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Vilardo: 2023 Week 18 NFL West Power Rankings & Previews

With one week left in the regular season, the playoffs and 2024 draft order will take shape

Posted on January 4, 2024

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

The Niners wrapped up the top seed in the NFC and the Chiefs wrapped up the division for the eighth straight season. As much as things change in the NFL, some things remain the same.

But since it is the NFL and anything can happen from year to year, we will see the Rams back in the playoffs with a big turnaround from last season.

As one week remains in the regular season, we will see the playoffs get set for the teams at the top and the draft order take shape for those at the bottom of the league.

Week 17 saw my game picks perform well, but the strength of my selections this season, the point totals, took a bit of a dive in the penultimate week of the regular season.

For my picks for the entire NFL this week, I went 11-5 overall with a 9-6-1 mark against the spread and a 7-9 over/under totals.

Season long I’m now 162-98 overall, 132-116-9 ATS, 142-106-8 O/U.

Below are my Week 18 Power Rankings for the eight teams with a quick look at the upcoming week’s matchups and my game picks.

1. San Francisco 49ers (12-4) ◄►

Commanders Review 

San Francisco went to Washington and collected a win over the Commanders. That win coupled with the Eagles’ loss to Arizona has clinched the number one seed in the NFC for the 49ers.

With the One-Seed comes homefield advantage throughout and more importantly a week off in the opening round of the playoffs. San Francisco can use that off week.

They got the win in Washington but hardly looked like the juggernaut they were earlier in the season. The next two weeks will offer the Niners a chance to refuel the tank and get banged-up players back to—or close to—100%.

The defense for certain could use some extra time off. Against Washington, the offense struggled in the red zone.

This season the Niners are second in the league with scores on 65% of their trips to the scoring zone, in Washington, they converted on just three of six trips.

Los Angeles Rams Preview 

Sunday, January 7
1:25 pm PT, FOX

The 49ers and Rams will meet in Santa Clara and the Niners don’t have anything to play for at all. They are locked into the one seed.

San Francisco will have a bye in the opening round of the playoffs, so they won’t want to completely take the week off. This time of year, staying in rhythm can sometimes be just as important as having time off.

One week off is good, two weeks off can cause issues for a team in the playoffs.

It will be interesting to see how Kyle Shanahan and the Niners play this one. Christian McCaffrey will probably not see a lot of action as he could use the week off to get his calf injury under control.

My Pick: Rams 23, 49ers 20

[Advice: The Rams are 4-point underdogs. Los Angeles covers and get the win. The point total goes over 42.5.]

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) ◄►

Bengals Review 

The Chiefs wrapped up their eighth consecutive AFC West title with a win over Cincinnati. The eighth in a row stands as the second-longest streak in NFL history.

The offensive woes were fixed slightly in Week 17. The main reason was the return of form for Isaiah Pacheco.

The running back ended up with 165 yards and a touchdown on 18 rushing attempts and seven receptions and provided a spark that the Chiefs were missing.

The Chiefs offense, especially the passing game, still has its issues. Kansas City has 39 dropped passes this season, the most in the NFL and their drop rate of 6.8% is the highest in the NFL.

Against Cincinnati, it was Maquez Valdes-Scantling with the dropsies. Patrick Mahomes has had a career-high 14 interceptions. Mahomes is fourth in the league with 76.7% of his passes being on target.

The actual completion percentage is 67.2% and seventh in the league.

Los Angeles Chargers Preview 

Sunday, January 7
1:25 pm PT, CBS

The Chiefs will finish the season with a trip to LA to meet the Chargers. Getting the offense rolling against a struggling LA team would be very tempting.

The Chargers are one of the worst teams against the pass in the NFL. Kansas City might be better off getting a week of rest for Mahomes and most of the starters.

The Chiefs are locked into the Three-Seed regardless of the outcome in the season finale. It certainly gives them some flexibility in how they approach this game.

That certainly does not make it easy for any of us to predict what will happen. The way the Chargers have been playing, it may not make much difference what the Chiefs do, and they still may win.

