NFL Week 18 brings us a mix of win-and-in games and games that mean nothing beyond deciding where a team will pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. That’s reflected in the spreads and totals posted by bookmakers across the country. That’s why the Falcons are favored against the Buccaneers.
The final week of the regular season kicks off on Saturday afternoon, with the Kansas City Chiefs traveling to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders. Saturday’s primetime game is a win-and-in game for the Jaguars and Titans. The winner claims the AFC South and a home game on Wildcard Weekend. Green Bay can also get to the playoffs with a win against the Lions on Sunday night.
Five of the seven spots in the AFC are clinched, with the AFC South winner and one of New England, Miami, or Pittsburgh claiming the last spot. In the NFC, six spots are clinched, with the last spot going to either Green Bay, Detroit or Seattle.
Regarding betting strategy, the last week of the NFL season always provides plenty of opportunities for bettors to examine the motivation for different teams. One good example this week is that the Chargers will be locked into the No. 5 seed if the Bengals beat the Ravens in the 1 p.m. window. That means the Chargers would have nothing to play for. The No. 5 seed plays the winner of the AFC South title game between the Jags and Titans.
At the time of publication of this article, the NFL has not announced what it will do regarding the Bills vs. Bengals game after a postponement due to Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest. The tiebreakers and seeding scenarios for the AFC will likely be decided by that decision. We tried to incorporate those scenarios into our recaps as best we could. For all scenarios, please see this breakdown from our staff.
NFL Week 18 Betting Trends
- Favorites are 163-86-2 straight up with four pick’ems
- Underdogs are 133-11-7 (54.5%) against the spread
- Unders are 140-112-3 (55.6%)
All odds are from BetMGM and update live. The schedule will be updated when released from the NFL.
Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders (Saturday)
When the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs take the field on Saturday, two division rivals will look to end the regular season on a high note. The Raiders are nearly double-digit underdogs at home.
Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. ET at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. ESPN and ABC will televise the game.
Kansas City’s playoff seeding scenarios remain cloudy with the Bengals vs. Bills postponement earlier this week. If the game had been completed, the Chiefs still would’ve had a chance to earn the No. 1 seed with a win in Las Vegas. Outside of the conference’s top seed race, one thing to keep a tab on is Patrick Mahomes’ performance. At BetMGM, Mahomes is the frontrunner for this season’s Most Valuable Player Award (-750) and could break Peyton Manning’s 2013 NFL record for single-season passing yards (5,477) if he throws for more than 429 yards vs. the Raiders in Week 18.
For Las Vegas, a season-ending win wouldn’t do much but possibly ruin the Chiefs’ bid for the AFC’s top seed. The Raiders were officially eliminated from playoff contention a week ago and could look to move on from quarterback Derek Carr ahead of next season. They hold the No. 7 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft entering Week 18.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (Saturday)
Saturday’s Titans vs. Jaguars game is a de facto AFC South title game, with the winner moving on to the playoffs. The Jaguars would enter the game as the hotter team and more than a touchdown favorite.
Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday night from TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and ABC.
The Titans enter Saturday’s game in a difficult situation. They have lost five games in a row and are now down to third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs with their season on the line. Veteran starter Ryan Tannehill is sidelined due to injury. At the same time, rookie Malik Willis has been ineffective in his first three starts, failing to throw for 100 yards in any of them.
Dobbs received his first NFL start this past Thursday and showed a lot of promise against a very good Dallas Cowboys team. And that was with a preseason-level roster as the Titans sat several starters, including superstar running back Derrick Henry. The return of Henry, and some more help from his wide receivers, who dropped several passes against Dallas, should help him.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, are one of the hottest teams in the league and enter Saturday’s game, having won four games in a row and six of their past eight after a 2-6 start to the season. The biggest driving force behind their success has been the rapid turnaround and development of second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence who has thrown 14 touchdowns to only two interceptions over the past eight games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
The Buccaneers are fresh off clinching the NFC South for the second year in a row. The Falcons have nothing to play for but are favored against a team expected to rest several key players.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. FOX will televise the game.
Tampa Bay is locked in as the fourth seed in the NFC. Its seed can’t be affected by the result of this game.
The Falcons (6-10) enter Week 18 with the seventh pick in the draft but can’t go much higher. A win would put them in a jumble of seven-win teams.
