How to bet on NFL Week 18: Bettors, bookmakers speak; Big bets on TCU-Georgia


If you’re betting on NFL Week 18 odds, or, let’s be honest, betting on Week 18, you have a challenge ahead of you. Teams have very different degrees of interest in many of these games.

Of course, several games involve playoff berths and/or playoff seeding, with many on the line. But some teams literally have nothing to play for, except maybe draft position.

However, there is one matchup where everything is on the line for both teams. Much more on that, along with other NFL Week 18 and College Football Playoff betting nuggets, right here.

Trend in opposite directions

In mid-November, the Tennessee Titans were on runs of 7-1 straight up (SU) and 8-0 against the spread (ATS). That put them at 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS overall, well on their way to winning the AFC South and making the playoffs.

At the same time, the Jacksonville Jaguars were 3-7 SU and 3-6-1 ATS, seemingly destined for another high draft pick.

Since then, however, Tennessee is winless (0-6 SU, 0-4-2 ATS), while Jacksonville is 5-1 SU and ATS. On Saturday night, the winning team will clinch the division title and the No. 4 seed in the AFC. The Jags (8-8 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) have outshot the Titans (7-9 SU, 8-6-2 ATS) and have home field advantage for the primetime game.

“This contest will decide the woeful AFC South,” WynnBet senior trader John Manica said Wednesday night. “The Jags come in hot and suddenly find themselves one win away from the playoffs. The Titans have lost a few in a row, reeling from injuries and misfortune.”

That said, Manica noted that Titans running back Derrick Henry (hip) became probable after missing last week’s loss to Dallas.

“We placed a strong bet at +6.5 on the Titans and immediately moved to [Jaguars] -5.5 No real interest in the Jaguars at -5.5. We are back up [to -6] after a small bet on the Jaguars. The innings count and opinion is early on the Titans. We’ll probably need the Jaguars on Saturday if that continues.”

The sharp side

While acknowledging the complexity of NFL Week 18 betting, a sharp bettor still jumped on many starting lines.

“The NFL, with an extra game this season, it’s harder than usual to predict what the coaches are going to do. It’s another week of attrition,” he said, before highlighting the following bets:

  • Commanders +7 vs. Cowboys
  • Buccaneers +7.5 vs. Falcons, a line now down to Bucs +4
  • Vikings pick them over Bears, a line that has risen to Vikes -7.5, with Justin Fields sitting in Chicago
  • Jaguars -6 vs. Titans
  • Seahawks -5 vs. Rams, now up to Seahawks -6.5
  • Colts -1.5 vs. Texans, now Colts -3
  • Eagles -11.5 vs. Giants, now in Philly -14

In particular, the bettor likes the Jags on Saturday night.

“Tennessee-Jacksonville is a game everyone’s interested in,” he said. “The Titans are completely annihilated on the injury front, as they have been for quite some time. Nothing has changed, and they just don’t have enough talent to compete in the game. Saturday may stop Jacksonville’s start. But inevitably, the Jags will blow the game wide open.”

What it alludes to is that the Jags are on a short week, playing on Saturday, while the Titans are getting a bit more rest after losing to Dallas in Week 17 on Thursday night.

Then there’s one game where the line beat the punter: Chargers at Broncos. It got Los Angeles -3 out of the gate, but on Wednesday afternoon, the line made a huge surge in the other direction. The Chargers are now underdogs on the road by 2-2.5 points, suggesting QB Justin Herbert may be out on Sunday.

So let’s dive into this game a little more, shall we?

Mass movement

On Wednesday, the NFL announced that Sunday’s Ravens-Bengals game would start early at 1:00 PM ET. Chargers-Broncos is scheduled for 4:25 PM ET. If Baltimore loses, Los Angeles would remain the No. 5 seed in the AFC and not have to risk their starters.

So this Chargers -3.5 to Broncos -2 rush in about an hour Wednesday afternoon at WynnBet.

“There was a massive movement today,” Manica said. “The Chargers will have nothing to play for unless the Ravens pull off as a 7-point underdog against the Bengals. There will be a massive move back to [Chargers] -3 or more if the Ravens beat the Bengals.

“We made a couple of short bets today, but we moved quickly by zero to where we are now at Denver -2. Denver has nothing to play for, and even with the Chargers’ backups, they could be a contest.”

Back to school

College Football Playoff National Championship Odds are also very popular this week. Defending national champion Georgia meets upstart TCU at 7:30 PM ET on Monday at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

The Bulldogs opened as 13.5-point favorites at FOX Bet. The consensus number among various sportsbooks Wednesday night was Georgia -12.5, including on FOX Bet.

Matthew Griffe, a trader at FOX Bet, said that for much of the season, oddsmakers were reluctant to pay much attention to the Horned Frogs.

