Pick 6: NFL Betting Tips for Week 18

Pick 6: NFL Betting Tips for Week 18
© USA Today

Welcome to the home of NFL betting tips on Gambling.com - where you can find NFL betting picks updated weekly ahead of the weekend's games. We've done the research, gone through the NFL betting lines for the final weekend of the regular season, and selected some of the best bets across all of the available markets with the best NFL betting sites.

Our in-house NFL betting expert Charlie Mullan has looked at the statistics in detail and provided his six tips below. We've also called upon former Pro Bowler and Gambling.com ambassador Shawne Merriman for his outright picks for this week's match-ups, as well as his thoughts on the NFL's biggest talking points in his weekly column.

Quick Picks

For the first time ever in the history of the NFL, the regular season ends with an 18th week. Of the 14 play-off places available, three remain unclaimed - two in the AFC and one in the NFC. The NFL would have wished for more riding on the final weekend of the biggest ever season, but the final slate of games should still provide plenty of talking points.

Four teams are battling it out for the final two AFC berths while the final play-off place in the NFC will go to either the 49ers or the Saints. Following the Chiefs' loss to the Bengals, the Titans are top seeds in the AFC, while the Packers secured a first-round bye after beating the depleted Vikings last weekend. The odds on Super Bowl LVI being contested by the Titans and Packers were 100/1 with Ladbrokes before the season started.

All 16 games this weekend are divisional games - so we can expect plenty of keenly contested battles to end the regular season. 

Chiefs to Bounce Back at Broncos

The Chiefs lost their number one seeding in the AFC last weekend when they were beaten 34-31 by the Bengals. The Titans are now the conference’s top team after destroying the Dolphins 34-3 in Tennessee. Kansas City have won the AFC West, but they cannot afford to rest key players for their final regular season game in Denver. 

The Broncos can expect a fast start from the Chiefs - who have made a habit of starting games strongly. In the first quarters of their last nine games, Kansas City outscored their opponents 89-10, with former MVP Patrick Mahomes under centre. The Chiefs have also scored first in each of their last nine contests with touchdowns on each occasion. 

Kansas City have been putting up big scores recently - with an average of 37.25 points a game over the last four games including last week’s loss. Scoring has been an issue for the Broncos, who have notched 13 points or fewer in four of their last five games. 

Many online betting sites have the Chiefs as overwhelming favourites to end their regular season with a win. Betfair are offering odds of 1/1 for the Chiefs to start fast again and win the first quarter - covering the 3.0 spread in the process.

Shawne Merriman's Chiefs at Broncos Pick: Chiefs. A lot of it with them is health. They’re locked in for the post-season, so for them, it’s making sure everyone gets to the play-offs healthy. That should be No.1 for them.

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Cowboys to Continue run of Fast Starts Against Eagles

Just when we thought the Cowboys were the real deal, they went and lost to the Cardinals at home. Dallas have secured the division title and they will want to enter their wild card play-off game on the back of a confidence-boosting win. But they are up against an Eagles team back in the play-offs and determined to avenge their 20-point loss to the Cowboys earlier in the season.

This is a much better Philadelphia team than the one that ran the ball just 12 times for 64 yards in their loss to the Cowboys back in week 3. In their last five games, the Eagles have run the ball an average of 31.2 times and they lead the league with 160.4 rushing yards per game. 

Dallas will know what to expect from their opponents but stopping it will be the issue. The Eagles love to use their ground game to control things if they take the lead. 

But the Cowboys defence has been one of the best at stopping teams from scoring early. No opponent has scored a first quarter touchdown against Dallas in their last five games, while the Eagles have found the endzone only once in the first quarter in their previous five games. If that trend continues, Betfair’s odds of 5/6 for the Cowboys to win the first quarter -1 could be worth considering. 

Shawne Merriman's Cowboys at Eagles pick: Cowboys. Both teams clinched, and with teams that already clinched, when you get to the play-offs, the No.1 thing is health. The healthiest teams win. Period. So, if you already clinched, don’t sit guys and have them do nothing, but have them go through their routine and give guys some snaps to stay in it, but health is No.1.

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Big Ben to Edge Steelers Past Ravens

With every game he plays, Ben Roethlisberger moves closer to ending his 18-year spell with the Steelers. His future remains uncertain, but his immediate focus is on beating Baltimore this weekend to ensure Pittsburgh make the play-offs.

