Sports | January 6, 2023 9:06 am

Expert NFL Picks for Week 18 Including Titans-Jaguars, Chiefs-Raiders and Lions-Packers

A trio of handicappers offer their insights on five of this week's best games

The Detroit Lions wait to snap the ball against the Green Bay Packers.
The Lions are hoping to go 2-0 against Green Bay this season.
Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty

This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the professional football season. Here are our top betting picks for Week 18 in the NFL.

You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get right to it with some help from Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN and Odds Assist CEO Dave Rathmanner.

Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5, O/U 52.5) at Las Vegas Raiders

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Chiefs listed as a 10-point road favorite. Early in the week, the line dipped to Chiefs -7.5, signaling some wiseguy money on the underdog Raiders. But then we saw massive buyback on Kansas City, steaming the line back up to Chiefs -9.5. Big dogs +7 or more are 33-22 ATS (60%) this season. Divisional dogs are 47-33 ATS (59%). I’ll take the points with Raiders +9.5.

Gable’s Guess: The Chiefs are favored, but who wants to lay the points with the Chiefs?  We know how explosive they can be on offense and how quickly they can put points on the board, but they struggle to cover week after week. They have the second-worst record in the league against the spread this year at 5-10-1. The Raiders have nothing to play for here, but the same thing was true last week and Jarett Stidham came in and passed for 365 yards and three touchdowns against the best defense in the NFL in San Francisco. Patrick Mahomes should win MVP and the Chiefs have a great chance to have the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, but I have no reason to believe the Raiders are going to roll over and play dead. I’ll take 7.5 or more with the Raiders.

Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Chiefs will likely be treating this as a win-and-get-home-field advantage-in-the-AFC-playoffs game given that it seems more likely than not that the Bills/Bengals game will not be completed. This a series that has been absolutely dominated by the Chiefs in recent years. They have won nine of their last 10 games with the Raiders and six of those nine wins have been by double digits, with an average margin of victory of 18.9 points. QB Jarrett Stidham played well for the Raiders last week, but we are unlikely to see that level of success again. The Raiders have nothing to play for and there are clearly some big offseason decisions lingering over the players’ heads. Look for the Chiefs to win this one comfortably and likely secure home-field advantage. I’m playing Kansas City at -9.5 or better.

NFL Week 18 Best Bet: Sticking with over/unders instead of the spread. Going under.

Tennessee Titans (+6.5, O/U 40) at Jacksonville Jaguars

Appelbaum’s Assessment: Big game as the winner takes the AFC South and punches their ticket to the playoffs. This line opened with the Jags listed as a 7-point home favorite. The public is laying the points with the Jags, yet we’ve seen the line dip from 7 to 6.5, signaling sharp reverse line movement on the Titans. Road divisional dogs are 31-21 ATS (60%) this season. Primetime dogs are 30-22 ATS (58%) this season. I’ll hope Vrabel keeps this close and sweat the Titans with the points. 

Gable’s Guess: These teams handled their games last week very differently knowing this game really matters because the winner makes the playoffs with the division title. Jacksonville played their stars for two and a half quarters while the Titans rested a lot of players. Tennessee will use Josh Dobbs at quarterback and a banged-up Derrick Henry at quarterback. With the extra time to prepare, we should see what Dobbs can do, but this Jaguars team certainly has the most talent in the division. They have a young quarterback, skilled position players who are difference-makers and a coach who won a Super Bowl. I think the number is right where it should be in terms of the spread, so I’m going to take the over.

Rathmanner’s Reckoning: The Titans come into this game with Josh Dobbs at quarterback. Dobbs is an upgrade over Malik Willis, but he still is very inexperienced. The Titans’ best hope is to rely on Derrick Henry, who put up more than 120 yards with a touchdown the last time these teams played. The Jaguars still won 36-22. The Titans will make a concentrated effort to control this game on the ground and keep the Jacksonville offense off the field. Tennessee has struggled to score in recent weeks, averaging just 14.8 points per game during their six-game losing streak. Jacksonville has gone under in seven of their last 10 home games and the Titans have gone under in 11 of 16 games this year. Look for a close tight game between these two division rivals in a winner-take-all game. Play the under.

NFL Week 18 Best Bet: Over.

New York Jets (+2, O/U 38.5) at Miami Dolphins

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Dolphins listed as a 3-point home favorite. Early in the week, it dipped to a pick’em. But then we saw heavy buyback on Miami, steaming the Dolphins back up to -2.5 or -2. Miami is playing for a playoff spot while the Jets have already been eliminated. I’ll follow the late movement and back the team with more motivation. Give me the Dolphins on the moneyline -135.

