NFL picks, predictions for Week 18: Texans topple Colts for final AFC playoff spot; Steelers, Seahawks, Saints fall short

Author Avatar

Staff Writer

Joined: Nov 2016

Week 18 is already here, and it’s one of the most difficult weeks to pick. 

Which teams will rest their starters ahead of the postseason? How long will those starters play? Which teams take advantage of the chance to play spoiler against a divisional rival trying to make the postseason? 

That is what makes this week so riveting, and there are several chances to answer those questions. Take, for example, the Saturday matchup between AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Will the Ravens rest their starters or let the Steelers slip in the back-door of the AFC playoffs? Baltimore does have home-field advantage, so it’s an interesting question. 

In the early Sunday window, the Buccaneers can clinch the NFC South with a win against Carolina. The Saints need to beat Atlanta and get a little help. 

In the afternoon window, Green Bay can make the NFC playoffs with first-year starter Jordan Love, but the Bears – who have won three of their last four with Justin Fields – could make a statement heading into 2024 similar to the one the Lions made in that spot last year. 

Then, there is the winner-take-the-AFC East showdown between the Dolphins and Bills on Sunday Night Football. The winner of that game likely will be pegged as the team that can challenge the Ravens in the AFC. 

Like we said, it’s the toughest week to pick. 

Each week, Sporting News picks every NFL matchup by the spread. A look at our track coming off our best week of the season heading into Week 18. Better late than never, right? 

Straight up: 162-96 (12-4 in Week 17) 
ATS: 132-114-10 (12-2-2 in Week 17)
Here are our straight-up picks for Week 18 (Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook):

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

NFL picks, predictions for Week 18

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Saturday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN/ABC

The temptation to knock out an AFC North rival is there. George Pickens has 11 catches for 326 yards – an average of 29.6 yards per catch – with Mason Rudolph the last two games. Pittsburgh won’t disrupt that. The last seven meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less. 

Pick: Steelers 21, Ravens 17 

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-1) 
Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC, ESPN 

Both teams need this to keep their AFC South and AFC playoff hopes alive. The Colts are 4-4 S/U at home this season. Indianapolis beat Houston 31-20 in Week 2, but these are two different teams. Houston is 3-5 S/U on the road. C.J. Stroud and DeMeco Ryans lead the Texans to one more upset. 

Pick: Texans 28, Colts 20 

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-5) 
Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

The Browns will either be the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs, and they have a chance to sit starters in this one – even if it is another chance to antagonize their in-state rival. Cleveland is 4-1 ATS with Joe Flacco as the starter, however. What are the Bengals playing for? The Browns are 6-1 S/U in this rivalry since 2020 – and it’s still a chance for a winning season. 

Pick: Bengals 21, Browns 19

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-4) 
Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox 

The Lions will have a first-round playoff game no matter what – but there is a chance to move up into the No. 2 seed. Minnesota’s quarterback carousel took a turn for the worse against the Packers. Look for Detroit to create some momentum for the postseason – even if the starters are pulled early. The Lions have covered in four of their last five games. 

Pick: Lions 31, Vikings 21 

Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5) at Tennessee Titans 
Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

It’s a pretty straight-forward scenario for the Jaguars. Win, and they take the AFC South. Trevor Lawrence (shoulder) continues to battle late-season injuries, and this is a chance for the Titans to play spoiler at home. Tennessee is 4-3 S/U at home, and all three losses were by three points. This will not be easy for Jacksonville. 

Pick: Jaguars 20, Titans 17 

New York Jets at New England Patriots (-2) 
Sunday, 1 p..m., Fox 

Neither the Jets nor the Patriots had the season they wanted. For the Jets, it’s about looking forward to the return of Aaron Rodgers. For the Patriots, the questions about Bill Belichick’s future continue to swirl. If this is indeed his last game at Gillette Stadium, count on the Patriots to bring their “A” game in an emotional victory. New England has covered the spread in three of their last four games. 

Pick: Patriots 21, Jets 13 

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-4) 
Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS 

The Saints have won three of their last four, but they still need help from the Panthers if they want to win the AFC South. Atlanta has lost three of their last four games, and they have a -6 turnover ratio in that stretch. The Saints have won their last two home games by an average of 20 points per game. 

