THE STORY: The Colts had the number-three offense this season putting up 6,506 yards and they were the best passing attack in the NFL. Andrew Luck threw for 4,761 yards and led the league with 40 touchdowns, plus he’s the league’s most adorable trash talker. T.Y. Hilton was one of the best receivers in the game in 2014 amassing 82 receptions for 1,345 yards and seven TDs while averaging 16.4 yards per catch. TE Coby Fleener had 51 grabs for 774 yards, 15.2 yards per catch, and eight TDs. They also have some dude named Reggie Wayne who went 64-for-779. To say the Cincinnati secondary will have their hands full would be quite an understatement.
The Bengals finished the season ranked number 20 in pass defense having yielded 3,888 yards. Their secondary isn’t really that bad; they finished tied for third in the league with 20 INTs led by FS Reggie Nelson’s four. SS George Iloka and corners Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick added three picks each. The main reason for the Bengals poor defensive showing was finishing dead last in the NFL with a mere 20 sacks. Take away Carlos Dunlap’s eight sacks and the rest of the D combined for 12 freakin’ sacks, with only one player totaling more than 1.5 (Geno Atkins had a whopping three sacks).
For the Bengals to have a chance they’ll need their secondary to create turnovers and hopefully score some points. Adam Jones is one of the best kick returners in the game (844 kick return yards/31.3 average and 262 punt return yards/11.9 average) and it wouldn’t hurt if he made a big play. Nonetheless, zero pass rush and an inconsistent QB in Andy Dalton (19 TDs, 17 INTs) will make it tough for Cincy to pull the upset.
THE SPREAD: The Colts are a bargain this week at -4. Indy went 6-2 at home and 5-2-1 against the spread. They also crushed the Bengals in Week 7 27-0 in Indianapolis. Cincy was a stellar 5-3 away from home and went 4-4 ATS. The Bengals have lost six straight playoff games going 0-6 ATS. The last time they won a postseason game was in 1990 against a team that no longer exists: the Houston Oilers. The total is 49.
IF I WAS IN VEGAS: Rule number one of betting football is never put money on the Bengals. I can’t see them scoring many points here, nor can I see them stopping Luck & Co. It might be worse than 27-0 this time around. As a matter of fact I can’t think of one reason to bet on Cincy other than I picked them to win the AFC at the beginning of the year, because I’m dumb. Expect me to flip-flop and take credit if they win, but for the money give me Indy and the under.
DETROIT LIONS (11-5) @ DALLAS COWBOYS (12-4), 4:40 PM, FOX
THE STORY: Tony Romo is coming off the best season of his career. He threw 34 TDs with only nine INTs, completed about 70% of his passes, and put up a fantastic 113.2 QB rating. For years Cowboy fans have hated Romo and whined for him to be cut or traded so I’m glad guys like this jackass are eating their words. That said, the real key to this game is Dallas’ run game which was number two in the league with 2,354 yards thanks in large part to DeMarco Murray’s phenomenal season. Murray averaged 4.7 yards per carry totaling 1,845 rushing yards and 13 TDs (not to mention 57 catches for 416 yards and his involvement in the most compelling love triangle of the year).
Detroit comes in boasting the second-best defense in the NFL, and they are number one against the run. This year the Lions only gave up 1,109 rushing yards, yielding a paltry 3.2 yards per carry. They should be without monster DT Ndamukong Suh for his latest display of class, but the league non-surprisingly bought his “my feetsies were cwold” excuse so he’ll be fined but not suspended. When Romo does throw the ball he’ll need to watch out for FS Glover Quin who led the league with 7 picks.
When Dallas wins they do it by establishing their running game. That allows for Romo to run amok off the play action and keeps their mediocre defense off the field. If Detroit can shut down Murray they’ll be back to burning Romo jerseys in no time.
THE SPREAD: Dallas (-7) was only 4-4 in Big D this year and 3-5 ATS. They are 2-6 ATS in their last eight playoff games. Detroit went 4-4 on the road this season and 2-6 ATS. The Lions are 0-6-1 ATS in their last seven postseason appearances, and have lost 10 of their last 11 playoff games overall. The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991 when they (naturally) defeated Dallas 38-6.
IF I WAS IN VEGAS: Defense wins championships and the Cowboys are meh in that regard. Detroit struggles on offense (20.1 points per game) so I’m not saying they win, but they are the biggest dogs of the week and I think they can at least cover if not pull the upset. I mean…the Lions are going to win a playoff game one of these days, right? I’ll take Detroit and the over, because games you always think are sure to go under never do.
Article By: Anthony Schiano