Week 18 NFL Underdog Betting Picks
The Cincinnati Bengals came up big to deliver our 19th outright underdog winner on our Week 17 underdog picks. That runs the season record posting underdog picks on these pages to 25-12 ATS (67.6%), and the five year record picking only underdogs is now 125-91 (57.9%). We also won our other recommendations last week on the Chiefs/Bengals over the total and Bengals team win total over 22.5 in Cincinnati's 34-31 win.
The Bengals are the only NFL team to go from worst to first in their division this season, and Cincinnati (10-6) is currently the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoff picture heading into Week 18 with an outside chance to finish as the No. 1 seed and get a first round bye.
For those of you that like to make weekly parlay bets, here is a big payoff I posted on Forbes from Week 17 and a bettor that bet $100 and won $102,000 picking 14 NFL moneyline winners. He correctly included the only three outright underdog winners last week - Bengals, Raiders and Cardinals.
Due to the volatility surrounding Week 18, and the ongoing COVID-19 issues impacting players and teams including last week with our update on these pages, it's imperative to monitor the Reserve/COVID-19 and injury reports, along with game day decisions this week.
The final week of the regular season presents more challenges along with significant line moves at the leading online sportsbooks. Several teams are eliminated from the playoffs, yet all but three games in Week 18 have playoff implications or seeding significance. In-play live betting is a better option for more bettors again this week as more player personnel decisions are made, including starters that will or will not play. Some teams will pull starters by halftime as playoff positioning and other game results are determined. With COVID issues and several teams eliminated and others resting starters, the final week of the regular season is even worse than normal.
There are nine road favorites this week, including seven by at least four points and three double-digit road favorites at the online sportsbooks. In most weeks, we would be quite active on more home underdogs, but there are still many questions and situations to consider into game day as noted. Still, we're on two home 'Dogs for now, and some others are in the mix as we get more information. We'll update status with any additional picks Sunday morning.
Betting won't be as brisk at the leading online sportsbooks offering top payouts this week, but let's try to add to our 25-12 ATS 'Dog log with some bonus cash from the sportsbooks.
NFL Week 18 Underdog Picks
Denver (+11.5) vs Kansas City - Broncos moneyline +410 at BetOnline (Saturday)
Miami (+6) vs New England - Dolphins moneyline +230 at MyBookie
Las Vegas (+3) vs Los Angeles Chargers - Raiders moneyline +135 at reduced juice leader Heritage Sports
Kansas City at Denver
This line is inflated, regardless of the Broncos quarterback. And if the Chiefs get upset, then the Titans line (-10) will fall fast as Tennessee will have secured the No. 1 seed in the AFC. So bet Houston +10 as home 'Dog, or grab the few +10.5 now, which I did as my opinion on that game. The lookahead line on the KC/DEN game last week was Chiefs -3. Kansas City lost at Cincinnati last week, but the Chiefs were very efficient on offense with 414 yards at 7.1 yards per play. Their improved defense was also exposed in a shootout as we projected, allowing 475 yards and 7.5 yards per play. Now the Chiefs travel back-to-back weeks on the road off a loss that cost them the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, and play a better Denver defense in the Mile High. Sure the Broncos were blasted by the Chargers 34-13 for their third straight loss. But a closer look shows Denver held Pro Bowl starting QB Justin Herbert to 237 passing yards, and the Broncos offense with QB Drew Lock (245 passing yards and 0 INTs) averaged 5.7 yards per play to the Chargers 5.2. Go back to Dec. 5 and look closer at the Chiefs 22-9 win over the Broncos. Denver had 22 first downs and KC 15, and the Broncos out-rushed the Chiefs 154-89 and Bridgewater out-passed Mahomes 257-184. Three Broncos turnovers proved costly in defeat, but the Broncos defense held WR Tyreek Hill to two catches for 22 yards on five targets, while TE Travis Kelce had three for 27 yards on eight. While Bridgewater is out now, Drew Lock played better in his second start last week and has not turned the ball over. I'm aware that Kansas City has beaten Denver 12 straight times. Did you know that the Broncos are 20-2 ATS as a home 'Dog when coming off a division game? Okay, I don't care about trends, but I do care about value, and it's on the Broncos. Expect Denver's running backs to play after limited in practice this week, and for the Broncos to show up with a solid effort against a division rival despite being out of the playoff picture. Better running game and defense gets the call as big home 'Dog.
New England at Miami
We add the Dolphins and you need to watch the status of the Bills - Jets game as you wager in-play live betting. New England doesn't have much motivation here as they are locked into the playoffs, and if the Bills are handling the Jets at halftime, the Patriots may pull some starters as New England can only win the AFC East with a win and Bills loss. The Dolphins ground game is usually a concern, and QB Tua could be under more pressure by the Patriots key defensive line match-ups. Tua targets tight ends a league high 29% of the time, which is a strength of the Patriots defensive coverage. But like our winner on the Broncos Saturday, we anticipate Miami (8-8) coming to play against a division rival with a winning season still at stake as well. The Dolphins 7-game winning streak was snapped on the road last week, and it included six wins against losing teams. But the one victory was a home 'Dog win over the Ravens and Miami held a top rushing attack and Lamar Jackson in check. New England somehow has six road wins despite averaging just 307 yards offense at 5.1 yards per play on the road. The Patriots will lean on the run more in this game, but Miami allows just 4.6 yards per play at home and the situation is favorable.
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas
A playoff play-in game on Sunday Night Football in Las Vegas.
Winner makes the playoffs and loser is out, although the Raiders can still make it if the Colts lose earlier in the day. Both teams are 9-7 and the Raiders have won 3-in-a-row to get in position to make the playoffs. Yes, the Raiders have been a bit fortunate, while also facing two backup quarterbacks in recent weeks. But the Raiders defense has risen up, while the offense has struggled and the last three games have gone under the total. Top tight end Darren Waller (knee) returns to give QB Derek Carr his favorite target, and the Raiders will try to control the ball, clock and chains more with RB Josh Jacobs (ribs) and a precision and rhythm pass attack. The Chargers have scored at least 28 points in five straight games and all five have gone over the total, including when they had the Chiefs beat but lost in overtime, and then went to Houston and got crushed as a 13-point favorite. Both teams have multiple All-Pro defenders, and the Chargers a Pro Bowl starting QB in Justin Herbert. I expect RB Austin Ekeler to be a key player again for those considering prop bets, and Ekeler should be involved in multiple facets of the offense as he was in the Chargers Week 4 win over the Raiders. But there are some intangibles on the Raiders side, along with emotion even more than just the play-in playoff game itself. Raiders Super Bowl winning coach John Madden will be honored, as the star broadcaster and ubiquitous NFL ambassador passed away last week. I won't be surprised if Herbert shines and the Raiders crap out under the bright lights in Las Vegas. And I prefer over the total with some sharp action, although not nearly as strong as last week's KC/CIN game. But some situations point to more scoring, which actually favors the Chargers, as Week 12 or later division games have gone 10-0-1 over/under the last four years when the home team is an underdog and both teams are greater than .500 for the year. In the most bet contest of the week and high-stakes game in Las Vegas, we'll support the house and the home team.
FairwayJay is a proven sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events. Read more great insights from FairwayJay and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay