NFL Week 18; Sunday Previews

So here we are, the final Sunday of the season, there’s obviously a lot on the line in both conferences although the Chiefs securing the #1 seed on Saturday makes things in the AFC a little easier. The Bills get 2 with a win, Bengals 3 and the Jags win last night secured them 4. A Bengals win means a Ravens loss and they will stay 6th with the Chargers at 5.

The 7th seed is up for grabs though, a probable Patriots loss to the Bills means that a win for Skylar Thompsons’ Dolphins against Joe Flacco’s Jets…yes, that’s a proper sentence, would get them the spot, if they lose then a Steelers win gets them in… That all makes sense.

The NFC… Eagles need a win to secure the #1 seed, Cowboys can steal the East and have a chance of that 1 seed if they win and Eagles lose. The 49ers should win and secure the 2 spot, the Vikings should beat the Bears and secure the 3, the 4th seed is definitely the Buccs after they won their terrible division. The Cowboys are at least the 5 seed going to Tampa next week. The Giants are definitely the 6 seed.

The 7th seed is up for grabs though, a win for the Seahawks knocks out the Lions but leaves it open for the Packers to win and get in on Sunday Night Football… A Seahawks loss means that the winner of the Lions and Packers gets into the playoffs in the 7th spot to probably travel to the 49ers next week.

Sorted, in easy to understand English!

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Patriots +7.5 at Bills: 43.5

The early Sky game was never in doubt this week, the story around the Bills after the events of Monday Night and the importance of this game in the playoff picture made it the obvious choice for TV over here. A win for the Bills secures the #2 seed, a win for the Patriots and they make the playoffs as the #7 seed, probably to face this team again next week.

The Bills have won 4 of the last 5 between these teams including the first matchup this season just around a month ago 24-10 in New England.

Damar Hamlin recovering so quickly and being able to facetime his teammates means that the Bills have probably gone from nervous coming into this one to highly motivated to beat their divisional rivals and knock them out of a playoff spot they have no right to be in. Josh Allen tweaked his knee last week in that first quarter, he’s not on the injury report though so we have to assume he’s fine, akin to Mahomes, there’s not much more to be said about him, a rocket arm and mobility up there with any QB in the league.

They wanted to get Stefon Diggs more involved before the playoffs and looked like that was on the way last week, he’ll likely be peppered with targets here as well, he’s topped his career yardage line already and needs another TD to beat his highest TD mark as well after not scoring in their last 3 matches. Isiah McKenzie needs 46 yards for an incentive on his contract after a good season, Gabe Davis will pop up every now and then for 150 and 3 TDs, but is very tough to judge, and Cole Beasley is back on the roster. Dawson Knox has scored in each of their last 3 games at TE.

The run game was poor to start the year but has been impressive in recent weeks led by Devin Singletary but rookie James Cook has been involved a lot more recently and looked good with it, as well as Nyheim Hines doing a little bit as well.

Despite a host of injuries through the year the Bills rank #4 in defensive DVOA, slightly better vs. the run than the pass.

The Patriots are such an annoying team to handicap. They’re really not very fucking good, but their defense creates turnovers and that’s why they’re where they are here, 7 pick 6’s on the year is absurd.

Mac Jones is probably below average, the pass-catching group isn’t talented, Jakobi Meyers probably the best of them, he will be around 50 yards as he tends to be each week, Kendrick Bourne the two and rookie Tyquan Thornton has had a few moments in recent weeks too. Jonnu Smith is out but Hunter Henry plays.

The run game is now mainly Rhamondre Stevenson after starting the year with Damien Harris as the main man, they’ll both get touches but the flexibility of Stevenson gives him more touches on the whole and his receiving out of the backfield has been vital for them moving the ball.

Obviously with all the turnovers this year it’s safe to say the Pats defense is up there with the best, Matt Judon and Josh Uche are a formidable pass-rush duo.

The Bills should win and cover although it’s annoying that it’s ticked up over 7 now, leaning over on the total. Diggs to score seems sensible, and betable at 6/5, I am a little surprised there’s plus money available.

Buccaneers +4 at Falcons: 40.5

The Bucs secured the NFC South with a big Tom Brady and Mike Evans performance last week, it put Evans over 1,000 yards once more, something he’s achieved in every season he’s played in the league.

We don’t know how long the starters are going to play here and the fact the Bucs are underdogs suggests that it won’t be too long. Brady has thrown more 4th quarter TDs this year than the rest of the quarters combined, a ridiculous stat and one that may even out if they rest Brady and the others at the end of the game.

