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You did it. You made it to the last week in your NFL survivor pool. Now all you have to do is survive Week 18 and then decide whether you'll report your winnings to Uncle Sam (those autonomous military drones aren't going to buy themselves). Before we zero in on this week's picks, here's a quick debriefing on how we fared last week:
Week 17 picks
Best Bets: 2-0 (YTD: 24-7)
Leans: 2-0 (YTD: 19-3)
Traps to avoid: 0 eliminations avoided (YTD: 12)
On to the Week 18 picks!
Indianapolis Colts (-15.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville has dropped eight in a row, losing by an average of nearly 18 points per game. It's the lowest-scoring team in the NFL, tallying 79 less points than its 30th place finish in 2020. Another loss on Sunday would clinch the first pick in the 2022 draft for Shad Khan's franchise. Whomever the Jaguars select will have a more exhausting journey walking to the stage to shake the commissioner's hand than any ballcarrier has had versus the Jags' rushing defense as of late. Over the last three games, Jacksonville is surrendering a league-high 176.3 yards per game on the ground, setting up NFL rushing leader Jonathan Taylor for the kind of stat-padding day that would make Nate Silver's eyes roll into the back of his head. The Colts are a strong dark horse to run through the AFC playoffs and an even stronger bet to trample a team that's so bad, its fans are planning to show up to the game in clown costumes.
Nearly 22% of entries are on Indy this week, making it the second-most popular pick.
Buffalo Bills (-16.5) vs. New York Jets
The wheels were falling off the Bucs wagon last week, until the Jets sprang into action like a NASCAR pit crew hopped up on energy drinks to help Tampa tighten up its lug nuts. New York's Week 10 game against the Bills was more like a destruction derby where Buffalo had a monster truck and the Jets had a battery-powered electric toy car. As good as Josh Allen and the offense have been, the Bills defense ranks third in DVOA, allowing the least passing yards per game (172.9), the second-fewest points per game (17.4), and the lowest completion percentage (56.9%). Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson owns the lowest completion percentage of any starting quarterback and the second-lowest QB rating this year. A Bills victory will clinch the AFC East and send the New York Jets back to New Jersey to focus on their legal battles.
Barely 9% of entries have locked in Buffalo. It's the fifth-most popular selection, which makes it a great play this week.
Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5) at Denver Broncos
Patrick Mahomes is undefeated in his career versus Denver, and Kansas City has won its last 12 games against its northernmost division rival. With a win on Saturday, the Chiefs will temporarily hold the AFC's top seed. What's standing in their way? A Broncos team that's lost four of its last five and only topped 13 points once in that span. The Broncos are equal parts mediocre and depressing, like a reheated TV dinner. Nothing about this team has improved since its 22-9 loss to Kansas City five weeks ago. I'll put my chips and my Salisbury steak on Andy Reid beating the Broncos yet again in a must-win game.
Just over 14% of entries are on the Chiefs.
OTHER PICKS TO CONSIDER
You may not have the preceding teams left to pick in your pool, so here are some other options:
Arizona Cardinals (-6.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks
They went into Seattle as underdogs in Week 11 and beat the Seahawks by double-digits behind Colt McCoy's 328 passing yards. Arizona would clinch the NFC West with a win here and a Rams loss to the Niners.
New Orleans Saints (-3.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Sean Payton in a must-win game against a team that ranks 30th in overall DVOA.
TRAPS TO AVOID
Tennessee Titans (-10.5) at Houston Texans
Almost 20% of entries are on a Titans squad that has a history of playing to the level of its competition and lost to the Texans at home by multiple scores. Ryan Tannehill threw four interceptions that game and hasn't looked that great this season.
Minnesota Vikings (-5.5) vs. Chicago Bears
I wouldn't feel comfortable taking a team that has nothing to play for. The Bears have won their last two contests as Matt Nagy attempts to prove that he deserves a head coaching job.
Cincinnati Bengals (+6) at Cleveland Browns
Nearly 4% of entries are on the Bengals, even after it's been announced that Cincinnati will be resting starters.
Stats provided by Pro Football Reference, Football Outsiders, teamrankings.com and nfl.com.