Scott’s Seven NFL Picks: Week 18

By Scott Kacsmar

The NFL has reached its season finale with Week 18 to wrap up the 2023 regular season. There are several games that will determine where the final 11 teams fighting for the last 5 playoff spots stand, and we wanted to make sure our NFL picks focused on those games. There are some other games that have little importance to both teams.

This can always make the last week the toughest to predict as it is hard to judge which starters will play, how many snaps they will play, and exactly how motivated teams will be to win in the final game. So, we got a little extra creative for this week’s picks.

Each Friday, we will share seven NFL picks that we are including in our bets for the weekend. These can be prop picks, spreads, totals, alternate lines, moneylines, teasers, same game parlays, etc. We like to think outside the box instead of just telling you to pick a 10.5-point favorite to win. You can play the picks separately or parlay your favorite choices together.

Note: Picks are ranked in order of confidence (highest to lowest).

1. Seahawks-Cardinals: Kyler Murray’s Last Stand?

For all we know, this could be the last game in Arizona for Kyler Murray should the team decide to move in another direction in the draft. But the season was not quite the epic disaster once imagined for the Cardinals, and with a win, they will hit the over on their preseason win total (4.5).

When things are going well for Arizona, it’s usually on the ground with James Conner leading the way. He did so last week in Philadelphia, and the Cardinals scored 4 touchdowns after halftime, scoring every time they had the ball in an impressive comeback win.

We’ve already seen Arizona author some big upset wins this year over the Cowboys and Steelers as well. They did not have Murray or Conner available in Week 7 when they lost 20-10 in Seattle, a game where the Seahawks were minus-3 in the turnover department and still won by 10 points.

But Trey McBride has had a breakout year at tight end, Murray is a better quarterback than Joshua Dobbs, and Conner is on a hot streak right now. The Seahawks also have been playing awful run defense, including a game last week where Pittsburgh rushed for over 200 yards.

Arizona has scored at least 24 points in 5-of-7 home games this year. With the Seahawks in a funk to end the season, let’s trust Murray to offer one last solid game to the front office to make their decision harder. We’ll take Arizona to score over 23.5 points in this one, which could be enough for a win too.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Cardinals Over 23.5 Points (-108 at FanDuel)

2. Jets-Patriots: The Last Time for Bill Belichick in New England?

Speaking of farewells, could this be the end for Bill Belichick in New England? We have been talking about it for months, and the rumors suggest there will be a parting of ways after this season.

It would be fitting for Belichick to flex one last time against the Jets, the team he was supposed to coach in 2000 before resigning a day into the job and joining the Patriots instead. The rest is history.

While the Jets handed Belichick one of the worst losses of his career in the 2010 divisional round of the playoffs, the Jets haven’t been back to the playoffs since. In fact, Belichick has rang up 15 straight wins against the Jets going back to 2016, including a 15-10 win in New York earlier this year.

The Patriots are a 1.5-point home favorite with a total of 30.5 points in this game. We wanted to go with Belichick going out with a 16th-straight win over the Jets, but you never know with the way his offense turns the ball over and misses field goals. We’ve already seen the Patriots lose 3 games in a row this year when they didn’t allow more than 10 points, something that hadn’t happened since 1938.

But the weather is calling for snow, which could make this game between lousy offenses even worse of a watch. For that reason, we are going to go with the Jets to score under 14.5 points, something they have done in 9-of-16 games this year.

Belichick’s last game with the Patriots being a defensive gem helped by the offensive incompetence of a division rival and a boost from Mother Nature sounds very on brand for him.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Jets Under 14.5 Points (-110 at FanDuel)

3. Falcons-Saints: Shootout in the Dome?

Here is a game with real stakes for both teams, and we don’t have to worry about snow (dome). Granted, the Falcons have a bad quarterback situation with Taylor Heinicke trying to return from injury and Desmond “Mid” Ridder being what he is. The Falcons also have a longshot to win the NFC South as they need to win this game and get the Buccaneers to lose in Carolina, but crazier things have happened.

But the reason we like the over 42 points in this one is two-fold.

First, the Saints are actually playing solid offense for the last month under Derek Carr. Better late than never, I guess. Carr has led the Saints to at least 22 points in 5 straight games, and in that time he is completing 73.7% of his passes with 11 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and a 110.2 passer rating. Basically, the kind of numbers that would have led to a division title had this run started earlier in the year for the Saints.

