2021 NFL picks, score predictions for Week 18

The Indianapolis Star
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NFL picks and predictions
NFL picks and predictions – Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images /

Los Angeles Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas Raiders (9-7)

Sunday, January 9, 8:20PM ET

The only true play-in game of Week 18, this one has the makings of a spectacular football game. Two 9-7 AFC West teams, desperately clinging to dreams of postseason glory. Whoever wins is guaranteed a Wild Card spot, while the other most likely watches from the comfort of home.

There’s a reason this is the final game of Week 18 — it’s going to be dramatic. By the time kickoff arrives, we’ll know what the scenarios are. While the idea of an agreed-upon tie has been floated if certain pieces fall into place, don’t get your hopes up. These two teams are going to fight to the death to punch the other out of the postseason.

Despite the Las Vegas Raiders’ sudden surge, I’m rolling with the Los Angeles Chargers to get the win here. Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ offense has been outstanding down the stretch, and the Los Angeles defense is playing well (albeit, a bit inconsistent). While the Raiders have enjoyed three-straight wins, the train stops here.

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The Raiders haven’t been that great at home this year, and the Chargers have been the better overall team throughout the season. Herbert outduels Derek Carr, and Los Angeles secures their spot in the postseason with a hard-fought win in the 2021 season finale.

Prediction: Chargers win 23-21 | Spread: Chargers (-3)