By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans
Sat, 4:30pm, NBC
Line: Texans by 5
As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s dÃ©jÃ vu all over again!” Despite the Texans late-season swoon, I still think this game ends up much like last year’s wild card playoff game between these two. The Texans are the better, more complete team, and all three of their losses came to fellow playoff teams that had significantly more riding on the game (Patriots, Vikings, Colts) than Houston did. That said, losing out on a first round bye and having to play in Foxboro next week against a rested New England team probably cost the Texans a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl, because they’re not beating Brady and Belichick under the current structure.
Pick: Houston 27, Cincinnati 20
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Sat, 8pm, NBC
Line: Packers by 9
The hardest thing to do in sports is to beat a team at home and turn right around in the very next contest and beat the same team on the road â especially when it’s a big-time division rival. Add in the factor of moving from a controlled indoor environment of the Metrodome to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, and it’s not surprising at all to see this as a 9-point Packers line. That said, I think Minnesota keeps this close because of the rivalry factor, and keeps this within a touchdown.
Pick: Green Bay 28, Minnesota 24
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens
Sun, 1pm, CBS
Line: Ravens by 6.5
Iâm extremely torn on this game. The Ravens defense hasnât been the same unit as they have over the last decade and a half, and Joe Flacco hasnât proven he can shoulder the load to compensate for the decline on the defensive side of the ball. Ray Rice actually HAS proven that he can shoulder the load â remember, it was really Rice who helped the Ravens to that playoff road win in New England four years back that continues to serve as the barometer against which John Harbaugh and Flacco continue to be judged â but unless the Ravens decide to hand him the ball 30 times, I actually think Andrew Luck and the Colts stay close and let the right foot of one Adam Vinatieri push them to a victory.
Pick: Indianapolis 20, Baltimore 17
Seattle Seahawks @ Washington Redskins
Sun, 4:30pm, FOX
Line: Seahawks by 3
Allow me to lay out for you Seattleâs eight road games this season:
1 â at Arizona, L 20-16
4 â at St. Louis, L 19-13
5 â at Carolina, W 16-12
7 â at San Francisco, L 13-6
8 â at Detroit, L 28-24
12 â at Miami, L 24-21
13 â at Chicago, W 23-17 (ot)
15 â at Buffalo, W 50-17
They played a whopping ONE playoff team on the road and still managed to go just 3-5, and for anyone that would like to discount the losses to Arizona and Detroit as growing pains of a rookie quarterback in the first half of the season, letâs remember that the home win over Green Bay came in week 3 and the home win over New England came in week 6. The point is that the Seahawks are not nearly the same team on the road as they are at home, and theyâre playing a Washington team that has won seven straight games where a single loss would have kept them out of the postseason. Iâm not buying the Seattle hype and Iâm certainly not buying them as a 3-point road favorite to a team playing its first home playoff game since before Y2K.
Pick: Washington 31, Seattle 24
Against Spread: 134-115-7
Against Spread: 134-115-7
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