We’re so near the NFL playoffs we will style it. However first, we should endure a primary in NFL historical past.
Week 18 of the common season is right here for the primary time within the historical past of the league, and properly, there’s not a complete lot to sit up for. Positive, there a number of playoff spots to be determined, however the NFL’s hope for this closing week to be full of huge matchups with playoff implications at each flip gained’t be the case.
In truth, there are some video games that may imply one thing proper now and shall be rendered meaningless by kickoff on account of outcomes in different contests. That makes attempting to foretell and decide video games in opposition to the unfold much more troublesome than ordinary.
Nevertheless, that’s not going to cease NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle from making their weekly against-the-spread picks for each recreation on the slate.
However first, right here’s how they fared final week.
Listed below are their Week 18 picks, with betting strains from DraftKings Sportsbook.
‘SATURDAY, JAN. 8
(-10.5) Kansas Metropolis Chiefs at Denver Broncos, 4:30 p.m. ET
Mike: Chiefs. I’m simply performed choosing the Broncos at this level. I’m a damaged man in terms of Denver, and that’s not simply because Javonte Williams’ stinker value me a fantasy championship.
Ricky: Chiefs. The Broncos shall be with out several starters of their secondary, and Patrick Mahomes vs. Drew Lock is, uh, a mismatch. Good tune-up spot for the Chiefs forward of the playoffs, and so they nonetheless have one thing to play for with the AFC’s No. 1 seed hanging within the steadiness.
(-5) Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. Each groups are going to relaxation starters, you’d suppose, and Philly has nothing to play for in any respect. In truth, the Eagles may even transfer up with a loss. Dallas is the deeper staff, so its second string should be higher than Philly’s … proper?
Ricky: Cowboys. Not solely may the Eagles — and the Cowboys, actually — relaxation sure starters, with the NFC’s No. 6 or No. 7 seed the one choices on the desk for Philadelphia. They’re additionally coping with a COVID-19 situation that has the provision of some key gamers in query, whereas the Cowboys’ offense presumably shall be seeking to get proper after a flat efficiency in final week’s loss to the Cardinals.
SUNDAY, JAN. 9
(-10) Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. Mike Vrabel is a no-nonsense form of man who studied below Invoice Belichick. He is aware of a robust exhibiting right here will get Tennessee the highest seed whereas additionally representing an opportunity to get issues all buttoned up earlier than the playoffs.
Ricky: Texans. Nonetheless have doubts about Tennessee. So, whereas Houston profitable 4 video games this season qualifies as a miracle, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Texans play onerous for David Culley on Sunday and no less than make the Titans uneasy as they attempt to safe the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
Cincinnati Bengals at (-6) Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. Cincinnati is resting everybody. Effectively, everybody who doesn’t have COVID, no less than. Moreover, Baker Mayfield in all probability gained’t play for the Browns, which could be a bonus at this level. Regardless, don’t watch this recreation.
Ricky: Browns. The Bengals clearly aren’t placing an excessive amount of emphasis on this recreation. So, why ought to we? A minimum of we all know the Browns can have a motivated quarterback in Case Keenum as Cleveland appears to complete its disappointing season on a excessive be aware.
(-15) Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jaguars. Jacksonville has the possibility to play the final word spoiler this week. As well as, the Colts have misplaced their final six video games in Jacksonville. That’s an enormous quantity given the circumstance and given Indy’s propensity to play shut video games (six of their final 9 determined by a landing or much less).
Ricky: Jaguars. I can’t consider I’m choosing the Jaguars after how they regarded final week in New England. Or all season, for that matter. However welcome to Week 18.
Chicago Bears at (-5.5) Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. Minnesota goes to play its starters — or no less than that’s what it appears like — whereas the Bears are caught with regardless of the Bears have. Matt Nagy probably being a lame duck doesn’t really feel prefer it helps Chicago’s case, both.
Ricky: Vikings. This might be the ultimate recreation for each coaches, during which case it’s simpler to examine a motivated effort for Mike Zimmer than Nagy. Plus, Minnesota is getting again its beginning quarterback (Kirk Cousins), whereas Chicago’s Justin Fields landed on the COVID-19/reserve list Thursday.
(-7) Washington Soccer Crew at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. This recreation stinks so unhealthy.
Ricky: Soccer Crew. How unhealthy has the Giants’ offense been? So unhealthy that I’m truly prepared to put a landing on the highway with Washington. Yikes.
Pittsburgh Steelers at (-5) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. While you actually dig into the numbers, these two groups have been similar to one another over the second half of the season. Neither has been excellent. The overall is kind of low (42), and this simply looks like a 17-13 recreation a method or one other.
