Week 18 NFL Picks

The Damar Hamlin miracle, Denver’s strategy for 2023, it’s Nick Sirianni’s fault, and Georgia is lucky.

Well, the wheels fell off last week. Like all the pro athletes say; a minor setback for a major comeback… (eye roll).

Last Week:    3 – 11 – 1
Season:        119 – 123 – 11

Saturday (4:30 and 8:15PM ET)

Chiefs at Raiders
I secretly hope the Chiefs and Bengals lose and the Bills win this weekend. Not because the Bills deserve the top seed because of all they’ve endured the last few days (though you could argue they do), but because it makes this entire scheduling mess cleaner. I don’t want an AFC Championship at a neutral site. The NFL will probably choose a dome or warm weather stadium. That’s not remotely as fun as Buffalo, Kansas City or Cincinnati in late January and all the elements that come with those cities. RAIDERS +8.5

Titans at Jaguars
Jacksonville has won four straight and five of their last six. They beat four playoff contenders in that stretch, including the Titans. Tennessee is extremely banged up and will be starting a 3rd string quarterback who has bounced around practice squads all season. Why can’t I just pick the Jaguars and move on? I don’t know, just have a bad feeling about this one. Smells like a 165 yard Derrick Henry performance where the tough and experienced Titans squeak out a 17-16 victory or something similar. TITANS +6.5

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Buccaneers at Falcons
The NFC South really let us down over the last few weeks. I hoped both of Sunday’s NFC South matchups would ultimately determine the division winner. Instead, neither one matters at all outside of draft position. FALCONS -4

Patriots at Bills
First of all, it is awesome, awesome news that Damar Hamlin is awake, speaking, and is “neurologically intact.” Second, the Buffalo medical staff is made up of heroes. I’ve seen a ton of football games and hundreds of injuries during those games. I’ve never seen trainers on a player so quickly. That staff quickly recognized Hamlin was in trouble and their immediate actions without a doubt saved that man’s life. Third, while it was a devastating and unfortunate situation, it’s comforting to see that humans are still capable of some decency. The Bengals organization handled this situation with such love and grace even though they had the most to lose. Cincinnati was destined for a top seed with a win (and a win this week) and they never once hesitated to do what was right for those who were hurting and in need. Zac Taylor and his team put others first, and at a significant cost, too. Fourth, if your response to this incident is to question the existence of football then… uh… pound sand, to put it nicely. This wasn’t a football injury. Not at all. This happened to a 6 year old with a whiffle ball bat. This happened to a 30 year old man playing pick-up hoops. It statistically happens most in baseball and soccer. Football is violent and gruesome, but it doesn’t mean every single injury is the result of something exclusive to football. Finally, all you Twitter bozos who made this tragic event about you and your morality strutting are the worst. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll keep saying it. If you don’t want to watch football anymore because it compromises your values or whatever then that is just wonderful for you. Feel free to stop watching without telling the rest of the world. Your virtue signaling is pathetic. BILLS -7

Vikings at Bears
Is Minnesota the best bad team of all time or the worst good team of all time? It would take a tsunami of events for the Vikings to move up from the 3rd seed so risking injury here doesn’t make a ton of sense. On the other hand, I doubt Minnesota wants to head into the postseason on that drubbing at the hands of their division rivals. VIKINGS -7

Ravens at Bengals
Baltimore’s offense is the most unwatchable in the NFL. In a league with the Rams, Cardinals, Colts, Steelers, Texans and Broncos, that is saying something. No one knows how the Bengals will respond after Monday’s events, but I’m leaning toward a dominating performance over a Ravens team that is dying on the vine. In the last two months, Baltimore has scored more than 17 points only once, and that was in a loss. Yuck. BENGALS -9

Texans at Colts
I love Nick Foles, but the Kayvon Thibodeaux outrage is overblown. He didn’t know Foles was down and writhing in pain. Was it a bad look? Sure. But it’s not that big of a deal. Just forget about it and move on. I’m going to apply that advice to this game. COLTS -2.5

Jets at Dolphins
Miami is about to play their 17th game and I still have no idea if they’re a good team or not. I’ve leaned “no” all season and while I would gladly accept a win on that, I still think their season grade gets an incomplete. Their quarterback situation has been an unmitigated disaster. I’m not sure it’s fair to grade a football team when the most important position has been an unending injury carousel. JETS +3

Panthers at Saints
No playoff implications so let me make this point about Georgia. It’s possible (and perhaps even likely) the Bulldogs don’t win either of these two national championships (they’re winning Monday) if Marvin Harrison Jr., John Metchie III and Jameson Williams don’t go down. Last week, the Buckeyes were up 14 and Harrison Jr. was nuking the Georgia secondary to the tune of 105 yards and 2 touchdowns before he went down. Georgia rallied and won. Last year, Williams went down in the National Championship game with 12 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter of a 3-3 game. To that point, Williams already had 65 yards. In the SEC Championship a month prior, Williams had 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. In that game, John Metchie III went down just before halftime with a torn ACL. He already had 97 yards and touchdown in the 1st half. Georgia got trounced 41-17. Metchie would miss the National Championship game. Yes, shoulda, coulda, wouldas don’t exist in sports, but man has Georgia benefitted from some fortuitous wide receiver injuries. PANTHERS +3.5

