For the first time ever, NFL teams will compete in a 17th and final game of the regular season. The 2021-22 NFL season brings a 17-game, 18-week schedule to the table, and the first ever Week 18 is full of matchups with playoff implications.
While the majority of playoff spots themselves were secured by the conclusion of Week 17, two wildcard spots in the AFC and one spot in the NFC are still up for grabs. The Indianapolis Colts can get in simply by beating the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, which would create a win-and-in game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday Night Football. If the Colts lose, the door also opens up for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
The NFC side is a bit simpler: the San Francisco 49ers can secure the conferences final playoff spot with either a win over the Los Angeles Rams or a New Orleans Saints loss. Taysom Hill and the Saints could come full circle since Jameis Winston’s injury and qualify for the postseason with the opposite results: a win over the Atlanta Falcons and a 49ers loss.
In terms of division titles, both the AFC East and NFC West are up for grabs. The Buffalo Bills and the Rams can clinch their respective divisions just by winning, while the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals can still earn their division titles with a win and a loss by the current division leader.
The Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles, in addition to the teams already mentioned, will all be playing with seeding on the line in Week 18. The Green Bay Packers can opt to rest their starters if they please, as they’ve already clinched the NFC’s top seed.
With no shortage of important games, let’s dive right in to my Week 18 picks. To debate or discuss these picks, be sure to join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
Week 1: 6-10
Week 2: 12-4
Week 3: 11-5
Week 4: 12-4
Week 5: 13-3
Week 6: 10-4
Week 7: 9-4
Week 8: 9-6
Week 9: 5-9
Week 10: 9-4-1
Week 11: 12-3
Week 12: 6-9
Week 13: 9-5
Week 14: 12-2
Week 15: 9-7
Week 16: 13-3
Week 17: 12-4
Overall: 164-77-1 (68%)
Week 17 was another strong one, my third week with double digit wins in the last four weeks. It didn’t take anything flashy, though my underdog pick of the Arizona Cardinals over the Dallas Cowboys turned out to be a winner.
In Week 17 I incorrectly predicted:
- Chiefs over Bengals
- Dolphins over Titans
- Colts over Raiders
- Browns over Steelers
See Also: 2021-22 NFL Season Predictions
- AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West
- NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West
- Playoff Predictions and Super Bowl Matchup
- Midseason Predictions and Super Bowl 56 Matchup
- Half Season MVP Watch
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Denver Broncos (7-9)
Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-10.0)
Week 18 kicks off on Saturday afternoon, with the Kansas City Chiefs looking to get back on track after last week’s loss to Joe Burrow and the Bengals. That loss knocked Kansas City out of the driver’s seat for the #1 seed in the AFC, but the Chiefs can still earn the top spot with a win and a loss by the Titans.
Tennessee losing to Houston is a tall order, but Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs should be able to hold up their end of the bargain and defeat Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos at Mile High. With a win, Kansas City would finish 12-5: precisely the record I predicted they would win the AFC West with in my preseason preview.
Chiefs win 31-17, Chiefs win ATS
Dallas Cowboys (11-5) at Philadelpia Eagles (9-7)
Line: Dallas Cowboys (-7.0)
Both NFC East teams should have something to play for on Saturday night, especially since their fellow postseason peers won’t play until Sunday. Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys could jostle anywhere from the second to fourth seed, and Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles could earn the sixth seed as opposed to the seventh seed.
Dallas fell to the Cardinals last week, but should have more success against Philadelphia. The Eagles have a shot, and I expect a close game, but the Cowboys should be able to escape with a victory on Saturday night.
Cowboys win 27-24, Eagles win ATS
Washington Football Team (6-10) at New York Giants (4-12)
Line: Washington Football Team (-7.0)
Washington Football Team played some pretty decent football at times this season, but fell out of the playoff picture with four straight losses, all to the Cowboys and Eagles. Against Jake Fromm and an absolutely reeling New York Giants team, Washington should be able to close out the season with a feel-good win. Washington needed a last-second field goal to beat the Giants in Week 2, but the result won’t be nearly as close this time.
