2022 Week 18 NFL Picks

Arizona Cardinals (4-12) at San Francisco 49ers (12-4)

This line is high at 14, but the 49ers shouldn’t have too much trouble covering. Of their 12 wins this season, eight have come by more than 14 points and they lead the league in weighted DVOA (+36.0%). The Cardinals, meanwhile, rank 28th in weighted DVOA at -19.1% and the gap between these two teams is even bigger than that suggests, with the Cardinals being in much worse injury shape. 

While the Cardinals are starting a fourth string quarterback and have a SIC score of 66.4, 12.7 points worse than their season average, the 49ers have gotten much healthier in recent weeks, with a SIC score of 87.8 this week, 5.4 points above their season average. This line would probably be higher if there wasn’t concern the 49ers could pull key players in the second half of a blowout the week before the playoffs, but the 49ers have a good chance to cover this spread even if they do that, so the 49ers are my Pick of the Week this week.

San Francisco 49ers 31 Arizona Cardinals 10

Pick against the spread: San Francisco -14

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Houston Texans (2-13-1) at Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1)

This line, favoring the Colts by 2.5 points at home, suggests the Colts are the slightly better team, but, while both teams are awful, the Texans have a significant edge in weighted DVOA (-25.5% vs. -33.3%) and are the healthier team in terms of SIC score (82.7 vs. 79.6). My calculated line has the Texans favored by a couple points and, while there’s not enough here for a big bet, the Texans are worth a bet against the spread and on the money line.

Update: This line has moved up to 3, so I am increasing the confidence of this bet.

Houston Texans 20 Indianapolis Colts 17 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Houston +3

Confidence: High

Tennessee Titans (7-9) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)

The Titans have lost 6 straight games after a 7-3 start, but that’s not that surprising. as the Titans’ wins were never that impressive. None of the Titans’ wins came against teams that currently have a winning record and almost all came by slim margins of victory. Only two of the Titans’ wins have come by more than a touchdown and neither win was as impressive as that suggests, as they needed a defensive touchdown to push the margin to 9 against the terrible Colts, while their 10-point win over the Packers came against a team in a terrible spot, playing on a short week after an overtime game, a spot in which teams are just 2-22 ATS all-time. 

Overall, the Titans rank just 26th in weighted DVOA (-10.2%), in part because they have gotten progressively more injury plagued throughout the season, resulting in a SIC score of 65.4 for this game, 11.6 points below their season average. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have a SIC score of 89.2 and have been one of the healthier teams in the league this season, a big part of the reason why they rank 15th (1.6%) in weighted DVOA. This line is pretty high at 6.5, but the Jaguars have won by 7 points or more in 6 of their 8 wins this season and the short-handed Titans are very overmatched in this game, with my calculated line being Jacksonville -9.5. The Jaguars aren’t worth a big play this week, but they are bettable.

Jacksonville Jaguars 27 Tennessee Titans 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Detroit Lions (8-8) at Green Bay Packers (8-8)

Normally, the Packers are a good bet at home, as they are 50-22 ATS all-time at home in games started and finished by Aaron Rodgers, who has a QB rating that is 10 points higher at home than on the road, which is significantly above average. However, the Packers are favored by 5 points in this game, which seems to compensate too much for their homefield advantage. The Lions have the higher weighted DVOA (13.4% vs. 9.4%) despite having an average SIC score that is about 3 points lower than the Packers on the season and now they are about even in SIC score (86.3 vs. 86.1) this week, so they should be considered the better team and a strong candidate to pull the upset, even in Green Bay. Even if they can’t win outright, I like the Lions chances of keeping this within 5 points enough for them to be worth a small bet this week.

Green Bay Packers 26 Detroit Lions 24

Pick against the spread: Detroit +5

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Rams (5-11) at Seattle Seahawks (8-8)

The Seahawks are favored by 6 points here at home, but they arguably should be favored by significantly more, as they are the significantly better team in terms of weighted DVOA (+6.6% vs. -8.5%) and are also significantly healthier in terms of SIC score (86.7 vs. 68.5). The Rams played the Seahawks somewhat close in Los Angeles earlier this season, losing only by 4, but the Seahawks won the first down rate battle by 6.5% and the yards per play battle by 1.6 in that game and now they are at home, so they shouldn’t have much trouble blowing out the Rams.The Seahawks aren’t worth a big play, but my calculated line has them favored by 9 points, so there’s enough here for the Seahawks to at least be bettable.

