After all the excitement generated last week with the wild scenarios to make the playoffs, two of the teams backed in with losses thanks to everything unfolding their way.
The Broncos lost their third game in a row Sunday, but got helped by the Raiders losing to the Chargers and claimed the AFC West. The Bengals lost once again to a team with a winning record, but were helped by the Jets losing to Miami and Oakland losing.
The Tim Tebow-mania train seems to have lost a lot of momentum much to the delight of all his skeptics. A combination of defenses figuring out better ways to defend him and the Tebow magic not occurring at key moments have led to the Broncos recent demise.
However, it’s a new season now. Everyone starts from scratch. Denver gets a Steelers team limping into the playoff themselves, not in the win-loss department like Denver, but in the health department. Ben Roethlisberger on his sprained ankle was sluggish in the Steelers 13-9 win at Cleveland Sunday. The Steelers also got bad news as starting RB Rashard Mendenhall may have torn his ACL and is listed as out for Sunday’s game.
The Las Vegas SuperBook was the first to post the number in town with the Steelers opening as 7½-point favorites. By Monday morning the game had moved to -8 with the total standing still at a low number of 35.
This will be by far Tebow’s biggest test of the season facing the league’s No. 1 defense. The Broncos biggest win of the season came against a pretty good Jets defense, but the Steelers are an entirely different story.
The player who may have the most impact on who wins the game is Broncos safety Brian Dawkins who has missed the last three games. His tackling and intelligence have been sorely missed on the Broncos defensive side, which has led to the three straight losses.
It’s hard to tell who backed into the playoffs more convincingly in the Bengals-Texans match-up. It was Week 14 when the two teams met in Cincinnati where Texans third-string QB T.J. Yates led the team on a last minute drive to win 20-19. At that point, most of us thought the Houston QB situation would be okay with the rookie, but since then the Texans haven’t won a game.
The Bengals get credit for beating the teams they’re supposed to, but when matched up against a team with a winning record, they don’t do so well. They’ve gone 3-5 over their last eight games with their only wins coming against Cleveland, St. Louis and Arizona.
The win over Arizona can be considered a quality one because of how well the Cards have played in the second half of the season. But even with that victory, there’s no denying the Bengals are not the same team they were when they reeled off five straight wins early in the season.
The SuperBook opened the Texans a short price of -3 (EV) while others had them -3 flat. This will be the Texans’ first playoff game in team history. They have the luxury of being able to rely on the league’s best running back in Arian Foster and the No. 2 ranked defense.
If Houston can somehow limit Yates contributions to just handing the ball off to Foster and not getting himself into trouble, the Texans should be okay here. UNDER 38 total points might be a good play here as well.
The Saints completed their season sweep at home going 8-0 straight-up and against-the-spread. We saw the Lions travel to New Orleans in Week 13 where the Saints were 9-point favorites and win convincingly 31-17 thanks to a 21-0 outburst in the second quarter. This time around the Saints are laying -10 ½ with a total of 59 points.
The Lions came into Green Bay last week on a three game winning streak (their last loss was at New Orleans) and were 3½-point favorites because Aaron Rodgers, Clay Mathews and Charles Woodson all sat out the game. However, Matt Flynn shredded the Lions secondary passing for over 400 yards in a 45-41 win and makes you wonder what Drew Brees will do to them this week.
The Giants opened a strong 3-point favorite for their home game against the Falcons. The Falcons have been a hard to figure out this season. Most of us consider Atlanta a good team, but there’s something missing from their make-up that would make them a great one.
Meanwhile, the Giants have almost the same look of the team that went from the wild card to Super Bowl champs. After losing four in a row with their playoff chances slim, the Giants have now won three of their last four games and have gotten great play from Eli Manning and the defense.
Victor Cruz has become a super star making one big play after another. The combination of Cruz and Hakeem Nicks gives the Giants one the best receiving duos in the league.
The home teams look to be the right side this week with leans to the UNDER in all of them. The Broncos-Steelers game has the making of being a 16-13 game coming down to the wire with Tebow given an opportunity to steal the game.