Thursday, January 20, 2022

NFL Week 18 picks: Raiders shock Chargers to earn playoff berth, Colts crush Jaguars, Rams beat 49ers

Ladies and gentleman, it’s time for the playoffs!

Check that, it’s not time for the playoffs, but it should be. In any other year, we’d be talking about the playoffs right now, but the NFL decided to add an 18th week to the schedule this year, so now, you’re getting an extra week of regular season picks. And since you’re now probably wondering, yes, I do get a bonus for writing an extra week of picks, but it turns out I also lose 10% of that bonus for every pick I get wrong, and now that I’m saying that out loud, I probably need to fire my agent, which actually could get kind of awkward since I’d have to fire myself. 

Of course, even if I do fire myself, it wouldn’t even qualify as the most bizarre firing of 2022 and that’s because that honor belongs to Antonio Brown, who kind of got fired over the weekend even though he hasn’t technically been fired yet. Look, if you’re going to lose your job, you might as well do it while running shirtless off a football field. 

I have never quit a job in my life, but if I ever do, I will definitely be doing it while shirtless. 

I have no idea what’s next for Antonio Brown, but I do know what’s next for us and that’s this weeks picks, so let’s get them started. 

Actually, before we get to the Week 18 picks, here’s a quick reminder that you can check out the weekly picks from every CBSSports.com NFL expert by clicking here. The reason you should click over this week is because there’s a tight race brewing for the title of best straight-up picker for the 2021 season. After going 14-2 in Week 17, I am now clinging to a two-game lead heading into the season’s final week and as long as I don’t collapse like a FedEx Field guardrail, I think I can take home the title. 

If you’ve never seen a FedEx Field guardrail collapse, this is what it looks like. 

At this point, they should probably just tear the entire stadium down. If your stadium is leaking sewage and almost killing opposing quarterbacks with falling guardrails, that’s when it’s time to get a new one. 

Alright that’s enough stalling, let’s get to the picks. Oh, and just to warn you, if I miss every pick this week, it’s because the final week of the season is always the most difficult week to predict and that’s mostly because I have no clue who will be playing for either team. I have no idea which teams will be benching their starters, I have no idea if bad teams have mentally checked out and I have no idea why the Colts haven’t won in Jacksonville since 2014. None of it makes sense.

NFL Week 18 picks

Kansas City (11-5) at Denver (7-9)

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Latest Odds: Kansas City Chiefs -10

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If the Chiefs want to have any shot at earning the top overall seed in the AFC, they have to win this game. On the other hand, Denver has nothing to play for except to maybe save Vic Fangio’s job, but based on how this season has gone so far for the Broncos, I’d say that’s probably not going to be enough motivation for them.

Patrick Mahomes has never lost to the Broncos and the Chiefs have won 12 straight games against Denver. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life, but picking the Broncos to win will not be one of them. 

The pick: Chiefs 30-17 over Broncos

Dallas (11-5) at Philadelphia (9-7)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Latest Odds: Dallas Cowboys -7

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Picking games in Week 17 is basically a drunken crapshoot and if you need proof, just look at this game. I have no idea if the Eagles will be resting their starters and I have no idea if the Cowboys will be resting their starters, which means I have no idea who’s going to win. I also have no idea why the NFL put this game in the primetime Saturday slot. I’m don’t want to spend my Saturday night watching a glorified preseason game when I could be playing a drunken game of Boggle. 

If the Eagles win, they could move to the sixth seed in the NFC, but there’s no guarantee of that because they’ll only move up if the 49ers also lose. I can’t read Nick Siranni’s mind, which is weird because I took an online mind-reading class once. However, even though I can’t read his mind, I do think the Eagles will end up resting their starters. 

As for the Cowboys, they’re currently sitting in the four-spot in the NFC and even if they win, they would only move up if the Buccaneers or Rams end up losing. If the Cowboys win and one of those teams lose, that will push Dallas up to three and if they both lose, that will push the Cowboys up to the two-seed. 

