Handicapping the NFL playoffs isn't easy. Luckily, we recruited the help of the people who know this weekend's teams the best - the bloggers that have been keeping close tabs all season long.
We asked all eight bloggers to give bettors one reason to back their respective teams in the opening round of the playoffs:
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-4.5, 43)Why the Bengals will cover
Mickey Mentzer owns WhoDeyFans.com. You can follow him on twitter at @whodeyfans and hear him every Wednesday on the WhoDey Weekly podcast presented by SPNT.TV.
The Bengals are in the Top 3 for sacks this season and this is largely because of the play of the Bengals defensive line. The front four generated 42 of the their 51 sacks (that alone is better than 25 other NFL teams). And the rest of the Bengals defense is pretty good too. In the last eight games, the Bengals have gone 7-1 SU. They’ve allowed 12.8 points per game and their one loss was by a single point. In the last three games, the defense has nine turnovers, nine sacks and three touchdowns. Why the Texans will coverStephanie Stradley writes TexansChick, a blog for the Houston Chronicle. You can follow her on Twitter @StephStradley and check out her blog at StephStradley.com.
The Texans penalties down the stretch are much higher than earlier in the season. For the last five games, they've averaged around nine penalties when they normally average about five. The Texans’ penalty averages at home are less than on the road - 5.5 at home, compared to 8 on the road. Not surprisingly, the Bengals penalties are higher on the road with an average of 7.2. In a closely matched game, where the difference can be a few plays, penalties could be the difference maker. Reliant Stadium can be very loud because of the roof and proximity of the seats, and will be especially raucous for the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-9.5, 46)
Why the Vikings will cover
PJD writes for the Purple Jesus Diaries. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @PJDiaries.
The Vikings will – or could - beat the Packers this weekend because these teams know each other too well. Adrian Peterson on the ground will prevent a Packers’ blowout win and rookie Blair Walsh will make the difference in a tight game, where Mason Crosby’s risky leg will fail. Expect a tight contest, with a close Vikings win.
Why the Packers will cover
Ray Rivard is the editor of Lombardi Ave. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @lombardiave.
Aaron Rodgers will continue to take four or five sacks in Saturday's game, but that doesn't matter. He will get right up and throw for a first down time and time again. Playing at Lambeau Field on a cold Saturday night won't matter, it will be a boost for him. Losing to the Vikings in the final game of the season to force a Wild Card Weekend showdown will only make the chip on his shoulder heavier. He will come out and play his best game of the season. He will record a minimum of three touchdown passes and 300 yards.Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-7, 47)
Why the Colts will coverGreg Cowan is the managing editor for Colts Authority. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @coltsauthority and @ca_radio.
Those wanting a reason to bet on Indianapolis should look no further than the Colts' sideline. Not only has head coach Chuck Pagano instilled a never-quit mindset, but no one knows the Ravens better than Pagano and OC Bruce Arians. Pagano served on the Ravens' defensive staff from 2008-2011 and Arians prepared for the Ravens twice a season as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator from 2007-2011. Their never-quit attitude and knowledge of their opponent should give bettors confidence in the Colts.Why the Ravens coverJustin Silberman writes for Ravens24x7.com/ Russellstreetreport.com. You can follow him on twitter at @RussellStReport and @Jsilbe3.
Joe Flacco finds himself in the middle of the elite quarterback discussion – is he or isn’t he? One thing is for sure: Flacco is an elite quarterback at M&T Bank Stadium, the site of Sunday’s game against the Colts. In eight home games this year, Flacco completed 176 of 283 passes for 2,363 yards, 15 touchdowns, five interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 99. Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins (+3, 46)Why the Seahawks cover the spreadRob Davies writes for Field Gulls. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @FieldGulls.
Russell Wilson will be the difference Sunday. The Rams' pass rush was a true test last week and it was perfect preparation for FedExField and a hostile environment. His continued mastery of the read-option, in conjunction with Marshawn Lynch, will keep a good Redskins run defense on their toes and open up the passing game. Plainly, Wilson doesn't get rattled and the extraordinary start to his career will last at least another week.Why the Redskins cover the spreadKevin Ewoldt is the managing editor for Hogs Haven. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @HogsHaven.
Before dumping all your money on the Seahawks, first consider this: The Seahawks are 3-5 on the road this year while the Redskins have won their last four home games and are 5-1 against the spread when playing a team with a winning record.