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NFL Picks Week 18: It’s The Hope That Kills You

We have reached the end of the 2023 NFL Regular Season and we now take a look at all of the matchups in Week 18!

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After seventeen weeks, the 2023 NFL Regular Season comes to a close, and the New Orleans Saints have a chance to earn a Wild Card berth and even win the NFC South title. Considering how this Saints season has unfolded, it is only fitting that everything comes down to beating their arch-rivals in the Atlanta Falcons as well as having to hope two of the NFC’s three worst teams beat their own division rivals, who are also playing for playoff spots. The Who Dat Nation has a lot to hope for, but as we are all too aware, it’s the hope that kills you. Now let’s take a look at the Saints’ regular season finale as well as all of the pivotal matchups in the final week of the 2023 NFL Season!

Last week I went 9-6

I told you so: Cowboys over Lions!

What do I know: Bucs over Saints?!

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WEEK 18

Saturday, January 6th - Saturday NFL Special - Game 1

Steelers(9-7) at Ravens(13-3)

Playoff Scenario: A Pittsburgh win, coupled with a Buffalo loss or a Jacksonville loss clinches a Wild Card berth.

With Lamar Jackson resting until the playoffs, Baltimore turns to Tyler Huntley at quarterback. Huntley may be one of the NFL’s best backup quarterback options, so the Ravens still outmatch the Steelers at QB in this game. Ultimately, Pittsburgh desperately needs this game, while Baltimore is simply looking to get out with as much health as possible. It will be another defensive struggle between AFC North arch-rivals, but the Steelers keep their Wild Card hopes alive. Pittsburgh wins 16-13.

Pick: Steelers

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Saturday, January 6th - Saturday NFL Special - Game 2

Texans(9-7) at Colts(9-7) - Game of the Week

Playoff Scenario: Winner clinches a playoff berth, and potentially the AFC South title with a Jacksonville loss. Loser is eliminated from playoff contention.

CJ Stroud is primed to have another breakout game against Indy, but he will need to get better protection from his offensive line against this aggressive Indy defense. The Colts rushing attack will be the engine that drives Indy in this AFC South showdown, but it will ultimately be Houston’s defense that clamps down when the game is on the line and carries the Texans to an improbable playoff berth with a rookie QB and head coach combination. Houston wins 27-24.

Pick: Texans

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Sunday, January 7th - Early Games

Browns(11-5) at Bengals(8-8)

Neither team has anything to play for, and Cleveland will be resting their starters as they prepare for the playoffs. Journeyman backup quarterback Jeff Driskel will be the fifth signal caller to start under center for the Browns this season, and he was on Arizona’s practice squad just a week ago. Despite this, it will be Cleveland’s top-ranked defense, starters or not, that shut down the Cincy passing game. Cleveland wins 22-13.

Pick: Browns

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Vikings(7-9) at Lions(11-5)

Playoff Scenario: A Minnesota win, coupled with losses by Green Bay, Seattle, and Tampa Bay or New Orleans clinches a Wild Card berth.

Frankly, Detroit doesn't need this one, while Minnesota needs this and a lot more. The Lions will likely begin to rest their starters in the second half, and at that point the Vikings will put their foot on the gas to stay alive for the playoffs. Minnesota wins 29-25.

Pick: Vikings

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Jets(6-10) at Patriots(4-12)

In what may very well be his final game as New England’s head coach, Bill Belichick will do what he’s done so well over the last two and a half decades, stick it to the Jets. New England wins 16-10.

Pick: Patriots

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Jaguars(9-7) at Titans(5-11)

Playoff Scenario: A Jacksonville win clinches the AFC South title. If Jacksonville loses, they still clinch a Wild Card spot with a Pittsburgh loss and a Denver loss.

Trevor Lawrence certainly won't be at 100% in his return from his ankle sprain, but he won't have to carry the team to victory, as it will be the Jacksonville defense that shoulders that burden in this game by clamping down the Tennessee offense. Jacksonville wins 30-17.

Pick: Jaguars

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Falcons(7-9) at Saints(8-8)

Playoff Scenario: A New Orleans win coupled with a Tampa Bay loss wins the NFC South for the Saints. A New Orleans win coupled with losses by Seattle and Green Bay clinches a Wild Card berth for the Saints.

