NFL Power Rankings Week 18
Welcome to Week 18.
This is the first Week 18 in NFL history. It’s being dubbed and advertised as the “season finale”. That’s cute. But it is also telling. Because like most television shows, there are always some unexpected twists and turns in the final episode of the season.
That is actually important to remember as we put a wrap on the season. I have seen more than one gambler flush a season’s worth of profit down the tubes by overreaching in the final week of the year. Yes, there is some value in this week’s action. But there are also plenty of landmines and a whole bunch of trouble just waiting to be stirred up if you’re not careful.
Week 18 in the NFL is like betting the final week of the NFL Preseason. There is simply no reliable information about who is going to play, or how long. Motivation is critical in pro football. And since most of the teams suiting up this week are out of the playoff hunt, it is nearly impossible to predict what, if any, motivation half of the teams in the league will have.
Another thing to remember: beware of “must win” games for teams. Good teams don’t put themselves in “must win” situations. Shaky, shady, ready-to-break-your-heart-and-bust-your-bankroll teams put themselves in “must win” situations.
Consider yourself properly warned.
Doc’s Sports offers NFL expert picks for every game on our NFL predictions page.
Here is Doc’s Sports NFL Power Rankings:
1. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – I don’t expect to see Aaron Rodgers this week. And while Green Bay will likely play its starters some, I don’t think Matt LaFleur will play his key guys for the whole game. I can see Green Bay shutting it down in the second half. However, since they have the bye next week, that means the Packers will likely go three full weeks without suiting up and playing with its “A” team.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) – The Chiefs need the Titans to lose at Houston on Sunday to have a chance at the top seed. Unfortunately, the Chiefs had their game at Denver moved to Saturday. That means Kansas City is going to have to go all out to try to win just to have any hope for the No. 1 seed, even though it’s kind of unrealistic to expect the Texans to spring the upset.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4) – It was obviously a “Scorpion and The Frog” situation with Antonio Brown and always a question of when, not if, he would melt down. Brown’s departure really sabotages any chance this team has of winning a Super Bowl. I know Tom Brady has done more with less in the passing game before. But this team doesn’t have enough firepower to win another title. But then again, the Brown signing has to be considered a success since he did help bring Tampa Bay last year’s Super Bowl title.
4. Dallas Cowboys (11-5) – I think that losing Michael Gallup is a killer for this team’s Super Bowl aspirations. (And let’s be honest: they weren’t winning the Super Bowl anyway; Mike McCarthy will see to that.) This offense – like Cincinnati’s – is at its best when it has all three of its stud receivers healthy. Dallas is 7-1 ATS on the road this year and 13-3 ATS against NFC opponents.
5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5) – The Cardinals are going to be forced to do some scoreboard watching on Sunday. If the Rams win, then Arizona is locked into the No. 5 seed no matter what. However, if San Francisco – which needs to win to secure its own playoff slot – beats the Rams, then Arizona can move up to the No. 3 seed and get a home playoff game.
6. New England Patriots (10-6) – I don’t know about New England as a seven-point favorite down in Miami this week. The Patriots could have a letdown here after peaking last week in a 50-10 win over the lowly Jags. New England has also always seemed to struggle with the Fins in spots like these late in the season, and they are just 2-7 ATS in their last nine trips to South Beach. The road team is also just 4-15 ATS in the last 19 in this series.
7. Los Angeles Rams (12-4) – In the first eight weeks of the season, Matt Stafford threw for 2,477 yards, 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions. In the last eight weeks he has thrown for 2,164 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. This fits with a troubling trend of Sean McVay’s quarterbacks struggling more and more as the season goes on.
8. Buffalo Bills (10-6) – The Bills absolutely refuse to protect Josh Allen in any meaningful way. They are either going to win a Super Bowl with this guy in full blown beast mode or they are going to watch him cripple himself. There’s really no in between.
9. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – I guess it is kind of fitting that Tennessee is in line to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC (potentially) and I still have them ranked just No. 9 in my power rankings. This team thrives on being the underdog. I think Mike Vrabel clearly should be the coach of the year (Matt LaFleur has a solid case), and we’ll see how long this team can hold it together.
10. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) – The Colts are 0-6 ATS in their last six games in Jacksonville and they are just 1-12 ATS in their last 13 games against the Jaguars overall. If the Jaguars actually decide to bow their backs and play spoiler, I don’t think there’s any way the Colts cover that monster 16-point spread.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) – Just because the result ends up a success doesn’t mean that someone made the correct choice. That’s exactly how I feel about Zac Taylor’s decision making in the final minute of last week’s game against Kansas City. Just because it worked – and the team got bailed out by a questionable penalty – doesn’t mean Taylor made the right decision.
12. San Francisco 49ers (9-7) – It looks like Jimmy Garoppolo is going to play this week in San Francisco’s must-win game against the Rams. He won’t be 100 percent, but I don’t think he would suit up if he couldn’t be effective. The 49ers are 4-1 ATS in their last five games against the Rams and 4-1 ATS in their last five road games against them.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) – Can the Chargers front seven hold up against the Raiders? That’s it. That is what will determine this game. The Chargers are No. 30 in the league in rush defense and No. 26 in points allowed. They are not a very good defense at all, and the Raiders are going to come straight at them. If Brandon Staley is truly a defensive mastermind, this would be a good time to prove it.
14. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) – It is absolutely unreal how hard this team plays, and you must tip your cap to what they have done over the last month, going 3-1 ATS in their last four games with a skeleton crew of players. The Ravens aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. But I don’t know about this team as a 5.5-point favorite this week against the Steelers, especially in a series where the underdog is 22-8 ATS in the last 30 meetings.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) – I can’t think of any reason why the Eagles wouldn’t rest their starters in Week 18 against Dallas. Yes, they are on a four-game winning streak, so they want to keep that momentum going. But look who they have played and who they have beaten over the last month; it’s not exactly a murderer’s row. I would rest my guys and then go full bore against a vulnerable Bucs team (that is definitely resting starters this week).
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) – Monday night’s win ensures that Mike Tomlin’s streak of non-losing seasons will extend to 15 years. That is astounding. And whatever you think of Ben Roethlisberger, it was nice to see him, the Steelers, and the Steelers faithful have one great send-off in his final home game.
17. New Orleans Saints (8-8) – Nothing like having a must-win game on the road against your most hated rival to close the season. The Saints have won their last two road games against the Falcons and are 5-1 ATS in their last six trips to Atlanta. The Saints are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 against the Falcons, and New Orleans is 37-14 ATS in its last 51 road games.
18. Cleveland Browns (7-9) – I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but Baker Mayfield’s second quarter interception – the one where he missed a WIDE-open David Njoku and instead tried to force the ball to Jarvis Landry – was the perfect encapsulation of everything that is wrong with Mayfield as a quarterback. He has the most tipped passes and the most interceptions of any quarterback in the NFL since he was drafted in 2018.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) – Raiders fans should consider Sunday night’s game against the Chargers as the first home playoff game in Las Vegas history, since the winner is in The Dance. The Raiders are home underdogs in this game even though they have won three of the last five meetings between these clubs over the last three seasons. The underdog is 18-7 ATS in the last 25 meetings between these teams.
20. Miami Dolphins (8-8) – This team, and its overmatched quarterback, were completely exposed last week in Tennessee. I still think the Dolphins have a decent foundation set and a lot of flexibility, both in terms of draft capital and cap space, for this offseason. The arrow is pointed up for this group. But they do still have a long way to go, and they still need a long-term answer at quarterback.
21. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) – Kirk Cousins is Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”. Everyone told Cousins all year that he was playing with fire for not being vaccinated. And sure enough, he burned his entire franchise by missing a must-win game last weekend in Green Bay. I don’t think there is any way in hell Mike Zimmer wants to coach this team if Cousins is still the quarterback.
22. Denver Broncos (7-9) – If I am the Broncos, I am keeping everything in place and then making a hard charge to get Russell Wilson this offseason. I think that Wilson, with a Vic Fangio defense a healthy set of skill players, could do a lot of damage in the AFC next season.
23. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) – Matt Ryan has got to be kidding me. First, he never should’ve slid at the goal line and should’ve known the rule before he did. Second – why the hell is he taunting Jordan Poyer in a game where his team is down two touchdowns? Ryan cost any late bettors that got the Falcons +14 with that one idiotic play.
24. Chicago Bears (6-10) – Is Matt Nagy kidding me that he wants to start Justin Fields in the final game of the season? Why? For what purpose? Fields is not 100 percent. There is nothing to play for. Why risk anything happening to the future of the franchise? If Fields did start, and if the Bears won, that would mean the Bears closed the season on a three-game winning streak with three different starting quarterbacks. That would have to be a first.
25. Seattle Seahawks (6-10) – Seattle is 11-5 ATS in its last 16 games as a road underdog and 15-7 ATS in its last 22 as an underdog overall. Seattle is just 4-10 ATS on the road, though, and just 3-12 ATS after a win. I don’t know if they have the firepower to play spoiler in Arizona, but I don’t see this team rolling over.
26. Washington Football Team (6-10) – It’s not often that you see a 6-10 team on a four-game losing streak favored by nearly a touchdown on the road in the final game of the year. Welcome to the NFC East. Washington is just 1-5 ATS in its last six game against the Giants.
27. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – The Panthers have averaged 12.8 points per game since parting ways with offensive coordinator Joe Brady on Dec. 5. The Panthers are currently in a battle with the Giants to see which team can have a more pathetic close to the season.
28. Houston Texans (4-12) – Houston likely doesn’t have the manpower to pull the upset and prevent Tennessee from winning this game and locking up the No. 1 seed in the AFC. However, I have absolutely no doubt that this team isn’t going to roll over and they will come to play on Sunday. They already upset the Titans once as a 10.5-point road underdog. Can they do it again at home?
29. New York Giants (4-12) – The Giants passing offense generated the following stats last week: 4-for-11, 24 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, four sacks for -34 yards and two fumbles.
30. Detroit Lions (2-13-1) – I can absolutely see the Lions beating a skeleton Green Bay team next Sunday, and I can absolutely see Dan Campbell and his guys reacting to that win as if they had just won the division. Detroit is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games against Green Bay and 4-0 ATS in their last four home games against the Packers.
31. New York Jets (4-12) – The underdog is 9-4 ATS, and the road team is 5-2 ATS in the Buffalo series. However, the Jets are just 17-36 ATS in their last 53 road games and just 7-19 ATS against divisional opponents.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) – Does this team have enough/any pride? Will they dig deep and attempt to play spoiler this weekend against the Colts? Or do these guys already have their vacation plans set and will the Jags just roll over for Indy? The home team is 6-2 ATS in this series, and the underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
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