My Pick: Chiefs 17, Chargers 13

[Advice: The Chiefs are 3-point underdogs. I think they cover and win outright. Under 36 is the big play in this one.]

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-7) ◄►

Giants Review 

The Rams are two games over .500 for the first time since 2021 and with the win over the Giants along with the Seattle loss, LA is headed back to the playoffs.

In the win, Puka Nacua had his seventh game this season with at least 100 receiving yards, tied for the second most by a rookie in NFL history. The rookie out of BYU has been huge for the offense all season long.

The one-point win over the Giants was not secured until the very end and it was far from the Rams’ best performance of the season.

Lucas Havrisik missed two more extra-point attempts and the Rams gave up a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown.

The Rams committed three turnovers and a lost fumble. They gave up a punt return for a touchdown for the second time in four games.

San Francisco 49ers Preview 

Sunday, January 7
1:25 pm PT, FOX

Los Angeles has plenty of things to get corrected heading into the playoffs. The Rams are still playing for seeding, the Niners are not.

The Rams have not defeated the 49ers in the regular season since 2018, a string of nine games. All of that leads to another interesting matchup in the season finale.

Everything seems to point to LA locking up win number 10 on the season.

My Pick: Rams 23, 49ers 20

[Advice: The Rams are 4-point underdogs. The Rams cover and get the win. The point total goes over 42.5.]

4. Seattle Seahawks (8-8) ◄►

Steelers Review 

Seattle got pushed around in their home stadium in a pivotal game.

The Steelers were starting a backup QB and the Seahawks let a big one get away from them at home. Pittsburgh had 145 rushing yards in the first half—the most rushing yards by the Steelers in a half since 2016.

For the day, Seattle allowed 202 on the ground. The Steelers ran 71 plays compared to Seattle’s 49. The Seahawks entered the weekend in control of their playoff fate.

Now they need a win in the season finale and will need help from Chicago against Green Bay.

Arizona Cardinals Preview 

Sunday, January 7
1:25 pm PT, FOX

It is pretty simple for Seattle: Beat Arizona or have no chance at the playoffs.

The Seahawks are 1-4 against the NFC West this season, with the lone win coming against the Cardinals. In the 20-10 win at home over Arizona in Week 7, the Seahawks limited the Cardinals to 249 yards of total offense.

Arizona only ran for 127 yards in that one. In the last six games Seattle has allowed 170 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals have run the ball for 182.3 yards per game in their last three contests.

Seattle does their part and will look for an assist from Chicago.

My Pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 20

[Advice: Seattle will cover the 2.5 points. The total stays just under the 47 that are on offer.]

5. Denver Broncos (8-8) ▲1

Chargers Review 

The Broncos turned to Jarrett Stidham for their Week 17 matchup against the Chargers because he gave them the best chance to get “Win No. 8.”

Well, they got win No. 8 but the passing game did not move the needle much against the league’s 30th-ranked defense against the pass.

Stidham finished the game by going 20-32 for 224 yards and one touchdown and did it without the services of Courtland Sutton. Did they get the spark they were looking for?

Getting 16 points is hardly a jolt to the offense, but they did get the win. The way this team has been playing defense the last half of the season all they need is a QB that’s going to take care of the ball and keep things moving.

Stidham did that and will get another chance to stake his claim to the 2024 starting job in week 18.

Las Vegas Raiders Preview 

Sunday, January 7
1:25 pm PT, FOX

The playoffs are no longer an option for Denver this season. Despite their win, they were eliminated due to wins by the Steelers and Chiefs. The 1-5 start to the season proved too much to overcome.

The strong finish should give hope for 2024 and Week 18 will be a chance for Stidham to prove he can be the guy for the Broncos.

Denver has lost their last seven games against the Raiders. The last time Denver picked up a win in the series was at the tail end of the 2019 season. It was a one-point win for the Raiders in the first meeting in week one.

