NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 18, 2023 – Early Games

Amon-Ra St. Brown
NFL Picks (Preseason 2023): 4-7 (-$905)
NFL Picks (Week 1, 2023): 10-6 (+$760)
NFL Picks (Week 2, 2023): 8-7-1 (-$435)
NFL Picks (Week 3, 2023): 12-4 (-$995)
NFL Picks (Week 4, 2023): 6-8-2 (+$440)
NFL Picks (Week 5, 2023): 5-9 (-$2,110)
NFL Picks (Week 6, 2023): 6-8-1 (-$2,230)
NFL Picks (Week 7, 2023): 7-6 (+$30)
NFL Picks (Week 8, 2023): 5-10-1 (-$1,295)
NFL Picks (Week 9, 2023): 5-9 (-$935)
NFL Picks (Week 10, 2023): 7-6 (-$1,230)
NFL Picks (Week 11, 2023): 5-9 ($0)
NFL Picks (Week 12, 2023): 13-2-1 (+$1,960)
NFL Picks (Week 13, 2023): 6-7 (-$115)
NFL Picks (Week 14, 2023): 7-7-1 (+$740)
NFL Picks (Week 15, 2023): 6-8-2 (+$120)
NFL Picks (Week 16, 2023): 7-8-1 (-$800)
NFL Picks (Week 17, 2023): 8-8 (-$320)
2023 NFL Picks: 127-129-10 (-$7,320)

NFL Picks (2022): 154-134-8 (+$9,860)
NFL Picks (2021): 144-137-2 (-$5,365)
NFL Picks (2020): 138-124-7 (+$9,350)
NFL Picks (2019): 148-128-9 (+$1,200)
NFL Picks (2018): 140-134-12 (+$845)
NFL Picks (2017): 137-147-10 (-$4,300)
NFL Picks (2016): 148-127-10 (+$780)
NFL Picks (2015): 133-138-10 (-$3,215)
NFL Picks (2014): 143-133-7 (-$1,885)
NFL Picks (2013): 144-131-8 (+$7,825)
NFL Picks (2012): 130-145-8 (-$7,445)
NFL Picks (2011): 137-133-12 (-$1,335)
NFL Picks (2010): 144-131-8 (+$5,880)
NFL Picks (2009): 151-124-9 (+$4,235)
NFL Picks (2008): 136-125-6 (+$6,105)
NFL Picks (2007): 162-135-10 (+$3,585)
If you don’t quite understand the line, total or anything else, go to my Sports Betting FAQ.

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Vegas betting action updated Jan. 7, 11:50 a.m. ET. Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Go to Week 18 NFL Picks – Late Games

NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 18 Early Games

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) at Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
Line: Steelers by 3. Total: 35.

Saturday, Jan. 6, 4:30 PM

The Matchup. Edge: Steelers.

Week 17 Analysis: We were up six or so units on our regular picks. Unfortunately, we had a losing week because the props absolutely destroyed us. The props were hot several weeks ago, so I’m not sure what has happened the past two weeks. Anyway, I’ll once again break down all the 3+ unit picks each week:

Bills, 3 units (loss): This was a frustrating loss because the Bills surrendered a kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game, and they were also very close to scoring a touchdown that may have pushed at the very end, but too much time bled off the clock on their final drive.

Bears, 4 units (win): Why in the world were the sharps on the Falcons?

Titans, 4 units (loss): I expected C.J. Stroud to struggle coming off his concussion. I did not expect Tennessee to be so inept at doing everything.

Cardinals, 5 units (win): The Eagles are who we thought they were.

49ers, 4 units (win): This one looked sketchy for a while, but the 49ers came through with the cover over Sam Howell.

Broncos, 3 units (win): Pretty much went according to script. Easton Stick stood no chance against Denver’s defense.

Vikings, 3 units (loss): We would have had a winning record had this one come through. I don’t understand this Packers team at all. Whenever I bet on them, they look totally inept. Whenever I fade them, they resemble the 2007 Patriots. Seriously, how the f**k do you handicap this stupid team?

RESTING STARTERS: Welcome to Week 18, where it’s not worth the time to discuss certain matchups because some teams will be resting starters. In this case, it’s the Ravens, who have clinched the No. 1 seed. They will likely roll out Tyler Huntley and many other backups against the Steelers’ starting units. With that in mind, Pittsburgh has a big edge. The Steelers will be able to run on Baltimore’s backup defense. It doesn’t get much better for Huntley, who will be staring down T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.

RECAP: It’s Steelers or nothing. Pittsburgh may seem easy because of the matchups against the Baltimore backups, but there’s always a chance they choke with such high expectations. Plus, the backups will be playing extra hard to prove themselves. We’ve seen teams falter in Pittsburgh’s shoes in the past, but I don’t really have any interest in betting the Ravens at all.

Our Week 18 NFL Picks will be posted all day Tuesday. Follow @walterfootball for updates.

THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I still don’t know what to make of this game. Jacob Camenker had more convinction than me in our picks video:

By the way, please hit subscribe if you can! IiI’d love to get to 4,000 subscribers by the Super Bowl.

SATURDAY NOTES: I have to say that I’m close to switching my pick to the Ravens. I don’t like betting Mike Tomlin as an underdog, and I think that Tyler Huntley could have a good game and keep this score to within three. Either way, I’m nowhere near betting on either side.

PLAYER PROPS: I’m going to avoid player props in games where a team is resting its staters because the matchup is difficult to diagnose and the result could be lopsided.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The sharps have been betting the Ravens all week. I’m not on the sharp side, unfortunately. I think the Steelers win and cover, but there’s no convinction behind this pick. If you want to bet Pittsburgh, the best line is -3 -104 at FanDuel.

The Motivation. Edge: Steelers.

The Ravens may rest their starters.

The Spread. Edge: N/A. Calculated Spread: N/A.

Westgate Advance Point Spread: Ravens -3.5.

Computer Model: N/A.

The Vegas. Edge: Steelers.

This is sharp money on the Ravens.

Percentage of money on Baltimore: 75% (212,000 bets)

The Trends. Edge: Steelers.

  • History: Steelers have won 6 of the last 7 meetings.
  • Opening Line: Steelers -3.5.
  • Opening Total: 38.
  • Weather: Rain, 38 degrees. Mild wind, 12 mph.

  • Week 18 NFL Pick: Steelers 20, Ravens 13
    Steelers -3 (0 Units) — Correct; $0
    Under 35 (0 Units) — Correct; $0
    Steelers 17, Ravens 10

    Houston Texans (9-7) at Indianapolis Colts (9-7)
    Line: Texans by 1. Total: 47.5.

    Saturday, Jan. 6, 8:15 PM

    The Matchup. Edge: Texans.

    My overrated-underrated feature was posted in this spot the past couple of years. I thought it would be better if there was less clutter on this page, so I set up a new NFL Overrated and Underrated Teams page that will be updated every Monday. I have overrated and underrated teams listed there, and some may shock you!

    HOUSTON OFFENSE: C.J. Stroud made his return from a multi-week absence this past Sunday. He didn’t have anything close to his best game, but he performed relatively well considering that he had just endured a concussion. Quarterbacks returning from concussions have a history of struggling in their first game, so Stroud’s decent play bodes well going forward.

    Stroud doesn’t get an overly favorable matchup this week, but it’s not an impossible one either. The Colts tend to play very well against receivers, ranking in the top three versus the slot and top 10 against outside receivers. However, Indianapolis surrenders top-10 production to tight ends, so Stroud figures to have success targeting Dalton Schultz. We just saw Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith combine for seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago in this matchup.

    It’ll be mostly on Stroud and Schultz, as the Colts have improved against the run lately. They were getting gashed on the ground left and right several weeks ago, but things have changed because monstrous defensive tackle Grover Stewart has returned from suspension.

    INDIANAPOLIS OFFENSE: Speaking of strong run defenses, the Texans thrive versus ground attacks. This used to not be the case, as Derrick Henry fantasy owners fondly remember, but things have changed under DeMeco Ryans. Houston now has one of the best run defenses in the NFL, so Jonathan Taylor will be limited.

    Things could get dire for Gardner Minshew if he can’t lean on Taylor. Minshew has done a good job as a game manager in perfect conditions this year, but he has self-destructed with multi-turnover games when the oppositon has removed the run.

    With Taylor being restricted, Minshew will want to rely on Michael Pittman Jr. Coming off an underwhelming performance, Pittman should be back to his old self. The Texans surrender top-10 production to outside receivers, so it’ll be shocking if Pittman doesn’t have a big game.

    RECAP: When it comes down to it, I simply trust Stroud versus Indianapolis’ defense over Minshew against Houston’s defense. Things would be different if the Texans were softer to the run, but that’s not the case anymore. Minshew will be asked to do too much, which could mean more turnovers. It’s absolutely enormous that the Texans can remove Taylor from the equation. Granted, I hate Houston’s secondary, but I don’t think Minshew can fully take advantage of that liability.

    I’m going to bet the Texans, but this won’t be a huge play. The Colts are -1, while my numbers say this should be a pick ’em, so that’s not any sort of edge.

    THURSDAY THOUGHTS: The following Houston players were DNP-DNP during the first two days of practice: Will Anderson, Noah Brown, Maliek Collins, Jonathan Greenard, Sheldon Rankins, Robert Woods. If this persists, I’m going to remove my projected units on Houston.

    SATURDAY NOTES: The Texans will be starved for receiving talent in this game. In addition to Tank Dell being out, the Texans will be without Noah Brown and probably Robert Woods as well. There’s still Nico Collins, but that’s it. Also, the Texans are now favored, which might put some extra pressure on this young team with no track record of success. With so much public money coming in on Houston, I’ve decided that I’m not going to bet the Texans.

    PLAYER PROPS: We lost with the over Michael Pittman receptions last week. I have to think that was a fluke. Pittman should go over this week, given that the Texans have such a pass-funnel defense. The best number is over 6.5 -136 at FanDuel.

