Betting News & Analysis

Best last-minute NFL bets ahead of Week 18

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs the ball for a 69 yard touchdown during the second half against the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium. Colts won 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Late-week betting action isn’t the best approach if long-term profitability is the goal. Game spreads and totals become increasingly sharp moving closer to kickoff, which is why betting game lines early in the week is the best approach. 

If betting early in the week isn’t an option, then targeting other markets where lines aren’t stale is key. Beating these markets takes a different approach than those focused solely on the game lines. We can take cues from bookmakers pricing the entire portfolio of offerings on a particular matchup. They arrive at the most likely path the game will travel and then use market dynamics to sharpen the number. In some way, game lines feed derivatives, player props and most other offerings under that matchup umbrella.


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We can start by seeing if there are any game lines we disagree with and utilize a couple of different approaches if so.

Mispriced scenarios should have even worse mispricing further downstream as errors compound. If the game line is only subtly off, it's smart to find where its errors are the most drastic.

Any sort of Miami Dolphins offensive production would have resulted in a perfect week from this column in Week 17. Unfortunately, that game total fell just short, pushing our written parlays to 1-1After a positive week, this column moves to 12-25 on the season, down -0.52 units (basically breakeven).

It’s time to close strong using the approaches above, let's find the best last-minute NFL bets ahead of Week 18.

DALLAS COWBOYS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Gauging each team's motivation for Saturday night is a tough endeavor. Philadelphia is locked into the playoffs and will either be the sixth or seventh seed, but that won’t be based on the outcome of this matchup. The Eagles are likely to rest some players, which is why this number shot up from a field goal differential to +6.5. 

PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Buy-back happened yesterday due to Dallas‘ COVID situation. Tyron Smith, Micah Parsons and Anthony Brown are already ruled out due to various ailments. On top of that, Dallas has questionable motivation, at best, in this matchup. The Cowboys are currently the fourth seed in the playoffs and have an outside shot to move all the way up to the No. 2 seed. 

Prior media expectations don’t accurately predict which teams will play their stars and which ones will opt to rest them — unless it was clearly stated by the coach. Previous seasons are littered with examples of teams that were expected to rest the final week of the regular season but actually kept the pedal to the floor.

Fading the drastic line movement can be a worthwhile opportunity, especially with a line as unsettled as this one. Given the current injury situation and lack of concrete information for both teams, we could expect this game to go over its 43.5-point total if Dak Prescott and Jalen Hurts both play. The movement already indicates that the market is buying into points, making it the perfect parlay on Saturday night. 

Pick:  Eagles +4.5 and Over 43.5 (+264 Caesars)

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

It’s not every day that a 14.5-point road favorite shows value in a betting model, but the Colts are popping out as one of the best betting values in Week 18. PFF’s NFL power rankings has these teams separated by 13.2 points on a neutral field. Motivation is one factor, but there’s an even better way to play this outcome. 

The PFF player props tool believes Jonathan Taylor will finish over 22.5 carries, finding 62.5% cover probability and providing value up to a -165 price. Taylor’s finished over his rushing carry opening number in 12 of 15 games this season while clearing this prop number in four of the past five games. Sportsbooks, unfortunately, aren’t allowing this in a same-game parlay right now, but some could open up closer to game time. 

PFF's Player Props Tool reveals betting opportunities within player prop markets.

If Taylor comes close to the 20-carry threshold in a game the Colts win by more than two touchdowns, the Jaguars‘ 26th-ranked run defense shouldn't provide much resistance. His rushing yardage prop is at 114.5 at the low end, paying out at +200 (alternate lines are providing higher odds). This payout is priced too high considering how correlated Taylor is to the Colts covering the spread. If you are feeling frisky, BetMGM offers the best price on the spread in the industry, and it pays out +575 on Taylor finishing over 169.5 rushing yards. 

Pick:  Colts -14.5 and Jonathan Taylor Over 169.5 Rushing Yards (+575 BetMGM)

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