Part one of the NFL’s season finale starts with a pair of division rivalry games on Saturday. Three of the four teams involved have already clinched playoff berths, but there are a number of seeding scenarios hanging in the balance. There is also a lot on the line in my pick ’em pool as the Top-3 teams are only separated by two games heading into the final week. I fought my way back to have a 1-game lead heading into Week 18, but you never know what’s going to happen.
(-550) Chiefs at (+400) Broncos (+11, o/u 45)
Had the (7-9) Broncos won just one more game at this point, they’d still be alive in the playoff hunt and their season would be on the line in this game. As is, all Denver can really do is spoil the (11-5) Chiefs’ shot at the #1 seed in the AFC. That spot currently belongs to the Titans and when KC started the season 3-4, it didn’t seem like the top spot in the conference was even on the table. Yet, here they are with one game to play. With this game taking place on Saturday, the Chiefs don’t even have the luxury of seeing what happens in Houston. So, all they can do is go out, win the game in front of them, and hope the Titans choke in Houston. However, Tennessee could sure use the bye week to get healthy, so I expect them to play for the W as well.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire remains out for KC but, aside from that, their starters are healthy. Denver, on the other hand, has some stuff going on. Teddy Bridgewater is still out so that means it’s Drew Lock at QB but he is listed as questionable. Starting strong safety Kareem Jackson was placed on injured reserve this week and their current depth chart shows starting corners Ronald Darby and Patrick Surtain II listed as out, which is not what you want to see vs the Chiefs, but the injury report shows them as questionable after a limited practice on Friday. Running backs Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams are both listed as questionable as well along with defensive end Shelby Harris. It seems like there is some intentional miscommunication going on as the Broncos don’t have much to play for and Head Coach Vic Fangio’s continued employment hasn’t been addressed head-on.
After blowing a 14-0, 1st-quarter lead to the Bengals last week, the Chiefs are going to need a palate cleanser before they head into the playoffs. However, if they find themselves in command of this game, they may take their foot off the gas in order to preserve their best players. Extended garbage time has a good chance to factor into this game, making any play against the points hard to predict. It just doesn’t seem like there’s much motivation for the Broncos at this point, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Pick: Chiefs | ATS: Chiefs -11 | O/U: Over 45 | Final: KC 30 – 16 DEN
(-210) Cowboys at (+175) Eagles (+4, o/u 43.5)
This is traditionally a fantastic rivalry, but both teams have already clinched their playoff spots. Dallas no longer has a shot at the #1 seed but they have the NFC East locked and they’ll at least get the one home game in the playoffs. There is an outside chance that the Boys could get their hands on the #2 seed if the Bucs, Rams, and Cardinals all lose. That would give DAL the group tiebreaker edge. Meanwhile, the Eagles are going to be the #6 or #7 seed depending on what happens in the 49ers/Rams game. So, Dallas has more to play for but it seems like they may have conceded to some degree already.
Dallas won’t be playing RB Tony Pollard or several defensive starters including breakout CB Trevon Diggs, SS Jayron Kearse, CB Anthony Brown, or rookie sensation LB Micah Parsons. Left Tackle Tyron Smith is out too but none of those players are listed on the injury report, so that’s a big indicator that they are already throttling down. However, the Eagles are doing the same thing with their top-3 RBs, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Jordan Howard, sitting out along with TE Dallas Goedert on offense. Defensively, the Eags’ best player, DT Fletcher Cox, is out along with starting LBs Alex Singleton and Genard Avery with starting secondary players SS Rodney McLeod and CB Avonte Maddox listed out as well. Only Sanders has an official injury designation as he deals with a hand injury. Plus RG Nate Herbig is out while RT Lane Johnson and LG Landon Dickerson are listed as questionable. So, we’re almost looking at an exhibition game.
Dak Will have his full complement of offensive weapons (minus Pollard) for at least a portion of the game while Jalen Hurts will be shorthanded and I’m guessing we will see both Cooper Rush for DAL and Gardner Minshew for the Eags at some point. Based on what I see available, it looks like Dallas will play to get ahead and then pull their best players, and then Philly will follow suit. Both teams are looking to stay healthy and get some reps in before the playoffs start.
Pick: Cowboys | ATS: Boys -4 | O/U: Under 43.5 | Final: DAL 24 – 13 PHI
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