    SAME-GAME PARLAY: We’re going to toss Pittman 8+ receptions in with Gardner Minshew 250+ passing yards, Jonathan Taylor under 67.5 rushing yards, and Devin Singletary over 12.5 receiving yards. Minshew and Taylor play into the Houston pass-funnel defense dynamic. As for Singletary, the Colts allow top-five receiving production to opposing running backs. This parlay pays +1038 at FanDuel. You can Get $150 in bonus bets from FanDuel by clicking the link.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: The sharps were wrong about the Ravens, but they can’t be wrong about this game because there’s no sharp action to speak of on either side. I’m going to bet a unit on the Texans because I like their matchup with their run defense versus Indianapolis’ offense. I’d like them more if they weren’t missing several wide receivers, though Nico Collins is healthy. The best line is -1 -110 at BetMGM. You can Get $1,500 in bonus bets from BetMGM by clicking the link.

    The Motivation. Edge: None.

    No edge found.

    The Spread. Edge: None. Calculated Spread: Pick.

    Westgate Advance Point Spread: Colts -1.5.

    Computer Model: Pick.

    The Vegas. Edge: Colts.

    Lopsided action.

    Percentage of money on Houston: 75% (358,000 bets)

    The Trends. Edge: Colts.

  • History: Colts have won 32 of the 42 meetings, excluding a 2022 tie.
  • Opening Line: Colts -1.
  • Opening Total: 47.
  • Weather: Dome.

  • Week 18 NFL Pick: Texans 23, Colts 20
    Texans -1 (1 Unit) – BetMGM — Correct; +$100
    Under 47.5 (0 Units) — Correct; $0
    Player Prop: Michael Pittman over 6.5 receptions -136 (0.5 Units) – FanDuel — Incorrect; -$70
    Same-Game Parlay: Gardner Minshew over 250+ passing yards, Michael Pittman 8+ receptions, Jonathan Taylor under 67.5 rushing yards, Devin Singletary over 12.5 receiving yards +1038 (0.25 Units to win 2.6) – FanDuel — Incorrect; -$25
    Texans 23, Colts 19

    Atlanta Falcons (7-9) at New Orleans Saints (7-9)
    Line: Saints by 3.5. Total: 42.

    Sunday, Jan. 7, 1:00 PM

    The Matchup. Edge: Falcons.

    VEGAS UPDATE: I’ll be posting how the Vegas sportsbooks have done the previous week in this spot. The highest-bet sides were 34-42 in 2020 and 48-37 in 2021. The highest bet sides were 32-35-1 last year, and they are now 28-26 ATS.

    Here are the teams getting the most bets last week:

  • 49ers -14
  • Texans -5.5
  • Cowboys -4.5
  • The public lost Saturday night on that last-second Detroit touchdown, but went on to win twice on Sunday.

    Here are the teams getting the most bets this week:

  • Texans +1
  • Ravens +4
  • Chiefs -2
  • Browns +6
  • Rams +3.5
  • Most of the teams being bet are ones that will be sitting starters.

    ATLANTA OFFENSE: It can’t be a coincidence that Arthur Smith – excuse me, Art Smith – has decided to utilize Bijan Robinson more often ever since his mustache was removed from his face. Kenny from the After Dark Show scoffed at my belief that the mustache was really an intergalactic being that was sucking Smith’s brainpower away from him, but I think my theory has more legitamcy now.

    Either way, Robinson has a positive matchup to exploit in this game. The Saints can stop mediocre or worse rushing attacks, but we’ve seen them struggle against top-end running games. Thus, it’s imperative that the Falcons utilize Robinson over Tyler Allgeier to take advantage of New Orleans’ 19th-ranked ground defense.

    A strong performance from Robinson will make things easier for whichever quarterback Smith gives the nod to this week. It probably doesn’t matter because both Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke are both terrible, but it’s at least worth noting that the Saints not having Marshon Lattimore available should allow Drake London to have a decent performance.

    NEW ORLEANS OFFENSE: The sharps were betting the Falcons heavily last week. They turned out to be wrong, but I think they were on that side because Atlanta’s defense was healthy for the first time in a while. This includes David Onyemata’s return to action. However, Onyemata struggled in his second game back, as defensive linemen are wont to do.

    It usually takes bigger players a week or two to return to form, so Onyemata will be much better this Sunday. He’ll help contain the New Orleans rushing attack, which took a hit last week when Alvin Kamara left the game with an ankle sprain. It remains to be seen if Kamara will play, but it’s likely that he won’t be 100 percent.

    Derek Carr will have to do more in this matchup, which could prove to be disastrous. Carr just thrived against the Buccaneers’ poor secondary, but the Falcons are much better on the back end. They’re especially terrific at limiting outside receivers, so Chris Olave, who doesn’t appear to be 100 percent, won’t have his best game. Juwan Johnson should perform well, but Johnson’s not capable of beating up on the opposition on his own.

