Six games fill the NFL’s Week 18 late slate on Sunday. The headliner comes at 4:25 p.m. ET with the San Francisco 49ers facing the L.A. Rams in a game that will help settle the NFC West division title. Gaming Today analyst Bob Christ provides the odds, betting analysis, and ATS pick for each game. All lines were current as of Friday afternoon.
The Rams opened as a 6-point choice, but the line has moved to a consensus -4.5 across the board.
San Francisco 49ers (9-7, 8-8 ATS) at L.A. Rams (12-4, 8-8 ATS)
DraftKings Line: Rams -4.5 (44.5)
The skinny: Both of these NFC West teams will be salivating for a win, with San Francisco trying to lock down the last available wild-card berth in the NFC and L.A. looking to secure the NFC West title.
Facts: The big question entering the game is the status of San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who sat out last week’s 23-7 win over Houston with a thumb injury to his passing hand. He was limited in drills Thursday, and is listed as questionable.
Rookie QB Trey Lance is on standby for his second straight start and third overall.
The 49ers gave the Rams their most lopsided loss of the season, 31-10 in Week 10, which was in the middle of L.A.’s three-game losing streak. SF cashed in on two first-quarter interceptions off Matthew Stafford, including a pick-6, for a 14-0 lead. The 49ers also rushed a season-high 44 times for 156 yards.
With regard to the playoffs, a 49ers win or Saints loss gets SF a berth. L.A. wins the division with a win or a Cardinals loss, but it can’t get the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
Analysis: Neither team can risk letting up because the Rams could slip to the No. 5 seed and not be guaranteed any home playoff games. The 49ers could slip out of the tournament with a loss, if New Orleans beat Atlanta.
The Rams looked shaky in their 20-19 win over Baltimore, which included Stafford’s fourth pick-6 of the season. Meanwhile, the 49ers behind Lance averaged a robust 15.6 yards per catch last week, and he added 31 rushing yards
L.A. might not have enough tape on Lance to be comfortable defensively against the athletic new guy. The 49ers showed earlier, too, that they know how to handle that Rams offense.
49ers at Rams Pick
49ers 24, Rams 21
Arizona was a 6.5-point favorite over Seattle to open and remains that way at most books, including BetMGM.
Seattle Seahawks (6-10, 8-8 ATS) at Arizona Cardinals (11-5, 10-6 ATS)
Line: Cardinals -6.5 (47.5)
The skinny: Arizona still has aspirations of winning the NFC West crown and getting the No. 2 conference seed when going against a Seahawks team that’s fallen off the playoff map.
Facts: The Cardinals, coming off a 25-22 win in Dallas as a 6.5-point underdog, are currently the No. 5 seed and will stay there unless the Rams lose to the 49ers and Arizona beats Seattle. If Tampa Bay also falls to Carolina, that would give the Cardinals a No. 2 seed.
This is the first time in 11 meetings the Cardinals aren’t an underdog vs. the Seahawks, going 5-5 SU/6-2-2 ATS, including a 23-13 road win in Week 11 as a 5-point dog.
Seattle is coming off a 51-29 home win over Detroit and its 28th-ranked defense, with Rashaad Penny rushing for a career-best 170 yards. That win gives the Seahawks a 3-0 record against teams with 12 or more losses. But they are 3-10 against all others.
Analysis: The Cardinals snapped their three-game losing streak in grand fashion last week, but QB Kyler Murray lamented that they settled for too many field goals (four), two of which came after getting inside the Dallas 10.
And this week that issue probably isn’t going to improve with the likelihood of their top two RBs sitting out. James Conner has missed the past two games with a heel injury and cohort Chase Edmonds (ribs, toe, ankle, you name it) had to leave last week’s game.
Maybe Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury will even opt to pull Murray if things start going sideways. But that’s not necessarily bad since backup Colt McCoy led the Cardinals to that previous win over Seattle, throwing for 328 yards and two TDs. And this time, there’s a good chance Seattle defensive kingpin Bobby Wagner sits out (knee sprain).
Seahawks at Cardinals Pick
Cardinals 27, Seahawks 17
The Bucs opened as 9.5-point picks over the Panthers, but in the wake of the drama surrounding WR Antonio Brown the number is now mostly at 8.
Carolina Panthers (5-11, 5-11 ATS) at Tampa Bay Bucs (12-4, 8-8 ATS)
Line: Bucs -8 (41.5)
The skinny: Tampa Bay, winner of the NFC South, has its eyes on moving up from the No. 3 seed in the conference playoffs to No. 2 when going against a Carolina team that’s turned into a punching bag the past month and a half.
Facts: Just two weeks ago, the Bucs were 32-6 winners at Carolina as an 11-point choice, which in all likelihood was Cam Newton’s last start as Panthers QB. Sam Darnold, who was the Week 1 starter, will make his second straight start here.
The Panthers yielded seven sacks in that loss to TB, and gave up seven more last week in an 18-10 loss to the Saints in the Superdome.
QB Tom Brady and the Bucs rallied from a 14-point deficit last week in beating the host Jets 28-24 as a 14.5-point favorite. TB scored the winning TD in the final seconds, capping a 93-yard drive that was the longest for anyone in Week 17.
Analysis: The Panthers have gone 2-11 since their 3-0 start and are on a six-game losing streak (ATS, too). Signs of life are few.
With the Bucs, much of the news this week surrounded the drama-queen (king?) antics of Brown, who quit on the team in midgame last week, claiming he had an ankle injury and couldn’t play. But he sure didn’t look like he was hurt while prancing through the end zone during his striptease.
