A key trend for every Week 18 NFL game

January 4, 2023 12:25 PM
Christian_Watson

We’ve reached the final week of the NFL’s 2022-23 regular season schedule. Like most years, the 16 divisional matchups lined up for Saturday and Sunday will present a lot of intrigue, playoff stakes, and other standings and betting storylines. A few of the league’s teams will be resting starters. Some teams are in the postseason already but are also looking to lock down positioning. A few others still hope to clinch the final playoff spots, while the rest are simply playing out the string. Every game will have its own set of unique circumstances. As such, I figured I’d scour the database for trends and systems that I feel will greatly impact the upcoming 16 contests. Enjoy, and best of luck on your Week 18 wagers.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

(457) TENNESSEE at (458) JACKSONVILLE

- NFL road teams having lost at least their last five games outright and playing as dogs of 6-points or bigger have gone just 3-15 SU and 6-12 ATS (33.3%) in the final three weeks of the regular season since ’12.

Steve’s thoughts: Things are going badly for a team, and to make matters worse, they have to go on the road against a superior foe. It typically doesn’t turn out well. The reeling and injury-riddled Titans are the two-time defending AFC South champions but are hitting the road for a winner-take-all contest against a hungry Jacksonville squad. There’s a reason the line is what it is. I don’t expect the Titans to roll over, but having a shot at the end to pull an upset seems a stretch.

(465) KANSAS CITY at (466) LAS VEGAS

- Late-season Saturday games have been rough for NFL hosts, as heading into 2022, they were just 6-12 SU and 3-14-1 ATS (17.6%) in the final three weeks of the regular season since ’17, including 0-10 ATS as favorites.

Steve’s thoughts: Saturday NFL games are a surefire sign that it’s getting late in the season. Although these teams are at home, the change in routine has messed with the usual success level. This angle got an unusual test on Christmas eve, with the 11 hosts producing a Saturday record of 7-4 SU & 6-5 ATS. This week’s two games are more like the norm, and Las Vegas closes its season here against Kansas City as a large home dog. This angle will also affect Jacksonville in the key AFC South game.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

(451) LA RAMS at (452) SEATTLE

- LA RAMS are 8-3 SU and ATS (72.7%) in their last 11 head-to-head games versus Seattle. Average score was LAR 27.2, SEA 20.1.

Steve’s thoughts: Even in a game where the Rams were supposedly outmatched as 6.5-point home dogs back in early December, they proved to be very competitive, making a game of it, gaining a season-high 171 yards on the ground before falling 27-23. In recent years, Head Coach Sean McVay’s team has played very well versus the Seahawks and has a chance to spoil things for their hated rivals on Sunday. A win by the Rams eliminates Seattle from contention for the final wildcard spot in the NFC. Head Coach Pete Carroll’s surprising contender is a 6.5-point favorite, but LA has shown some spark behind QB Baker Mayfield.

(453) NY GIANTS at (454) PHILADELPHIA

- Lately, road teams have performed exceptionally in “resting starters” games, going 13-10 SU and 16-6-1 ATS (72.7%) over the last 10 seasons, pulling six outright upsets.

Steve’s thoughts: As of Tuesday, it appeared that there were two teams on course to rest their starters in week 18, the Giants and the Buccaneers, as New York had locked down the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs, and Tampa Bay had secured the NFC South title and the #4 seed. Both teams are on the road this week, including the Giants, who are 12-point dogs to the Eagles. Philly has lost back-to-back games and is in a desperate position to win this game to lock down the #1 seed in the postseason. One thing I’ve learned in betting is that must-win doesn’t always equal will-win. As you can see by the trend, road teams have fared well in recent years in games involving resting starters, and when the road team is the one resting players, those teams are on an 8-2 ATS surge.

