Betting the Spread: Week 18

by Shervon Fakhimi · Betting & Props

Welcome Back to Betting the Spread: Week 18. Before we get started with this week’s picks, I need to take a second and discuss what happened on Monday Night regarding Damar Hamlin. That looked to be a sad, terrible, and tragic situation that has mercifully and thankfully turned into a hopeful and miraculous one with positive developments regarding Hamlin’s health. It also was a stark and haunting reminder of how trivial this is in the grand scheme of things. NFL players play a game. We play a game about a game. But we don’t put our bodies on the line; they do. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap your head around not only how much time is required to merely make it this far but to withstand a play. I could never imagine.

Great News

It’s great that Damar Hamlin is improving, but let’s please use this as a reminder to not take these players for granted. Don’t yell at them when they cost you a bet or a fantasy matchup. When a player holds out for more money, or when there’s a CBA dispute regarding health care, when players take a stand on a social issue or whatever, understand their side because they deserve to be heard and understood. We need to remember these guys are people too. They are not just gladiators meant to distract us from our work or entertain us. They deserve our love, compassion, and respect, the same with which the whole world has shown Damar Hamlin.

Here’s a link to Damar Hamlin‘s charity toy drive foundation. If you’re still in a fantasy matchup because of what happened on Monday Night, consider giving some of your winnings here or to another player’s charity. It’s literally the least we can do for what these put themselves through. Well, besides treating each other and players of any sport with love, decency, and respect. The world is hard. Life is hard, especially when their sport causes turbulence unforeseen before it happens. We should make it easier for each other, not more difficult.

Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5) vs Las Vegas Raiders

Over/Under: 51.5

Pick ATS: Kansas City Chiefs

I think it’s fairly self-explanatory that you start your Chiefs this week. The Raiders rank No. 32 in pass defense DVOA and No. 21 in run defense DVOA according to Football Outsiders. The Chiefs still have the number one seed and a first-round bye to play for, so they’re not going to bench their starters for this game.

The Raiders allow the No. 3-most adjusted fantasy points allowed according to, the No. 9-most receiving adjusted fantasy points allowed per target to running backs, the No. 2-most to wide receivers, and the No. 14-most to tight ends. Patrick Mahomes, Jerick McKinnon (and his eight touchdowns and 27 targets in the last five weeks), and Travis Kelce have carried you this far, so keep rolling with them. This is a good spot to start Isiah Pacheco and JuJu Smith-Schuster as well. 

Tennessee Titans vs Jacksonville Jaguars (-6.5)

Over/Under: 38.5

Pick ATS: Jacksonville Jaguars

A de facto playoff game where each team is designed to exploit the other’s weaknesses. Jacksonville’s run defense looks good on paper. They rank No. 12 in run defense DVOA and allow 112.8 rushing yards per game, which is No. 11 in the NFL. However, in the last two weeks, they’ve eaten against running back duos of Zonovan Knight and Michael Carter with the Jets (behind a banged-up offensive line) and Royce Freeman and Dare Ogunbowale of the Texans.

Take out their 44 combined rushing yards and take the average over the rest of the season and the Jags allow 125.77 rushing yards per game, which would rank as the No. 13-most allowed in the NFL. I expect the Jaguars to cheat up in the run game and dare Josh Dobbs to beat them with his arm, but the Titans’ best shot at winning this game is slowing down the clock, keeping Jacksonville’s offense off the field, and ramming Derrick Henry all game long. He should have a big day.

Tennessee’s Strategy

There’s a good reason why Tennessee’s offense should want Jacksonville off the field. Trevor Lawrence is great! Benjamin Solak of The Ringer articulated in great lengths a couple of weeks ago the strides Lawrence has made over the course of the season. Here is a stat that sticks out: “Since Week 10, Lawrence has been No. 7 in the NFL in EPA per play and No. 7 in completion percentage over expectation; the pass offense overall is No. 6 in DVOA.” And another: “By EPA per dropback, the best quarterbacks throwing outside the pocket in the past six weeks have been Burrow, Herbert, Mahomes, Allen, and Lawrence.” 

