The final week of the 2022 NFL season has arrived. At least, we think it has. There are plenty of questions that remain about the Bills-Bengals matchup, but as of this writing, there are no planned changes to the Week 18 schedule. With the NFL playoffs on the horizon and Wild Card weekend kicking off Saturday, Jan. 14, there's still a lot up in the air.
What do these games *really* mean, though? Which NFL teams have something left to play for? Let's dive into what means what to who, and what it means for you as you place your Week 18 NFL bets.
Possible outcomes: With a loss, they'd secure the first overall pick (and draft QB Bryce Young!). However, if they win in Week 18, the No. 1 overall pick will belong to the Chicago Bears. Ouch.
Don't expect the Texans to be overly aggressive in this one; they don't have the incentive to play for much. After all, Lovie Smith's job is on the line, though it shouldn't come down to this meaningless game anyway. Colts HC Jeff Saturday, meanwhile, has all of the incentive in the world to go all out because he's coaching for his job too, and his seat is undoubtedly hotter.
What it means for your bets: Beware of betting on the Texans in any capacity (player props, point spread, moneyline included), despite their late-season sort of success(ish).
Possible outcomes: With a win in Week 18, the Jaguars will clinch the AFC South and secure the No. 4 seed in the AFC standings.
What it means for your bets: Though the Jaguars clearly still have something left to play for, if at any point the Jaguars take a sizeable lead, Doug Pederson could consider pulling his starters (as he did in Week 17 with a lead over the Texans). So, be wary of player prop bets for Jaguars starters (Travis Etienne, Christian Kirk) and perhaps look for some value in backups like JaMycal Hasty or Jamal Agnew.
Possible outcomes: The Seahawks, Lions and Packers all sit with an 8-8 record, but Green Bay is the only team that controls their own destiny here, clinching the No. 7 seed with a win over the Lions. If the Seahawks win and Packers lose, they'll clinch the No. 7 seed. If the Lions win and Seahawks lose, the No. 7 seed belongs to Detroit.
What it means for your bets: All of these teams need to go all-out. No mercy. Bet as usual!
Possible outcomes: *takes another deep breath* The Eagles are the only team that can control their destiny toward the No. 1 seed with a win or tie this week over the Giants. They would also take the No. 1 seed with a Cowboys loss or tie vs. Commanders or 49ers loss or tie vs. Cardinals. The 49ers take the No. 1 seed with a win and an Eagles loss, while the Cowboys take the No. 1 seed (and the NFC East title) with a win, Eagles loss and 49ers loss/tie.
What it means for your bets: These teams have the incentive to start their starters. Bet as usual!
Possible outcomes: The Bucs and Giants have nothing to play for in these games. To eliminate risk of injury, it's entirely possible we see limited playing time (if any) for certain stars and an increase of offensive snaps for the backups.
Bucs HC Todd Bowles has said he's planning to play his starters, but it wouldn't be surprising in the least to see them play just a few drives. After all, you do have the oldest quarterback in the NFL under center. The Giants, on the other hand, have a little more incentive to get their team some playing time, but it seems based on practice reports that
What it means for your bets: It's time for those backups to shine! Be wary of investing in player props for the "studs" on these teams like Tom Brady, Saquon Barkley, and Leonard Fournette.