Bowles has ruled out a bunch of players, mostly on defense. But QB Tom Brady and top OT Tristan Wirfs will start. How long they’ll play remains to be seen, but it would be an upset if they’re out there in the second half. The youth movement continues for Atlanta, which snapped a four-game skid against Arizona last week. Rookie QB Desmond Ridder and RB Tyler Allgeier have shown a lot of improvement since being handed larger roles.
By the numbers: The Falcons have been involved in six straight one-possession games. …The under is on an 8-1 run in Atlanta games, cashing in the last six. … Tampa Bay has won six of the last seven meetings, including a 21-15 win in Week 5.
Pick: Falcons 24, Bucs 19
Panthers (6-10) at Saints (7-9)
Time: 10 a.m.
Line/total: Saints -3½, 42
Analysis: Word leaked out that Jim Harbaugh has interviewed for Carolina’s coaching gig. But interim coach Steve Wilks has staked claim to the job by leading a young, disjointed group to a 5-6 finish. Three of the losses have been in one-possession games. QB Sam Darnold has improved under Wilks’ watch and threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 30-24 loss to the Bucs. The Saints look to close with a fourth consecutive win and haven’t surrendered more than 18 points in five straight games.
By the numbers: New Orleans has won nine of the teams’ last 12 meetings. But it’s in danger of being swept in a season series for the first time since 2015. … Carolina has lost 10 of its last 11 road games. … The Saints are on an 8-1 under run.
Pick: Saints 20, Panthers 19
Patriots (8-8) at Bills (12-3)
Time: 10 a.m., KLAS-8
Line/total: Bills -7½, 43½
Analysis: With Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin recovering beautifully after Monday night’s horrific scare, the Bills can finally breathe again. He even lifted the team by surprising them via video conference Friday. Although Buffalo’s practice schedule was disrupted for obvious reasons, we’re about to see whether having fresher legs offers an advantage on a short week after having the game in Cincinnati cut short in the first quarter. New England will make the playoffs with a win and arrives in upstate New York as healthy as it has been all season.
By the numbers: The Bills have won five of the teams’ last six meetings. … Favorites are 9-0 straight-up in the last nine Patriots games. … New England is riding an 8-0 over run in January in the regular season.
Pick: Bills 26, Patriots 20
Ravens (10-6) at Bengals (11-4)
Time: 10 a.m.
Line/total: Bengals -9, 40
Analysis: The Bengals will win the AFC North regardless of what transpires here. Cincinnati owns an AFC-best seven-game winning streak. Revenge is in play since the Bengals fell at Baltimore 19-17 on Oct. 9. But Ravens QB Lamar Jackson won’t be around for this one. Backup Tyler Huntley will start but is struggling with shoulder pain, so look for Baltimore’s attack to be run-heavy.
By the numbers: The Ravens are on a 6-0 under run against AFC North foes. … The Bengals are on a 12-1 ATS run, covering seven straight. … Cincinnati ranks fourth in passing and 26th in rushing offense. … Baltimore ranks second on the ground and 29th through the air.
Pick: Bengals 30, Ravens 12
Vikings (12-4) at Bears (3-13)
Time: 10 a.m.
Line/total: Vikings -6, 42½
Analysis: Minnesota’s 41-17 loss to the Packers on Sunday dropped the Vikings behind the 49ers to the No. 3 spot in the NFC, but they still have a lot to play for and will open the game with their starters. Chicago won’t have QB Justin Fields and will ride instead with Nathan Peterman. So the expectation is we’ll see a 10th straight defeat from the Bears, who could secure the No. 1 overall pick in the draft if Houston beats the Colts.
By the numbers: Chicago has been outscored 76-23 the past two weeks. … Despite their gaudy record, the Vikings have a minus-19 point differential. … The Bears are on a 2-7 ATS skid. … Minnesota is on a 6-0 over run.
Pick: Vikings 24, Bears 14
Rams (5-11) at Seahawks (8-8)
Time: 1:25 p.m.
Line/total: Seahawks -6, 41½
Analysis: Seattle needs a win and a Lions victory over Green Bay to reach the playoffs. WR Tyler Lockett is expected to return to action for Seattle and RB Kenneth Walker III wasn’t even listed on the final injury report, so Pete Carroll’s team looks to be in good shape. Rams QB Baker Mayfield has played pretty well since arriving and is joined in the backfield by another player looking to finish strong in RB Cam Akers. Rain is in the forecast.
