During the NFL season, Stadium sports betting analyst Nate Jacobson will break down every single point spread using lines as of Thursday morning. Here are his thoughts on the Week 18 slate.
Note: Nate will discuss all of his college football and NFL bets on the Sharp Lessons podcast that drops every Tuesday and Thursday. Subscribe on Spotify and Apple for episodes and follow Stadium Bets on Twitter for more sports betting content.
Games That Matter for Both Teams
Titans at Jaguars (-6.5): This is the AFC South title game, and the winner will be the No. 4 seed and host a playoff game. If the Jaguars lose this game, they would earn a wild card spot if the Patriots, Dolphins and Steelers all lost on Sunday.
This game got flexed to Saturday night, which gives the Titans a rest advantage since they played on Thursday in Week 17 and the Jaguars played this past Sunday in Houston. Josh Dobbs is going to get his second-straight start for Tennessee and the Titans have taken some early money this week from +7.
The Jaguars have been one of the hottest teams in the NFL, so I get why they are this big of a favorite against a third-string quarterback. But the Titans have thrived in the underdog role under Mike Vrabel and they were able to rest players last week, including RB Derrick Henry. I won’t have a bet on this game.
Patriots at Bills (-7): The Patriots would make the playoffs as the No. 7 seed if they won this game. There’s uncertainty about the Bills’ playoff path because their Monday night game was suspended against the Bengals after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered life-threatening cardiac arrest on the field. Days after that incredibly scary situation, the team announced some much-needed good news, revealing that Hamlin is showing “remarkable improvement” and “making steady progress.”
Ravens at Bengals (-7): Just like the Bills, there is uncertainty regarding the Bengals’ playoff scenarios in terms of seeding, but a win for Cincinnati in this game would clinch the AFC North. On the Ravens side, Lamar Jackson has yet to practice so I think we can assume it’ll be another Tyler Huntley start. I have nothing to add until the NFL announces its final plans for the Bills-Bengals postponement.
Lions at Packers (-4.5): This game matters for both teams right now, but that might not be the case by kickoff on Sunday night. The matchup will definitely matter for the Packers, who are a win away from making the playoffs after a 4-8 start. While the Lions are still alive for a playoff spot, they need the Seahawks to lose to the Rams in the late afternoon and then pull off a win at Lambeau Field to make the postseason.
If the Seahawks win as nearly a touchdown favorite, then I can see this line going up in the Packers direction toward -6 because the Lions would no longer have a chance to make the playoffs. If you think Detroit will still play hard to knock a division rival out of the playoffs, then you likely will be able to get a better number on the Lions right before the game starts. I would expect a Dan Campbell team to treat this game like their Super Bowl, but you never know if players will be a little less motivated in that scenario.
If the Seahawks lose, then the winner of this matchup goes to the playoffs, and I would expect the Lions to take some money and drive this point spread down to around -3.5. Of course, this all could’ve been avoided if the NFL scheduled the two matchups simultaneously, but I digress.
Games That Matter for One Team
Chiefs (-9.5) at Raiders: This game was chosen to be the first game of the week on Saturday afternoon. The uncertainty surrounding the postponement of Week 17’s Bills-Bengals game makes this matchup tough to preview due to potential seeding scenarios. There have been line moves in both directions this week, as the Chiefs were bet down to -7.5 on Tuesday before rising to -9.5 on Wednesday.
Jets (-1) at Dolphins: The Dolphins are in the midst of a five-game losing streak and likely down to third-string QB Skylar Thompson. Miami needs to win this game and have New England lose in Buffalo to make the postseason. The Jets were eliminated from playoff contention last week and are on a five-game losing streak of their own.
The line for this game was as high as Dolphins -4 on Sunday after the Week 17 results. It got bet down on Monday with knowledge that Tua Tagovailoa was unlikely to play and Teddy Bridgewater had a broken finger. Now that the Jets are a favorite, I have don’t have interest in betting this game, but I’d expect the Jets to play hard to knock out a divisional opponent from playoff contention — but I can also see a letdown after a deflating stretch for New York.
Browns at Steelers (-2.5): The Steelers can make the postseason with a win and losses from the Patriots and Dolphins. All three of those teams will be playing at the same time, so the Steelers will be fully focused on winning.
However, I like the Browns here, which is why they were the first bet I made this week at +3 (-120). Not much separates the Steelers and Browns, so getting a field goal was attractive to me. The point spread was inflated with the Steelers being in a must-win game against a team that can’t make the playoffs. But the Browns showed last week that they’re still playing hard and want to get Deshaun Watson live-game reps to prepare him for 2023.
The Steelers are coming off back-to-back comeback wins on national TV, needing Kenny Pickett to lead dramatic touchdown drives in both victories. What’s lost in that noise is those were the only two touchdowns Pittsburgh has had during that stretch. While the Steelers have had a nice run in the second half of the season, they are overvalued in this spot.
Vikings (-7.5) at Bears: The Vikings are currently the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture. They need to win this game and have the 49ers lose as huge favorites to move up to the No. 2 seed. The 49ers kickoff after the Vikings, so Minnesota will not have knowledge of San Francisco’s result, which should lead to Minnesota playing to win the game while also having an eye on next week’s health for a home playoff game.
