The Court’s Decision – 2021 Week 18 Quick Picks – Penny Bolstering Seattle’s Run Game, But Hawks Set To Face Long Offseason

No matter what happens during this weekend’s conclusion to the NFL regular season, one thing is certain – the Seattle Seahawks’ 2021-22 campaign will be over after Sunday. For the first time since 2017, Seattle won’t be playing in the postseason. And for the first time since 2011 – the last year Russell Wilson wasn’t on the team – the Seahawks will finish with a losing record. It’s been a disappointing season for Seattle, to say the least, but the team could end on a high note by defeating the Arizona Cardinals on the road in Week 18.

These two teams last faced off in Week 11, when Arizona downed Seattle 23-13 without quarterback Kyler Murray. The win kept the Cardinals atop the entire league at 9-2 while the Seahawks fell to 3-7. Arizona improved to 10-2 following its Week 12 bye but went on to lose three straight from Weeks 14-16 before beating Dallas last weekend. Over that time, the Cardinals have fallen from the No. 1 seed in the NFC to No. 5. Green Bay locked up the NFC’s top seed in Week 17, but Arizona could finish at No. 2, 3, or 5 depending on what unfolds this weekend.

Seattle could play spoiler and force the Cards to play a road playoff game during Wild Card Weekend. With the emergence of Rashaad Penny – the Seahawks’ first round pick (27th overall) in the 2018 draft – Seattle’s offense has been dynamic of late. In Penny’s four starts, the 5-11, 220-pound running back has rushed for 481 yards and five touchdowns on 69 carries, good for an average of 120.25 yards per game and 6.97 yards per carry. The team has averaged 29.5 points and 177 yards rushing in Penny’s starts this season, including a 51-point outburst (and 265 yards on the ground) in a win over Detroit last week. Penny had 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Lions. Before Week 14, Seattle averaged 19.9 points and 97 yards rushing.

Will the Seahawks use their newly found offensive resurgence to close out their season on a positive note? Or will they fall short of seven wins for the first time since their 5-11 finish in 2009?

We’ll get to that as we conclude the 2021-22 regular season picks segment after a couple of weeks away from the holidays.

My season picks record: 10-6 in Week 15, 124-71 overall

Seattle (6-10) at Arizona (11-5)

Even with the recent surge in offensive production, Seattle will have a tough matchup on the road against a team fighting for playoff positioning. Arizona has shown it’s far from perfect over the last five weeks, but a 7-0 start and a 10-2 record 13 weeks into the season show how good this team can be.

With more to play for, I see Arizona taking this one.

Pick: Cardinals 26, Seahawks 20

Kansas City (11-5) at Denver (7-9) – Saturday

The Broncos have been lackluster on offense this season, ranking 23rd in points scored and 19th in yards gained. However, Denver’s defense ranks No. 3 in points allowed and No. 9 in yards allowed. Kansas City’s stats are almost reversed as the Chiefs are 13th in points allowed and 26th in yards allowed but boast the fourth-highest scoring offense and are No. 3 in yards gained.

Denver’s defense played well enough to win in a 22-9 loss to Kansas City in Week 13, but the offense never found its footing. I expect a more lopsided outcome this time around.

Pick: Chiefs 33, Broncos 13

Dallas (11-5) at Philadelphia (9-7) – Saturday

The Cowboys seem to falter at the worst times. Their offense looked pedestrian in Week 17 against Arizona, and Dallas dropped a winnable game. However, the Eagles might be missing some key players due to COVID concerns.

The Cowboys have a chance to move up to No. 2 in playoff seeding, which means Dallas will be going all out.

Pick: Cowboys 41, Eagles 23

Cincinnati (10-6) at Cleveland (7-9)

What has Joe Burrow been eating? The Bengals QB followed up a 525-yard, four-touchdown performance in Week 16 with a 446-yard, four-TD encore in Week 17. He also led Cincinnati to the AFC North title. The Browns have lost three straight and are eliminated from playoff contention.

Cleveland entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, but the team is clearly ready for vacation. Cincy should win easily.