Trevor Lawrence Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Tennessee doesn’t get much pressure as they rank No. 20 in ESPN’s pass rush win rate metric. They also rank No. 28 in pass defense DVOA. I expect Tennessee to play hard and muck this game up, but Lawrence has the answers. It’s a tough matchup for Travis Etienne (Tennessee ranks No. 2 in run defense DVOA), but if you’re involved in a Week 18 championship, I’m firing up all the Trevor Lawrence, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram I got. I expect Jacksonville to win this game, cover the spread, and see Lawrence make his first postseason run.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Atlanta Falcons (-5)

Over/Under: 40.5

Pick ATS: Atlanta Falcons

Did you know that Tyler Allgeier is 100 yards away from a 1,000-yard rushing season? He ranks No. 17 in the NFL in rushing yards. Allgeier ranks inside the top 30 in almost every efficiency metric on He’s had a very good rookie season. However, he’s a tricky hold for dynasty purposes. We’ve seen plenty of teams find another back early in the draft or free agency to supplant their promising day three rookie; James Robinson and Michael Carter stick out as recent examples.

I’ve seen the Falcons as a potential landing spot for Bijan Robinson in mock drafts. I don’t like that really for either side. But it’s a warning that Allgeier, despite proving he’s a good player, probably is a sell-high in dynasty leagues at the moment if you can get a second-round pick for him. If the Falcons don’t bring in another back, he’ll be a popular sleeper in drafts next year.

New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills (-7)

Over/Under: 42.5

Pick ATS: Buffalo Bills

I don’t really know what else to say about this game other than to provide updates regarding Damar Hamlin. Thank the heavens that he’s now breathing on his own and able to talk and communicate with his friends and family. He facetimed with his teammates on Friday.

It also really warms my heart to see this photo of Josh Allen and Tre’Davious White smiling at practice on Thursday. Everyone on that field, especially those two, looked absolutely mortified and devastated about what happened Monday night. It’s great to see everyone improve from that scary scene.

The Bills are going to play this game; they won’t replay the Bengals game. They should win this game because the Patriots’ offense ranks No. 26 in offensive DVOA and has eclipsed 20 points without the aid of a defensive score four times in 16 games. But the most important thing is that Damar Hamlin is getting better. That’s all everyone wants to see this week.

Minnesota Vikings (-8) vs Chicago Bears

Over/Under: 42.5

Pick ATS: Minnesota Vikings

It wouldn’t surprise me if this is the last regular season game Adam Thielen plays in a Minnesota Vikings uniform. He’s had a great run there, especially during his other-worldly 2017 and 2018 seasons, but time is catching up to him. He ranks No. 73 in targets per route run among wide receivers this season according to Routes run hasn’t been the issue either as he ranks No. 2 with 602 routes run.

He’s No. 62 in average depth of target (10.0), meaning he isn’t going downfield anymore. He’s No. 78 in route win rate (36.4-percent), meaning he isn’t getting open anymore. And lastly, he’s No. 85 in yards per route run (1.18) and No. 80 in yards per target (6.8), meaning he isn’t catching the ball anymore. According to Spotrac, the Vikings can get out of his contract after this season. It would make a lot of sense to do so.

Baltimore Ravens vs Cincinnati Bengals (-9.5)

Over/Under: 39.5

Pick ATS: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals players were just as shellshocked as the Bills players were, so let’s hope they are feeling better mentally as is everyone who enjoys this sport with the plenty of positive developments we’ve gotten the last few days regarding Damar Hamlin. Again, it’s great to see guys, especially Tee Higgins, smile and have fun at practice after what happened on Monday.

As for the game itself, a Bengals receiver should have a big game. I’m not sure who yet, however. It very well could be both. The Ravens rank in the middle of the pack in adjusted fantasy points allowed to receivers and rank No. 11 in pass defense DVOA, but also allow the No. 7-most receiving yards per game. Marcus Peters‘ return this week should help matters, but he’s still a boom-or-bust corner. Wide receivers haven’t had many issues getting their numbers against this Ravens team.

Zay Jones (14-11-145), Jerry Jeudy (4-4-65), Donovan Peoples-Jones (4-4-31-1), Amari Cooper (6-4-58), Drake London (9-7-96), Diontae Johnson (8-6-82) and George Pickens (3-3-78) have all put up at least 9.8 PPR points against the Ravens within the last six weeks. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are better than any player in that group. Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense is better than any of those other teams. The Bengals need to win this game to secure a home playoff game, and I think they will. Start your Bengals. In DFS, they’re one of the few explosive offenses we know that need to play their starters all the way throughout. You can’t go wrong stacking those guys.

Houston Texans vs Indianapolis Colts (-2.5)

Over/Under: 38

Pick ATS: Indianapolis Colts

Welcome to this year’s tankapalooza! A Texans loss secures them (in all likelihood) Bryce Young. It doesn’t seem likely that the Colts move down if they lose. They’d need the Cardinals and Broncos to beat the 49ers and Chargers, respectively. But they certainly have an inside track at landing C.J. Stroud or Will Levis as is and a loss wouldn’t hurt matters. These teams will almost certainly have a new quarterback under center next season. Michael Pittman, Nico Collins, Brandin Cooks, and John Metchie III are all players whose fantasy value could grow in the spring. All could be fairly attainable in dynasty leagues too.