With the unknowns regarding playing time it makes this game near impossible to handicap, so keep an eye on twitter for more information as we get near the start of the games tomorrow.

The Falcons don’t have anything to play for but will probably play their guys throughout to get Desmond Ridder some more experience in his first year in the league, they also have the leading rookie rusher in Tyler Allgeier who will want to add to his totals this season. Drake London will want to add a bit in his first year as well, but their offense hasn’t been great with Ridder at QB.

You probably want to be taking the Bucs first half or first quarter and ignore the rest here

Browns +2.5 at Steelers: 40

A game with something on the line, the Steelers need to avoid defeat to keep Mike Tomlin’s “no losing record” streak going for another year. The Browns are looking to get another win for Deshaun Watson and take a little momentum into the off-season by stopping the Steelers chances of getting to the playoffs.

Watson had his best game as a Brown last week as they finally got the run-game going again in recent weeks, it works, so don’t try and overload a guy who’s not played for nearly two years with constant passing plays. Amari Cooper doesn’t seem to have had a great year, but looking at his numbers, he’s hit his highest TDs for a team and needs 80 yards to hit his highest rec. yards in the NFL. Donovan Peoples-Jones had a very consistent run going and scored last week on his only reception and David Njoku is a very talented tight end.

Nick Chubb looked for a lot of the year like he was taking home the rushing title but he’s nowhere near now, still the best RB on the team and possibly in the league, but unfortunately for him it’s not going anywhere now and it may well be Kareem Hunts last game for the team as he’s a free agent over the summer, they even managed to get rookie Jerome Ford some carries last week.

Browns defense is fine, much better against the pass than the run, and with Myles Garrett up front has one of the best pass-rushers in the league.

The Steelers have somehow been able to grind out results in recent weeks with Kenny Pickett leading last minute TD drives in consecutive weeks. Last week they ran all over the Ravens and that may well be the tactic here with Najee Harris now sharing reps. a little more with Jaylen Warren at RB. Warren has looked pretty good in the limited work I’ve seen of him.

Diontae Johnson has emerged as the leading WR after forming a bit more of a connection with Pickett, he gets a lot of targets for no reward but that’s picked up recently and 84 receptions without a TD is quite an achievement. George Pickens has dropped off recently, a proper rookie slump for him but Pat Friermuth has continued his good form with the young QB, being the leading receiver with 36 yards is quite something as well.

They’re a very good defense, no doubt about it, and their record with TJ Watt playing is crazy, as is allowing a high of 17 points over their last 6 games.

Quite possibly a bore-fest here, I’m definitely leaning under on the total. The spread is a little tougher, I think the Steelers have been lucky, I know Adam Chernhoff is on the Browns getting points, but it’s been 20 years since they won a regular season game in Pittsburgh, I know things are different without that fat dude at QB, but that’s a tough record to go against. I think the Steelers retain their non-losing record thing, somehow.

Jets +3.5 at Dolphins: 37

This line has been all over the place this week, but the news of Joe Flacco starting for the Jets moved them to a field goal underdog from being a point favourite with Skyler Thompson starting at QB for the Dolphins as Tua has another concussion and Teddy B a poorly finger, poor lad.

The Jets farce at QB has ruined a very positive season which they should still be happy with, the defense has been very good and had Breece Hall not gone down for the year they may well have finished second in the division. Garrett Wilson will be looking to finish strong to keep up his outside hopes for OROY and they’re at near full strength in the passing game for what it’s worth. Micheal Carter probably gets a lot of targets at RB with Flacco playing and he has been the lead back for the most part recently.

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has the DROY award wrapped up and may well not get targeted as teams tend to avoid his brilliance now.

A third-string QB for the Dolphins makes it tough to take much in their passing game, but with a week to get into the system you’d hope for better from Thompson than we’ve seen so far. That probably means more for Mostert and Jeff Wilson on the ground who should be a decent 1-2 punch.

Hill and Waddle are of course a very good duo in the passing game, get the ball to them quick and they’ll do the rest as they have done for most of the year. Trent Sherfield might mix in, backup QBs tend to favour players they’re familiar with so there could be a lot of randoms involved, Durham Smythe anyone? Looking at Thompsons last significant play he targeted the running backs A LOT, Mostert finished with 8 receptions and most of them came from Thompson, could be a good edge on Mostert recs. if any lines appear.

Dolphins are fine on defense, not great, but they should get the job done.

