Co-Host of THE HERD and FOX Sports Betting Analyst
It’s the last weekend of the NFL regular season, and I can’t wait for the playoffs to get here.
After running hot for 15 weeks, my last two have been dreadful.
Because selecting games in the final week is so difficult with the varying motivations of some teams (and players) with nothing to play for, I am down to selecting a team full of backups in one matchup and the worst team in the league in another.
But this is not the space for a bunch of excuses.
I went 0-5 last week, which brings my season record to 51-37-2.
Let’s get back on track with my best bets for Week 18.
(All times ET)
Steelers @ Ravens (4:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC/ESPN)
Mason Rudolph has looked fantastic two weeks in a row, and now he finds himself as a *check notes* road favorite against the Ravens? That seems off.
Yes, Baltimore is sitting all of their stars, and they have nothing to play for, so in a “must-win” spot, everyone is going to bet the Steelers. But historically, that hasn’t been advantageous.
One trend worth mentioning: this series has always been close. When one team is favored by more than three points in this series, the underdog has gone 19-2 against the spread.
Just remember how hard the Ravens try in the preseason when the games don’t matter at all.
PICK: Ravens (+3.5) to lose by fewer than 3.5 points (or win outright)
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Jaguars @ Titans (1 p.m. Sunday, CBS)
Trevor Lawrence still isn’t 100%, and he may not even be able to play in this game.
Sure, they were fine last week against the hapless Carolina Panthers, but this is a proud Titans team that has shown well at home (4-3, with two overtime losses and another in the final seconds to the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago).
The way Mike Vrabel spoke to the media this week makes it seem as if a lot is at stake in this game for Tennessee, who face a very uncertain offseason all around the building.
PICK: Titans (+5.5) to lose by fewer than 5.5 points (or win outright)
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Buccaneers @ Panthers (1 p.m. Sunday, FOX and FOX Sports App)
This line doesn’t make much sense.
Three weeks ago, the Panthers got a win in the rain at home against Atlanta, then fought hard against Green Bay, but laid a massive egg last week in a 26-0 loss to the Jaguars, who started C.J. Beathard.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last month, at home, Tampa was a 3.5-point favorite vs. the Panthers. Now, on the road, they’re laying even more?
Neither team has swung that much in four weeks for the spread to move this drastically. If you trust the numbers, you have to take Bryce Young here.
PICK: Panthers (+4.5) to lose by fewer than 4.5 points (or win outright)
Dolphins host Bills in Week 18, winner clinches AFC East title
Bills @ Dolphins (8:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC)
A week after I backed the Dolphins, and they were humiliated by the Ravens, I’m going back to Mike McDaniel here, this time at home.
The problem is that the Dolphins are extremely banged up at the worst possible time. Their two best pass rushers are out for the season, and their three best skill position players all missed practice Thursday.
The Bills were undervalued in the market a month ago; now they almost seem overvalued.
Every narrative here screams the Bills, but the line is heading to +2.5 as the weekend approaches.
PICK: Dolphins (+3) to lose by fewer than 3 points (or win outright)
Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports betting analyst who also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. Before arriving at FOX Sports, he created the website The Big Lead. Follow him on Twitter @JasonRMcIntyre.
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