NFL Week 18 best bets
Week 18 is the final week of the 2022 NFL regular season.
Throughout the season, our VSiN experts will combine to give their best bets on every game. Check back for more picks as we get closer to kickoff.
1 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: The idea that the Dolphins are suddenly going to look like the team that they’re supposed to be just because a potential playoff berth is on the line seems really unlikely. That is especially true when you consider that Skylar Thompson is getting the start. The Jets have announced that Joe Flacco will be the QB for the season finale, and that may be the most stability that New York has had at the position since Flacco was the QB earlier this season.
Most sportsbooks haven’t posted player props yet, but I do like Flacco to have a lot of pass attempts here. Flacco threw 59, 44 and 52 times in the first three games of the season and had at least 285 yards in all three games. The Jets have changed a bit as the season has gone along, but the Jets have 205 more pass attempts than rush attempts by virtue of trailing in games and also their play selection.
There is a non-zero chance that this is the 37-year-old Flacco’s last NFL start, so they’re going to give him the chance to let it all hang out, and I think he’ll be a supremely motivated player in this game. Guys like Garrett Wilson (second choice for Rookie of the Year) and the other receivers and tight ends should be invested as well.
The Jets with a three-point head start makes a lot of sense to me in this battle of teams that have been tumbling downhill. New York has no pressure. Miami has all the pressure, and Thompson has to absorb most of it. BetMGM has even moved to +3.5 here, so if you can find one of those, that’s even better.
Pick: Jets +3
1 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: For the 30th straight season of football, the Browns will fail to finish with a better record than the Steelers. They can play spoiler here, though, and ruin Pittsburgh’s playoff chances and Mike Tomlin’s streak of not having a losing record as the head coach of the Steelers. Those are motivating factors, especially for a team without its first-round pick for the next 200 years because of the Deshaun Watson trade.
Watson showed some flashes last week in the second half against the Commanders, but he’s still been a massive downgrade from Jacoby Brissett. Among QBs with at least 100 plays, Brissett ranks 13th in EPA+CPOE composite (Expected Points Added + Completion Percentage Over Expectation). Watson ranks 39th out of 48 quarterbacks.
Since TJ Watt returned in Week 10, the Steelers rank 11th in EPA/play on defense. What is a bigger surprise is that the Steelers are seventh in EPA/play on offense since Kenny Pickett took over in Week 10. That does include the week he missed when Mitch Trubisky started, but this Pittsburgh offense has gotten substantially better throughout the season, while the Browns offense has taken a nosedive.
The fact that this line is under a field goal shocks me. Cleveland’s defense has really improved as the season has gone along, but the Steelers are much better on offense and are just a better-coached team.
Pick: Steelers -2.5
Dave Tuley: We heard people saying all season that this was going to be Mike Tomlin’s first year below .500, but the Steelers have won three straight games and five of their last six to get to 8-8 with a chance to prove all those people wrong if they beat the Browns on Sunday. The Steelers are 3-2 SU and ATS as favorites this season, but I wouldn’t trust them in this spot.
The Browns beat them 29-17 in Week 3 when the Steelers obviously weren’t playing as well, but that was with Jacoby Brissett at QB. The Browns haven’t been world-beaters with Deshaun Watson, but they are 3-2 SU and ATS in his starts with only the 23-10 loss to the Bengals in Week 14 being their only loss by more than 7, so let’s tease them up over a touchdown to +8.5.
This is as good of a time as any to discuss our teaser portfolio with Sunday’s other options being the Texans +8.5 at the Colts, Broncos +9 vs. the Chargers, Bills -1.5 vs. Patriots and Bengals -1 vs. Ravens.
Pick Browns +8.5/Texans +8.5 and other teasers
1 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: The Bengals are in a really weird situation this week, but I think we could get some player prop value out of it. The Ravens are going to start Anthony Brown, so there is a realistic chance that the Bengals jump out and lead by a few scores early in this one. With a rematch on deck, the Ravens don’t really have a ton of incentive to push all that hard in this game and may rest more than just Tyler Huntley.
The Bengals are unlikely to need their starters for the entire game. If nothing else, they’re going to minimize risk as much as possible. Joe Burrow’s passing yards prop is 272.5 at DraftKings. His season average is 284 yards per game, so this line implies that he’s going to play most or all of this game and I just don’t see that being the case.
There is a better chance of Cincinnati leading this game by multiple scores and pulling Burrow and the starters at halftime or in the third quarter than there is of needing Burrow for all 60 minutes.