New York Jets vs (+3) vs Miami Dolphins

Over/Under: 38.5

Pick ATS: New York Jets

This is a Chris Olave tweet from Nate Tice of The Athletic, but I’m going to make it a Garrett Wilson tweet too. 

Garrett Wilson has 516 routes run on the season, so he more than qualifies. His 1.97 yards per route run (No. 31 among receivers this season) isn’t all that far off from the rest of those players and it’d almost surely be higher with better quarterback play (he’d be at 2.04 yards per route run on 278 routes excluding the games he’s played with Zach Wilson). He’s No. 12 in targets on the season, No. 23 in target share, No. 24 in target rate, and No. 14 in air yards.

Wilson has solidified himself as the alpha on this team. Even if Mike White is the quarterback of the Jets next season, that should be enough to make Wilson a safe bet for the fabled year-two breakout. But the Jets are likely going to be in the market for a quarterback. Derek Carr and Jimmy Garappolo seem like the most realistic options. Either would lift Garrett Wilson (and Elijah Moore! Don’t forget about my guy!) to the heights his talent and play this season would seem to indicate is in line with some of the best in the game. Oh, and the Dolphins rank No. 25 in pass defense DVOA and No. 4 in receiving yards allowed per game. Start him. And draft him in 2023.

Carolina Panthers (+3.5) vs New Orleans Saints

Over/Under: 42

Pick ATS: Carolina Panthers

Yeah, everything I said about Garrett Wilson applies to his Ohio State teammate Chris Olave. And the Panthers have allowed the most fantasy points to receivers over the last four weeks, the No. 4-most to perimeter receivers over the course of the season, and the No. 3-most fantasy points overall. That’s all from Mike Clay of ESPN’s weekly shadow report column

But I want to talk about Alvin Kamara. This season has been something of a worse-case scenario for him. He has only four total touchdowns (two rushing, two receiving) all season; Taysom Hill has seven rushing and two receiving touchdowns this season. After four seasons of averaging 102.25 targets, he’s registered 67 and 75 targets in 27 games between the last two seasons. Ouch.

Alvin Kamara is still a good player, but maybe not the player that was arguably the best at the position. He is No. 5 in yards per route run, No. 9 in yards created, and No. 18 in yards created per touch among running backs, but is also No. 52 in true yards per carry and juke rate (evaded tackles per touch). His target and touchdown ceiling is clearly capped in New Orleans who don’t have a first-round pick and are in cap hell. Plus, he still is likely to be suspended for his incident in Las Vegas last season. He needs a change of scenery for me to invest heavily in him in 2023.

Cleveland Browns (+2.5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Over/Under: 40

Pick ATS: Cleveland Browns

Najee Harris has finished the season very strong. It would make sense that he plays better after his lisfranc injury had more time to heal. Take a look at this split since Najee had a plate removed from his shoe before and after Pittsburgh’s bye.

It’s led to fantasy points too. Before the bye, Harris was averaging 9.43 half-PPR points per game; that’s AJ Dillon territory and the RB34. After the bye? 14.25. That’s the RB9, in between Breece Hall and Joe Mixon for the season. Najee is a very talented back on an offense that’s improved throughout the season and could improve with a full season on Kenny Pickett‘s belt. I’d love to see Pittsburgh invest in their offensive line, but I’ve been very impressed by Harris recently and think he’s going to be a great fantasy pick at a cheaper price in 2023.

Los Angeles Chargers (+3) vs Denver Broncos

Over/Under: 40

Pick ATS: Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert has disappointed for fantasy, but it hasn’t been his fault. Keenan Allen has played only nine games, Mike Williams just 12, deep threat Jalen Guyton tore his ACL, center Corey Linsley has missed time, and Rashawn Slater has been out since Week 3 (but could return either this week or for the playoffs). As a result, the Chargers’ offense has had to rely on a lot of short-to-intermediate passes, especially to Austin Ekeler.

But that hasn’t stopped Herbert from playing exceptionally well. Despite averaging 6.5 air yards per attempt, Herbert is No. 3 in true completion percentage (73.9-percent) and passing yards (4,466), No. 1 in money throws (51), No. 9 in true passer rating (92.3), and No. 12 in QBR. Yes, 662 pass attempts help with those numbers but almost all his numbers outside of his raw passing yards and touchdowns have improved this season. The Chargers should draft a deep threat to take more advantage of Herbert’s monster arm, but regardless, he should have a better fantasy season in 2023. Add him to the list of players I’ll gladly draft in 2023 after a disappointing *fantasy* performance in 2022.