Dolphins should win and probably secure the 7 seed, but I’m not taking a rookie QB against a very good defense who will be playing hard. Lean under on the total, and I’ll try and find some Mostert o3.5 recs, or if I have to, rec. yards, 7/4 seems generous for him to score as does 6/1ish on Michael Carter although he did seem to lose his job last weekend.

Ravens +9 at Bengals: 39.5

It looks like the Ravens are down to their 3rd string QB as well with Tyler Huntley probably starting on the bench, if at all and Lamar Jackson definitely out again, so it’s Anthony Brown at QB for them. His only game time was the second half vs. the Steelers 3 from 5 for 16 yards, oh, and 3 rushing attempts for -5 yards…

The passing game has been poor with whomever has been at QB with only really Mark Andrews to target so there’s not much else to talk about there, they’re relying, basically on their defense and JK Dobbins in the run game who has looked good since his return from injury. EDIT – Apparently Dobbins and a host of other players aren’t playing, or will be limited, so Gus Edwards and Isaiah Likely anytime could be decent looks at bigger odds.

The Ravens defense has been very good on the whole but gives up big plays in key moments and that’s cost them recently.

The big worry for the Bengals is how they’re going to play after Monday Night Football, something like that could affect the team but with Hamlin returning to health quickly it’s likely that they’ve just considered this a normal week and will be fine. That means Joe Burrow spreading the ball around his very talented pass-catching group, and Joe Mixon doing his thing on the ground. The likes of Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd are the best trio in the league with Higgins getting a lot of the TDs as coverage moves to Chase.

Mixon and Perine have proven a very solid 1-2 on the ground and should do again. The Bengals defense has again been great especially in second halfs, but they’ve not allowed a first quarter for 9 games either, so it’s not started too badly either.

The Bengals should win and cover, but Burrow has struggled in division this year, 9 of his 12 interceptions have come vs. familiar opponents and he’s actually thrown 4 in their last 3 games, although all have been wins and he’s the QB with the most covers ATS since 2020. No props for me here, just stress and probable anger as the night goes on.

Vikings +7 at Bears: 42.5

The Vikings were fucked by the Packers last week as their offense gave the ball away frequently, it means they no longer have the 2 seed in conference and will want a win to try and get that back although a game agaisnt the Giants wouldn’t be the worst thing ever for them.

Justin Jefferson needs near 200 yards to break the receiving record in the league, he has had 200 yard games this season so while it’s unlikely it’s not impossible for them. Thielen and Osborn are fine and TJ Hockenson has done well since being traded to them.

Vikings defense sucks.

Nathan Peterman starts for the Bears, and that’s that.

Vikings should win and cover, but knowing how they’ve been this year it will probably be a 6 point win, so it’s a definite stay away. The Bears need to lose to have a chance of the 1st pick in the draft.

Texans +2.5 at Colts: 37.5

The Texans need to lose to secure the 1 pick in the draft, so while they’ve been playing well, they now have a fair bit on the line. The problem for them is whether the Colts can score 3 points to beat them.

I’ve nothing to say on either of these teams, but the Colts surely win and cover the 2.5 with the fact that the Texans really don’t want to win, but the thing is, the Colts don’t really want to win either, all it would do is hurt them.

Panthers +3.5 at Saints: 42

I need the Saints to win for an 80/1 season-long acca, so this preview might be slanted one way… The Panthers can run the ball well, D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard putting up big games at various points this year and Sam Darnold was fine last week finding DJ Moore is all he really needs to do. The Panthers can definitely win here but knowing that they had the season in their hands last week and fucked it up, a dream killer, will be tough to get over.

The Saints have known their season is done for yonks, but Dennis Allen needs wins to finish off the year and an 8th here would be impressive to close out the year, Dalton has been fine, Kamara doesn’t get as many touches as most of us would expect especially as David Johnson has not been good as the 2 there. Chris Olave has had a very good rookie year and Rashid Shaheed has multiple deep TDs this year. Juwan Johnson has looked very good for them as a WR/TE and Taysom Hill does what he does.

The Saints defense stepped up last week and you have to think they will again in this one, I’d be leaning to the Saints covering, I will likely be betting the Panthers getting points in the hope of a double-win with my pre-season bet. Juwan Johnson 10/3 and above is decent

Giants +16 at Eagles: 42

The evening Sky game sees David Webb starting for the Giants who are surely going to rest most of their starters, at least Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. They don’t have much in the passing game already, so it’s tough to talk about them even at full strength but Hodgins, Slayton and Bellinger have done a good job considering their perception in the league.

