It has been a week. After months and months and months of waiting, sports wagering was about to become legal in my state of residence on January 1st. I was looking forward to placing my first legal bet, or at least my first legal bet when not in Las Vegas. And then a trip to the ER to ameliorate the excruciation of a kidney stone. By Sunday, I was in no mood to do anything but lay flat on my posterior, making a bet that could come later.
Then Monday Night happened, and none of it mattered. A young man, in his physical prime, playing in a football game, made a routine football play and fell to the turf, suffering cardiac arrest.
I’m not going to pretend to have anything more insightful or pithy to say about the situation than has already been said. Only that I’m exceptionally grateful that we seem to be on the verge of something near to the best-case scenario playing out in front of our eyes. I can only imagine the relief Damar Hamlin’s parents are feeling right now. I can only imagine the relief because I can’t imagine the terror they’ve been living with for the past few days.
At some point, we need to discuss the cognitive dissonance required to be a fan of the NFL (and don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of college football, we’ll be here all day), but those are discussions for another time. For now, let’s be happy celebrating small milestones.
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Last week: My picks, 3 – 4; Analytics, 3 – 4; Best Bets, 3 – 1
Season: My picks, 36 – 56 – 4; Analytics, 43 – 49 – 3; Best Bets, 18 – 23 – 1
NFL Week 18 Lines
(Standard disclaimer – All opinions are my own and may or may not reflect those of this website. “Analytic Lines” are ELO point spreads from fivethirtyeight.com, and “Vegas Lines” are courtesy of thelines.com, current as of the writing of this article. Predicted Line (“PL”) is my early week estimate of where the Vegas line would be set. Chosen games are those with a multiple-point variance between the Vegas and Analytic Lines.)
As is tradition, we’ll pick all the Week 18 games with playoff implications.
Game of the Week
Tennessee at Jacksonville – Analytic Line: JAX (-7.5), Vegas Line: JAX (-6.5), PL: JAX (-7.5)
Potentially, the only win-and-in game of the weekend is the Saturday Night Special. Tennessee hasn’t won since the Thursday before Thanksgiving. As uninspiring as Josh Dobbs was against Dallas last week, now the Jags have tape on him. If Jacksonville’s playing well enough to obliterate their Texans’ curse, they can run the Titans.
Pick: Jacksonville (-6.5)
Kansas City at Las Vegas – Analytic Line: LV (+9), Vegas Line: LV (+9), PL: LV (+8.5)
Unlike Josh Dobbs, Jarrett Stidham played well in his starting debut last week. Like Josh Dobbs, now the Chiefs have film on him. I’m not banking on a repeat with KC in a position to clinch home-field.
Pick: Kansas City (+8)
Baltimore at Cincinnati – Analytic Line: CIN (-10.5), Vegas Line: CIN (-9.5), PL: CIN (-11.5)
Cinci had to deal with the trauma of Monday Night, is cheesed about their lot in the playoff proposal with that game canceled, and gets a home game against a Baltimore team quarterbacked by a compromised Tyler Huntley. Buffalo will be the “You Can’t Make This Line High Enough” game of the week. This game will be a close second.
Pick: Cincinnati (-9.5)
Cleveland at Pittsburgh – Analytic Line: PIT (-1), Vegas Line: PIT (-2.5), PL: PIT (-3)
This is a Mike Tomlin bet, pure and simple.
Pick: Pittsburgh (-2.5)
New England at Buffalo – Analytic Line: BUF (-11), Vegas Line: BUF (-7.5), PL: BUF (-12.5)
Anybody remember what Buffalo did to the Pats last year in the playoffs? I do. This may be an approximation of that game. With all the Bills have gone through this week, you cannot make this line high enough for me to take the Pats.
Pick: Buffalo (-7.5)
New York Jets at Miami – Analytic Line: MIA (+3.5), Vegas Line: MIA (-3.5), PL: MIA (-2.5)
Does ELO know Zach Wilson isn’t starting for the Jets? I know Skylar Thompson is no great shakes, but who in their right mind is laying three and a hook on Joe Flacco? I’d definitely tease this number under 3.
Pick: Miami (-3.5)
New York Giants at Philadelphia – Analytic Line: PHI (-21), Vegas Line: PHI (-14), PL: PHI (-10.5)
I’m calling a Philly win, so we don’t have to deal with the ridiculous numbers in the Dallas and San Francisco games. That said, 21?!? Holy guacamole, ELO! That is one giant number. 14 is also a large number. I’m guessing Philly does just enough to lock up home-field and pull Jalen Hurts before he re-Hurts himself. If the last two weeks have shown us anything, it’s that Philly isn’t special without him.
Pick: New York Giants (+14)
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle – Analytic Line: SEA (-1.5), Vegas Line: SEA (-6), PL: SEA (-3.5)
Seattle couldn’t cover in LA a few weeks back, and they’re not playing well enough to be laying 6 against anyone. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say the League wants LA to win so they get their Win and In on Sunday Night.
Pick: Los Angeles (+6); Best Bet: Rams Money Line (+235)
Detroit at Green Bay – Analytic Line: GB (-3), Vegas Line: GB (-5), PL: GB (-3.5)
Finally, the big one. The chance for the once-sub 2% odds to make the playoffs Packers to clinch a playoff spot. After three years of regular season domination and post-season letdown, dare we hope this year is the converse? Detroit’s a different team on the road. They’re 3-4, but with a -48 point differential. Lambeau will probably be a bit cooler than the controlled climate of Ford Field. For this exercise, I’ll take the Pack, but I’d want to tease this number down.
Pick: Green Bay (-5)
If your league is still playing in Week 18, find a new league, but just in case, here are our Week 18 fantasy football rankings to help you set those lineups!