NFL Week 18 picks: Banking on Belichick, Bears and Bills as Best Bets

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LINE: New England by 1.5

CHEWABLE: One of three games this week in which all that’s at stake is draft positioning. Jets looked like they were getting a head start on the off-season with last season’s listless 17-point loss to the Browns. Trevor Siemian, who is better suited to play quarterback in the new UFL, will make his third straight start for Gang Green. He’ll bring the Jets nowhere fast against a Patriots defence that has given up less total yardage than all but five teams … Even the generally dangerous Breece Hall will have trouble with New England’s second-ranked run defence. In the only game he has played against the Patriots, Hall carried the ball 12 times for 18 yards and caught one pass for nine … The Patriots are coming off a hard-fought loss to the Bills and have won only twice in their last nine, but they have been in every game since Week 5 … Not liking Bailey Zappe’s chances against the Jets’ fourth-ranked pass defence, especially after he was picked off three times in Buffalo, but the Patriots have won their last 15 games against the Jets and have gone 25 games without losing to them in regulation time, and oh yeah, this could very well be Bill Belichick’s last game as New England’s coach. The defensive genius is not going out with a loss to the second-worst offence in the NFL.

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SCORE (O/U 30.5): Patriots 17, Jets 7


LINE: Green Bay by 3

CHEWABLE: How familiar. The Packers win and they’re in, just as the case in their regular-season finale last year on Wisconsin’s most famous piece of Frozen Tundra. That night their Aaron Rodgers-led offence managed to move the ball just 291 yards in a 20-16 loss to the Lions, who missed the playoffs but won eight of their last 10 to finish 9-8 and set the tone for their 2023 campaign … The Bears are also gathering momentum for next season with five wins in their last seven games with three of their last four victories by double digits … Chicago has dropped its last nine and 26 of its last 30 against the Packers, as well as the last seven at Lambeau. The Packers scored a 38-20 season-opening win at Soldier Field and are coming off an impressive and thorough 23-point win in Minnesota to set the stage for this week … Packers running back Aaron Jones finally has rediscovered his old form. In his last two games he has averaged six yards per carry while taking the ball 41 times for 247 yards. Now he goes up against the NFL’s No. 1 defence, which has allowed an average of 84 rushing yards per game … The Packers have the 28th-ranked rush defence, and the Bears have the second ranked ground game … The Packers will miss suspended CB Jaire Alexander when it comes to containing D.J. Moore, who is fresh off a nine-catch, 159-yard game … Justin Fields is talking about how good it would be for the Bears to end on a positive at Lambeau, where “their fans will be loud because there’s not much to do in Green Bay except watch football.” Brash, eh? … I’m going with the better team.

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SCORE (O/U 44): Bears 27, Packers 17


LINE: Buffalo by 3

CHEWABLE: At stake is the AFC East title, but while the Dolphins already have secured a playoff berth, the Bills can finish anywhere from the No. 2 seed to No. 6, No, 7 or out of the post-season picture altogether. Along with having the motivational edge, the Bills have been in sprint mode, winning their last four games, while their only loss in six went to overtime … The Dolphins are literally limping to the finish line. They are coming off a 56-19 loss to the Ravens and their injury report is loaded with stars. Exceptional edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips are on the IR, and among other key personnel who could miss this one are CB Xavien Howard, RB Raheem Mostert and WR Jaylen Waddle. Tua Tagovailoa also has a sore shoulder. If he plays he won’t be at 100 percent … The Bills weathered an early storm of major injuries but are now in relatively good shape. Josh Allen is a little banged up but there’s no way he’ll miss this one, as much Miami might wish he would. Allen has owned the Fish with a 9-2 record that includes a 65% completion rate, 31 TD passes and just five picks … The Dolphins are 1-4 SU against teams with winning records this season … The Bills have won 12 of the last 14 meetings between the teams, including a 48-20 pounding in Week 4, and I’d bet a substantial amount on that trend continuing. Only having to lay three points with Buffalo feels like an end-of-season gift from the bookmakers.

