The final week of the regular season is here. A lot has already been decided, including 11 playoff spots and six division titles. Sure, teams are playing for things like seeding and pride. However, a lot of games on this weekend's slate don't matter much in terms of the overall picture. Some teams are deciding to rest players for the playoffs, and other players are calling it a season and opting for early surgery. There's also the motivational aspect to handicap.
Lines have been moving during the week as we get a clearer picture of what teams are going to do. Certain teams are being more open about resting players, while other teams are keeping it close to the vest. Which games have seen the biggest line moves? All betting lines are as of Thursday afternoon and courtesy of BetMGM.
Both quarterbacks out in Browns-Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals have clinched the AFC North. They would need two rather improbable results in order to get a first-round bye, so they probably shouldn't pin their hopes on that. On the other side, the Cleveland Browns have been eliminated from playoff contention.
Joe Burrow will skip Sunday's game to rest up for the playoffs after taking a hit to his knee on the last play of Cincinnati's Week 17 win over the Chiefs. Baker Mayfield will be held out of the Browns' final game as he prepares for offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
As a result, we're expecting to see Brandon Allen for Cincinnati and Case Keenum for Cleveland under center on Sunday. As a result, the total for Browns-Bengals currently sits at 38 points after opening at 44.
In addition, the Browns are 6-point home favorites over the Bengals. The Bengals were 2.5-point favorites earlier in the week when it was expected that Burrow would play. The downgrade from Burrow to Allen is significant, while you can't say the same about the downgrade from the current version of Mayfield to Keenum.
What's Green Bay going to do?
When the Green Bay Packers clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC West last weekend, the Detroit Lions were actually betting favorites over the Packers in Week 18 for a short bit. Almost everyone assumed the Packers would certainly rest Aaron Rodgers, who has been fighting through a toe injury for quite a while.
However, Packers coach Matt LaFleur expressed hesitation about resting his starters. He doesn't like the idea of his key players going basically three weeks between meaningful snaps. There's no time to shake off rust in the divisional round of the playoffs. As a result, the Packers are 4-point favorites over the Lions.
However, that line seems short. If the complete version of the Packers were playing the Lions, this line would certainly eclipse double digits. There's a growing consensus that the Packers might treat this like a preseason game. Rodgers and other stars might play a few series before hitting the bench. As a result, the market doesn't know exactly how things will go. This game is a tough handicap.
What about the meaningful games?
There are four games on Sunday's schedule that are definitely meaningful. The Saints, Colts, Raiders, Chargers and 49ers all need wins. What's the market telling us about the key matchups?
Atlanta-New Orleans: The Saints opened as 5.5-point favorites, but New Orleans is currently just a 4.5-point road favorite over the Falcons. Atlanta has been surprisingly competitive this season and would love to play spoiler against a divisional rival. New Orleans' offense is challenged, and that probably won't change just because it's a must-win game. New Orleans needs a win and San Francisco loss to clinch a playoff spot.
Jacksonville-Indianapolis: It's win and you're in for the Colts, and the betting market expects them to do just that. Indianapolis is a 15.5-point favorite over Jacksonville on the road. The market opened with the Colts as 14.5-point favorites. Indianapolis has not won in Jacksonville since September 2014.
San Francisco-L.A. Rams: The Rams opened as 5.5-point favorites against the 49ers. Los Angeles needs the win to clinch the NFC West, while the 49ers need the win to clinch a playoff spot. It's a big game for both teams, but the line has moved in favor of San Francisco. The 49ers are now just 4.5-point underdogs against the Rams.
L.A. Chargers-Las Vegas: The granddaddy of them all this weekend, it's win and you're in for both the Chargers and Raiders on Sunday night. Los Angeles opened as a 2.5-point road favorite over Las Vegas. It seems like the public favors the Chargers to get the job done. The line currently has the Chargers favored by 3 points.
Jake Fromm will start for the Giants and Joe Judge is losing his sanity. The Football Team is a 7-point favorite over the Giants after the line opened at 6.
Both Dallas and Philadelphia might rest players, but the Eagles have been more vocal about the possibility. As a result, the Cowboys have gone from 2.5-point favorites to 4-point favorites.
Can the Steelers get up on a short week after the emotions of Ben Roethlisberger's last home game? The Ravens opened as 4.5-point favorites, but Baltimore is currently laying 6 points against the Steelers.
Kirk Cousins has cleared COVID protocols and will start in Week 18 for the Vikings. As a result, the Vikings have gone from 3.5-point favorites to 5.5-point favorites.