Monday, May 20, 2024

Prisco’s Week 18 NFL picks, plus projecting the final playoff teams and Dalvin Cook on the market

Happy midweek, everyone! The playoff race is finally about to get underway in the NFL. John Breech can’t keep up with all the wild card scenarios, so he’s taking the day off, letting me, Cody Benjamin, deliver all the latest from around the league.

This is the Pick Six newsletter. Now let’s get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don’t want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)

We’ve got Prisco’s Week 18 picks, playoff projections, a preview of wild card games and more:

1. Today’s show: Debating Prisco’s Power Rankings


Bills QB Josh Allen USATSI

Pete Prisco and John Breech joined Will Brinson on the latest “Pick Six NFL Podcast” to dissect and debate Prisco’s latest Power Rankings, where the Ravens reign supreme, but plenty of other teams have shuffled up and down. Some highlights:

  • Prisco believes there is even more parity than usual entering the postseason race, predicting “we see a five- six-, or seven-seed” contender “make a run” at the Lombardi Trophy. Some possibilities: the Bills and Rams.
  • The Cowboys are up to No. 3 in Prisco’s rankings despite a tight win over the Lions in Week 17. “I think the path to the Super Bowl is much easier in the NFC,” he added. “The Chiefs still have (Patrick) Mahomes. The Bills will be tough.”
  • Some potential playoff spoilers? Brinson’s all over Matthew Stafford and the Rams, but Prisco isn’t ruling out the Jaguars, either. He believes Christian Kirk’s return could help them avenge a December loss to the Browns if they rematch.

Catch the full episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.

2. Prisco’s picks: Bills top Dolphins, Texans make playoffs

Pete Prisco went 12-4 making straight-up picks in Week 17. Now he’s back for a final round of regular-season predictions, forecasting every game on the Week 18 slate. Here are a few of his notable picks:

  • Packers 30, Bears 24: It’s simple for the Packers: Win and they are in the playoffs. They are coming off an impressive victory over the Vikings, but this won’t be easy. The Bears have played good football down the stretch, with Justin Fields playing well. But I think Jordan Love will play better. The Packers take it.
  • Bills 30, Dolphins 23: The winner wins the AFC East. The Bills and Josh Allen have dominated Miami in Allen’s career, and I don’t see that changing here. Look for a big game from Allen against a defense that is banged up. The Bills win it.
  • Texans 31, Colts 26: The winner of this game will be in the playoffs and could win the AFC South if Jacksonville loses to the Titans. The Texans are a different team with C.J. Stroud, who played well last week after missing two games. I think he plays a good game here and the Texans make the playoffs.

3. Playoff projections: Colts, Packers sneak in as wild cards


Packers QB Jordan Love Getty Images

Every week, John Breech collects SportsLine’s latest simulations to forecast the entire playoff picture. Which borderline contenders are favored to make the tournament in Week 18? Despite plenty of experts liking the Texans’ chances in the AFC South, and others pointing to the Saints and Seahawks as NFC possibilities, the model believes these two will claim the final wild card spots:

  • Colts: The Colts (9-7) and Texans (9-7) will be playing each other on Saturday night with the winner guaranteed to make the playoffs. The computer is giving a small edge to the Colts, who will be playing at home. The Steelers are also in the hunt for a playoff spot, but for them to get in, they’d need to beat the Ravens and have that combined with a loss by either the Bills or Jaguars. The computer does not think that’s going to happen. Remaining schedule: Texans
  • Packers: Thanks to a loss by the Seahawks in Week 17, the Packers (8-8) are now the only wild card contender in the NFC facing a “win-and-in” situation this week. If the Packers beat the Bears, then they’ll clinch a playoff spot and the computer thinks that’s going to happen. Remaining schedule: Bears   

4. Big-name reunions could be on tap for playoffs

Douglas Clawson has 13 crazy things to know about Week 18’s postseason implications. One of his nuggets: Depending on how the final week of regular-season action unfolds, the playoffs could open with a handful of revenge games.

Potential wild card matchups:

  • Dolphins at Chiefs (Tyreek Hill reunion) with a Dolphins loss vs. Bills
  • Rams at Lions (Matthew Stafford reunion) with Cowboys and Rams wins
  • Packers at Cowboys (Mike McCarthy reunion) with Cowboys, Packers and Rams wins

And for good measure, the Browns will face the Ravens in Baltimore in the divisional round (Joe Flacco reunion) if they beat the AFC South champion in the wild card round and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds win in the AFC wild card round.

5. Dalvin Cook leaves Jets ahead of playoffs

Miami Dolphins v New York Jets

Jets RB Dalvin Cook Getty Images

The former Vikings star spent all offseason looking for a new team, ultimately opting to follow Aaron Rodgers to New York. After 17 quiet weeks as an infrequently used ball-carrier, the running back is now a free agent once again, agreeing to mutually part ways with the Jets ahead of the 2023 playoffs on Tuesday. He finishes his short-lived Gang Green run having totaled just 67 carries.

6. Coaching roundup: Belichick, Rivera take different stances

Here’s the latest from some of the NFL’s big-name coaches:

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