NFL Weekly Predictions: Week 18

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (+4)

The Steelers smacked the Seahawks 30-23 as Mason Rudolph led Pittsburgh to their second consecutive win. The Steelers need a win and some help to qualify for the playoffs.

"Mason will remain our starter," Mike Tomlin said. "He has the hot hand; I'm giving Kenny Pickett the cold shoulder, with a warm embrace to let him know he's our quarterback next year. Of course, I reserve the right to retract that promise at any point in the future."

The Ravens convincingly beat the visiting Dolphins, 56-19. Lamar Jackson passed for 321 yards and 5 touchdowns, as Baltimore clinched the AFC's top seed.

"I think Lamar just clinched the Most Valuable Player award," John Harbaugh said. "And there's a lot of teams kicking themselves for not trying harder to sign him during the offseason. It's a good thing our smear campaign of Lamar and his bad knee worked like a charm. And the most intriguing part of it all was that Lamar was in on it.

"We have nothing to play for, so we're going to rest quite a few guys. Lamar may not play at all. Heck, 'I may not even be on the sideline for this game' is something my brother Jim says all the time."

Ravens win, 24-22.

Houston @ Indianapolis (-1)

The Texans blew out the visiting Titans 26-3. C.J. Stroud passed for 1 touchdown, Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked 4 field goals, and Sheldon Rankins returned a fumble for a touchdown.

"We got contributions from everyone," DeMeco Ryans said, "particularly from the Titans.

"Who would have thought a Texans/Colts game would have such huge playoff implications? Who would have thought it would have any implications, for that matter?"

The Colts beat the visiting Raiders 23-20 and now sit on the cusp of a playoff berth. With a win over Houston, coupled with a Jacksonville loss to Tennessee, would give the Colts their first AFC South title since 2014.

"We just have to take care of business," Gardner Minshew says. "For white trash like me, 'taking care of business' can mean many things, most of them being versions of relieving oneself in the woods."

Colts win, 24-22.

Cleveland @ Cincinnati (-5)

The Browns clinched a playoff berth behind the arm of Joe Flacco (309 yards passing, 3 touchdowns) and the legs of Jerome Ford (121 total yards, 2 receiving TDs) in a 37-20 win over the Jets on Thursday.

"Joe is like the Energizer Bunny," Kevin Stefanski said. "He runs like he's carrying a bass drum.

"But seriously, what Joe's is doing is amazing. He's in great shape. At some point, most would expect Joe to hit that 17th-year, 38-year-old 'wall.' If he does happen to encounter that wall, Joe's gonna run right through that thing like the Kool-Aid Man. Or should I say the 'Joe Kool-Aid Man?'"

The Bengals lost 25-17 to the Chiefs and were eliminated from playoff contention.

"We're winless in the AFC North this season," Zac Taylor said. "So this game against the Browns is all about pride. So, I have to convince my team that going 1-5 in the division means something. In other words, I'm facing the most difficult coaching job of my career."

Bengals win, 27-18.

Minnesota @ Detroit (-6)

The Packers waxed the Vikings 33-10 at US Bank Stadium on Sunday night, making the Vikes' path to the playoffs much more difficult. Minnesota needs a win, and losses by the Packers, Seahawks, and/or Buccaneers/Saints to qualify.

"So you're saying there's still a chance?" Kevin O'Connell said. "Have you seen my quarterbacks? I don't know what I'm running out of faster: patience, or quarterbacks to bench.

"We've started four quarterbacks this season. Three of them weren't Kirk Cousins. But I'll say this about Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, and Joshua Dobbs: they are making Kirk a lot of money."

The Lions lost 20-19 to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night. A successful two-point conversion by the Lions after an Amon-Ra St. Brown touchdown was negated by an illegal touching penalty. Detroit's subsequent two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.

"I'd like to 'illegally touch' that official with my fist," Dan Campbell said. "And I say that in a completely non-sexual manner.

