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Week 18 NFL game picks: Packers lose to Lions on Sunday night; Eagles secure NFC's No. 1 seed

Gregg Rosenthal went 9-6 straight up on his Week 17 picks, bringing his season total to 162-91-2. How will he fare in Week 18? His picks are below.

The lines provided by Caesars Sportsbook are current as of 5:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 5 unless otherwise noted below.


  • WHERE: Mercedes Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | FOX
  • MONEYLINE: Falcons: -240 | Buccaneers: +196
  • SPREAD: Buccaneers: +6 | O/U: 40

Tom Brady wants to play. Todd Bowles says everyone's playing, although starters may not finish the game, considering Bowels indicated third quarterback Kyle Trask could dress for the first time. Even if the Buccaneers' starters don't finish the game, their backups could be more talented than some of the Falcons' starters. And the Bucs' defense could be a nightmare for Desmond Ridder. Games like this are hard to pick, but it's hard to stomach Atlanta as a heavy favorite in any scenario. 

UPDATE: Reports, including from NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, indicate the Bucs will rest many of their starters early on Sunday, I thought Tom Brady would insist on playing more than that, but it's hard to pick the Bucs to win now. (Original score: Buccaneers 24, Falcons 20. Odds for this matchup are up to date as of noon ET on Sunday.)

  • WHERE: Highmark Stadium (Orchard Park, N.Y.)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS
  • MONEYLINE: Patriots: +260 | Bills: -335
  • SPREAD: Bills -7 | O/U: 42.5

After Damar Hamlin's harrowing incident, it's hard to even imagine what this game will look and feel like from the outside, much less how it will be for Bills players. The score above reflects where these two teams were positioned entering Monday night, and that was not as equals. Buffalo's offensive line and New England's pass rush have changed enough since 2021 to believe the Patriots' defense can challenge the Bills more than it did a season ago, when Josh Allen and Co. dominated the last two of three matchups. There's little reason to think Mac Jones and the Pats' offense can move the ball enough to play four quarters without making a number of big mistakes. 

EDITOR'S UPDATE: Damar Hamlin had his breathing tube removed overnight and "continues to progress remarkably in his recovery," the Bills announced Friday, per the physicians at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Hamlin delivered a message to the team Friday morning and spent time talking to various teammates on FaceTime, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

  • WHERE: Soldier Field (Chicago)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | FOX
  • MONEYLINE: Vikings: -350 | Bears: +275
  • SPREAD: Vikings -7.5 | O/U: 43

It’s quietly been a down year for Dalvin Cook. Facing the Bears could be a much-needed confidence boost for the sixth-year back and his team heading into the playoffs. The only two-score win by the Vikings this year was in Week 1, and this is a great chance to bookend the season with easy victories. The Bears defense is getting pushed around, and Justin Fieldsabsence removes any chance of Chicago putting up a fight. The No. 1 overall pick in the draft will be theirs with a loss and the following result …

  • WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS
  • MONEYLINE: Texans: +118 | Colts: -140
  • SPREAD: Texans +2.5 | O/U: 38

The Colts went 21 straight drives without a touchdown before a garbage-time score by Sam Ehlinger last week. Frank Reich's absence is missed, with Indy getting outscored by 86 points under Jeff Saturday and now owning a worse overall point differential on the season than Houston. After three games of improved play, the Texans laid an egg last week. But they've shown enough over the last month to believe Lovie Smith could coach this team straight out of the No. 1 overall pick.  

  • WHERE: Paycor Stadium (Cincinnati)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS
  • MONEYLINE: Ravens: +260 | Bengals: -335
  • SPREAD: Bengals -7 | O/U: 40.5

Zac Taylor is a real one. In his actions on the field Monday night and in his press availability Wednesday, Taylor showed tremendous leadership. There’s no way to know how the events of the last week will impact the Bengals on the field, so I’m evaluating these teams as if it’s another game, which it most certainly is not. Lamar Jackson is still not back at practice, and these teams are not equally matched even if he were to play. While the Ravens' defense may be the better side, the Bengals' offense is more complete and explosive. In big games, lean offense. If Jackson plays, add a touchdown to the Ravens. 

EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jackson was ruled out for the game on Friday.

  • WHERE: Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | FOX
  • MONEYLINE: Jets: +148 | Dolphins: -175
  • SPREAD: Jets +3 | O/U: 37

My pick could depend on Teddy Bridgewater's status. If he plays and there are positive reports on his throwing hand, give the Dolphins a slight edge against a Jets defense that hasn't been as fearsome of late. Both pass rushes should dominate. Both offenses will try to find ways to lose, as they have during dueling five-game losing streaks. If Skylar Thompson starts, I'll probably lean toward the Jets, who trounced the Dolphins the last time these teams played, with Thompson playing most of those snaps. 

UPDATE: Thompson will get the nod for Miami, but with Joe Flacco now starting for the Jets instead of Mike White, I will stick with the Dolphins. Flacco and Thompson cancel each other out. The score has been updated from 21-20, and the Caesars Sportsbook odds for this game were updated and current as of 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday.