Pick: Joe Burrow UNDER 272.5 Passing Yards
1 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: Tom Brady seemed to be making a case for playing in Week 18 during his postgame presser after throwing for 432 yards in the division-clinching win over the Panthers, but it seems like a long shot that the Buccaneers would put the 45-year-old at risk in a game that has no bearing on the standings.
That means we’re likely to see Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask for the Bucs. Add in some Desmond Ridder on the other side for the Falcons and it’s tough to see where points come from in this game. Ridder has made three starts and hasn’t scored a touchdown yet. He has zero passing touchdowns and zero rushing touchdowns. Furthermore, he’s only rushed for 55 yards, so the dual-threat nature of his game has not been on display and that has limited the Falcons as a whole.
With Ridder, the Falcons have scored 47 points in three games. They’ve only scored over 20 points in one of their last eight games. For all the passing that the Bucs do with the greatest QB of all time, they’ve only mustered 18.5 points per game and he, along with his stable of wide receivers, will likely be benched for this game. That means an UNDER bet for me.
Pick: UNDER 40.5
1 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: It has been an emotionally-draining week for the Bills, but the tremendous outpouring of support for Damar Hamlin has been great to see around the league. That still pales in comparison to what happened on Friday when Hamlin FaceTimed with his teammates and gave them some peace of mind.
The Bills may take this opportunity to put on a show against the Patriots. Buffalo has matched up really well with New England in every game that wasn’t marred by awful weather conditions. The Bills have won five of the last six and the margin of victory in those five wins has been 17.6 points per game.
Obviously, there are some questions as to how long Josh Allen and others will play, but they should play most, if not all, of the first half. I think Buffalo -7 for the full game is good, but I think Buffalo -4 for the first half is even better. It will be an emotionally-charged stadium and, while the Patriots are playing for a playoff berth, Buffalo has dominated this rivalry. The Patriots have no offense to speak of and big changes are likely coming this offseason. I think the Bills prey on all of it.
Pick: Bills -4 1st Half
1 p.m. ET
Danny Burke: Not too much needs to be explained as to why the Vikings are over a touchdown favorite in this game. Minnesota is looking to improve its seeding, clear that stink of a performance off their jerseys from last week as they get ready for the playoffs, and, most importantly, Nathan Peterman is starting over Justin Fields. If those reasons didn’t justify looking to the Minnesota side, well, let me remind you that, according to DVOA, the Bears boast the league’s worst defense and 27th-ranked offense. And those numbers reflect the entirety of the season up to this point. This upcoming weekend, the team won’t feature a handful of those players that contributed to those numbers. Suffice it to say, it should get worse before it gets better for Chicago. However, there is some incentive in this game for the Bears, and that is to lose. Chicago’s organization stands virtually nothing to gain from winning. In fact, a win for the Bears would be a loss for their potential draft position. With the number one pick still technically up for grabs, Matt Eberflus’ bunch did the wise thing in sitting their quarterback.
The Vikings need to capture momentum heading into the playoffs. Getting blown out by your division rival as the last reps before your starters attack the postseason is not ideal. However, getting your swagger back against a depleted Chicago team is. The number has moved so much, and we’ve seen Minnesota play in countless close games, so consider a safer option to back the Vikings.
Pick: Tease Down Minnesota
1 p.m. ET
Danny Burke: Unfortunately, there will be no incentivized playoff angle to seek out in this NFC South matchup. Both of these teams were eliminated from playoff contention last week, and now they just have pride to play for.
Despite the absence of several former members of the Panthers’ offense, they are still finding a way to move the ball, and they are actually moving it more efficiently than before. Over the last three games, Carolina has averaged 7.0 yards per play (1st), Quarterback Sam Darnold has averaged 272 passing yards, and has thrown for five total touchdowns and just one interception. Also, no McCaffrey? No problem. The Panthers now rank in the top half of rushing offenses, according to DVOA.
As for their opposition, it’s a little tougher to find as much positivity throughout their offense. Yes, their past three games have been wins, but it hasn’t necessarily been through any dynamic playing ability of Quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton, in the last three games, has averaged 149 passing yards while throwing a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. The only offense the Saints consistently have is through Alvin Kamara. And even if that’s enough to create some momentum, it’s not enough to warrant laying over a field goal with that team.