For the Saints offense, this game will come down to two factors: The arm of Derek Carr and the legs of Taysom Hill. Hill will have to carry the Saints rushing attack, while Carr will need to set the tone early, by keeping the Atlanta defense on their heels. For the Saints defense, the secondary will need to be as dialed in as they were a week ago. Atlanta will get their yards on the ground, but the Saints cannot afford to allow Atlanta to get the playaction game going through the air. This game will be far closer than any Saints fan would prefer, but the Saints find a way to hold on to victory, keeping their NFC South title and playoff hopes alive, for the moment. Saints win 21-19.

Pick: Saints

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Buccaneers(8-8) at Panthers(2-14)

Playoff Scenario: A Tampa Bay win clinches the NFC South title, while a loss eliminates Tampa Bay from playoff contention, giving the NFC South title to the New Orleans/Atlanta winner.

As time expires, Carolina journeyman kicker Eddy Piñeiro misses a 41-yard field goal to give Tampa Bay the NFC South title. Tampa Bay wins 20-18.

Pick: Buccaneers

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Sunday, January 7th - Late Games

Chiefs(10-6) at Chargers(5-11)

Blaine Gabbert will lead Kansas City’s B-Team to an easy win over the mentally on-vacation Chargers in Los Angeles. Kansas City wins 38-14.

Pick: Chiefs

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Broncos(8-8) at Raiders(7-9)

Antonio Pierce will lead his Raiders to victory in what will be his final game as the Las Vegas head coach before they make another boneheaded coaching hire in the offseason. Las Vegas wins 20-19.

Pick: Raiders

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Eagles(11-5) at Giants(5-11)

Playoff Scenario: A Philadelphia win and a Dallas loss clinches the NFC East title.

Philly has done everything they possibly could over the past five weeks to derail their season. Thankfully for their fans, they get the Giants again this week, and they go into the playoffs with a season-ending win under their belt. Philadelphia wins 35-17.

Pick: Eagles

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Rams(9-7) at 49ers(12-4)

This “Backup Bowl” between NFC West arch-rivals may have nothing at stake, but it will still provide some serious fireworks with Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan at the helms. Los Angeles wins 37-25.

Pick: Rams

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Cowboys(11-5) at Commanders(4-12)

Playoff Scenario: A Dallas win or Philadelphia loss clinches the NFC East title.

Dallas won't need any help from referees or bad coaching decisions to win this game against Washington and their atrocious defense. Dallas wins 46-6.

Pick: Cowboys

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Seahawks(8-8) at Cardinals(4-12)

Playoff Scenario: A Seattle win coupled with a Green Bay loss clinches a playoff spot.

As time expires, Arizona veteran kicker Matt Prater misses a 34-yard field goal to keep Seattle’s playoff hopes alive, while dashing the Saints’ final hope. Seattle wins 24-22.

Pick: Seahawks

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Bears(7-9) at Packers(8-8)

Playoff Scenario: A Green Bay win or losses by Minnesota, Seattle, and Tampa Bay or New Orleans clinches a Wild Card berth.

As time expires, Green Bay rookie kicker Anders Carlson hits a 46-yard field goal to send the Pack to the playoffs, dashing Seattle’s hopes. Green Bay wins 23-21.

Pick: Packers

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Sunday Night Football Finale

Bills(10-6) at Dolphins(11-5) - AFC East Championship Game

Playoff Scenario: Winner clinches the AFC East title. If Buffalo loses, they still clinch a Wild Card spot with a Pittsburgh loss or Jacksonville loss.

Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill have been the NFL’s most dominant combination this season, but it will be the combination of Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs that dominates this showdown for the AFC East title. Buffalo has been rolling for the last month-plus, while Miami is fresh off a humbling dogwalking in Baltimore. Both teams want this win, but Buffalo needs this win to get into the playoffs, and the Bills will get it. Buffalo wins 33-25.

Pick: Bills

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There you have it, the final week of the 2023 NFL regular season. Here’s to the Saints beating the Falcons and getting a little help along the way. Leave us your picks, comments, and insight below!