Welcome to the Week 18 picks.
I've been making NFL picks here at CBS Sports for 10 years and this week marks the first time where I don't think my head was completely in it. I usually finish up this column on Monday night each week, but after watching what transpired in the Bills-Bengals game, making picks was the last thing on my mind.
What happened to Damar Hamlin was difficult to watch and it's a reminder that NFL players are risking their health with every snap of the ball. We've seen some serious injuries over the years, but none of them were like the one suffered by the Bills safety, who actually went into cardiac arrest on the field after taking a shoulder to the chest. It was an emotional situation that wasn't easy for anyone to watch and it was one of the scariest moments in NFL history.
If you're not in the mood to read any picks right now, I completely understand -- I wasn't really in the mood to write them -- but they'll be here when you're ready.
NFL Week 18 Picks
Kansas City at Las Vegas
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN/ABC)
If the Chiefs want to have any shot at earning the top overall seed in the AFC, they have to win this game. On the other hand, the Raiders have nothing to play for except pride, but after blowing another double-digit lead in Week 16, I'm not sure how much pride they have left. No team has been better this season at blowing leads than the Raiders. As a matter of fact, no team in NFL history has been better at blowing leads than the Raiders. Including their Week 16 loss, the Raiders have now lost FIVE games this season where they led by 10 points or more in the second half, which is an NFL record. Obviously, this means I will be predicting that the Raiders jump out to a double-digit lead on Saturday before blowing it and losing.
The Chiefs are 9-1 in their past 10 games against the Raiders, so I feel like I'd have to be crazy to pick the Raiders and according to my shrink, I'm not crazy.
The pick: Chiefs 30-17 over Raiders
Tennessee (7-9) at Jacksonville (8-8)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN/ABC)
Someone in the NFL scheduling office clearly hates the Jaguars because that's the only way to explain how this game got flexed to Saturday. Not only do the Jags have to play on a short week, but they'll be playing a Titans team that played on Thursday in Week 17, so Tennessee will be going into this game with three extra days of rest.
Yes, the Titans were going to have a rest advantage no matter when this game was played, but if it had been scheduled for Sunday, then the Jags would have gotten an extra day of rest that they're now not going to get. Before he knew which day the Jags would be playing, Doug Pederson made it very clear that he would prefer to play on Sunday over Saturday.
"I would love to play Sunday, obviously, to have these next couple of days," Pederson said his team beat the Texans on Sunday, via the team's website. "But we'll play when they ask us or tell us to play, and our guys will be ready to go. If I could pick, I would pick Sunday."
Look, the Jaguars are the more talented team in this game, but I have a hard time picking against Tennessee because no one is better than the Titans at winning games they're not supposed to win. In their past 15 games as an underdog of five points or more, the Titans are 11-4 against the spread and 8-7 straight up. They've won more than HALF their games as an underdog of FIVE OR MORE.
I think Tennessee's game plan is going to be simple here: They're going to give the ball to Derrick Henry 75 times in hopes of controlling the clock and if they control the clock, that will keep Jacksonville's offense off the field, which should keep this game close.
The Titans will be starting a QB (Josh Dobbs) who will have only been on their roster for less than three weeks by the time this game kicks off, which isn't ideal, but I'm picking the Titans anyway. I'm not sure if this qualifies as my boldest pick of of the year or my dumbest, but we're about to find out.
The pick: Titans 20-17 over Jaguars
Note: If my crazy pick turns out to be right, all is not lost for the Jaguars. They can actually get into the playoffs as a wild-card team if the Steelers lose to the Browns, the Patriots lose to the Bills and the Dolphins lose to the Jets.
N.Y. Giants (9-6-1) at Philadelphia (13-3)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Giants have clinched the sixth overall seed in the NFC and that won't change no matter what happens against the Eagles, which means they literally have nothing to play for in this game. I know that, you know that, and Brian Daboll knows that, which is why I could see the Giants resting their starters.
