Here we are, my friends. After a long season, we are in the final week. 256 bets down, 16 to go.
We took a small step back in Week 17, going 7-9 for -2.59 units, but the good news is we are still sitting well into the green heading into the final 16 games. Our season-to-date record is at 134-119-3 for +8.35 units. Barring a complete and total meltdown in the final week of the season, we're going to finish the 2023 edition of the Road to 272 Bets with a profit!
With that being said, avoiding a terrible week shouldn't be our goal. Instead, let's see if we can recoup last week's losses and end the season up double-digit units. That's what we're aiming for! As always, you can find my in-depth record from this season on my Betstamp account here.
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NFL Week 18 Best Bets for Every Game
Steelers vs. Ravens prediction
If there's one piece of advice I could give you when it comes to betting on Week 18 of the NFL season is to not blindly bet on teams that "have to win" and bet against teams who have, in theory, nothing to play for. Those factors are already baked into the lines and in some cases, can be overvalued in one direction.
That's why for a few games this weekend I'll be betting on teams who don't need to win, like the Ravens on Saturday against the Steelers. Having already locked up the No. 1 seed, they're likely to rest some starters for at least a portion of the game, but even with a few backups in, I like them getting four points at home to the Steelers.
Let's remember the Steelers rank just 24th in the NFL in Net Yards per Play this season at -0.4, and despite beating the Ravens in Week 5, they were outgained 5.0 yards per play to 4.4.
The Ravens are just too good for me to lay this many points on a Steelers team on the road against them, even if they do rest a few starters.
Pick: Ravens +4.5 (-110)
Texans vs. Colts prediction
One of the most intriguing games of the weekend is the Saturday night game between the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts. The winner will clinch a playoff spot with a chance of winning the division and the loser will be eliminated. There's not much else you can ask for in a Week 18 showdown.
I think the Texans are the overall better team in this game. They're 11th in Net Yards per Play at +0.2 compared to the Colts at 17th at 0.0 and CJ Stroud didn't miss a beat in his return to the lineup last week.
The two defenses in this game have trended in opposite directions in the second half of the season. Since Week 10, the Texans' defense is 12th in opponent EPA per play and ninth in opponent success rate. The Colts are 19th and 21st in those two categories across that period.
I'll back the Texans in a near pick'em spot in Indianapolis.
Pick: Texans -102
Vikings vs. Lions prediction
One has to assume the Vikings will go with Nick Mullens in Week 18 after benching Jaren Hall at halftime against the Packers in Week 17.
The Lions still have something to play for as a win and a Cowboys loss would give them the No. 2 seed in the conference. Be careful betting on them just for that though as the Vikings are also still alive in the hunt for a wild card spot.
These two teams played just two weeks ago and the Vikings outgained the Lions by a blistering mark of 7.6 yards per play to 5.1 yards per play. They had their way with Detroit's defense outside of the four interceptions thrown by Mullens. If they protect the ball, they run away with the win. Instead, they lost a heartbreaker 30-24.
The Lions have some issues defensively that the Vikings were able to exploit and I'm in no rush to lay six points on them in this weekend's rematch. The Lions' defense is 26th in opponent EPA since week 10.
Pick: Vikings +6 (-110)
Browns vs. Bengals prediction
The Browns have been playing, and thriving, with backups all season, especially offensively, so I won't shy away from betting on them in Week 18 despite having already locked up the No. 5 spot in the AFC Playoffs.
No team has been hotter than the Browns. They have a Net Yards per Play of +2.0 over their last three games, the best mark in the NFL. Now, they get to face a Bengals team that's dead last in that stat (-1.7) over their last three games and 30th in that stat (-0.9) all season.
This is a game between arguably the best defense and the league and the worst. They're first and 31st in opponent success rate in 2023. Give me the points with Cleveland.
Pick: Browns +5 (-110)
Falcons vs. Saints prediction
You can accuse me of being a Falcons homer all you want, but I'm going down with the ship and I'm making them my upset pick of the week. If they win and the Buccaneers lose to the Panthers, they'll be NFC South champions.
