NFL Week 18 Best Bets for Saturday's Games
NFL WEEK 18 BEST BETS FOR SATURDAY'S GAMES - Your crack crew of analysts did it. We made it to the end of the NFL season. This is a week full of a variety of playoff implications (further complicated by the no contest in the MNF game in the wake of a horrifying injury to Damar Hamlin).
For Saturday, we have the feisty Raiders looking to play spoiler for the Chiefs’ No. 1 seed aspirations.
In the night game, the Jaguars are looking to punch a ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and for only the second time since 2007 in a win-and-you’re-in game with the Titans.
Either team wins the division with a win on Saturday night. This is probably the most meaningful and high-stakes game of the weekend (for me personally, and just broadly).
This is it, folks, one more big week of gambling before the card gets whittled down in the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders (+9, o/u 52.5)
Kickoff: Saturday, 4:30 pm EST on ABC/ESPN
There’s always annoying narratives in these last week of the season game, and this is one of the classic ones. One team that is “playing for something” with the Chiefs who will lock up the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win against the Raiders. The Raiders are a team “playing a meaningless game,” because they are out of playoff contention.
These narratives are a little bit more of a public perception than reality, though. The truth is that every game this weekend is featuring division rivals of some sort. Even teams that are knocked out of playoff contention would love nothing more than to trip up a divisional rival in the final week of the season.
The Raiders might even be more motivated than most of these teams that are already out of playoff contention.
They’ve been making strong moves at quarterback by benching Derek Carr (who promptly left town to avoid being a distraction), and Josh McDaniels, aka the panic-meister cooking up his sweaty spaghetti (credit: Succession, Season 3, Ep. 5), is coaching for his life in some sense.
Mark Davis has been clear about the Raiders not having the capital to keep hiring and firing coaches willy-nilly, but this is the NFL and Josh McDaniels has sucked this year while coaching a team that has talent and, formerly, playoff aspirations.
Here’s the reality, Jarrett Stidham looked really good last week against a San Francisco team that ranks first in defensive DVOA. The Raiders managed 500 yards of offense, 365 yards of which came off the arm of Stidham. They took the 49ers to OT and gave them a helluva tough matchup.
The Chiefs D
The Chiefs rank 23rd in defensive DVOA and have struggled to put away some poor teams this season because of it.
So, when I’m looking at this line, it feels way too inflated simply because this game is “meaningful” to the Chiefs. The Raiders are live here and nine points is way too many to lay in this spot against a feisty Raiders squad that found a little juice after switching QBs last week.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-6.5, o/u 40)
Kickoff: Saturday at 8:15 pm EST on ABC/ESPN
Full disclosure: I have a ton of money on a variety of Jags futures this season (to win the SB, to win the AFC South, and to make the playoffs, and #TLaw for MVP).
I also have several other bets on the Titans to miss the playoffs (all the win totals have already gone under the Vegas number, so they don’t matter here). Of the weekend games, this is in the upper-echelon of games that will give me anxiety and likely cause me to stress drink like an absolute monster.
So, how do I go about managing this anxiety?
Well, I’m not typically a huge hedger when it comes to futures. Yeah, it would be awesome to win these bets, but at the end of the day, it’s not really life-changing either way and I hate to sacrifice value just to make some money back on wagers I made months ago.
Music City Must-Win
Honestly, I think the Titans are the right play here. They are rested and got some defensive players back for this week. Oh, did I mention that the engine of their offense, Derrick Henry, is also back? The Titans tend to win games these days in spite of their quarterback play, not because of it.
The Godzilla Wins crew got a live look at Josh Dobbs last week during our annual shareholder’s meeting, and he looked pretty comfortable out there against a tricky Dallas defense.
It’s fair to wonder about motivation for the Cowboys and they were pretty vanilla with the looks they gave Dobbs, but he moved the ball a whole lot better than Malik Willis has this season.
We talk often on the radio show and in these columns about Mike Tomlin as a ‘dog for the Steelers, but Vrabel might be even more terrifying as an underdog. As an underdog of three points or more, the man is 21-9-1 ATS and 19-12 straight up. Those are ridiculous numbers.
This has all the makings of a low-scoring divisional battle where both teams play not to lose, rather than taking risks to try and win. The Titans have been here before in big spots, but the Jaguars have not and I’m worried they might be a little bit tight when this game kicks off.
Take the Experience
I think you have to like the more rested and experienced team here catching almost a touchdown. I also like the under. Primetime unders are 34-19 this season, so a low-scoring battle in primetime with everything on the line is a very reasonable expectation.
There are a lot of folks who talk about correlated results. What that means is that if you think this game is a low-scoring grind, then you have to like the underdog to keep it close. This falls in that category if you feel like parlaying the two together to get a little juicier payout.
I hate it, but I think the Titans could steal one here.