NFL odds, picks, predictions for Week 18: Expert model projects Dolphins hold off Bills, Texans top Colts

And then there was one. One week left to determine who will be heading to the playoffs. And there are plenty of teams heading into the final week of the year with high stakes matchups.

The Bills and Dolphins will be playing for the AFC East. The Texans and Colts will face off in a de facto playoff game that could also wind up crowning the AFC South champion depending on Jaguars-Texans. The Saints, Falcons and Buccaneers will all play in the final week uncertain of who it will be to win the NFC South. And four teams still have a chance to earn a wild-card bid in the NFC.

Each week, Sporting News’ model will project every game in the NFL 10,000 times to generate the number of times a team wins a matchup and calculate the win probability. The model adjusts after each week as it learns more about each team and that team’s quarterback.

MORE WEEK 18 PICKS: Against the spread | Straight up

Listed for each game is its projected spread, according to the model, and a team’s win probability. We’ve also included updated playoff and Super Bowl odds at the bottom. The odds listed with each game are not based on bookmakers, but rather how the model sees the game playing out. We will then compare the model’s odds with those from Caesars Sportsbook, to see how bookmakers are seeing the week’s games.

Here’s how the model sees Week 18 shaping up.

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NFL picks, predictions Week 18

Ravens (-15) vs. Steelers

Win probability: 89.6%, Ravens

If the Ravens were planning on sending out their full array of players, they’d likely be heavy favorites in the game — as the model currently has them listed. Baltimore has been crushing teams of late, and while Pittsburgh seems to have found a rhythm with Mason Rudolph, it still would feel lopsided. But with the Ravens having locked up the No. 1 seed and expecting to rest starters, Caesars is listing the Steelers as 4-point favorites on the road, a stark contrast from Baltimore’s 15-point edge.

Texans (PK) vs. Colts

Win probability: 51.8%, Texans

Games won’t get much more pivotal than this game. Texans-Colts could be a battle for the AFC South, and the winner is all but assured a playoff spot given each team’s head-to-head wins over the Steelers. C.J. Stroud is back under center for the Texans, which gives the model a bit more confidence in Houston even on the road, though it still has it set as a pick ’em. Caesars is currently listing the Colts as 1-point favorites.

Bengals (-1) vs. Browns

Win probability: 55.2%, Bengals

Neither the Bengals nor Browns have anything to play for in the final week of the season. The Browns have locked up the No. 5 side, while Cincinnati was eliminated from playoff contention in Week 17. Given Cleveland’s playoff-bound status, the Browns are more likely to rest starters than the Bengals, who are playing in their home finale. The model has the Bengals as just a 1-point favorite, while Caesars has the Bengals up by 5.

Lions (-11) vs. Vikings

Win probability: 79.9%, Lions

The Vikings are on the verge of playoff elimination and need just about everything to break their way in Week 18 to have a chance at the playoffs. Detroit is locked into the playoffs almost assuredly as the No. 3 seed, barring losses by both the Cowboys and Eagles in Week 18. The Lions might be apt to rest their starters, which would likely bring the model’s line down a bit, though the quarterback situation for the Vikings is a major conundrum. Caesars doesn’t have the Lions as heavily favored as the model (-11), but it does have Detroit up as 6-point favorites.

Jaguars (-7) vs. Titans

Win probability: 73.1%, Jaguars

For the second straight year, the Jaguars have a chance to lock up the AFC South in the final week of the season against the Titans. This time, Tennessee is well out of contention and the Jaguars are the slumping team just trying to hang on to its dwindling lead. If Trevor Lawrence is unable to go, expect to see the lines for both the model and Caesars drop. For now, the model likes Jacksonville by 7 compared to Caesars favoring the Jags by 5.

Jets (-4) vs. Patriots

Win probability: 59.9%, Jets

The Patriots have quietly been a much improved team down the stretch, having played spoilers to the Steelers and Broncos and playing close games with the Chiefs and Bills. The performance of Bailey Zappe has done little to convince the model to pick the Patriots to win as it is currently listing the Jets as 4-point favorites. Caesars is expecting another win out of New England, setting the Patriots as 2.5-point favorites.

Saints (-4) vs. Falcons

Win probability: 67.4%, Saints

Another pivotal South division clash, both these teams have remaining division hopes. The Falcons can win the NFC South with a win and a Buccaneers loss. The Saints can secure the division with a win and a Buccaneers loss. In New Orleans, with a more consistent offense, the model and Caesars are nearly identical in setting the line at -4 and -3.5, respectively, both for the Saints.

Buccaneers (-6) vs. Panthers

Win probability: 72.6%, Buccaneers

It would be the ultimate spoiler scenario for the Panthers, who have already clinched the worst record in the NFL, to beat the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay slipped up against the Saints in Week 17, but have a chance to secure the NFC South for a third straight season by beating Carolina. Still, neither the model nor Caesars are putting Tampa Bay up by much on the road, with the line set at -6 and -5.5, respectively.

Packers (-5) vs. Bears

Win probability: 58%, Packers

A division rivalry matchup with a playoff spot for the Packers on the line in the final week of the season? Sounds a bit familiar. Last year, it was Detroit spoiling Green Bay. This year, the Bears, who have been red-hot lately, have the chance to go to Lambeau Field and potentially knock the Packers out of the race. The model likes the Packers at home by 5, while Caesars has the Packers as 3-point favorites to win.

