I went 10-6 last week, which boosted the season record to a minor extent, but at one point, I thought I might be in for a monster week. I was 8-1 in the early games, SF over AZ and SD over OAK seemed like locks and GB-MIN looked like it might be headed for overtime. Of course, the Cardinals scored on a 4th-and-24 hail mary, the Raiders blocked a punt and the Vikings scored on the final drive. I'm sure there were some good beats in there as well, but naturally, I don't remember the specifics.
This week, I like the Ravens and Packers the best and feel more ambivalent about the other two games, especially Redskins/Seahawks. In fact, I have a hunch Seattle will cover, but laying three in Washington is a lot when you consider that means Seattle would be favored by nine at home. And I've had many strong hunches (Pittsburgh over Dallas) that were wrong.
Bengals +4.5 at Texans
The Texans are in freefall, giving away home field advantage throughout the playoffs with losses to the Vikings (at home) and at Indianapolis in a game the Colts didn't need. If you look at their season-long stats, they're still the better team than the Bengals, but their defense hasn't played at a high level since midseason, and the once vaunted running game is merely average. The Bengals, on the other hand, have won seven of eight games, losing only a one-point contest to Dallas in Week 14. Moreover, their defense, led by defensive-player-of-the-year candidate Geno Atkins
, has allowed only 13 ppg over that span. I still don't trust Andy Dalton
, and I wouldn't put it past the Texans to rebound at home given how much talent they have on both sides of the ball. But I'm not going to bet on it. Take the points.
Bengals 20 - 19
Vikings +8 at Packers
The Vikings pulled out a win against the Packers last week to get into the playoffs, but that was in Minnesota under very different conditions than what these teams will be facing at Lambeau Field. And as good as Adrian Peterson
is, the Vikings will have a problem if they get down by 7-10 points, something that's likely to happen given the disparity in signal callers. Unless the Vikings get off to a great start, I see the Packers pulling away and covering this number. Back Green Bay.
Packers 31 - 17
Colts +6.5 at Ravens
I'm going to root for the Colts as the Ravens have to be the most unexciting playoff team in the history of western civilization, but at home, this group of seasoned vets in Ray Lewis
' last season should be able to hold serve. Andrew Luck
will make some plays, but has also made his share of mistakes, while the Ravens will grind down a pliable Colts defense. Back Baltimore.
Ravens 37 - 17
Seahawks -3 at Redskins
The Seahawks are a dangerous team in this tournament with a top-five defense, and an offense that's balanced and capable of striking for big plays. They come into this game winning seven of their last eight, their only loss being a three-point game in Miami thanks to a questionable roughing-the-passer call. Moreover, during that span, Seattle put up back to back 50-point games, something even the vaunted 2007 Patriots, the highest scoring team of all time, never did. The Redskins themselves have one of the league's elite offenses combining its most efficent passing game (8.3 YPA, 1st) with its most prolific running game (2709 yards, 1st). The problem is the pass defense that ranks 22nd in YPA (7.4) compared to Seattle's elite group (6.2, 3rd). But the Redskins' pass defense has improved of late with just 6.2 YPA allowed over the last three games, though two of those were against Nick Foles
and Brandon Weeden
. The bottom line, the Seahawks are the better-rounded team, but they're facing an almost unstoppable offense on the road and laying three points. Back the Redskins.
Redskins 24 - 23
We went 10-6 last week to go 121-129-6 on the year. From 1999-2011 we've gone 1,689-1,512 (52.8%), not including ties.