Straight-up NFL picks, Week 18: Pour one out for the Titans (2024)

Straight-up NFL picks, Week 18: Pour one out for the Titans (1)

Christian D'Andrea

January 5, 2023 10:12 am ET

We’re back.

After a stretch of holiday (and furlough) related vacation, our picks column returns just in time for the completely unpredictable, backup-filled extravaganza that is the final week of the NFL’s regular season. Week 18 features a couple of de facto playoff games — Titans-Jaguars, Lions-Packers — a few more that could define postseason seeding and, fortunately, only three matchups between teams without anything to play for beyond draft position.

Which is great, because our race to crown a regular season picks champion is coming down to the wire. Both myself and Robert Zeglinski stand at a tidy, but not entirely impressive 151-87-2 on the season. Whomever wins this week will claim the crown and etch his name among the slightly-better-than-mediocre tier of expert pickers.

Here’s who we’ve got in Week 18 — a week in which we’re all praying for the recovery of Bills safety Damar Hamlin.

Chiefs at RaidersChiefsChiefsChiefs
Titans at JaguarsJaguarsJaguarsJaguars
Ravens at BengalsBengalsBengalsBengals
Buccaneers at FalconsFalconsFalconsFalcons
Patriots at BillsBillsBillsBills
Vikings at BearsVikingsVikingsVikings
Texans at ColtsColtsTexansColts
Jets at DolphinsDolphinsJetsJets
Panthers at SaintsPanthersPanthersPanthers
Browns at SteelersSteelersSteelersSteelers
Chargers at BroncosChargersChargersChargers
Giants at EaglesEagles*EaglesEagles
Cardinals at 49ers49ers49ers49ers
Rams at SeahawksSeahawksRamsSeahawks
Cowboys at CommandersCowboysCowboysCowboys
Lions at PackersPackersLionsPackers
Last week:10-611-511-5
Year to date:151-87-2151-87-2138-100-2

And here are those selections in a better-formatted screenshot of our actual picks sheet, which unfortunately struggles to translate to our editing software.

Straight-up NFL picks, Week 18: Pour one out for the Titans (2)

Easiest game to pick: Jacksonville Jaguars (-6.5) over the Tennessee Titans

2022 was the year that destroyed my faith in the Tennessee Titans. I’d assume Mike Vrabel would be able to break out the duct tape and patch his team back together en route to a playoff bid, much like he did in 2021 when Derrick Henry missed the bulk of the season but the Titans still managed to take home the AFC’s top seed.

Instead, this fall has been more like what happened after Tennessee made the playoffs last year. Expectations gave way to a depleted roster and Vrabel’s team plummeted back to earth. Now the Titans will start Joshua Dobbs in a de facto playoff game against a Jaguars team that:

  • already beat them by two touchdowns, in Nashville, with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback,
  • is in the midst of a four-game winning streak thanks in large part to the leveled-up play of Trevor Lawrence and
  • hasn’t given up a touchdown since Week 15.

Hardest favorite to back: Green Bay Packers (-4.5) over the Detroit Lions

Straight-up NFL picks, Week 18: Pour one out for the Titans (4)

Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The Packers have regained the betting public’s faith thanks to a four-game winning streak that pushed them from 4-8 to a win-and-in playoff bid in Week 18. But those wins come with caveats.

Green Bay’s defense has been the driving force behind that surge, but has also been largely dependent on turnovers — it produced 12 in those four wins, including four apiece vs. the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings. Now they face a Lions offense with the second-lowest turnover rate in the league. Jared Goff hasn’t thrown an interception since the last time he saw the Pack in Week 9. Detroit has lost only one fumble in its previous five games.

The Lions boast a top five offense and can goad Aaron Rodgers into a shootout. But Rodgers hasn’t been his typically prolific self, in part because his team has taken early leads and opted to lean hard on its ground game to win the time of possession battle and exhaust opponents. If the reigning MVP has to throw the ball he certainly can, but from an efficiency standpoint he’s been good, but not great (and not as good as his Detroit counterpart):

Straight-up NFL picks, Week 18: Pour one out for the Titans (5)

Buuuut, it’s a night game at Lambeau Field with a playoff atmosphere. If it comes down to defenses I trust Green Bay more.

Even if I don’t totally trust Green Bay.

Upset pick of the week: Carolina Panthers (+3.5) over the New Orleans Saints

Straight-up NFL picks, Week 18: Pour one out for the Titans (6)

AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

The Saints are in the midst of a three-game winning streak that will likely keep Dennis Allen employed for another year. The Panthers missed out on their chance to win the NFC South last week, but still have something to fight for; interim head coach Steve Wilks.

Wilks took over after Matt Rhule was fired and has gone 5-6 in his audition to take over the Panthers (Rhule, for comparison, had won five of his previous 21 games). He’s emerged as a legit contender to move up from interim to full-time. More importantly, his players love him and will fight through what’s otherwise a meaningless game if it means helping him get the job.

New Orleans’ has a stout passing defense (seventh in the DVOA ranks) but has struggled against the run (19th). That’s a bad sign against a Carolina team that would like nothing more to dial up a service academy playbook and hand the ball off 45 times. The Panthers were undone last week by three turnovers. The Saints have forced 12 all season, the lowest mark in the NFL.

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Straight-up NFL picks, Week 18: Pour one out for the Titans (2024)


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