NFL Picks, Predictions Week 18: Can the Chiefs, Titans, or Bengals earn the No. 1 seed?

What are our early picks and predictions for Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season? Will we see things go to script or more surprises?

Making picks and predictions for Week 18 of the NFL season is a tricky thing to navigate. With the NFL playoff picture having more clarity, the motivation of teams makes it tough to know who might fight hard and who might not. Let’s take a look at what to expect in our Week 18 picks and predictions, including breaking down which teams might rest players this week.

NFL Picks and Predictions Week 18 | NFL lines and odds

With the NFL standings and 2022 NFL Draft order taking shape, there is a lot to consider in Week 18. How do the sportsbooks see each team approaching this week? And are there any lines that present outstanding value?

Let’s take a look at the Week 18 picks, predictions, and NFL odds across various sportsbooks as of 7 AM ET on January 3, starting with the games on Saturday.

Kansas City Chiefs (-9) at Denver Broncos

We might find out a lot about the Broncos in this game. It would be easy for them to just wave their hands and accept a loss at the hands of the Chiefs. However, if they come out and fight hard, it will tell us a lot about their feelings about head coach Vic Fangio.

Kansas City’s stumble last week means they have to win this week if they want any chance at the No. 1 seed. They will also want to rebound after their first loss in nine weeks.

The one concern with this game is the Chiefs possibly resting starters if they get up or down big at any point. Kansas City should win, and it should be reasonably comfortable with the Broncos having nothing significant to play for.

Chiefs vs. Broncos Prediction: Chiefs 30, Broncos 17

Dallas Cowboys (-2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles

This could be a weird game with both teams only having seeding to fight for. We could see both sides resting starters in the second half with a view to their crucial playoff games the following week. The Cowboys have had Jalen Hurts’ number in their last two meetings, and Dallas needs to get their offense rolling more so than the Eagles do this week. Cowboys to win reasonably convincingly is my lean.

Cowboys vs. Eagles Prediction: Cowboys 24, Eagles 17

Sunday, Week 18: Free NFL picks and predictions

Let’s break down the action in the first two windows on Sunday. Here are our Week 18 picks, predictions, and NFL odds for Sunday’s games as of 7 AM ET on January 3.

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions – No line

The Packers will face that age-old debate of what to do with their starters in this game. Rest them and everyone criticizes the coach because the team might be rusty with the bye week coming as well. However, if Matt LaFleur plays them and someone gets hurt, the coach will be on the firing line.

The Lions will likely fight with everything they have, and it is hard not to like them covering the spread regardless. A possible scenario is we see the Packers’ starters for a quarter before they hand it over to the backups to take them home. If you have to bet on this game, lean the Lions to cover (depending on the line).

Packers vs. Lions Prediction: Packers 20, Lions 17

Indianapolis Colts (-15.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars look ready for the season to be over and who can blame them? Their tackling looked tired against New England, and this could easily be a Jonathan Taylor appreciation game as he makes a final claim for the MVP award. The Colts should win and win big. The only danger is if they lead big late, they’ll rest starters and the Jaguars score some late points to cover.

Colts vs. Jaguars Prediction: Colts 31, Jaguars 13

Washington Football Team (-6.5) at New York Giants

The Giants appear to be checked out, and we have no idea what we will see from Washington this week. Both teams will be squarely focused on the offseason, and it feels like there is more for the Washington players to play for, especially Taylor Heinicke. The potential script for this game says a Washington win by more than a score in a low-scoring game.

Washington vs. Giants Prediction: Washington 23, Giants 13

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-7.5)

The Vikings will get Kirk Cousins back; the Bears could have Justin Fields back. Both coaches are potentially fighting for their careers, so the team’s motivation could be crucial. The Bears appeared to be playing hard for Matt Nagy last week, but will Minnesota players do the same for Mike Zimmer? This could be a final week upset for the Bears that leads to both coaches packing their bags.

Bears vs. Vikings Prediction: Bears 23, Vikings 21

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-4.5)

These games are always strange. The uncertainty over Lamar Jackson makes it more so.

This feels like an extremely low-scoring game, with both offenses looking completely fried at this point. If the Steelers win in Week 17, both teams will technically still be alive in the playoff race. That will make this fascinating.

However, even if the Steelers lose in Week 17, they will not back down in Week 18. If this is Ben Roethlisberger’s final game, there is no way he wants to go out with a loss to the Ravens — especially if it sends them to the playoffs. The play here is the Steelers to cover in a tight, low-scoring game.