The line has climbed all week with speculation the Bears were going to sit players, including QB Justin Fields. On Wednesday, Fields was ruled out and Nathan Peterman was named starter for this game, which sent this number to over a touchdown. The Bears organization will want the team to lose this game to at least secure the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft. They could receive the top pick with a loss and a Texans win. At this point spread, I have no interest in betting this game.
Rams at Seahawks (-6): As mentioned above, the Seahawks will play before the Sunday night showdown between the Lions and Packers. Seattle needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs — but then they need a Lions team with no chance at making the playoffs to beat a Packers team that just needs to win to get in.
This is one of those games where the team in a must-win situation has the number inflated toward them because they are playing an opponent that’s already been eliminated. However, I believe the Rams will give a strong effort in this game to spoil the season for a division rival. It’s also important to note that the Rams don’t have their first-round pick, so there’s no incentive for LA to lose this game. I will have a bet on the Rams in this game and wouldn’t be surprised if they won outright.
Giants at Eagles (-14): The look-ahead line before Week 17 was Eagles -1.5, but that was before Philly lost as home favorites to the Saints and the Giants clinched a playoff spot. Because the Eagles lost, they still haven’t clinched the NFC East or the coveted No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. As for the Giants, they clinched a playoff spot and are locked into the No. 6 seed. Those results caused a massive adjustment in the odds, and it’s completely justified.
Giants coach Brian Daboll has said he won’t rest starters, but I would expect players to be pulled as the game goes on. Needing a win, the Eagles might get QB Jalen Hurts back after he missed the last two games. I’m going to pass betting here at such an inflated number.
Cardinals at 49ers (-14): The 49ers are currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. If the Vikings win earlier in the day and the 49ers lose, then they will be the No. 3 seed. The 49ers would need to win and have the Eagles lose to get the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. This spread is on line with my numbers, so I’m not interested in betting this game before kickoff.
Chargers at Broncos (-2.5): This game currently matters for the Chargers, but that could change depending on what happens to the Ravens early on Sunday. The Chargers hold the tiebreaker over the Ravens for the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs, and a Ravens loss to the Bengals would lock the Chargers into the No. 5 seed. Clinching the No. 5 seed in the AFC is important because you would avoid the Chiefs/Bills/Bengals trio in the first round and play the AFC South winner instead.
On Wednesday, the kickoff time between the Ravens and Bengals was confirmed for 1:00 pm ET. Soon after, there was a flip in the favorite for this game, moving from Chargers -3 to Broncos -2.5 due to the seeding factors in play. The Bengals are likely to beat the Ravens based on the odds, so the Chargers would then know if they could rest their starters.
I initially had interest in betting on the Broncos as an underdog in this game because they played well in their first game after Nathaniel Hackett was fired. But now that Denver is the favorite, I will try to wait until the Ravens-Bengals game is decided before making a decision.
Cowboys (-7) at Commanders: The Cowboys are still alive to win the NFC East — but they would need to win this game and have the Eagles lose as 14-point favorites. Dallas could also secure the No. 1 seed if they win the division and the 49ers lose as a two-touchdown favorite. While both scenarios seem unlikely, the Cowboys do have something to play for. The Commanders were officially eliminated from playoff contention in Week 17 and third-string QB Sam Howell will get the start as the team goes into evaluation mode.
My betting advice in this game is to look to bet the Commanders live if the Eagles are in control of their game being played at the same time. If the Cowboys are scoreboard watching and know the Eagles are going to win, they would be wise to pull some starters to keep them healthy for a road playoff game in Tampa Bay next week. That scenario makes the Commanders an intriguing in-play bet if they are matched up against the Cowboys’ backups.
Games That Don’t Impact the Playoffs
Texans at Colts (-2.5): If you are a fan of the NFL Draft and “mock” season, this might be the most important game on Sunday. The Texans would secure the first overall pick with a loss or a Bears win. Taking matters into their own hands by losing would be the smart decision by Houston, who looked rough last week in a home game against the Jaguars.
The issue for the Texans is that the Colts currently have the fifth-worst record in the NFL and would likely want to lose this game to put themselves in the best position possible to draft or trade up for their QB of the future. I’m interested to see how both teams approach this game, but I won’t have a financial investment on this matchup.
Buccaneers at Falcons (-4): The Buccaneers clinched the NFC South with a comeback victory over the Panthers last week, securing the No. 4 seed and a home playoff game next week against either the Cowboys or Eagles.
The Falcons were as high as a 7.5-point favorite for this game earlier in the week, but the line crashed when Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said he plans to play starters. Bowles might be telling the truth, but he could also mean that those starters only get a series or two before being pulled. The Falcons are the only side I can look toward in the live-betting market for this game.
Panthers at Saints (-3.5): Both teams were eliminated from postseason contention last week. The Panthers had a path to win the NFC South, but they squandered a 21-10 fourth-quarter lead against Tampa. While the Saints have won three-straight games, that costly Monday night loss to the Buccaneers in December will haunt them.
I’m not sure how motivated the Panthers will be after having their playoff dreams dashed last week in tough fashion. The Saints could also be demoralized, but New Orleans doesn’t have their first-round pick, so I would expect a maximum effort from the home team.