The Ravens are doing things the hard way in recent weeks. On December 6, they were the AFC’s third seed with an 8-4 record, but their odds of making the play-offs this weekend are slim after losses in their last five games. 

The Steelers have been slow starters in the second half of the season, with no first quarter touchdowns scored in their last seven games. In fact, they have failed to trouble scoreboard operators in the first 15 minutes of their last five games, while Baltimore have scored first quarter touchdowns in each of their last three games.

In recent meetings, Pittsburgh have had the upper-hand, winning the last three. But they have all been close contests decided by five points or less every time. That includes the Steelers' 20-19 victory in week 13, when the Ravens missed a two-point conversion attempt to win the game at the death. The Steelers are 9/2 with Betfair to win by six points or less this weekend. 

Shawne Merriman's Steelers at Ravens pick: Let’s go with the Ravens.

Buccaneers to Finish Strong Against Wounded Panthers

It was an eventful weekend for Tampa Bay last time out as they beat the Jets 28-24 in New York. In the third quarter, they were losing 24-10 when controversial wide receiver Antonio Brown provided one of the more bizarre moments of the season by removing his pads and leaving the game - before being cut by the team a couple of days later. 

It took a 42nd fourth quarter comeback and 53rd game-winning drive from quarterback Tom Brady to spare the Buccaneers further embarrassment and keep the defending champs on course to repeat last season’s Super Bowl success. Aaron Rodgers looks to have regular season MVP secured but Brady is the second-favourite at 6/1 in the NFL MVP betting market.

The Panthers are already planning for next season and who should lead their offence remains the biggest question. It’s unlikely Cam Newton will be in the conversation and Sam Darnold’s future looks set to be elsewhere regardless of how he performs against the Bucs this weekend. 

If this game is close at the half, the smart money would be on the Buccaneers to finish strongly, as they have done plenty of times this season. In their 16 games to date, they have only lost the second half five times. The Panthers have lost the second half 11 times, including their last three. Tampa Bay are 4/5 with Betfair to cover the 4.0 spread and win the second half. 

Shawne Merriman's Panthers at Buccaneers pick: Bucs. One thing for coach Arians and Tom Brady and people who have been around for a long time, the Antonio Brown drama won’t be a distraction. They’re not a young team trying to figure it out. They got a bunch of crafty vets. It’s one of those things where it’s more of a media thing than it is in the locker room.

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Third Quarter Struggles to Continue for Saints and Falcons 

The Saints have flown under the radar for the majority of the year, but their final game of the regular season has a lot riding on it. Beat the Falcons, and a 49ers loss to the Rams would give New Orleans the final wild card spot. 

Atlanta’s brave push for the play-offs ended last week when they lost to the Bills in Buffalo. But the Falcons will be looking to sweep the Saints for the first time since the 2017 season. With no play-off implications, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith could be less conservative and open up the playbook a little bit more. 

Both teams have struggled to score points in the third quarter in recent weeks and those issues might continue this weekend. The Falcons have gone seven third quarters without a touchdown, while the Saints are without a touchdown in their last five third quarters. Betfair are offering odds of 13/5 for the third quarter of this Sunday’s contest to be the lowest-scoring quarter. 

Shawne Merriman's Saints at Falcons pick: Saints.

Bills to Ground the Jets in Buffalo

The stakes have been raised for Buffalo’s final game of the regular season at home to the Jets. Already guaranteed a play-off berth, win and the Bills clinch the AFC East title for the second successive season. A victory would also see them hosting a wild card play-off game. Lose and they could miss out on top spot in the AFC East. The Patriors could seal the number one seed with a win and losses for the Bills, Titans and Chiefs. 

The Bills just have to take care of their own business and facing the Jets shouldn't intimidate them. Earlier this season, Buffalo beat the Jets 45-17 to extend their winning streak over New York to three games. The best betting apps make them around 1/12 to secure the win again here.

This is a chance for Sean McDermott’s Bills to enter the play-offs on a high. Quarterback Josh Allen didn’t have a great game throwing the ball last week against the Falcons as they picked him off three times, but he ran for 81 yards and scored two touchdowns in the 14-point win. 

In the meeting earlier this season, the Bills scored in all four quarters. They have achieved that feat six times this season. The Jets have allowed teams to score in all four quarters nine times and Betfair are offering odds of 11/10 for Buffalo to do that this weekend.


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