"But seriously, it's been a terrible year for officials. I'm not sure they know the rules, or where they are, or what street they live on. Maybe the NFL should mandate that their own officials report as eligible before they call a game. I can promise you this: I'm going to use my size to intimidate someone into making changes."

Detroit wins, 38-16.

Jacksonville @ Tennessee (+5)

The Jaguars shut out the visiting Panthers 26-0 to end a 4-game losing streak. With C.J. Beathard filling in for an injured Trevor Lawrence, the Jags leaned on their running attack, while piled up 155 yards on 35 carries and 2 touchdowns.

"That's the first game Trevor has missed as a high schooler, collegiate, or pro," Doug Pederson said. "He just had too many injuries to overcome this time. It's like if you crossed Evel Knievil with the 'Operation' board game, you'd get Trevor this year."

The Titans fell to 5-11 with a 26-3 loss to the Texans in Houston.

"I know it's been a tough year for fans of the Titans," Mike Vrabel said, "particularly our No. 1 superfan, 'Whiskey Dick' of Lynchburg, Tennessee. There hasn't been much to cheer for, but like a true superfan, Whiskey Dick is able to say 'Cheers' quite often."

Jaguars win, 27-17.

Atlanta @ New Orleans (-3½)

The Bears smashed the Falcons 37-17 at Soldier Field. Taylor Heinicke and Desmond Ridder combined for four interceptions, and the Atlanta defense was trampled by the Chicago rushing attack.

"This loss likely sealed my fate as head coach," Arthur Smith said. "In fact, I just got an appointment reminder to be in Arthur Blank's office at 9:00 AM sharp on Black Monday. Unlike my team in most games, I'll show up."

The Saints beat the Buccaneers 23-18 in Tampa, forcing a two-way tie in the NFC South between New Orleans and Tampa. With a win over the Falcons, and a Buccaneers loss at Carolina, the Saints will win the division.

"So our playoff hopes rest on the Panthers winning?" Derek Carr said. "That's scary. Also scary: our playoff hopes resting on me winning."

Saints win, 30-14.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina (+5½)

The Saints beat the Buccaneers 23-13 at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa still has the upper hand in the race for the NFC South crown; with a win at Carolina, Tampa takes the division, and the Saints would miss the playoffs.

"Even the Falcons could win the South," Mayfield said. "I think that shows the competitiveness of the division, the fact that three teams could possibly win the division in the final week of the season. Lucky for us, we're playing the worst team in the league. Lucky for our potential opponent in the first round of the playoffs, we're only favored by 5 points over the worst team in the league."

The Panthers dropped to 2-14 with a 26-0 loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Carolina could get no consistent offensive production, and Bryce Young completed only 19-of-32 passes for 112 yards and an interception.

"Our owner, David Tepper, was fined $300,000 for throwing a drink on a Jaguars fan," Young said. "To be fair, it was in Jacksonville. David was just doing his part to keep that fan hydrated. Also, David is an a-hole. That wording is superfluous. David is an NFL owner; therefore, he is an a-hole.

"We're playing the Buccaneers, but it's the Bears who will be doing the plundering and pillaging ... of our 2024 draft."

Bucs win, 22-14.

NY Jets @ New England (-2½)

The Jets stumbled in a 37-20 loss to the Browns in Cleveland on Thursday night. New York fell down 27-7 early in the second quarter, and never mounted a serious comeback.

"I think everyone in football is looking forward to next season," Robert Saleh said. "Not necessarily to see what we can do with Aaron Rodgers, but to see who our backup quarterback is. Hopefully, it will be a QB with the ability to run an offense, just not into the ground. Ironically, our backup quarterbacks this year were our Achilles' heel. Maybe given a second chance at signing Joe Flacco, this time we'll take it. Probably not, though, because we're stupid."

The Patriots lost 27-21 to the Bills. The Patriots defense kept the team in it while their offense struggled, with four first half turnovers.