The other reason is what happened when these teams last met in Week 12. It was a 24-15 game won by the Falcons, but both offenses moved the ball so much better than the 39 points suggest.

  • The Saints gained at least 40 yards on 8-of-9 drives, but they settled for 6 field goal attempts (missed the last one) and turned it over twice while scoring no touchdowns that day.
  • The Falcons had touchdown drives of 95 and 78 yards, but they also wasted a 65-yard drive with an interception.
  • Out of 17 offensive drives in the game, 15 of them gained at least 26 yards with each team only having one drive that ended in a 3-and-out.

There’s no guarantee these teams move the ball as well as they did that day. But with the way the Saints have been playing on offense, and how badly the Falcons need to perform in this one to perhaps save coach Arthur Smith’s job, we like the prospects of a 23-20 game that hits the over in New Orleans.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Over 42 Points (-110 at Caesars Sportsbook)

4. Texans-Colts: Run the Ball and Play Defense

For Saturday night’s big one in Indianapolis, we have a 3-leg parlay that favors a good showing from the Colts on both sides of the ball. But we did stop just shy of picking a winner in this game with a 1.5-point spread:

  • Texans Under 24.5 Points
  • Michael Pittman Jr. 50+ Receiving Yards
  • Jonathan Taylor 60+ Rushing Yards

This is no disrespect to the impressive season C.J. Stroud has had as a rookie on a team that wasn’t expected to be in this position to make the playoffs. But the Houston offense is not quite elite yet, and it hasn’t really had a good game since November when Stroud was on a tear prior to the concussion he had against the Jets. They’ve also lost Tank Dell to a season-ending injury and Noah Brown is out this week. Tackle Laremy Tunsil may not be 100% after leaving Sunday’s game with a groin injury, and the Colts were all over Stroud in Week 2 (6 sacks and highest pressure rate of the season) and they held the Texans to a season-low 52 rushing yards.

In other words, we think the Colts played solid enough defense to keep the Texans under 24.5 points. Houston has only gone over 24.5 points in 5-of-16 games this year. The Texans have been held under 20 points in 5-of-7 road games as well. In lieu of picking the winner or spread, this is our favorite scoreboard pick in the game. Maybe Houston still pulls out a low-scoring win by forcing Gardner Minshew into turnovers, but we’ll take our chances with under 24.5 points for the Texans.

As for the Colts, they have battled through injuries all year to maintain an above-average offense. But this needs to be a game where they lean on their best players to produce. That’s why we have No. 1 receiver Michael Pittman reaching 50 yards against a defense known for allowing a lot of big pass plays, and we have Jonathan Taylor rushing for at least 60 yards. Taylor has rushed for at least 75 yards in his last 4 home games, and he missed the Week 2 meeting between these teams. That day, Zack Moss had 18 carries for 88 yards.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Texans Under 24.5 Points & Michael Pittman Jr. 50+ Receiving Yards & Jonathan Taylor 60+ Rushing Yards (+224 at FanDuel)

5. Bears-Packers: For a Change, This One Matters

In every season since 2005, we had to watch at least one Bears-Packers game in a nationally-televised window. Most of the time it was an easy Green Bay win as the Packers always had the quarterback edge with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

But go figure, we actually have a Bears-Packers game with big implications and this season will not feature one of these games in prime time. But it is important with the Packers needing a win at home as a 3-point favorite to make the playoffs as a wild card. The Bears also need this game as their final piece of evidence to make the decision if they want to bring coach Matt Eberflus and quarterback Justin Fields back for 2024 or start fresh in the draft with a quarterback and with a new coach.

Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur is 9-0 against Chicago with every win by at least 7 points, including a 38-20 win in Week 1 this season. But with Joe Barry’s defense, we are not touching that spread, and we are going with a 3-leg parlay that does ultimately get the Packers in the playoffs, but not before a little scare from Chicago and Fields.