“The first result of any note was the blowout of TCU at Oklahoma,” Griffe said of the Sooners’ 55-24 blowout of the Horned Frogs, with TCU a 5-point underdog on Oct. 1. “It was consistently difficult to consider TCU. beat a top team with the miracle [the Horned Frogs] retired and the luck they had throughout the season. They constantly faced injured or backup starting quarterbacks.

“That said, they kept scoring 30-40 points against the best the Big 12 had to offer. They also have the luxury of [QB] Max Duggan is playing out of his mind this season and is ready for TCU to win.”

Georgia (14-0 SU, 7-7 ATS) has SEC pedigree and is the reigning national champion. But TCU (13-1 SU, 10-3-1 ATS) is getting most of the early attention on the spread at FOX Bet. Griffe said that so far 75 percent of tickets given out are to Horned Frogs.

Steven Hemke, formerly with FOX Bet and now a senior sports trader at Fanatics, understands the desire to back the big underdog on Monday night.

“TCU is 10-3-1 against the spread this year, and I see no reason why [the Horned Frogs] I can’t cover the number here,” Hemke said. “This team played close games, [with] eight of the last nine were decided by 10 points or less. They trailed by double digits at the half against Oklahoma State and Kansas State in back-to-back weeks, and still came back to win both.”

That was in Weeks 7 and 8, with TCU beating Oklahoma State 43-40 in overtime, then beating K-State 38-28, with both games at home. Of course, Kansas State got a measure of revenge by beating TCU 31-28 in the Big 12 title game. But all the Horned Frogs’ work was still enough to get into the CFP.

And hanging a 50-plus burger on Michigan in a 51-45 semifinal win proved TCU deserved to be there.

“TCU can give Georgia secondary and defense problems, just like it did against Michigan, a team with a better defensive unit, in my opinion,” Hemke said. “If it takes a late touchdown for the cover or TCU hangs all game with last year’s national champions, give me TCU plus the points here.”

WynnBet junior trader Caden Wickwire said that line could even be a bit lower. WynnBet opened Georgia -13.5 and has dropped to -12.5.

“We haven’t seen a ton of buyback from the Bulldogs yet, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this game drop off a little bit as we get closer to the kick,” Wickwire said. “The early money we’ve seen has been on the TCU money line. At this point, we’ll be backing the Bulldogs to repeat. But there are still plenty of bets to write between now and Monday night.”

NFL Fast Hitters

We return to NFL Week 18 odds with information from WynnBet’s Manica on three more matchups:

  • “Sunday night’s contest has opinions on both sides of the game,” Manica said of Lions-Packers, with Aaron Rodgers aiming to make the playoffs. “The outcome of the Rams-Seahawks contest will determine the importance of the game for the Lions. The Packers need a win to clinch a playoff spot. We will see a lot of movement before Sunday night’s game depending on the results of the games that take place earlier”.
  • “The playbook will definitely need the Bears on Sunday,” Manica said, reiterating that Chicago will not start Fields against the Vikings. “Nathan Peterman has been declared the starter. We’ve made several different bets on the Vikings and moved aggressively when the news broke that Fields won’t play.”

WynnBet opened the Vikings -1, shot to -4 Monday afternoon, -6 Tuesday night, then moved to -7.5 Wednesday when the Bears confirmed Fields would be out.

  • “In a similar situation, the Commanders announced that Sam Howell will start at quarterback. That led to another move in Dallas at -7.5,” Manica said of a line that opened Cowboys -6 and initially returned to fall to -4. “We’ve been betting on Dallas all week and we’ll need the commanders on Sunday.”

Where do the Dallas Cowboys fall on Colin’s Super Bowl bubble?

Where do the Dallas Cowboys fall on Colin's Super Bowl bubble?

The Dallas Cowboys head into the final week of the regular season intending to play every starter according to Jerry Jones, and this news comes just in time for Colin Cowherd to update his Super Bowl bubble.

I like high stakes and I can’t lie

You’ll never guess which Texas-based bettor is right now in the College Football Playoff national championship game. Okay, maybe you will. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale has a few bets on TCU: three totaling about $2.1 million on the money line, meaning the Horned Frogs should win the game outright, and another million dollars to TCU +13.

These bets were documented Wednesday on FOX Sports. Additionally, Caesars Sports noted a couple more customers who descended on TCU for Monday’s big game with the following bets:

  • $110,000 at TCU +13.5, to win $100,000
  • $80,000 on TCU +380 moneyline, to win $304,000

There are still a few days to go, so surely some taller players will have a shot at the national title tilt. I’ll probably participate too, but with my typical #ChilisMoney action. And, more than likely, it will be an in-game bet, aiming for a better number than what’s available before the game. It’s a fun way to play.

Whichever direction you choose to go on this big football weekend, remember to be reasonable. Never bet more than you can afford to lose. Enjoy these games!

Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and a senior reporter for VegasInsider.com. He is a distinguished journalist in the national sports betting space. He’s based in Las Vegas, where he likes to play golf in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @PatrickE_Vegas.

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