The 49ers Head to LA Knowing Victory Will Secure Playoff Football. The Bills Can Tie up Another Division Title by Beating AFC East Rivals & Who Prevails on SNF When a Tie Benefits the Chargers AND the Raiders?!
New York Jets (4-12) @ Buffalo Bills (10-6) (Total Points +41)
It comes as no surprise that the Buffalo Bills enter this game as heavy favourites over AFC East rivals, the New York Jets. The Bills are looking to close out the division title and they get the opportunity to do it against a team they beat by 28 points in November! It’s somewhat of a surprise then that the odds makers set the line for total points for this game at just 41. In that November blowout, the final score was 45-17. The Bills have the 5th ranked offense in the NFL and number 3 ranked scoring offense – averaging 28.5 points per game. Their defense has 30 takeaways this season – only the Colts and Cowboys have more.
Each of Buffalo’s las 4 games have yielded 43 total points or more while the Jets head into their season finale having scored at least 26 points in each of their previous 3 games with rookie QB Zach Wilson finally beginning to look more comfortable at this level. It’s also worth noting that Tampa Bay and Miami were two of the opponents in that stretch.
The Bills have to win to ensure they secure the AFC East title. The Jets showed against the Buccaneers last weekend, they’re still playing hard. The total points line looks a little low for this game. Expect more than 41
Total Points +41
Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) @ Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) (Chargers -3)
The Raiders pulled off maybe the biggest upset of last weekend – going into Indianapolis and walking away with a win that keeps their playoff hopes alive. They’re now riding a 3 game winning streak heading into the final game of the regular season, meaning their record is the same as AFC West rivals the LA Chargers at 9-7. The equation is simple. For both teams, it’s a win and you’re in scenario on Sunday night. However, BOTH teams can bag a wild card spot in the playoffs if the game ends in a tie and the Jaguars beat the Colts along with a Steelers win over the Ravens. That would certainly cause a stir!
The big question entering this game is, which Chargers team shows up? Will it be the Chargers who were impressive in beating the Bengals in December and so nearly swept the Chiefs? Or will it be the Chargers who fell down in Houston? Inconsistency is often an issue which plagues teams on the rise, but QB Justin Herbert has done more than enough since entering the league last season to prove he’s the real deal. This is the biggest game of his 2 year NFL career and I expect him to rise to the occasion. His opposite number, Derek Carr has also been impressive this year, but he’s now gone 7 straight games throwing fewer than 2 touchdown passes in a game. When you’re playing the Chargers, you are going to have to put points on the board – that 7 game stretch is a problem.
For the Raiders to win this game, they have to get pressure on Herbert. In the Chargers’ 9 wins this season, Herbert is completing over 70 percent of his passes and he’s accurate with the ball – throwing 25 TDs and only 3 interceptions. In the Charger’s 7 losses, Herbert is only completing 63 percent of his passes and he’s thrown 11 interceptions compared to just 10 TDs.
However, the Chargers won their first meeting in October 28-14 when the Raiders were arguably a stronger team and history maybe on their side. The Chargers are 5-1 against the Raiders since 1990 when they’ve met in the final weekend of the season.
The Las Vegas Raiders confounded their critics last weekend with arguably their best performance of the year. Can they make lightening strike twice? I don’t think so. This is the Chargers’ chance to shine, on the national stage!
San Francisco 49ers (9-7) @ Los Angeles Rams (12-4) (49ers +4.5)
This maybe the most keenly contested game of week 18! An NFC West affair – arguably the toughest division in football right now. If the Rams win, they take the division title and the number 2 seed in the playoffs. If the 49ers win, they secure a wild card berth and extend a run which has seen them win their last 5 games against the Rams!
At the time of writing, there remains some uncertainty over who will start at quarterback for San Francisco. Jimmy Garoppolo has this week returned to practice after missing time with a finger injury. If he is not deemed fit to start, rookie Trey Lance will continue in the starting role, fresh off of last weekend’s win over the Houston Texans.
When they met earlier this season, it was the 49ers defense which stole the show, forcing turnovers from Matthew Stafford and limiting the much-vaunted Rams offense to just 10 points. Worryingly, Stafford has continued to throw interceptions – 6 in his last 3 games – but the Rams have overcome them en route to establishing a 5 game win streak.
Stafford’s form is a concern against the 49ers number 4 ranked defense but so too are San Francisco’s issues at quarterback. 49ers head coach, Kyle Shanahan has clearly had the wood on Sean McVay over the last few years. However, it is difficult to see past the star talent on display in the Rams team. It all points to another bruising NFC West battle. I expect the Rams class to prevail, but the 49ers will cover the spread.