Did the Green Bay Packers win by losing?
And did the Minnesota Vikings lose by winning?
Both of those suppositions may be true because the Packers did not come away with the NFC North title when they dropped a 20-13 decision to the Vikings in Week 17. However, they still made the playoffs, and they will play on Sunday night against the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins finished with a 9-7 record after closing the year on a four-game winning streak, but they had the worst regular-season record of the four NFC division winners.
The Vikings won the NFC North and are the third seed among NFC teams. While they should have an advantage over the sixth seed, the Seattle Seahawks fill that role, and they are one of the hottest and most explosive teams in the playoffs, not to mention the two-time defending conference champions.
If the Packers entered the playoffs playing just a bit better, they might be substantial favorites over the Redskins. They have lost six of their last 10 games, and they are one-point underdogs to the Redskins, according to Odds Shark.
Washington's recent hot streak has been led by quarterback Kirk Cousins and tight end Jordan Reed. Cousins has made the most of the opportunity he was given in training camp when head coach Jay Gruden decided his team had little chance to win with the erratic Robert Griffin III under center.
Cousins became the first quarterback in Washington history to throw at least one touchdown pass in every game, and he finished the year with 29 touchdown passes and 4,166 yards this season.
Reed also has emerged as a star, as he caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. It seems Reed can always get himself open when Cousins needs to keep a drive alive or the Redskins get into the red zone.
While the Redskins have been getting better, the Packers have been slowing down. Green Bay averaged 13.6 points in its final three games of the regular season. What's more, Aaron Rodgers has not been on top of his game.
Rodgers averaged 238.8 passing yards per game, and that's far beneath his usual standards. The quarterback averaged 273.8 yards per game in 2014, and he reached as high as 309.5 yards per game in 2011.
Look for the Packers to push Washington hard, but don't be surprised if Cousins leads the Redskins to a narrow, three-point victory.
|Wild-Card Schedule, Point Spreads and Predictions|
|Game||Date, Time (ET)||TV||Line||Over/Under||Prediction|
|Kansas City at Houston||Jan. 9, 4:35 p.m.||ESPN||KC (-3)||40||KC, Under|
|Pittsburgh at Cincinnati||Jan. 9, 8:15 p.m.||CBS||Pit (-3)||45||Pit, Over|
|Seattle at Minnesota||Jan. 10, 1:05 p.m.||NBC||Sea (-5)||39.5||Sea, Under|
|Green Bay at Washington||Jan. 10, 4:40 p.m.||Fox||Wash (-1)||45||Was, Over|
|Odds Shark; Silverman selections|
Seahawks Have the Momentum to Punish Vikings Again
The Seattle Seahawks went into TCF Bank Stadium in December and showed no respect for the Vikings in picking up a 38-7 victory over the home team.
The atmosphere will be quite a bit different when they meet in their wild-card playoff game on Sunday afternoon. The temperature is expected to be hovering near 0 degrees Fahrenheit, per AccuWeather.com, which could make it difficult to unleash a decisive passing attack.
However, here's one thing that won't change: Seattle is the better and more experienced team. The Seahawks have made it through the NFC playoffs two years in a row. They have won one Super Bowl and were a play away from winning two in a row.
They will not get nervous in a big game. The Vikings are a strong, improving team. It would not be a surprise for Mike Zimmer to lead his team to elite status next year or the year after. However, they are not there yet.
The Seahawks will not run to another 31-point victory, but they will cover the five-point spread and win by at least a touchdown.
Look for Steelers and Bengals to Put on High-Scoring Show
The Pittsburgh Steelers should be flying high when they take the field at Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday night.
They got the break they needed in Week 17 when the Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets, and they sealed the opportunity to play postseason football when they defeated the Cleveland Browns.
Now the Steelers get to play the Cincinnati Bengals on the road, and history says this game should belong to Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger. Not only have the Bengals failed to win a playoff game in the 13-year Marvin Lewis era (0-6), the Steelers are a resounding 13-2 in their last 15 games in Cincinnati.
The key to the Steelers' success this season has been their high-scoring offense. Prior to a Week 16 loss against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers had scored 30 points or more in six consecutive games.
Roethlisberger has a a brilliant receiver at his disposal in Antonio Brown, and the supporting cast of Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and tight end Heath Miller are also dangerous. Brown caught 136 passes for a remarkable 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns. Bryant, Wheaton and Miller combined for 13 touchdown receptions.
Look for the Steelers to get on the board early. If they do, the Bengals are going to have to attempt to go touchdown for touchdown with them.
That's unlikely, but this should be a game that features a bevy of touchdowns. The total in this game is 45 points, and the over looks like the way to go.
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