Broncos (-6) vs. Raiders

Win probability: 58.2%, Broncos

Neither the Broncos nor Raiders will play Sunday with postseason hopes on the line. Instead, it could be the Jarrett Stidham revenge game as he heads to Las Vegas to take on his former team. The Raiders have played well in recent games, having destroyed the Chargers, stunned the Chiefs and fallen just shy of topping the Colts. The model and Caesars are a bit split on the winner of this one, however, with the model picking the Broncos by 6 and Caesars setting the line at Raiders by 2.5.

Eagles (-11) vs. Giants

Win probability: 83.2%, Eagles

The Giants very nearly pulled off the stunning upset of the Eagles on Christmas. Then, the Cardinals took down the Eagles the following week to put Philadelphia’s NFC East hopes in turmoil. A reeling Philadelphia team will now go to New York needing a win and some help from the Commanders to win the division for a second straight year. The model still likes the Eagles to win big, setting them up as 11-point favorites. Caesars has it much closer, having the Giants as only 5-point underdogs.

Seahawks (-7) vs. Cardinals

Win probability: 68.4%, Seahawks

The Seahawks were pushed out of a playoff spot by losing to the Steelers at home in Week 17, and now need both a win and a Bears’ win to make it into the playoffs. They’ll face a Cardinals team that has found some life late, having taken down the Eagles and had taken down Pittsburgh on the road three weeks earlier. The model has Seattle as a 7-point favorite, while Caesars has the Seahawks as just 3-point favorites.

Chiefs (-9) vs. Chargers

Win probability: 84%, Chiefs

The Chiefs could well decide to rest their starters in Week 18. They clinched the AFC West with a win over Cincinnati, and are locked into the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. If the starters play, the Chiefs have a chance to pile on against a Chargers team turning to Easton Stick. Caesars evidently believes starters will be rested with the Chargers set as 2-point favorites. The model, which won’t factor in resting starters, has the Chiefs as 9-point favorites.

49ers (-14) vs. Rams

Win probability: 85.6%, 49ers

There’s incentive for both teams in this game to rest starters. The 49ers have clinched the top seed in the NFC while the Rams secured a playoff spot in Week 17. Los Angeles could fall behind the Packers for the No. 7 seed with a loss, so perhaps the Rams will keep their starters in. The model, again, assessing teams at full strength, sees the 49ers as massive, 14-point favorites, while Caesars is listing San Fran as only 3.5-point favorites.

Cowboys (-13) vs. Commanders

Win probability: 85.3%, Cowboys

Dallas might have thought its chances of winning the NFC East were dashed after it lost to the Dolphins. But Philadelphia’s loss to the Cardinals have Dallas officially in the driver’s seat, with a win all it would take to secure the division. In other words, don’t expect to see starters resting in this one. The model and Caesars are in agreement on favoring the Cowboys by plenty, setting Dallas up as 13-point favorites.

Dolphins (-2) vs. Bills

Win probability: 53.3%, Dolphins

The Dolphins will be missing a few key players. Not because of rest, but rather injuries. Those players are on the defensive side, however, which could help explain why the model has Miami as a 2-point favorite. This game is for the AFC East title and these teams have been trending in opposite directions. Even in Miami, Caesars is listing the Bills as 3-point favorites.

Updated NFL projections 2023

AFC East

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Dolphins 12-5 53.3% 46.7% 100.0% 0.0% 9.2% 4.1%
Bills 10-7 46.7% 49.2% 95.9% 0.0% 5.3% 2.0%
Jets 7-10 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Patriots 4-13 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

AFC North

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Ravens 14-3 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 100.0% 68.9% 41.7%
Browns 11-6 0.0% 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 1.6% 0.6%
Steelers 9-8 0.0% 10.0% 10.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.1%
Bengals 9-8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

AFC South

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Jaguars 10-7 72.6% 24.8% 97.4% 0.0% 2.3% 0.8%
Texans 10-7 14.2% 35.4% 49.6% 0.0% 0.7% 0.2%
Colts 9-8 13.2% 33.7% 46.9% 0.0% 0.3% 0.1%
Titans 5-12 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

AFC West

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Chiefs 11-6 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% 11.7% 5.5%
Broncos 9-8 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Raiders 7-10 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Chargers 5-12 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

NFC East

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Cowboys 12-5 88.5% 11.5% 100.0% 0.0% 15.7% 6.3%
Eagles 12-5 11.5% 88.5% 100.0% 0.0% 13.2% 4.9%
Giants 5-12 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Commanders 4-13 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

NFC North

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Lions 12-5 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 0.0% 13.8% 5.5%
Packers 9-8 0.0% 58.5% 58.5% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0%
Vikings 7-10 0.0% 3.8% 3.8% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Bears 7-10 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

NFC South

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
Buccaneers 9-8 73.0% 0.0% 73.0% 0.0% 0.2% 0.0%
Saints 9-8 18.5% 28.5% 47.0% 0.0% 0.2% 0.1%
Falcons 7-10 8.5% 0.0% 8.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Panthers 2-15 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

NFC West

Team xW-L Division% Wild card% Playoff% No. 1 seed% Conference champion% Super Bowl champion%
49ers 13-4 100.0% 0.0% 100.0% 100.0% 56.3% 28.0%
Rams 9-8 0.0% 100.0% 100.0% 0.0% 0.3% 0.1%
Seahawks 9-8 0.0% 23.2% 23.2% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0%
Cardinals 4-13 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%

Source

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