That being said, there's a reason that picking games in Week 18 is basically a drunken crapshoot and that's because I don't know if the Giants will actually be resting their starters. Daboll said on Sunday that he would likely play his starters, but then he turned around on Monday and said he'll do what's "best for the team," which I think is code for "Our starters definitely won't be playing because I don't want to risk getting anyone injured for the playoffs."
The Eagles will clinch the top seed in the NFC with a win, but if they lose, they could drop all the way down to the five-seed. The Giants could turn the NFC playoff race upside down with a win on Sunday, but I don't think that's going to happen. They like things right side up.
The pick: Eagles 30-17 over Giants.
Houston (2-13-1) at Indianapolis (4-11-1)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
If you asked 10 people what the worst game is on the NFL schedule this week, I'm guessing all 10 of them would say this one. You have the Colts, who have been the worst team in football over the past month, going up against the Texans, who currently have the worst record in the NFL.
If you're wondering what's wrong with the Colts right now, it's everything: They've been outscored 97-16 since halftime of their Week 15 loss to the Vikings, they're going to be down to their third-string quarterback (Sam Ehlinger) and Jeff Saturday is in the argument for worst interim coach ever. Every bone in my body is telling me to pick against the Colts, but I can't do it.
No team has been better at losing this year than the Texans and they have every reason to want to lose this game since a loss will clinch the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. On the other hand, if Houston wins, the Bears could get the top pick with a loss to Minnesota, so understandably, Texans fans actually want the Texans to lose.
Please lose today Texans. Let’s win the draft Bryce Young sweepstakes!— Eddie (@eddiec118) January 1, 2023
Please lose. @HoustonTexans— steph. (@stephtbh) January 1, 2023
Please @HoustonTexans lose today lol— Gus (@ItsGus_713) January 1, 2023
The most Texans thing ever would be for them to win a game their fans want them to lose, but I'm going to say that they actually make their fans happy for once by not winning this game.
The pick: Colts 23-16 over Texans
Cleveland (7-9) at Pittsburgh (8-8)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
For the second straight year, the Steelers are going to need a miracle to get in the playoffs and for the second straight year, that miracle might actually happen. In 2021, the Steelers needed the 13-point underdog Jaguars to upset the Colts in the final week of the season and that's exactly what happened.
This year, the Steelers need to beat the Browns and then get some help from the Bills and Jets, who have to beat the Patriots and Dolphins. If those three things happen, then the Steelers will be punching their ticket to the postseason for the second straight year.
The last time these two teams played came back in Week 3 with the Browns winning 29-17 in a game where the Steelers didn't have T.J. Watt. Watt will be playing this week and the Steelers are 7-2 this season when they have their human wrecking ball on the field.
The Steelers defense has been dominant with Watt: They've given up fewer yards (286.8 yards per game with Watt vs. 389.9 without him), they've given up fewer points (17.2 point per game with Wat vs. 25.3 without him) and they've been sack machines with Watt on the field recording 25 sacks in his nine games vs. just eight sacks in the seven games he was out.
The Steelers defense has gotten much better since Week 3 and it's going up against a Browns offense has been mostly sputtering since Deshaun Watson return in Week 12. As for the Steelers offense, I'm thinking we should start calling them the "opossums" because they tend to play dead for three quarters before coming alive in the fourth quarter, which is what they've done in each of the past two weeks.
So what's my pick? I think I like the opossums to top the Browns here.
The pick: Steelers 22-19 over the Browns
Detroit (8-8) at Green Bay (8-8)
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
We only get one winner-take-all game in Week 18 and the sad thing is that it might not even be winner-take-all because the NFL hates us. The problem with this game is that there's a good chance that one team might be eliminated before things even kick off on Sunday night.
If the Seahawks beat the Rams at 4:25 p.m. ET, that will eliminate the Lions from playoff contention, which means I have to pick this game not knowing if the Lions are going to have a shot at the postseason. The good news for me is that I don't really care if there's a playoff berth on the line for the Lions and that's because I plan on picking against them no matter what.
