NFL Picks

Week 18 NFL Picks

Matthew-Stafford

This season, I’ll be providing my picks every week for you, our readers. I’ve been Gridiron Experts’ Pick ‘Em columnist for the past few seasons, and I’m glad to be back at it again! We’re hoping to have even more success this year! Each week, I’ll give you my picks for the Sunday games, and a short write-up centered around the key reason why I’m making the pick that I am. You can also click over to see all our Free NFL picks for the week with more than a dozen Gridiron Experts picking each game.

Kansas City (-10.5) @ Denver 

The Chiefs have everything to play for, as they’re chasing the Titans for the #1 overall seed in the AFC and the prestigious first-round bye. I expect Andy Reid to have this team ready to go, despite the difficult venue and defense they’ll be faced with. Patrick Mahomes has rounded out over the past few weeks, and I expect a full passing onslaught from the Chiefs in Denver on Sunday. Especially with Drew Lock under center for the Broncos and how the Kansas City defense has performed as of late, I believe KC will cruise to a controlled win and cover the spread in the process. Chiefs 34-20.

Dallas (-4.5) @ Philadelphia 

Both Dallas and Philly are locked into playoff spots, but their seeds remain up in the air. Dallas won the NFC East, so they’ll be no worse than the 4 seed, while the Eagles have a chance to be the 6 seed with a win and some good fortune. Philadelphia will be without RBs Miles Sanders for this contest, and both Jordan Howard and Boston Scott are on the COVID list. That might leave the bulk of the backfield touches to rookie Kenneth Gainwell who is widely unproven. While the home Philly crowd will be rabid as always, I think the lack of available running backs will hurt the Eagles in this run-first offense. Look for Dak Prescott and his elite group of skill players to win a controlled game on the road, by a touchdown. Cowboys 28-21.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-5.5)

The Steelers and the Ravens both have a chance to make the playoffs, although chances might be pretty slim. In any event, you can bet that both teams will be full systems go for Sunday’s rivalry game. Lamar Jackson has yet to practice for the Ravens this week, so it looks like it’ll be Tyler Huntley under center for Baltimore. Huntley has performed admirably for the Ravens in his time replacing Jackson, and the offense now seems accustomed to him calling the plays. TJ Watt is the best player on the field for the Steelers, and I see him as the difference-maker here. Despite home-field advantage, and being the favorites in this game I see Pittsburgh winning a grind-it-out game with RB Najee Harris leading the way. Steelers 21-20.

Cincinnati @ Cleveland (-6.5)

The Bengals are going to be resting a bunch of their starters on both sides of the ball on Sunday in Cleveland. The Browns should have all of their horses ready to go for the game, so that’ll give them a strong advantage. At the QB position, we’ll see Case Keenum vs. Brandon Allen in the least exciting showdown of the season. With Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt likely to play for the Browns, I’d give them the advantage at home. Look for them to run the ball, and for Keenum to make just enough throws to win this game for Cleveland. Browns 25-17. 

Green Bay (-3.5) @ Detroit

It seems like despite clinching the #1 seed, Green Bay will still be playing their starters, at least for a limited time on Sunday. One would imagine that with nothing to play for, that’ll likely be short-lived… but Rodgers & Co. should have at least a few drives to put up some points in the meantime. Green Bay’s talent runs deep, and the line is pretty narrow on the road against a 2-win Lions team. With Jared Goff at the helm and Amon Ra St. Brown catching every ball in sight, Detroit does have the potential to put up some points here. However, I do believe that Rodgers will score 2 early touchdowns before packing it in for the day, and that’ll be enough for the Packers to cover this spread on the road. If the starters don’t play, maybe I’d flip the script… however, we have to go off of what we know at this time. Packers 27-20.

Tennessee (-10.5) @ Houston

Tennessee has everything to play for in Week 18. Despite losing their star RB Derrick Henry to injury on Halloween, the Titans have clawed their way through the second half of the season and control their destiny on Sunday. The scenario is simple: a Tennessee win makes them the #1 seed and gives them an incredibly important bye, especially given Henry’s recovery timeline. Henry did return to practice on Wednesday, leading many to think he might be able to play this week. Tennessee might be wise to rest their star RB regardless, just to make sure he’s 100% for the playoffs. In any event, I do trust the Titans to win this game on the road, given the gravity of the situation. With D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard running the ball fantastically, and the team finally rounding out into a more healthy situation, all they need to do is avoid mistakes and turnovers (unlike their last battle with the Texans.) Look for the Titans to get the win and clinch their bye on the road. Titans 30-14. 

Indianapolis (-15.5) @ Jacksonville

The Colts are in a win-and-in scenario here in the final week of the season. They’re heading to Jacksonville, to face a franchise that’s in shambles. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll win this game. Jonathan Taylor should be able to run all over this Jacksonville defense, and the Indy defense should cause fits for QB Trevor Lawrence and the Jags. The -15.5 road favorite spread is the more questionable piece of this puzzle… Usually, I’d side with the home team that’s getting 2+ touchdowns on the spread. However, the Jaguars have sleepwalked through this season, turn the ball over constantly, and have very little firepower. I see the Colts dismantling this team, and gaining their playoff berth without breaking much of a sweat. Colts 28-10.