Rookie QB Desmond Ridder was 19-for-26 for 169 yards in a 20-19 win against Arizona last week. That was the highest completion percentage in his three starts. The third-round pick from Cincinnati still has not thrown a touchdown or an interception in his three starts.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
The New England Patriots have a very simple task on Sunday: Win. If they beat a Buffalo Bills team that is still vying for the No. 1 spot in the AFC, they are in the playoffs for the second year in a row under quarterback Mac Jones and will not need any help. Buffalo is favored by more than a touchdown.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET Sunday from Highmark Stadium in Buffalo. The game will be televised on CBS.
While Jones has taken a step back in year two of his career, and the Patriots offense has been one of the most ineffective units in the league this season, they have done enough to stay in the playoff race. But the big story in New England is a defense that has been one of the best in the league at keeping opponents off the scoreboard and has also developed a knack for scoring points.
The Patriots defense has scored seven touchdowns this season, including a pick-six from Kyle Duggar in their big win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Buffalo is still alive for the No. 1-seed in the AFC, depending on how the NFL handles the suspended game between the Bills and Bengals.
The Vikings are playing for playoff position, while the Bears have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the draft. We know which way this game will go, right?
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at Soldier Field in Chicago. FOX will televise the game.
Minnesota could have stayed in the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but a loss to the Packers last week ended those chances. After an 8-1 start, the Vikings are 4-3 in the last seven games, and all three losses have been by more than 10 points.
Still, all the Vikings’ losses have been to teams in the playoff race, and the Bears are far from the playoff race. The Bears enter the finale with a chance to grab the top pick in the draft if they lose and the Texans beat the Colts.
Bears QB Justin Fields will miss the game with what the team is calling a hip strain. Nathan Peterman will start at quarterback. Even with Fields, the Bears gave up 41 points to the Lions last week. The question is whether the Vikings think the difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds is worth playing starters for.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals know they will make the playoffs. They do not know if they will play at home as AFC North division champions to begin them or if they will open on the road as a wild card team. The Bengals are currently favored in Sunday’s matchup. What the NFL decides to do with the Week 16 game between the Bengals and Bills will impact the playoff race.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET Sunday from Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. The game will be televised on CBS. Baltimore beat the Bengals 19-17 in their first matchup this season.
The Ravens have been without starting quarterback Lamar Jackson for the past four weeks due to a knee injury he suffered in their win over the Denver Broncos in early December. The offense has completely fallen apart without him, as Tyler Huntley has not been able to generate much in the passing game. Baltimore has failed to score more than 20 points in six of the past seven games.
Part of that is due to the difference between Jackson and Huntley. But Jackson was under center for a couple of those games prior to his injury. The Ravens also have few options in the passing game outside of tight end Mark Andrews, which greatly limits what they can do.
The Bengals are currently on a seven-game win streak and are 5-1 at home this season. Joe Burrow has thrown for more than 4,200 yards this season and 34 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions. He’s currently the second favorite behind Patrick Mahomes to win the NFL MVP Award.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
The Chargers are happy to be in the playoffs before the final regular season game, while the Broncos are just excited this dreadful season is ending Sunday. Denver is a small favorite at home.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET at Empower Field at Mile-High Stadium in Denver. CBS will televise the game.
Ideally, Los Angeles would like to lock up the No. 5 seed for the AFC playoffs and play the winner of the AFC South in the Wild Card round. But if the Bengals beat the Ravens on Sunday, the Chargers would already have the No. 5 seed before kickoff, making this game meaningless. That’s why Denver is favored despite its 4-12 record.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert showed up on Wednesday’s injury report with a shoulder injury. If he doesn’t play, NFL veteran Chase Daniel is the backup for the Chargers.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Both the Colts and Texans have been out of the playoff race for weeks, but there’s still plenty on the line in this one. It’s all about NFL Draft pick position in this one.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. CBS will televise the game.
The Texans currently hold the No. 1 pick but are only a half-game “ahead” of the Bears in that race. Houston can go no lower than the second pick. A loss ensures Houston gets the No. 1 pick.
The 4-11-1 Colts, which opened the season with a tie against Houston, currently hold the No. 5 pick. They can fall no lower than No. 6 but can climb up to No. 3 if the Colts lose and Arizona and Denver win.
Both teams can’t lose so some top-five picks will be moving around.
After 11 games, the Miami Dolphins looked like a lock for the playoffs and a potential Super Bowl contender. Now they enter Week 18 in a must-win situation against the New York Jets, while also needing some help in the form of a New England Patriots loss to secure a playoff spot. Even worse, they are not favored in Sunday’s game with the Jets as it is a toss-up.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The game will be televised on CBS.