Washington wins 30-13, Washington win ATS
New York Jets (4-12) at Buffalo Bills (10-6)
Line: Buffalo Bills (-16.0)
The New York Jets gave the Buccaneers some real trouble last week, forcing Tom Brady to lead a game-winning drive to secure a victory for Tampa Bay. While I don’t think Zach Wilson and the Jets defense will repeat that performance against the Buffalo Bills, New York might be able to cover the wide spread. Then again, Josh Allen and the Bills need a win to stay on top of the AFC East, so they likely won’t let up even if they’re winning big.
Bills win 33-20, Jets win ATS
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) at Cleveland Browns (7-9)
Line: Cleveland Browns (-6.0)
Even with a small but still existent chance of earning the #1 seed in the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals will opt to rest Joe Burrow after clinching the AFC North last week. With Baker Mayfield out as well for the Cleveland Browns, it will be Brandon Allen vs. Case Keenum, with not too much on the line. If it was just Burrow resting, Cincinnati would still be my pick, but it’s likely the Bengals give some other starters the day off or at least a half off. The Browns season may be lost, but they can close it out with a home win over their in-state rivals.
Browns win 23-16, Browns win ATS
Green Bay Packers (13-3) at Detroit Lions (2-13-1)
Line: Green Bay Packers (-4.0)
With the #1 seed in the NFC already wrapped up, the Green Bay Packers will likely rest Aaron Rodgers and other starters in Week 18 against the Detroit Lions. Jordan Love didn’t play great in a spot start against the Chiefs earlier this season but Tim Boyle and the Lions present a much weaker opponent. Without Green Bay playing to win, this should be a very close game, and while I’d love to give the Lions one more win on the season, I think Love takes home his first career NFL victory.
Packers win 20-17, Lions win ATS
Chicago Bears (6-10) at Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
Line: Minnesota Vikings (-3.5)
The Chicago Bears have won back-to-back games, pushing the 2022 NFL Draft pick that they’ll send to the Giants further into the first round. Chicago is just a game behind the Minnesota Vikings, but that doesn’t paint the full picture of how close Minnesota was to making the postseason, and how far Chicago has been from contention all season. With their season on the line last week, the Vikings didn’t have Kirk Cousins, and while a Week 18 wouldn’t do much for Minnesota, I think they’ll look to end the season on a high note.
Vikings win 27-21, Vikings win ATS
Indianapolis Colts (9-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14)
Line: Indianapolis Colts (-15.5)
Carson Wentz, Jonathan Taylor, and the Indianapolis Colts squandered a chance to lock up a playoff spot last week with a narrow loss to the Raiders, but can still advance to the postseason with a win over Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18. The Jaguars are the worst team in the NFL, so the Colts playoff destiny just comes down to taking care of business on the road.
Colts win 36-16, Colts win ATS
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) at Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Line: Baltimore Ravens (-5.5)
Neither of these two AFC North teams has been formally eliminated from playoff contention, but even the winner of this game will need a lot of help in order to sneak into the playoffs. The Baltimore Ravens couldn’t have had an unluckier five-game losing streak, with four of the five losses (including one to the Steelers) coming by two points or less. While it might not get them in to the postseason, I think Tyler Huntley and the Ravens can flip the script here and win a close game. Despite very similar records, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been outscored by 58 points this season, while Baltimore has only been outscored by a mere two points thanks to their close losses. Ben Roethlisberger got his feel-good win last week at home, but in Week 18, he’ll fall short in Baltimore.
Ravens win 25-22, Ravens win ATS
Tennessee Titans (11-5) at Houston Texans (4-12)
Line: Tennessee Titans (-10.0)
The Tennessee Titans will look to lock up the top seed in the AFC with a win over the Houston Texans in Week 18. Houston has been pesky over the past few weeks, and one of the Texans four wins actually came over the Titans two months ago. This game could be closer than many expect, but even with some recent struggles, I don’t see Tennessee backing into the playoffs. The Titans will beat the Texans, earning a valuable week off before the postseason, presumably enough time to get Derrick Henry back up to game speed.
