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NFL Tips & Preview – Week 18

The weekly preview runs into the endzone with NFL tips for the eight standout fixtures of the regular-season-closing Week 18 – with playoff spots still very much on the line.

NFL Tips – Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos

08:30 (AEDT), Sun 9th Jan @ Empower Field, Denver

History: Played 123: Chiefs 68 V Broncos 55

Last meeting: December 5, 2021: Chiefs 22 d Broncos 9 at Arrowhead Stadium

Final Thoughts: Kansas City Chiefs are vying for the AFC’s top seed, while division rivals Denver Broncos’ playoffs hopes fell apart courtesy of three straight losses.

The 11-5 Chiefs suffered a 34-31 loss to the Bengals in Week 17 left the door ajar in the race for the conference’s top seed. QB Patrick Mahomes and RB Darrel Williams ensured the Chiefs’ offensive resurgence continued, but the defensive might that rescued the team from its early-season malaise was absent as they leaked their most points since Week 5.

The under-strength Broncos were in the post-season mix but have slipped to 7-9 with losses to the Bengals, Raiders and Chargers, equalling their worst defensive effort of 2021 last week in a 34-13 defeat.

The Chiefs extended their winning streak over the Broncos to 12 matches with a defence-driven 22-9 victory in Week 13. With plenty on the line and against an opponent with only pride to play for, the Chiefs – second in Super Bowl betting – win this easily.

Best Bet: Handicap – Chiefs -10.5 @ $1.93

NFL Tips – Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles

12:15 (AEDT), Sun 9th Jan @ Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

History: Played 125: Cowboys 71 V Eagles 54

Last meeting: September 27, 2021: Cowboys 41 d Eagles 21 at AT&T Stadium

Final Thoughts: The 11-5 Dallas Cowboys already have the NFC East title wrapped up but are striving for the highest possible seeding – and some confidence and momentum heading into the playoffs after a scrappy 25-22 loss to the Cardinals last week. Dak Prescott and the offence had a bad day out, compounded by an ACL tear for Michael Gallup.

The 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles are second in the NFC East and have stitched up a playoff berth via four straight wins – a reality that seemed fanciful when they started the season 2-5. The winning streak has come exclusively against also-rans, including last week’s 20-16 defeat of Washington, but the turnaround by Carson Wentz and co. is notable nevertheless.

The Cowboys have won six of their last eight against the Eagles, including the last two by 20-point margins. The teams’ Week 3 clash in Dallas finished with a 41-21 scoreline, with Jalen Hurts filling in at QB for Wentz. Prescott passed for 238 yards and 3 TDs, while Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Eagles have not beaten a team currently sporting a winning record this season. That’s enough to baulk at backing the underdogs straight up – but they should keep it pretty close at home, where they have lost by more than six just once in 2021.

Best Bet: Handicap – Eagles +7.5 @ $1.90

NFL Tips – Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns

05:00 (AEDT), Mon 10th Jan @ FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland

History: Played 96: Bengals 51 V Browns 45

Last meeting: November 7, 2021: Browns 41 d Bengals 16 at Paul Brown Stadium

Final Thoughts: Cincinnati Bengals have emerged as everyone’s second-favourite NFL team after three straight wins advanced them to 10-6, clinching the AFC North title and confirming their return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

After dismantling the Ravens 41-21 a week earlier, the Bengals edged the streaking Chiefs 34-31 in Week 17. They are a delight to watch. Joe Burrow has eight touchdowns and almost 1,000 passing yards in the past fortnight alone, while rookie Ja’Marr chalked up a mammoth 266 receiving yards against the Chiefs.

A few weeks ago Cleveland Browns were eyeing off the AFC North crown – but their post-season hopes fell apart with losses to the Raiders, Packers and Steelers. The offence was abysmal in a 26-14 loss to the toothless Steelers: Baker Mayfield was sacked nine times and threw a pair of interceptions. Bizarrely, Nick Chubb was instructed to make just 12 rush attempts.

The Browns have won six of the last seven clashes between the teams – including a 41-16 blowout in Cincinnati in Week 9. But highlights have been thin on the ground for Cleveland since then and they are up against it with the hot Bengals coming to town.

Best Bet: Half-time/Full-time – Browns/Browns @ $1.91

NFL Tips – Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens

05:00 (AEDT), Mon 10th Jan @ M&T Bank Stadium

History: Played 55: Steelers 31 V Ravens 24

Last meeting: December 5, 2021: Steelers 20 d Ravens 19 at Heinz Field

Final Thoughts: The AFC North has been an absolute rollercoaster but this scenario – Pittsburgh Steelers heading to Baltimore still with a chance at a playoffs berth, taking on a Ravens side needing even more of a miracle – was not one many would have predicted even a couple of weeks ago.

The 8-7-1 Steelers put away the Browns 26-14 in Week 17 as the Pittsburgh faithful bade farewell to Big Ben Roethlisberger. Najee Harris’ 188 rushing yards and a TJ Watt-led defensive domination were the major takeaways, leaving the Steelers needing a win coupled with, *ahem*, a Colts loss to the Jaguars to snatch a Wild Card spot.

The 8-8 Ravens’ post-season are hanging by a thread after being pipped 20-19 by a Rams side who claimed their first lead in the last minute. The heart-breaker extended the Ravens’ losing streak to five games, with four coming by two points or less. They need the Jags to beat the Colts, the Pats to beat the Dolphins and the Raiders to beat the Chargers.