    RECAP: The sharps were one week early. I imagine they bet the Falcons heavily against the Bears because they saw a clean injury report. What they didn’t factor in was that linemen take a bit of time to return to 100 percent. We’ll see Oneymata and the healthier offensive linemen perform on a much higher level this week.

    With that in mind, I’m going to be on the Falcons. They match up well against the Saints because they can run the ball well and also limit the primary two pieces of New Orleans’ offense, Kamara and Olave. Both Kamara and Olave are banged up anyway.

    It’s a shame that the opening line of +4 is gone. The sharps have bet the Falcons down to +3 before I even had a chance to post my write-up. I still like Atlanta +3 quite a bit, however.

    THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Alvin Kamara missed Wednesday’s practice. I’m going to lock in this pick because if it’s trending that Kamara won’t play, this line will fall below +3. You can find +3.5 -114 at Bookmaker.

    SATURDAY NOTES: Two reasons to like Atlanta even more. One, Alvin Kamara failed to practice again Friday, so he could be sidelined. Two,three Saints players picked up an illness on Friday, so if the flu is circulating through the locker room, it’s going to make it more challenging for New Orleans to win this game. I may add a fourth unit if I see a favorable number.

    PLAYER PROPS: The Falcons have A.J. Terrell to slow down Chris Olave, but they are weak to the slot. Rashid Shaheed could be targeted more with Olave banged up and Alvin Kamara potentially sidelined. The best number is over 35.5 -115 at Caesars.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: Alvin Kamara is sidelined, which is not a surprise. The sharps were all over this. You can still get Falcons +3.5 for -120 vig at Bookmaker, which is worth it. Also, Desmond Ridder will start over Taylor Heinicke, which doesn’t move the needle for me.

    The Motivation. Edge: None.

    No edge found.

    The Spread. Edge: Falcons. Calculated Spread: Saints -2.

    Westgate Advance Point Spread: Saints -2.5.

    Computer Model: Saints -2.

    The Vegas. Edge: None.

    Equal action.

    Percentage of money on Atlanta: 54% (102,000 bets)

    The Trends. Edge: None.

  • History: Saints have won 9 of the last 12 meetings.
  • Derek Carr is 8-19 ATS as a favorite of 3.5+.
  • Opening Line: Saints -4.
  • Opening Total: 41.5.
  • Weather: Dome.

  • Week 18 NFL Pick: Falcons 19, Saints 17
    Falcons +3.5 -114 (3 Units) – Bookmaker — Incorrect; -$340
    Under 42 (0 Units) — Incorrect; $0
    Rashid Shaheed over 35.5 receiving yards -120 (0.5 Units) – Caesars — Correct; +$50
    Saints 48, Falcons 17

    Cleveland Browns (11-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
    Line: Bengals by 7. Total: 37.

    Sunday, Jan. 7, 1:00 PM

    The Matchup. Edge: Bengals.

    HATE MAIL: We’re going to post hate mail here this year. Two people on Twitter complained about the Bears being higher than the Lions in my NFL Power Rankings:

    Here’s another tweet from that thread where this Jackson Laurie guy deleted one of his posts:

    Jackson Laurie’s deleted tweet was something like, “Everyone would agree with me that the Lions are better than the Bears, idiot,” or something of that nature. Hence, my response about most people being dumb. If you’re laughing at the idiots in this section, there’s a very good chance you’re not in that category.

    Here’s a general hate tweet:

    Speaking of Bidenomics, someone tweeted out an electoral map with Colorado and Maine already in blue, thanks to the Soviet-style tactics of one political party. Here’s my reply and the ensuing conversation:

    If you have to resort to calling people on the Internet “retard,” you’ve probably already lost the conversation. And note that Roger never rebutted my reply about him not knowing what fascist means. He almost certainly thought it meant “orange man who hurt my feelings.”

    RESTING STARTERS: The Browns will likely be sitting their starters because they are locked into the No. 5 seed. I would have hated this matchup for Jake Browning under normal circumstances, but Browning won’t be encountering Myles Garrett this week.

    RECAP: Do you want to bet Browning as a six-point favorite, or do you want to back a Cleveland team utilizing reserves? This game is impossible to handicap, so I would just leave it alone.

    THURSDAY THOUGHTS: The Browns have announced Jeff Driskel as their starting quarterback, prompting the line to move to -7. I’m still leaning toward the Bengals, but I don’t want to bet them at that number.

    SATURDAY NOTES: If you were planning on betting the Bengals, keep in mind that Tee Higgins is out, while Chidobe Awuzie could be sidelined as well. I’d still take Cincinnati, but I don’t have any interest in betting this game.

    PLAYER PROPS: I’m passing on this game with the Browns resting their starters. If you find anything on Trenton Irwin, I’d consider going over because he’s Tee Higgins’ direct backup.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: Still nothing here. The sharps aren’t on this game either. This line has moved to -7.5 in most books, but you can still get -7 -113 at Bookmaker.

    The Motivation. Edge: Bengals.

