NFL picks, predictions against the spread Week 18: Bills sweep Dolphins for AFC East; Cowboys, Packers take care of playoff business

Week 17 was pretty darn good for Sporting News’ NFL game picks and predictions against the spread to build on a strong 2023 regular season overall. But in the expanded schedule, there’s still one more week to get more things right than wrong.

Week 18 is a lot more difficult to predict given many teams, playoff-bound or otherwise, can be more judicious on which players they put on the field. But then again, pride and remaining playoff-push motivation can be huge factors in a lot of games.

Putting all that together, here’s a complete betting breakdown of a full, division-matchup only slate before the stakes are raised in the weeks ahead of Super Bowl 58

(Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook)

POWER RANKINGS: Cowboys, Browns, Steelers climb as Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks drop for Week 18

NFL picks against the spread for Week 18


  • AFC Game of the Week: Bills (-3, 50 o/u) at Dolphins

Sunday 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

The Bills have won four consecutive games to surge into playoff position after a disappointing .500 start through midseason. But they haven’t clinched anything thanks to three teams (Colts, Texans, Steelers) staying on their heels at 9-7. They now face a high-stakes opportunity to sweep the Dolphins and take their fourth consecutive AFC East title.

Buffalo won’t pass it up, as it has the overall offensive momentum with James Cook boosting Josh Allen and their defensive making big plays against a rival reeling because of injuries. Tua Tagovailoa will remain shellshocked from the Ravens rout.

Pick: Bills win 24-20 and cover the spread.


  • NFC Game of the Week: Cowboys (-13.5, 48 o/u) at Commanders

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

Dallas is in control of winning the NFC East just when it looked like it would need to settle for opening the playoffs on the road again as a top wild card. All it needs to do is win at woeful Washington, but you can bet in this classic matchup of arch-rivals, the Commanders would like nothing more than to play spoilers.

The Cowboys aren’t a great road team and will keep the hosts in it with limited rushing success and giving up some flashes in the passing game. Unfortunately, the Commanders can’t complete the upset because they can’t cover CeeDee Lamb.

Pick: Cowboys win 27-20 but fail to cover the spread.


  • Upset of the Week: Falcons (+3.5, 41.5 o/u) over Saints

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Falcons are a fickle team. They seem to put together, smart and sharp offensively in one week and they can totally lose all of that mojo the very next week. Arthur Smith is an inconsistent offensive coach who doesn’t know his team’s identity.

The Saints are hot with Derek Carr playing well, but they also can be a bit of a wild ride under Dennis Allen defensively. Nothing in the somehow “worse than 2022” NFC South has made much sense and this won’t, either, as Atlanta digs deep on the road to make sure dirty rival New Orleans doesn’t go to the playoffs.

Pick: Falcons win 23-20.


  • Lock of the Week: Buccaneers (-5.5, 37.5 o/u) over Panthers

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Buccaneers get a re-do to lock up the NFC South on the road after not looking ready to play the Saints at home with the division title on the line the first time in Week 17. Baker Mayfield’s big comeback season as Tampa Bay’s starting QB won’t mean much unless he can redeem the offense here against a Carolina team that was going through the motions praying for better overall vibes in the new year. David Tepper poured his anger on the football gods and they won’t reward him with the desired closing result as Mayfield gets his sweet revenge.

Pick: Buccaneers win 27-10 and cover the spread.


  • Steelers (-3.5, 38 o/u) at Ravens

Saturday 4:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN

The Ravens could think about exacting some revenge here by trying to avoid a season sweep against their bitter AFC North rivals. But the wiser choice will be sitting soon-to-be two-time MVP Lamar Jackson and a lot of key banged-up players to be healthiest for the divisional playoffs. Rest is important and John Harbaugh will trust his group that it won’t lead to rust. Mason Rudolph has provided Pittsburgh with a key holiday spark to wake up dormant parts of the passing game while leaning well on a better rushing attack. Mike Tomlin’s latest winning season at 10-7 gives the Steelers a real shot at a playoff return.

Pick: Steelers win 20-17 but fail to cover the spread.


  • Texans at Colts (-1, 47 o/u)

Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN

The Texans have C.J. Stroud back at QB to fire up their passing game again and also will be able to run well in this matchup. Gardner Minshew has been a game long-term backup fill-in all season, but he tends to be on a roller coaster with his efficiency and it’s due to go down vs. DeMeco Ryans’ scheming defense, which can start well by containing Jonathan Taylor.

Pick: Texans win 23-20.