Titans win 26-17, Texans win ATS
New Orleans Saints (8-8) at Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Line: New Orleans Saints (-4.5)
The 8-8 New Orleans Saints can still make the playoffs with a win and a 49ers loss, so they’ll bring everything they have against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. The last time these two teams met, the Falcons won 27-25 in New Orleans’ first game of the season without Jameis Winston under center. The Saints lost five straight games when that happened, but are 3-1 in their last four games, losing only to the Dolphins with both Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian sidelined due to COVID protocols. New Orleans has figured out how to play with Hill at quarterback, and their defense has been phenomenal, shutting out the Buccaneers three weeks ago. The Saints should be able to outduel the Falcons this time around, and will then leave the rest of their playoff destiny up to fate.
Saints win 23-20, Falcons win ATS
New England Patriots (10-6) at Miami Dolphins (8-8)
Line: New England Patriots (-6.5)
The Miami Dolphins saw their miraculous seven-game winning streak come to a screeching halt last week, falling flat on their faces in a 34-3 loss to the Titans, dashing their playoff dreams. The New England Patriots have appeared vulnerable recently, but not in last week’s huge 50-10 win over the Jaguars. With an outside shot at the AFC East title, and at the very least an opportunity to solidify their status as the conference’s top wildcard, Mac Jones and Bill Belichick should be able to take care of business in Miami.
Patriots win 30-17, Patriots win ATS
San Francisco 49ers (9-7) at Los Angeles Rams (12-4)
Line: Los Angeles Rams (-4.5)
If this NFC West battle comes down to who has the better team right now, Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams should be able to earn their 13th win of the season on Sunday afternoon. But if the outcome comes down to which team wants it more, the San Francisco 49ers do need a victory to ensure themselves a playoff berth (though they could still get in with a loss) while the Rams will make the postseason regardless, though they will determine their seeding and whether or not they win the NFC West over the Cardinals.
The 49ers defeated the Rams 31-10 about seven weeks back, but that was during Los Angeles’ midseason slump. The Rams have rolled to five straight wins, and unless Trey Lance and the 49ers can absolutely overwhelm Los Angeles’ defense, the Rams should be able to secure the NFC West title and a #2 or #3 seed in the playoffs.
Rams win 27-17, Rams win ATS
Seattle Seahawks (6-10) at Arizona Cardinals (11-5)
Line: Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)
Despite last week’s 51-point performance against the Lions, it has largely been a season of injuries and rare mediocrity for Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll, and the Seattle Seahawks. Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals shook off a late-season slump with a win over the Cowboys last week, and with a shot at the NFC West title still on the line, Arizona will be sure to bring their A-game in Week 18. Seattle can try to play spoiler, but I think the Cardinals will ultimately end their season with a 12th victory.
Cardinals win 33-26, Cardinals win ATS
Carolina Panthers (5-11) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)
Line: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-8.0)
While Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers actually struggled to beat the Jets last week, they should have no such problems against Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Tampa Bay beat Carolina 32-6 just two weeks ago, and the Panthers have lost six straight games, putting up 14 points or less in four of them. Even with injuries on both sides of the ball and the infamous Antonio Brown drama, the Buccaneers should have no problem beating the Panthers in Week 18.
Buccaneers win 29-13, Buccaneers win ATS
Sunday Night Football
Sak Sports Blog Game of the Week: Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)
Line: Los Angeles Chargers (-3.0)
Assuming the Colts take care of business against the Jaguars earlier on Sunday, the stakes for this game should be simple: the winner qualifies for the playoffs, while the loser’s season ends at the final whistle on Sunday Night Football. Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers are three-point road favorites against Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders in a matchup of AFC West playoff hopefuls. The Chargers beat the Raiders 28-14 in their first meeting of the season, but that was all the way back in Week 4, evening the two teams records at 3-1 at the time. Both teams have had an up-and-down season since their hot 3-1 starts, both going an even 6-6 over the last 12 weeks to find themselves tied in the standings once again.