    The Browns may sit their starters.

    The Spread. Edge: None. Calculated Spread: N/A.

    Westgate Advance Point Spread: Bengals -3.5.

    Computer Model: N/A.

    The Vegas. Edge: None.

    Equal action.

    Percentage of money on Cincinnati: 54% (75,000 bets)

    The Trends. Edge: Browns.

  • History: Browns have won 9 of the last 11 meetings.
  • Opening Line: Bengals -4.5.
  • Opening Total: 39.5.
  • Weather: Cloudy, 40 degrees. Mild wind, 13 mph.

  • Week 18 NFL Pick: Bengals 20, Browns 10
    Bengals -7 (0 Units) — Correct; $0
    Under 37 (0 Units) — Incorrect; $0
    Bengals 31, Browns 14

    New York Jets (6-10) at New England Patriots (4-12)
    Line: Patriots by 2. Total: 29.

    Sunday, Jan. 7, 1:00 PM

    The Matchup. Edge: None.

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    NEW YORK OFFENSE: I’ve been looking forward to this matchup for a long time. No, really, I’m serious. Bill Belichick versus Zach Wilson is so lopsided, it’s like a cat toying with a poor mouse. Wilson has no idea what he’s seeing on the field, so Belichick is always able to confuse the young quarterback. It’s quite sad, but also profitable.

    Unfortunately, we got some bad news. Wilson is reportedly unlikely to play, so the Jets will be starting Trevor Siemian instead. Siemian is much smarter than Wilson, but he isn’t nearly as talented. It’s still a poor matchup for the Jets because the Patriots have a top-10 EPA defense.

    The Jets, of course, will be looking to establish Breece Hall, who has played on a high level in the second half of the year. Hall has a tough task ahead of him on the ground, as the Patriots are fifth in EPA run defense. However, it’s worth noting that the Patriots have allowed the seventh-most receiving yards to opposing running backs, so Hall could have a big game as a pass-catcher.

    NEW ENGLAND OFFENSE: Siemian isn’t the only backup quarterback who has a rough matchup in this game. The Patriots will be starting Bailey Zappe, which is a red flag because he’s severely outmatched against Robert Saleh’s secondary.

    It’ll be helpful for Zappe if the Patriots can establish a rushing attack. That should be possible, even with Ezekiel Elliott, because the Jets have a run-funnel defense. The Jets have surrendered the seventh-most rushing yardage this year, and they’ve also yielded top-10 production to pass-catching running backs. Any way you slice it, Elliott should have a solid performance, which gives the Patriots a chance with Zappe.

    RECAP: I’m trying to muster the courage to bet the Patriots. My numbers suggest they’re the right side. I made this line New England -4.5, so the spread is on the wrong side of three. The EPA figures came to the same conclusion. Furthermore, the sharps are on New England as well.

    My problem is that betting the Patriots requires you to actually place money on Zappe as a favorite in a poor matchup for him. That just seems so unappealing, so I may end up passing on this game.

    THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Zach Wilson has officially been ruled out, so we don’t get that lopsided Bill Belichick versus Wilson matchup that we were eager to see.

    SATURDAY NOTES: I still have a slight lean on the Patriots. This line seems a bit short, but I’m not too excited to lay points with Bailey Zappe.

    PLAYER PROPS: I was trying to find receiving props for Breece Hall, but none of the sportsbooks have those listed. Instead, I’m going to look at Ezekiel Elliott’s touchdown props. Elliott has scored in three of his four starts, so +130 seems like a good number. You can find that at FanDuel. You can Get $150 in bonus bets from FanDuel by clicking the link.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: The sharps haven’t touched this game, and I don’t blame them. I still have a slight lean on the Patriots. The best line for New England is -2 -110 at Caesars.

    The Motivation. Edge: None.

    No edge found.

    The Spread. Edge: Patriots. Calculated Spread: Patriots -4.5.

    Westgate Advance Point Spread: Jets -1.

    Computer Model: Patriots -4.5.

    The Vegas. Edge: Jets.

    Tons of money on the Patriots.

    Percentage of money on New England: 79% (77,000 bets)

    The Trends. Edge: Patriots.

  • History: Patriots have won 36 of the last 42 meetings.
  • Patriots are 44-27 ATS in December & January home games since 2000.
  • Patriots are 15-5 ATS in the final week of the season since 2001.
  • Opening Line: Patriots -2.
  • Opening Total: 33.5.
  • Weather: Snow, 29 degrees, Mild wind, 15 mph.

  • Week 18 NFL Pick: Patriots 16, Jets 10
    Patriots -2 (0 Units) — Incorrect; $0
    Under 29 (0 Units) — Correct; $0
    Player Prop: Ezekiel Elliott anytime touchdown +130 (0.5 Units) – FanDuel — Incorrect; -$50
    Jets 17, Patriots 3

    Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7) at Tennessee Titans (5-11)
    Line: Jaguars by 3.5. Total: 41.5.

