We have the matchups, we have the lines, but not all of it fits neatly into who wins and who loses. Let’s break it down. Here are my picks for the NFL’s wild card weekend.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Bengals (+4 1/2) at Texans (-4 1/2) — This is the Texans’ final chance to bounce back. They’re lucky because the Bengals are the worst team in the playoffs, having won six of their last 10 games against non-playoff opponents and only three times against teams in the playoff hunt. But that doesn’t mean a team that’s dead set on imploding can’t finish the job. The Texans lost three of their last four, including once to the Indianapolis Colts — a truly retched defense, No. 26 overall — and have only themselves to blame for being in the wild card. But they have more than enough talent on defense to deal with the Bengals’ flimsy offense (No. 22 overall) in a rematch from the 2011 playoffs.
Straight up winner: Texans
By the line: Texans
Vikings (+9) at Packers (-9) — Forget about Week 17. It’s in the past and nothing can change it. The Packers dropped the regular season finale to the Vikings, 37-34, because Green Bay got off to a slow start. Don’t expect that to happen again. Adrian Peterson will surely help the Vikings keep it close. Any reasonable person should balk at the 9-point spread.
Straight up winner: Packers
By the line: Vikings
Colts (+6 1/2) at Ravens (-6 1/2) — How much can Ray Lewis help the Ravens defense? If he is to return, as is expected, that could emotionally change the makeup of this game in the Ravens’ favor. But I think everyone is more interested in which Joe Flacco will show up on Sunday. He’s been wildly inconsistent, which is his trademark. If Flacco can put together anything similar to his Week 16 performance against the New York Giants, the Ravens will cruise. But if we’re talking Week 15 Flacco against the Denver Broncos, the Ravens are in a world of hurt. No worries, they’re playing one of the league’s bottom tier defense and we’re not that impressed with Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck either. Luck finished the season with 23 turnovers, including 18 interceptions.
Straight up winner: Ravens
By the line: Ravens
Seahawks (-3) at Redskins (+3) — This rookie quarterback matchup will be the highlight of the weekend. The Seahawks are arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now, going a perfect 5-0 in December and winning seven of their last eight games. Seattle’s Russell Wilson (3,118 yards, 26 touchdowns, 100.0 quarterback rating) has helped compose an explosive offense, putting up a whopping 38.6 points per game in December. He’s helped in large part by the No. 4 overall defense in the league and a bruising running game thanks to Marshawn Lynch (1,590 yards, 11 touchdowns). The Redskins’ Robert Griffin III (3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns, 102.4 quarterback rating) has been the talk of the league since day 1. But he’s somewhat taken the shine away from rookie running back Alfred Morris (1,613 yards, 13 touchdowns), who has helped Washington become the No. 1 rushing team in the league. That makes sense when you consider Griffin III ran for 815 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games. But he’s been hampered with a knee injury the past few weeks and the Seahawks defense has done a great job at controlling the pocket. And there’s nothing worse than the Redskins’ passing defense (No. 30 overall) which will have to deal with receivers Sidney Rice and Golden Tate, both of whom are averaging more than 15 yards per catch.
Straight up winner: Seahawks
By the line: Seahawks