"I guess the big story is whether or not I'll return as head coach," Bill Belichick said. "Whatever happens, it's going to be controversial. This being New England, I guess we should call it 'Bye? Gate.'"

Patriots win, 29-13.

Denver @ Las Vegas (-2½)

The Broncos beat the visiting Chargers 16-9 but were eliminated from playoff contention due to Kansas City's win over the Bengals. Jarrett Stidham, starting in place of the benched Russell Wilson, had a touchdown pass early, and relied on his defense the rest of the way.

"I thought Jarrett played decently," Sean Payton said. "He can miss all the throws that Russell can, but does it with a deep discount.

"When the Broncos first signed Russell, it was considered 'money well spent.' Now, it's deemed 'money, well, spent.'

"Now, did we ask Russell to waive some of the guaranteed money in his contract? Russell says we did, but I'm saying we didn't. And Sean Payton calling someone else a 'liar' might be the most hypocritical in a long list of Sean Payton hypocrisy."

The Raiders lost 23-20 to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The defeat officially eliminated the Raiders from playoff contention.

"Josh McDaniels unofficially eliminated us from playoff contention," Antonio Pierce said. "It was the 'Patriot Way or the highway' with Josh, and he got shown the highway.

"I think I should be the next Raiders head coach. I mean, come on, I've won games with Aidan O'Connell. His mustache is the facial equivalent of Mark Davis hairdo. I don't know who cuts Mark's hair. Wait. Yes I do. He does. Apparently blindfolded, with his weak hand, during a simulated earthquake."

Raiders win, 24-17.

Philadelphia @ NY Giants (+5½)

The Eagles couldn't stop Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense and suffered a 35-31 loss at home. Philly can still win the NFC East, but would need to beat the Giants and have the Cowboys lose in Washington.

"Look," Nick Sirianni said, "this is why you go 10-1 to start the season. So you can go 1-5 in December and still make the playoffs. I am an optimist. I call this 'coasting verrrrry slowly into the playoffs.'

"It seems like just yesterday that we played the Giants. It seems like just last year since we actually played well. Despite all of our troubles, we can still win the NFC East by beating the G-Men, if the Cowboys lose to Washington. So, to that I say, 'Go Commanders,' which I think means we're not gonna wear underwear during the game."

The Giants lost 26-25 to the Rams at MetLife Stadium. The Giants went for two and the lead after a late punt return TD, but Tyrod Taylor missed an easy completion to Saquon Barkley.

"I don't know how he missed that pass," Brian Daboll said. "Maybe there was a little olive oil left on the ball from the Tommy DeVito experiment.

"Tyrod doesn't have a bit of Italian in him, except when he eats spaghetti. And his agent doesn't look like a Halloween caricature of a tiny mobster."

Eagles win, 24-21.

Chicago @ Green Bay (-3)

The Packers walloped the Vikings 33-10 at US Bank Stadium on Monday night. Jordan Love passed for 3 touchdowns and ran for another, and the Packers are in the playoffs with a win in Chicago.

"It's going to be 35 degrees at kickoff," Matt Lafleur said. "So much for the frozen tundra. If you're looking for an 'Ice Bowl' in Green Bay, you won't find it at Lambeau Field. But try the local head shop and you'll be in luck."

The Bears blasted the mistake-prone Falcons 37-17 in snowy Chicago. Justin Fields passed for a score and rushed for another, while the Chicago defense grabbed 4 interceptions.

"That may have been Justin's last home game as a Bear," Matt Eberflus said. "If it is, it's likely we'll be trading Justin. I hear the Panthers are looking for a quarterback. I'm sure we can work out some type of deal that will make at least one of the parties happy."

Bears win, 23-20.

Seattle @ Arizona (+3)

The Seahawks playoff hopes took a big hit with a 30-23 home loss to the Steelers. Seattle gave up 202 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, and now need a win and a Green Bay loss to snatch a playoff spot.

