Friday, January 8, 2010 NFL Playoff Preview

The first round of the playoffs is set, the odds have been posted (all the home teams are favoured, as you might expect) and the Colts, Chargers, Vikings and Saints are all sitting at home watching to see who they face next week.

NY Jets at Cincinnati
Line: Bengals -2.5
Over/Under: 34

Following a Week 17 scrimmage that would best be forgotten, the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals square off this Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Online sportsbooks currently have the Bengals favoured by 2.5 points. covered this game extensively in their sports betting TV show on Thursday and their Football Blitz show which will be live on Friday.

While it’s been only three years since the Jets appeared in the post-season and four for Cincinnati, the Bengals are still taking some getting used to. Cinci was demolished 37-0 last week in New York, looking more like the team whose previous appearance before 2005 was in 1990. The question is whether they will be able to jump start the attack that stunned everyone this year by sweeping the AFC North and winning the division.

Cincinnati’s offensive weaknesses are ripe for HC Ryan’s defense to exploit and although they finished ninth with 29 QB sacks allowed, the Bengals protection in the pocket will need to be stellar. RB Benson will return after sitting out last week and while his overall numbers were good, they waned as the year progressed.

Benson’s best games were in Wk’s 2, 5, 7, 9, 13 and 16. Baltimore (twice) and Chicago possessed run defenses at the time that ranked top 5 in the league. Since Week 10, though, the only opponents Benson could get untracked against were Detroit and Kansas City, who rank 25th and 31st against the run respectively.

New York’s CB Revis is the best in the game right now and short of the odd bomb, Cincinnati had trouble with anything beyond intermediate routes. Failure to move the chains will translate into long shifts for the Bengal defenders and in cool conditions they will wear down.

Sending rookie QB Sanchez into a hostile environment is asking a lot but O-Co Schottenheimer is aware of his strengths and New York’s attack will be based on the ground game. Cincinnati was without two of their four starting linemen (Domata Peko and Robert Geathers) last week and one of their backups (Pat Sims) went out early in this game. Peko and Geathers should return for this rematch and it looks to us as if this will be a low scoring affair. Pick: Take the "Under" 34

Philadelphia at Dallas
Line: Cowboys -4
Over/Under: 45
In the second of three Week 17 rematches, online sportsbooks posted this line last Sunday night and it hasn’t moved since. Line movement has been non-existent as the Cowboys, a perennial best bet to fade down the stretch, are demanding that the rest of the league takes notice.

Dallas has shown consistent improvement on both sides of the ball throughout the year; fighting through injuries to the three-deep RB corps and bolstered by the emergence of WR Miles. On defense the edge rush from the Cowboys has been relentless and Philadelphia will need to be creative and work quickly to avoid sacks. QB McNabb was hauled down seven times this year against the Cowboys, including four in the 24-0 loss last Sunday.

Philadelphia was forced to turn to its bench this year and found success with RB McCoy, allowing RB Westbrook time to recover from a concussion. Both will be ready for this game but Dallas is fourth against the run and comes into the game with a defensive front seven at 100-percent. Dallas is also sixth at time of possession while the Eagles rank 28th and that promises to be a factor if the Cowboys get out in front and turn to their relentless ground game.

The Cowboys have not won a playoff game since 1996 and are in a prime position to do so right now. The way these teams match up, we lean on the home side to cover the spread. Pick: Take the Cowboys

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