It's money time in the NFL, not just for the 12 teams battling to be crowned Super Bowl champions, but also for any NFL bettors looking to end the year on a high note.
To help all my fellow gamblers, I have identified the best bet for each of the four intense matchups headed our way this weekend.
*Betting lines according to Football Locks on Jan. 1.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Bet: Bengals +4.5
Houston is limping into the playoffs having lost three of its last four games. This is like peaking for the postseason only opposite.
Yet, here they are favored over a surging Bengals team that has won seven of their last eight. This is a supremely exploitable line.
The reason for the Bengals' turnaround is simple: Their defense has been outstanding. Over those last eight games, the Bengals have allowed just 12.8 per contest, and they aren't just getting it done by keeping the other team off the scoreboard. They are putting points up themselves.
Cincinnati's defense has scored a touchdown in each of its last three games.
This is the last thing the Texans need to see. Houston has scored just one touchdown in its last 10 quarters of play. Now they have to try and get on track against a defense that is playing as well as any in the league. It's not going to happen.
Bengals win, 20-13.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Bet: Over 46
So these two teams just combined for 889 yards and 71 points in Week 17 and the over/under is set at just 46 for the following week. Sign me up for the over.
Sure, this game will be switching from the dome of Minnesota to the frozen tundra of Green Bay, but that isn't going to shave 35 points off the total. The Packers have no problem scoring points on their home turf, and in their last home game, Week 16 against the Titans, the Pack went for 55 points.
As for Minnesota, Adrian Peterson can run over defenders just as well outdoors as he can indoors.
Sure, both teams will put in some defensive adjustments after reviewing the performance from last week, but that didn't help either team slow the other down in the second half of last week's game when the two combined for 41 points.
Look for another high-scoring affair this time around.
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
Bet: Colts +6.5
When Chuck Pagano left his position as Ravens defensive coordinator to take over head coaching duties for the Indianapolis Colts this past offseason, there could not have been many people thinking he'd be facing his former team in the playoffs this year.
Well, not only have the surprising Colts made the playoffs, but they are going to get a win in the first round.
Much like the Colts, the Ravens are entering the playoffs headed in the wrong direction. They have lost four of their last five and they aren't showing many signs of turning it around.
Yes, they have made some strides in the running game the past two weeks, but they are still having major issues in the passing game and on defense.
The Colts aren't playing great on defense, but this is an opportunistic team that keeps games close, and they know how to win close games.
That ability and experience will be the difference in this one.
Colts win, 27-24.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
Bet: Seahawks -3
In three of its last four games, the Seahawks' defense has allowed 82 rushing yards or less. The one game where they allowed more came in Week 15 when the Bills gained 118 yards but trailed by such a huge margin, Seattle was not overly concerned about the run.
The Seahawks will be able to slow down the Redskins' rushing attack, and at that point, Washington is in trouble. The passing game has been struggling. Over the last two games, the Redskins have combined to throw for 272 yards, and Seattle has a great pass defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskins defense is coming off of a strong showing against the Cowboys, but this defense has struggled, and they finished the season ranked 30th in passing yards.
I don't expect another Seahawks offensive explosion, but they won't need it.
Seahawks win, 24-17.
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