Metro breaks down the four NFL playoff games going on this weekend and tells you where to place your bets.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) at Houston Texans
Points will be a precious commodity in the opening game of the playoffs as defense is the calling card for both of these teams; the Texans were third in YPG allowed this season while the Chiefs were seventh. Each team recorded over 40 sacks, which was good enough to make the top five in that category. Because of that, this game should be fought on the ground. The Chiefs, who come into this game having not lost since Oct. 18, hold the advantage in that department. Kansas City had the sixth-ranked rushing attack (127.8 YPG) in the regular season, led by Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware after Jamaal Charles was injured in Week 5. West and Ware carried the ball over 230 times combined but the duo fumbled just once - combined - the entire season. Alex Smith was also extremely careful with the football, throwing just seven INTs all year (compared to 20 TDs). J.J. Watt is known for giving opposing offenses nightmares, but not even he will be able to disrupt the fundamentally-sound Chiefs. Despite having DeAndre Hopkins, one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL, Houston put up mediocre offensive numbers while playing in the exceptionally weak AFC South.
The pick: Chiefs -3
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati split their season series, but differences in available personnel will make this game distinct from the other two. DeAngelo Williams, who has been carrying the freight in the backfield for the Steelers since Le’Veon Bell was ruled out for the year, is considered day-to-day after hurting his foot against the Browns last week and will probably be at less than 100 percent, if he’s able to suit up at all. Pittsburgh has no reliable options behind him, so that will force Ben Roethlisberger to win the game through the air, and it’s hard to be one-dimensional and win playoff games. The Bengals will likely roll with A.J. McCarron at QB, who has filled in admirably since Andy Dalton got hurt early in the Bengals’ 33-20 loss to Pittsburgh in Week 14 (his passer rating is 97.1). He should face little resistance from the Steelers’ pass defense, which ranks 30th in YPG allowed. A.J. Green ran wild on the Steelers when these teams met in the regular season, and that trend should continue on Saturday night. It’s tough to be incredibly confident in the Bengals given their recent failures in the playoffs, but signs point to Cincinnati coming out on top as a home underdog.
The pick: Bengals +3
Seattle Seahawks (-5) at Minnesota Vikings
When these teams faced off on Dec. 6, it was a blowout in favor of Seattle. And while that 38-7 score may not be indicative of how these teams matchup (the Vikings lost two defensive starters in the first quarter that day), it’s hard to envision Minnesota turning the tables on Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater will try to lead his offense, ranked 29th in the league, against the powerhouse that still is the Seahawks’ defense (ranked 2nd in the NFL), but it’s unlikely he’ll have much success. Adrian Peterson had his worst game of the season when he faced the Seahawks last month, rushing for just 18 yards on eight carries. Meanwhile, Russell Wilson has thrown 24 TDs since Week 11, and his 4th-ranked offense has been on fire lately. Historically the Seahawks have done poorly on the road, but they are 8-2 in their last 10 contests away from home. Seattle should be able to turn its momentum into another deep postseason run.
The pick: Seahawks -5
Green Bay Packers (-1) at Washington Redskins
This line saw some movement early in the week, as the Redskins opened as one-point favorites before odd-smakers adjusted it due to an influx of bets on Green Bay. Many have knocked Washington’s strength of schedule, having played in the woeful NFC East, but the Packers don’t have many quality wins to speak of this season either. Since handling Minnesota on Nov. 22, the Packers have failed to record a victory over a team with a winning record, and have only three wins over winning teams all season. It’s hard to believe, but the Redskins outgained the Packers on offense by nearly 20 YPG this season, and have out-possessed Green Bay by an average of 31:44 to 30:08 on the year. This is due primarily to a lack of weapons around Aaron Rodgers this season, but Kirk Cousins has been a revelation for the Redskins, and has been tearing defenses apart lately (11 TDs and 0 INTs in the last three weeks). Washington did a good job keeping Cousins upright in the pocket all year long (only 27 sacks allowed, seventh-best mark in the NFL), so it should be able to negate Green Bay’s strong pass rush. Washington has won its last five games as home underdogs, so a minor upset appears to be in the cards here.
The pick: Redskins +1