The Chargers are favored on the road because they’re simply the better team, both right now and looking at the season as a whole. Herbert’s offense has averaged 33.8 points per game over the past five weeks, with a 3-2 record that included an overtime loss to the Chiefs and a head-scratching 41-29 loss to the Texans. Losses like that one to Houston, or a 34-6 loss to Baltimore earlier in the season, show that the Chargers are still prone to some dud games from time-to-time. But hopefully with the loss to the Texans being so recent, Los Angeles won’t forget to show up in this crucial Week 18 matchup.
Carr and the Raiders enter Sunday night’s bout on a three-game win streak, upsetting the Colts 23-20 last week to keep their playoff dreams alive. However, the Raiders last two wins weren’t particularly impressive: a 17-13 win over Drew Lock and the Broncos, and a 16-14 last-second win over a COVID-ravaged Browns team. Prior to that, the Raiders had lost five of six games, with a lone Thanksgiving night win over the Cowboys in the middle of five ugly losses.
The Chargers have played better over the course of the season, and should be able to outscore the Raiders on Sunday night. If Los Angeles’ defense doesn’t play well, the game could turn in to a shootout, but after going toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs just two weeks ago, I think Herbert and the Chargers should be able to beat Las Vegas with the playoffs on the line.
Chargers win 36-28, Chargers win ATS
- 2021-22 NFL Power Rankings: Post-Week 1, Post-Week 2, Post-Week 3, Post-Week 4, Post-Week 5, Post-Week 6, Post-Week 7, Post-Week 8, Post-Week 9, Post-Week 10, Post-Week 11, Post-Week 12, Post-Week 13, Post-Week 14, Post-Week 15, Post-Week 16, Post-Week 17
- 2021-22 NFL Picks: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 13, Week 14, Week 15, Week 16, Week 17
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: Playoffs and Super Bowl
- NFL 2021: Midseason Predictions and Super Bowl 56 Matchup
- NFL 2021: Half Season MVP Watch
- New York Giants Recaps: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4
- Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills Overcome Patriots 33-21 in Rematch, Grab AFC East Lead
- Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals Take AFC North Lead With Win Over Broncos
- Taysom Hill Throws Four Interceptions in 1st Start of Season
- Carson Wentz, Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts Are In Prime Playoff Position
- Rodgers, Packers Hand Murray, Cardinals First Loss of Season After 7-0 Start
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: NFC West
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: NFC South
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: NFC North
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: NFC East
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: AFC West
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: AFC South
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: AFC North
- 2021-22 NFL Predictions: AFC East
- One-Year Prediction: Top Ten Super Bowl 56 Contenders
- Eli Manning is a Sure-Fire Hall of Famer
- NBA 2021-22: January Power Rankings
- Joe Johnson Returns to NBA, Boston Celtics on 10-Day Contract
- Kyrie Irving Enters COVID Protocols in Return to Brooklyn Nets Roster
- Grizzlies Beat Thunder by NBA Record 73 Points in 152-79 Win
- NBA 2021-22: December Power Rankings
- NBA 2021-22: November Power Rankings
- Top Ten Players Heading Into the 2021-22 NBA Season
- 2021-22 NBA Predictions: Playoffs and NBA Finals
- 2021-22 NBA Predictions: Western Conference
- 2021-22 NBA Predictions: Eastern Conference
- Grading the Lakers-Wizards Russell Westbrook Trade
- Five Trade Destinations for 76ers Guard Ben Simmons
- 2020-21 NBA Standings, Playoffs, NBA Finals Predictions
- Top Ten Players Heading Into the 2020-21 NBA Season
More By Me
- Kanye West Drops Donda Deluxe, with 3 New Songs, Alternate Versions, and New Track Order
- Ariana Grande Fortnite Rift Tour Review
- No Fans Allowed at 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics: Should the Games be Postponed?
- Stumptown, Rose City, “Weird”: My Portland 2020 Day Trip
- Hike: Mount Beacon Fire Tower Out-and-Back
- Hike: Breakneck Ridge Loop
- Review: Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert
Header Photo Credit: Getty Images via Action Network