The Eagles need a win to secure the 1 seed and with Jalen Hurts back as 16 point favourites you would really expect them to do it with ease here, they’ll expect to be 2 scores up at the end of the half and be able to rest their guys towards the end of the game. Hurts returning changes everything for this offense which struggled with Gardner Minshew in his second game last week, they will want Lane Johnson back at LT, but may have to deal without him.

Eagles win, can’t take them on the spread as they don’t need to destroy the Giants, go first half if you want to back them.

Chargers +3 at Broncos: 39.5

Impossible to handicap this one until we know what the Ravens v Bengals game finishes. The Chargers essenitally said it would be Chase Daniel if the Ravens lose, which should happen, so it will probably be the backups for the Chargers.

Deandre Carter is the one to look for in the props though, he needs 2 receptions to get a bonus, 55 yards for a bonus and 2 TDs for a bonus…players know these things and he’ll likely get peppered especially with Allen/Williams out if that happens. 13/2 on Skybet is very nice for him (80s for 2…), although the Broncos defense is their only bright spot. Gerald Everett needs 5 receptions for $250k.

It’s been a horrible year for the Broncos who are meeting with Sean Payton soon to discuss him joining them as head coach, that’ll cost them multiple picks to the Saints. Russell Wilson has been terrible, Latavius Murray should have a decent game against a terrible run defense, the passing game is tough to talk about due to Wilson being dogshit.

Unsurprisingly nothing from me on this one, could be anything. Carter anytime TD – 13/2

Cardinals +14 at 49ers: 39.5

Umm, David Blough at QB, no Deandre Hopkins, will James Conner play? How do the Cardinals put up points? A pointless team this year who could literally finish this game pointless.

The 49ers have rolled on with Brock Purdy and are now on a 9-win run as they enter the playoffs, they’ll want the win to get the 2 seed secured, but you have to think they’ll be resting starters as soon as they possibly can in this farcical affair. That means mainly Christian McCaffrey benched early to give him as much rest as possible, Brandon Aiyuk could be limited too although they’ll want to get Deebo Samuel some reps as he returns from injury.

49ers win, I can’t take them covering, another 1st half bet, and nothing on the very low total.

Rams +5.5 at Seahawks: 41.5

A win for the Seahawks puts them in pole position for the 7 seed, needing a Lions win to secure that for them later in the night. A loss means the final game of the season will be win and in for both teams. Which scenario do you think the league will want? It’s all about money…

In fairness the Rams have shown a little with Baker Mayfield at QB and Cam Akers has been running very well to close out the year, they have a shot at causing the upset that I think most neutrals want (I’m widely assuming people would want the Lions in the playoffs) and McVay has a good record agianst the Seahawks as Rams HC. There’s also rumours floating that he could be gone over the summer so potentially his final game as HC? Maybe. Higbee and Van Jefferson led the pass-catching group, but not at all reliable.

The Seahawks have the probably OROY and possible CBPOY on their team with Walker looking to finish strong to secure that award and Geno Smith has far outplayed expectations at QB for them for a lot of the year. On paper they should be winning this one, Tyler Lockett is back from his hand injury and the matchup between DK Metcalf will be fun, he was calling him out on the field last time they played each other, the Seahawks TEs get a fair bit of the ball, Colby Parkinson and Tyler Mabry (I’ve no idea either) both scoring for them vs. the Jets.

I want the Rams to pull off the shock and win, they have a chance. Stay away on spread and total, don’t mind the plus money available on Cam Akers – 5/4 at Bet365 the best of the mainstream books.

Cowboys -7 at Commanders: 40

Another lay up for the Cowboys to end out the season, they could still win the NFC East with an improbable Eagles loss to the Giants (now 16.5 point faves) and that would put them in the top 3 seeds, the 49ers would be 1 with a win in that scenario iirc, so there’s motivation to get the job done against Sam Howell.

It’s unknown how much the starters will play with a probably MNF game vs. the Bucs next week in the wildcard round, get the job done, stay healthy and rest up your guys would be the logical way of dealing with this farcical end to the season. Dak has been fine, the run game is very good, the pass-catching talent with Lamb, Gallup and Schultz is good, Noah Brown is a nice additional piece and the other host of TEs they’ve got have shown up well too, Hendershot looks like a bit of a beast.

The Commies fucked up last week, Ron Rivera apparently unaware that a loss knocked them out of the running, Carson Wentz has been a terrible move for them, Taylor Heinicke not great, so they’re giving their rookie a look this week. Probably not a great idea, especially with Antonio Gibson AND Brian Robinson out of the run game. Expect dump offs to er… Jarret Patterson? Is he still there? Jonathon Williams? Jeez. Poor Terry McLaurin gets to try and help out another bum of a QB.

