2021 NFL Expert Picks: Week 18

2021 NFL Expert Picks: Week 18

by January 7, 2022 0 comments

Two NFL experts from the Prime Time Sports Talk staff came together to share their picks for Week 18.

These two writers will make their picks for the entire season. (Failure to accurately predict a tie will be treated as a loss.) A record will be listed at the bottom of every article. An archive of all 18 regular-season and four playoff editions can be found here.

Sam Schneider and Andersen Pickard contributed to this article.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

Sam: Chiefs 41, Broncos 13

After a loss at the hands to Cincinnati put the Chiefs chances at the No. 1 seed in the AFC in doubt, they’ll be out for blood while also hoping for a Tennessee loss. To make matters worse for Denver, starting cornerbacks Patrick Surtain and Ronald Darby have both been ruled out for this game. Kansas City is going to go wild in the mile-high air, and Drew Lock certainly isn’t the quarterback to keep his team in the game.

Andersen: Chiefs 34, Broncos 14

The Chiefs are still the dominant powerhouse in the AFC West despite last week’s loss to the Bengals. Very much in the Super Bowl conversation, Kansas City will handle the Broncos with ease in Saturday’s season finale.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Sam: Cowboys 26, Eagles 17

Two playoff-bound teams have one more division matchup to settle before the postseason. The question is, will either team back down and start pulling starters early in the second half? Neither team has far to go where seeding is concerned. There could be some minor jostling with a few upsets. Perhaps the Eagles need the win more if they’d rather play someone like the Buccaneers over the Rams. This game is a big question mark, so we’re going with the better overall team.

Andersen: Cowboys 24, Eagles 21

Both of these teams have been playing very well as of late. In fact, Dallas and Philadelphia both enter Week 18 with guaranteed playoff spots, which is one reason why they’ll play on Saturday instead of Sunday. It should be a close battle, but Dallas is more polished, aggressive, and proven against better teams.

Washington Football Team vs. New York Giants

Sam: Football Team 24, Giants 18

Two bad teams’ disappointing seasons mercifully come to an end on Sunday. Jake Fromm State Farm will be under center for New York with another opportunity to prove he should be in the team’s future plans. Washington has been stricken by the gods of injury more than once this season, and at times their defense has looked like a sieve. New York will run Saquon Barkley into the ground in the final game, and he’ll have success, but not enough to beat their division rival.

Andersen: Football Team 31, Giants 10

Daniel Jones, who struggled, is done for the year. Mike Glennon, who struggled even more, is done for the year. Thus, the Giants are turning to Jake Fromm once again this coming Sunday. The Washington defense hasn’t been great this season, but the unit could look like one of the best in the league during this attractive matchup.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns

Sam: Bengals 23, Browns 15

Currently, Cincinnati has no less than seven starters on the COVID list, and several others that are banged up. The win over Kansas City in Week 17 just became even more important, otherwise the Bengals would be in danger of dropping the division with a loss in the final game. This week, we will be treated to a Brandon Allen versus Case Keenum quarterback battle. The Bengals will trot out a bunch of no-name players for this one, but as evidenced last Monday against the Steelers, the Browns have already checked out of this season and just want the nightmare to end.

Andersen: Bengals 17, Browns 14

With Joe Burrow banged up and a playoff spot secured, Cincinnati will turn to Brandon Allen this week. Although he’s a clear step back from the 2020 No. 1 pick, Allen has enough weapons around him to pump out a win. Chatter about Baker Mayfield‘s future will continue to grow rapidly in Cleveland.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens

Sam: Steelers 23, Ravens 20

Pittsburgh still has the very slimmest of shots to sneak into the postseason, so they want this one. Lamar Jackson will be out yet again in the final game of the season, and the defense will look to get after Tyler Huntley early and often. It will be tough sledding for the Ravens’ run game, while on the Steelers’ side, Najee Harris should find room out of the backfield. Diontae Johnson has been activated from the COVID list, ready to stretch the defense as far as Ben Roethlisberger can throw the ball. Steelers win, hoping to back into the playoffs, only to be disappointed when the Colts crush the Jaguars.

Andersen: Ravens 21, Steelers 17

In what could be the final game of Ben Roethlisberger‘s career, the veteran quarterback will give it everything he has against a Ravens team that has struggled to win close games as of late. This time, Baltimore will get its way and find a victory over its division-mate. Still, fans viewing this game should expect some sloppy football.

Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions

Sam: Packers 30, Lions 17

Aaron Rodgers is likely to start the game in order to continue momentum, but he won’t finish it. Nevertheless, if he’s in for a quarter, he’s good for two touchdowns. Assuming AJ Dillon draws the start at running back, he’s nearly as dangerous as Aaron Jones and will do some damage of his own. Jordan Love gets an opportunity to get some snaps while already leading the affair. The Packers may rest a lot of guys, but they already have patchwork up front so there’s not a lot left to sub in. A discount Packers lineup is still enough to beat up on little brother.

Andersen: Packers 17, Lions 16

The Packers, who will likely rest their main starters this week, face off against the NFC’s losingest team on Sunday. Detroit has had some bad breaks for sure, but it’s still a team that needs a lot of help. In familiar fashion, the Lions will fall to the Packers on a buzzer-beating field goal to close out their season.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Sam: Colts 31, Jaguars 0

Win and you’re in, Indianapolis. Any other teams that are scoreboard watching will be sent home when the Colts are victorious and the winner of Chargers/Raiders takes the final spot on Sunday night. Indy has not won in Duval since 2014, but the Jaguars are so terrible that it hardly matters here. Colts start pulling starters in the fourth quarter and the second team doesn’t flinch, maintaining the shutout.

Andersen: Colts 34, Jaguars 6

The Jaguars are abysmal. No team is beyond saving, but Jacksonville is certainly testing the limits. It would be a stunner if Indianapolis doesn’t win by at least three scores.

Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings

Sam: Bears 23, Vikings 20

The Vikings want to win this one for Mike Zimmer, whose seat is getting hotter by the minute. Unfortunately, “want to” and “will” are two very different things. The Bears have won two straight against a pair of not-very-good teams, but the Vikings are also not very good. Andy Dalton gets the ball for Chicago. The “Red Rifle” wasn’t anything near efficient last week against New York, but he managed the game and the defense did the heavy lifting. Expect more of the same this week.

Andersen: Bears 21, Vikings 17

Even with Kirk Cousins back this week, the Vikings will falter and finish with the same record as the Bears. Everyone in Chicago (and outside of it, for that matter) wants Matt Nagy fired. However, he’s going to string together a three-game winning streak to close out the season and make the decision a bit harder for the Bears’ front office. Meanwhile, similar discussions will begin among the Minnesota brass.

Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans

Sam: Titans 30, Texans 14

Houston rolled into Tennessee in late November and shocked the Titans 22-13. The chance of them sweeping their division mates is somewhere between slim and none, and slim just left town. Tennessee is getting healthier (although Derrick Henry will not be activated for the game), and if they win they maintain the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Houston gets a garbage touchdown late, but the game is never in doubt from the jump.

Andersen: Titans 31, Texans 17

The Titans looked absolutely brilliant against Miami last week, halting the Dolphins’ winning streak at seven games. They should have no trouble beating the Texans this week, though up-and-coming rookie Davis Mills will continue to boast his potential by throwing for two touchdowns.

New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons

Sam: Falcons 28, Saints 27

All New Orleans has to do is win this very winnable game on the road against a suspect Atlanta team, and they likely make the postseason by virtue of San Francisco dropping Week 18 to the Rams. The Falcons, however, are looking to play spoiler. Atlanta already beat the Saints in New Orleans earlier this season, and they’ll get the sweep at home on the strength of a late-game Kyle Pitts touchdown after trailing 27-21. The visitors are left wondering what went wrong, as San Francisco does indeed lose, but still gets in over the Saints.

Andersen: Saints 21, Falcons 18

Fueled by a big game from Alvin Kamara, the Saints will narrowly defeat division-mate Atlanta to close out both teams’ regular seasons. It will be truly interesting to watch the Falcons this offseason as they make crucial decisions on Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley (personal reasons), and other core pieces.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals

Sam: Cardinals 26, Seahawks 20

The Cardinals need to keep their foot on the gas in case the Rams somehow drop their game against San Francisco. If that happens, Arizona can take the NFC West crown and shoot from the No. 5 seed all the way up to No. 3 or even No. 2, depending on the result of the Tampa Bay game. The Seahawks are laying down, but all bets are off in divisional affairs, so they’ll still try to give the Cards a game before ultimately falling short.

Andersen: Cardinals 31, Seahawks 24

The Seahawks’ offense dropped an impressive 51 points on Detroit last week, but their defense also surrendered 29. This week, Arizona will find more success slowing down the Seahawks’ offense. This divisional game should be close, but it will ultimately fall in the Cardinals’ favor.