    Sunday, Jan. 7, 1:00 PM

    The Matchup. Edge: Jaguars.

    If you missed it, I have an NFL Betting Props page. I’ll be adding to it as the season progresses!

    Also, Confidence Pool Picks will return. They’ll be posted by Wednesday morning each week!

    JACKSONVILLE OFFENSE: Trevor Lawrence had suffered so many injuries to various parts of his body in such a short period of time and continued to play through everything, so I dubbed him the Black Knight as a reference from the Monty Python movie. Well, the Black Knight finally admitted that it was more than a flesh wound all along, as he sat out last week’s contest.

    We don’t have an update on the Black Knight at the moment, with the Jaguars saying they are hopeful that he would play. As if they wouldn’t be hopeful. Regardless, it seems like we’re probably getting a backup quarterback or an injured starter in this game. The Titans have liabilities in their horrible secondary that can be exploited by most competent quarterbacks, but the Jaguars may not have a healthy one on the field this Sunday.

    The Jaguars will still have their rushing attack, which worked to perfection last week. That, however, was an easy matchup against the Panthers’ incredibly soft run defense. The Titans aren’t as good against the run as they’ve been in the past as a result of their many defensive injuries, but they should be able to limit Travis Etienne.

    TENNESSEE OFFENSE: The Titans will probably be down a quarterback as well. Will Levis got hurt early against the Texans, forcing Ryan Tannehill into action. Tannehill moved the chains well in between the 20s, but constantly stalled deep in Houston territory.

    The same could be in store for Tannehill this week because he has a similar matchup. Like the Texans, the Jaguars have a leaky secondary but a decent pass rush that can compensate for it. The Titans don’t block very well, so Tannehill will be pressured often.

    Another similarity that the Houston and Jacksonville defenses share is that they are both stout against the run. Derrick Henry won’t get much going on the ground, which will be very problematic for the Titans.

    RECAP: There are four Aurora Snowmo games this week, and this is the first of them. Aurora Snowmo is a phenomenon I’ve discovered over my 25 years or so of handicapping the NFL where I’ve noticed that teams that need to win in the final couple of weeks of the season tend to fail to perform to expectations against opposing teams that have been eliminated from the playoffs. I dubbed this Aurora Snowmo because it’s half Aurora Snow and Tony Romo. The latter was known for choking in big games, while Aurora Snow is known for choking in, well, I’ll let you Google that one, but make sure you’re not at work.

    The Jaguars are still a young team without much history of success. I could see them struggling to beat the Titans even though Tennessee is kind of a mess right now with its injuries. Then again, Mike Vrabel is a brilliant coach who typically thrives in these situations. Vrabel is 25-14 against the spread as an underdog of three or more.

    I’m going to be betting the Titans for a couple of units. This would be a much greater bet if I had any confidence in their offense. However, the Aurora Snowmo effect will likely get the Jaguars. It’s also worth noting that this spread is inflated because the public is betting on a team in a must-win situation. My line is pick ’em, while EPA suggests the Titans should be favored by 1.5! The metrics hate the Jaguars because of their pitiful defense, and I believe the numbers are right about them. There’s a reason the only team Jacksonville has beaten since Week 12 is Carolina.

    THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Trevor Lawrence truly is the Black Knight. He had recently dealt with an ankle sprain, a concussion, and a shoulder injury. The injury report now lists him as having a left finger injury! ‘Tis merely a flesh wound!

    SATURDAY NOTES: The sharps dropped the line from +5.5 to +3.5, but there was some take-back on the Jaguars at -3.5, probably because of some optimism for Trevor Lawrence and Christian Kirk playing. I still like the Titans for a couple of units. I’d feel better about this if I thought the Titans could run the ball better, but I still trust Mike Vrabel in a home underdog spot like this.

    PLAYER PROPS: This one seems pretty easy. Derrick Henry has gone under in most tough matchups this year, and this qualifies as such. The Jaguars are excellent versus the run, so I can’t see Henry getting to 50+ rushing yards. The best number is under 49.5 rushing yards -115 at DraftKings. You can Get $150 in bonus bets from DraftKings by clicking the link.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: Christian Kirk is out, which hurts Jacksonville’s chances of covering. The sharp betting on Tennessee brought this line down to +3.5, and even +3 in some sportsbooks. The best line is +3.5 -115 at BetMGM. You can Get $1,500 in bonus bets from BetMGM by clicking the link.

    The Motivation. Edge: Titans.

    The Jaguars need to win, while the Titans have been eliminated. This is an Aurora Snowmo game.

    The Spread. Edge: Titans. Calculated Spread: Pick.

    Westgate Advance Point Spread: Jaguars -2.5.

    Computer Model: Titans -1.5.

    The Vegas. Edge: Jaguars.

    Plenty of action on the Titans.

    Percentage of money on Tennessee: 77% (132,000 bets)

    The Trends. Edge: Titans.

