Can CJ Stroud & the Texans make the playoffs? Can the Steelers upset their rival in the AFC-leading Ravens? Our friends at FanDuel give us the latest NFL odds & best bets to kick off Week 18.
This final week of the NFL regular season is here. Strap in — we could be in for a wild ride.
As has become a Week 18 tradition, the gridiron action will get started on Saturday rather than Thursday or Sunday. Fortunately for fans and bettors alike, Saturday offers an AFC doubleheader that is intrinsically linked to postseason ramifications.
First up, it will be a rivalry clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. For Pittsburgh to have any playoff hopes, they’ll need to win in B-More at “The Bank.” Still, being that the AFC No. 1 seed is cemented, can we count on Lamar Jackson playing in this contest?
For Saturday’s nightcap, the AFC South will be on primetime display. With playoff hopes on the line, the Houston Texans will visit the Indianapolis Colts. Naturally, the winner here punches their playoff ticket while the loser will begin preparing for the offseason.
With a few days to spare, let’s dive into the odds and lines for Saturday, placing emphasis on the most valuable of the traditional betting markets.
NFL Betting Picks (1/6/24)
- Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN/ABC/ESPN+
- Spread: PIT -4 (-110)
- Moneyline: PIT -200/BAL +168
- Total: 35.5
As one of the most physical NFL rivalries of the modern era, the Steelers and Ravens will get together to close out the regular season in Baltimore. Notably, the Ravens waited until Wednesday to decide if MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson (-20000) would play in Week 18; it has now been confirmed that he will be out (rest).
With Lamar sitting, and Pittsburgh the only side with something to play for in this game, the Steelers are now favored to win on the road by more than a field goal. That brings in Tyler Huntley to take the snaps for Baltimore while Mason Rudolph will continue starting for the Black and Yellow. So, who has the edge?
Again, Pittsburgh has everything to play for in this regular-season finale. Conversely, the Ravens are simply looking to keep their best players healthy. Baltimore may already have an eye on the playoffs, but if you know this rivalry, I would not expect “the Flock” to take it all lightly.
Through 2023, Baltimore boasted the top scoring defense in the NFL (16.4 PPG allowed). Even before head coach John Harbaugh arrived in Maryland in 2008, aggressive D has long been a staple of Ravens football. Naturally, the same can be said about the Steelers. Even in a down year, Pittsburgh has held opponents to just 19.6 PPG (seventh-best).
Best Bet: Under 36.5 (-112)
In the modern era of this rivalry, we typically do not see both sides score 20 or more points. Of course, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have already met once this season. Back in October, the Steel Curtain grounded the Ravens, winning at home 17-10. Being that I am eager to play under 36.5 for this Saturday’s clash, a result like Week 5 would do just fine.
Further back, the last six Steelers-Ravens meetings have produced an average total of 31.2 PPG. Of course, it is a game that is annually known as the hardest hitting of the season. From there, the forecast in Baltimore on Saturday brings a 65% chance of showers along with temperatures in the upper 30 degrees — not exactly ample scoring weather.
All that considered, I like under 36.5 here. Also, I fully anticipate T.J. Watt to make a game-changing play. Bold, right?
- Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN/ABC/ESPN+
- Spread: HOU -1.5 (-104)
- Moneyline: HOU -118/IND +100
- Total: 47.5 (-105/-115)
In what is essentially a do-or-die game for both sides, the Texans will head north to Indy for their second meeting with the Colts.
The first time around (Week 2 in Houston), Indianapolis cruised behind two rushing touchdowns from rookie signal-caller Anthony Richardson, winning 31-20. Of course, Richardson is still rehabbing from season-ending shoulder surgery, so the Gardner Minshew show will continue.
On the other side, Houston still has the luxury of their first-year quarterback, C.J. Stroud. Stroud had a phenomenal season, rook or not. At FanDuel Sportsbook, the Ohio State alum yields -850 odds to win AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Simply, Stroud has been incredibly efficient behind a 21:5 TD-INT ratio and has a quality shot to go over 4,000 yards passing on the campaign (needing 156 through the air on Saturday).
We should have a scratch-and-claw meeting in Indy. In what will be a contentious divisional series for years to come, this game will decide who sets the tone in said rivalry. Remember, this one also features two first-year head coaches in DeMeco Ryans and Shane Steichen — both men are contenders to win COTY at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Best Bet: Colts +1.5 (-118)
Push will come to shove at Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend. Admittedly, it is a tough game to gauge, but taking the points on the hometown Colts feels most wise. Indy has been a top-10 scoring offense this year, producing 23.6 PPG. In their own building, that clip is amped up to 26.5 PPG. Largely, tailbacks Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss along with receiver Michael Pittman have led the charge. The trio has combined for 18 TDs in 2023.
Still, the Colts will have to slow down the Texans’ dynamic passing attack. Truthfully, Houston does not run the ball very well (averaging just 3.8 YPC), but Stroud has developed a solid rapport with pass catchers Nico Collins (15.5 YPR) and Dalton Schultz (5 TDs). However, speedster Tank Dell has been out since Week 13 with a broken leg.
At numberFire, the NFL game projections show an estimated score of 23.06-22.51 in favor of the Colts. If you’re interested in what the public is doing, the Texans have received much greater support on the moneyline and against the spread at FanDuel Sportsbook. Even so, I’m on Indy with the points this Saturday night — let’s hope for a fun one!
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