Sure, the Falcons can be infuriating to bet on, but if we take our emotions and the "eye test" out of it, there are arguments that could be made they're the better overall team compared to the Saints. They outrank them in Net Yards per Play, +0.2 compared to -0.1, and they beat them in their Week 12 matchup by a score of 24-15. Their defense also outranks the Saints' defense by a few metrics like opponent success rate and opponent yards per play.
Even if you want to make the claim the Saints are the superior team, are they 3.5 points better? I don't think so.
There's value on Atlanta right now when nobody in the world believes in them. I'll take them to win this game outright in New Orleans.
Pick: Falcons +160
Jets vs. Patriots prediction
I've been betting on the Patriots the past few weeks with some success and I'll continue to do so for the exact same reason; I think they're actually better than their record indicates. Despite being 4-12, they're 14th in the NFL in Net Yards per Play at +0.1, the same mark as the Philadelphia Eagles.
A big reason for that is their elite defense which is indisputably the best run defense in the league, keeping teams to gaining just 3.2 yards per carry.
Neither offense is good. In fact, they're both horrific, but it's the Patriots who edge them out in yards per play, EPA per play, and success rate.
I'll back the Patriots as short home favorites in this AFC East matchup.
Pick: Patriots -2.5 (-110)
Buccaneers vs. Panthers prediction
As I wrote about in last week's edition of the NFL Fraud Rankings, I think the Buccaneers are the worst team that's currently sitting in a playoff spot. Yes, all they need to do is beat the worst team in the league to clinch the NFC South, but that doesn't mean I want to lay six points on them on the road in that spot.
The Bucs have a Net Yards per Play of -0.2 heading into this game and almost fell to the Panthers at home back in Week 13, beating them by a score of 21-18.
Believe it or not, the Panthers' defense has been much improved in the second half of the season, ranking 14th in opponent success rate since Week 12. The Bucs' defense ranks 22nd in success rate over that same time frame.
It's an ugly bet, but I'll take the six points with the Panthers at home.
Pick: Panthers +6 (-110)
Jaguars vs. Titans prediction
We're in a similar spot here with the Jaguars and Titans. The Jags just need to win the game to win the AFC South and now they're road favorites against the worst team in their division. Much like the Buccaneers, I also think the Jaguars aren't nearly as good as their record.
Jacksonville is 20th in Net Yards per Play this season at -0.2 and one of its biggest weaknesses has been its red zone offense. The Jaguars score a touchdown on just 51.02% of their red zone trips and now they have to face a Titans team that boasts the best red zone defense in the league, keeping teams out of their end zone on 37.93% of their red zone trips against them.
The Jaguars' defense has been subpar at best in the second half of the season as well, ranking 21st in EPA per Play and 23rd in opponent success rate since Week 10.
I'll take the points with the Titans as they try to play the role of spoiler at home.
Pick: Titans +4.5 (-108)
Chiefs vs. Chargers prediction
The Chiefs are locked into the No. 3 spot in the AFC which means they may rest their players. Most importantly, they may rest Patrick Mahomes. I can't think of a single other player in the NFL who has a bigger impact on their offense than Mahomes. They already struggle at times due to abysmal play by their receiver and I can't imagine how much worse they'll look without the best quarterback in the NFL under center.
There's not a whole lot to love about the Chargers, I'll admit that, but if Mahomes doesn't go for the Chiefs, it could get ugly for Kansas City.
I'll take the Chargers are home in this one.
Pick: Chargers -1.5 (-104)
Seahawks vs. Cardinals prediction
Yes, the Seahawks need to win to have a chance at making the playoffs, but this is a fantastic OVER opportunity. It's a game between two of the worst defenses in the NFL. Yes, that's right, the Seahawks defense is horrific.
These two defenses rank 31st and 32nd in both opponent EPA and opponent success rate since Week 10. Meanwhile, both offenses rank in the top 13 in both of those stats over the same time.
So, we have two good offenses facing off against two terrible defenses in a game that has a total set in the mid-forties. This is an absolute no-brainer and is my best bet of the week. Give me the OVER.
