Your weekly NFL picks brought to you by our staff retired gambler, LaCharles himself
Charles Robinson @CRob5769
This always happens to me. The beginning of football season comes, and I feel like there is a lifetime of football ahead of me. The dawn of a new day. You get to about week 7 or 8 and you think “it’s still early, a lot of football left to be played”. Then it all whizzes right by you, and you’re in the last week of the season. Luckily, as a Chiefs fan, the last 6 seasons (and 7 of the last 8) have survived past the regular season. But there were times in my life, and in the lives of all Chiefs fans older than myself, where that wasn’t the case. I’ve grown up with an appreciation for the regular season, so playoff berth or not – it’s always sad to see it wind down. But there’s work left to do for this version of the Kansas City Chiefs, and multiple teams suiting up this Saturday and Sunday.
I look at the last week of the regular season a lot like I looked at finals week in college, particularly spring semester finals. There is a lot of studying to be done to understand certain scenarios. In the last week of the regular season, it’s obviously knowing who needs to win what games for teams to end up in certain playoff spots, who gets the bye, etc, etc. In college, it was me trying to figure out exactly what I needed to score on final in order to either A) maintain the letter grade I had, or B) climb to the next letter grade. While I didn’t convert many C’s to B’s, or B’s to A’s, I knew the roadmap to get there. The problem was the study habits weren’t there to support the plan. NFL teams this week have to hope that the practice and film study they’ve put in this week can support the gameplans they need to win and improve their seeding or get into the dance all together. I wasn’t a bad student, I was just more socially inclined. NFL teams don’t have that option, as being more socially inclined in this scenario means your guys start working on lowering their golf handicaps next week while others keep playing. The rewards in these scenarios are equally as fantastic – mine then was summer break, and now it’s playoff football.
Very few games on this weekend’s schedule have no impact on playoff seeding. In what the NFL has billed as it’s “Biggest Season Yet” with the added week, outside of the top seed in the NFC being occupied by the Packers, there is still a litany of outcomes we could see in where the teams that have clinched end up in the seedings, as well as who gets in all together. This year, more than any other, feels like it is truly anyone’s ball game and how it’s decided is coming right down to the very last weekend of the year. We just have to look past the fact that the league has put the wellbeing of the players on the back burner by adding the extra game, making teams play impromptu Saturday games in the last weekend of the regular season on 5 days notice, and moving one of the wild card games to Monday night. Ratings, people! Sadly we’ll all still watch, we’ll all still go nuts over it, and the league’s disregard for the best interest of the guys who make them billions of dollars will be second fiddle to Roger Goodell cashing another $40 million+ worth of paychecks for the 2021 season. You love to see it.
Betway That’s enough pessimism. We’ll dive in right after we take a look at where we stand heading into the regular season’s swan song.
Rough week against the spread, but still hanging strong on the straight up picks, where we’ve only dipped below .500 once on the season and stand at 83-48 on the year. A strong finish this week is necessary to keep things in the black on both, so let’s get on a heater here, shall we? As always, we will cover the Chiefs game in a stand alone column that will be released separate from this.
Cowboys (11-5) @ Eagles (9-7) : Dallas -4.5; O/U 43.5
This one is kind of an exception to the “every game means something” rule this weekend. Both teams have clinched playoff spots, and neither is necessarily guaranteed to improve their playoff seeding if they win this weekend. Top that off with the fact that Micah Parson and Tyron Smith are currently on the COVID list for the Cowboys (both could potentially be cleared by tomorrow) and it kind of sets up what I think might be the Cowboys playing their starters for a half or so, then riding into the sunset. Dallas has looked fantastic the last few weeks, as has Philly. But Jalen Hurt is also banged up with an lingering ankle issue, so we could experience some Minshew Mania this weekend in Philadelphia. This pick has nothing to do with football, it has to do with the luck I feel brewing in Philly after Hurts was able to avoid being crushed by part of the stadium after the Eagles win at Washington last weekend. I’ll take the Eagles at home in this one behind a strong rushing attack and sound defense.
Philadelphia 23, Dallas 20 (Eagles +4.5, Under 43.5)
Bengals (10-6) @ Browns (7-9) : Cleveland -6; O/U 38
No Burrow. No Mixon. No Mayfield. This game does matter for potential seeding scenarios for the Bengals, but they appear to not really care too much about that. For the Browns, almost everyone you know is questionable for the game, and you have to really wonder how much they care about this one as well. They’re out of the playoffs and they have some pressing questions to answer and decisions to make in the offseason. The biggest question I have here is – is Joe Burrow banged up, or is there more to the knee injury that took him out of the last two snaps of their win against the Chiefs? I guess we’ll see. If neither Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt go for Cleveland, they’re going to have trouble getting anything going on offense. This one is going to be sloppier than Urban Meyer at a Columbus bar, leaving me to believe that Ohio may just be a sloppy place.