  • Jordan Love Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns
  • Justin Fields 175+ Passing Yards
  • Packers ML

In case you’ve missed it, Jordan Love ranks third in the NFL with 30 touchdown passes right now. He has an outside shot of finishing as the league leader this season in that category, and that’s for a season that began with him throwing 3 touchdowns against the Bears in Week 1. They weren’t the hardest of throws that day, but that also speaks to the way the Packers have typically done a good job of preparing for Chicago over the years.

Love is a better quarterback than he was in Week 1, and he has thrown 16 touchdowns to 1 interception over the last 7 games. The Packers have scored at least 20 points in every game, so he has been consistently getting the job done over the last half of the season.

But you can say Fields is playing better now than he was in September too. This recent Chicago surge (4-1 in last 5 games) is still built more on defense than it is offense, but since he returned in Week 11, Fields has cut down on the sacks and turnovers, and he has averaged 202.2 passing yards and 65.5 rushing yards per game as a dual threat.

Fields has passed for over 200 yards in his last 2 meetings with the Packers. With the way the Green Bay defense has been playing, including a game in Carolina where Bryce Young threw for over 300 yards and put up 30 points, there is no reason Fields can’t throw for at least 175 in this game. He’s done so in 7-of-12 games played this year (7-of-11 games he finished without injury too).

It may not be by a full touchdown again, but we are still going to pick the Packers to take this one at home against their rival. The Bears are generally awful in close games under Eberflus and Fields (3-15 at game-winning drive opportunities). The Packers are not immune to bad performances at home anymore. In fact, they have lost 3 home games by exactly 14 points this season to the Lions, Vikings, and Buccaneers.

But when it comes to Bears and Packers, you still have to trust Green Bay until proven otherwise. Last season, the Lions went in there in Week 18 and beat them to keep Green Bay out of the playoffs. The Lions won the NFC North this year. This is Chicago’s chance, but I am taking the Packers.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Jordan Love Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns & Justin Fields 175+ Passing Yards & Packers ML (+201 at FanDuel)

6. Bills-Dolphins: AFC East Title Game Parlay

The AFC East is on the line in the final game of the regular season. The Bills are a 2.5-point road favorite with a total of 48.5 points. We have a 4-leg parlay that is conducive to a good Buffalo night in a game where both teams have some key injuries to deal with:

  • Tyreek Hill 60+ Receiving Yards
  • Stefon Diggs 40+ Receiving Yards
  • Josh Allen Anytime Touchdown Scorer
  • Under 51.5 Points (Alternate Total)

It does not sound good for the Dolphins to have Jaylen Waddle available for this game as he continues to deal with an injury. Tyreek Hill also has an ankle issue and missed Thursday’s practice, but that also had something to do with a fire at his home on Wednesday. He should play this Sunday, and he should have to do a lot if Waddle is out.

Hill has played after the ankle injury the last two games and has posted totals of 76 and 99 yards against strong defenses in Baltimore and Dallas. The Bills no longer have corner Tre’Davious White (Achilles) and the Dolphins can scheme getting Hill the ball in a variety of ways as he looks to win the receiving yardage title.

On the other side, Stefon Diggs has been insanely quiet as of late. He has broken 50 receiving yards just once in his last 7 games, which includes the whole time in which the Bills have had Joe Brady as the offensive coordinator. But it has been insane to see one of the best wide receivers in the league average 37.4 receiving yards per game over the last 7 games, especially after he averaged 92.7 yards per game to start the season (9 games).

But in a big game, we’ll trust Diggs to get at least 40 yards. The Dolphins are down a top corner in Xavien Howard, and the Bills can move Diggs around to get away from Jalen Ramsey.

Josh Allen has thrown multiple touchdowns in all 12 career meetings with Miami, an NFL record against one opponent for a quarterback. But Allen has not thrown multiple touchdowns in 4 straight games, his longest streak since the 2019 season. The main reason for that is that he’s fallen in love with the rushing touchdowns, doing something similar to what Jalen Hurts does for the Eagles with the Tush Push, but Allen also can score from outside the 5-yard line. He has 15 rushing touchdowns this year and it has become almost an automatic thing for this offense. We are going to count on another instead of playing his passing touchdowns (over 1.5).

Finally, this has been a season of low-scoring games in prime time, especially on Sunday and Monday nights. The big games have also been pretty low scoring, so do not count on another 48-20 game like these teams played in Week 4. Frankly, they are too injured for that to happen, and the Buffalo passing game isn’t even clicking on all cylinders going into this one. We’ll take the defenses to step up and tease the total by a field goal to a key number of under 51.5.

