Football Team

NFL Week 18 picks: 49ers vs. Rams, Chargers vs. Raiders, and more

Football Team
Austin Ekeler dives into the end zone between Raiders defenders

As the NFL heads into the final week of the regular season, 11 of its 14 playoff teams have been determined but there are still three spots up for grabs and seeding yet to be determined.

Each week, NBC Sports Washington’s Ethan Cadeaux (59-32) and Matt Weyrich (52-39) will run through every NFL game and make their predictions for the final scores. After going 12-4 and 11-5 last week, respectively, here are their picks for Week 18. All game times listed are EST.

CHIEFS (11-5) at BRONCOS (7-9)

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. on ESPN and ABC

The Chiefs enter Week 18 in play for the No. 1 seed, but they’re going to need a Titans loss in Houston for that to happen. Kansas City needs a win regardless, as a loss could drop it to as low as the fourth seed. Denver, already eliminated from playoff contention, is starting Drew Lock at quarterback to close out the year. The Chiefs should cruise in this one.

Ethan: Chiefs 30, Broncos 14 | Matt: Chiefs 28, Broncos 3

COWBOYS (11-5) at EAGLES (9-7)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. on ESPN and ABC

No team ever wants to go into the playoffs on a losing streak, and that’s exactly what the Cowboys will be looking to avoid this weekend after losing a close one to the Cardinals last week. The Eagles are winners of four straight, though none of those victories have come over teams in playoff contention. With seeding on the line, this divisional matchup will be close.

Ethan: Cowboys 24, Eagles 21 | Matt: Cowboys 30, Eagles 27


WASHINGTON (6-10) at GIANTS (4-12)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. on FOX

The 2021 season didn’t go as planned for either Washington nor the Giants, who will both be starting different quarterbacks Sunday than the ones they planned on having when the year began. Both teams could use a feel-good victory to close out the year, but will draft positioning play a role here?

Ethan: Washington 20, Giants 7 | Matt: Washington 27, Giants 17

STEELERS (8-7-1) at RAVENS (8-8)

Sunday, 1 p.m. on CBS 

Is this the final time Ben Roethlisberger will suit up for the Steelers? Pittsburgh still has a smidgeon of playoff hope, but they’re going to need the Jaguars to upset the Colts for that to come to fruition. Baltimore needs even more help, including losses by the Chargers and Dolphins. Can’t lose five straight down the stretch and expect strong playoff odds.

Ethan: Steelers 17, Ravens 16 | Matt: Ravens 21, Steelers 20

BENGALS (10-6) at BROWNS (7-9)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. on FOX 

It’s going to be a battle of Brandon Allen vs. Case Keenum on Sunday as both the Bengals and Browns are resting their banged-up quarterbacks. The Bengals still have a chance to land the No. 1 seed, so this is no irrelevant opportunity for Allen. He’ll have all of Cincinnati’s weapons at his disposal while Cleveland will likely lean on the legs of Nick Chubb to grind out a win.

Ethan: Bengals 20, Browns 17 | Matt: Bengals 23, Browns 10

PACKERS (13-3) at LIONS (2-13-1)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. on FOX

The only playoff team with nothing to play for in Week 18, the Packers, already have the No. 1 seed locked up. Head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters Monday that they’re not planning on resting any starters, but it’s hard to imagine stars like Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams are still on the field by the second half regardless of the score.

Ethan: Packers 28, Lions 17 | Matt: Packers 24, Lions 13

BEARS (6-10) at VIKINGS (7-9)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. on FOX

Another game with no postseason implications, these NFC North teams have already shifted their sights to next season. Justin Fields is unlikely to play after being placed on the COVID/reserve list Thursday, making Andy Dalton the likely starter for Chicago. The Vikings’ defense has been leaky all year, but can the Bears’ up-and-down offense take advantage?

Ethan: Vikings 28, Bears 23 | Matt: Bears 21, Vikings 20

COLTS (9-7) at JAGUARS (2-14)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. on CBS

Jacksonville is in line for the No. 1 pick for the second-straight year and a loss Sunday would cement their place atop this summer’s draft. Of course, the Jaguars will be trying to win, it’s just a long shot when they’re facing an Indianapolis team playing for its playoff life. The Colts haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet, but get a victory in Jacksonville and they’re in.

