NFL WEEK 18 PREDICTIONS

2023-01-05 · 7 min read · NHL/Hockey
Packers Aaron Rodgers and Jaguars Trevor Lawrence

Stacy Revere/Getty Images | David J. Phillip/AP

The regular season is nearing its conclusion, and although there are numerous high-profile matchups with plenty at stake, that seems almost secondary after what the football world witnessed on Monday.
The on-field CPR administered to Damar Hamlin made us all realize that football is nothing more than a game, and that has understandably been the main talking point in the NFL heading into this week.
With all of that in mind, and, of course, thoughts and prayers to Hamlin, the Bills, his family along with all of those affected by that situation, here is a look at Week 18 and my predictions.
Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
Patrick Mahomes went over 5,000 yards passing on New Year’s Day in the 13th victory of the season for Kansas City.
They are the only NFL team with an average of over 300 yards passing (305.1) per game this season.
Vegas was supposed to challenge KC for the division this year; however, not even Jarrett Stidham could keep their season intact last week.
Being an understudy to Derek Carr is probably not a good thing, as the 26-year-old QB tossed a pair of picks in an OT loss versus San Francisco.
  • Prediction- Kansas City Chiefs 33-20 Las Vegas Raiders
Vegas has allowed over 200 yards through the air in back-to-back contests.
Even if Mahomes doesn’t play the whole game, the receiving depth of Andy Reid’s side seems like it’d be more than capable of defeating a psychologically damaged team like the Raiders.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Who would’ve imagined a month ago that the Titans playoff fate would be in the hands of Joshua Dobbs, a former Jaguars backup quarterback, who threw for over 200 yards plus a pick last Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Jags are all alone in first place thanks to a lopsided 31-3 win over the Houston Texans, as Travis Etienne averaged 12 yards per carry plus a touchdown, while Christian Kirk reached the 1,000-yard receiving plateau.
  • Prediction- Tennessee Titans 17-30 Jacksonville Jaguars
Derrick Henry should be well-rested and more than capable of putting up some big rushing numbers, however, the Jags are hot and fresh as well, seeing as Doug Pederson got to give the likes of Trevor Lawrence and company lots of time off in the victory at Houston.
The Jags’ seventh-ranked offense is firing on all cylinders, and their D has made plays and created turnovers, while on the opposite side I am not sure Henry alone can stop the metaphorical snowball rolling down on Tennessee.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Last Sunday, we found out yet again why one should never count out a Tom Brady-led team as he connected with Mike Evans for three scores, and Tampa’s receiving crew looked like a formidable offensive unit in the second half versus Carolina.
Atlanta’s running attack has been the brightest part of their offensive game in 2022, and that propelled them to victory against the Cardinals, with Tyler Allgeier running for 83 yards and a touchdown while Desmond Ridder did not throw an interception.
  • Prediction- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-16 Atlanta Falcons
The Bucs clinched the postseason last week, the 19th time that Brady has captured a division title in the NFL, while Evans had a 1,000-yard receiving campaign for the ninth time in his career.
It is hard to see either playing the entire game on Sunday, but the Falcons have not performed well against the pass all season, and I don’t see that changing in their last game of 2022.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
New England did themselves a massive favour last week, holding Miami to under five yards per play (4.8) and causing a pair of turnovers as their playoff destiny is now in their hands.
No one would blame the Bills if their attention was elsewhere besides their game on Sunday after the collapse of Damar Hamlin, though Sean McDermott’s squad can clinch first overall in the AFC, even if that is not top of mind for them at the moment.
  • Prediction- New England Patriots 20-21 Buffalo Bills
Everyone around the league and fans worldwide are hoping for some good news regarding Hamlin, and I expect an emotional Bills squad will find a way to win, given their potent offense, that has scored 67 points over their last two games.
Minnesota Vikings- Chicago Bears
There was no Minnesota magic on New Year’s Day, with Kirk Cousins tossing three picks as Kevin O’Connell’s team looked sloppy and out of sorts from the get-go at Lambeau, registering just a single sack and turning the ball over four times.
It sounds like an old answering machine recording at this stage; but once again Justin Fields was great last Sunday, running the ball for 132 yards, but nothing else worked for them, with Chicago conceding 41 points in a loss to Detroit.
  • Prediction- Minnesota Vikings 26-13 Chicago Bears
Besides an impressive ground game, the Bears have played as advertised in 2022, ranked 28th both offensively and defensively, while sitting dead last in the passing game, and I don’t think they can magically flip a switch and come to life with one game left.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
The Texans fell back to earth last Sunday, running for under 100 yards, while they failed to take advantage of two interceptions, putting up their lowest total of points this year in a 31-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Indy has not scored more than three points in the opening half of their previous two games, and as sad as it was to see what happened to Nick Foles, the Colts were second-best once against on New Year’s Day, conceding a combined 52 points in their last two games.
  • Prediction- Houston Texans 17-16 Indianapolis Colts
The Texans have been probably the worst team in the NFL all season, but they are at least usually putting in a solid effort and have made some good teams earn wins against them over the past few weeks, while the Colts look demoralized and at a loss since that second-half collapse in Minneapolis.
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
All that hype surrounding Mike White in New York seems to have gone up in smoke as he struggled in Seattle last week, tossing two picks while the Jets rushed for under 100 yards and allowed 198 on the ground.
Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson failed to get much going for Miami last weekend, while Tyreek Hill was held in check for perhaps the first time all season with just four catches for 55 yards.
  • Prediction- New York Jets 19-24 Miami Dolphins
Robert Saleh’s job in New York seems safe, but he needs some offensive weapons next year.
Miami hasn’t done much lately, but they should have plenty of opportunities to put points on the board on Sunday, even if Tua can’t go.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
