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The madness that occurred during late Sunday afternoon and evening of the NFL’s Week 18 extended from the playing fields in Los Angeles and Las Vegas to the final standings here in the Post’s Bettor’s Guide.
I entered the weekend with a five-game lead in the overall standings, but approaching 7 p.m., it was looking as if the best I could do would be a tie for first place. Then, the Buccaneers pulled away from the Panthers, the Bills got a late covering touchdown against the Jets and the 49ers finished a huge comeback to allow me to clinch the title by a closer-than-it-appears four games over Brian Costello.
There was even more drama in the Best Bet race. Howie Kussoy needed a Chargers cover as three-point favorites at the Raiders. But when Daniel Carlson drilled the overtime field goal for Las Vegas, it handed the title to Steve Serby, who finished the season with a highly profitable 61.1 winning percentage.
On to the playoffs!
Philadelphia Eagles (+8.5) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS; Over 45.5
First, I’d like to pubically thank Nick Sirianni for my favorite cover of the 2021 season. On Oct. 14 in Philadelphia, the Eagles were 6.5-point underdogs to the Bucs and were down 28-14 midway through the fourth quarter. Jalen Hurts scored on a 2-yard run to make it 28-20, and then when every other coach in history would have kicked the PAT, Sirianni went for two and got ’em … and the cover!
This spread’s a bit lighter than I was hoping for, but I’m expecting this to be somewhat of a street fight. Before resting many players in Week 18, the Eagles had won four games in a row, and had a streak of allowing 13, 18, 17, 10 and 16 points. In addition, a strong interior defensive line is usually the best defense against Tom Brady.
San Francisco 49ers (+3) over DALLAS COWBOYS; Under 50.5
For a team that went 13-4 ATS, the Cowboys have an unusually high number of red flags at home this season. They’ve lost at Jerry World to the Broncos, Raiders and Cardinals, and their overall team stats have been inflated by wins of 56-14 against the decimated WFT and 51-26 against the resting Eagles.
The comeback last week, from a 17-0 deficit against the Rams, told us everything we need to know about the 49ers, who are 8-3 SU and ATS in their past 11 games. Their offense can score in a lot of different ways — with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and others — and Kyle Shanahan knows how to use them all. As for the total, I’m thinking the 49ers will do enough of their damage on the ground to roll clock, and that Mike McCarthy will mismanage his timeouts and short circuit one scoring opportunity.
Pittsburgh Steelers (+12.5) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS; Over 46.5
I’m quite aware I’m siding with a pretty bad team, and one that lost to this opponent, in this stadium, by a 36-10 score three weeks ago. I know Ben Roethlisberger is correct when he says, “I would assume, as a group, you understand that we probably aren’t supposed to be here. We probably are not a very good football team. Out of 14 teams I think are in, we’re probably number 14.” But this is the part I like: “We’re double-digit underdogs in the playoffs. So, let’s just go play, have fun and see what happens.”
Indeed, the Steelers are playing with house money, and catching a lot of points from a Chiefs team that is known for winning and not covering. They actually did cover five in a row as favorites late this season, but turned back around in Week 18. This is also the largest spread Kansas City has been asked to cover all season. Finally there’s the trusty Mike Tomlin underdog angle — 46-23-2 ATS by my unofficial running count.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (-4) over Arizona Cardinals; Under 49.5
Here’s a matchup of a first-time playoff quarterback, Kyler Murray, against one who is 0-3 in his postseason career, Matthew Stafford. Of course, Stafford now has the Rams surrounding him instead of the Lions. Stafford has been shaky of late, but he has the most unstoppable weapon in this game in Cooper Kupp, and also has been making great use of Tyler Higbee.
Each team won outright on the other team’s field in the regular season, and the Cardinals are actually 8-1 SU on the road in 2021. But that one loss was a bad one, an inexplicable 30-12 rout by the Lions, and recent losses versus the Colts and Seahawks also were unsightly.
Lock of the week: 49ers (Locks 10-7 in 2021).
Last week: 8-8 overall, 1-2 Best Bets.