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January 26, 2022

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Vegas pick’em: NFL Week 18 winners against the spread

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Steve Marcus

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) is stopped short of the goal line by the Las Vegas Raiders defense during overtime in a game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Allegiant Stadium Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.

With several teams eliminated and others resting starting starters, the final week of the regular season is annually the worst of the NFL season. This year’s slate may appear to fall in line considering an average spread of 7.5 points, but implications go deeper than what may first appear on the surface.

Only three of the 16 games scheduled this weekend hold no significance on the playoff picture — Washington at New York Giants, Green Bay at Detroit and Chicago at Minnesota. There’s at least seeding significance in every other contest, with the results of five games determining the playoff field.

It all culminates on Sunday Night Football at Allegiant Stadium with the Raiders and Chargers facing off in what will be a play-in game as long as Indianapolis defeats Jacksonville.

So don’t bemoan Week 18 too much. It still presents unique situations that need to be accounted for like greater-than-usual playoff absences and motivational concerns, but most of the games are meaningful in one way or another.

Read below for picks on every Week 18 game. Picks are separated into three confidence categories and listed in rough order of confidence. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side. The record for the year picking every game against the spread stands at 130-125-1 after an 8-8 record in Week 17.

Plays (43-38)

Seattle Seahawks +6.5 at Arizona Cardinals No team has underachieved as much as the Seahawks, which means no team might be as undervalued as much as the Seahawks at the end of the regular season. Flip a couple heartbreaking losses — the Seahawks have gone 0-5 in games decided by less than a touchdown — and Seattle is playing to get into the postseason this week.

Minnesota Vikings -3 vs. Chicago Bears Kirk Cousins is back behind center and the Vikings have given no indication that they plan to proceed at anything less than full strength for the final game of the season. Minnesota was as high as -6 in this game a week ago before being eliminated from the postseason.

Houston Texans +10 vs. Tennessee Titans The Texans may have gotten stomped 23-7 as 14-point underdogs at San Francisco last week, but they’ve otherwise shown real progress down the stretch of the season. The Titans are a slightly above-average team by any advanced metric and shouldn’t be laying this many points on the road.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers -7.5 vs. Carolina Panthers Even in last week’s relatively narrow 18-10 loss to the Saints as 7-point underdogs, the Panthers were outgained by more than 100 yards. They’ve been horrendous over the last month and a half and should be getting double digits against a Buccaneers’ team that’s outwardly expressing an aversion to resting starters.

Leans (46-39)

Baltimore Ravens -5.5 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Having lost all but one game in a five-game losing streak by two points or less, the Ravens aren’t playing nearly as bad as perception indicates. They were a 4-point favorite at Pittsburgh last month and deserve a bigger bump than 1.5 points playing at M&T Bank Stadium.

New England Patriots -6.5 at Miami Dolphins Despite the Dolphins’ victory over the Patriots in Week 1 and their seven-game win streak that ended last week, there’s a lot bigger gap between these teams than the records indicate. New England is fourth in the league by Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, for instance, while Miami is 24th.

Buffalo Bills -16.5 vs. New York Jets The Bills lead the league in net yards per play at +1.04, and the Jets’ recent improvement might be a little overstated. Buffalo won’t hesitate to blow out its divisional rivals and lock up a second straight AFC East title.

Atlanta Falcons +4.5 vs. New Orleans Saints The Saints’ offense has been too uninspiring to lay more than a field goal on the road in a divisional game, even against an opponent like the Falcons that are eliminated from postseason contention. Atlanta played well last week at Buffalo and probably deserved a better fate than a 29-15 loss.

Guesses (41-48-1)

New York Giants +7 vs. Washington Football Team If a half-point or more gets added to this spread, this pick might begrudgingly need to be moved up to at least a lean. The Giants are the butt of many jokes after another embarrassing performance in last week’s 29-3 loss to the Bears but haven’t been much worse than Washington from an efficiency standpoint on the season as a whole.

Kansas City Chiefs -10 at Denver Broncos Number is right statistically, but the motivational edge is arguably worth a couple additional points. The Chiefs still have incentive to win for seeding purposes while the Broncos are beaten-up and long-ago eliminated.

Jacksonville Jaguars +16 vs. Indianapolis Colts The Jaguars were a 10.5-point underdog at Indianapolis less than two months ago, and acquitted themselves pretty well in losing only 23-17. The Colts shouldn’t have much trouble but laying this large of a number on the road with Carson Wentz is asking for disappointment.

Los Angeles Chargers -3 at Las Vegas Raiders Flip-flopped multiple times on this game, but the ultimate deciding factor for now is how thoroughly the Chargers dismantled the Raiders in their first meeting. Las Vegas had a fuller team back then and still got outgained 380-213 and was at a 25-13 first-down deficit.

Los Angeles Rams -4.5 vs. San Francisco 49ers San Francisco +6 would have been the pick at the opening price, but the line has moved too much with uncertainty on whether Jimmy Garoppolo will play. It’s hard to imagine the NFC playoffs without the 49ers, but this is a tall task with the Rams also needing to win the lock up a first-place finish in the NFC West.

Cleveland Browns -6 vs. Cincinnati Bengals The 8-point move after the announcement that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow wouldn’t play implies he’s one of the most valuable players in the league — and the shift still might not have been enough. Cincinnati seems to be conceding this contest with its playoff spot locked up.

Philadelphia Eagles +7.5 vs. Dallas Cowboys Yes, Dallas is playing its starters while Philadelphia may not but -7 goes far enough in accounting for that potential discrepancy. There’s no need for the extra half-point starting to show up at some sports books.

Green Bay Packers -4 at Detroit Lions The Packers will play their starters but the question is for how long with the NFC’s No. 1 seed already locked up. Even Green Bay’s backups might not be outmatched against Detroit, however, given how many injuries the Lions are managing.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or

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