Bengals 17, Browns 12 (Cincinnati +6, Under 38)
Packers (13-3) @ Lions (2-13-1) : GB -3.5; O/U 44.5
For all the talk I did up front about there being very few games that mean next to nothing this weekend, I’ve covered 3 right off the bat that mean…well, nothing. The Packers have everything clinched, including the 1 seed in the NFC. The Lions are atrocious, but have been chippy all year. It doesn’t make much sense for Green Bay to play their starters the whole game, if at all, so I see a scenario where the Lions could win this at home to give themselves a boost going into next season. The only catch? If they lose, and the Jags win (lol) they would lock up the number 1 draft pick. Something tells me with no clear cut QB out there to take, the 1 or the 2 mean about the same to the Lions. I think they pull off the win as I doubt Green Bay cares an awful lot about this one.
Lions 24, Packers 20 (Detroit +3.5; Under 44.5)
Steelers (8-7-1) @ Ravens (8-8) : Baltimore -6; O/U 41.5
Now we get into some meaningful football. And a “no love lost” game between two heated rivals. While a win doesn’t secure a playoff berth for either team, they both need one to have a chance to get in. The Steelers Browns Monday night game was one of the worst displays of football I’ve seen, but the Ravens are so banged up I keep asking myself how they can hang with anyone. But they keep doing it. A couple keys to watch here – if Lamar Jacksons can play, and if TJ Watt can get to him if he does. Watt has 21.5 sacks coming in, and needs 1.5 to break Michael Strahan’s record. The Ravens RT has given up the 6th most sacks in the NFL this year. We’re likely going to see a record broken this weekend. And the Steelers keep their playoff chances alive.
Steelers 23, Ravens 17 (Pittsburgh +6; Over 41.5)
Bears (6-10) @ Vikings (7-9) : Minnesota -5.5; O/U 44.5
Doesn’t matter, don’t care, won’t watch. If Kirk Cousins plays, the Vikings will win. Justin Fields is on the COVID list, so it’ll be Kirk Cousins vs. Andy Dalton. If anyone outside of Minneapolis or Chicago watch this game they’re either a degenerate gambler or sadistic.
Vikings 19, Bears 13 (Minnesota -5.5; Under 44.5)
Colts (9-7) @ Jaguars (2-14) : Indianapolis -15.5; O/U 44
The Colts have to win this game to get in, and they will. Just hand the ball to Jonathan Taylor 40 times and let him work.
But here are some interesting Trevor Lawrence facts from this season :
- Trevor Lawrence has not had more passing TDs than turnovers in a single game this year
- Trevor Lawrence has 15 consecutive starts with 1 or fewer passing TDs, tied for the most in NFL history
- Trevor Lawrence set the Jaguars rookie passing record last week and has 3,418 yards on the season
I shouldn’t shit on Trevor Lawrence – what a dumpster fire he was drafted into. But what a rough start to a career. There’s always next year, and if the Jags front office can build around him they could be good sooner than any of us expect. Not this year, though.
Colts 27, Jags 10 (Indianapolis -15.5, Under 44)
Titans (11-5) @ Texans (4-12) : Tennessee -10.5; O/U 43
This is the second biggest game of the weekend for Chiefs fans. If Houston can pull off another upset of Tennessee, and the Chiefs can beat the Broncos again, the Chiefs would have the AFC’s 1 seed. I just don’t see this happening. The last time these two teams met, Tennessee was lost without Derrick Henry and hadn’t found a replacement for him or an identity. They’ve come around behind their stout defense and the emergence of D’Onta Foreman out of the backfield, who has four 100 yard rushing games in the past 6 weeks. With this being a must win to clinch the 1 seed for Tennessee, I would imagine Mike Vrabel will have these guys ready to run through a wall.
Titans 24, Texans 13 (Tennessee -10.5, Under 43)
Washington (6-10) @ Giants (4-12) : Washington -7; O/U 37.5
The most interesting thing about this game will be the speculation on what the Washington franchise chooses as their new mascot, or “brand” as they’re calling it. My vote is Admirals.
WFT 19, Giants 9 (Washington -7; Under 37.5)
49ers (9-7) @ Rams (12-4) : LAR -4.5; O/U 44.5
The Niners have won 5 in a row over the Rams, and seem to have their number. They are a more physical team, and have the ability to run the ball down the Rams throat. The problem? Trey Lance. If Jimmy G can’t go on Sunday, expect the San Fran offense to struggle against the Rams defense. While the Rams have a playoff berth locked up, a win here would clinch the NFC West for them, and secure the number 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. A Niner win would clinch a playoff berth on their end. This has game of the week written all over it, and I think the x-factor in this division matchup is going to be Deebo Samuel. If he can have a big game on the ground and receiving the football, mixing in a little George Kittle, San Fran will punch their ticket.