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SCORE (O/U 49.5): Bills 37, Dolphins 17



LINE: Pittsburgh by 3.5

CHEWABLE: While Baltimore has locked up the top seed in the AFC, there are five scenarios in which the Steelers can make the playoffs and three of them involve a win over the Ravens plus some help, while a fourth involves a tie and some help. The Ravens will rest some starters, including Lamar Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr., but these teams don’t like each other and Baltimore would relish the opportunity to crush Pittsburgh’s post-season hopes … The Steelers have won six of the last seven meetings, but lately the games have been close. The last seven have been decided by a touchdown or less while four of the last five have been decided by a field goal or less … The Steelers have won their last three games in Baltimore, two by a field goal and one by four points … Pittsburgh has won its last two games with an offence that has finally come to life with 68 points under Mason Rudolph, who has connected with George Pickens 11 times for 326 yards … Tyler Huntley is a quality backup quarterback. But of his eight regular season starts, he has seen the Steelers three times and is 1-2 with a 59.4 completion percentage, one TD pass and three picks … Huntley has proven to be a dangerous running threat versus Pittsburgh with 28 carries for 127 yards … The Steelers win, but respect the hate Ravens have for them.

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SCORE (O/U 35.5): Steelers 23, Ravens 20


LINE: Houston by 1.5

CHEWABLE: The winner makes the playoffs and could even take the AFC South if Jacksonville loses to Tennessee, which is extremely unlikely … The Colts have dominated the Texans over the years, winning 33 of 44 meetings with one tie … Indy defeated Houston 31-20 in Week 2 despite C.J. Stroud completing 30 of 47 pass attempts for 384 yards and two TDs … Zack Moss led the Colts to that victory with 18 carries for 88 yards, but the Texans have greatly improved a run defence that used to be a sore spot. It is now fourth-best in the league, which means Jonathan Taylor’s effectiveness will be minimized … Stroud returned from a two-game absence to lead Houston to a 26-3 victory over Tennessee. Expect him to be better against the 17th-ranked pass defence in the Texans’ first prime time game.

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SCORE (O/U 47.5): Texans 24, Colts 21


LINE: New Orleans by 3

CHEWABLE: The winner takes the NFC South if the Bucs lose to the Panthers, which is extremely unlikely … The Saints can still slip into a wild card spot with a win and a Tampa Bay victory … The Saints have won nine of their last 12 meetings with Atlanta … The Falcons defeated New Orleans 24-15 in Week 12 with 228 rushing yards … The Falcons have the unenviable task of playing their second straight road game after getting crunched by the Bears … The Saints have won three of their last four games and are coming off a 10-point victory in Tampa … The Saints have won their last two home games by a combined score of 52-12, but are only 2-5 ATS at Caesars Superdome … The Falcons have lost three of their last four, including a 9-7 verdict against the Panthers … New Orleans’ Derek Carr is the best QB on either team, and it’s not close.

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SCORE (O/U 42): Saints 21, Falcons 17


LINE: Cincinnati by 7

CHEWABLE: Some will say this is a difficult game to pick because the result means nothing to either organization. Not really. The Browns are locked into the No. 5 seed and will rest key players — even old man Joe Flacco will get the day off, and he didn’t even have a job midway through November — but the Bengals will want to end a very disappointing season on a positive note. Not worried about the big spread because I like Jake Browning against Browns reserves way more than Cleveland’s Jeff Driskel, who is 1-9 as a starter and mostly will be throwing and handing the ball off to backups. 


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SCORE (O/U 37.5): Bengals 24, Browns 14


LINE: Jacksonville by 5

CHEWABLE: Mike Vrabel is 25-14 ATS as an underdog of 3-plus points and he’s going to make it difficult for the Jaguars, who just need a victory to win their second straight division title. Jacksonville may again be without QB Trevor Lawrence, whose ailing shoulder has improved to the point where he was upgraded to limited at Thursday’s practice. Last week, C.J. Beathard was solidly average as the Jags defence pitched a 26-0 shutout against the Panthers … The Titans are better at home than their 4-3 SU record indicates. They won their first four at Nissan Stadium before losing their last three, all by a field goal … The Jaguars beat the Titans 34-14 in Week 11 … The Titans are 3-1-1 as a home dog while the Jags are 3-1-0 as an away favourite … Titans QB Will Levis (foot) returned to practice Thursday, but the Titans will be fine if they have to use Ryan Tannehill, who has a 7-3 career record versus the Jags with a 17/3 TD pass/pick ratio. Jacksonville’s pass ‘D’ is a vulnerable 27th.

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SCORE (O/U 40): Jaguars 20, Titans 17


LINE: Detroit by 3.5

CHEWABLE: The Vikings still have an outside shot at a playoff spot, but it’s going to take a win and help to get them there after a 23-point choke job last week at home against the Packers … The Lions are sitting in the No. 3 seed and can only move up, but even getting to No. 2 is an extreme long shot, so they likely will rest some starters — unless head coach Dan Campbell is still pissed off about the refereeing in his team’s loss to Dallas last week and wants to take it out on the Vikings … Detroit has won three of the last four meetings, including in Week 16, a 30-24 victory in which the Lions had a 143-17 edge in rushing yards … Detroit is 11-5 ATS, which is tied for the league best mark. The Vikings are 2-0-2 as a road dog … I like the Vikings to win this one — if they can get the 67-year old Warren Moon to be their quarterback for a day, as he still might be better than what they have … The Lions are entering the playoffs as a legit contender for the first time in a long time and they’ll want to go in on a high.

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SCORE (O/U 45.5): Lions 27, Vikings 20


LINE: Tampa Bay by 4.5

CHEWABLE: Tampa Bay is 7-1 ATS as a visitor and will earn its third division title in a row with a victory over a Panthers team that was shut out by the 20th-ranked defence last week. Carolina has scored more than 18 points just once in its past 10 games … The Bucs have won eight of the last 10 meetings, including a 21-18 victory in which Baker Mayfield and Bryce (The Bust) Young combined for just 343 passing yards … Only two teams have allowed fewer passing yards than the Panthers, but in Week 13 they couldn’t stop Mike Evans, who had seven catches for 162 yards … Evans and RB Rachaad White, who is seventh in yards from scrimmage (915 rushing, 531 receiving) will send the Panthers into the winter with just the second two-win season in their history. And you wonder why team owner David Tepper is throwing drinks at people.

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SCORE (O/U 37.5): Bucs 23, Panthers 10


LINE: Dallas by 13

CHEWABLE: Thanks to the plummeting Eagles, the Cowboys can take the NFC East with a victory against a team that is tied with two others for the second-worst record in the league … The Commanders have failed to cover in four of five games in which they were a 7-plus point dog, including a 45-10 loss in Dallas in Week 12. Do they show up here, for what should be Ron Rivera’s last gams as their coach? Does it matter? … The Cowboys are a weak 3-5 on the road, both SU and ATS, but they are 3-1-0 as away favourites so they generally don’t have trouble when visiting an interior squad … The Commanders have been winners in two of the last three times Dallas has visited … Dallas QB Dak Prescott against the Commanders’ league-worst pass defence, and the Cowboys pass rush against Washington’s shaky offensive line, are two selling features for the backers of the visitors … Always fear the backdoor cover with big spreads, especially in divisional games, but the Commanders are 0-6-1 ATS at home and have lost their last seven games by an average score of 34-18.