Chicago @ Minnesota (-3.5)

With QB Justin Fields heading to the COVID list, it seems we’ll see Andy Dalton or Nick Foles under center for Chicago. Minnesota will see the return of QB Kirk Cousins, and have a plethora of elite skill position options, mainly RB Dalvin Cook and WR Justin Jefferson. Chicago is likely to lean on RB David Montgomery in Fields’ absence, and they should be able to keep up with the Vikings for at least part of the game. While the +3.5 line would be tempting with Fields at the helm, I just can’t place my trust in Dalton or Foles enough to take the Bears. Vikings 27-21.

Washington (-6.5) @ New York Giants

At this point, the Giants’ season seems to be lost. Saquon Barkley isn’t the same player as he was before last year’s injury, and QB Daniel Jones is gone for the year. With Mike Glennon as Jones’ backup, the offense was terrible, and now Glennon is done for the year as well. That leaves Jake Fromm under center, who threw for 25 yards and an INT in his last game. The only saving grace is the serviceable Giants defense. In any event, Washington should have enough firepower to win this game between RB Antonio Gibson, and WR Terry McLaurin. I’ll take the Football Team to cover in a snoozer. Football Team 20-10.

New England (-6.5) @ Miami

New England heads to Miami with a chance of improving their playoff position in Week 18. Miami fell to the Titans in embarrassing fashion last week, despite having won their previous 7 games. While sunny Miami is a departure from the Frozen Tundra of Massachusetts, I expect the Patriots to acclimate quite nicely. With Damien Harris nursing a hamstring injury, it’s possible we see more of Rhamondre Stevenson this week. Either way, after Tennessee ran all over the Dolphins last week, I expect the Patriots will be able to do so as well. Bill Belichick should be able to gameplan effectively, and take this pivotal game on the road. Patriots 25-18.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay (-7.5)

With Sam Darnold back at the helm, the Panthers will look to upset the Bucs on Sunday. Tampa Bay does have a lot to play for, with a chance of locking up the 2 seed on Sunday, and ensuring home-field advantage at least until the NFC Championship. Tom Brady will be challenged with the loss of WR Antonio Brown, and will instead need to lean on Mike Evans to catch most passes on Sunday. The Bucs might also be without RB Ronald Jones, as he’s currently in a walking boot. If Jones can’t go, Tampa will rely on a tandem of Le’Veon Bell and Ke’Shawn Vaughn to carry the load. I believe Brady and Evans should be enough, along with the stingy Tampa Bay defense. Watch for Tampa to force a few turnovers, and for Brady to be himself. I expect the Bucs to handle business, covering at home, and limping into the playoffs. Buccaneers 32-20.

San Francisco @ Los Angeles Rams (-4.5)

With both teams vying for playoff position, this will be a classic NFC West Rivalry showdown. Matthew Stafford will have his elite complement of options on Sunday, including possibly RB Cam Akers, who has been practicing full-speed. With WR Cooper Kupp having an MVP-esque season, and Odell Beckham regaining his previous form, the Rams are incredibly dangerous offensively, and boast a strong defensive unit as well. The 49ers are unsure who will be under center on Sunday, but you can expect a run-heavy approach, as always, regardless. Eli Mitchell and Deebo Samuel will pace that effort and should keep this game super close. In the end, I expect the Rams to make more plays and cause a few key turnovers, leading them to a win. However, I do feel that the -4.5 spread is a bit too large here. I like SF with the points. Rams 28-25.

Seattle @ Arizona (-6.5)

Arizona has shockingly struggled at home this year, but they do have a lot at stake here as they’re hoping to win the Division. Kyler Murray should have a great day, as the Seattle defense has been leaky at times this year. With RB James Conner likely to return in the backfield, the Cardinals should be able to run the ball, control the clock, and open up things downfield for Murray to connect with the likes of Christian Kirk and AJ Green, While studs like DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are on the other side of the ball, I just don’t see the Seattle defense slowing down the Cardinals enough to get the win. I expect Arizona to pull this one out in a high-scoring affair, covering the spread in the process. Cardinals 28-21.

Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5) @ Las Vegas

Both of these teams face a win-and-in scenario here in Week 18. The Raiders impressively knocked off the Colts in Indianapolis last week for their third win in a row. The Chargers have been more up-and-down recently, including a loss in Houston. Both defenses are also vulnerable and allow a ton of points. These teams are also similar in the fact that they love to throw the ball. Justin Herbert has played quite well this season, and Derek Carr has a knack for leading Vegas through tough times. By all measures, these teams are pretty even in my head and are both equally as likely to put up a dud on any given week. For me, the X-Factor is the home crowd. I think that the Vegas faithful will put the Raiders over the edge in this one, and like them to pull off the upset and make the playoffs. Raiders 28-27.

Enjoy the games! Until next week…

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