Nostrathomas Predicts: NFL Week 18 Highlights a Schedule of Win and In Games for Playoff Contenders

We’re sailing into uncharted waters this week with the NFL schedule. A Week 18 lands on the schedule for the first time in NFL history.

The fact that this is the first Week 18 doesn’t change the fact that it presents the same uncertainties that every NFL season finale does. Which teams still have a postseason reward to play for? Which teams have too much pride and want to make one final mark before reflecting on a failed season? Which teams practically have their lockers cleaned out and golf clubs in the car for the start of the offseason?

This is the week of dashed expectations and ruined hopes, and that’s among the betting public. Hopefully you’ve had a great season and have some extra profits that if you lose, won’t devastate your season. If you’ve been running behind all year, this is a bad week to try and make it up.

NFL Sails Uncharted Waters Into the Postseason

As for Nostrathomas, I’m heading into this Week 18 while looking back at a satisfying year at least. For the season, I’m 159-79-1 straight-up and 118-112-2 against the spread. It’s being over .500 for the season against the spread that I take pride in.

Let’s look at the Week 18 slate and see if we can find some value hidden within these games.

Game of the Week

Los Angeles Chargers -3 vs Las Vegas Raiders (Sunday Night Football, Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV)

This will very likely be a winner take all game for the final seed in the AFC. Winner heads for the playoffs next week. The loser licks their wounds and moves forward to next season.

Las Vegas has won three straight to put themselves in this position but not because of their offense. They’ve scored 16, 17 and 23 points in those victories.

On defense, they were playing teams that don’t push the ball downfield. The last time they did was in Week 14 against the Chiefs, and they got bombed 48-9.

That’s where the advantage lies for Los Angeles. Receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams along with tight end Jared Cook all average double-digits in yards per reception.

That is going to be the difference maker in this game. Las Vegas will score but their inability to hold down a high-powered passing offense will be their downfall.

Los Angeles Chargers 30 Las Vegas Raiders 24

Best Bets

Washington Football Team -7 at New York Giants (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)

The New York Giants are coming off a performance in Chicago that set NFL football back 60 years. In their 29-3 loss to the Bears, New York practically gave up hope of running a successful passing game with Mike Glennon as their starting quarterback. That’s what made head coach Joe Judge’s comments about the Giants not being “some clown show organization” so puzzling.

While not directly addressing his comments towards Ron Rivera’s team, it was pretty obvious to reporters and fans where those comments were being directed.

New York has no choice but to try and start rookie Jake Fromm in this season closing game after Glennon’s Week 17 embarrassment. That’s only the start of the problem this week for Judge and the Giants.

Rivera shrugged off the remarks but don’t for a minute think that he’s or his team or going to let them pass. Washington’s season crashed and burned in the month of December but it’s still a better squad with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback than what New York is going to field.

Take the Football Team to close out their season on a positive note.

Washington Football Team 23 New York Giants 10

New England Patriots -6 vs Miami Dolphins (4:25PM ET; Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL)

The New England Patriots have only themselves to blame for the predicament they’re in. Their loss in Week 15 to the Indianapolis Colts dropped them out of the top seed in the AFC. Their loss in Week 16 to the Buffalo Bills took them out of first place in the AFC East. Now, to claim a playoff home game they have to hope the Bills lose to the New York Jets.

The Miami Dolphins rode a seven-game win streak to put themselves in the thick of the playoff battle before getting demolished 34-3 by the Tennessee Titans last week. Miami will be playing for pride in this game but that’s coming one week too late for Brian Flores’ squad.

I’d give Miami a chance in this game if they could run the football. The Patriots are 20th in the NFL in yards per attempt allowed. Fortunately for them, the Dolphins are dead last in the league in rushing yards per attempt.

New England isn’t going to fall to an AFC rival for the third time in four weeks with the possibility of a division title on the line, as remote as that possibility is. The Patriots will take care of business in Miami.

New England Patriots 27 Miami Dolphins 17

Tennessee Titans -10 vs Houston Texans (1PM ET; NRG Stadium, Houston, TX)

With the Kansas City Chiefs victory over the Denver Broncos on Saturday afternoon, the Tennessee Titans need a victory over the Houston Texans to lock up the No. 1 seed, and a first round bye, in the AFC.

Houston did put together a Week 11 victory in Nashville over a Titans team that was missing both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.

The Texans have been playing hard for head coach David Culley over the past month. They’ve won two of their last three with a signature win at home over the Los Angeles Chargers. However, the loss in that stretch was a feeble effort last week in San Francisco against the 49ers.

People have been reading a lot into rookie quarterback Davis Mills’ performance the past four weeks after the starting job was handed back to him. I’m not. Mills fell back to Earth hard in Houston’s loss to the 49ers.

The Titans know going in that they need this game. They won’t waste time taking it.

Tennessee Titans 28 Houston Texans 16

Best of the Rest

Pittsburgh Steelers +3.5 vs Baltimore Ravens (1PM ET; M&T Bank Field, Baltimore, MD)

Guess what? The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. They need the highly improbable outcome of the Jacksonville Jaguars defeating the Indianapolis Colts, but Pittsburgh’s postseason hopes still live.