Pick: Bengals 31, Browns 20

Green Bay (13-3) at Detroit (2-13-1)

It will be interesting to see how Green Bay handles its starters in a meaningless game as the team already clinched the NFC’s top seed. I’d bet the starters start but are replaced after halftime or the third quarter – like a preseason game.

I don’t see Detroit having enough to defeat Green Bay even in the above scenario.

Pick: Packers 23, Lions 16

Chicago (6-10) at Minnesota (7-9)

We get to our first matchup of teams entirely out of playoff contention. This one is all about pride… but it’s also about talent. There’s simply more talent on the Vikings’ side.

Chicago could be without Justin Fields, but that won’t really affect the outcome. Minnesota wins regardless.

Pick: Vikings 27, Bears 17

Washington (6-10) at New York Giants (4-12)

Another meaningless game – unless you consider draft order, of course. Who are we kidding, though? New York is an absolute disaster without Daniel Jones. Washington won’t have any issues here.

Pick: WFT 34, Giants 10

Indianapolis (9-7) at Jacksonville (2-14)

The Colts dropped a winnable game at home against Las Vegas in Week 17. A win gets Indy into the postseason. It’s still possible for the Colts to clinch with a loss, but they’d need some help.

Is there any way Indy drops this one? I don’t think so. Look for Jonathan Taylor to run all over Jacksonville.

Pick: Colts 38, Jaguars 10

Pittsburgh (8-7-1) at Baltimore (8-8)

This is likely Ben Roethlisberger’s final regular season game ever, and quite possibly his final game of any kind if the Steelers fail to reach the playoffs. Both teams have been severely inconsistent this season, and both will need help to reach the postseason even with a win.

If nothing else, Baltimore will take pleasure in ending Pittsburgh’s season.

Pick: Ravens 24, Steelers 21

Tennessee (11-5) at Houston (4-12)

Tennessee has somehow weathered its storm of injuries this season as the Titans currently hold the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Last year’s 2,000-yard rusher, Derrick Henry, returned to practice this week and could play in this game. If Henry plays, I wouldn’t expect him to get a full workload.

The Texans have a knack for sticking around against superior teams, but regardless of Henry’s status and workload, Tennessee is the better team.

Pick: Titans 25, Texans 19

New Orleans (8-8) at Atlanta (7-9)

The Saints have a shot at the postseason while the Falcons are done. That doesn’t mean Atlanta is just gonna rollover. I think Matt Ryan will play well in his season finale.

That being said, I believe New Orleans will pull out a close one.

Pick: Saints 20, Falcons 17

New York Jets (4-12) at Buffalo (10-6)

The Bills have had a couple of inexplicable losses this season – namely a 9-6 Week 9 loss to Jacksonville – but this one is gonna be a route for Buffalo.

Pick: Bills 39, Jets 14

San Francisco (9-7) at Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

This is among the more intriguing games in Week 18. The 49ers need this one to get into the playoffs while the Rams can clinch the NFC West division title with a win of their own. Matt Stafford has thrown five interceptions over his last two games, but Los Angeles has found ways to win both. 

This one will be an exciting, close slugfest. And LA should come out on top.

Pick: Rams 24, 49ers 22

New England (10-6) at Miami (8-8)

It was quite a season for the Dolphins. After starting 1-7, Miami won six straight games to get right in the thick of the AFC playoff picture. However, the Phins were officially eliminated in Week 17. Nothing would make Miami happier (outside of making the playoffs itself) than keeping the Patriots out of the postseason. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, New England has already clinched a playoff berth. The Phins can still play spoiler a bit and force the Pats to play a Wild Card game on the road.

That’s not going to happen, though. New England wins here.

Pick: Patriots 30, Dolphins 20

Carolina (5-11) at Tampa Bay (12-4)

We all heard the drama surrounding recently released Antonio Brown and the Buccaneers organization, but how will Tampa respond? 

I think losing divas like Brown ultimately helps a team focus. Plus, Carolina is bad.

Pick: Buccaneers 32, Panthers 15

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

Possibly the game of the week right here – winner goes to the playoffs, loser might face elimination. On Sunday Night to boot.

This could be where we see the ascension of Justin Herbert as he leads LA into the playoffs.

Pick: Chargers 31, Raiders 27

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