By the numbers: Seattle is on a 3-0 under streak. … The Rams have covered seven of the last eight meetings. … Los Angeles is on a six-game losing streak on the road (1-4-1 ATS).
Pick: Seahawks 23, Rams 17
Giants (9-6-1) at Eagles (13-3)
Time: 1:25 p.m.
Line/total: Eagles -16, 43
Analysis: All eyes are on Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts’ availability, but it sounds like he’ll start. The Eagles need to win to wrap up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the NFC after suffering back-to-back losses. New York is already in the playoffs and will likely rest all banged-up players. Expect to see veteran QB Tyrod Taylor get an extended run for the Giants, who are locked into the No. 6 seed after routing the Colts 38-10 in their highest-scoring game of the season.
By the numbers: Philadelphia won the first meeting 48-22 in Week 14, posting its highest-scoring output of the season. … The Eagles have won eight straight at home against the Giants. … New York is on a 5-1 ATS run, only failing to cover against the Eagles.
Pick: Eagles 30, Giants 17
Cardinals (4-12) at 49ers (12-4)
Time: 1:25 p.m.
Line/total: 49ers -14½, 40
Analysis: RB Christian McCaffrey missed a couple of practices this week but is expected to suit up and play for the 49ers as they look to at least hold on to the No. 2 seed in the NFC, if not move up. WR Deebo Samuel and RB Elijah Mitchell have also been cleared to play, so rookie QB Brock Purdy gets more weapons to work with as he continues his ascent. Arizona DE J.J. Watt will play what is expected to be his final game after he announced his intention to retire.
By the numbers: The 49ers look to extend an NFL-best nine-game win streak here (7-2 ATS). … San Francisco is on a 7-0 ATS run against NFC West foes. … Arizona is averaging 15.8 points since losing QB Kyler Murray.
Pick: 49ers 31, Cardinals 9
Chargers (10-6) at Broncos (4-12)
Time: 1:25 p.m., KLAS-8
Line/total: Broncos -3, 39½
Analysis: The Chargers will know by kickoff whether they’ve already secured the No. 5 playoff seed in the AFC or need to beat Denver to lock it up. That’s going to determine how long Los Angeles will play its starters in this one, if at all. Denver is 0-1 since firing coach Nathaniel Hackett and nearly won in Kansas City last week, leading into the fourth quarter.
By the numbers: Los Angeles beat Denver 19-16 in OT in Week 6. … The Broncos have lost nine straight division games. … Denver is on a 4-0 over streak after an 11-1 under run.
Pick: Broncos 21, Chargers 19
Cowboys (12-4) at Commanders (7-8-1)
Time: 1:25 p.m., KVVU-5
Line/total: Cowboys -6½, 40
Analysis: Washington will give rookie QB Sam Howell his first NFL start after losing three in a row with Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz behind center. He’ll face a solid Dallas defense that still has hope to win the NFC East. The Cowboys have won eight of their last 10 games, with both losses coming in OT. Depending on what’s happening in Philadelphia simultaneously, backups could finish this one out for Dallas.
By the numbers: The Commanders are on a 4-0 under run at home. … Washington is on an 0-4 ATS skid. … Dallas has won 10 of its last 11 games against NFC East foes, beating Washington 25-10 in Week 4 and sweeping last season’s meetings 27-20 and 56-14.
Pick: Cowboys 31, Commanders 16
Lions (8-8) at Packers (8-8)
Time: 5:15 p.m., KSNV-3
Line/total: Packers -5, 49
Analysis: Detroit could be dealing with buzzkill if the Seahawks beat the Rams and eliminate the Lions from playoff contention. But Detroit’s starters will definitely play and leave it all out there either way. For Green Bay, which has won four straight, it’s win and in the playoffs. Weather won’t be a factor since it will be a balmy 20 degrees at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers’ lone three-interception game came in Detroit, adding to his motivation.
By the numbers: Rodgers has a TD pass in 15 straight games and had his first TD run of the season last week. … The Lions have won and covered four of their last five as underdogs and are on a 9-0 ATS streak against NFC North foes.
Pick: Packers 31, Lions 20