Previewing Wild Card Round of NFL Playoffs
The NFL playoffs begin next Saturday when the Cardinals and Panthers kick-off in the late afternoon. With two games on Saturday and another two on Sunday this coming weekend presents sports bettors and fans with plenty of high quality football action.
Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers
Odds: Panthers -4
The Carolina Panthers ended the season on a four-game winning streak and got into the playoffs because of it. Cam Newton has looked like a completely different quarterback since his car accident as he finished last Sunday's thumping of the Atlanta Falcons with 165 total yards, two touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 104.7. The Panthers defense helped them win that game as well, but Newton is the clear x-factor for this Panthers squad. The Arizona Cardinals on the other hand ended the season with two tough losses, and with their defense taking a few steps back in the last couple weeks they're an unlikely pick to win this game, or even contend, with Ryan Lindley under center.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Odds: Steelers -3
Although both team's have a more than capable offense, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a group that averages 411 yards of total offense per game and the resurgence of Ben Roethlisberger is a huge reason why. Roethlisberger finished the season just 48 yards shy of 5,000 yards passing, but the real key to the Steelers success this coming Saturday will be the availability of running back Le'Veon Bell. Bell hyperextended his knee during last Sunday night's victory, and if he cannot go the Steelers will be without of the most elusive running backs in the game today. The Baltimore Ravens meanwhile have a balanced offense to go with their defense that struggles against the pass, but dominates against the run. This is why the status of Bell is so important as he's the Steelers' second-most dangerous weapon only behind wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts
Although defense is said to win championships, the Indianapolis Colts are trying to defy logic by winning with a group being carried by quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck finished the season with 4,761 passing yards and 40 touchdowns, numbers that indicate he not only will be dominant for years' to come, but also that he clearly has carried this Colts squad that is 11-5 despite having a defense that allows 23 points per contest. The Cincinnati Bengals finished the year in pedestrian fashion, and although they're going up against a lackluster defense, the Colts at home should be able to win by a touchdown or more.
Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys
Odds: Dallas -7
The Dallas Cowboys were the real surprise of the 2014 season as they finished the year with 12 victories and their first playoff appearance in five years. While Tony Romo received plenty of credit for turning this team around, the real x-factor for the Cowboys has been running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Detroit Lions do have the league's best run defense, but if they cannot contain Murray there is no way they'll be playing the following weekend. This is one of the more evenly matched games of the week as the Cowboys still have much to prove, and the Lions have a drastically improved defense that could keep this game close throughout.