As remarkable as it might sound, we’ve reached the end of the road of the 2023 regular season. Week 18 is upon us and when we reconvene for my picks column next week, most of the league will be home starting up their offseason plans. I’ve rounded out the year on a rather high note, owning a 20-12 ATS mark over the last two weeks and I’ll look to keep that going as we wrap up the regular season.
Week 18 is often a bit tricky given that the motivations for teams are askew. Some will elect to rest players with playoff positions already locked up, while others will be a full go to further secure their spot for a Lombardi Trophy chase. This week, I’m targeting what could be Bill Belichick’s final game with the Patriots and a key AFC South showdown between the Texans and Colts. As always, we’ll kick things off with my five locks of the week.
Locks of the Week ATS: 42-43-1
All NFL odds via SportsLine consensus odds.
Texans at Colts
- Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN, fubo)
This is essentially a playoff game for the Colts and Texans. The winner punches their ticket to the playoffs and sets themselves up with the possibility of winning the AFC South if the Jaguars lose to the Titans on Sunday. They are relatively evenly matched, but C.J. Stroud is the X-factor. He gives Houston the clear advantage at quarterback over Gardner Minshew and was solid in his return from his concussion last week against Tennessee. With the rust dusted off of him for this matchup against the Colts, he should find success against a defense that he threw for 384 yards against back in Week 2. The Texans are also 7-0 SU and ATS in their last seven divisional road games.
Projected score: Texans 28, Colts 24
The pick: Texans +1
Jets at Patriots
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX, fubo)
This could very well be the last game Bill Belichick coaches for the New England Patriots and it’s hard to imagine that the players aren’t aware of that possibility either. With that in mind, I can’t fathom this Patriots team laying over in a game that has historical significance even if they are eliminated from playoff contention. New England has won 15 straight games against the Jets and has won 12 straight at home. The Jets offense continues to look lost and is last in the league on third down and in the red zone, so there is no real threat of this unit raining on Belichick’s parade. New England has also been solid against the number over the last month, owning a 3-0-1 ATS record after starting the year 2-10 ATS.
Projected score: Patriots 20, Jets 17
The picks: Patriots -2.5
Buccaneers at Panthers
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX, fubo)
The Buccaneers need to win this game to claim the NFC South, so they have plenty of motivation. As for the Panthers, they could be checked out as they own the worst record in the league and are fresh off a shutout loss to the C.J. Beathard-led Jaguars. Even if Carolina gives the Bucs their best punch, the talent isn’t there to really make much of an impact. And if history has any say in this contest, it could be a big day for Mike Evans. The Bucs wideout has routinely dominated the Panthers, registering 54 catches for 831 yards and eight touchdowns over his last seven games against the division rival. Tampa Bay is also 7-1 ATS on the road this season, which is the second-best in the NFL.
Projected score: Buccaneers 27, Panthers 17
The picks: Buccaneers -5.5
If you want a more analytical approach to your NFL picks, then I highly suggest that you check out the SportsLine Projection Model, which has been on fire this year. Check it out if you want to know which side to bet for every game in Week 18.
Bears at Packers
- Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)
All of the pressure is on Green Bay and I don’t think they’ll shine under the spotlight. The Packers can clinch a playoff spot with a win while the Bears are already eliminated from playoff contention, and I expect Chicago to treat this like their Super Bowl. If they can wrap up the season with a win and take their division rival Packers into the offseason with them, that’ll end the year on a high note. The Bears are allowing just 15.2 points per game since Week 12, which is the best mark in the NFL over that stretch. They also lead the league in takeaways since Week 12 as well. This is going to be a tightly contested game between two bitter rivals, so I’ll gladly take the field goal and even look for the Bears to play spoiler. Since Justin Fields returned from his injury in Week 11, Chicago is 5-1 ATS.
Projected score: Bears 24, Packers 21
The picks: Bears +3
Cowboys at Commanders
- Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX, fubo)
The Cowboys are far and away the better team and need this game to secure the NFC East. Translation: there’s going to be no letup from Mike McCarthy’s team. They’ll travel to FedEx Field, which has been a house of horrors for the Commanders so far this season. They have yet to record an ATS win at home, owning a 0-6-1 ATS record. They also have just a single ATS win against the division this year. Dak Prescott has also dominated against Washington throughout his career. The Dallas QB is 10-2 SU, completes 65% of his passes, averages 7.7 yards per attempt, and has 23 touchdowns to just four picks. This shouldn’t be close against a secondary that is allowing 7.8 yards per pass attempt at home this season, the worst in the NFL.
Projected score: Cowboys 33, Commanders 17
The picks: Cowboys -13
Rest of the bunch
Steelers at Ravens
Projected score: Steelers 26, Ravens 21
The picks: Steelers -4
Falcons at Saints
Projected score: Saints 24, Falcons 20
The picks: Saints -3.5
Browns at Bengals
Projected score: Bengals 23, Browns 17
The picks: Bengals -5
Jaguars at Titans
Projected score: Jaguars 24, Titans 17
The picks: Jaguars -5
Vikings at Lions
Projected score: Lions 27, Vikings 20
The picks: Lions -5.5
Broncos at Raiders
Projected score: Raiders 23, Broncos 17
The picks: Raiders -2.5
Chiefs at Chargers
Projected score: Chiefs 23, Chargers 20
The picks: Chiefs +2
Rams at 49ers
Projected score: Rams 24, 49ers 23
The picks: Rams +3.5
Eagles at Giants
Projected score: Eagles 23, Giants 20
The picks: Giants +5
Seahawks at Cardinals
Projected score: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 21
The picks: Seahawks -3
Bills at Dolphins
Projected score: Bills 30, Dolphins 24
The picks: BIlls -3