Ethan: Colts 27, Jaguars 7 | Matt: Colts 38, Jaguars 13


TITANS (11-5) at TEXANS (4-12)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. on CBS

A win over the Texans would cement the Titans as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, a tremendous feat considering they lost then-MVP candidate Derrick Henry in Week 8. The impending return of Henry for the playoffs should be more than enough to energize this team, though Mike Vrabel has made sure they’ve had no shortage of that all year.

Ethan: Titans 29, Texans 17 | Matt: Titans 35, Texans 20

SAINTS (8-8) at FALCONS (7-9)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on FOX

The Saints are the only NFC team currently out of the playoff picture that still has a chance at getting in. If the 49ers lose to the Rams, New Orleans can make it with a win in Atlanta. However, the Falcons had a better season than most expected and won’t be an easy out after beating the Saints in a tight contest back in Week 9.

Ethan: Saints 16, Falcons 13 | Matt: Saints 28, Falcons 7

JETS (4-12) at BILLS (10-6)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on CBS

What’s there to say here? The Bills dominated the Jets 45-17 in their first meeting this year and there’s little reason to expect different results this time around. Zach Wilson is far from a finished product, even if he has been able to limit turnovers in recent weeks. The Bills should run up the score quickly and keep themselves in the running for the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

Ethan: Bills 41, Jets 20 | Matt: Bills 31, Jets 14

49ERS (9-7) at RAMS (12-4)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on FOX

Both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay took over as head coaches for their respective teams in 2017. In nine head-to-head meetings since, Shanahan holds the edge 6-3 including five straight. The 49ers are fighting for a Wild Card spot while Los Angeles is attempting to retain hold of the No. 2 seed in the NFC. If Jimmy Garoppolo returns, can the 49ers snap the Rams’ five-game winning streak?

Ethan: 49ers 20, Rams 17 | Matt: Rams 30, 49ers 21

PATRIOTS (10-6) at DOLPHINS (8-8)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on CBS

The Patriots picked up a get-right win in Week 17 by dropping a 50-burger on the Jaguars after losing two in a row to the Colts and Bills. Miami beat New England in Foxborough in Week 1, but both teams are very different than the squads that opened the season against each other. This should be a defensive battle and the first team to get to 20 points is likely the winner.

Ethan: Patriots 28, Dolphins 10 | Matt: Dolphins 20, Patriots 14

SEAHAWKS (6-10) at CARDINALS (11-5)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on FOX

Arizona’s huge win over the Cowboys last week kept the Cardinals in play for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They’ll look to keep pace against the Seahawks, who scored 51 points on the Lions last week behind strong efforts from Rashaad Penny and DK Metcalf. In what could be Russell Wilson’s final game as a Seahawk, the pressure is on the Cardinals to finish the year strong.


Ethan: Cardinals 28, Seahawks 20 | Matt: Cardinals 30, Seahawks 21

PANTHERS (5-11) at BUCCANEERS (12-4)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. on CBS

The Buccaneers are running out of offensive weapons around Tom Brady, but the Panthers’ offense doesn’t exactly strike fear in opponents’ hearts. Carolina has struggled to get going regardless of who’s under center. Tampa Bay can finish anywhere between the second and fourth NFC seeds, but a win guarantees the reigning champs at least third.

Ethan: Buccaneers 31, Panthers 10 | Matt: Buccaneers 24, Panthers 10

CHARGERS (9-7) at RAIDERS (9-7)

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. on NBC

It’s win or go home for the Chargers and Raiders, who enter the weekend tied for the No. 7 seed in the AFC. A tie coupled with a Colts loss would actually guarantee them both playoff spots, but these two divisional rivals will be looking to knock the other out. After all the adversity the Raiders have faced this year, can they knock off Justin Herbert and Co.?

Ethan: Chargers 30, Raiders 28 | Matt: Chargers 38, Raiders 31