(455) NY JETS at (456) MIAMI

- Teams that won by 21 or more points in the opening game between teams were 74-21 SU and 61-34 ATS (64.2%) in the rematch heading into the 2022 season

Steve’s thoughts: I was somewhat surprised to see this definitive of a winning record on a trend of this nature in the NFL, as point spreads are usually an equalizer in such scenarios. However, the talent disparity in such mismatches just can’t be accounted for enough. From a coaching standpoint, losing games by 21 or more points to an opponent requires more than the usual allotment of adjustments for the second time around, and these coaches aren’t answering the call. The Jets routed the Dolphins 40-17 back in early October when Miami was playing relatively well. Now Miami is reeling, having lost its last five games. There are two teams in Week 18 that qualify besides the Jets: San Francisco and Philadelphia.

(459) DETROIT at (460) GREEN BAY

- Matt LaFleur (Green Bay) is 7-1 SU and ATS (87.5%) as favorite of -1 to-7 points in post-Thanksgiving regular season games. Average Score was Team: 32.1, Opponent: 19.1 on Average Line of -4.5

Steve's Analysis: With a playoff spot on the line, the red-hot Packers get divisional rival Detroit on their home field on a Sunday night. While granted that this year’s team has performed a bit differently from the last three versions that LaFleur has coached, all of his teams were highly successful in the late-season small favorite role. Including the 41-17 rout of Minnesota last week, by all measures, the Packers take care of business, putting up 32.1 PPG and winning by over 12 PPG while favored by less than five. That has been a significant point cushion for ATS bettors. If the Pack takes care of business once again on Sunday, we’ll be watching them next week in the postseason.

(461) CLEVELAND at (462) PITTSBURGH

- Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland) is 4-4 SU but 1-7 ATS (12.5%) in post-Thanksgiving regular season divisional games. Average Score was Team: 19.8, Opponent: 21.9 on Average Line of -1.4

Steve's Analysis: Watching the Browns in the late 2022-23 season has been interesting, if for no other reason than seeing Deshaun Watson assimilate at the quarterback position. He did manage to get Stefanski his first late-season divisional cover against Baltimore a few weeks ago, and now he’ll look to spoil things for the rival Steelers, who still hold out hope for grabbing the final wildcard spot in the AFC. The Browns are underachieving by 3.5 points against the set lines in these games. If that holds up, look for a win of about 6 points by Pittsburgh.

(463) HOUSTON at (464) INDIANAPOLIS

- HOUSTON is 2-11-1 ATS (15.4%) in its last 14 same-season rematch games versus Indianapolis, and all of the last 13 such games have gone UNDER the total.

Steve’s thoughts: Neither team has much to play for this week in Indy, but these are two highly definitive trends in this AFC South rivalry. The Colts have typically gotten the better of the Texans in late-season rematch games, with the latter scoring just 14.6 PPG in those last 13. I wouldn’t expect much offense from Head Coach Lovie Smith’s injury-riddled team in this season-finale, especially when they might be better served to lose for draft positioning purposes.

(467) ARIZONA at (468) SAN FRANCISCO

- NFL home teams riding winning streaks of at least five games outright have thrived as late-season favorites of more than 10 points, going, 33-3 SU and 25-10-1 ATS (71.4%) in the final three weeks of the regular season since ’12.

Steve’s thoughts: Red-hot teams playing at home and expected to win have been nearly automatic, continuing their rolls in most cases. At this point in the 2022 season, there are three teams on winning streaks of at least five games, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and San Francisco, and while all three are at home this weekend, only the 49ers are favored by double-digits.

(469) LA CHARGERS at (470) DENVER

- LA CHARGERS are 19-6 UNDER the total in L25 games against solid pass defenses allowing less than 5.95 yards per pass attempt and 9-1 UNDER the total when riding a winning streak of four games or more.

Steve’s thoughts: I imagine this is a scenario in which the Chargers will be all-in for their season finale game against Denver, even though they’ve already clinched a playoff spot. Their motivation will be holding on to the #5 seed, thus meaning a wildcard round contest at the AFC South winner. I would expect an intense defensive effort from them. In their current four-game winning streak, LA has yielded just 11 PPG. With Denver solid defensively and obviously owning one of the league’s worst offenses, I would say that most signs point to a lower-scoring contest here. The total is currently 40.5.