  • WHERE: Caesars Superdome (New Orleans)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | FOX
  • MONEYLINE: Panthers: +158 | Saints -190
  • SPREAD: Panthers +3.5 | O/U: 42

It's been impossible to get a feel for either of these teams this season. One final zag by a Saints squad on the brink of a four-game winning streak would be the appropriate ending to New Orleans' season. Sam Darnold and Andy Dalton are both playing better than expected, and the young skill-position talent around them is sneaky fun. Why do I sneakily love this meaningless game and why can’t I quit the NFC South?

  • WHERE: Acrisure Stadium (Pittsburgh)
  • WHEN: 1 p.m. ET | CBS
  • MONEYLINE: Browns: +122 | Steelers: -145
  • SPREAD: Steelers -2.5 | O/U: 40.5

Deshaun Watson's three-touchdown game was a mirage under further inspection, with only a handful of dropback completions and more sluggish decision-making for half the game. There's not much separating these teams, with the Browns' defense playing much better and Nick Chubb still being Nick Chubb. But the Steelers are playing their best ball -- full of belief and greater than the sum of their parts -- in a way the Browns have not for most of the season.

  • WHERE: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
  • WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
  • MONEYLINE: Giants: +600 | Eagles: -900
  • SPREAD: Eagles -14 | O/U: 43

Despite his Giants being locked into the No. 6 seed, Brian Daboll started the week talking tough about playing starters. By Wednesday, he said the team would make a decision on Friday after talking to the front office. Even if the G-Men are playing their best football this year and are healthier than ever on defense, a fully loaded squad would be no lock to compete for four quarters against the Eagles. My guess is we don't see a lot of Saquon Barkley or Daniel Jones

  • WHERE: FedExField (Landover, Md.)
  • WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
  • MONEYLINE: Cowboys: -320 | Commanders: +250
  • SPREAD: Cowboys -7 | O/U: 41

Rookie Sam Howell starting against one of the best defenses in football? Sure, why not. The Cowboys could wind up easing off the gas pedal in the second half of this game if they see the Eagles up big early, because then the Cowboys would be locked into the No. 5 seed, with no shot at the division title or No. 1 seed. Since Dallas' backup quarterback (Cooper Rush) should be better than Howell, I wouldn't be too concerned. 

  • WHERE: Empower Field at Mile High (Denver)
  • WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
  • MONEYLINE: Chargers: +126 | Broncos: -150
  • SPREAD: Broncos -2.5 | O/U: 40

If Baltimore loses in the early window, locking up the No. 5 seed for Los Angeles, head coach Brandon Staley has indicated he'll sit his players, presumably starting with Justin Herbert, Derwin James, Mike Williams, Keenan Allen and Joey Bosa. In other words, all the best Chargers. That gives the Broncos a great chance to win and subtly hurt the Seahawks' draft pick. It's the little things in a lost Broncos season. If the Ravens win early, flip the pick.

  • WHERE: Lumen Field (Seattle)
  • WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
  • MONEYLINE: Rams: +215 | Seahawks: -267
  • SPREAD: Rams +6 | O/U: 41.5

Before Seahawks fans can get mad that the Lions are playing on Sunday Night Football, the Seahawks have to actually win a game to have a shot at a postseason berth. They were lucky to do so against the Rams in the last matchup, and that was with John Wolford at quarterback for Los Angeles. Baker Mayfield is an upgrade, and the familiarity between these two teams will keep this game close. But with Kenneth Walker III running well again and Al Woods' return helping to key another good stretch by the Seahawks defense, the 12s should go home happy. 

  • WHERE: Levi's Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.)
  • WHEN: 4:25 p.m. ET | FOX
  • MONEYLINE: Cardinals: +700 | 49ers: -1100
  • SPREAD: 49ers -14 | O/U: 40.5

Giving up 500 yards to a Jarrett Stidham-led offense is one thing. Doing it against the David Blough Cardinals with no DeAndre Hopkins would be another. Kyle Shanahan should be able to manage snaps for Christian McCaffrey -- and possibly Deebo Samuel, if he returns from injury -- because this game should be over early. 

  • WHERE: Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)
  • WHEN: 8:20 p.m. ET | NBC, Universo
  • MONEYLINE: Lions: +180 | Packers: -220
  • SPREAD: Lions +4.5 | O/U: 49

This may be wishcasting. Seeing the subjects of Hard Knocks -- the Team of the Around the NFL Podcast! -- finish off a campaign that started at 1-6 with a win at Lambeau to end Aaron Rodgers' season would be a beautiful feeling of something new. We've seen the Packers rally to the playoffs before, and they may very well do it again, but their defensive struggles against power running teams remain. The Lions' defensive strength is in the pass rush, so will the Packers and Rodgers resist playing hero ball? I want to believe. 


Could a team of the Titans players on injured reserve beat the actual Titans that will line up Saturday night? At least Mike Vrabel gets some guys back, including defensive linemen Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons, two starters in the secondary (Kristian Fulton, Amani Hooker) and Derrick Henry. The offensive line was a disaster before its latest setbacks, however, and new Titans quarterback Joshua Dobbs is being asked to do the nearly impossible. The Jaguars' defense has improved alongside Trevor Lawrence and should make the second-year quarterback's job easier. 

Jarrett Stidham was impossibly good last week, showing an ability to make big throws on the move that he never did in New England. If he can do it against San Francisco, he certainly could provide an encore vs. Kansas City. But I'm not predicting him to win a shootout against Patrick Mahomes with seeding on the line for the Chiefs, especially when the Raiders are playing a ton of backups throughout their defense.

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