A 27-24 game to decide the division title would be a fantastic way to end the season, but we’ll take anything that results in no injuries and our picks hitting.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Same Game Parlay – Tyreek Hill 60+ Receiving Yards & Stefon Diggs 40+ Receiving Yards & Josh Allen Anytime Touchdown Scorer & Under 51.5 Points (+491 at FanDuel)

7. The Leftovers Parlay

For our final pick of the 2023 regular season, we are mixing and mashing a bunch of picks together from various games this Sunday to create a 6-leg parlay with better than +1400 odds.

Ideally, we’d add a few more things to this for player performance milestones like how Puka Nacua (Rams) only needs 4 catches and 29 yards to set some rookie receiving records. But since the sportsbooks are empty on those player props as of Friday morning, we’ll just go with these more standard picks instead:

  • Dak Prescott (Cowboys) Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns
  • Detroit Lions Over 23 Points (Alternate Team Total)
  • Cleveland Browns Over 13 Points (Alternate Team Total)
  • Tampa Bay Over 20.5 Points (Team Total)
  • San Francisco 49ers ML vs. Rams
  • Philadelphia Eagles ML vs. Giants

Dak Prescott leads the NFL with 32 touchdown passes and gets the No. 32 defense in a game with a chance to win the NFC East with a victory. He threw 4 touchdowns against Washington on Thanksgiving, and no defense has allowed more passing touchdowns (35) than Washington this year. It would be a massive choke if the Cowboys do not get the job done here as a 2-touchdown favorite.

The Lions just beat Minnesota 30-24 in Week 16, and they come in angry after the way the Dallas loss ended last Saturday night. They are playing starters and looking to end on a high note and get their 12th win. The Minnesota defense already gave up 30 points to this team last time, Nick Mullens can always be good for some turnover and short field opportunities, and the Lions are usually prolific at home in scoring. We’ll take the over 23 points (alternate line from 24.5).

The Browns are starting their fifth quarterback of the season in Jeff Driskel, but don’t discount how well Kevin Stefanski has done against Cincinnati in his career with a variety of quarterbacks. He is 6-1 against the Bengals, and this version of Cincinnati ranks 21st in points allowed and 31st in yards. The Browns have been playing well with backups all year and 13 points is a low bar to clear. In fact, all 16 of Cincinnati’s opponents have scored at least 13 points this year.

The Buccaneers can wrap up the NFC South with a win in Carolina. It might sound like a trap game, but the Bucs have actually played better on the road this year where Baker Mayfield has thrown multiple touchdowns in 7-of-8 road games. Four of Tampa Bay’s 6 best scoring games this year have been on the road, and they already dropped 21 points on the Panthers a month ago. Look for Tampa Bay to get to 21 points in this one and make up for last week’s blunder against the Saints.

In San Francisco, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay meet for the 15th time since 2017. Shanahan is 10-4 and has been dominant in the series since 2019. The 49ers are resting key players like Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey, but that offensive scheme can still cook something up with Sam Darnold at quarterback. The Rams are going with Carson Wentz, but their success has been riding a hot streak with Kyren Williams and Matthew Stafford’s passing. Wentz doesn’t have as much experience in this offense as Darnold does in his, and the 49ers have the better defense even with backups playing. We’ll trust the 49ers to win this one that is relatively low stakes for both. If the Rams really cared about securing the No. 6 seed, they’d be playing Stafford for sure.

Finally, we’re throwing the Eagles a bone to beat Brian Daboll’s Giants for the fifth time since last year. Nothing may come easy for the Eagles these days, but they have to right the ship and take care of this team as a 5.5-point road favorite, right? The defense is the bigger concern for sure, but the game on Christmas was heading to a rare Philly blowout before a pick-6 and some big plays by the Giants. But we’re just asking for the Eagles to not embarrass themselves with another loss to finish 11-6 after a 10-1 start.

Scott’s NFL Pick: Parlay – Dak Prescott Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns & Lions Over 23 Points & Browns Over 13 Points & Buccaneers Over 20.5 Points & 49ers ML & Eagles ML (+1406 at Caesars Sportsbook)

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