Seattle Seahawks 27 Los Angeles Rams 17

Pick against the spread: Seattle -6

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers (6-10) at New Orleans Saints (7-9)

The Saints have the significant edge in schedule adjusted DVOA in this matchup (6.1% vs. -6.9%) and are trending in a much better direction injury wise, with a SIC score this week that is 2.1 points above their season average, while the Panthers are 2.6 points below their season average. Despite that, the Saints are favored at home against the Panthers by just a field goal in some places. At that number, they are worth a big bet and they would be bettable in a smaller amount at 3.5 as well.

New Orleans Saints 20 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -3

Confidence: High

Minnesota Vikings (12-4) at Chicago Bears (3-13)

This game is a tough call. On one hand, the Vikings are 6-point road favorites despite only having an average margin of victory of just 5.8 points, leading to them ranking just 29th in weighted DVOA at -19.4%. On the other hand, the Bears are so bad that even the Vikings might be able to beat them fairly easily. Not only do they rank 31st in weighted DVOA (-31.3%), but they are without their most important player, quarterback Justin Fields, as well as other key personnel, leading to them having a SIC score of 78.6, 5.4 points below their season average.

Meanwhile, the Vikings remain one of the healthiest teams in the league, as they have all season, with a SIC score of 89.7 this week, in line with their season average. My calculated line has the Vikings favored by just 3.5 points, but that might not fully take into account how bad this injury plagued Bears team is, now led by one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL, Nathan Peterman. I’m taking the Vikings for pick ‘em purposes, even at 6, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Chicago Bears 17

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -6

Confidence: None

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8) at Atlanta Falcons (6-10)

In normal circumstances, the Falcons would not be 4-point favorites this week, but there’s a chance the Buccaneers pull key players at some point in this game, as this game means nothing to them in standings, locked into the #4 seed in the NFC. My calculated line for normal circumstances is a pick ‘em, which actually doesn’t give us much line value with the Buccaneers if they do pull players, but I actually expect their starters to play most of the game as they try to build momentum for the playoffs, so I would take the Buccaneers would pick ‘em purposes. It’s hard to have any confidence in them this week though, given that this game is meaningless to them other than for momentum.

Atlanta Falcons 23 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +4

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Chargers (10-6) at Denver Broncos (4-12)

It’s tough to pick a side in this one, as this game would become meaningless for the Chargers in the likely event that the Ravens lose earlier in the day. This line reflects that, as the 4-12 Broncos are 3-point home favorites. My calculated line would be Chargers -6 in normal circumstances, so we’re getting significant line value with them in the off chance the Ravens win and, if the Ravens lose and the Chargers don’t take this game seriously, I think this line should be about +3, so it’s not like we’re on the wrong side even in a worst case scenario. This is still a no confidence pick, but the Chargers are the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Denver Broncos 19 Los Angeles Chargers 17

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +3

Confidence: None

New York Giants (9-6-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The Giants are another team with nothing to play for this week, locked into the #6 seed in the NFC. They are claiming they are treating this as a normal game, but the odds makers aren’t buying it, making the Eagles 14-point favorites. I am going to take the Giants at that number just because they could surprise people and play starters longer than expected, while the Eagles could pull injured quarterback Jalen Hurts if they get a big lead, but I can’t take the Giants with any confidence, given that this game is meaningless for them.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 New York Giants 13

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +14

Confidence: None

Cleveland Browns (7-9) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

This game is a tough call because this line is about right, favoring the Steelers at home by 2.5 points, suggesting they’re the slightly better team. The Browns have the edge in weighted DVOA (7.8% vs. 3.4%), but the Steelers are significantly healthier in terms of SIC score (90.1 vs. 82.3). The most likely outcome of this game is probably the Steelers winning by a field goal at home, so I am taking the Steelers for pick ‘em purposes at -2.5, but at 3, I might take the Browns, that’s how close this one is for me.