New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills

Sam: Bills 27, Jets 10

New York played admirably against Tampa Bay in Week 17 before coughing up their lead late in the game. The Bills defense is far better than that of the Buccaneers, and Buffalo wants to keep their AFC East Division crown. They’ll need to win in case the Patriots dispatch Miami as most expect. Additionally, if the resting Bengals drop their game to Cleveland, Buffalo could also move up to No. 3 in the AFC. The Jets have had a respectable defense this season at times, as long as the offense doesn’t cough up field position. With that said, Buffalo is on a mission and will be fired up at home in front of Bills Mafia.

Andersen: Bills 31, Jets 17

The Jets commanded the Buccaneers for about half an hour last week. Then, they choked and lost. Zach Wilson and Braxton Berrios will look solid once again on Sunday, but the team just won’t do enough to outperform the Bills.

Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sam: Buccaneers 23, Panthers 13

Expect the Buccaneers to treat this like a preseason game. The most you can expect to see of Tom Brady and some others would likely be a half, unless Carolina miraculously keeps it close. With the Rams expected to beat San Francisco, Tampa Bay is probably locked into the No. 3 seed no matter what. The starters come out, take a lead to the locker room, and go into clock killing mode to coast into their first round postseason matchup. The hapless Panthers aren’t going to stand in their way.

Andersen: Buccaneers 24, Panthers 7

On one hand, the Antonio Brown saga could create a brutal distraction for Tampa Bay. On the other hand, though, the Bucs might be motivated to show that they don’t need the disgruntled wideout in order to win. For now, I’m assuming the latter theory will prevail. However, it would not be utterly shocking to see Carolina snag a Week 18 dub.

New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins

Sam: Patriots 24, Dolphins 14

New England started the season with the Dolphins, and they’ll finish that way, too. A Damien Harris fumble cost them the game in Week 1, but not only is that unlikely to happen again, the Patriots are a much different team now. Miami has nothing to play for but pride. However, pride doesn’t deter interceptions, and Tua Tagovailoa is likely to throw at least two in this contest. New England wants the win in case Buffalo falters, opening the door for them to take the division out from under the Bills before they both head to the playoffs.

Andersen: Patriots 21, Dolphins 20

This one is going to be good. The Patriots have a playoff spot locked up while the Dolphins are out of contention, but it’s no secret that Miami is going to do all it can to knock New England as far down the playoff ladder as it can. In the end, Tua Tagovailoa will make a costly mistake that gives the win to the Patriots.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams

Sam: Rams 24, 49ers 20

Los Angeles has too much riding on this game to let San Francisco take it from them. It should still be a close game, and there is plenty of motivation for both teams to win. The Rams want to keep the No. 2 seed in the NFC, and the 49ers need a win or Saints loss to slip into the postseason. The Rams are the better team and want to keep some momentum headed into the playoffs, even if they employ a conservative game plan in this game. On a side note, there is a slim possibility that these two teams could turn around and face each other again in the first round.

Andersen: Rams 27, 49ers 21

Even though the Rams have been surging and Jimmy Garoppolo‘s status is in doubt, this still feels like a toss-up. Heck, many regular-season finales are. When all is said and done, look for Los Angeles to do enough offensively—but it’s going to be close.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Sam: Raiders 26, Chargers 23

The winner of this game passes “GO”, collects $200, and heads right into the postseason. That’s going to be the Raiders, who have shown some remarkable moxie of late and will take advantage of some Justin Herbert miscues while systematically stopping the run on Sunday night. The tensions will be high all game long, and chippiness is likely to ensue, culminating in a desperately heated fourth quarter on both sides loaded with penalties. In the end, a late Raiders field goal finally breaks the tie at home, sending the Chargers back to Los Angeles empty-handed.

Andersen: Raiders 24, Chargers 23

Win and you’re in. Justin Herbert has shown he can thrive in primetime, as well as in critical scenarios. However, Rich Bisaccia wants that interim tag removed and he is going to be more than willing to take risks to get his Raiders into the playoffs. As the clock hits triple-zeroes, Daniel Carlson, who has been underrated and super clutch all season long, will hit his third game-winning field goal in the last four weeks.


Sam: 142-98 (59.2%)
Joe: 101-79 (56.1%)
Andersen: 159-97 (62.1%)

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Sam Schneider on Twitter @BuyAndSellYou
Andersen Pickard on Twitter @AndersenPickard

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Andersen is a teenage sportswriter and reporter whose articles have appeared across the Prime Time Sports Talk, Sports Illustrated Kids, FantasyPros, and SB Nation platforms. He has also received credit from RotoWorld, CBS Sports, ESPN, Bleacher Report, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, The Athletic, SB Nation, NBC Sports, NY Post, and dozens of other sports sites for his reporting work.

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