Saturday, January 3, 2015

NFL Wild Card Weekend 2014

Carolina -5.5 versus Arizona: If the line was any higher, it would have have been tempting to take the points based purely on the Cardinals defense keeping the game close. As it stands, you have to go against Ryan Lindley on the road, especially since the red hot Panthers have had a stable offense since Jonathan Stewart got healthy to become the featured back.
Without a running game, Suggs should tee off.

Baltimore +3 at Pittsburgh: The Ravens haven't had any playoff success in their rival's backyard, but now will be their best opportunity with All-Pro runningback Le'Veon Bell injured. Of course, Big Ben threw for six touchdowns against this undermanned Baltimore the last time these teams met (although, the last one was a meaningless 4th down call that exemplified why Todd Haley is such a divisive coordinator). That and the fact that the Ravens' offense hasn't been consistent down the stretch make it a tough call to go with the underdog, but I can't help but think that a one-sided offense can't have continued success against a stout defensive front getting Haloti Ngata aack.

Indianapolis -3.5 versus Cincinnati: So much has changed for both teams since the Colts dominated 27-0 at home in Week 7 that it's almost not worth mentioning. With Ahmad Bradshaw on IR for Indy and Jeremy Hill now the feature back for Cincy, these teams are pretty even, and whenever Andrew Luck isn't facing a clearly superior team, I don't bet against him putting his team in a position to win, especially at home. The fact that the Bengals can now rely on Hill's power running game with Gio Bernard playing a complimentary role, they can control game flow and minimize the chances of Andy Dalton falling apart in prime time again. However, not having their best player, A.J. Green, is likely to prove too crippling a blow. Look for Luck to use his tight ends in the short passing game to mitigate the Bengals pass rush, and T.Y. Hilton's playmaking ability tends to shine in the bright lights.
You've got to go with the far superior quarterback at home.

Detroit +6.5 at Dallas: I'm tempted to pick the Lions to pull the outright upset since the teams have comparable talent, and the Cowboys have been better on the road than at home this year. However, Detroit is 0-17 on the road against winning teams with Matthew Stafford as the starting quarterback, including a crucial loss last week in Green Bay caused them to drop from the #2 seed and a first round bye to their current #6 seed and having to go to Dallas and potentially to Seattle next week. I think the Lions' stout defensive line can slow down the All-Pro rushing attack of DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys' offensive line enough to keep the game close, but Tony Romo is playing better than his embattled #9 counterpart. Detroit does have a better shot of containing Dez Bryant than Dallas does of Calvin Johnson due to their superior defense overall, so if they do stop Murray to prevent the Cowboys from controlling time of possession, they could expose Rob Marinelli's overachieving unit.Thus, I'm taking the points.

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