Based on some math I just did in my head, I’d say there’s about 50% chance that one team loses and a 5% chance that both of them lose and I think what I’m trying to say here is that I won’t be surprised if the Cowboys rest their starters. That being said, the Cowboys have been in an offensive slump and I think they might end up trying to play their way out of it. With that in mind, I expect the Cowboys to rest all their injured players. To be clear, I think that means we’ll see a lot of starters play, but the Cowboys will rest anyone who’s banged up (Based on last week’s injury report, that would be guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith and Demarcus Lawrence). I could also be completely wrong about all of this and they might let everyone play. 

Anyway, I just talked myself in circles trying to figure out who’s going to win this game and after doing that, I’m still not even sure who I want to pick. If this game ends up being Gardner Minshew vs. Cooper Rush, I like the Eagles, but if it’s Dak Prescott vs. Jalen Hurts or Dak vs. Gardner, then I like the Cowboys. I’m taking the Cowboys. 

The pick: Cowboys 26-23 over Eagles

Cincinnati (10-6) at Cleveland (7-9)

1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Latest Odds: Cleveland Browns -1

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If the Chiefs win on Saturday, the Bengals won’t have any shot at the top seed in the AFC and if that happens, I have to think they’ll rest their starters and that’s mainly because no quarterback has been beaten up more this season than Joe Burrow. I mean, the guy got hit so often against the Chiefs that his name plate didn’t even survive the game and let me just say that it is not easy to lose a name plate in an NFL game. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more NFL players lose teeth than name plates. 

Through 17 weeks, Burrow has been sacked an NFL-high 51 times. To put that in perspective, there’s only two other quarterbacks this year who have even been sacked 40 times (Ryan Tannehill and Baker Mayfield). If you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up, it’s because I think the Bengals would be absolutely crazy to play Burrow in this game. If Burrow does play, I don’t think he’ll be on the field for more than a quarter or two, which will open the door for the Browns to end the season with a win. Knowing the Browns, they’ll try to close the door on themselves, but I still think they win.  

The pick: Browns 20-16 over Bengals

Green Bay (13-3) at Detroit (2-13-1)

1 p.m. ET (Fox)

Latest Odds: Green Bay Packers -2.5

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No game has me more confused in Week 18 than this one. 

The Packers have already clinched the top seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which means they literally have nothing to play for in this game. I know that, you know that, and Matt LaFleur knows that, which is why I could see them resting their starters. However, I have no idea if that’s actually going to happen and that’s because Aaron Rodgers has said that he expects to play. 

If you’re wondering why Rodgers would want to play despite dealing with an injured toe, I’m guessing it’s because he doesn’t want to get rusty. If he were to sit out Week 18, that means he wouldn’t be back on the field until Jan. 15 or 16 for the divisional round, which means he would go THREE WEEKS between games. 

If the Packers starters play, then I obviously will pick Green Bay, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll end up playing the entire game. If they get pulled, then I have to pick a winner in a game between the Lions STARTERS and the Packers BACKUPS, which makes this pick way more difficult than it should be. 

I can’t remember the last time I picked the Lions to beat the Packers and I’ve decided I’m not going to start now. 

The pick: Packers 22-19 over Lions

Indianapolis (9-7) at Jacksonville (2-14)

1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Latest Odds: Indianapolis Colts -15.5

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On paper, this game seems like a total mismatch, but if there’s one team the Colts always seem to struggle against it’s the Jaguars. For one, the Colts haven’t won a game in Jacksonville since 2014. Also, let’s not forget that in their past 33 games, the Jaguars are:

  • 2-2 against the Colts. 
  • 2-27 against everyone else. 

There are a lot of teams that will be rooting for the Jags to upset the Colts here. For one, a Colts loss would give the Ravens and Steelers hope heading into their season finale.  

One reason I hate picking Week 18 games is because every year, there always seems to be one crazy upset that no one saw coming. However, I don’t think we’re going to see that upset in this game.

The pick: Colts 30-13 over Jaguars

Tennessee (11-5) at Houston (4-12)

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

Latest Odds: Tennessee Titans -10.5

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If you haven’t been paying attention to the Texans this season, which I’m pretty sure describes most people, the most surprising thing about them is that they’ve actually been playing OK football. For most teams, playing “OK football” isn’t exactly a compliment, but when most people thought you were going to be the worst team in the NFL, then playing OK football is definitely a good thing. Heading into Week 18, Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills have already combined to win as many games as Deshaun Watson did last season. 

Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that I think the Texans are better than you think and will likely be able to keep this close. However, the Titans will get the top seed in the AFC with a win and no team needs the top seed more than the Titans (it gives them an extra week to get Derrick Henry healthy), so I’m going to have to take Tennessee. 

The pick: Titans 27-20 over Texans

New Orleans (8-8) at Atlanta (7-9)

4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)

Latest Odds: New Orleans Saints -4.5

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The Saints still have an outside shot at the playoffs, so they definitely have something to play for, but the Falcons are a bitter rival, and I have to think that there’s nothing everyone in Atlanta would love more than to officially eliminate the Saints from playoff contention. The Saints offense has been absolutely abysmal over the past few weeks and I hate picking abysmal offenses to win games, so I’m rolling with THE FALCONS in an upset. 

The pick: Falcons 19-16 over Saints

San Francisco (9-7) at L.A. Rams (12-4)

4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)

Latest Odds: Los Angeles Rams -5

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If both teams were fully healthy going into this game, I’d probably pick the 49ers here and that’s because Kyle Shanahan has been absolutely dominant against Sean McVay. The 49ers have won five in a row in this series and that includes a 31-10 victory back in November. The other reason to like the 49ers is because this is basically a playoff game for them: If they lose, that could mean the end of their season. That being said, the Rams also have plenty to play for and that’s because if they win, they’ll clinch the NFC West title and a first-round home game in the playoffs. 

My problem with the 49ers is that I don’t really trust their quarterback situation right now. For this game, they’re either going to have to start someone with an injured thumb (Jimmy Garoppolo) or a QB who has only made two career starts (Trey Lance). We saw what Jimmy did with his injured thumb against the Titans and it wasn’t pretty: He started throwing passes to the other team. As for Lance, we saw flashes of how good he can be on Sunday, but that was against the Texans. The Rams are better than the Texans, and on Sunday, I think they’re going to be better than the 49ers by three points. 

The pick: Rams 26-23 over 49ers

Seattle (6-10) at Arizona (11-5)

4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)

Latest Odds: Arizona Cardinals -6.5

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The Cardinals have been one of the best team’s in the NFL this year, well, except for when they’re playing at home. In seven home games, the Cards are just 3-4, which makes no sense to me unless everyone on the team hates Phoenix, but that’s not possible, because no one hates Phoenix. 

If the Cardinals win this game, combined with a Rams loss, they would end up winning NFC West, which would give them a home game in the playoffs, but the irony here is that if there’s one team in the NFL that might not want a home game in the playoffs, it’s the Cardinals, who are 8-1 on the road this year. I think what I’m trying to say here is that I’m not even sure the Cardinals want to win. 

This could be Russell Wilson’s final game ever with the Seahawks and if it goes anything like his first 157 starts with the team, that means this game will be completely crazy and although I usually pick the Seahawks to win their crazy games, this just hasn’t been their year. 

The pick: Cardinals 33-30 over Seahawks

New England (10-6) at Miami (8-8)

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

Latest Odds: New England Patriots -7

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The last time these two teams met came back in Week 1 when Mac Jones was making his first career start and in that game, the Patriots had a limited offensive game plan. Even though the Patriots had a rookie under center, they still almost won — they lost 17-16 — and they likely would have won if Damien Harris didn’t fumble at the 11-yard line with three minutes left. 

The Patriots offense has gotten much better since then, but I can’t say the same for the Dolphins. Even during their seven-game winning streak, the Dolphins’ had trouble scoring and when they finally played a good Titans team in Week 17, they couldn’t score at all (They lost 34-3). I do think they’ll score more than three points in this game, but not by much. 

The pick: Patriots 24-10 over Dolphins

N.Y. Jets (4-12) at Buffalo (10-6)

4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

Latest Odds: Buffalo Bills -17

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The Jets are playing the Bills, so I’m not going to waste too much time here because I think we all know who I’m going to pick to win this game. The Bills will clinch the AFC East title with a win and when you have a chance to clinch something like that, the Jets are definitely the team you want to be playing. 

