NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions: Patriots, 49ers, Seahawks, Saints To Cover Are Top Expert Bets For Late Sunday
Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: Saints RB Alvin Kamara (#41)
- The first Week 18 Sunday features a robust late afternoon slate of games — here's how our experts are betting them.
- Find their favorite NFL spread bets and predictions below.
NFL Odds, Picks, Predictions
49ers at Rams
Sean Koerner: At the time of writing, it’s still unclear who will be starting under center for the 49ers.
Jimmy Garoppolo (questionable) could try to play through his thumb injury, but if he’s unable to suit up or is ineffective, the 49ers can turn to rookie Trey Lance. The uncertainty make things more difficult for the Rams. Either way, the 49ers will have Elijah Mitchell, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle ready to go — their offense should be fine no matter who is under center.
Motivation is a huge factor when handicapping games in Week 18. Both teams will be motivated this week, but the 49ers need to win in order to make the playoffs, while the Rams need to win in order to secure the NFC’s No. 2 seed. Obviously seeding is important, but the 49ers have a playoff berth to play for, which gives them the edge.
The 49ers also had late injury luck, getting back key players in the secondary: K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley and Jimmie Ward were activated in time to play. If Trent Williams is able to suit up, it will be all hands on deck, and I will like the 49ers even more.
The most likely outcome(s) for this game is one of these teams wins by three points, so getting +3.5 means we win in either scenario, but that also means I wouldn’t bet this any further.
49ers at Rams
Chris Raybon: Kyle Shanahan simply has Sean McVay’s number.
Shanahan is 6-3 against the spread (ATS) against McVay, covering by an average of 4.8 points per game. The 49ers have won each of last five straight up, including a 31-10 beatdown in the first meeting this season. In that game, the 49ers out-gained the Rams 335-278 and scored on four of eight drives (excluding kneel-downs) while the Rams scored on just two of 10 drives. The 49ers won despite committing nine penalties to the Rams’ five, and with Cooper Kupp going off for 122 yards on 11 catches.
Despite the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., Matthew Stafford has been indecisive as of late and has struggled over the second half of the season, perhaps due to the loss of Robert Woods.
- First eight games: 68.9% completion rare, 9.1 YPA, 118 rating, 22 TD, 4 INT, 2.53 time to throw
- Last eight games: 65.9% completion rate, 7.3 YPA, 90 rating, 16 TD, 11 INT, 2.76 time to throw
Shanahan made a cagey move with his own QBs, forcing the Rams to prepare for both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. Regardless of which one starts, I expect Shanahan to keep up his success against McVay with a playoff berth on the line.
I would bet this down to +3.
Seahawks at Cardinals
Raheem Palmer: Betting against the Cardinals hasn’t gone well for me this season, but this is the ideal spot to fade them after breaking their three-loss streak last week. I believe their win said a lot more about the Cowboys than the Cardinals as this Arizona team hasn’t been anywhere close to as good as it was to start the year.
Much to chagrin of our podcast producer Matt Mitchell, the Cardinals bucked the trend of late-season losses for head coach Kliff Kingbury:
- Cardinals before Week 8 under Kingsbury: 15-5-1
- Cardinals in Week 8 or later under Kingsbury: 9-19
This isn’t unique to Kingbury’s time with the Cardinals. Dating back to his stint at Texas Tech, his teams were 42-20 in Weeks 1-7 then 17-43 from Week 8 onward over his last nine seasons as a head coach.
His teams generally fall off a cliff late in the season (pun intended).
Over the past three weeks, the Cardinals are 16th in EPA/play, 22nd in Dropback EPA and 17th in Dropback Success Rate. The offense ranks bottom-five in points scored over that span — and it doesn’t help that Kyler Murray has struggled since returning from injury. Over the past four games, he’s just 18th among all quarterbacks in EPA + Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) composite and 17th in Success Rate, per RBSDM.
The Cardinals also almost blew a 22-7 fourth-quarter lead over the Cowboys, who had been struggling offensively since Dak Prescott returned from injury.
The Cardinals defense is still 17th in rushing Success Rate (39.9%) and dead last in explosive run play rate, so Seahawks RB Rashad Penny could be in for a big day. With a motivated Russell Wilson playing in perhaps his last game as a Seahawk, I like their chances to keep this within the number.
I would bet this only to +6.
Saints at Falcons
Billy Ward: Despite a loss to Atlanta earlier this season, New Orleans is clearly the far better team in this matchup.
The Saints have a +19 scoring differential on the season — the Falcons are at -136. New Orleans franks fourth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA on defense, while Atlanta ranks 29th. Offensively, New Orleans is ranked higher than Atlanta as well.
Additionally, Atlanta is likely to be with a limited Kyle Pitts (questionable). He’ll probably play in an attempt to set the rookie record for tight end receiving yards, but I doubt he’ll be effective given his recent hamstring injury. That would be a major blow to the Falcons offense, which has struggled to make plays all year, even with Pitts.
The Saints have won each of their last three games with Taysom Hill under center. They’ll also be playing to win here, as they can still make the playoffs with a win and a 49ers loss. Atlanta has much less to play for, having been eliminated from playoff contention.
Despite all of that, this spread is only 3.5 points. I’d expect it to be much bigger given the talent differences between these teams, even with the game being in Atlanta.
I’d bet the Saints down to -5.
Patriots at Dolphins
Michael Arinze: Don’t expect Bill Belichick to take the game off or rest his players. Belichick always sees each game as an opportunity for his teams to compete and get better. And with a playoff game next week, you can bet the Patriots will want to be as sharp as possible for whomever their opponent might be.
The Patriots will also have plenty of motivation after losing to the Dolphins in Week 1. Miami has won three of the past four meetings against New England, which can’t sit well with Belichick since those losses came against one of his former coordinators, Brian Flores.
I also can’t see the Dolphins putting up much of a fight after being eliminated from postseason contention in Week 17.
New England is 5-1 against the spread (ATS) and straight-up in its last six regular-season finales, per our Action Labs data. Moreover, all five of those wins were by at least two touchdowns.
This is an awful spot for the Dolphins, and I could only look to lay the points with the road favorites for a half-unit. You can still bet the Patriots at -6 as of writing, but I wouldn’t wait too long as many sportsbooks have already gone to -6.5 (check real-time NFL odds here).
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