  • History: Titans have won 11 of the past 16 meetings (Jaguars won last 3).
  • Mike Vrabel is 25-14 ATS as an underdog of 3+ points.
  • Opening Line: Jaguars -3.5.
  • Opening Total: 40.
  • Weather: Cloudy, 47 degrees. Mild wind, 12 mph.

  • Week 18 NFL Pick: Jaguars 20, Titans 17
    Titans +3.5 -115 (2 Units) – BetMGM — Correct; +$200
    Under 41.5 (0 Units) — Incorrect; $0
    Player Prop: Derrick Henry under 49.5 rushing yards -115 (0.5 Units) – DraftKings — Incorrect; -$60
    Titans 28, Jaguars 20

    Minnesota Vikings (7-9) at Detroit Lions (11-5)
    Line: Lions by 4. Total: 47.5.

    Sunday, Jan. 7, 1:00 PM

    The Matchup. Edge: None.

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    RESTING STARTERS: There’s a good chance the Lions will rest their starters. Dan Campbell said he expects his starters to play, which doesn’t sound like the strongest conviction of his starters remaining on the field for all 60 minutes. Detroit is in a position to rest its starters because it’s locked into the No. 3 seed unless both the Cowboys and Eagles lose to the Redskins and Giants, respectively. Anything is possible, but that is unlikely to happen. If Campbell plays his starters and is told at halftime that one of the Cowboys or Eagles are up big, he could insert all the backups into the game. This game is difficult to handicap as a result.

    RECAP: It’s impossible to know what the Lions will do. They could rest their starters completely, or they could play their starters all 60 minutes because Dan Campbell is a madman. I don’t want to be in a position where I bet the Lions at -3, only to see Hendon Hooker take the field. But I also don’t want to be in a position where I’m backing this dreadful Vikings squad at just +3 versus the Detroit starters.

    THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I made a mistake in my write-up. Dan Campbell can’t know if the Eagles or Cowboys are ahead at halfitme because those teams are playing at 4 p.m. Then again, he could have a fortune teller on his staff who can only see three hours into the future.

    SATURDAY NOTES: I’d love the Lions here if this game meant anything to them. Alim McNeill and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson are due back, so Detroit’s defense will be better. Meanwhile, the Vikings will be without their top two outside cornerbacks (Byron Murphy, Mekhi Blackmon) and two starting offensive linemen (Brian O’Neill, Ed Ingram). However, the Lions may sit their starters for a portion of this game, so I wouldn’t advise betting them.

    PLAYER PROPS: The Lions may rest their starters for a portion of this game, so I’ll pass. I’d love Amon-Ra St. Brown under normal circumstances.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: All the Detroit players are active, but once again, they may not play the full game. The sharps are on the Vikings. The best line is +4 -105 at Bovada, followed by +4 -110 at several sportsbooks, including Caesars.

    The Motivation. Edge: None.

    No edge found.

    The Spread. Edge: Lions. Calculated Spread: Lions -6.5.

    Westgate Advance Point Spread: Lions -2.5.

    Computer Model: Lions -5.5.

    The Vegas. Edge: None.

    Equal action.

    Percentage of money on Detroit: 51% (130,000 bets)

    The Trends. Edge: None.

  • History: Vikings have won 9 of the last 12 meetings.
  • Vikings are 12-29 ATS in their road finale since 1980.
  • Opening Line: Lions -4.
  • Opening Total: 44.
  • Weather: Dome.

  • Week 18 NFL Pick: Vikings 20, Lions 17
    Vikings +4 (0 Units) — Incorrect; $0
    Under 47.5 (0 Units) — Incorrect; $0
    Lions 30, Vikings 20

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) at Carolina Panthers (2-14)
    Line: Buccaneers by 4. Total: 37.

    Sunday, Jan. 7, 1:00 PM

    The Matchup. Edge: None.

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    I’ve been messing around with spammers ever since, pretending to be Harvey Weinstein, Joe Biden, Ramsay Bolton and Walter White. I have plenty of Spam Mails this year, so check them out if you want to see me screw with spammers. I’ll have new ones every week this year!

    TAMPA BAY OFFENSE: There’s some concern with Baker Mayfield entering this game. Mayfield left Sunday’s game with a rib injury. It sounds like he’ll be able to play, but whether or not he’s 100 percent is a different story.

    This isn’t the easiest matchup for Mayfield. The Panthers can generate decent pressure on the quarterback with Brian Burns, and they also cover well in the secondary. The Buccaneers have the receivers to overcome Carolina’s personnel in this area, but that will be more difficult to do than usual if Mayfield isn’t 100 percent.

    The easiest way to abuse Carolina’s defense is to run right at them. The Panthers have one of the worst ground defenses in the NFL. However, the Buccaneers aren’t a team that can easily exploit this sort of matchup. White is a nifty player as a receiver out of the backfield, but he’s not the most effective rusher.

    CAROLINA OFFENSE: Bryce Young’s horrible rookie season is coming to an end. Hopefully owner Axe Tepper finds a brilliant offensive-minded coach to get the most out of Young; otherwise, he’ll be looking for a new quarterback in the near future.