Browns at Steelers
Perhaps it was Washington’s incompetence, but Deshaun Watson finally resembled Deshaun Watson in the 2nd half last week. Cleveland is playing like a team that wants something to build on for next season and not a team eliminated from playoff contention. I expect the Browns to give Pittsburgh hell. Also, Mike Tomlin is a great, great coach. How he managed eight wins with that offense is crazy. Sure, I could probably blame him some for the questionable strategy of that offense but what he’s done with that team this season is exceptional nonetheless. BROWNS +2.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Chargers at Broncos
At this point I think Russell Wilson is a sunk cost as far as a franchise quarterback is concerned. If I’m Denver, I’m going after a tough, defensive-minded head coach who will make the defense the backbone of the team and build a pounding ground game that gives Wilson play action opportunities on offense. It’s the best way for Denver to rebound, and they could even be really good. Javonte Williams is a stud at running back (assuming he makes a full return from injury – a big if, I suppose), Wilson still throws a great deep ball, and the Broncos have talent and speed on the outside to make defenses pay for keying in on the run. It may not be what Denver had in mind when they sacrificed so much for Wilson, but it’s their only play if they want to salvage this situation. CHARGERS +3

Giants at Eagles
Gardner Minshew was horrible last week. Just flat out horrible. I doubt anyone watching was shocked by the game-clinching pick-six because Minshew tried to throw close to 24 interceptions by that time. Regardless, Minshew is not why the Eagles lost. Nick Sirianni is why the Eagles lost and why they’ve dropped two straight. Let’s get into it… Know why backup quarterbacks are not starters? Because they’re not very good. That’s why. Well the Eagles backup quarterback threw the football 70 times in two weeks despite never trailing by more than one score in the 4th quarter (prior to the pick six). Did I mention Minshew was quarterbacking one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks, or that his offensive line is one of the NFL’s best? Or that in his two starts he faced two of the top five sack teams in the league, and the second game was without an all-pro right tackle? Everything pointed to running the football and Sirianni refused. I don’t care what excuse you bring, there was absolutely no reason for Sirianni to ignore the running game as he did. The Eagles have proven themselves to be the best team in the NFC. You don’t have to find wrinkles on film or get cute in trying to expose an opponent’s weakness. Just line up and do what you do better than anyone else. It’s that simple. With Jalen Hurts, the Eagles still have the best team in the NFC, but I am now far less confident in Sirianni in a playoff matchup against a proven playoff coach like Kyle Shanahan. EAGLES -14

Cardinals at 49ers
Injuries are never good, but finding the benefits of a negative situation is a good way to live, so I’d like to make the case that Kyler Murray’s knee injury could be a good thing for the young star. It’s no secret that Murray doesn’t take his job as seriously as many would hope. Even on Sundays he often lacks urgency until the closing moments. He doesn’t play like a quarterback who understands the gifts he’s been given and how quickly it can all be taken away. Maybe this injury will change that. Maybe he’ll realize to be great at this level requires more than just talent. He’s such an electric player and the league is better when he’s healthy and engaged. Unfortunately, he’s been going through the motions for the better part of two seasons now. Of course, the injury could also be devastating to his career, especially a QB as mobile as Murray, but I’ll opt to hope for best. CARDINALS +14

Rams at Seahawks
If Sean McVay walks away for TV money is it really because he’s done coaching or is it because he’s looked around at the nuclear fallout of winning that Super Bowl and realizing it’s going to be years before the Rams can compete? How attractive is that opening to other coaches as well? Of course there will be a line of coaches willing to take it but it won’t be the best candidates. Also, do coaches value fan bases? I’m legitimately asking. There are many places where the NFL coach is part of the fabric of the community. We’ve seen it in Buffalo and Cincinnati this past week. Kansas City, Philadelphia, New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Green Bay also come to mind. There’s no connection between Los Angeles and the football team. They play all their games in front of a road crowd. Is the draw of Los Angeles so much to ignore those kinds of factors? I know no one can answer that for me but I would like to know. RAMS +6

Cowboys at Commanders
Dallas fans can’t feel great about Dak Prescott heading into the postseason. He has multiple interceptions in four of his last six games and 10 total over that span. Sure, some have been the result of drops, but Prescott has not been clean with the football. In early November I thought Dallas could be the team to beat in the NFC and now I’m not convinced they’ll win their first playoff matchup. If Mike McCarthy wants to be employed next season, he’ll ride the running game and make Prescott’s life in the passing game much easier. COWBOYS -7

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Lions at Packers
Each of Green Bay’s last two seasons have ended with disappointing January losses at Lambeau Field, so why would this season end any differently? I’m kidding. I think. Maybe I’m not. If Seattle loses I think Detroit wins. And even if the Lions are eliminated prior to kickoff, I’m not convinced the Packers get the victory. As good as Green Bay looked last week I still think that offense is a dud. They need big plays from their special teams/defense to carry them and Detroit is the best team in the NFL at protecting the football. Also, Dan Campbell is the ultimate “if we’re not going, neither are you” kind of coach, so don’t expect Detroit to just quit if they’re eliminated. LIONS +5

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