Pick: Panthers +3.5
4:25 p.m. ET
Danny Burke: Strange line movements have surrounded this game. We have seen the Chargers as high as a three-point favorite, and now it has flipped to the Broncos as three-and-a-half point favorites. The reason for this is because of the assumption that Los Angeles may not need to risk going all out in this game if they have the fifth seed locked up, and that may be the case if the Ravens fall victim to the Bengals. But, if Baltimore should win and Justin Herbert and company lose, they can fall to the sixth seed and see a completely different path.
If the Chargers end up in the fifth seed, they will then play the winner of Tennessee/Jacksonville, which would seem more favorable than going against the red-hot Cincinnati Bengals. And if they were to get by the Jags, they would then go up against the Chiefs, a team they’ve consistently kept it close with. I believe they would prefer facing Kansas City and their vulnerable defense as opposed to the possibility of Buffalo’s stout defense.
Chargers Coach Brandon Staley has reiterated that they are going in with their starters and looking to come out on top, but things could alter depending on circumstances. "My approach to this game is to go play a high-level game. As the facts on the ground change within the game, then yeah, things could change, but we’re not going in with the mindset like, ‘Oh, well he’s not going to play,’" Staley said. "We’re going [to Denver] to win this game and play our best. Then, as the game unfolds, we’ll see what happens.” So that’s what makes this one difficult to assess. However, what is clear is that the Broncos are still an absolute nightmare. The lone bright spot has been their defense, yet, over the last three games they have been surrendering 5.5 yards per play to opponents (24th). Denver’s players see golf courses and vacation spots in their future and ultimately just want to end this disastrous season. Earlier this week I teased the Chargers to +8.5, but now with the number moving over the key spot of three, I wouldn’t hate the idea of just taking the points with the yellow and blue. But I’m solidified in my position, so that’s what I’m riding.
Pick: Tease Up Chargers
4:25 p.m. ET
Brady Kannon: For the third week in a row, the pressure is all on the Eagles. In their past two tests, they have not lived up to the task, falling to the Cowboys and really getting dominated by the Saints last week. We know the storyline here, Philadelphia wins and they clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the Giants are locked into the No. 6 seed, without the potential of moving up or down. Coach of the Year candidate, Brian Daboll, has said he will play his starters in this game. That may be true, somewhat. Maybe Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley will start but how long will he leave them in the game? Daboll does have Tyrod Taylor as his backup QB however, and that is a pretty decent option.
When we get to the final two weeks of the season and with playoff scenarios abound, oddsmakers will typically inflate numbers on teams with a track to the postseason—or a team that “must win” versus an opponent who has nothing to play for, and I think we are getting some of that here. 14 points are quite a bit, and if Gardner Minshew starts in place of Jalen Hurts once again, this line is probably 4 or 5 points too high. Hurts has been limited in practice this week but I have a feeling he will start. The Eagles have been one of the best first-half teams in the league this season. If Hurts is able to get the Eagles out to a big lead, there is a chance he will be pulled from the game, and at that point, the back door swings wide open.
My numbers on this game come to Eagles -9, Eagles -5, and Eagles -13. Let’s note that these calculations are primarily based on Daniel Jones and Jalen Hurts both playing a full game for each of their teams but still not one number reaches a full two touchdowns. As I mentioned earlier, it just feels awfully high and there is likely some inflated adjustment in there. Race & Sportsbook Manager at the Rampart Casino in Las Vegas, Duane Colluci, said the ticket count on Philadelphia is 3 or 4-to-1. He went on to say that doesn’t even account for the plethora of teasers and parlays on the Eagles. This is exactly what the bookmakers are guarding against by shading the number a little higher than it ought to be, because they know the masses will bet on the team that has some sort of “must win” situation on the line, the No. 1 seed being the case for Philadelphia.
I can see the Eagles winning this game pretty comfortably and could certainly do so by double-digits but I don’t believe the margin will result in a number as high as 14. It is possible this number could get even higher but it is also possible that Jalen Hurts remains inactive and the number falls by 3 or 4 points—or more—so I’m fine taking what is a key number in 14.
Pick: Giants +14
4:25 p.m. ET
Brady Kannon: There are a few things going against the Seahawks in this game. First of all, they have lost 6 of their last 8 games. Secondly, the Rams have been a real thorn in their side in recent years. And lastly, Seattle falls into that “must-win” situation against a division rival who would love to play spoiler. If you are a Seattle backer though, you can note that the Seahawks beat the Rams five weeks ago in Los Angeles. They did not cover but closed as 7.5-point favorites in what was a 27-23 final. Now they are at home, and they are laying a smaller number. John Wolford played quarterback for Los Angeles in the game down in LA in Week 13, and Baker Mayfield is an upgrade. You can also say Seattle has been on a steady decline ever since. Mayfield however, is just 6-22 SU and 8-19-1 ATS against teams that finish the season with a winning record.