    Young, however, has a chance to end his poor year on a bright note. The Buccaneers have been dreadful against the pass all year. Young hasn’t been able to exploit most of his positive matchups, including this one earlier in the season. However, he did have a strong performance against the Packers two weeks ago, so perhaps we could see something similar as he battles the Buccaneers for the second time.

    The Panthers will need Young to perform well to pull the upset. They won’t be able to run the ball because Tampa Bay is so much better versus ground attacks. The Buccaneers also are in the top 10 when it comes to limiting receivers out of the backfield.

    RECAP: This is Aurora Snowmo Game No. 2. The Buccaneers need to win to reach the playoffs. The Panthers have been eliminated. Surely, the Buccaneers are a lock to win, right!?

    I think there’s a chance that Carolina will take down Tampa Bay. It’s been fairly obvious all year that the Buccaneers have lucked into so many wins. From the Kirk Cousins implosion in Week 1, to Justin Fields inexplicably not running at all in Week 2, to Derek Carr playing with one arm in Week 4, to the Falcons losing despite being outgained 434-290, Tampa Bay has been on the winning side of so many lucky results this year.

    Well, Tampa Bay’s luck was bound to run out eventually. The team laid an egg versus the Saints last week, which could be a sign of things to come, even against the Panthers. With Mayfield nursing sore ribs, he may not be healthy enough to lead his team to victory, which could open up an opportunity for the Panthers to pull the upset, much like the Jaguars did versus the Colts in the final week of the season a couple of years ago. The Jaguars also had a No. 1 rookie quarterback ending a dreadful season. Trevor Lawrence, however, was able to put together a great performance to win, 26-11, so perhaps Young will do something similar.

    THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Baker Mayfield missed Wednesday’s practice, and this line has dropped to +4.5. At this point, I’d almost be surprised if the Buccaneers won this game.

    SATURDAY NOTES: Baker Mayfield will play, but there’s no telling if he’s 100 percent. I continue to like the Panthers, who have handled their divisional competition pretty well at home. They also outplayed the Buccaneers in the first matchup when looking at the metrics.

    PLAYER PROPS: Baker Mayfield is dealing with a rib injury, so he may struggle in this game against a tough pass defense. Also, he has thrown 10 interceptions in 16 games this year, including one against Carolina at home, so he’s more than likely to throw a pick. The best number for him to do so is at -115 on DraftKings. You can Get $150 in bonus bets from DraftKings by clicking the link.

    LOCKED IN: I’m going to lock in the Panthers +4 -110 because I worry that the sharps may continue to drop the line. You can get +4 -110 at DraftKings or BetMGM. You can Get $1,500 in bonus bets from BetMGM by clicking the link.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: I was wrong to lock in this pick early. I still love the Panthers, but it’s a bummer that we’re not getting +4.5 -105, which is available at FanDuel. You can Get $150 in bonus bets from FanDuel by clicking the link. The sharps are on Carolina.

    The Motivation. Edge: Panthers.

    The Buccaneers need to win, while the Panthers have been eliminated. This is an Aurora Snowmo game.

    The Spread. Edge: Panthers. Calculated Spread: Buccaneers -3.5.

    Westgate Advance Point Spread: Panthers -2.5.

    Computer Model: Buccaneers -3.5.

    The Vegas. Edge: None.

    Equal action.

    Percentage of money on Carolina: 56% (144,000 bets)

    The Trends. Edge: Panthers.

  • History: Buccaneers have won 9 the last 11 meetings.
  • Road Team is 132-91 ATS in Buccaneers games since 2009.
  • Opening Line: Buccaneers -5.5.
  • Opening Total: 37.5.
  • Weather: Sunny, 52 degrees. Mild wind, 14 mph.

  • Week 18 NFL Pick: Panthers 17, Buccaneers 16
    Panthers +4 (4 Units) – DraftKings/BetMGM — Incorrect; -$440
    Under 37 (0 Units) — Correct; $0
    Player Prop: Baker Mayfield over 0.5 interceptions -115 (0.5 Units) – DraftKings — Incorrect; -$60
    Buccaneers 9, Panthers 0

    Prop/Teaser/Parlay Picks
    A list of some of my favorite team/player prop picks this week
    (Offense & defensive ROY picks to be counted whenever winners are announced.) Picks carried over on a week-to-week basis will be in black.

    NFL Picks Week 18 – Late Games

    Cowboys at Redskins  |  Rams at 49ers  |  Eagles at Giants  |  Bears at Packers  |  Seahawks at Cardinals  |  Broncos at Raiders  |  Chiefs at Chargers  |  Bills at Dolphins  | 

    Comments on the 2023 NFL Season’s Games and Picks

    NFL Picks - Sept. 11

    Fantasy Football Rankings - Sept. 7

    2024 NFL Mock Draft - July 25

    NFL Power Rankings - June 2

    Review Walt’s Past Record Picking Games

    On the bottom half of our NFL Weekly Lander page is the history of picks Walt maintains. Walt’s Results