The pick: Bills 30-20 over Jets

L.A. Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas (9-7)

8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)

Latest Odds: Las Vegas Raiders +2.5

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We only get one winner-take-all game in Week 18 and this is it! Actually, that’s not completely true and that’s because there’s a small chance that this game might not end up being winner-take-all. 

In what would be a nightmare scenario for the NFL, BOTH the Raiders and Chargers could end up making the playoffs if the Colts lose to the Jaguars. Although that the Colts losing sounds improbable, let’s pretend it happens. In that case, the Raiders and Chargers would both make the playoffs, but ONLY IF THEY TIE. That’s right, a tie would be the best case scenario for both teams in this game. Basically, if the Raiders and Chargers agreed to spend four quarters kneeling on every play, then the game would end in a 0-0 tie and both teams would make the playoffs.

Let’s all hope that happens. Of course, if it doesn’t happen, then that means I actually need to make a pick in this game, so I’ll go ahead and do that. 

The Raiders have been one of the hottest teams in the NFL over the past month. Not only are they on a three-game winning streak, but they’ve been winning those games with their defense. Offensively, this could turn into a breakout game for them. Not only should they be able to run on the Chargers, but they’ll also likely be getting Darren Waller back, which would be a huge boost for a Raiders offense that has only topped 23 points ONE TIME since Oct. 25.

This is the biggest NFL game that’s ever been played in Las Vegas and as we all know, the house always wins in Vegas and this is being played in the Raiders house, so I’m taking them. Although if any more Raiders players get in trouble this week, I might have to change my pick. 

The pick: Raiders 27-24 over Chargers

NFL Week 18 picks: All the rest

Bears 20-17 over Vikings

Ravens 23-20 over Steelers

Buccaneers 24-13 over Panthers

Washington 23-16 over Giants

Last Week 

Best pick: Last week, I predicted that the Bengals would clinch the AFC North by upsetting the Chiefs 34-31 and guess what happened? The Bengals clinched the AFC North by upsetting the Chiefs 34-31. 

That’s right, I PICKED THE EXACT FINAL SCORE OF THE GAME and I’ve decided I’m going to celebrate that by only eating Skyline Chili, Graeter’s ice cream and LaRosa’s pizza for the rest of the year. I have no idea if it’s even healthy to live on a diet that consists entirely of chili, ice cream and pizza, but that’s the only thing the people of Cincinnati ever eat and they all seem to be doing just fine. 

Worst pick: I went 14-2 last week so I was thinking about scrapping the worst pick section, but I’m not going to because I feel like I need to make fun of myself for switching one of the picks I got wrong. When I wrote my picks last week, I predicted that the Raiders would beat the Colts 23-20 and that’s EXACTLY what happened, only I didn’t get credit for the win because I CHANGED MY PICK. After Carson Wentz was cleared from the COVID list on Saturday, I picked the Colts to win 23-20 instead of the Raiders and I’ve  never been more upset about any pick in my life. I hate the COVID list. I hate the Colts. I hate everything.

I’m never picking the Colts to win ever again, well, except for this week, because there’s no way I’m picking them to lose to the Jaguars. 

Finally, if you guys have ever wondered which teams I’m actually good at picking, here’s a quick look: 

Teams I’ve been the best at picking this year: Texans (13-3), Jaguars (13-3), Dolphins (13-3), Packers (13-3), Steelers (12-3-1). 

Longest current streak of picking a team’s games correctly: Jets, Ravens and Packers (Six straight games picked correctly)

Teams I’ve been the worst at picking this year: Cardinals (6-10), Titans (7-9)), Saints (7-9), Washington (7-9), Raiders (7-9).

Picks Record

Straight up in Week 17: 14-2

SU overall:  166-89-1

Against the spread in Week 17: 9-7

ATS overall: 129-124-1 

Exact score predictions: 4

Exact score, wrong winner: 3


You can find John Breech on Facebook or Twitter and if he’s not doing one of those things, he’s probably starting a GoFundMe to help get a new guardrails for FedEx Field.

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