Christmas is over, and now the New Year is upon us, as are the NFL playoffs. We have waited all season for this, and now we can finally see who makes the march towards Indianapolis. With Carolina not making the playoffs this year, some of you may be longing for a little extra incentive to put on a few teams. If you are feeling in a gambling mood and want to win a few, let’s say, “peanuts,” here is the guide for the games this weekend.
Starting with the Saturday games we have Cincinnati at Houston. Vegas has the line at Houston -3, which means they basically think these two teams are even but they are giving the nod to the home team Texans. In this case I have to agree with Vegas. On paper both teams match up very well, and we have plenty to look at to compare the two. Houston has pretty much been the definition of backing into the playoffs, losing their last three games of the season. I never like a team that is in the middle of a losing slump heading into the playoffs, although many can say that since winning the division in week 14 that the Texans have been dialing it back. On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati hasn’t been a land slide to get in, but they have been only 2-3 in their last five games, with all of the losses coming from playoff teams, and their two wins coming against non-quality opponents.
We can look at the December 11th game where Houston beat Cincinnati 20-19 in a come-from-behind victory as a barometer for this game. The stout Texans defense only allowed one touchdown in that game and basically shut down rookie wide receiver AJ Green. On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati gave up 300 yards passing to TJ Yates and 144 yards on the ground from the Houston ground game that has impressed all season. I don’t think either of these things happens this weekend. Yates has obviously struggled since this game, and the Texans defense hasn’t been that impressive either as of late. I like Cincinnati to get their first playoff win since back in 1991 when they beat the, you guessed it, Houston Oilers. I like the Bengals +3. I would like to forewarn you that out of all the games this weekend I like this one the least to add to your peanut collection… but if you must, you must.
In the NFC clash on Saturday we have the Detroit Lions at the New Orleans Saints. The boys out in Vegas are spotting Detroit 11 points. I like the Saints in this one, and for more than a few reasons, the first one being Drew Brees. Brees has been an absolute surgeon as of late, and nobody, I mean nobody (even you, discount double-check Aaron Rodgers), has looked better at quarterback to finish the season. On the other side of the ball, Detroit has been bad on defense – maybe not Clemson Orange Bowl bad – but they have been bad. For the season the Lions are ranked 24th in the NFL in terms of average points allowed per game at 24.2. With that being said, I like the over in this game at 59.5.
What’s that, you say? Sixty points is a lot. Yeah I know – good thing we are only betting peanuts – but hear me out. In the past five weeks the Lions have given up 137 total points for an average of 27.4 points. Oh, how’s that? You need some more convincing? How about the fact that the Saints are undefeated at home and they also average 41 points per game in the Superdome? The only thing I would be worried about is that Detroit somehow gets a back door cover in garbage time. You know, where New Orleans is up 17 late in the game and Stafford connects with Megatron for a meaningless touchdown with 1:15 left in the game. There is always the chance of that, but I’m putting my peanuts on the Saints -11 and the over. Oh in case you aren’t convinced the Saints are 12-4 against the spread this year.
Those are my picks for the Saturday games. I will be back tomorrow to preview the Sunday games and some long term bets for the rest of the playoffs.