Our Top NFL Week 18 Parlay: Best Bets for January 9

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Taysom Hill #7 of the New Orleans Saints. Julio Aguilar/Getty Images/AFP

There are so many nice betting options available for Week 18. Let’s take advantage of a parlay. Top sportsbooks have released their odds for the NFL’s Week 18 action. With this being the final week of the regular season, there are a lot of unique situational angles in play.

For this parlay, I wanted to avoid relying on teams that might lack motivation because they don’t have anything to play for. Two games, in particular, catch my eye: the 49ers vs. Rams and the Saints vs. Falcons. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the total in the first game and the spread in the second.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, January 9, 2022- 4:25 PM EST at SoFi Stadium 

Recent History

Since 2019, 49er head coach Kyle Shanahan has owned his Ram counterpart, Sean McVay. Despite all of his justified veneration as an offensive genius, McVay has not been able to help his team score reliably against Shanahan's squad.

Since 2019, the Rams are 0-5 against San Francisco. In these five games, they averaged 15.4 offensive points per game. For comparison's sake, they have averaged 24.4 offensive points against every other team in this same span.

The total is as high as it is because the Rams, their recent games notwithstanding, are characteristically a strong offensive unit. They rank ninth in points per game. By making the total this high, the NFL odds do not account for the Rams' offensive struggles against the 49ers.

More Recent History

When these two teams first met, the 49ers mustered 10 points. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for a relatively low YPA average and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. This low-scoring output against the 49ers is consistent with what recent Ram teams have done against them. This poor passing performance is also consistent with Stafford's most recent history.

Despite facing teams with poor and beleaguered secondaries, specifically Minnesota and Baltimore, Stafford has thrown five touchdowns to three interceptions in his last two games which were against the Vikings and Ravens.

His high interception total against Baltimore was particularly surprising because the Ravens rank very low in interceptions. The point that I want to convey with our NFL picks in mind is that Stafford is struggling mightily and the 49ers are the last team he wants to face with the hope of improving himself.

While Cam Akers could return for this game, he hasn't played all season due to his Achilles tear while Darrell Henderson remains injured. So the Rams' preferred committee of running backs won't be there to support L.A.'s suffering passing game.

Defensive Adjustments

When these teams first met, the 49ers scored 24 points on offense and seven off a pick-six off a dropped pass. They thrived on the ground against the Rams. Arizona did the same thing in its first meeting with the Rams, amassing 216 rushing yards to dominate the time of possession in its 37-20 victory.

When L.A. met Arizona again, the latter mustered 113 fewer rushing yards and 14 fewer points. Evidently, the Rams can make adjustments in order to limit an opposing ground game. The key is for their defensive line, spearheaded by six-time All-Pro selection Aaron Donald, to be physical and aggressive.

I do think that the 49ers can still move the ball, but they will do so in a labored manner with their dink-and-dunk taking advantage of Ram defensive coordinator Raheem Morris' soft zone. The 49ers, though, are primarily a running team -- they own the fourth-highest run-play percentage.

Their offense will struggle and whatever progress their offense does make will help the "under" by draining the clock and preventing the opponent from starting with too strong a field position.

New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, January 9, 2022- 4:25 PM EST at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Saints' Ground Game

Especially with Taysom Hill, who is most regarded for his running ability, and with star Alvin Kamara, the Saints want to run the ball. They are in a solid spot against Atlanta's 26th-ranked run defense, which just allowed Devin Singletary, for normally pass-first Buffalo, to achieve his highest rushing total of the season.

As Josh Allen for Buffalo, Cam Newton for Carolina, and Taylor Heinicke for Washington can attest, the Falcon run defense is vulnerable against mobile quarterbacks, allowing them to net many strong gains and to achieve high yardage totals and efficient performances. Keep these examples in mind for your best bets.

When Taysom Hill started against Atlanta last year, he amassed two rushing touchdowns in their first meeting and over 80 rushing yards in the second. While the Falcons have a new defensive coordinator this year, nothing indicates that they can limit Hill.

New Orleans' Defense

The Saints have been hindered by injuries and COVID. But then they got key defensive starters back for a unit that is already one of the best at limiting opposing scoring. Last week, they accumulated eight sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport now have close to 20 sacks combined.

They did allow Miami to reach 20 points, but in that contest, they also had to start Ian Book at quarterback who was completely lost and who couldn't sustain drives at all. He also threw a pick-six. Besides that game, most recently Carolina, Tampa Bay, and the Jets failed to exceed 10 points against New Orleans.

Be aware of this recent history for your sports betting. An Atlanta team with few offensive weapons and limited pass protection -- it ranks 20th in limiting opposing sack rate -- will be fresh meat for this motivated and in-tune Saints defense.

The Verdict

The Ram offense will continue to struggle while its highly-ranked run defense will keep the game close and low-scoring. Meanwhile, the Saints will run past Atlanta en route to a big win.

As a bettor, I do not care if a team needs to win -- as the Saints and 49ers do in order to make the playoffs and as the Rams do in order to stay as the two seed. But I am glad that I can feel confident that they will try.

For the above reasons, parlay the 49ers/Rams "under" with the Saints ATS. You can also do the Saints ML instead of the Saints ATS if you want to be ultra-conservative since the parlay will still offer nice odds. Be sure to use our trusty parlay calculator for your parlay betting needs.

NFL Parlay: Under 44.5 at -110 & Saints -4.5 at -110 with Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

Payout: +264 with Bovada

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Parlay +264
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.