NFL Best Bets Week 18

by Ahaan Rungta · Betting & Props

This is NFL Best Bets Week 18! Here, we provide our best game line bets for the NFL slate each week on sportsbooks.

Each week’s article features picks on either the moneyline, spread, game total, or team total. For each bet, we will provide a wager size recommendation (note: 1 unit = 1% of your gambling bankroll). Keep the exposure disciplined and stick to the recommendations. The odds but it is always worth line-shopping at the time you place your bet so that you can get the best value available online.

In Week 17, we got elite closing value on both our bets to no avail. The Panthers could not cover a 6.5-points spread despite closing at +3.5 in a massacre at the hands of C.J. Beathard and the Jaguars defense. The Bengals hooked us on our +7 bet in brutal fashion. Entering that game, in non-divisional games since 1994, teams coming off an against-the-spread loss by 26+ as a small favorite (less than three) were 27-0-2 against the spread in a spread of less than 8.5. Cincinnati broke that historic streak.

Let’s finish the regular season strong with these two bets in a pivotal Week 18.

1 unit: Panthers +4.5 (-105, FanDuel)

Sometimes, you just have to hold your nose and play the long-term game. The profitable side in the last week of the regular season is often just the one that goes against the grain of playoff narratives. The Panthers have nothing to play for this week. Their opponent, the Buccaneers, are fighting for a playoff spot and division title. Historically, fading teams in similar “must-win” scenarios in the final week of regular season play has been a good strategy. The idea is that Vegas overcorrects for the motivation of a playoff fight since they know the public will lean heavily toward the team with more at stake. This system has historically hit at an approximately 60% rate. However, we also get a tough spot for Tampa Bay in general.

Since the head coaching change in Carolina, franchise quarterback Bryce Young has had a brand-new game. He leads all qualified quarterbacks in air yards per game and is spreading the ball around all his weapons. His pass catchers are also mostly healthy. On the other side, the Buccaneers have injury designations on quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Trey Palmer, left tackle Tristan Wirfs, and cornerback Carlton Davis III. They rank as a bottom-12 defense in run stop win rate, pass rush win rate, and EPA per play allowed.

More on the Panthers

The Panthers fit multiple separate systems as well. The Vegas total of 37.5 in this game is low, suggesting a struggle for both offenses overall. Since the 2018-19 season, underdogs in games with a total of less than 42.5 are 205-150-10 against the spread (57.7% hit rate). Within the division, that spikes to 85-57-4 against the spread (59.6% hit rate). Additionally, the Panthers are a good buy-low after a shellacking in Week 17. Since the 2003-04 season, underdogs coming off a loss by 20 or more the previous game are 275-222-15 against the spread. This is good for a +7.1% return on investment.

Since October 2021, Baker Mayfield is 0-6 against the spread as a favorite of at least three points. Even though he could come through for his team in the clutch to send them to the playoffs with a win, it is smart to take the points with Carolina while snagging the key numbers of three and four in the process.

1 unit: Patriots Moneyline (-125, BetMGM)

It is only right that we end the regular season with one of the ugliest bets we have made all year—on a team that has looked clueless at an organizational level and directionless as an offensive unit. Luckily for the Patriots, they play a divisional foe that is in shambles themselves. This is a battle of two eliminated teams.

The Jets will start Trevor Siemian in Week 18. That means head coach Bill Belichick will not have much to worry about on the defensive end. He can focus on stopping wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall. The Patriots defense ranks No. 2 in rush EPA per play allowed since Week 10 and No. 5 in run stop win rate this season.

Bailey Zappe and Company

On offense, it is scary to trust anything the Patriots do, especially behind quarterback Bailey Zappe, but it is worth noting that his passer rating has taken a significant leap against man coverage. This is primarily the coverage the Jets want to run defensively. This game is also the lowest Vegas total on the slate (30.5). The number makes sense given that New England could simply rely on the run here with Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott has shown some recent burst and will now face a Jets run defense that has been just middle-of-the-pack over the last couple of months.

Both teams are coming off losses in Week 17. However, New England is the one who fits a notable historical trend here. Since 1989, in the final week of the regular season, home favorites are 51-38-3 against the spread (57.3% win rate, +9.1% return on investment) when both they and their opponent are coming off losses. The Patriots should probably be favored on neutral ground anyway, so it is worth the price to snag them at nearly pick-’em as they close out their season in Gillette Stadium.