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.
Saturday, Week 18: NFL picks and predictions
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 4 PM ET on January 4, starting with the games on Saturday.
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (+10)
It’s hard to reach the postseason when you have a four-game losing streak in October and a three-game losing streak in December. For the Broncos to have a chance in this one, they need to get more out of Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, who collectively have only 81 rushing yards in their last two contests.
I believe Denver has no choice but to pound the ball on the ground. The Chiefs’ rush defense is not great, and interestingly, they’ve given up the fourth-most receptions and third-most receiving yards to opposing RBs.
The Chiefs need a win to claim the No. 2 seed and a Titans loss to earn the No. 1 seed. Tennessee is playing earlier in the day, meaning Kansas City will know what’s at stake before their opening kickoff.
We should expect their starters to play. That said, we might see a little more Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle, and a little less Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The same goes for the very capable Darrel Williams over the playoff-necessary Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Chiefs vs. Broncos Prediction: Chiefs 26, Broncos 17
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (+7)
Will Dallas play all their starters? They currently have the No. 4 seed, and the odds of moving up are slim. They just lost Michael Gallup. What is the benefit of risking more injuries?
Even if they win, they’d need the Rams and Cardinals to lose to move up to No. 3. Additionally, they’d need a Bucs defeat to snag the second seed. Realistically, I’m expecting Dallas to play their starters for 1-2 quarters.
Meanwhile, the Eagles will be a No. 6 or No. 7 seed facing the Bucs, Rams, Cowboys, or Cardinals on the road. Pick your poison, right? There’s no optimal situation, win or lose. Perhaps Jalen Hurts and Co. make a good show of it to keep up their confidence heading into the postseason. But let’s not fool ourselves: Gardner Minshew probably will throw for more yards than Hurts.
Cowboys vs. Eagles Prediction: Cowboys 24, Eagles 20
Sunday, Week 18: 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 4 PM ET on January 4.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (+2.5)
The Packers have nothing to play for. I’m expecting Jordan Love and Patrick Taylor to carry this team. And by “carry,” I mean “play for.” Taylor is the more intriguing of the two, and I’ve been pushing him as a Week 18 flyer.
The Lions, of course, also have nothing to play for, but for the opposite reason. I’d fire up all the usual guys like Amon-Ra St. Brown and . . . well, not sure who else. D’Andre Swift’s usage will be interesting, and Jamaal Williams’ TD dependency is uninspiring.
Packers vs. Lions Prediction: Lions 20, Packers 13
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (+15.5)
The Colts haven’t won in Jacksonville since 2014, but that streak should end on Sunday. Win and they’re into the playoffs. Lose and they still have a decent shot of getting in. But no doubt they’ll go all out for as long as needed to secure the W. Start Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr., as usual. Give Carson Wentz a look as a top-16 QB.
For Jacksonville, there’s nowhere to go but up. I think they’ll put up 17+ points, even if most of those points come in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. No one is a semi-safe fantasy starter. Laquon Treadwell shockingly remains their best hope.
Colts vs. Jaguars Prediction: Colts 26, Jaguars 17
Washington Football Team at New York Giants (+6.5)
I’m surprised New York is the underdog in this one. Not because their offense is anything but dysfunctional, but because their underrated defense should be able to go toe-to-toe with Washington’s underperforming offense.
Devontae Booker could see more run because the Giants would be foolish to risk yet another major injury to Saquon Barkley in a meaningless final game. Booker is one of my favorite bargain-basement waiver adds.
For Washington, some combination of Antonio Gibson and/or Jaret Patterson will lead this backfield Sunday. Gibson has the higher upside, as we’d expect. Beyond that, I can’t get excited about any WFT receiver in fantasy.
Washington vs. Giants Prediction: Giants 20, Washington 14
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-3)
Minnesota never had a chance this past Sunday night. They should be able to finish strong in Week 18. One of the league’s most top-heavy offenses should get plenty out of their core unit, including Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson. Kirk Cousins and K.J. Osborn are worthwhile streamers.
For the Bears, David Montgomery should continue to get his points, while Cole Kmet remains one of the least-appreciated NFL tight ends. I believe he’ll be a top-12 TE next season, courtesy of a few touchdowns (he’s one of only two top-26 fantasy TEs not to score this year).
Bears vs. Vikings Prediction: Vikings 29, Bears 17
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-5.5)
It was nice for Ben Roethlisberger to win what might be his final home game. But the good feelings end there. Roethlisberger threw for a career-low 2.7 yards per pass attempt in Week 17 and probably won’t do much better, even against Baltimore’s porous pass defense. Najee Harris will also be slowed by the Ravens’ usually stout run D; I don’t think he’ll exceed 13 fantasy points.
For Baltimore, whether it’s Lamar Jackson or Tyler Huntley starting at Q, they need to be viewed as must-starts for fantasy. All the usual Ravens receivers should net double-digit points, but their backfield remains a TD-dependent crapshoot.
Steelers vs. Ravens Prediction: Ravens 27, Steelers 13
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (+10.5)
Despite the buzz of Derrick Henry’s (possible) impending return, I like Davis Mills and Brandin Cooks once again carrying this offense, particularly against a sub-standard Tennessee pass defense. But beware their run defense — the revitalized Rex Burkhead will hit a wall.
The Titans’ D’Onta Foreman and A.J. Brown remain must-starts. If Henry somehow suits up, he might get a few touches to help re-acclimate to game action. Still, I wouldn’t expect more than 5 fantasy points.
It’s hard to trust anyone else. Ryan Tannehill has taken a step back, to put it mildly. I like Houston keeping this one close.
Titans vs. Texans Prediction: Titans 22, Texans 14