Week 18 of the NFL provided us with plenty of entertainment. The Jags and Lions won their third games of the season and the dramatic AFC playoff race unfurled. Let’s hope for more of the same in the first NFL playoff round.
Last week’s parlay was a bust, yet I doubled my money, as I hit on seven out of eleven games with my other bets.
With odds for the Wild Card round finding their range, let’s preview all six games.
This week I shall be making picks for all the games.
Raiders: Las Vegas beat the Chargers in overtime to make it to the NFL playoffs. Derek Carr had a conservative game with 186 yards and two TDs from 20 completions.
The run game carried this team to victory. They rushed for 174 yards at 5.1 yards per carry. Josh Jacobs handled the brunt of the carries and charged for 144 total yards and a TD.
The defense conceded 468 yards and 32 points to the Chargers. However, they had two timely turnovers and an incredible 15 batted passes. The Raiders also had three sacks and six tackles for a loss.
Bengals: Cincinnati lost to the Browns on Sunday. Joe Burrow and others were rested, so unsurprisingly, the Browns were favorites. Brandon Allen started and went for 136 yards and a TD on an inaccurate day.
The remarkable Ja’Marr Chase broke the rookie record for most receiving yards. The run game was productive even without Joe Mixon. The Bengals rushed for 79 yards from 18 carries.
The defense contributed with a fumble recovered for a TD by Trayvon Henderson. However, the Browns’ run game ran over the front seven. They rushed for 205 yards from 41 carries.
The Bengals should be coming into this game with their key players rested and injury-free. They will be feeling confident after beating Kansas in Week 17 with all of their starters. The Raiders have overcome a lot of off-field controversies this season. It is very impressive they have made it this far. I think the Bengals will overcome the dogged Raiders, but it will be a close game.
Therefore, I am taking the Raiders to cover the spread of +6.5.
Patriots: New England lost to Miami in a close game. Unsurprisingly, it was a game dominated by defense. The Fins’ defense scored 13 points which ultimately won them the game.
Mac Jones threw a pick-six on his first attempt. However, after the early mistake, he was flawless. He threw for 261 yards and a TD with a 67% completion rate.
The defense held Miami to 20 points on offense and conceded 109 passing yards. However, the front seven conceded an embarrassing 195 rushing yards to a team averaging 85.8 yards per game.
Bills: Buffalo beat their divisional rival from New York 27-10 at Highmark Stadium. Josh Allen struggled to be accurate in the windy conditions. He threw for 239 yards and two TDs with a 53% completion rate.
The Bills were able to rely on their run game. Their backs rushed for 166 yards at over five yards per carry. Singletary and Allen rushed for 88 and 63 yards, respectively.
Buffalo’s defense didn’t manage a sack, but they had Zack Wilson running for his life. The Bills had nine sacks and ten tackles for a loss. This was yet another nightmare day at the office for the Jets’ inexperienced O-line.
This will be an intriguing game as these teams are AFC East rivals. They have each won one game against each other this season. The Pats’ run-heavy offense hasn’t been as effective in recent weeks. The Bills have the team in better form coming into this game. I feel this game is too close to call as you never know what Bill Belichick might conjure up.
Therefore, I am taking these teams to score under 43.5 points.
Eagles: Philly was demolished by the Cowboys on Saturday. The Eagles lost by 25 points and conceded seven TDs. However, the Eagles were resting some of their starters.
Gardiner Minshew started and threw for 186 yards, two TDs and an INT. However, the Eagles leaned on their run game in this game. They rushed for 149 yards at around five yards per carry.
The defense conceded 476 total yards, seven TDs and 51 points. They didn’t have a single takeaway and struggled to pressure Prescott in the pocket. This is a worrying sign for this weekend against Brady.
Buccaneers: Tampa Bay beat the Panthers 41-17. Tom Brady had an outstanding game and was incredibly accurate. He threw for 326 yards and three TDs.
Rob Gronkowski has been excellent since Chris Godwin went down injured. He caught seven passes for 137 yards. Mike Evens chipped in with 89 yards and two TDs.
The defense came up with two takeaways and four turnovers on downs. The Panthers had 325 total yards and two TDs. Tampa held the Panthers to 4.8 yards per attempt.