The Baltimore Ravens are on a five game losing streak since occupying the AFC’s top spot, including a 20-19 Week 13 loss to the Steelers.

Ben Roethlisberger is wrapping up his career while T.J. Watt takes aim at the single-season sack record. Wait till next year Baltimore.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 17

Indianapolis Colts vs Jacksonville Jaguars +14.5 (1PM ET; TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL)

Kind of like the situation with the New England Patriots, the Indianapolis Colts have no one but themselves to blame for needing this victory over Jacksonville to clinch a playoff spot. They were unable to put away the Raiders at home last week.

The Colts are too good to let Jacksonville get the better of them this week. Still, the Jaguars do have a solid run defense, which is what Indianapolis does best. They are also 8-1-1 against the spread against the Colts in their last 10 games.

Indianapolis wins but the Jaguars make them sweat.

Indianapolis Colts 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

New York Jets +16.5 vs Buffalo Bills (4:25PM ET; Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY)

The Buffalo Bills need a win to lock down an AFC East division title and there’s no reason to think that they won’t get that win against a New York Jets team that is stumbling to the finish line of another disappointing season. However, the Jets haven’t been laying down for anybody either and nearly pulled off a stunner against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.

Buffalo put away New York with ease in Week 10 but they haven’t spent the last month burying teams early and coasting. I expect them to win but 16.5 points is a tough nut to crack against an opponent who will still be putting out an effort.

Buffalo Bills 30 New York Jets 22

Green Bay Packers -3 vs Detroit Lions (1PM ET; Ford Field, Detroit, MI)

The Green Bay Packers clinched the top seed in the NFC last week but according to head coach Matt LaFleur, will still be playing their starters for a substantial amount of time in this game. LaFleur is worried about how much rust his team will be accumulate if he sits his starters all game against Detroit. Especially with having to wait three weeks for their next game of consequence.

The Detroit Lions are 10-6 against the spread this season and haven’t thrown in the towel against any opponent this season. That’s about the best than can be said for Dan Campbell’s 3-13-1 squad.

I expect Green Bay to play their starters long enough in this game to put it on ice before Jordan Love sees the field in mop-up duty. Davante Adams has incentive bonuses he can wrap up this week so the Packers offense won’t be going to the sidelines until all business is taken care of.

Green Bay Packers 27 Detroit Lions 20

San Francisco 49ers +3.5 vs Los Angeles Rams (4:25PM ET; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)

The San Francisco 49ers need a win, or a New Orleans Saints loss to the Atlanta Falcons to squeeze into the playoffs.

San Francisco has had the Rams number over the past three seasons. They’re on a five-game winning streak against their division rivals.

Matthew Stafford has thrown five touchdowns against six interceptions over the last three weeks but Los Angeles has still been able to win. They won’t be as fortunate today.

San Francisco 49ers 26 Los Angeles Rams 21

Cincinnati Bengals vs Cleveland Browns -6 (1PM ET; FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH)

The Cincinnati Bengals have decided that playing a first-round home game as an award for winning their division is enough for them. Joe Burrow and most of the rest of his offense will be sitting while Brandon Allen runs the starting offense in this game.

For the Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield’s season is over so he can get surgery on his injured shoulder. Case Keenum will run the Browns offense in his place.

Keenum is the better backup. As long as Kevin Stefanski remembers that he has a running game Cleveland should be able to close out the season with a win.

Cleveland Browns 24 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Seattle Seahawks vs Arizona Cardinals -5.5 (4:25PM ET; State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ)

The Seattle Seahawks put together a statement win last week over the Detroit Lions. That will have to sustain them through the offseason.

The Arizona Cardinals ended their three-game losing streak last week against the Cowboys and will finish the season as NFC West champions after taking care of business against Seattle.

Arizona Cardinals 27 Seattle Seahawks 20

Games of the Weak

New Orleans Saints -3.5 vs Atlanta Falcons (4:25PM ET; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA)

The Falcons are weak against the run and the Saints will have the running combo of Taysom Hill and Alvin Kamara ready to roll. A New Orleans victory combined with a 49ers loss puts them in the playoffs. They’ll do their part. San Francisco won’t.

New Orleans Saints 18 Atlanta Falcons 13

Chicago Bears vs Minnesota Vikings – 4 (1PM ET; U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN)

It’s well established that Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy and Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer will be dead men walking as this season ending battle takes place.

The Bears put rookie quarterback Justin Fields on the Covid-19/reserve list this week so Andy Dalton will get the final start of the season.

With the Vikings offense healthy, Chicago is going to have a tough time getting stops. The Bears sub-par secondary is going to have a tough time against Kirk Cousins and his talented group of wide-outs. Chicago is also going to be without defensive lineman Akiem Hicks in this game. A major loss for the Bears defensive front.

Both teams are going to play hard but the Vikings are better on offense and that will be the difference.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Chicago Bears 18

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