NFL Week 18 Odds, Picks, Trends: Cowboys, Bengals, Colts Highlight Early Bets
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Burrow.
It’s the final week of the longest season in NFL history.
This is the most enthusiasm I can muster.
Although I’m not a trends bettor, I find that using the Action Labs database helps me identify spots I should consider further when analyzing games.
All lines are from the Action Network NFL Odds page.
Abbreviations: Against the spread (ATS), return on investment (ROI).
- Kickoff: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
- TV: FOX
It might be easy to look at the Cowboys and their situation and think that they have nothing left to play for in Week 18. In most scenarios, whether they win or lose, they will be the No. 4 seed in the NFC.
But they still have a real non-zero chance at the No. 3 seed with a win if the 49ers can upset the Rams, who are 3-6 against the 49ers in the Kyle Shanahan-Sean McVay era. And the Cowboys could even get the No. 2 seed if everything breaks just right.
On top of that, the Cowboys will likely want a self-esteem palate cleanser before the playoffs after their disappointing 25-22 loss to the Cardinals last week — especially since they will likely play the Cardinals again if they’re the No. 4 seed.
I think the Cowboys will play to win in Week 18.
But I’m not sure about the Eagles, who clinched a playoff spot but have no chance of winning the division and almost no control over their seeding.
So I could see them treating this game like a pseudo-bye week and resting some players so they can be as healthy as possible entering the postseason.
On top of that, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott overperforms against his NFC East rivals.
Prescott in Division: 22-8 ATS | 43.5% ROI
Prescott Outside Division: 25-30-2 ATS | -10.8% ROI
On average, the Cowboys with Prescott have outperformed the spread by a margin of +6.1 points against the NFC East. They haven’t just beaten their division. They’ve dominated it.
Anything less than a field goal looks exploitable unless we get news that the Cowboys plan to rest starters.
- Action: Cowboys -2.5 (-110) at Caesars
- Limit: -3 (-110)
- Kickoff: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
The Bengals have clinched the AFC North and might elect to rest players because they have little chance to win the No. 1 seed — but they still have a chance.
And even if they don’t earn a postseason bye, they can still improve their playoff seeding with a Week 18 win and a little luck.
On top of that, the Bengals might play to win just so they can enter the playoffs with the thing that every ball coach craves: Momentum.
As for the Browns, they haven’t even played their Week 17 Monday Night Football game, and they’ve already been eliminated from the playoff race. They have zero motivation, and there’s a chance that the team will rest most of their injured starters, including quarterback Baker Mayfield (shoulder).
Besides, I don’t trust Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski in this spot: My sense is that he should almost never be favored against any AFC North team.
Divisional dogs are 5-0 ATS (88.7% ROI) against Stefanski’s Browns.
On average, these divisional dogs have outperformed the spread by a margin of +4.4 points.
Unless we get news that they plan to rest players, I’m betting the Bengals at any positive number.
- Action: Bengals +3 (-110) at BetMGM
- Limit: Pick’em (-110)
- Kickoff: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
The Colts are playing for a wildcard spot, and the Jaguars are a league-worst 4-12 ATS and can secure the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft with a loss.
This looks like a bet-able spot.
Since 2003 (as far back as the Bet Labs database goes), whenever good-but-not-great teams (51% to 67% win percentage) have played bad teams (0% to 33%) in December or January, the good teams have gone 102-80-3 ATS (10.2% ROI).
And in the final week of the season — whenever a good-but-not-great team is likely to play for a postseason spot or seeding and a bad team is likely to have little motivation — the good teams have gone 28-19-1 ATS (18.4% ROI).
On average, these good-but-not-great teams have outperformed the spread by a margin of +2.7 points.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this line got to -17.
- Action: Colts -15 (-110) at DraftKings
- Limit: -17 (-110)