We noted in our Giants-Eagles write-up that oftentimes the team in a “must-win” situation has an inflated line and that is probably the case here too. My numbers come to Seahawks -4, Seahawks -3, and a real outlier, Rams -10. I tend to trust the 4 and the 3 are better representations and would be in line with our feeling that the actual line on the game is inflated.
So we are going to go about this one a little differently. I parlayed the Seahawks on the money line with the Green Bay Packers on the money line. This is a correlated parlay, and as I was shopping for the best price, one book didn’t even allow the bet to be placed. I believe the Seahawks will beat the Rams and this will, in turn, eliminate the Detroit Lions from the playoffs. The Lions face the Packers later that evening on Sunday Night Football. At that point, Detroit would have the wind taken out of its sails. Knowing enough about Dan Campbell, I can’t imagine his team will lay down, but it could make it that much easier for the Packers to emerge victorious. Aside from all of the playoff implications, the Packers have an incredible record at home from Week 10 on, when the weather gets frigid in Green Bay, going up against teams that play in a dome. We saw this play out earlier this season when they knocked off the Rams on Monday Night Football in Week 15.
Pick: Seahawks + Packers Money Line Parlay
Dave Tuley: The Seahawks need a win to keep their NFC wild-card hopes alive (and would then need the Lions to beat the Packers in the Sunday night game). Seattle is a 6-point favorite, but let the bettor beware that just because a team must win doesn’t mean it will win. Besides, we’ve said for years that if a team is in a must-win situation, it usually means they’re not very good and often shouldn’t be trusted to “flip the switch” to win just because they want to.
The Seahawks haven’t lived up to expectations when favored anyway as they’re just 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS, including beating these same Rams 27-24 in Week 13 but not covering as 6.5-point road faves. The Seahawks’ defense is ranked No. 27 in yards allowed per game, so that’s another reason not to lay the points.
Granted, the Rams’ offense is only No. 31 in yards per game, but even though they only scored 10 points this past Sunday against the Chargers, they ran over a much better defense in the Broncos in a 51-14 rout on Christmas Day.
Pick: Rams +6
4:25 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: On the surface, the Cowboys have something to play for in Week 18. They need a win and an Eagles loss to clinch the NFC East division. However, the Eagles are a two-touchdown favorite with Jalen Hurts coming back against the Giants. There needs to be some scoreboard-watching from the Cowboys here. If the Eagles jump ahead early, Dallas will have to be smart and try to go into the Wild Card Weekend with as many players intact as possible.
The Commanders are giving Sam Howell his first start. While he had a great collegiate career at North Carolina, the NFL is clearly a different beast. We’ve seen five straight games with 20 or fewer points for Washington. Howell could outperform Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke with such a low bar, but the supporting cast isn’t exactly strong for the Commanders.
More often than not, this has been a pretty good Washington defense throughout the season. I really do think this game takes on a different feel in the second half, which should slow down the scoring and probably speed up the game. The Commanders have to throw enough to see what they have in Howell, but the Cowboys won’t have much of anything to prove in the second half. That makes the UNDER pretty attractive to me.
Pick: UNDER 40
8:20 p.m. ET
Dave Tuley: The Packers (8-8) have somehow rallied from a 4-8 record to win four straight games and be in control of their playoff destiny if they beat the Lions on Sunday night. The Lions (8-8) need the Seahawks to lose to the Rams earlier in the afternoon or they’ll be eliminated before taking the field.
Green Bay still is a middle-of-the-pack team with the No. 16 offense and No. 18 defense, but Aaron Rodgers and the offense have picked things up by averaging 29.8 points per game down the stretch during their win streak while the defense has allowed only 17 points per game.
Despite the same records, the Lions have looked like the better team most of the season. While the Packers have made an impressive turnaround, the Lions were 1-6 before they beat the Packers 15-9 in Week 9. Jared Goff leads the league’s No. 4 offense at 383.6 yards and 27.1 points per game, but the defense ranks dead-last at No. 32. Even if the Lions are eliminated, I still think they’ll have the pride to cover this number with a great shot at the outright upset at +190. Note: this game will probably be taken off the betting boards during the Sunday afternoon games and we might get a better price if the Seahawks win).
Pick: Lions +4.5