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Bets Dressed - Week 18 - Uniform Matchups and Picks

Hard to believe we’ve reached the last main slate of the 2023 NFL season. The final week of the regular season is always pure chaos - playoff spots and draft slots changing by the quarter. Making Week 18 - and Week 17 before it - division games only is one of the savviest moves in NFL history. And it leaves no shortage of sharp divisional uniform matchups. We still have the playoffs to look forward to, but it’s always a bittersweet time of year. Let’s enjoy it while we still can.

A quick note on methodology.

As always, I’m analyzing every NFL uniform matchup and picking a winner against the spread based on who dresses best. And just because a team is ranked higher in the Uniform Wardrobe Power Rankings doesn’t mean it will automatically win the uniform matchup. It’s what you wear in the instant matchup that counts.

Week 18 Uniform Matchups and Picks.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Buccaneers at Panthers brings us a decent uniform matchup that could have been so much more. Blue jerseys from the Panthers would kick things up a notch. But we’re stuck with the interplay of black and pewter.* The Bucs are the pick.

Tampa Bay couldn’t take care of business against the Saints, and now they have to sweat it out against the lowly Panthers. Baker Mayfield has had his best season as a pro - boasting a 3,907-28-10 slash line heading into the last game of the season. The Panthers have been surprisingly potent against the pass this season, but I don’t think Baker and the Bucs will be denied. They’ve come this far; it’s time to punch their ticket to the dance (with Baker clearing 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns while they’re at it).

*Sharp helmet battle at least.

The Pick: Buccaneers -4

NOTE - The Panthers have yet to reveal their choice of pants.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Jets at Patriots is the clear runner-up for worst of the week if the Patriots give us the navy unitard once more. But I’m holding out hope for a silver pant surprise. No matter what the Pats do, New York was always going to lose this uniform matchup in the worst Triple Mismatch Club outfit in the league.* New England it is.

There’s only one thing to focus on here: what may be the last game in Foxboro with Bill Belichick on the home sidelines. It’s difficult to comprehend a world without Belichick, Mr. Patriot Way himself, as the head coach of the New England Patriots, but - connecting the dots - it sure seems like both sides are ready for a change. And as much as it may seem right to lambast the Patriots for moving on from the greatest coach in NFL history, think about the countless number of players - superstars and all - that Belichick moved on from without remorse or emotion when the time was right. In a way, there’d be no more fitting end for Belichick than being politely shown the door. But before we get there, there’s a football game against the Jets to play. And if we know one thing about Belichick, it’s that he has no love lost for the Jets. So get out there, New England. And win one more for the best to ever do it.

*Allow me once again to implore the Jets to remove black from their color scheme.

The Pick: Patriots -1.5

NOTE - The Patriots have yet to reveal their choice of pants.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Browns-Bengals will always feature two elite wardrobes that do not pair well with each other (no surprise there with the brown and orange of the Browns and the black and orange of the Bengals). In future matchups, the excellent whiteout uniforms for each team could be used to break up the orange clash. But until that happens, we are where we are. I give the Triple Mismatch Club edge to Cincinnati in this one.

This AFC North showdown may be the most inconsequential matchup of the week. The Browns are locked into the five seed. And the Bengals are nowhere near the top pick in the draft. So your guess is as good as mine as to how this one will go. Jake Browning* has been an awesome story since taking over the starting job in Cincy, so let’s see if he can light it up one more time.

*Bizurrow to those that know him.

The Pick: Bengals -7

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Falcons at Saints. Would you look at that? Another week without gold pants from the Saints. Over the course of the season, the Saints have worn their primary gold pants one time. I got some grief for putting the Saints at No. 28 in the Uniform Wardrobe Power Rankings. But it turns out I had them too high. The Falcons can do little right in their current primaries, but at least icy white was the right decision against the Saints (saving us from black pants against the black unitard). Atlanta is the pick by default.

These teams will have one eye on each other and another on the status of the Bucs-Panthers game. With a Tampa Bay loss, the winner of this one takes the NFC South. Atlanta won the first meeting back in Week 12. But like most Falcons and Saints games, this should be a toss-up. Consider me content taking the points.

The Pick: Falcons +3

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Vikings at Lions. For hopefully the last time ever, Detroit will be subjecting us to their underwhelming blue helmet paired with the dreadful gray unitard. One of the worst uniforms in the league and a strong contender for worst new uniform of 2023.* The Vikings have their flaws, but they run away with this one.

