Historic night awaits at Lambeau, but will the Lions take the cheese?
Can the champions crash the party in Seattle?
Will the Eagles take flight, or will there be a Giant let down in Philly?
New York Giants (9-6-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) (Giants +14)
On the face of it, the Philadelphia Eagles have everything to play for while the New York Giants have little incentive – having already locked in the 6th seed in the playoffs. However, this is the NFL and rarely is anything as it seems.
This is a divisional rivalry. Giants coach, Brian Daboll said straight after last weekend’s win over the Colts that he doesn’t believe in resting players adding, “You get rest after the season.” It appears likely the giants will play their starters in Philly and the Eagles have problems of their own. They’ve lost two straight. The status of QB Jalen Hurts (shoulder) remains uncertain, described as “day to day.” Tackle Lane Johnson is definitely out this weekend and the Giants would love nothing more than to spoil the party.
Should Philadelphia win this game? Yes. Will they win it by more than two scores? I’m not so sure! Philly blew them out 48-22 when they met a month ago, but a lot’s changed since then. Having booked their post season berth, the giants no more want to head into the playoffs on the back of a bad loss than they do want sustain injuries to key starters. Philly, on the other hand, find themselves in the position of now playing a must win game. Lose, and they likely end up the no. 5 seed. Play their starting QB with an injury, and one hit could rule him out of the playoffs altogether. This is the dilemma they now face after failing to win either of their last two outings and the opportunity to rest all their key players.
Throw into the equation the opportunity that now lies before the Giants. The chance to land a huge blow to a divisional rival and add big time momentum for their own quest. This could turn into an old style, attritional, hard fought NFC East battle. Given the situation, the Eagles should get the win they need but it may well be a lot closer than the line suggests.
PICK: New York Giants +14
LA Rams (5-11) @ Seattle Seahawks (8-8) (Rams +6.5)
It’s not a win and you’re in scenario for the Seattle Seahawks but they do have to effectively win and then sit tight for Sunday Night Football to keep their season alive.
There is a scenario whereby a tie could be enough, but the equation is too much for this mind to take! In reality they need a win and to hope the Lions can turn over Green Bay in Lambeau. On paper, their role in that equation appears straight forward enough – especially against a team who’s lost their starting QB for the year along with the reigning defensive player of the year and has only managed to win 5 games all season.
However, Baker Mayfield has done well since landing in LA – they’re 2-2 in the 4 games he’s played. Former Seahawk, Bobby Wagner will definitely want to have a say against his former team and running back, Cam Akers seems to be rediscovering his mojo after being given a second chance by the Rams. So, the question becomes how good are Seattle?
Last weekend they took care of the Jets but before that game they’d lost 3 straight. When they last faced the Rams, they won – but only by 4 points. All that being said, running back Kenneth Walker is key. If he can run the ball effectively – as he did last weekend – that takes a ton of pressure off of the shoulders of QB Geno Smith. He should be able to. This is a banged up Rams team, with little more than pride to play for in the final game of their Championship reign. If he can’t though, this will be tough sledding for Seattle.
You just know the Rams are desperate to have one last hurrah. Whether they’ve got enough about them to overcome the raucous 12th man in Seattle is open to debate but with Baker Mayfield calling the shots under centre they’ve certainly got enough to keep this to a one score game.
PICK: LA Rams +6.5
Detroit Lions (8-8) @ Green Bay Packers (8-8) (Packers -4.5)
If the Rams upset the Seahawks, this becomes a “win and you’re in” matchup for both teams! Regardless of what happens in Seattle, that is the scenario for the Green Bay Packers anyway.
Green Bay, remarkably, are on a 4 game winning streak. Having been written off when they’re record stood at 4-8, they enter week 18 with their destiny resting in their own hands. They have home field advantage. They have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
This isn’t the same old Detroit Lions team though. They’re a physical team, which plays in the image of head coach, Dan Campbell. They are 7-2 in their last 9 games, and they’ve beaten the Packers in each of their last 2 meetings – including a 15-9 win 2 months ago.
Each of those two wins though, were in Detroit. Inside a dome. Not outside, in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The last time they played there, Green Bay were 35-17 winners. Green Bay can also point to turning the ball over when in scoring range on a couple of occasions in their previous meeting this season and a playoff type atmosphere, under the Lambeau lights would certainly appear to favour them.
This is new territory for the Lions. For many of their players it’ll be the biggest NFL game they’ve played in but for some, they’ve been here before. Lions running back, Jamaal Williams – a former Packer is just 6 yards short of reaching 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career. QB Jared Goff has experienced the Lambeau playoff atmosphere first hand during his time with the Rams. Their experience will be critical if Detroit are to pull off the upset.
But Aaron Rodgers is playing better now than at any other time this season. The understanding with his receiving corps is better – particularly rookie, Christian Watson – and the running game has become more prominent since the start of October. These are the nights this venue was seemingly made for, and Green Bay are playing better on both sides of the ball right now. In a memorable season for Detroit, this may prove to be one game too far.
PICK: Green Bay Packers -4.5