49ers 23, Rams 21 (San Francisco +4.5; Under 44.5)
Seahawks (6-10) @ Cardinals (11-5) : Arizona -6.5; O/U 48
Last week was the most life Arizona has showed since about week 8. Their 25-22 win in Dallas, while controversial, was a huge boost to them staying in the NFC West race. With a win and a Rams loss, they can still win the division and end up as high as the 2 seed in the NFC with some help. Seattle finally came alive last weekend offensively, but you have to wonder how much motivation they have left being out of the playoff race, and facing questions over who will not only be playing there next year (ahem, Russel Wilson), but also coaching.
Cardinals 28, Seahawks 24 (Seattle +6.5; Over 48)
Patriots (10-6) @ Dolphins (8-8) : New England -6.5; O/U 40
Miami was red hot until they got absolutely disrobed by the Titans last week. The Tennessee defense clamped down on what looked to be a Miami offense that was finding their footing, but slipped hard in a loss that eliminated them from playoff contention. New England, on the other hand, has clinched a playoff spot and can win the AFC East with a win over Miami and a Bills loss to the Jets. This will without a doubt be a low scoring affair, as these are the top two defenses in the NFL over the past 8 weeks. I look for New England to try to put a strangle hold on the pace of this game by running the ball over, and over, and over again. If they can do it effectively, the Patriots will keep their AFC East hopes alive.
Patriots 21, Dolphins 13 (New England -6.5; Under 40)
Panthers (5-10) @ Buccaneers (12-4) : Tampa -8.5; O/U 41.5
Tampa will win this game, but it’s starting to feel more and more like things are falling apart for the defending Super Bowl champs. The Antonio Brown fiasco last weekend seemed like it was a recurring headache that multiple franchises have experienced with AB, but all of the information that came out this week is a pretty big black eye for the organization. If what Brown is saying is true, and he was forced to play while significantly injured and then accosted for looking out for his health, the Bucs have a whole different problem on their hands. I don’t see Tampa making it back to Super Bowl 56, even if they have God’s gift to football on their roster. Fortunately for them, Carolina doesn’t stand much of a chance of further damaging those hopes this week.
Bucs 28, Panthers 13 (Tampa -8.5; Under 41.5)
Jets (4-12) @ Bills (10-6) : Buffalo -16; O/U 41
Last week was an ugly win for Buffalo, and one where we got peak Josh Allen. Multiple rushing touchdowns, and multiple interceptions. The Jets, meanwhile, played a very close game with the Bucs at home and have looked increasingly chippier throughout the course of the season. The Jets are trending in the right direction, but Buffalo has already arrived as a contender and should be able to salt this one away and win the AFC East for a second straight season.
Bills 24, Jets 17 (NYJ +16; Over 41)
Saints (8-8) @ Falcons (7-9) : New Orleans -4.5; O/U 39.5
New Orleans, somehow, is still alive in the playoff hunt. After starting 5-2, the Saints dropped 5 in a row following the loss of Jameis Winston. Now? They’ve won 3 of 4, and with a win and a 49ers loss can get into the playoffs. Atlanta still hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record this year, which makes this even more confusing with the Saints being an even 8-8. Kyle Pitts is questionable with a hamstring issue, and if he can’t go I would certainly look for the Saints to win. Even if he does, New Orleans seems to have the heart of a lion this year, and behind their stiff defense and Alvin Kamara they keep their hopes alive.
Saints 20, Falcons 14 (New Orleans -4.5; Under 39.5)
Chargers (9-7) @ Raiders (9-7) : LAC -3; O/U 49.5
The final matchup of the day is a “win and you’re in” setup. Kind of. The Raiders can clinch with a win, but also with a tie and a Colts loss, or a loss and losses by the Colts and Steelers. The Chargers scenario is a little simpler – win or tie and they’re in. Both teams have a decent shot at making it, but I’m all about chaos theory in this one. Say the Colts lose to the Jags. That means, if Brandon Staley and Rich Bisaccia wanted to meet up at midfield and agree to kneel the ball 15 times each for a tie, they could both get in. That ain’t gonna happen. But, the Raiders could show up and play defense the way they have since the Chiefs smacked them on the nose with a newspaper for disrespecting their logo. This is strictly a gut feeling, but my gut is telling me Vegas in this one.
Raiders 28, Chargers 27 (Las Vegas +3; Over 49.5)
So, to summarize, the below graphic (taken directly from ESPN’s Playoff Machine) illustrates how I think the playoff picture will look when the dust settles on Sunday. Does it give away my pick for the Chiefs Broncos game? Yes. But also shows what my week 18 picks does to a playoff picture that could go a number of different ways. Only time will tell.