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SCORE (O/U 46): Cowboys 34, Commanders 18


LINE: San Francisco by 4

CHEWABLE: While the Niners are locked in as top seed and will rest players, the Rams’ playoff spot is undetermined. If they win, they play next week against the No. 3 seed, likely Detroit. If they lose and Green Bay wins, they play next week against the No. 2 seed, likely Dallas. All teams should want to avoid playing in Dallas, right? So why are the Rams also resting starters, including QB Matt Stafford, who would probably love to come back with an opportunity to haunt the Lions, his former team? … Making his first appearance as a Ram will be Carson Wentz, who hasn’t played since Jan. 1, 2023, when he led the Commanders to a 24-10 loss against Cleveland by throwing for just 143 yards and getting picked off three times … Under centre for the Niners will be Sam Darnold, who will be making his first start since Jan. 8, 2023, when he completed five of 15 pass attempts while throwing two picks as his Panthers defeated the Saints 10-7 … Either team could win, of course, but how can one feel comfortable laying four points, even if it is with the Kyle Shanahan-coached 49ers?

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SCORE (O/U 41): Rams 21, Niners 20


LINE: Philadelphia by 5

CHEWABLE: The Eagles lock in as No. 5 seed if/when the Cowboys beat the Commanders … Philly also has lost four of its last five, with the only win a 33-25 victory in New York against the Giants two weeks ago … The Eagles have won only six games by more than five points and five of them came in their 7-1 start … The Giants are 4-2-1 ATS as a home dog … The Eagles have won the last five meetings and 27 of the last 32 … Tyrod Taylor will again start at QB for New York. Last week against the Rams, he threw for 319 yards and fell just short of leading the team to an upset victory. Over his career, Taylor is 0-3 against the Eagles … I keep expecting Philly to fix itself, and that could happen at MetLife Stadium, but after their loss last week at home to the Cardinals and getting outscored 29-10 in the second half, there’s just no way you can lay points against this division rival.

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SCORE (O/U 42): Eagles 30, Giants 27


LINE: Seattle by 2.5

CHEWABLE: The Seahawks can make the playoffs with a win if the Bears beat the Packers … The Cardinals are coming off a 35-31 victory over the Eagles in which they scored 29 second-half points … Seattle’s rush defence has turned to mush, which makes a props bet on the over with James Conner’s rushing yards (70.5) a smart move … Arizona has allowed 27 or more points in three games in a row … Seattle is 5-2-1 ATS as visitors … The Seahawks likely will be without RB Kenneth Walker, and the downgrade to Zach Charbonnet is significant … Sure, the Cardinals could end Seattle’s season, but 72-year-old Pete Carroll finds a way to win what could be his last regular-season game.

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SCORE (O/U 47.5): Seahawks 30, Cardinals 28


LINE: Las Vegas by 2.5

CHEWABLE: At stake is second place in the AFC West which, along with $3.99, will get you a bag of Lay’s Bar-B-Q chips. While the season ends for both teams Sunday, the Raiders have played well for coach Antonio Pierce, like they want the team to remove the interim tag and give him the job full time or something. Since he took over from Josh McDaniels they are 4-4, and their last two losses have been by three points … The Raiders opened the schedule with a 17-16 win in Denver, and Broncos head coach Sean Payton is 14-4 ATS in same-season revenge games, but I’m still not backing Denver QB Jarrett Stidham as he makes his fourth career start looking for his second win, even if it is with Aidan O’Connell as the opposing QB.

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SCORE (O/U 38): Raiders 17, Broncos 14


LINE: L.A. Chargers by 3.5

CHEWABLE: The Chiefs are locked in as the No. 3 seed, but does it matter if QB Patrick Mahomes plays? The woeful Chargers have dropped four in a row and seven of their last eight, and they are coming off 16-9 loss to Stidham. Unless I missed a release stating Andy Reid is starting at QB and Steve Spagnuolo at rush end, I don’t understand why the Chiefs are not just dogs but dogs by more than a field goal … The Chiefs have won the last four meetings and 16 of the last 19 … After such a topsy-turvy regular season, the Chiefs will end on a positive, even if they play backups most of the game.


SCORE (O/U 35): Chiefs 23, Chargers 17

NFL week 18 picks

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