Here are my Week 18 picks with confidence level selections. The picks with a confidence level of 1-5 will be available for all NFL Pickwatch readers.
The picks with a 6+ confidence level, a group of selections that have netted a 147-52-1 record over the past two seasons (including a 64-24-1 mark this year), will be available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers.
Pickwatch Pro is a great service that allows subscribers to download the best expert data in the industry, see team-by-team winners for every expert, and provides access to Upset Watch, which has been the ultimate cheatcode to beat the sportsbooks over the last five years. Combine those elements with the top level of my weekly picks and it makes for a must-subscribe service for anyone serious about betting.
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
KC’s pick: Dallas | Confidence level: 5
Neither team has that much to play for in this contest, as Dallas can only move up the NFC rankings by a notable amount if upsets occur and Philadelphia can only move between the No. 6 or No. 7 seeds. Having noted this, the Cowboys do seem to have more motivation, as Mike McCarthy has indicated they will play to win this game and getting a No. 3 seed could result in another playoff home contest under certain circumstances. Combine that with the Eagles battling a COVID breakout and Dallas is the selection.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
KC’s pick: Pittsburgh | Confidence level: 3
Both teams have slim playoff chances, with the Steelers having a shot with a win and an Indianapolis loss, while Baltimore needs a victory and three other game results to go their way to earn the No. 7 seed. The Ravens have been in a major slump, having lost five straight, but four of those losses were by a combined five points. Pittsburgh has been one of the most hit/miss teams in the league, especially on defense as they have allowed 19 or fewer points in three of the past five games but also given up 36 or more points in four of the past seven. The Ravens offense just hasn’t been anywhere near as powerful with Lamar Jackson sidelined, so they aren’t apt to be on the 36+ point side of that equation, which means the Steelers are the selection.
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
KC’s pick: Cleveland | Confidence level: 2
This is apt to be one of the ugliest games of Week 18, as the Bengals won’t be playing Joe Burrow, likely won’t have Joe Mixon available due to COVID, and may not put Ja’Marr Chase into the game. The Browns won’t have Baker Mayfield, which may be a blessing given how poorly he has performed while trying to fight through multiple injuries. The benching of Burrow is the determinant here, as it sends the wrong kind of signal to the rest of the Bengals squad, so Cleveland gets this pick.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
KC’s pick: Green Bay | Confidence level: 3
Reading between the lines, it seems that the Packers are going to play their starters in this game, but it will likely only last for about a quarter or so. That’s bad news for Detroit, as injuries have caused the Lions defense to fall back to the abysmal coverage level they had earlier this year. That should be more than enough to give Green Bay a significant lead by the time the starters are removed, so the Packers the preferred option here.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
KC’s pick: Minnesota | Confidence level: 2
Chicago’s offense continued its turnaround last week, as the Bears tallied 29 points, marking the third time they have racked up 25 or more points in the past four games. That is a very good trend against a Minnesota club that has allowed 28+ points in every game but one since Week 10. The problem for Chicago is the outlier in that group of games is when the Bears scored only nine points against the Vikings in a 17-9 Monday night loss in Week 15. Chicago has also allowed 331 rushing yards over the past two games and is facing a Minnesota team that will aim to send Mike Zimmer out on a high note in what could be his last game as the Vikings head coach, so the Vikings get this one by a small margin.
Washington Football Team at New York Giants
KC’s pick: Washington | Confidence level: 3
These are two teams trending in the wrong direction but give Washington credit for maintaining some offensive consistency during their four game losing streak, as the Football Team has averaged 16.8 points per game in that span. That may not seem like much, but it compares quite favorably to New York scoring 13 or fewer points in six of their last seven games. Both teams have plenty of personnel issues and have shown that they really don’t want to be out on the field at times, but the Giants have done this a lot more than Washington, so the Football Team gets this pick.
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
KC’s pick: Arizona | Confidence level: 2
The Cardinals finally ended their three-game losing streak with a hard fought 25-22 victory over the Cowboys in Week 17, but don’t overlook the fact that Arizona has allowed 22+ points in five straight games. That could be a problem against a Seattle offense that has found its groove now that Russell Wilson’s finger seems to be fully healed, as the Seahawks have scored 30+ points in three of their last five games. The Cardinals still have the talent edge in this one and they have a lot more motivation since a win by Arizona and a loss by the Rams against San Francisco would give the Cardinals the NFC West division title and move them up from the No. 5 seed to the No. 3 seed. That factor carries enough weight to vault Arizona to the selection here.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
KC’s pick: New Orleans | Confidence level: 4
Sean Payton has showcased his coaching prowess by leading the Saints to wins in three of the past four games despite scoring only 30 points in the past three games combined. The key to these wins a powerhouse defense that held three of those foes to 10 or fewer points and fewer than 100 rushing yards in three games. The Falcons have been the most inconsistent team in the league in many ways, alternating between wins and losses for each of the past six games, but Atlanta has a potentially huge issue in a rush defense that has given up 527 yards over the past three games combined. That isn’t a good trend when facing Alvin Kamara and is doubly bad since the Saints can still clinch a playoff berth with a win and a San Francisco loss to the Rams, so New Orleans is the pick here.
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
KC’s pick: Los Angeles | Confidence level: 1
A case could be made that this should be the Sunday night game, as the Rams get the No. 2 seed with a win in this game, while the 49ers earn a playoff berth if they earn the victory. The Rams have been playing better of late, as they have won five straight games in myriad ways, while the 49ers have won six out of eight due in large part to winning the ground game battle on both sides of the ball more often than not. Both teams have quarterbacks that have made big plays for their teams and their opponents at times, but the Rams have a healthy Matthew Stafford while the 49ers will either have a banged-up Jimmy Garoppolo or an inconsistent Trey Lance, so the odds are greater that Los Angeles gets a better performance from their field general. Add that to the Rams being at home and Los Angeles is the pick here by a slim margin
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
KC’s pick: New England | Confidence level: 4
The Patriots ended a two-game losing streak by posting a 50-10 win over a vastly overmatched Jacksonville squad, but the key to remember regarding that pair of losses is that it occurred against the Colts and Bills, two teams with superstar offensive players that led their clubs to score a combined 60 points against New England. Miami won seven straight games against mostly weak opponents prior to getting blown out by a powerhouse Tennessee by a 34-3 score last week. The Patriots are more like the Titans than they are the other teams the Dolphins beat, and Miami doesn’t have the offensive scoring prowess that Indianapolis or Buffalo has, so New England is way to go in this one.
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
KC’s pick: Los Angeles | Confidence level: 4
Los Angeles has been dealing with some offensive injuries of late, but that hasn’t prevented them from tallying 28 or more points in five straight games. The Silver and Black is holding its own on defense over the past month, yet it should be pointed out that three of those top performances were against Washington, Cleveland, and Denver. The Raiders offense has also struggled after their early season success, as Las Vegas has scored 17 or fewer points in seven of its last nine games. That should keep the door open for the Chargers to score at a pace that Las Vegas can’t keep up with, so the Chargers are the pick here.
KC’s 6+ confidence level picks, a group of selections that have gone 147-52-1 over the past two seasons (including a 64-24-1 mark this year), are available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers.