Eli’s NFL Week 18 Best Bets: Panthers To Cover, Low-Scoring Affair In Miami?

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Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
NFL Week 18 Best Bets

As NFL Week 18 odds near kickoff, this article assists bettors with price discovery and handicapping point spreads, moneyline odds, and totals while shopping at the best betting sites. In particular, the Buccaneers at Panthers and the Bills at Dolphins stand out — compared to my betting model. With that in mind, let’s break down my NFL Week 18 best bets.

Click any of the sports betting odds below to place a bet.

Bet: panthers to lose by four or fewer points (or win outright)

Some bettors may be unfamiliar with the aforementioned term, price discovery. The process commences when wagers are made on the opening spread or total. Early action is used to adjust the number. Shops may also follow the same script of operators that are considered “market makers.” They tinker with pricing because a competitor repositioned its own. Liability tolerance (or lack thereof) could be enough to reshape the odds at other sportsbooks.

Regarding the Buccaneers’ odds, they opened as four-point road favorites before rising as high as -6 on Monday. Nevertheless, pro money has come in the Panthers’ odds, reverting the spread near its initial price point. Carolina’s best odds are currently .

Situational Inflation

Since Tampa Bay needs a win to clinch the NFC South title — and a playoff berth in the process — this line is inflated. For context, my NFL betting model makes it closer to Bucs -3/3.5. That’s why I bet Panthers +6 earlier in the week, as you’ll see below.

Teams that the market has no interest in betting on because they have “nothing to play for,” like Carolina, tend to play looser in the spoiler role. Conversely, their opponent is more tense in hopes of keeping their season alive. In this case, Panthers interim coach Chris Tabor has plenty to prove, and the organization gains zero draft capital with a loss. Remember that Carolina traded its 2024 first-round pick, along with wideout DJ Moore, in exchange for the No. 1 overall selection in last year’s draft.

Despite getting blanked by the Jaguars in Week 17, the Panthers were at a disadvantage from the get-go — with placekicker Eddy Piñeiro experiencing hamstring tightness in pregame warmups. Don’t expect a lack of motivation because of that result.

Additionally, eliminated teams versus those in search of a victory over the final two weeks in the regular season have generated a 99-64-4 (60.7%) against the spread (ATS) record since 1990.

Banged-Up Baker (Mayfield)

Not only do the Bucs have figurative pressure on them to win outright, but their quarterback will also face much of the literal kind — if he plays through a rib injury. Mayfield suffered it against the Saints on Sunday. Although there’s no structural damage, he was listed as a non-participant in Wednesday’s walk-through.

Should Mayfield suit up, the injury could constrain his efficiency, with his offensive line ranked No. 22 in pass-block win rate. This metric pertains to the rate at which linemen can sustain their blocks for 2.5 seconds or longer.

Conversely, the Panthers utilize blitz packages at the NFL’s ninth-highest rate. Pro Bowl wideout Mike Evans & Co. can certainly overcome Carolina’s secondary, especially with corner Jaycee Horn potentially inactive. Still, this chore becomes more arduous if Mayfield is a sitting duck against Brian Burns and the Panthers’ dynamic pass rush.

Mayfield’s counterpart Bryce Young, who was taken with the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, has a slightly more favorable matchup if that notion comes to fruition. Excluding takeaways, Tampa Bay’s defense ranks No. 20 in EPA per dropback since Week 10. It’s struggled even more without cornerback Carlton Davis (concussion), whose status is unknown for this matchup. Meanwhile, Carolina’s unit ranks No. 13 in that department.

STATS
Buccaneers logo Buccaneers TB
Panthers logo Panthers CAR
Offense Ranking OFF RNK N/A N/A
Defense Ranking DEF RNK N/A N/A
Offense Net Yards Per Game OFF NET YPG
Defense Net Yards Per Game DEF NET YPG
Passing Yards Per Game PASS YPG
Turnovers Committed Per Game TOC PG

Final Thoughts

If concerns about Mayfield’s injury increase as the week progresses, the spread could close around the key number of a field goal. I’d bet the Panthers down to +3.5 (-110) in that case. Join TheLines.com’s free sports betting Discord to get an immediate alert whenever I post a bet. Head over to the #roles server to enroll in the push notifications.

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Bet: Under 49 combined points scored in bills at dolphins

Unsurprisingly, this total rose from 48 to 50.5 earlier in the week before taking a slight dip. Both offenses showcase a top-four offensive EPA per play and success rate, and they combined for 68 points in their first meeting. Even though Miami’s defense is severely banged up — headlined by Bradley Chubb’s torn ACL — the offensive injuries on both sides are more glaring for this market.

Slower Pace Forecasted

For starters, Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle (ankle), running back Raheem Mostert (knee/ankle), and stud left tackle Terron Armstead (knee/back/ankle) missed Wednesday’s practice. There’s also QB Tua Tagovailoa, who suffered a left shoulder injury in Sunday’s blowout loss in Baltimore.

Bear in mind that Mike McDaniel has already been operating Miami’s offense at a more methodical tempo of late. In total, the Dolphins own the sixth-slowest adjusted pace across the NFL. Given these factors and Buffalo’s exploitable run defense (11th-most EPA per carry allowed), expect Miami’s clock-draining ground game to be put to work. That gears toward the under in the defacto AFC East title game.

Moreover, Bills play-caller Joe Brady has centered their offense around his backfield after supplanting Ken Dorsey. Since Week 11, their early-down first-half pass rate is 53.6% — juxtaposed to 60.4% under Dorsey. Their alteration has paid dividends, with James Cook & Co. manufacturing a top-10 EPA per carry and rushing success rate during this stretch.

Like Miami, Buffalo employs a bottom-10 adjusted pace because of the desired game plan. Bills QB Josh Allen (neck) can downplay his injury all he wants, but it’d be a surprise if Brady reverts to an air-raid approach with Allen hampered. Their 23rd-ranked passing success rate since the bye week indicates that their run-centric script will likely continue.

STATS
Bills logo Bills BUF
Dolphins logo Dolphins MIA
Offense Ranking OFF RNK N/A N/A
Defense Ranking DEF RNK N/A N/A
Offense Net Yards Per Game OFF NET YPG
Defense Net Yards Per Game DEF NET YPG
Passing Yards Per Game PASS YPG
Turnovers Committed Per Game TOC PG

Final Thoughts

I’d play it down to 49 if the market shortens this total. Waddle and Mostert’s absence would provide that dip on their own. Good luck with your own NFL Week 18 best bets.

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