Cincinnati lost 5 games by a total of 29 points this season. All on the road. They lost twice in overtime. They had 13 turnovers in those losses (17 total in their 11 wins). They gave up 2 defensive/special teams touchdowns as well in those games as well.
The Bengals are an elite team when they stay out of their own way. They have the third best offense in the AFC (Denver/New England) and the best defense (tied with KC for the fewest points allowed). Only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees threw for more touchdowns this season than Andy Dalton’s 33. He gets to throw to one of the top five wide receivers in football in AJ Green. The defense ranks 5th against the run and 5th against the pass and 3rd overall in yards allowed.
Their path would be to beat two teams they already beat to get to the AFC Title Game. Denver is, and should be, the favorite to win the AFC, but of all the 8 teams playing this weekend, the Bengals to me are the one with the best shot to get to the Super Bowl because of both who they have to beat and the quality of their team.
SAN DIEGO +6.5 @ CINCINNATI
The Bengals have scored more than 30 points in 6 of their 8 home games this season. They’ve put up 49, 41, 42, 42, and 34 their last 5 home games. They covered the point spread in every home game this year while going 8-0. They beat San Diego on the road a little over a month ago. They’ll do it again.
KANSAS CITY (E) @ INDIANAPOLIS
This one is going to be close. Jamal Charles is the ultimate wild card, capable of winning this one on his own. These are the top 2 giveaway/takeaway teams in the AFC. KC forces more turnovers than anyone in the league and the Colts gave it away fewer than anyone else. Special teams will be key for field position and field goals. Both teams can really rush the passer. Colts were 6-2 at home and the Chiefs 6-2 on the road. In the end, I am going with Andrew Luck as a difference maker more so than Alex Smith.
NEW ORLEANS +2.5 @ PHILADELPHIA
A lot has been made of the Saints road record, and fairly so. They are 0-5 on the road all-time in the playoffs too. So why do I like them?
1. Because they did win at Chicago and had leads until the final seconds at New England and Carolina before losing.
2. Drew Brees > Nick Foles.
3. They rush the passer. Saints are 4th in the NFL in sacks and when Nick Foles has been shaky has been when he was under pressure.
4. They don’t beat themselves, like the Eagles, they only had 19 turnovers all year long.
5. New Orleans was 4th in total defense. We’ve seen the Eagles slowed down by the Cowboys and Vikings recently.
6. The Eagles actually finished with the worst pass defense in the NFL. The Saints were the first team in NFL history to have 4 players catch 70+ balls.
7. Rookie coach, and 2nd year quarterback versus Super Bowl winning coach and QB.
SAN FRANCISCO -3 @ GREEN BAY
8 of the Niners’ 12 wins they scored 27 points or more. In 3 of their 4 losses they scored 9 points or less. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: Can the Packers hold the 49ers to under 20 points? I didn’t think so. Green Bay only did that 3 times all year.
So now ask yourself, can Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense put up 30 points on the SF defense? Only 5 teams scored more than 20 against the Niners this season. The Packers were one of those teams however.
They’ve played 3 times in the last 2 seasons. The scores were 30-22, 45-31, and 34-28. All in favor of San Fran.
The 49ers went 12-4 and are 4 points away from entering the playoffs on a 13-game winning streak.
I think Green Bay can win the game, but would need Rodgers to play great and Kaepernick to play terrible. I just don’t see all of these scenarios happening. Not even in the frigid weather.