Gable’s Guess: The Dolphins sit at 8-8 at risk of missing the playoffs. During their five-game losing streak, the Dolphins have averaged only 20.8 points per game. The defense has also let them down and they really can’t be trusted to get stops when the game is on the line. Their starting quarterback this week also remains in flux. The Jets’ playoff hopes vanished last Sunday but they are going to stick with Mike White and his broken ribs in this one. I’m going to take Miami here and hope that Teddy Bridgewater gets the start for the Dolphins.

Rathmanner’s Reckoning: There is a lot of uncertainty about whether it will be Skylar Thompson or Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback for the Dolphins. Whoever ends up getting the start will have a tough go at it against a Jets defense that is third in yards allowed at 311.6 per game and fourth in points allowed at 19.1 per game. The Jets will let Mike White finish out the season as the team’s starting quarterback, which isn’t saying much. Other than one good game against a Bears defense anyone could score against, the Jets are only averaging only 13.3 points per game in White’s starts. Six of the last 10 between these teams have gone under and the Jets have gone under in 11 of 16 this season. The Dolphins have gone under in seven of their last 10 at home. Look for the under trend to continue Sunday.

NFL Week 18 Best Bet: Over.

Los Angeles Rams (+6, O/U 41.5) at Seattle Seahawks

Appelbaum’s Assessment: This line opened with the Seahawks listed as low as a 3-point home favorite. We saw the line shoot up to Seattle -6.5, at which point some buyback on the Rams dropped the line back down to 6. The Seahawks are still alive for a playoff spot while the Rams have long been eliminated. I’ll back the more motivated team and tease Seattle down from -6 to a pick’em. I’ll also take the total of 41.5, tease it up to 47.5 and take the under. The forecast calls for wind and rain.

Gable’s Guess: it’s not a win-and-you’re-in situation here for the Seahawks. If they win, they need the Packers to lose to the Lions to get in. If they lose, the winner of Detroit-Green Bay gets in. It’s a weird scenario involving all three, but the Seahawks are going to do everything in their power to win.  Regardless of the outcome, this was a successful season for Seattle as they were picked to finish toward the bottom of the NFC. With the Rams, no defending Super Bowl champion has fallen further and the future is pretty bleak. ‘Baker Mayfield has provided a little bit of juice to this team, but they had a rather lackluster performance last week. I’ll lay the points with Seattle.

Rathmanner’s Reckoning: Seattle will have something to play for, albeit in a funny situation. The Rams appear motivated to try and officially end the Seahawks’ season in a matchup of division rivals that have a history of playing close games. The average margin of victory in the last 10 games between these teams has only been 7.5 points. The Rams are 7-3 in their last 10 against Seattle as an underdog. Rams starter Baker Mayfield wants one more opportunity to show the league he can be an effective QB before the offseason. While the Ram offense has not been good, the Seahawk defense is bad and ranks 27th in yards allowed per game. So, the Rams should be able to score some and keep it close. I am playing the Rams +6 or better.

NFL Week 18 Best Bet: Over.

Detroit Lions (+4.5, O/U 49) at Green Bay Packers

Appelbaum’s Assessment: Both of these AFC North rivals are in the hunt for a playoff spot. This line opened with Green Bay listed as a 3.5-point favorite. Respected money laid the points with the Packers, steaming Green Bay up from -3.5 to -4.5. Despite the line moving away from them, the Lions match several profitable betting systems, including road divisional dogs (60% ATS) and primetime dogs (58%). I’ll tease the Lions up from +4.5 to +10.5, passing through the key numbers of 7 and 10. I’ll pair it with the under 55 (teased up from 49).

Gable’s Guess: Unfortunately for Detroit, they’ll be eliminated from playoff contention if Seattle wins earlier in the day. That’s why I would hold off making a play on this game unless you have a strong conviction about Green Bay. It’s a win-and-in scenario for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers and company are not a team that will scare anyone and I expect the Lions to be able to put up points here. Green Bay has been forcing turnovers over the past four games with nine interceptions and three forced three fumbles. Back to my original point, I would hold off on betting on this game if you’re looking at the Lions. I’m looking at the Packers and will lay the points.

Rathmanner’s Reckoning: This one sets up very nicely for Green Bay. It is a win-and-in scenario for them and the Lions may have nothing to play for if Seattle wins earlier in the day. This seems like the moment Aaron Rodgers takes advantage of the Lions’ bottom-ranked defense in yards allowed per game and guides the Packers to a playoff berth. The Lions, who also have the fourth-worst defense in points allowed, have one of the best offensive units in the league, but this is not a great spot for them from a matchup perspective. They have the sixth-best passing offense in the league, but the Packers have the fourth-best pass defense and it should slow the Lions down. Given that the win-and-in scenario will not change for Green Bay, grab them and lay the points before the Seattle game. 

NFL Week 18 Best Bet: Under.

Week 16: 3-2; This Season: 35-41-2

Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, the weather and other factors. Make sure to double-check the odds before making your own Week 18 NFL bets.