  • Browns at Bengals (-4.5, 39.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Browns are set up to start the playoffs as the top wild-card team ahead of the Ravens with a date looming against beatable AFC South champions, given they defeated the Jaguars, Texans and Colts already each once this season. They could do a little tuning up with Joe Flacco and the offense, but you can bet they won’t risk key defensive talent. Jake Browning the Bengals are playing with plenty of pride and will work to make sidelined Joe Burrow proud one last time in a lost season.

Pick: Bengals win 27-20 and cover the spread.


  • Vikings at Lions (-6, 46.5 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The Vikings are much like the Bengals of the AFC. They tried to keep it together without their difference-making reliable QB and they just did it with a revolving door of quarterbacks vs. one young backup. But they simply couldn’t unlock the passing game the same way and the defense broke down in trying to play good complementary football. The Lions still have an outside shot at the No. 2 seed to avoid old friend Matthew Stafford and the Rams and you better believe Dan Campbell will make them finish strong to be playoff-ready.

Pick: Lions win 23-14 and cover the spread.

Dan Campbell, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jared Goff

  • Jaguars (-3.5, 40 o/u) at Titans

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, CBS

The Jaguars’ defense and running game saved them at the right time in a great smash spot against the Panthers. That bodes well for them to come together as a dangerous complete AFC South-winning playoff team for a second straight season with the probable gritty return of Trevor Lawrence. The Titans are feisty under Mike Vrabel, but there’s no longer enough there to compete as hard as they would like.

Pick: Jaguars win 23-13 and cover the spread.


  • Jets at Patriots (-2. 33 o/u)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Bill Belichick wouldn’t lose in his potential final game as the Patriots’ head coach, would he? He can’t go out by falling to the Jets at home. New York’s duct tape of an offense without Aaron Rodgers has only a little glue left and the defense seems worn down from the consistent winning burden. The Patriots meanwhile are doing their best to support Bailey Zappe at QB the best they can in a very tough short-term solution.

Pick: Patriots win 23-10 and cover the spread.


  • Bears at Packers (-3, 44 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

Justin Fields has given Chicago plenty to fhink about with the future at QB as it sits on the top overall pick in the draft and another a top-10 selection. The smarter thing now seems to use that capital to get him more help as the defense has responded well to Matt Eberflus of late. The Bears will be dangerous during the 2024 season, but now Jordan Love and the Packers’ offense has the edge back and the defense also had a big game at the right time. The Packers end the season like they began it, only in Lambeau Field.

Pick: Packers win 27-20 and cover the spread.


  • Broncos at Raiders (-2.5, 38 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Broncos didn’t look great with Jarrett Stidham offensively instead of Russell Wilson and Sean Payton won’t win a second straight game against an interim coach in his division. The Raiders have a lot more motrivation in trying one more time to get Antonio Pierce their full-time gig. Maxx Grosby and the defense also will know how to rip into Stidham, given he was a Raiders backup last season. The Raiders’ offense also keeps responding well around rookie Aidan O’Connell in what could be his last start for the team.

Pick: Raiders win 20-13 and cover the spread.

Antonio Pierce

  • Eagles (-5.5, 45.5 o/u) at Giants

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Eagles will likely need to start their NFC championship defense on the road unless the Cowboys get shocked straight up by the Commanders. Without the top seed, they need a get-well offensive game but their season-long defensive issues won’t suddenly disappear against the high-effort, savvy Giants. Jalen Hurts plays more like himself to get prepped for wild-card efficiency.

Pick: Eagles win 24-20 but fail to cover the spread.


  • Seahawks (-3, 47.5 o/u) at Cardinals 

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The Seahawks stubbed their toes with bad run defense against the Steelers and couldn’t find their passing offense until too late with Geno Smith. The Seahawks can go back to running well and protecting their defense, which can avoid some big pass plays vs. a more compressed attack around Kyler Murray.

Pick: Seahawks win 33-27 and cover the spread.


  • Chiefs at Chargers (-1, 35.5 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

The Chiefs’ calling card all season has been their loaded pressure and coverage pass defense. Even with Patrick Mahomes not seeing much work here, that other side of the ball won’t be slumping at all against a Chargers’ offense that simply can’t do much anymore with too many injuries.

Pick: Chiefs win 17-13.


  • Rams at 49ers (-3.5, 42.5 o/u)

Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox

The playoff-bound Rams will not care much about winning this game based on Sean McVay always being careful with the health of his key players in meaningless matchups. The No. 1 seed 49ers also don’t have much motivation here but they are at home with more key backup depth to pad their NFC West-winning total vs. archrivals.

Pick: 49ers win 23-20 but fail to cover the spread.

Stats of the Week

Week 17 straight up: 13-3

Week 17 against the spread: 9-6

Season straight up: 171-85

Season against the spread: 132-118-1

Source : ESPN.com

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