Brady won’t lack for targets, with Mike Evans (hamstring) a full participant in late-week drills and old reliable TE Rob Gronkowski getting 105 receiving yards last week. And since TB coach Bruce Arians says the Bucs will go out to win, who’s to argue.
Panthers at Bucs Pick
Bucs 35, Panthers 14
The Saints opened as a 6.5-point choice over the Falcons, but the line has dipped to 3.5 across the board as of Friday.
New Orleans Saints (8-8, 8-8 ATS) at Atlanta Falcons (7-8-1, 6-10 ATS)
PointsBet Line: Saints by 3.5 (39.5)
The skinny: The Saints look to keep alive their hopes for a wild-card berth against a Falcons team that will be missing the postseason for the fourth straight season.
Facts: For New Orleans to reach the playoffs for a fifth year in a row, coach Sean Payton’s men will need a win here and a loss by San Francisco in L.A. against the Rams.
In the previous meeting between Atlanta and N.O., in Week 9, the Saints had the biggest fourth-quarter comeback of the year behind backup QB Trevor Siemian when they erased a 24-6 Atlanta lead to go ahead 25-24. But, alas, the Falcons won 27-25 on a last-second FG.
In that game, New Orleans QB Jameis Winston was lost for the season. Since then the Saints have had three more starting QBs, including this week’s starter, Taysom Hill. If New Orleans advances to the playoffs, it would be only the eighth time in league history a squad reached the postseason having used four or more starting QBs.
Analysis: The Falcons didn’t even have a running game when they won that previous meeting, with only 34 yards on 25 carries — the lowest total for a winning team this season. But QB Matt Ryan had his best game of the year with 343 yards passing.
But Atlanta might not need to score much against a team that’s had one offensive TD the past three weeks.
And then last week, in a 29-15 loss at Buffalo in which Atlanta led at halftime, the Falcons intercepted Josh Allen three times. His passer rating of 17.0 was the fourth worst for any starter this season. And, FYI, Hill is no match for Allen and more fumble-prone.
Saints at Falcons Pick
Falcons 17, Saints 12
NFL · Sun (1/9) @ 4:25pm ET
|NY Jets||at||BUF Bills|
|Bills Stadium, Orchard Park, New York|
Buffalo was a 17-point pick at the start of the week over the Jets, but now the line has dropped to as low as -16.
NY Jets (4-12, 6-10) at Buffalo Bills (11-5, 8-6-2)
Line: Bills -16.5 (41.5)
The skinny: Buffalo, currently the fourth seed in the AFC, aims to clinch its second straight East division title with a win against division bottom-feeder New York.
Facts: The Bills can’t ascend to the top seed in the conference, but could get to No. 2 if Kansas City loses at Denver on Saturday and if the Bengals sleep-walk to defeat in Cleveland on Sunday.
The Bills were 45-17 winners over the Jets in Week 10, right after losing in Jacksonville, 9-6. Buffalo intercepted NYJ backup QB Mike White four times and sent him to the bench maybe forever.
If NYJ pulls the upset, it will avoid its second consecutive winless season in division play. The last team to do that was Cleveland in 2016-17.
Analysis: The Jets averaged six yards a carry against the Bucs’ third-ranked rush defense in a close-call 28-24 loss last week and should be able to exploit a Bills defense that has yielded 151 ground yards a game the past five weeks.
Plus, Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson, who had nine INTs through five games, hasn’t had any in his past four starts. He’s benefited from a rushing offense that’s had 423 yards the past two weeks. The Jets should make the Bills sweat even if it snows. The forecast says there’s a rougly 30% chance of precipitation with temps near freezing.
Jets at Bills Pick
Bills 28, Jets 26
The Patriots opened as a 6.5-point favorite over the Dolphins, but the number has dipped to a consensus -6 listed at most sites.
New England Patriots (10-6, 10-6 ATS), at Miami Dolphins (8-8, 8-7-1 ATS)
FanDuel Line: Patriots -6 (40)
The skinny: New England will look to hang on to the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs with a victory over a Miami team that was eliminated from playoff contention last week.
Facts: The Patriots, who beat Jacksonville 50-10 last week, could finish anywhere from No. 1 to No. 7 on the AFC playoff seeding chart, but more realistically will be shooting to stick at No. 5. It’s highly unlikely they’ll overtake Buffalo for the division lead since the Bills are a giant favorite to beat NYJ.
The Dolphins’ seven-game win streak and playoff hopes came to a screeching halt in their 34-3 loss at Tennessee last week. Thus, Miami is the first team since the 1996 Redskins to have won seven straight games in a season and not made the playoffs.
This will be the second time this year NE is coming off a win of 30-plus points and facing a team that lost by 30-plus. In that game, the Patriots kept on winning, 25-0, over Atlanta.
Analysis: Curiously, the Patriots have had trouble with the Dolphins, including a season-opening home loss of 17-16. And then there was that painful 27-24 defeat as a 17-point favorite in the 2019 finale, costing NE a bye.
Meanwhiile, although the Dolphins were pole-axed in Tennessee last week, it was a perfect storm for the Titans, for the Dolphins had to play in freezing weather while on the road on short rest against a team that had an extended break after playing at home the previous Thursday. Whew!
They go after a winning season here.
Patriots at Dolphins Pick
Dolphins 21, Patriots 17
Last week: 3-3 ATS, 4-2 SU
Season total: 120-123-3 (.490) ATS, 152-93-1 (.620) SU
Also read: Cowboys vs. Eagles odds and pick | Chiefs vs. Broncos odds and pick | Saturday NFL Player Props And Anytime TD Scorers