The Steelers have won seven of the last 10 division showdowns, including the last three straight. Their Week 14 showdown in Pittsburgh finished 20-19 in the Steelers’ favour – a result that sparked the Ravens’ slide. The Jags are highly unlikely to do them a solid, but the Steelers are tempting value to hold up their side of the playoffs bargain.

Best Bet: Result – Steelers @ $2.85

NFL Tips – Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals

08:25 (AEDT), Mon 10th Jan @ University of Phoenix Stadium, Phoenix

History: Played 45: Cardinals 22 V Seahawks 22 (1 Tie)

Last meeting: November 21, 2021: Cardinals 23 d Seahawks 13 at CenturyLink Field

Final Thoughts: The 11-5 Arizona Cardinals busted out of their slump just in time, snapping a three-game losing streak with a defence-inspired 25-22 victory in Dallas. After some indifferent outings, Kyler Murray bounced back with 263 yards and 2 TDs. They are still a chance of snaffling the NFC West title from the Rams.

Division rivals Seattle Seahawks are way out of contention at 6-10, but they raised their beleaguered fans’ spirits with a 51-29 beatdown of the Lions last week. QB Russell Wilson (236 yds, 4 TDs) had a blinder, while Rashaad Penny rushed for 170 yards and 2 TDs on 25 carries.

The Cardinals have won three of the teams’ last four clashes, including a 23-13 success in Baltimore in November.

Arizona should get it done to end a four-game home losing streak. But Seattle will be hell-bent on playing the spoiler role.

Best Bet: Margin – Cardinals 1-13 @ $2.45

NFL Tips – San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams

08:25 (AEDT), Mon 10th Jan @ SoFi Stadium, Inglewood

History: Played 144: 49ers 74 V Rams 67 (3 Ties)

Last meeting: November 15, 2021: 49ers 31 d Rams 10 at Levi’s Stadium

Final thoughts: Plenty at stake in this NFC West duel. The 12-4 LA Rams will seal the division title with a victory. A win would also confirm the 9-7 San Francisco 49ers’ place in the Wild Card Round.

The Rams have put a mid-season stumble behind them with five consecutive wins. They got out of jail against the Ravens 20-19 last week, Matthew Stafford emerging from a turnover-laden performance to lead a 75-yard touchdown drive in the dying stages.

With Trey Lance deputising for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers subdued the lowly Texans 23-7 with a minimum of fuss – making it six wins from their last eight games. The oft-maligned Jimmy G is racing the clock to be fit.

The 49ers are on a five-match winning streak against the Rams, inflicting their biggest 2021 defeat – a 31-10 pummelling in Week 10. Garoppolo (15/19, 182 yds, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) outplayed a below-par Stafford (26/41, 243 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs).

But the Rams have a head of steam up and have the Niners’ measure in the offensive strikepower department. Expect a tight one with the hosts taking the spoils.

Best Bet: Margin – Rams 1-13 @ $2.39

NFL Tips – New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins

08:25 (AEDT), Mon 10th Jan @ Hard Rock Stadium, Miami

History: Played 112: Dolphins 58 V Patriots 54

Last meeting: September 12, 2021: Dolphins 17 d Patriots 16 at Gillette Stadium

Final Thoughts: A juicy clash in the AFC East with the 10-6 New England Patriots vying for the division title and the 8-8 Miami Dolphins aiming to finish on a high after having their playoffs hopes dashed last Sunday.

The Dolphins’ remarkable run of seven straight wins (albeit against predominantly substandard opposition) was ended in ruthless fashion in Week 17, going down 34-3 to the Titans. The Miami secondary was exposed when faced with a competent offence, while QB Tua Tagovailoa’s limitations were laid bare.

The Patriots won seven in a row before their Week 14 bye, then suffered crucial losses to the Colts and Bills. But they responded with a 50-10 annihilation of the struggling Jaguars, Mac Jones producing a confidence-boosting three-touchdown performance, and Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris rushing in a pair of TDs each.

The Dolphins grabbed a 17-16 win at Gillette Stadium in Week 1 – well before both teams went on lengthy winning streaks. The Patriots are a better team with a better quarterback and have much more to play for; the result should reflect those factors.

Best Bet: Handicap – Patriots -6.5 @ $1.90

NFL Tips – Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders

12:20 (AEDT), Mon 10th Jan @ Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas

History: Played 124: Raiders 66 V Chargers 56 (2 Ties)

Last meeting: October 4, 2021: Chargers 28 d Raiders 14 at SoFi Stadium

Final Thoughts: The 2021 regular season closers with an AFC West doozy. LA Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders are both 9-7, the winner guaranteed a place in the playoffs.

The Raiders’ late-season charge has been nothing short of remarkable – not least of all because of their recent reputation for fadeouts. After edging the Browns and Broncos, the Raiders upset the high-flying Colts 23-20. Regardless of the result here, interim coach Rich Bisaccia should be commended for the job he’s done with an embattled team.

The Chargers – shock losers to the lowly Texans in Week 16 – stayed alive with an impressive 34-13 defeat of a desperate but undermanned Broncos outfit. Importantly, quarterback Justin Herbert shone in the victory.

The Chargers overwhelmed the Raiders 28-14 in Los Angeles in Week 4 – but there’s been so many twists in both teams’ campaigns that the result barely seems relevant. Buckle up for a drama-charged encounter…the Chargers should have a slight edge but the Raiders have proved anything is possible in recent weeks. A dose of nerve-shredding OT would not surprise.

Best Bet: Tri-Bet – Either Team by 7 or less @ $1.91

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