Welcome to final week of the NFL’s regular season — also known as the “who the heck is that guy?” slate for fans around the country. The NFL added an extra game to the regular season schedule in 2021, so we have reached Week 18 for the third time.
This move was made so more teams around the league could compete for the playoffs — and that is most certainly the case this season. Through 17 weeks, just nine teams have clinched playoff spots, which means five spots are still up for grabs.
This may be the most unpredictable week of the season, but hey — it’s the last week of a full game slate to get your bets in.
Allow me to help you try and win some cold hard cash courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Here’s a look at our games of the week.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans (+3.5)
I’m going to pick games that mean something — and this one certainly qualifies. The Jaguars have scuffled recently, losing four of their last five games. That has put them squarely on the brink of playoff elimination.
It doesn’t help that their signal-caller Trevor Lawrence is questionable with a shoulder and finger injury. Lawrence sat out last week and watched journeyman fill-in QB C.J. Beathard orchestrate a win over the lousy Carolina Panthers.
You know who else is lousy? The Tennessee Titans. However, they’ve won five of the past eight matchups between these two teams, and Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel would love to play spoiler.
The player to watch in this contest is Titans RB Derrick Henry. He’s in the last year of his contract and could be playing his final game in a Tennessee uniform. The two-time NFL rushing leader will be motivated to put on a show.
I’m taking the underdogs to pull off a stunner.
Pick: Titans +3.5 (and moneyline)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers (+4.5)
Another divisional title is on the line here, because with a victory the Buccaneers would clinch the NFC South. Tampa Bay struggled with the Panthers back in Week 13, defeating them by a score of 21-18. I have a feeling this game will be tight as well.
The key matchup will be the Panthers’ offensive line against the Buccaneers pass-rush. Carolina QB Bryce Young has been sacked a league-high 59 times in 15 starts - ouch.
Buccaneers WR Mike Evans leads the league in touchdown receptions with 13. In his last two games against the Panthers, Evans has caught four touchdowns.
I think this game goes down to the wire, but ultimately the combination of Baker Mayfield and Evans will prevail.
Currently, 84% of bettors are backing the Bucs. However, I’m taking the points.
Pick: Carolina +4.5
Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins (+2.5)
As the great late announcer Keith Jackson once said, “This one is for all the marbles.”
The AFC East crown is on the line in this game, but get this; if Buffalo loses, they could very well miss the playoffs. There is so much riding on this contest.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they enter this game with more bumps and bruises than your kid after a visit to the playground. Miami lost star pass rusher Bradley Chubb to a season-ending ACL injury last weekend and will also likely be without top CB Xavien Howard after he suffered a foot injury in that lopsided loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Not to mention both RB Raheem Mostert and WR Jaylen Waddle are questionable.
Once again, I made a strong case as to why the Bills should be favored - just to pull the rug out from under you.
There’s just something about this Miami team that feels different. Maybe it’s the swagger of head coach Mike McDaniel. It’s probably the dynamic qualities of WR Tyreek Hill, who for my money, is the best wideout in the league.
Currently, 68% of backers are taking the Bills and giving the points. But I see the Dolphins making one more big play and riding the home momentum. Buffalo loses the game and loses their chance at making the playoffs. And you win your bet!
Pick: Dolphins +2.5 (and Moneyline)
What are your thoughts on the team’s picks for Week 18?