"The Steelers ran it right at us," Pete Carroll said, "and we parted like the Red Sea. And I know what that's like, because I was there for the original.

"If we do make the playoffs, we'll have to do it without Jamaal Adams. We placed Jamaal on injured reserve, and he's likely played his last game as a Seahawk. Say what you will about Jamaal, but his impact can't be denied ... in our salary cap for years to come."

Seattle wins, 25-23.

Kansas City @ L.A. Chargers (-2)

The Chiefs beat the Bengals 25-17 at GEHA Stadium and clinched the AFC West for the eighth consecutive year.

"This was what you call a 'get right' game for us," Andy Reid said. "As a matter of fact, we've played more 'get right' games this season than anyone. And in most cases, we didn't get right. And if you don't win your 'get right' games, you likely 'get left' out of the Super Bowl.

"But we really need to impose our will on teams in the playoffs. The high-flying, high-scoring Chiefs are a thing of the past. We have to be physical and run the ball. In short, we need to throw our weight around, and not our helmets."

The Chargers lost 16-9 to the Broncos and fell to 5-11, last in the AFC West.

"I'm 0-2 as interim head coach," Giff Smith said. "With a name like 'Giff Smith,' you'd expect me to be a farmer, or a handyman, or an adult film star. Also, with a name like 'Giff Smith,' there's no chance of me being the Chargers full-time head coach."

Chargers win, 24-17.

L.A. Rams @ San Francisco (-3½)

The Rams beat the Giants 26-25 at MetLife Stadium behind a big day from Kyren Williams. Williams rushed for 87 yards and 3 touchdowns, as L.A. clinched a playoff berth after the Seahawks lost later in the day.

"Kyren has been a godsend for us," Sean McVay said. "I don't mean that literally — God didn't send Kyren to us, although Kyren did play college in the shadow of 'Touchdown Jesus.' But let's be serious — God doesn't play favorites. Oh no, God bets heavily on the underdogs."

Rams win, 27-23.

Dallas @ Washington (+13)

The Cowboys nipped the visiting Lions 20-19 on Saturday night, benefitting from a negated two-point conversion that would have given the Lions a 21-20 lead with 23 seconds left.

"As Jimmy Johnson might say," Mike McCarthy said, 'How 'bout them officials?' Of course, the officials have no media responsibility, or accountability. They don't have to answer questions. It's an NFL-mandated silence. Heck, the last thing Jerry Jones needs are more people he's paying to keep silent.

"Jimmy was finally inducted into the Cowboys 'Ring of Honor.' I don't know what took so long. My guess is Jerry Jones decided, after all this time, that he needed a 'ring' of any sort."

The 49ers spanked the Commanders 27-10 at FedEx Field.

"This is most likely my final game as Commanders head coach," Ron Rivera said. "And that statement is most likely an understatement. I don't really see a scenario in which I remain in Washington, unless I glue my junk to a desk, which, under Daniel Snyder's reign, was actually a pretty common office occurence."

Dallas wins, 27-21.

Buffalo @ Miami (-2½)

The Bills beat the visiting Patriots, 27-21, carried by a defense that forced 4 New England turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Josh Allen added 2 rush scores as the Bills' win and Dolphins' loss set up a winner-take-all showdown for the AFC East crown in Miami.

"We did what we needed to do to win," Allen said. "And we've done that 100% of the time in games we've won this season."

The Ravens blasted the Dolphins 56-19 in Baltimore. Tua Tagovailoa, Xavien Howard, and Bradley Chubb all suffered injuries during the game, with Chubb out for the season with an ACL injury.

"I think we'll have to do a lot of soul searching after this," Mike McDaniel said. "And defense searching, as well. The Ravens put up 8 touchdowns against us. To add insult to injury, they ran up the score with eight extra points.

"This game is for all the marbles. And that makes it all about who has the biggest pair of marbles. And that means this game could be decided by who has the biggest sack."

Bills win, 28-24.

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