Cowboys should win and cover, under on total. Cowboys defense maybe a play for a TD.

Lions +5 at Packers: 49

The NFL Season closes out with an NFC North clash which could be for all the marbles. The Lions, nay, WE as Sports fans NEED the Seahawks to lose early on to make this the contest it could be. It does seem weird that they’re playing it at a different time to that game, but Dan Campbell as coach of the Lions doesn’t seem like the type of person to throw in the towel if they can’t get through and I’m sure he’d love a) to have a winning record, got to think there’s a big bonus coming his way for that, and b) put down a marker on the Packers by stopping them making the playoffs.

Both of these QBs have the same Super Bowl experience, and Aaron Rodgers is 5-0 in “win-and-in” games.

Jared Goff has probably earned himself a starting spot at the Lions next year who will be able to sit any QB they draft, he’s been very good and seems like he’s capable of playing outside, although at night in Lambeau could produce a different result, he’s got a very talented offense around him behind a very good offensive line, so things are stacked towards him. Amon-Ra St. Brown hasn’t missed a step all year, DJ Chark has been good since coming back from injury, Jameson Williams is getting eased in but has shown bits amd apparently Brock Wright is a stud at TE for them. Kaliff Raymond is one to potentially look for, he needs 55 yards for a big bonus, that’s one catch for the deep threat, decent odds for a TD from him as well.

The run game is very good too, D’Andre Swift looks like he might finally be healthy and has added some spark to offest Jamaal Williams’ smasher approach. Williams needs a TD to break Barry Sanders rushing TD record for the Lions, and er, 2 yards for an incentive bonus (I feel he may get that)

The defense hasn’t been great this year, is worse vs. the run than the pass (both bottom 10) but has got better as the season has gone on at least.

The Packers finally realised that maybe, just maybe, running the ball with your two very good RBs could be a sensible way of winning games and it’s helped them on their recent win streak with AJ Dillon scoring in 5 consecutive games.

If you have read any of my previews this year you’ll know I’m not the biggest fan of Mr. Rodgers at QB, but I can admit that he can still make any throw on the field and has more natural talent than most others starting in the league, he doesn’t have the most talent in the world to target but can get the job done, although he did flop in the first match between these two, throwing goal line interceptions (when they should have just run AJ Dizzle) – the fact he’s thown 1 TD in each of the 4 games they’ve won recently says all you need to know, ceed the spotlight Aaron.

AJ Dillon has been scoring the TDs, but Aaron Jones gets more of the ball and has a fair few redzone attempts himself as well, had 111 rush yards last week as they closed out a strong defensive performance against the Vikings, to only score 2 rushing TDs this year is quite impressive. Dillon is the basher from the 2 yard and in and should find the endzone again here.

Christian Watson has had a hell of a second half of the season, Allen Lazard is fine, Robert Tonyan can move the ball for them, Randall Cobb is still there and at the other end of career Romeo Doubs returned last week to add a little more to the passing offense. There’s no stud there but they’re all capable.

The defense has been very good recently, it was meant to be the area to carry them to the playoffs and beyond and it’s finally stood up in recent weeks, holding Justin Jefferson to just 15 yards last week and scoring a pick 6, as well as Keisean Nixon being a stud on kick returns, has been a real boost for them as a team.

I would love the Lions to win, and they can definitely do that. I can’t take them though, it’s Rodgers in clutch time, I don’t like the guy, but he can complete an unprobable playoff push. Over on the total. AJ Dillon anytime 13/10 on Will Hill, 15/2 for Raymond is worth a shot, as is 8/1 on Brock freaking Wright (PP)

You do need to keep an eye on the Seahawks game earlier though, this line could well drift like a barge if they win and we know the Lions are out, if it hits 7 then I’d probably take the Lions covering. #OnePride!

Thank you for following and reading all year, as always it’s flown by far too quickly and the playoffs are on the doorstep now, of course I’ll be providing previews all through the playoffs and through to the Super Bowl including the stupid punts as always, so keep checking in. Give @JamesC294 a follow on twitter if you haven’t already.

Drop me a DM if you’re interested in a playoff pick contest, I’m off work tomorrow so will put out a proper post on Monday with more details – £25 on RunYourPool with either Winner takes all, or spots depending on entrants.

Good luck to those in the season long picks contest, £4,500 on the line in that and it’s coming down to the final weekend of the season!

Join my DraftKings leagues, and so on.

Peace out. #WhoDey

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