(471) TAMPA BAY at (472) ATLANTA

- Games involving team(s) resting starters tend to be higher scoring than expected, as OVER the total is 24-10 (70.6%) since 2010, with the games producing 46.1 PPG on totals averaging 41.5.

Steve’s thoughts: As I mentioned in the earlier trend regarding the Giants-Eagles contest, in that game and this one, the road teams are on course for resting their starters as they’ve already locked down playoff positioning. The Bucs come off one of their better offensive outings of the season, putting up 31 points in their division-clinching win over Carolina. With QB Tom Brady and other starters expected to rest, don’t automatically assume that the second-string players will take the game off offensively. In fact, bettors have consistently made the mistake of assuming resting players means fewer points. But remember, it also means second-string defensive players in for much of the game as well, and oddsmakers typically lower the totals.

(473) DALLAS at (474) WASHINGTON

- DALLAS has gone OVER the total in eight straight same-season rematch games versus Washington, scoring 35.8 PPG in the process.

Steve’s thoughts: Dallas has an outside chance of winning the NFC East on Sunday and securing the top seed in the playoffs. There is probably no other team that the Cowboys would want to be matched up against in a late-season high-stakes contest than Washington. Dallas’ offense has exploded in these second-time-around games versus their rivals, and this year’s team looks very capable of equaling that production, having scored 35.1 PPG since QB Dak Prescott returned from injury in October. Prescott is also 27-6 SU and 24-9 ATS in divisional games.

(475) CAROLINA at (476) NEW ORLEANS

- NFL teams coming off upset wins when they were 4-point underdogs or bigger have gone 27-54 SU and 29-49-3 ATS (37.2%) in the final three weeks of the regular season since ’12.

Steve’s thoughts: One would think that big upset wins would generate late-season momentum for teams. That has not been the case, as these surprise wins turn out to be more fluke than anything. In the follow-up games, these teams have struggled, proving they were good-sized underdogs for a reason. After their stunning double-digit win at Philadelphia last weekend, the Saints qualify for this angle in Week 18, hosting Carolina on Sunday as 3.5-point favorites.

(477) NEW ENGLAND at (478) BUFFALO

- BUFFALO is on a 4-1 SU and 5-0 ATS (100%) run in same-season rematch games versus New England, scoring 39.3 PPG in the last three games.

Steve’s thoughts: Buffalo and Head Coach Sean McDermott have outdueled the Patriots in their last few same-season rematch games, as Head Coach Bill Belichick has not been able to work his defensive magic. Besides covering the last five such games, QB Josh Allen and the Bills have exploded for nearly 40 PPG in the last three. After everything that happened with the Bills this past week, I would expect another highly motivated effort on Sunday.

(479) BALTIMORE at (480) CINCINNATI

- Cincinnati has been the league’s best team in rematch games, going 11-9 SU and 18-2 ATS (90%) in their last 20 tries.

Steve’s thoughts: In addition to being on an amazing run of 21-3 ATS in their last 24 games, the Bengals have been the best team in the league in rematches over the last 6/7 seasons. In their last 20 rematch games, Cincinnati boasts an 11-9 SU record while going an incredible 18-2 ATS. This includes two wins in the 2022 season, at home versus Cleveland, and at Pittsburgh. This trend serves as a huge credit to the Bengals coaching staff for adjustments made in second-time-around games. One thing to consider, however, is that Baltimore is also 13-3 ATS in its last 16 road rematch contests.

(481) MINNESOTA at (482) CHICAGO

- NFL home teams having lost at least their last five games outright and playing as favorites or dogs of 6-points or fewer have gone 12-12 SU and 16-7-1 ATS (69.6%) in the final three weeks of the regular season since ’12.

Steve’s thoughts: This system is interesting in that although the host team is on a rather lengthy losing streak, they still have the respect of oddsmakers enough to the point where they are expected to be at least competitive. As it turns out, they end these skids half the time and cover the Vegas number at a very high rate. Chicago and Miami both qualify for this system in Week 18, with the Bears playing as 4-point dogs to Minnesota, and the Dolphins set as 1-point favorites over the Jets.

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