New York Giants vs Philadelphia Eagles (-14)

Over/Under: 43.5

Pick ATS: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles need to clinch the 1 seed; the Giants cannot move up or down in the playoff picture. So the Eagles should roll, especially with Jalen Hurts back practicing. The Giants have somehow clinched a playoff spot despite posting the league’s No. 23 pass defense DVOA and No. 32 run defense DVOA this season. Start all your Eagles.

Dallas Cowboys (-6.5) vs Washington Commanders

Over/Under: 41

Pick ATS: Dallas Cowboys

I don’t think enough has been made about how spectacular CeeDee Lamb has been this season. He’s No. 6 in yards per route run (2.71) and in yards after the catch (464), No. 3 in target share (29.3-percent), No. 6 in target rate (30.9-percent), and No. 10 in air yards (1,508). He’s basically winning both short and deep and turning good gains into big plays after the catch. But he’s also been incredibly consistent on a weekly basis. Lamb has two games all season with fewer than five receptions.

He has three games with fewer than 50 yards and only five with fewer than 70 yards. Lamb’s only accrued fewer than seven targets in a game only three times too. For a guy with concerns about ‘he hasn’t done it yet’ and ‘is he a true alpha,’ he’s squashed all of those. He’s a surefire first-round pick in drafts in 2023, and someone I will be pounding the table for all summer long.

Arizona Cardinals (+14.5) vs San Francisco 49ers

Over/Under: 40.5

Pick ATS: Arizona Cardinals

Deebo Samuel is back for the 49ers this week. This could spell some trouble for George Kittle; Kittle has averaged seven targets per game in the last three games that Deebo has missed, but only 5.36 targets per game in the other games Deebo has played. Luckily, Kittle gets the Cardinals this week. The Cardinals allow the No. 6-most adjusted fantasy points to tight ends this season but have been sieves to tight ends all season long.

George Kittle Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Earlier this year, Kittle went for 6-4-84-2 against the Cardinals. Last year, he dropped 8-6-101-1 against them. The year prior? 5-4-44 and 5-4-92. The 49ers are still in contention for the 1 seed, so they’re going to play their guys. Start George Kittle.

Los Angeles Rams (+5.5) vs Seattle Seahawks

Over/Under: 41

Pick ATS: Los Angeles Rams

So is Cam Akers… good again? Maybe? He’s put up 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his last three games; he’d done that only twice in three seasons before this three-game stretch. All of a sudden, Akers ranks No. 22 in juke rate (27.1-percent) and No. 26 in evaded tackles (48) and breakaway runs (seven). He’s still averaging only 3.9 true yards per carry (No. 46) and 2.59 yards created per touch (No. 36), but remember that this offensive line is absolutely decimated.

If Matthew Stafford doesn’t retire and the Rams add some pieces to their offensive line, the hope coming into this season for Cam Akers could very well take shape next season. I’m inclined to think this isn’t a fluke. Oh, and the Seahawks rank No. 24 in run defense DVOA and allow the No. 3-most rushing yards per game in the NFL (150.5).

Detroit Lions (+4.5) vs Green Bay Packers

Over/Under: 49

Pick ATS: Detroit Lions

I’m feeling a big Christian Watson game. Watson made a bunch of noise before suffering a hip injury in the last few weeks, but his underlying numbers look great. He leads wide receivers in fantasy points per target (2.5). Aaron Rodgers‘ QB rating per Christian Watson target is 128.3, No. 2 among receivers. He’s No. 18 in yards per route run (2.19; remember that Chris Olave tweet from earlier?).

Watson ranks No. 15 in average depth of target (13.4 yards) and has 15 deep targets (No. 29) and 14 red zone targets (No. 17). His 25.5-percent target rate ranks No. 23 at the position. Remember, Christian Watson was hurt during training camp, missed three games, and didn’t really play much until Week 10. And now he gets a Lions defense that ranks No. 22 in pass defense DVOA and allows the No. 3-most receiving yards per game (265.1). I think, well, really everyone in this game, but especially Christian Watson is in for a big game.

Christian Watson Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Good luck in Week 18 everyone! Thank you so much to any and everyone who reads this column every week. I appreciate you all! Thanks again to our amazing editor Seth Diewold who makes me look so much better than I am and makes all of our articles look so pristine. I’ll be back with off-season articles sooner than later, but it won’t be until next September for more of these articles. Til then!