Pittsburgh Steelers 19 Cleveland Browns 16

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -2.5

Confidence: None

Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-10)

The Chiefs are the significantly better team in weighted DVOA (+24.9% vs. -4.6%) and significantly healthier in terms of SIC score (93 vs. 79.6), but this line takes that into account pretty well, favoring the Chiefs by 9.5 points on the road. In fact, that is exactly where my calculated line is, so this is one of the tougher calls of the week. I am taking the Chiefs just because them winning by 10 seems like the most likely outcome of this game, but this is a no confidence pick for pick ‘em purposes only.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Las Vegas Raiders 24

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -9.5

Confidence: None

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)

The Ravens are just 3-7 without Lamar Jackson over the past two seasons and won’t have him for this matchup in Cincinnati, but they haven’t gotten blown out in most of those games, losing by more than 7 points just twice in those 10 games. In fact, the Ravens have lost just 6 games total by more than 7 points over the past 4 seasons. That’s relevant considering this line favors the Bengals by 9 points. 

Even without Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have a talented enough roster to keep this close and, aside from Jackson being out, the Ravens are actually much healthier than they’ve been most of the season, with a SIC score 3.4 points higher than their season average. The Ravens aren’t quite worth betting this week against a Bengals team that is legitimately one of the best in the NFL, but the Ravens should still be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and could easily keep this as a one-score game.

Update: The Ravens are surprisingly resting some key starters in this game to rest up before the playoffs, including tight end Mark Andrews and JK Dobbins. This line has moved up to 11.5 to compensate, but I don’t think that’s enough so I am switching this pick to the Bengals, albeit for a no confidence pick.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 Baltimore Ravens 12

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -11.5

Confidence: None

Dallas Cowboys (12-4) at Washington Commanders (7-9)

This line has moved up to favoring the Cowboys by 7 points on the road because the Commanders are going with rookie third string quarterback Sam Howell, a 5th round pick making his first career start this week, but I think he could be a serviceable option and the Commanders haven’t had much better than serviceable under center most of this season. They still are talented enough around the quarterback to rank 20th in weighted DVOA at -4.4%, which isn’t good, but it isn’t so bad that they shouldn’t be underdogs of this many points at home, even against the Cowboys team that ranks 6th in weighted DVOA at 22.1%. There’s not quite enough here for the Commanders to be worth betting, but they should be the better side for pick ‘em purposes.

Dallas Cowboys 21 Washington Commanders 16

Pick against the spread: Washington +7

Confidence: Low

New York Jets (7-9) at Miami Dolphins (8-8)

Both of these teams will be starting backup quarterbacks this week, but the oddsmakers seem to think the Dolphins will fare better with their backup than the Jets will, moving this line from a pick ‘em to now favoring the Dolphins at home by a field goal. That’s surprising, as the Jets have an experienced option in Joe Flacco, while the Dolphins will be starting 7th round rookie Skylar Thompson. Neither option is that inspiring, but it’s surprising the Dolphins are favored by a full field goal with Thompson under center. My calculated line has the Dolphins favored by just 1 point, so we’re getting some line value with the Jets, though not enough for them to be bettable.

Update: This line has moved up to 4 and I think the Jets are bettable at that number, or at 3.5, with 1 in 4 games decided by 3 points or fewer.

Miami Dolphins 17 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +4

Confidence: Medium

New England Patriots (8-8) at Buffalo Bills (12-3)

This line favors the Bills by seven points at home against the Patriots, but they have a significant enough edge in weighted DVOA (29.4% vs. -0.7%) that they should be favored by more. They have 19 wins by more than 7 points over the past two seasons, including 8 this season and this looks likely to be another one of those big victories. There isn’t quite enough here for the Bills to be worth betting at -7, but my calculated line is Buffalo -9.5, so they are the better side for pick ‘em purposes and I would consider a bet if this line happened to drop to 6.5.

Buffalo Bills 27 New England Patriots 17

Pick against the spread: Buffalo -7

Confidence: Low