Derek Carr

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

  • Can the Miami Dolphins close out a disappointing season by sweeping the New England Patriots?
  • Who will come out on top of a win-and-in between the Chargers and Raiders?
  • Last week’s picks went 1-1, winning us 1.8 units and bringing our season total to +9.61 (19-26 record)

After yet another thrilling NFL season filled with twists and turns, we’ve finally reached uncharted territory: Week 18! (In fairness, the league did have an 18th week in 1993 when they experimented with two byes, but this is the first time all teams will be playing a 17th game.) What can we expect from the added fixture?

Judging from the Week 18 spreads, this will be a lot like any other final week: a few key games with playoff implications and a lot of pointless contests between teams counting down until vacation. Last week we had success focusing on postseason-relevant matchups, so we’ll be sticking with that approach here, eyeing a pair of AFC tilts with enticing underdogs.

NFL Week 18 Upset Picks

Matchup Spread Moneyline Pick Units
New England Patriots vs Miami Dolphins NE -6 +225 Dolphins 1
Los Angeles Chargers vs Las Vegas Raiders LAC -3 +140 Raiders 2

Odds as of January 7th at DraftKings and FanDuel

 

Dolphins Down Pats

In one of the semi-important games of the weekend, the playoff-bound New England Patriots are 6.5-point favorites over the going nowhere Miami Dolphins.

It’s a little odd to see the Pats getting a touchdown on the road after Miami took the Week 1 meeting between these two. The thinking is that New England will extra motivated to get the win, with a chance to win the AFC East still on the line. However, that would also require the 16-point favored Buffalo Bills to lose to the New York Jets.

That’s the issue with assuming the Patriots starters will be going all 60 minutes in this one. With the Bills likely to open a sizeable halftime lead on the Jets, you could see some key Patriots start to come out in the second half. Sure, a win would still secure the Patriots the fifth seed. But considering the inexperienced Bengals currently hold the three seed, falling back to sixth might be more attractive for Belichick’s bunch. These are the kind of mental gymnastics coaches are doing in this final week.

Miami’s motivation is far more simple: leave it all on the field, try and sweep the Pats for the first time since 2000, then enjoy a very long offseason.

Regardless of how these other AFC games play out, the Dolphins are a solid bet here: New England has lost six of their last eight trips to Miami. The Phins defense has come on in the second half of the year. Their secondary has the talent to erase the Pats receivers and turn this into another slog like Week 1. It won’t be pretty, or consequential in any way, but take Miami to win.

Chargers Shocked Again

The final game of the 2021 NFL season will pit AFC West rivals together in a winner-take-all clash for the last wild card spot. The Los Angeles Chargers are three-point road favorites against the Las Vegas Raiders in Game 272.

We won’t get into the “doomsday scenario” surrounding this game that everyone has been dissecting, because it would require the absolutely awful Jacksonville Jaguars to win. If that were even remotely a possibility, wouldn’t we have included them in this week’s upsets?

The Chargers are giving points here because they boast the more talented roster with the more exciting quarterback, while Las Vegas was written off at the halfway point of their incredibly chaotic season.  Almost every impartial football fan would love to see rubber match between the Chargers and Chiefs in the wild card round, which is what we’ll get if the favorites do their job this weekend. But playing spoiler is what the silver and black do best.

The Raiders are 5-2 SU this season as an underdog of three or more points: the Chargers are 3-5 when favored by a field goal or more.

The Bolts cruised to a 28-14 win in the Week 4 meeting between these teams. That game was most notable for what happened afterwards, when Joey Bosa called out Derek Carr for getting easily rattled. Not that Carr needed any extra motivation for this rematch: he’s trying to get to his first playoff game of his eight-year career and the Raiders quarterback has been playing like it.

For all the great throws that Justin Herbert has made this season, the Chargers are still a tough team to trust. I wouldn’t be shocked if they put it all together and win this game by 20. But I also won’t be shocked when the Raiders run all over them and the Bolts lose on a missed field goal.

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Eric Thompson

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