And just like that, we've reached the finish line of the 2021 regular season. We have just one full slate left in front of us in Week 18 and then we'll turn our attention to the playoffs. This final week of the regular season is sometimes the most difficult slate to try and pick as various teams that already have a postseason spot locked up will opt to rest players instead of moving ahead full steam, so it does bring an added layer to account for.
Naturally, we'll want to end the season on a high note in our picks department and continue to build on what has been a productive season. Last week, we hit three of our five locks of the week and while we were .500 with our ATS picks as a whole, we did sport a solid 12-4 ML record. We'll look to do better than break even with our ATS picks in Week 18, starting with our five locks of the week.
Locks of the Week ATS: 49-32-4
The Patriots still have a chance at winning the AFC East and an outside shot at leaping back up as the No. 1 seed, but that will require a win on Sunday in Miami. So even with a playoff spot already clinched, New England will likely still be moving at full speed. Meanwhile, Miami's seven-game winning streak did go out with a whimper last week as they managed just three points in a loss to Tennessee. When you looked a little deeper at the streak, the Dolphins were facing pretty soft competition, so it wasn't too shocking to see a true playoff team take them down. That what they'll see again in Week 18 in the Patriots and you can even make the case that Bill Belichick's team is a tougher foe as they own the No. 2 defense in DVOA in the NFL. The Patriots are also 4-1 ATS in their last five road games.
Projected score: Patriots 27, Dolphins 20
The pick: Patriots -6.5
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While the No. 1 seed is officially out of reach for the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay still has a path to jump to the No. 2 seed, which certainly still holds significance, albeit not as much as a first-round bye with the top spot. Solidifying home-field through the divisional round shouldn't be something this team overlooks as they've been tremendous at Raymond James Stadium this season. With that in mind, Bruce Arians should be rolling his team out at full steam against a lowly Panthers squad that is 0-6 ATS in its last six games coming into Sunday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is 5-1 in its last six home games.
Projected score: Buccaneers 33, Panthers 17
The pick: Buccaneers -8
San Francisco has historically had the Rams' number under Kyle Shanahan, but I don't believe that will be the case this go around largely because of the quarterback situation for the Niners. Trey Lance still looks a bit too green to be duking it out against a team like L.A. and even if Jimmy Garoppolo does play he'll be doing so with an injured thumb. While the 23-7 final score in last week's win over the Texans may indicate a big win for San Fran, that was merely a field-goal game entering the fourth quarter, so this offense under Lance is hardly a finished product. As for the Rams, they need a win to secure the NFC West, so they'll be firing on all cylinders and are 4-1 ATS in its last five games.
Projected score: Rams 27, 49ers 21
The pick: Rams -4.5
The Chiefs fell out as the No. 1 seed in the AFC last week with their loss to the Bengals but can leap back into that spot with a win on Saturday along with a loss by Tennessee on Sunday. With that formula back to the top spot in the conference pretty straightforward, Andy Reid may not rest his stars and instead try to secure the win and give his team a shot at jumping back up the standings. As for Denver, they are merely playing out the string can be doing so with a third-string quarterback as Drew Lock suffered a shoulder injury last week and Teddy Bridgewater still dealing with a concussion. Even if Lock does play, he won't be 100%, which gives K.C. -- who is 6-1 ATS over its last seven games -- a great opportunity to clear this double-digit spread.
Projected score: Chiefs 28, Broncos 17
The pick: Chiefs -10
We were right in our assumption last week on the Bills as they failed to cover against the Falcons and we're doubling down on that here in Week 18. New York has shown some flashes over the final few weeks of the year and nearly took down the Buccaneers last week. The Bills will be going all-out in this game to try and secure the AFC East title, but I think the Jets make this surprisingly close. After all, the Bills are 3-3-2 ATS at home this season with an average margin of victory sitting at just under nine points. Josh Allen has also statistically been a worse quarterback at home this season than on the road. His completion percentage is roughly 7% lower at home than on the road and his passer rating is nearly 14 points lower. He also threw three picks at Highmark Stadium last week.
Projected score: Bills 30, Jets 17
The pick: Jets +16.5
Rest of the bunch
Bengals at Browns
Projected score: Bengals 24, Browns 20
The pick: Bengals -3
Washington at Giants
Projected score: Washington 24, Giants 14
The pick: Washington -7
Titans at Texans
Projected score: Titans 28, Texans 20
The pick: Texans +10.5
Saints at Falcons
Projected score: Falcons 23, Saints 21
The pick: Falcons +4