Not only is Miami riding a five-game losing streak into Sunday’s game, but there is also serious doubt about their quarterback situation.
Starter Tua Tagovaiola remains sidelined due to a concussion, and while the Dolphins have not officially ruled him out, he is not expected to play. There is also no timetable for his return to the starting lineup. Even worse, backup Teddy Bridgewater injured his throwing hand in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots and had to leave the game. He is also not a given to start, but he did practice in a limited capacity on Wednesday. That could put the Dolphins’ season in the hands of rookie seventh-round draft pick Skylar Thompson.
Thompson played most of their first meeting this season, which the Jets easily won by a 40-17 margin.
The Jets have nothing to play for in Sunday’s game, having already been eliminated thanks to their loss against the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday. Their once promising season has turned into a bitter disappointment with five consecutive losses, while also losing six of their past seven games due largely to the quarterback issues with Zach Wilson and Mike White. As it stands now, the Jets would own the No. 13 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. A loss could propel them into the top 10 depending on other results around the league this weekend.
Thanks to the NFC South being a weak division this year, the Saints and Panthers were in contention late into this season but are out of it for the season finale. The Saints are favored at home.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. FOX will televise the game.
New Orleans won’t have its first-round pick thanks to a draft-pick swap made last April, so the Saints have little reason to tank the game. The Saints have won three in a row, including a shocking win at Philadelphia last week, and have allowed fewer than 20 points in five straight games.
The Panthers are coming off a season-ending loss at Tampa Bay, where Carolina led by 11 in the fourth quarter. Sam Darnold, Carolina’s third different starting QB this season, racked up 341 yards through the air in that loss.
Philadelphia likely needs to beat its NFC East division rivals on Sunday to claim the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Philadelphia enters as huge, double-digit favorites at home over the Giants.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. CBS will televise the game.
The Eagles could lose and still end up watching from home during the first week of the playoffs, but that would require the red-hot San Francisco 49ers (nine wins in a row) somehow falling at home to the struggling Arizona Cardinals, and the Dallas Cowboys losing to the Washington Commanders.
But going out and winning on Sunday won’t be easy for this Philadelphia team without its star quarterback and MVP candidate, Jalen Hurts, for the past two games. However, Hurts’ could return on Sunday and give the Eagles all they need to clinch the No. 1 seed and head into the postseason on a high note.
After five-straight postseasons missed, the New York Giants are back in the playoffs in Brian Daboll’s first season as head coach. They’re locked into the No. 6 seed without any way of rising or falling in the standings during this Week 18 matchup, so expect many starters and key contributors to be inactive this Sunday as they get some extra rest ahead of the Wild Card round.
The Pittsburgh Steelers still have a chance. After winning six of their past eight games, including each of the past three, they enter Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns still very much in playoff contention. They are a field goal favorite in that game.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET Sunday from Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh. The game will be televised on CBS.
The path for the Steelers is not an easy one at this point. They not only need to beat the Browns in their Week 18 game, they also need the New England Patriots to lose to the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins to lose to the New York Jets. At this point, the Steelers will look back on their narrow early season losses to New England, New York, and Miami with huge regret because if they had managed to win just one of them, they would be facing a win-and-in-situation. But this is the situation they put themselves in, and they have to deal with it. While also hope.
The Steelers’ turnaround over the past eight weeks has been driven by the return of All-Pro linebacker T.J. Watt and some solid progress from rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett and the team’s running game.
In the nine games Watt has played this season, the Steelers are 7-2 and allowed just 17 points per game. In the seven games, he has not played, they are just 1-6 and allowed more than 24 points per game.
As for Pickett and the offense, while their numbers do not jump off the page, he has done a great job eliminating turnovers in the second half of the season (just one interception in his past eight games) while also leading back-to-back game-winning fourth quarter drives. The running game with second-year running back Najee Harris and undrafted rookie Jaylen Warren has also made a huge impact in recent weeks.
Even if they miss the playoffs, a win would still give the Steelers a 9-8 record on the season and allow head coach Mike Tomlin to avoid a losing season for the 16th consecutive season to begin his head coaching career.
The Browns are eliminated from playoff contention and currently own the No. 10 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft.