Steelers vs. Ravens Prediction: Steelers 17, Ravens 16

Tennessee Titans (-10.5) at Houston Texans

The Texans have fought valiantly over the past few weeks, and they should be commended. However, it would be a shock if they beat the Titans again this season. Tennessee should be able to cruise to a victory and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. A rested Titans team with the potential return of Derrick Henry is suddenly a scary thought for the rest of the AFC playoff clubs.

Titans vs. Texans Prediction: Titans 27, Texans 13

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (-3)

The line for this game is odd with the Browns as favorites. The concern is either the Bengals resting players or Joe Burrow’s health. We may not know Cincinnati’s intentions until Sunday morning, as the Chiefs’ result Saturday determines what they are playing for Sunday. If they are at full strength, take the Bengals. Nonetheless, if they look set to rest players, the Browns’ defense will be a major problem for an underpowered Bengals offense.

Bengals vs. Browns Prediction: Bengals 27, Browns 20

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-9.5)

The Buccaneers just crushed the Panthers — they should do so again. Tampa Bay is playing for a potential home-field game in the Divisional Round. Tom Brady and his offense have looked out of sync, but they didn’t really break a sweat against the Panthers previously.

Panthers vs. Buccaneers Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Panthers 13

New England Patriots (-6) at Miami Dolphins

The Patriots technically still have the AFC East to play for, and they should go hard in this one. Bill Belichick will not want to bookend his seasons with a loss to a divisional opponent, especially with a former disciple coaching them. Throw in the Alabama QB “rivalry” and Mac Jones potentially looking for revenge on his old teammate — this feels like it could be one-sided. This very much could be the end of Tua Tagovailoa’s career in Miami.

Patriots vs. Dolphins Prediction: Patriots 27, Dolphins 13

New Orleans Saints (-4.5) at Atlanta Falcons

The Saints need to win or their season is over. Not enough has been made of the superb performance the Saints have put in with their injuries and struggles this year. They will certainly not want their season to end because of a loss to the Falcons. Atlanta, meanwhile, still has several things up in the air. They will not lie down for the Saints, and this could be a low-key intriguing game.

Saints vs. Falcons Prediction: Saints 23, Falcons 21

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-17)

The Bills have demonstrated they can shoot themselves in the foot at will this season. This should be a coast to the finish line, but the Jets will not provide an easy out. Robert Saleh and his team gave the Buccaneers all they could handle. Backing the Jets to cover feels like a good move. If Week 18 is to have a twist, this could be the place it comes, but the Bills should handle their business and win the division.

Jets vs. Bills Prediction: Bills 24, Jets 21

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5)

The Seahawks suddenly look like a different team with the pressure off. Meanwhile, the Cardinals continue to be unconvincing in the final few weeks. Arizona needs to win to have a chance at the division, but the Seahawks would love to cause a problem for their NFC West rival. The Seahawks to cover and even spring a surprise feels like the right play here.

Seahawks vs. Cardinals Prediction: Seahawks 28, Cardinals 27

San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-5.5)

The Rams would have likely lost last week if the Ravens had been competent on offense. Matthew Stafford is not convincing anyone, and the 49ers have a great chance here to clinch the final NFC playoff spot. The problem will be what happens at QB. Trey Lance was by no means perfect, and Jimmy Garoppolo will be hampered if he plays. This could be a really close game that decides the NFC playoff picture in the dying moments.

49ers vs. Rams Prediction: Rams 23, 49ers 21

Sunday Night Football: Week 18 picks and predictions

Let’s look at the current odds for the Sunday Night Football game and make our final pick and prediction for Week 18 of the 2021 NFL season.

Los Angeles Chargers (-3) at Las Vegas Raiders

The elimination game of Week 18 could provide all the spills and thrills that the NFL hopes for. Assuming results go to plan earlier in the day, this is a straight knockout. Which version of Justin Herbert and Derek Carr will we see? That’ll determine this game. Neither has been perfect this year, but they are now in a position where a mistake could end their season.

All of the elements will come into play here, but the play of the QBs and the decisions of the coaches will be crucial. Give me the aggression of Herbert and Brandon Staley over the more conservative play of Carr and Rich Bisaccia.

Chargers vs. Raiders Prediction: Chargers 27, Raiders 23

Ben Rolfe is a Senior Managing Editor at Pro Football Network and is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can find him on Twitter @BenRolfePFN