The Bucs are coming into this game full of confidence and heavy favorites. Tom Brady always performs at his best in the postseason. The Eagles are returning to the playoffs with their new-look offense. They could struggle against one of the best run defenses in the league.
For that reason, I am taking the Bucs to cover the spread of -8.5.
49ers: San Fran beat the Rams in overtime to clinch the sixth seed in the playoffs. Jimmy Garoppolo had an excellent game with 316 yards, a TD and a 72% completion rate.
The run game was also productive, with 135 yards from 31 carries. Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel were outstanding with 107 and 140 total yards, respectively.
The defense held the Rams to just seven second-half points to help the offense force the game into overtime. They were able to pressure Stafford, resulting in five sacks and eight tackles for a loss.
Cowboys: The Cowboys were on fire against the Eagles. The offense scored seven TDs and 51 points. Dallas only punted once and scored on every other drive; now that doesn’t happen very often!
Dak Prescott threw for 295 yards and five TDs with a 77.8% completion rate. The run game was also productive, with 171 yards from 32 carries and two TDs. It was one of the best offensive performances all season.
The defense did manage an interception and three sacks. However, they conceded 26 points to the Eagles, who rested most of their key players, including Jalen Hurts.
The Cowboys’ offense is one of the best in the league, but the 49ers’ defense is solid. It will be intriguing to see who wins that matchup. I think the home-field advantage will boost the Cowboys, and they will step up their performance.
Therefore, I am taking the Cowboys to cover the spread of -3.
Steelers: Pittsburgh beat the Ravens to make it to the playoffs. Ben Roethlisberger’s career could still end with a Super Bowl appearance. He threw for 244 yards, a TD and an INT on Sunday.
The run game was disappointing for the Steelers. The backs had 79 yards at 2.6 yards per carry. Pat Freiermuth was the most productive receiver with 53 yards from six catches.
The defense won the game for Pittsburgh. They had two interceptions, three sacks and a fumble recovery. Tyler Huntley was able to complete just 51% of his passes.
Chiefs: Kansas beat the Broncos to clinch the number two seed. Patrick Mahomes was inaccurate but still threw for 270 yards and two TDs.
The run game was also productive, with 135 yards from 29 carries. However, Mahomes was the leading rusher with 54 yards. Mecole Hardman was the top receiver with 103 yards.
The defense did have a fumble recovered for a TD which ultimately won them the game. Kansas conceded just 162 passing yards to Drew Lock, but they did concede 191 rushing yards.
The Chiefs beat out the competition to clinch home-field advantage. The Steelers looked like they would be eliminated a couple of weeks ago. However, they were lucky that the Jags beat the Colts, and the Raiders-Chargers game didn’t end in a draw. I think the Chiefs will be too much for the Steelers in a low-scoring match.
So I am taking Kansas to win but the Steelers to cover the spread of 12.5 points.
Cardinals: Arizona lost to the Seahawks in an intense game. Kyler Murray’s play has declined since Hopkins went down injured. He only managed 240 passing yards and a TD.
However, Murray chipped in with 35 rushing yards at seven yards per carry. Zach Ertz has been an excellent addition to this offense. He caught seven passes for 84 yards on Sunday.
The defense had a fumble recovery and an interception from Russell Wilson. The front seven struggled to make an impact against the Seahawks and conceded 202 rushing yards.
Rams: LA lost to the 49ers on Sunday but still won the division thanks to the Cardinals defeat to the Seahawks. Matthew Stafford’s play has regressed during the second half of the season. He threw two interceptions on Sunday.
Cooper Kupp was exceptional again with 118 yards and a TD. He was crowned the king of receivers with the most receiving yards, catches and TDs in the league.
The defense let the 49ers into the game in the second half. San Fran scored 21 second-half points. However, the Rams’ D still had two INTs, three sacks and six tackles for a loss.
The Rams have had an excellent end to the regular season. They have won five of their last six games, including a win over Arizona. However, the Cardinals did beat the Rams earlier in the season. After an imposing start, the Cardinals have lost four of their last five games.
I am taking the Rams on the moneyline, but it will be a tight game.
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