Pick: Saints 27, Falcons 24

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-5.5) at Carolina Panthers 
Sunday, 1 p.m., Fox 

This spread could jump closer to kickoff, though the Buccaneers are coming off a disappointing loss to the Saints. Tampa Bay beat Carolina 21-18 in the first meeting on Dec. 3. The Panthers simply can’t score, though they are at home for the finale. Tampa Bay had four turnovers in Week 17. They just have to protect the football here. 

Pick: Buccaneers 24, Panthers 16

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-3) 
Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

Green Bay has a win-and-in situation for the second straight season, and Jordan Love continues to impress with 18 TDs, three interceptions and a 104.6 passer rating in the Packers’ last eight games. The Bears are an intriguing spoiler here given their late-season surge, but they are 2-6 S/U on the road. Chicago leads at halftime, but Love authors a second-half comeback in a thriller.  

Pick: Packers 30, Bears 20

Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5) 
Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox 

Antonio Pierce is 4-4 S/U as the Raiders’ interim coach, and he’s made a compelling case for the job. The Broncos were eliminated from the playoff picture and have an awkward offseason approaching with the Russell Wilson situation. Look for the more-motivated team to win here. The Raiders are 7-0 S/U against Denver since moving to Las Vegas. 

Pick: Raiders 22, Broncos 17 

Philadelphia Eagles (-5.5) at New York Giants 
Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

The Eagles are playing the Giants for the second time in three weeks, and Philadelphia is 1-4 S/U and 0-5 ATS the last five weeks. That is an alarming trend for the defending NFC champions, who need a win and a Cowboys’ loss to clinch the NFC East. Look for this to be the get-right game heading into the postseason. 

Pick: Eagles 31, Giants 19 

Seattle Seahawks (-3) at Arizona Cardinals 
Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox 

The Cardinals pulled off an impressive upset against Philadelphia, and Kyler Murray has a 70% completion percentage the last three weeks against the 49ers, Bears and Eagles. Arizona coach Jonathan Gannon can build with that heading into his second season – and a victory against the Seahawks would be a nice topper. The Seahawks are 3-5 S/U on the road this season. 

Pick: Cardinals 28, Seahawks 24

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5) 
Sunday, 4:25 p.m., CBS 

The Chiefs’ playoff seed is secured, so there is a strong chance Patrick Mahomes II and other key players could rest in this one. That is why the Chargers are the betting favorite. That means this could be an Easton Stick vs. Blaine Gabbert production, and it becomes a coin-flip game at that point. 

Pick: Chiefs 24, Chargers 21 

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (-4.5)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox 

Will the 49ers rest their starters in this one? That’s another one to ask knowing Sean McVay is 3-10 in the regular season against Kyle Shanahan in this rivalry. Granted, the Rams did win that NFC championship game and they are playing for more here. That line has ticked up, but we still like the Rams to take care of business in a close one. 

Pick: Rams 26, 49ers 25

Dallas Cowboys (-13.5) at Washington Commanders 
Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Fox 

Dallas can win the NFC North here, and they have a chance to do it on a rival’s home field. The Commanders are 1-4 ATS as an underdog of seven points or more, and one of those was a 45-10 loss to Dallas. Washington will hang around for the first half, but look for the Dak Prescott connection with CeeDee Lamb – who has 1,651 receiving yards and trails Miami’s Tyreek Hill by 56 yards for the league lead – to sparkle. 

Pick: Cowboys 35, Commanders 17 

Buffalo Bills (-3) at Miami Dolphins
Sunday, 8:20 p.m., CBS 

The winner takes the AFC East. This will be a fun game, too, given the Bills are hot and the Dolphins are coming off a reality-check loss against the Ravens. Bradley Chubb (ACL) is a huge loss for the Miami defense, which also might be without Raheem Mostert and Jaylen Waddle. Buffalo has won four straight, including three one-score games. Tough pick here, but there is still value in the home underdog against the spread knowing the Dolphins are 6-2 ATS there. 

Pick: Bills 28, Dolphins 27


0 %

User Score

0 ratings
Rate This