The Broncos are playing better football now than they were at the start of the season but so is Las Vegas and the Raiders offense is a lot better today than it was in September. Denver will need to get some takeaways and fluster Aidan O’Connell.

My Pick: Raiders 20, Broncos 17

[Advice: Las Vegas is a 2-point favorite at home, they will just barely cover that and get the win. The point total stays under 38.]

6. Las Vegas Raiders (7-9) ▼1

Colts Review 

The Raiders have gone 4-4 since the coaching change. Is that going to be enough to earn Antonio Pierce the full-time gig?

While there has been a lot of improvement, they had a few stinkers in there—the 3-0 loss to the Vikings being one.

The loss to the Colts officially eliminated the Raiders from the playoffs and was another one that will not do any favors for Pierce.

The Raiders had a spirited comeback but came out flat in a game that had serious playoff implications.

Aidan O’Connell threw the ball for 299 yards on 47 pass attempts as the rookie from Purdue is starting to show more command of the offense.

The defense that created points in the win over Kansas City did not shine against the Colts.

Denver Broncos Preview 

Sunday, January 7
1:25 pm PT, FOX

The season finale offers a bit of a meaningless game in the standings with both the Broncos and Raiders already out of playoff contention. I think the Raiders will have more to fight and more to play for.

There is a lot of clamoring for Jim Harbaugh to head to Las Vegas. If the players want Pierce to get the job, they will need to show up in this one, and that actually might not be enough to ensure that.

If O’Connell can build off of the performance in Indianapolis the Raiders should produce enough offense to beat Denver. Maxx Crosby and the Raiders defensive front could make things difficult for Jarrett Stidham.

My Pick: Raiders 20, Broncos 17

[Advice: Las Vegas is a 2-point favorite at home, they will just barely cover that and get the win. The point total stays under 38.]

7. Arizona Cardinals (4-12) ▲1

Eagles Review 

Arizona has won four games this season, and two of them have been over the Cowboys and Eagles. Maybe Arizona needs to be back in the NFC East that they occupied for so long?

Kyler Murray had his best game of the season in the win over Philadelphia, completing over 80% of his passes for 232 yards and three TDs in the big upset.

The Cardinals offense as a whole performed against Philly with 449 yards of offense. This is some positive momentum to close out year one for Johnathan Gannon.

Seattle Seahawks Preview 

Sunday, January 7
1:25 pm PT, FOX

Can the Cardinals keep that momentum rolling for one more week?

The Seahawks have struggled against the run in recent weeks while Arizona has found something on the offensive side of things and in the ground game.

If Arizona can produce yardage and move the ball on the ground, they could close out the season with three wins in their final five games.

The Cardinals could still end up with anything from the second pick in the draft to the seventh pick.

My Pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 20

[Advice: Seattle will cover the 2.5 points. The total stays just under the 47 that are on offer.]

8. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) ▼1

Broncos Review 

Khalil Mack picked up a sack against the Broncos to give him a career-high 16 on the season. It was also the 100th of his career and he became the 19th player to reach 100 sacks in his first 10 seasons.

In a season that has been a disappointment in so many ways, Mack has been a consistent bright spot, a player who has been on the other side of things this season is Austin Ekeler.

Against Denver it was more of the same for the running back. He lost his fourth fumble of the season in the loss and did not catch a pass until just over eight minutes remaining in the game.

Kansas City Chiefs Preview 

Sunday, January 7
1:25 pm PT, CBS

The Chargers finish things out against a Kansas City team that is playing for nothing. The Chiefs are locked into the Three-Seed in the AFC and will get some rest for a lot of their stars.

I still am not sure it is going to matter that much. The Chargers offense has been rough over the last few weeks and while we may not see a lot of Patrick Mahomes, we also will still not see Justin Herbert.

Easton Stick and the Chargers still won’t have enough for the win in this game.

My Pick: Chiefs 17, Chargers 13

[Advice: The Chiefs are 3-point underdogs. I think they cover and win outright. Under 36 is the big play in this one.]

—More from Stephen Vilardo—