The Panthers looked great over the first few quarters in a must-win outing versus Tampa, but you cannot take your foot off the gas against Tom Brady, and Carolina’s secondary could’ve used Jaycee Horn last week as they gave up 411 yards through the air along with three TD catches.
New Orleans ran the ball effectively once again last weekend, but it wasn’t enough, as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention despite a 20-10 victory over the Eagles, averaging just 4.7 yards per play.
  • Prediction- Carolina Panthers 24-21 New Orleans Saints
Sam Darnold is playing as well as we’ve seen in years, and while it won’t do them any good this season, I see his decision-making being a little smarter than what Andy Dalton has shown us, so I am tipping the Panthers to edge this one out.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers
It took a few games, but the Cleveland faithful finally got a glimpse of the kind of magic that Deshaun Watson can bring, as he threw three touchdown passes on New Year’s Day, while Nick Chubb was outstanding running the ball once again.
Mike Tomlin’s crew have stayed alive in consecutive weeks with some last-minute magic.
The Steelers’ Najee Harris picked an excellent time to get hot, running for 111 yards while catching their only touchdown in another hard-hitting grind-it-out victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
  • Prediction- Cleveland Browns 14-17 Pittsburgh Steelers
Kenny Pickett and the offense might be grabbing the headlines in Steel City because of those winning drives, but Pittsburgh are where they are because of their defense, conceding less than 20 points in six straight games, so I expect them to keep it close on Sunday and eek out a win.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants are in the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and Brian Daboll saw his quarterback put together a solid all-around effort like we’ve not seen in weeks with Daniel Jones only misfiring on five throws, tossing a pair of touchdown passes, running for 91 yards and two scores in a victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
It seems like the Eagles need Jalen Hurts back in the worst way as Gardner Minshew has tossed three picks in two games, and their offense has failed to take advantage of some excellent defensive work, with Philly creating a total of 13 quarterback sacks over their last two encounters.
  • Prediction- New York Giants 22-19 Philadelphia Eagles
I feel Daboll will give the likes of Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Kayvon Thibodeaux and more a rest for most of this game, but the Eagles have not been able to take advantage of momentum-changing plays in recent weeks.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders
Dak Prescott has been consistent, but it’s not necessarily been the kind of consistency that he or Mike McCarthy would always want.
He tossed two picks against the Titans but, like in previous weeks, still put up solid numbers, throwing for 282 yards and two scores.
Carson Wentz hadn’t played in numerous weeks, and it showed on Sunday with the Commanders pivot tossing three picks, and Washington now officially eliminated from playoff contention to the bemusement of Ron Rivera.
  • Prediction- Dallas Cowboys 36-20 Washington Commanders
Rivera’s lack of awareness that his team could be eliminated them from postseason contention after their loss a week ago sums up what the year’s been like for them lately, as they’ve just not been as sharp on essential game elements in quite some time.
The Cowboys still make mistakes, but their defense should be able to bail them out if Prescott makes a few errors.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
The Chargers are in the playoffs and looking dominant down the stretch of the regular season against, albeit, the lowly Colts and LA Rams over the past two weeks.
Justin Herbert tossed another two touchdowns last weekend, most of his receiving corps was involved throughout the game, and Austin Ekeler has come on strong with multiple TD runs in back-to-back contests.
Denver was at least competitive and put up a fight under interim boss Jerry Rosburg last week, but they haven’t been good all year on third downs, converting just three of their 12 attempts in a narrow 27-24 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs.
  • Prediction- Los Angeles Chargers 20-14 Denver Broncos
The Broncos offensively have not been able to finish drives or keep them alive, while the Chargers are red hot and looking like one of the teams you might not want to face come playoff time.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
A lack of consistency from one game to another has plagued Sean McVay’s Rams all season, and that was the case again last Sunday, with LA posting just 111 yards through the air and putting up a mere 10 points one week after posting 51 on Christmas Day.
Geno Smith was back to his early season form to start the New Year, tossing two TD throws in a Seahawks victory over the Jets as 10 of his receivers were targeted.
  • Prediction- Los Angeles Rams 22-26 Seattle Seahawks
Seattle needs a win and some help to have a chance at the playoffs, and though I think they’ll miss the postseason, their consistency and offensive depth should enable them to get past LA.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
Sunday will be the last time we see J.J. Watt play an NFL game and the veteran Cardinals D-lineman had a sack in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons though his team lost by a single score for the sixth time this year (20-19).
It wasn’t Purdy, but they’ll take it as the Niners’ defense looked human for the first time perhaps all year, allowing 500 yards to the Las Vegas Raiders, but the aforementioned Brock Purdy still had a pair of TD throws along with a pick, while Christian McCaffrey ran for 122 yards helping San Fran to a 37-34 OT win.
  • Prediction- Arizona Cardinals 16-20 San Francisco 49ers
A first-round bye is still a possibility for the Niners, so we should see some of their regulars play for a while, while the Cards can never seem to put it all together for four quarters even if at times, they’ve looked ok.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
Detroit’s offense was back in full force last week, putting up 504 yards and averaging 7.2 per play, with Jared Goff playing like the guy we’ve seen through most of the previous month and a half, throwing three touchdown passes.
The Packers refuse to go down quietly, and the defense was outstanding against the Vikings, picking off Kirk Cousins three times, while Aaron Jones ran for 111 yards in a convincing 41-17 victory.
  • Prediction- Detroit Lions 27-33 Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers, Matt LaFleur and the Packers have been in their share of these win-or-go-home matchups by now to know how to handle the pressure, whereas for many of the Lions’ players, this will be their first time playing in such a high stakes encounter, and I expect that will eventually get the better of them.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Joel Lefevre

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