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We finally made it. Week 18, the hardest NFL week to bet.
Some teams have nothing to play for and are already mentally at the beach, while others need a win to clinch a division title or wild card berth.
The 49ers enter Sunday's game needing a win against the Los Angeles Rams or a loss by the New Orleans Saints to punch their ticket to the playoffs. The Rams, meanwhile, can clinch the NFC West title and the No. 2 seed with a win. The 49ers have dominated the Rams of late, with Kyle Shanahan dancing circles around Sean McVay and orchestrating five straight wins over the NFC West rival.
But San Francisco's QB situation is murky. Will Trey Lance's third career start come with massive stakes? Can Jimmy Garoppolo play through the pain? We won't know the answers until Sunday as Shanahan looks to maintain a competitive advantage heading into the season finale.
It's a fool's errand to bet half of these games, but we are coming off a red-hot 12-4 ATS week in Week 17. So let's keep it rolling.
RECORD: 140-115 ATS (152-103-1 SU)
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Line: Chiefs -11.5
The Chiefs still can get the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but they need to win Saturday to put pressure on the Titans. The Broncos can’t do anything on offense. Kansas City’s defense bounces back after getting torched by Joe Burrow. This one won’t be close.
Pick: Chiefs 34, Broncos 13
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Line: Cowboys -4.5
I don’t see any reason for the Eagles to put anything noteworthy on film when they could end up playing the Cowboys in the Wild Card round, depending on how Sunday shakes out. Philadelphia has COVID issues and likely will rest some players, while the Cowboys’ offense still is looking to get right.
Pick: Cowboys 24, Eagles 17
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Line: Browns -6
Joe Burrow and the rest of the AFC North champion Bengals will be resting while the Browns trot out Case Keenum with Baker Mayfield’s season officially over. Browns win a meaningless game.
Pick: Browns 20, Bengals 13
Washington Football Team at New York Giants
Line: WFT -7
Do they have to play this game? The Giants will be starting Jake Fromm with Mike Glennon, and Daniel Jones injured. That’s enough to take the Football Team, but there’s no reason to bet or watch this game. The only question is: How many “phone calls” from former players will Joe Judge get singing his praises after what’s likely to be another embarrassing loss?
Pick: WFT 17, Giants 6
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: Colts -15.5
The Colts need a win to get into the playoffs. The Jaguars just want the 2021 season to come to an end. Jonathan Taylor gashes Jacksonville, and the Colts head to the postseason. Expect a “1-2-3 Cancun” special from the Jags.
Pick: Colts 24, Jags 7
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Line: Ravens -5
Big Ben got a W in his expected last game at Heinz Field. Now, he gets one more date with the rival Ravens. Pittsburgh still has a sliver of hope to make the playoffs while Baltimore's season will end after Sunday. Still, the Ravens have too much pride and too much hate for the Steelers to loaf through this one. Give me the Fighting Harbaughs.
Pick: Ravens 23, Steelers 17
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Line: Titans -10
The Titans can clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win. The Texans have been playing inspired football of late and beat the Titans in their first matchup. Tennessee wins, but the Texans keep it real close.
Pick: Titans 24, Texans 20
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Line: Vikings -5.5
Matt Nagy has been waiting to get ejected for almost two months. Mike Zimmer might be coaching his last game for the Vikings. There’s no value in watching or betting this game. Minnesota is more talented, and the Bears will likely be without Justin Fields, who entered COVID protocol on Thursday. So, take the Vikings.
Pick: Vikings 24, Bears 14
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Line: Packers -3.5
Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers starters will either rest or play limited snaps early. Green Bay has the top seed locked up, so this likely will be a Jordan Love game. The Lions have been frisky all season, and they keep fighting for Dan Campbell until the end. Lions win.
Pick: Lions 23, Packers 21
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
Line: Patriots -6.5
If things break the Patriots’ way, New England still can earn the top seed in the AFC. The Dolphins are cooked after a putrid offensive showing last week against the Titans. Expect more of the same Sunday with Bill Belichick giving Tua fits.
Pick: Patriots 24, Dolphins 13
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Line: Bucs -8
The Bucs are playing for seeding and usually put on a show at home. The Panthers are a train wreck offensively. No shot Carolina hangs around. The Panthers might catch a flight home at halftime.
Pick: Bucs 30, Panthers 13
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Line: Saints -3.5
Atlanta looked like the No. 32 ranked team by DVOA over the last three weeks and has nothing to play for. The Saints need a win and a 49ers loss to make the playoffs. It’s a rivalry, so I expect Matt Ryan to put up a fight, but the Saints survive.
Pick: Saints 23, Falcons 20
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Line: Cardinals -6.5
The Cardinals got back on track with a win over the Cowboys but still have some kinks to work out. Arizona also can win the NFC West and host a first-round playoff game with a win and a Rams loss. The Seahawks are headed to Tahiti.
Pick: Cardinals 31, Seahawks 23
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
Line: Bills -16
Zach Wilson has played well over the past month, and there has been no quit in Robert Saleh’s team. But the Jets’ defense still stinks, and the Bills need a win to clinch the AFC East. It could get ugly, but I think the Jets can at least cover the number.
Pick: Bills 30, Jets 17
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
Line: Chargers -3
A good, old-fashioned win-and-in matchup between AFC West rivals. Give the Raiders credit. They haven’t packed it in despite all the drama and turmoil they have dealt with this season. But Justin Herbert is the better quarterback, and I expect him to tear up Gus Bradley’s single-high safety defense. Bolts go to the playoffs. Raiders get on the phone with Jim Harbaugh.
Pick: Chargers 27, Raiders 20
49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Line: Rams -4.5
The 49ers’ QB situation will be unknown until game time. Jimmy Garoppolo has been throwing in practice but admitted it’s painful to let it rip with a Grade 3 UCL sprain. Garoppolo wants to give it a go, but Trey Lance might get the nod. Facing the Rams’ defense is a tough assignment for your third career start. Kyle Shanahan has owned Sean McVay of late, but all good runs end.
Pick: Rams 28, 49ers 23