Each week during the 2021 NFL season, TheLines will examine how the coming week’s NFL lines have changed relative to preseason or prior expectations. Often, early lines can give an objective look at teams’ relative talent levels, absent week-to-week recency bias when the weekend results take hold. Let’s take a look at NFL Week 18 spreads and see which numbers have changed and, potentially, why.
Two Big NFL Week 18 Spread Moves
Two games in Week 18 saw huge movement likely based on Week 17 results. One of these games is now totally meaningless, but the other was always likely to matter to one team. But, Week 17 happened, and now the market has moved based on one of the biggest blowouts of the season.
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Jan. 6, 12:30 p.m. ET|
|Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars||Colts -9.5||Colts -15.5|
|Washington Football Team at NY Giants||Football Team -4||Football Team -7 (-106)|
Colts At Jaguars
These teams played a pretty competitive game in Indy in the middle of the season, with the Colts prevailing 23-17. At that point, the Colts were just climbing back to .500 and the Jags had yet to embark on their current eight-game losing streak.
The latest and probably greatest embarrassment came in Week 17. The Patriots, far from playing their best football of late, flattened Jacksonville 50-10.
DVOA now has the Jags as the worst team by a fair margin.
It’s interesting that this line moved almost a touchdown despite the Colts also playing pretty poorly in a 23-20 loss to Las Vegas. But with an average margin of almost -18 during their skid, the Jags have proven they need the biggest spreads in the league.
Football Team At Giants
There has been a lot of bad football played this season, as with any. But, what the Giants did on Sunday probably takes the crown for the most embarrassing game by any team.
They simply didn’t try in a 29-3 rout at the hands of the Bears. They didn’t look like they belonged on the same field as a team one measly game ahead of them in the standings. You don’t often see a team finish with -6 net passing yards, but the Giants managed it. They somehow attempted only 11 passes, content to bleed the clock with running plays until the loss was in the books.
A similar game plan against Washington this week would surely yield similar results. NFL teams are simply too full of players going hard to earn their next contracts for a team to cover single-digit numbers while going through the motions.
Jake Fromm looks like he’ll draw a start for the Giants at QB a few weeks after he posted a 6-for-17 line for 25 yards and 1 INT. That alone might merit this line move.
Small NFL Week 18 Spread Moves In The Most Important Games
Two of the most meaningful games of Week 18 actually saw some movement, maybe a bit of a surprise considering these should have been some of the easier games to line.
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Jan. 6, 12:30 p.m. ET|
|San Francisco 49ers at LA Rams||Rams -6.5||Rams -4 (-114)|
|LA Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders||Chargers -2.5||Chargers -3 (-112)|
49ers At Rams
Going into Week 17, one had to be concerned for the near future for the 49ers at QB. Jimmy Garoppolo was on ice with a hand injury and Trey Lance looked in over his head in his brief cameos.
Lo and behold, Lance actually fired 10.8 YPA with 2 TDs and 1 INT. And those yards didn’t come courtesy of a bunch of Kyle Shanahan scheming that inflated his total with yards after the catch. No, Lance’s 11.5 air YPA set a team record over the past three seasons.
Perhaps that improved showing, along with another disappointing day by Matt Stafford and the Rams, drove this line to inch downward. The surface stats look fine. Stafford ranks 10th in EPA+CPOE composite and the team’s passing offense ranks eighth in DVOA. But, Stafford’s hot-and-cold play makes this team hard to trust laying a decent chunk of points to a solid 49ers unit.
Chargers At Raiders
Surprisingly, this move comes after a week in which the Raiders toppled the fairly heavily favored Colts on the road. Certainly, the game did not appear to be a fluke, either. The Raiders outgained the Colts, lost the turnover battle 2-0, and allowed a 45-yard miracle TD that two players should have intercepted.
Additionally, Las Vegas gets its most talented player, TE Darren Waller, back from injury.
The Chargers dominated the teams’ previous matchup by forcing the Raiders to continually throw short, something Derek Carr is often all too happy to do. Can the Raiders make the offensive adjustments here to threaten them deep while also better taking advantage of a putrid run defense?
Raiders backers are getting an awfully good price to find out.
Why FanDuel Kept Some Games Off The Board
|Game||FanDuel Look-Ahead Line||DraftKings Look-Ahead Line||Jan. 6, 12:30 p.m. ET|
|Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos||OTB||Chiefs -3||Chiefs -10 (-112)|
|Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions||OTB||Packers -11||Packers -3.5 (-112)|
|New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins||OTB||Patriots -2.5||Patriots -6.5|
|Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||OTB||Buccaneers -16.5||Buccaneers -8|
Of final note are a few interesting games, ones for which DraftKings Sportsbook provided a look-ahead line but FanDuel Sportsbook did not.
However, in the other four, the opening line for Week 18 moved drastically. As you can see above, several moved more than a full touchdown.
Basically all of these NFL Week 18 spread move come down to motivation:
- If the Chiefs had won and the Titans had lost, they’d have sewn up their third straight No. 1 seed and been able to rest players. Instead, they have to win just to maintain the No. 2 seed, so the line reflects their increased urgency.
- The Packers have nothing for which to play. While Coach Matt LaFleur claims they will play starters, the market seems skeptical and has adjusted massively.
- Miami had a chance to fight for a playoff spot but lost to the Titans and saw other results fail to fall their way. They’re eliminated and probably won’t have as much juice for Week 18.
The one that looks a bit more interesting is Panthers at Bucs. Tampa can still land anywhere between No. 2 and No. 4, with the latter seed leading to a certain date with Arizona. One would expect them to angle away from this matchup, and Coach Bruce Arians has said on record the team won’t rest anyone.
Yet among NFL Week 18 spreads, this line has crashed compared to the look-ahead number and the closing line in Week 16, when Tampa wound up double-digit road favorites and covered easily. Perhaps the market doubts Arians’ trustworthiness on the matter and expects a skeleton crew from the Bucs.
NFL Week 18 Spreads, Movement Tracker
|Game||Look-Ahead Line||Jan. 6, 12:30 p.m. ET||Jan. 9, 9:15 a.m. ET|
|Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos||OTB||Chiefs -10 (-112)||N/A|
|Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles||Cowboys -3.5||Cowboys -5||N/A|
|Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions||OTB||Packers -3.5 (-112)||Packers -3 (-115)|
|Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings||Vikings -5.5||Vikings -5.5||Vikings -4 (-114)|
|Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars||Colts -9.5||Colts -15.5||Colts -14.5|
|Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans||OTB||Titans -10 (-115)||Titans -10 (-115)|
|Washington Football Team at NY Giants||Football Team -4||Football Team -7 (-106)||Football Team -7|
|Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens||Ravens -6||Ravens -6||Ravens -3.5|
|Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns||Browns -1||Browns -6||Browns -5.5|
|New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins||OTB||Patriots -6.5||Patriots -6|
|NY Jets at Buffalo Bills||Bills -17||Bills -16.5 (-108)||Bills -16.5 (-108)|
|Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||OTB||Buccaneers -8||Buccaneers -9|
|New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons||Saints -3.5||Saints -4 (-114)||Saints -3.5 (-106)|
|Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals||Cardinals -5||Cardinals -6.5 (-114)||Cardinals -5.5 (-108)|
|San Francisco 49ers at LA Rams||Rams -6.5||Rams -4 (-114)||Rams -3.5 (-106)|
|LA Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders||Chargers -2.5||Chargers -3 (-112)||Chargers -3 (-112)|