Ricky: Steelers. This has been an emotionally draining stretch for each groups. And whereas John Harbaugh deserves credit score for preserving the Ravens aggressive — against good competition, no much less — within the absence of Lamar Jackson and others, it’s simply onerous to put greater than a subject objective realizing how weak Baltimore’s protection stays on account of accidents.
(-3.5) Inexperienced Bay Packers at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Packers. The Packers say they’ll play their starters, no less than early. Regardless, are we positive Detroit’s starters are higher than Inexperienced Bay’s backups?
Ricky: Packers. Despite the fact that the staff with the NFL’s second-worst report beating the staff with the league’s finest report — albeit on account of circumstance — could be a becoming finish to the 2021 season.
(-6) New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. New England in a number of years has seen its playoff momentum slowed by a final-week loss to the Dolphins, and it’s a must to suppose Invoice Belichick is driving that time residence this week. I believe this can be a fairly full effort from the Patriots in a tune-up for the wild-card spherical.
Ricky: Patriots. Gotta suppose final week’s loss to Tennessee took the wind out of Miami’s sails. New England will lean on its floor recreation and one other robust defensive effort in opposition to a struggling offense to cowl the quantity on the highway.
New York Jets at (-16) Buffalo Payments, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Payments. Buffalo is 3-1-2 in opposition to the unfold as double-digit favorites this season, and even after gradual begins like we noticed final week, the Payments are inclined to get it collectively. They gained’t know the result in Miami, so that they’ll seemingly need to maintain the foot on the fuel to shore up the division and a playoff residence recreation.
Ricky: Payments. A landing (or two?) from Buffalo’s protection appears affordable as Zach Wilson tries to finish his rookie season with aptitude however as an alternative finishes the way in which he began. Payments roll.
Carolina Panthers at (-8) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. Bruce Arians says they’ll play for the No. 2 seed, which implies he’ll apparently play his starters. You’d need to assume Tampa Bay desires to run it as much as then get guys out of hurt’s method, besides, the Panthers’ offense is so unhealthy it’s onerous to see a late push for a canopy.
Ricky: Bucs. Tom Brady in all probability has a hair throughout his you-know-what after this week’s Antonio Brown drama. As such, this looks like a type of late-season tune-ups from his days in New England, the place Brady and the starters land a number of early haymakers earlier than taking the remainder of the time without work.
San Francisco 49ers at (-4.5) Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: 49ers. Within the Rams’ 4 losses, their opponents have averaged 35.5 carries per recreation. San Fran averages 34 dashing makes an attempt per recreation in its eight wins. The Niners, no matter who’s at QB, decide to the run and maintain it shut whereas flustering LA.
Ricky: 49ers. Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers not too long ago have owned Sean McVay and the Rams, profitable 5 straight matchups, together with their Week 10 conflict 31-10. Will issues steadiness out sooner or later? Perhaps. However San Francisco’s dashing assault will trigger issues this week. As will the 49ers’ fifth-ranked pass rush (Professional Soccer Focus) in opposition to Matthew Stafford, who has thrown six interceptions over his final three video games and now has 4 pick-sixes this season.
Seattle Seahawks at (-6.5) Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. Apparently, I’m going again to the “Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll gained’t go down with out a struggle” properly yet one more time. However I do suppose a comparatively veteran-laden staff ought to have the ability to put forth knowledgeable effort and maintain it shut.
Ricky: Seahawks. May very well be the top of an period for Seattle. Maybe that doesn’t matter for the aim of this recreation. Nevertheless it looks like a spot the place the Seahawks let all of it hang around, whereas the Cardinals’ protection proved vulnerable within the video games main as much as their Week 17 win over the Cowboys.
(-3.5) New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. That is extraordinarily cliche and narrative-driven, however Atlanta knocking its division rivals out of playoff competition looks as if a reasonably robust promoting level for an in any other case meaningless recreation for the Falcons.
Ricky: Falcons. As a result of Atlanta hasn’t forgotten all these pointless 28-3 jokes.
(-3) Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. Don’t suppose — it can only hurt the ball club, proper? LA is the higher staff with a a lot larger ceiling, and Gus Bradley’s insistence on taking part in the identical defensive scheme it doesn’t matter what shall be a welcomed sight for Justin Herbert, who carved up the Raiders earlier this season, too.
Ricky: Chargers. What’s the Raiders’ largest power? In all probability their cross rush. And the Chargers are outfitted to deal with that duress. Herbert boasts the seventh-highest PFF grade below strain (amongst 32 QBs with no less than 100 pressured dropbacks), a mark aided by his NFL-best turnover-worthy play proportion (1%) in such spots. Count on a wholesome dose of Austin Ekeler (first amongst working backs with 596 yards after catch) as Herbert leans on his safety blanket in opposition to a Vegas protection ranked twenty sixth in dropback EPA and permitting the seventh-most receptions to RBs this season.