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NFL Week 18 Spreads, Bets and Picks: Chargers Punch Their Ticket

Our experts provide their bets for Week 18 as some teams prepare for the playoffs and others ready for the offseason.

When it comes to the final week of the NFL regular season, it’s typically one of two scenarios:

-One or both teams are fighting for the right to make the playoffs or for a better seed
-One or both teams have zero chance to make the playoffs

When factoring in those two scenarios. it’s crucial to identify the teams with “something” to play for before placing any bets. After all, you don’t want to risk your hard-earned money on a team that is knocked out of the playoffs and already focused on winning a round of golf instead of winning this Sunday.

Check Week 18 Lines at SI Sportsbook

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) celebrates his touchdown catch with wide receiver Josh Palmer (5) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif.

So: Which teams are in and which teams are out?

Teams that clinched a playoff spot:

AFC: Titans, Chiefs, Bengals, Bills, Patriots
NFC: Packers, Rams, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Cardinals, Eagles

Teams still in the hunt:

AFC: Colts, Chargers, Raiders, Steelers, Ravens
NFC: 49ers, Saints

Teams eliminated from the playoffs:

AFC: Dolphins, Browns, Broncos, Jets, Texans, Jaguars
NFC: Vikings, Falcons, Washington, Bears, Seahawks, Panthers, Giants, Lions

Bottom line: Betting on the teams that are eliminated is ill-advised.

Here’s what our team is betting on for Week 18 … but first, here’s our criteria for picking games.

SI Recommends

  • Each analyst must pick five games
  • Three of the bets must be against the spread or over/under
  • The remaining two picks (if all five aren't ATS or O/U) can be on the moneyline (but at least one of those picks must be on an underdog)

Jen Piacenti’s Best Bet: Patriots -6.5

My best bet this week is for New England to cover the -6.5 vs. Miami. I know Miami was looking good for a while, but Tennessee exposed it last week and I am quite certain Bill Bellichick will do the same Sunday. This is not the same team that lost to the Dolphins in Week 2. In fact, there is still a lot on the line for the Patriots. There is even a scenario in which the Patriots could lock up the top spot in the conference. Ok, sure, it’s a long shot, but don’t forget Mac Jones is also playing for the OROY. It’s certainly enough to make me think the Patriots will be able to beat the Dolphins by at least a touchdown.

Jen's Season Record: 62-49

Frank Taddeo’s Best Bet: Browns Moneyline +105 and Bengals +7 (bought the half-point)

As we know the final week of the NFL season often is difficult for sports bettors due to players being rested as well as motivated teams with playoff berths and seedings on the line - facing teams with nothing to play for but pride. Oddsmakers are aware of these factors and often make dramatic moves if their opening lines did not originally have all these expectations "baked" into their numbers. For instance, let's look at the Bengals vs. Browns game on Sunday. After seeing Joe Burrow suffer a hit to his knee late in the win over Kansas City, I felt there was a potential he could sit in Week 18 or play a "limited" amount of snaps. When the lines came out on Monday, I immediately grabbed the Browns at +105 on the money line - despite the announcement that Baker Mayfield would not play. Two days later, on Wednesday, Cincinnati revealed that Burrow would sit out this week’s game vs. Cleveland. Boom. The line flipped to Cleveland -6.5 in Vegas. I immediately grabbed the now Brandon Allen led Bengals with the points and bought the hook up to +7 - creating my own "risk free" seven-point middle. In essence, I will now be rooting for Cleveland to win the game but by less than seven points. If this takes place, I will be cashing two units on the game without any liability to my bankroll. As sports bettors, these kinds of "risk free" liability investments can be valuable to your bankroll. Now it's up to a Bengals team devoid of Burrow, as well potentially star running back Joe Mixon (COVID), to show up and stay within a touchdown of their AFC North rival also playing their backing quarterback under center.

Frank's Season Record: 57-63-1

Bill Enright’s Best Bet: Chargers -3

The only game in Week 18 with both teams facing a win-and-in situation. The AFC West foes met back in October and the Chargers won by two touchdowns. Since that early autumn meeting, the Raiders have dealt with a lot of chaos: firing Jon Gruden, Henry Ruggs’ DUI and fatal car crash, Damon Arnette’s release. Despite those obstacles, they are still eligible for the playoffs. Kudos to them on that. But for this matchup, their opponent is simply the better team. The Chargers lead the Raiders in several key statistics, including net tards per play and 3rd down conversion. Chargers win by more than a Field Goal.

Bill's Season Record: 51-41-2

Will Law's Best Bet: Chargers -3

I'll echo what Bill said above: The Raiders' three-game winning streak amid unfortunate circumstances has been admirable, but they lost to the Chargers by two touchdowns in Los Angeles (before a sea of Raiders fans) even when Jon Gruden, Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette were still in the picture. Las Vegas has hung around in the playoff picture by barely beating the Browns, Broncos and Colts—three teams with question marks at quarterback. Los Angeles has an exclamation mark under center in Justin Herbert, who should feast on a subpar pass defense to send the Chargers to the postseason.

Will's Season Record: 38-24

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