The problem for the Lions is that this game is being played in Green Bay and Detroit has a quarterback who tends to:
A. Struggle in road games AND
B. Struggle cold-weather games, and this game will have both of those.
Although Jared Goff has been impressive this year -- he's thrown 29 touchdowns to just seven interceptions -- I should probably point out that 23 of those 29 touchdowns have come at home. In seven road games, Goff has thrown just six touchdowns along with four interceptions and the Lions have gone 3-4.
If you put Goff in cold weather, he's even worse: In six career games where the kickoff temperature was under 35 degrees, Goff has thrown five interceptions compared to just four touchdowns while averaging 227.4 yards per game. However, those numbers are slightly misleading because a lot of that came in garbage time during a 37-23 loss to the Panthers in Week 16 where Goff piled up some big numbers while the Lions were trailing 31-7.
If you take out the garbage time stuff, then Goff has one touchdown and five interceptions in five career games where the kickoff is under 35 degrees. On the other hand, we have Aaron Rodgers, who has a 28-4 career record in December and January regular-season games, including 18-1 with Matt LaFleur. I ignored Rodgers' December/January record last week when I picked him to lose to Minnesota, but I won't be making the same mistake this week.
The pick: Packers 27-24 over Lions.
NFL Week 18 picks: All the rest
Buccaneers 19-16 over Falcons
Vikings 20-16 over Bears
Chargers 27-20 over Broncos
Jets 23-20 over Dolphins
Saints 21-17 over Panthers
49ers 31-17 over Cardinals
Seahawks 24-16 over Rams
Cowboys 27-17 over Commanders
Note: Due to the situation with Damar Hamlin, there will be no pick for Patriots-Bills or Ravens-Bengals until later in the week.
UPDATE (Jan. 6): The two missing picks are in ...
Bengals 24-16 over Ravens
Bills 27-20 over Patriots
Best pick: Last week, I predicted that the Seahawks would score exactly 23 points and beat the Jets and guess what happened? The Seahawks scored exactly 23 points and beat the Jets. This was a revenge game for Geno Smith and if I've learned one thing this year, it's that no one in the NFL does revenge better than Geno Smith. Before signing with Seattle, Smith had played for three NFL teams in his career (Jets, Giants, Chargers) and he got to face all three of those teams this season. Not only did Smith go 3-0, but the Seahawks won those three games by an average of 15 points per game. I think what I'm trying to say here is that the Seahawks would probably be undefeated right now if every game this season had been a revenge game for Geno Smith.
Worst pick: The only thing dumber than picking against Aaron Rodgers at home in cold-weather is picking against Tom Brady in a big game, and I did both of those things last week. Those two guys have combined to win three MVP awards over the past five years, and for some reason, I picked them both to choke last week, and as it turns out, the only one who choked in this situation was me. I would say I had the biggest choke job of Week 17, but Carson Wentz threw three interceptions against the Browns, so that award definitely goes to him.
Finally, if you guys have ever wondered which teams I'm actually good at picking, here's a quick look at my best and worst teams when it comes to picks this year.
Teams I've been the best at picking this year: Chiefs (15-1), Patriots (13-3), Bills (12-3), Texans (12-3-1), Chargers (12-4), Falcons (12-4), Rams (12-4)
Longest current streak of picking a team's games correctly: Chiefs (13 straight games picked correctly)
Teams I've been the worst at picking this year: Raiders (6-10), Jaguars (7-9), Panthers (7-9), Packers (7-9), Jaguars (7-9), Browns (7-9)
Longest active streak of picking a team's games wrong: Browns (Three straight games picked incorrectly)
Every other team is somewhere in the middle.
Straight up in Week 17: 11-4
SU overall: 156-97-1
Against the spread in Week 17: 8-7
ATS overall: 121-125-9
Exact score predictions: 1.
You can find John Breech on Facebook or Twitter.