Pick: OVER 47.5 (-110)
Eagles vs. Giants prediction
I know the Eagles are in a funk and failed to cover against the Giants two weeks ago, but I truly think it's time to jump back on them in a game they have to win for any chance of winning the NFC East. In Week 16, they should have blown the Giants out of the water, outgaining them 6.3 yards per play to 4.9 yards per play.
The Giants still rank dead last in the NFL in Net Yards per Play at -1.3 and have had some luck go their way in recent games which led to them covering the spread. I'll bank on their luck running out on Sunday and the Eagles finally getting right before returning to the playoffs.
Pick: Eagles -5.5 (-110)
Rams vs. 49ers prediction
The 49ers have locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the Rams have clinched a wild-card berth, so this game means little for either team this week. The Rams may want to try to make sure they get the No. 6 seed, so if there's one side that has more to play for it's Los Angeles.
At this point, we don't know who will and won't be playing for either team but even if all starts were in, I'd be tempted to take the points with Los Angeles. This latest run of theirs has been for real and they've truly turned into a dark horse Super Bowl contender. They're fifth in the NFL in Net Yards per Play over their last three games at +0.8.
The Rams have also been a great running team, coming in at fourth in EPA per rush, which could be huge against a 49ers team that's in the bottom half of the NFL in most run defense metrics.
I'll back the Rams in San Francisco.
Pick: Rams +4.5 (-105)
Broncos vs. Raiders prediction
In a meaningless game for both teams, I'll back a Raiders squad that has been much more impressive in the second half of the season. They're third in opponent EPA per play since Week 10 and now they get to play a struggling Broncos offense that looked horrific against the Chargers last week, despite managing to squeeze out a 16-9 win.
The Raiders still play like they have a chip on their shoulder and Antonio Pierce wants to do his best to prove he's the coach of the future for this Raiders team.
I'll lay the points on the Raiders at home.
Pick: Raiders -2.5 (-110)
Bears vs. Packers prediction
The two defenses for this team have been complete opposites in the second half of the season and I'm actually shocked the Packers are a full-field goal favorite in this game, despite this being a "win and get in" spot for them.
Since Week 10, the Bears lead the NFL in opponent EPA per Play and opponent success rate, turning into the dominant Bears' defense we've come to expect every year. Meanwhile, the Packers defense has imploded and ranks 25th and 26th in those two respective stats over the same time frame.
The Packers offense has been great down the stretch and Jordan Love looks like he has secured his spot as the QB of the future for the Packers, but the difference in the play between the two defenses in this one is significant enough for me to take the field goal with Chicago.
Pick: Bears +3 (-104)
Cowboys vs. Commanders prediction
The Washington Commanders are horrific and I won't hesitate to bet on the Cowboys to cover a near two touchdown spread against them, especially with the NFC East on the line for Dallas.
Despite some recent hiccups, the Cowboys are still an elite team, ranking fifth in the league in Net Yards per Play at +0.5 while the Commanders are 29th at -0.8. The Cowboys beat up on them in a 45-10 win earlier this season but it wasn't just the box score that was onesided, the Cowboys also outgained them 8.6 yards per play to 5.0.
The Commanders' secondary is 31st in opponent dropback EPA and the Cowboys are just too talented through the air for Washington to hang with them.
I'll lay the points on the Cowboys as massive favorites.
Pick: Cowboys -13.5 (-108)
Bills vs. Dolphins prediction
The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins will serve as the final game of the regular season and the final bet of the Road to 272 Bets is going to be on the UNDER. I know it's not the most exciting bet to place, but I think it's the right one to make.
These two defenses have improved by leaps and bounds in the second half of the season. Dating back to Week 10, the Bills and Dolphins are fourth and ninth in opponent EPA per play and fifth and 10th in opponent success rate.
Early in the season, the defense was the weakness for both of these squads, but they've improved significantly as the season progressed.
With so much on the line for both teams, I expect a calculated game plan for both teams that may just result in a defensive battle.
Pick: UNDER 50 (-110)
Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
You can check out all of Iain's bets here!