It's wild card weekend in the NFL and Rag2gar previews the game and highlights his best bets.
NFL Wildcard weekend
So the playoffs are here. Every team that plays from here on in must win to advance and those that don't are out. After some big shocks last weekend the playoff picture altered significantly and we now have quite a different outlook to the postseason than the one we had last weekend. But before we get to the playoffs proper, we must first establish the wildcards and that's what we do this weekend.
The first of our four matches comes from Houston, Texas where the Texans host the in-form Kansas City Chiefs. It's at this point of the season that people often look for "who's coming hot at the right time?" And the Chiefs are most certainly that. After a poor start to the season the Chiefs came within a whisker of passing the Denver Broncos to clinch the AFC West but ultimately fell just short. That was a tremendous effort from a developing franchise and Andy Reid is one of the most astute head coaches in the NFL. He knows his team needs to be coming on strong now and that's exactly what he's got. So can they beat the Texans on the road? Form would certainly suggest so. When you look back on the Texans' season most of their wins have come against poor opposition and they come into the postseason as probably the worst team in it. On the other hand the Chiefs are probably the hottest franchise around at the minute having won their last ten games. Plus they beat the Texans (and had them down 27 to 9 at halftime) in the opening game of the season. It's hard to see anything other than win number 11 in a row for the Chiefs and the Texans will do well to get within a field goal by the finish.
The second of our Saturday night games comes from Paul Brown stadium as the AFC North winning Cincinnati Bengals host the in-form Pittsburgh Steelers. Like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Steelers are a franchise that is finding some form at just the right time having won six of their last eight games. The Cincinnati Bengals were hoping to have their starting quarterback Andy Dalton back but he's now officially out of this one. Luckily for the Bengals they have a capable backup in AJ McCarron, but he is certainly not their first choice quarterback. This looks a close one and you could make a case for both sides. The home field is a big advantage, but I think the road team might just swing this one. They've looked good the last two weeks and took care of business the last time these two sides met. The Steelers for me by a whisker.
Perhaps the strongest team of all this weekend is another road team who after a poor start to the season will now have to take the longest possible route if they're going to win the NFC conference for a third consecutive season. But who'd bet against them? The Seattle Seahawks are yet another team that's got hot just as we enter the playoffs. After hammering the Arizona Cardinals last week, the Seahawks' confidence will now be sky high. One of the strongest teams in the NFL, the Seahawks will be a match for anyone this postseason. However first they must beat the Minnesota Vikings. And let's not forget, this is the playoffs. The only teams that are left are the best ones. The Vikings have the best rushing back in the league too in Adrian Peterson. Winners of the NFC North, the Vikings will look to leverage their home support to drive this franchise to the playoffs proper. I expect a real war of attrition here with no easy yards given and points hard to come by. For that reason I like the Minnesota Vikings on the handicap and under 39.5 total points.
The final wildcard game of the weekend sees two of the poorest teams left attempt to book their place in the playoffs proper when the Washington Redskins host the Green Bay Packers. The Redskins clinched one of the most weakly contested NFC East's in modern memory and the Packers also limped their way to the postseason thanks to six wins in their opening six matches some three months ago. It's hard to see which way this one is going to go. Aaron Rodgers has been hit more than any other quarterback this season. This pretty much sums up why the Pack have been struggling so much of late. Rodgers is central to their team's chances and needs time to make passes. If Green Bay are going to do anything this postseason, they need to protect their star quarterback. They need to get the ball in his hands and protect him because without his electric talent the Packers are nothing. As for the Washington Redskins, one of the only positives you can say about them is that they have found form towards the end of the season. Having won seven of their last ten games you would have to say the home team has a great chance of another one here. They'll look to shut down the Green Bay offence early and get their own passing game going in front of their home crowd. Overall, it seems like this game could go any number of ways. For that reason it's a no bet for me.
2 pts win Kansas City Chiefs -3 vs Houston Texans at 20/21 with Ladbrokes
2 pts win Pittsburgh Steelers to beat Cincinnati Bengals at 1/1 with Betfair Sports
2 pts win Minnesota Vikings +4 vs Seattle Seahawks at 20/21 with Paddy Power, Bet365 and Ladbrokes
2 pts win under 39.5 total points - Seattle Seahawks @ Minnesota Vikings at 20/21 with Betfair Sports and Coral