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NFL Week 18 best bets: Three games with intriguing early lines

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush throws during a game.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush might start Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.
(Ron Jenkins / Associated Press)
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The final week of the regular season is nearly here and there are some games that mean a lot and some games that mean little. Everybody will be fixated on the matchups that have postseason implications, but we also have to play a game of “Who’s in and Who’s out” because teams will be resting players to get ready for the playoffs.

Here are some interesting early lines for Week 18, despite all of the moving parts, but keep betting action light until more clarity arrives with each team’s roster situation.

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Washington Football Team (-6.5, 38) at New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Genard Avery, right, sacks Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke.
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Genard Avery, right, sacks Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke on Sunday.
(Mark Tenally / Associated Press)

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Washington blew a 16-7 halftime lead and was eliminated from playoff contention by the Eagles. This line was -4 on the lookahead and, despite the loss, went up when the Sunday night spreads were posted. That is because the Giants looked embarrassingly bad against the Bears in a 29-3 loss. Mike Glennon put the Giants behind early and they never recovered, managing just 151 yards of offense and 2.7 yards per play.

Glennon completed four of 11 passes for 24 yards and threw two interceptions, along with a very costly fumble that led to Chicago ’s first score. The Giants ran the ball 40 times in the game and could very well give the Week 18 start to Jake Fromm.

Washington has battled admirably. The Football Team believes in coach Ron Rivera. The same probably can’t be said of the Giants’ faith in coach Joe Judge. Washington has dropped four in a row, but two have been against the Cowboys and two against the Eagles. The Giants are nowhere near a playoff-caliber team and it would be shocking if New York shows up at all in the finale.

Pick: Washington -6.5

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Dallas Cowboys (-2.5, 41) vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew throws against the New York Jets on Dec. 5.
(Bill Kostroun / Associated Press)

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Based on the playoff scenarios, this total was adjusted from a lookahead line of 44.5 down to 40. The Cowboys already clinched a playoff spot, but the loss to the Cardinals means that they are highly unlikely to move up in the standings. That means Dallas is likely to rest guys, especially with Michael Gallup’s torn anterior cruciate ligament.

However, this game looks like a matchup between quarterbacks Cooper Rush and Gardner Minshew. With Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb at his disposal, Rush threw for 325 yards against the Vikings earlier this season when pushed into starting duties. Minshew gives the Eagles a much different dynamic as a better thrower than Jalen Hurts. He was 20 of 25 for 242 yards with a couple of touchdowns against the Jets in Week 13. Minshew is an experienced starter that has almost 5,800 career passing yards.

A lot of big names are likely to sit this one out, but both quarterbacks need to go through the playbook in case they are called upon. I think we could see a higher-scoring game here with some players getting opportunities and a lot of key defensive starters probably on the sideline.

Pick: Over 41

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Kansas City Chiefs (-10, 44.5) at Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes passes against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
(David Dermer / Associated Press)

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There are a couple of plays to consider in this game. The Chiefs are still playing for seeding, while the Broncos don’t have much to play for, though the players might come with a big effort if they feel like coach Vic Fangio is on the chopping block.

Defensively, the Broncos have had a lot of big efforts. Sunday’s game was the first time since Week 10 that Denver allowed more than 22 points. The game included a kick-return touchdown for the Chargers and some other short fields, one from a muffed punt return. It was an ugly day on special teams for Denver.

The Chiefs were held to 4.9 yards per play by the Broncos in the first meeting. Denver actually moved the ball well, but had three turnovers, including a 75-yard pick-six. Drew Lock is not Teddy Bridgewater, though, and the Broncos offense has produced just 36 points in the last three games. Expect a low-scoring game here. Lean toward Denver, but taking the under is the preferred pick here.

Pick: Under 44.5

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