While the Vikings are technically not eliminated from playoff contention, it would take nothing short of a miracle to get them in. Likewise, the Lions are technically not eliminated from the second seed in the NFC, but it would take a similar miracle. Detroit is a week removed from eligible lineman gate, and no team will have a bigger “us against the world” galvanization than the Lions heading into the postseason. For cover purposes here, let’s hope that bloodlust for revenge doesn’t kick in until Wild Card Weekend.

*Friendly reminder that The Unis, the annual Bets Dressed awards issue, will be dropping the week before the Super Bowl.

The Pick: Vikings +3.5

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Bears at Packers in the stone cold classic of the week. Not a false note anywhere you look, but the interplay of navy and green keeps this one from the top spot against stiff competition. I’ve always preferred the Bears road look to their home uniform.* And the Bears are the selection.

Despite only one team having a shot at the playoffs, Bears-Packers is one of the games of the day. The stakes for the Packers are clear. With a win, they’re in are in. But the Bears have much headier problems on their hands. Thanks to the Panthers, Chicago already has the first overall pick in the bag. And the question now becomes what do they do with it? The sound team-building move would be moving on from Justin Fields and restarting the clock with a rookie quarterback on a rookie deal.** But the Bears have come on at the end of the season, and that locker room is clearly behind No. 1. A win against their hated rival in Green Bay would add to an already difficult decision for Ryan Poles.

*Helmet and jersey contrast goes a long way.

**I said a few weeks ago that I would stick with Fields and find a way to draft Marvin Harrison Jr. The more recouped draft capital in that process, the better.

The Pick: Bears +3

NOTE - The Bears have yet to reveal their choice of pants. With that being said, they haven’t gone icy white since 2009.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Rams at 49ers in a sneaky good uniform matchup. With San Francisco in gold pants, blue pants were the right choice for the Rams (even with the unnecessary gradient). But there’s no debate about the pick: Niners all the way.

This game fascinates me. Two of the best coaches in the league facing off in a meaningless game with a very real possibility they could meet again in a few weeks. Stated differently, neither Sean McVay nor Kyle Shanahan want to tip their hand in any capacity about what’s to come in a hypothetical rematch. So prepare yourselves for the weirdest Carson Wentz versus Sam Darnold game you could imagine. If both teams could hit the sim button on Madden, they would do so. You can only sit so many players, so let’s hope the overall talent advantage of the Niners carries us to the cover.

The Pick: 49ers -4

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Eagles at Giants. For only the third time this season, the Eagles are going white over green. For my money, it’s their best road look. The Giants look sharp in their home blues, but the Eagles get the slightest of nods.

Just two weeks ago, the Giants played the Eagles much closer than anyone expected on Christmas. That microcosm of Philly’s recent struggles was turned up to eleven with a home loss against the Cardinals a week later. As rough as this stretch has been, the Eagles can still win the NFC East with a win and a Dallas loss. And something tells me the Eagles are going to hold up their end of the bargain and take out their frustration on this Giants team.

The Pick: Eagles -4.5

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Cowboys at Commanders in the most lopsided uniform matchup of the week. The Commanders continue to be the worst dressed team in football, but kudos to them for making Dallas wear navy on the road.* The Cowboys always look sharp in navy, and I can get behind wearing white pants at home and silver pants on the road. Decked out in silver pants here, Dallas is the obvious choice.

The only thing standing between the Cowboys and locking down the two seed in the NFC is Washington. So let the boat race commence. I must admit, I’m surprised the Commanders allowed Ron Rivera to finish out the season. I was convinced they would give Eric Bieniemy a few games as the interim head coach to get a sense of whether he could be the guy going forward. Since that never happened, my money is on the Commanders looking outside of the organization for their next coach. Keep an eye on Bill Belichick if New England decides to part ways.

*An aesthetic tradition unlike any other.

The Pick: Cowboys -13

NOTE - The Commanders have yet to reveal their choice of pants.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Seahawks at Cardinals. Arizona could’ve shocked the world and delivered a sneaky good uniform matchup by pairing white pants with the red jersey for the first time in this wardrobe. But alas, no such luck. And Seattle is the choice as a result.

While the uniform matchup leaves much to be desired, this should be a compelling football game. The Seahawks are still scratching and clawing for a playoff spot. And the Cardinals come to play week in and week out. While most games in today’s NFL come down to better quarterback play. I think this can be a big game for both running backs, and the better of Ken Walker and James Conner may carry his team to victory. As great as Conner has been all season, Walker has been a Cardinal killer since joining the Seahawks last year. As stated in our Single Digit Revolution player prop picks this week, Walker averages 104 yards per game against Arizona. With the Cardinals giving up more rushing yards to opposing running backs than any team in the league, I think No. 9 is the tip of the spear in a Seattle road win to close out the season.