The Seattle Seahawks will need some help to get into the playoffs, but they must beat the Los Angeles Rams to keep their hopes alive. Seattle is favored by almost a touchdown at home.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET at Lumen Field in Seattle. FOX will televise the game.
The Seahawks playoff hopes are still alive heading into the final week of the regular season. But not only will they need to handle their own business, but Seattle also needs Detroit to go into Lambeau Field and pull off an upset win over the Packers in Week 18. If one of those outcomes doesn’t occur, the Seahawks won’t make the playoffs for a second consecutive year and will shift their focus to the 2023 NFL Draft, where they own Denver’s first-round pick (currently No. 4 overall).
The defending Super Bowl champion Rams won’t be repeating this season. They’re far outside the playoff picture and don’t have the luxury of looking forward to a high first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft since they traded their pick to Detroit to acquire Matthew Stafford.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers still have a shot at the No. 1 seed and bye in the NFC, and they’ll need a win against Arizona to give themselves a shot. The Cardinals will travel to the Bay Area as heavy underdogs ahead of this regular-season finale.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. FOX will televise the game.
The Niners find themselves in second place in the NFC standings with a legitimate chance to finish with the top seed, thanks to Minnesota and Philadelphia losing last weekend. San Francisco would earn a bye with another win and an Eagles loss to the Giants in Week 18. Should things break in the 49ers’ favor, they could end up as the conference’s top seed for the first time since the 2019-20 season when they made a run to the Super Bowl. San Francisco has won nine straight games.
Outside of dealing with an extra-motivated J.J. Watt, who will be playing in his final NFL game on Sunday, the Niners shouldn’t have many issues so long as they can remain healthy. Even if the defense isn’t as dominant as it usually is, San Francisco’s offense is in a groove that’s transferred from Jimmy Garoppolo to Brock Purdy. Deebo Samuel’s status for Week 18 is still unknown, but Arizona will have its hands full trying to contain Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, who are all playing some of their best ball of the season.
Arizona’s season will conclude Sunday. The Cardinals are 4-12, losers of six-straight games and won’t be playing for anything but draft positioning when they meet up with their division rival this weekend.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders
Sunday’s NFC East battle in Maryland will be the season finale for Washington and a potential seed-changing game for Dallas. The Cowboys head to DC as big favorites ahead of this Week 18 matchup.
Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m. ET at FedExField in Landover. FOX will televise the game.
Dallas will be in the playoffs for the second season in a row. The only thing left to learn is which seed the Cowboys will have at the start of the postseason. They’re in the fifth spot but still playing for a potential No. 1 seed. They’ll need to beat Washington to finish atop the standings and have both San Francisco and Philadelphia lose. Whether they get it or not, the Cowboys should be encouraged by how they played throughout this season and confident going into their first playoff game. If the Cowboys stay in the No. 5 seed, they’ll travel to Tampa to take on Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in the Wild Card round.
The Commanders will miss the postseason for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. Their Week 18 game against the Cowboys won’t do much but positively or negatively impact their draft position (current owners of the 14th pick). Washington will start rookie Sam Howell at quarterback. The Commanders took Howell No. 144 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers both looked like afterthoughts in the NFC playoff race midway through the season. Still, they enter Week 18 both having a shot at making the playoffs and both playing like the type of team nobody in the NFC will want to see in a potential first-round matchup. The Packers are a little more than a field goal favorite in a matchup of 8-8 teams.
Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday night from Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The NFL flexed into the Sunday night time slot. It will be broadcast on NBC.
The Packers have the easier and more direct path into the playoffs: All they need to do is win, and they are in. It would cap off a wild second half that has not only seen the Packers win four consecutive games but also get a lot of help to put them in a win-and-in situation.
Aaron Rodgers has played his best football of the season down the stretch while starting to develop chemistry with big-play rookie wide receiver Christian Watson. The Packers’ defense has stepped up and not allowed more than 20 points in any of the past four games.
It is possible the Lions could be eliminated by the time kickoff rolls around as they not only need a win, but they also need the Seattle Seahawks to lose to the Los Angeles Rams in the 4:25 p.m. ET slot.
The Lions are on a 7-2 roll over the past nine games, with the only losses being a close three-point loss to Buffalo and a big slip-up against Carolina two weeks ago.
Quarterback Jared Goff has played some of the best football of his career this season and has only thrown one interception over the past 10 games. He has not been picked off at all in each of the Lions’ past eight games while also throwing 15 touchdowns.
(Photo of Aaron Rodgers: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)