The Pick: Seahawks -2.5

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Broncos at Raiders in what could be the last appearance of the Broncos Panelist Era white uniforms.* While a uniform redesign for 2024 has not been confirmed, I have a feeling it’s coming. No matter what happens, Denver will always have its work cut out for them overtaking the Raiders on the Uniform Wardrobe Power Rankings. And Las Vegas is the no brainer pick here.

While the playoffs may be out of reach for both the Broncos and Raiders, there is a healthy dose of pride on the line. Sean Payton would love to be able to puff his chest out in full “told you so” glory with two Jarrett Stidham wins to end the season. And Antonio Pierce - and his players - would love to be able to put an exclamation point on his head coach application.** Curious to see where the chips fall - both in this game and beyond.

*I have a feeling we will eventually see the Super Bowl XXXII Elway uniforms as throwbacks. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the white and orange varieties were permanently shelved.

**Do the right thing, Raiders. Learn from your Rich Bisaccia mistake. Pierce has earned the permanent gig.

The Pick: Raiders -2.5

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Bills-Dolphins has dressed the part for the game of the week. For my money, the best possible helmet-jersey-pants combo for the Bills and Dolphins in their current wardrobes.* Buffalo is the clear choice, but couldn’t be more excited to see this one on the Sunday Night Football screen.

Remember five weeks ago when the narrative was that the Bills were dead and Josh Allen was overrated? Good times. Buffalo is now a win away from the AFC East title belt and the two seed in the conference. Miami on the other hand has been reeling. Injuries have been stacking up, and the brutal gauntlet that was their late season has taken its toll. No rest for the weary here with the Bills coming to town. Buffalo rolled the Dolphins earlier in the season, and I think history repeats with the Bills facing a potential lose-and-go-home scenario and Miami without Raheem Mostert and Jaylen Waddle.

*Would have been perfectly fine with aqua pants from the Dolphins. But royal and aqua aren’t an ideal pairing, so I prefer the blank canvas effect of the white pants. Allows the Bills jerseys to really pop.

The Pick: Bills -2.5

Worst NFL Uniform Matchup of Week 18.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

The Jaguars and Titans are running it back. For the second time this season,* Jacksonville-Tennessee finds itself in the seat of shame. They shouldn’t be surprised; this matchup is essentially a perfect - or should I say imperfect - inverse of their Week 11 matchup. Week 11: Titans in navy-white-white at Jags in black-black-white. Week 18: Jags in black-white-white at Titans in navy-navy-white. If at first you don’t succeed, double down?** So be it. At least they know the drill.

While the Titans have nothing to play for on paper, this a textbook “our Super Bowl” spot for Tennessee. The Jags are a mess - collapsing toward the finish line under the weight of Trevor Lawrence’s litany of injuries and a once-promising defense that decided to stop playing football. But they can still claim the AFC South with a win. Mike Vrabel will have his squad ready to go. And while the old-timer Titans couldn’t pull off their one-last-job caper this year, they can still spoil the fun for Jacksonville. Lawrence may be a no-go and Ryan Tannehill is in for a still-injured Will Levis, so I expect a smashmouth, low-scoring divisional bout. All good for us folks with the under.

*Batting 1.000.

**As John Mulaney says in his bit about a 1930s detective being told about a pool of blood on the floor, “hmmmmm gross.”

The Pick: Under 42.5

Best NFL Uniform Matchup of Week 18.

Uniform Graphics by The Gridiron Uniform Database

Chiefs at Chargers was kept from the top spot last year by the Yin and Yang Matchup of the Year between the Bengals and Steelers. But this apex of the AFL aesthetic can only be contained for so long. As I’ve said before, the Chiefs look best on the road. And there’s no team they pair better with than the Chargers and the powder blue of their league-best wardrobe.

While the uniform matchup is elite, the football game itself is as forgettable as it gets. And the total reflects that. I’m not even going to pretend to have any idea how this is going to shake out. Blaine Gabbert versus Easton Stick - just as the NFL schedulers predicted with a Chiefs-Chargers season finale. We may have no clue what’s going to happen. But - as always - we put our faith in the Uniform Gods.

The Pick: Over 35

NOTE - Both teams have yet to reveal their choice of pants.

The Gridiron Uniform Database.

The uniform graphics you see here are courtesy of The Gridiron Uniform Database. If you’ve never paid their site a visit, stop what you’re doing right now and check it out. Best site on the Internet and an invaluable resource to uniform nerds and casuals alike.

Coming Attractions.

Another uniform week in the books. But time for the drill to change. Next stop: playoffs. Look for the Wild Card Weekend edition to hit your inbox Saturday morning.

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