The first two games of Wildcard Weekend are in the books, with the Panthers rolling over the Cardinals, while Baltimore went into Pittsburgh and pulled out the upset thanks to another impressive defensive display. Onto the next batch of games, with plenty of opportunities available, and a better showing needed tonight on our part.
CINCINATTI BENGALS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
First and foremost AJ Green will be a huge miss for the Bengals. The former Georgia man is set to miss out with a concussion, so look for running back Jeremy Hill to feature heavily, as the Marvin Lewis team looks to control the game through their running attack and defence. During the eight weeks where Hill handled 17-plus touches this season, the Bengals went 7-1.
Indianapolis will no doubt have replayed the tape of their 27-0 beat down of this same Bengal squad from earlier this year numerous times this week. Again the Bengals were AJ Green-less then, and it could be even harder for Andy Dalton with it all on the line now. In his three career playoff games, Dalton is 70-of-123 (56.9%) for 718 yards (5.84 YPA) with a 1:6 TD-to-INT ratio, without notching a win.
The Colts two post-season games a year ago saw a combined 154 points, but with some health problems for both units, this might not be as wild as predicted. TY Hilton was hampered down the stretch with a hamstring, while Dwayne Allen and Reggie Wayne also struggled with niggles. With no run game to speak of, it will once again all be on the shoulders of the former #1 pick from Stanford, Andrew Luck.
One Bengals beat writer expects Hue Jackson to ride Jeremy Hill for 20-30 carries at Indy tomorrow: http://t.co/iI1qLz8Se9
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) January 3, 2015
Main Selection: Cincinnati +4 pts @ 10/11 (Various) – If Jeremy Hill can have success and keep Dalton in manageable third down situations, the Bengals may be able to get a strong foothold in this game. A field goal game either way sees the bet click.
First Touchdown: Jeremy Hill @ 7/1 (BetVictor, Coral, Hills) – The former LSU man has to carry the Bengal squad today and is an obvious choice to cross first, if the coin toss falls our way.
Additional Selections: Jeremy Hill over 19.5 rush attempts @ 10/11 (Lads) – Keeping on the same theme, for Cinci to win Andy Dalton has to hand it off. Hill must see over 20 carries.
DETROIT LIONS @ DALLAS COWBOYS
Arguably the game of Wildcard weekend as Dallas hosts Detroit in a strength v strength encounter. DeMarco Murary led the league in rushing during the regular season, but he meets a stern Detroit front that finished No. 1 in run defense and No. 1 in yards-per-carry allowed (3.17). The Lions have also been boosted by the news that Ndamukong Suh will be available after having his ban overturned.
Scott Linehan has rare ability to tailor offenses to his team's strengths. 2014 #Cowboys ranked No. 1 in time of possession/No. 2 in rush O.
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) January 4, 2015
Don’t expect the Cowboys to deviate from their gameplan too much despite the tough opposition. Murray is very adept at grinding out the ‘dirty yards’ as put by coach Jason Garrett, which helps open things up for Tony Romo who forced himself into MVP contention with a lights out December. In fact Romo led the NFL in 2014 in completion percentage (69.9%), touchdown rate (7.8% of his throws went for a score), yards per attempt (8.5), and quarterback rating (113.2).
For Detroit’s offence it all comes down to Matthew Stafford. While he has put up nice numbers over his career with the help of Calvin Johnson, Stafford is 0-17 against teams that ended with winning records on the road. Will he be able to get it down with all the marbles on the line?
Main Selection: Detroit Lions +6.5 @ 10/11 (Various) – As a Cowboy fan hopefully its straightforward, but from a logical view this game could well turn into another shootout with the offensive weapons on display. In that scenario, it could well be a field goal or two that seals it either way.
First Touchdown: Cole Beasley @ 16/1 (BetVictor) – Beasley has turned into Wes Welker lite this season, working the middle of the field very well and starting a nice rapport with his quarterback.
Additional Selection – Lance Dunbar over 15.5 Rush & Receving Yards @ 10/11 (Lads) – Dunbar gets some work as the third down and passing back. The screen game could be useful to keep the Detroit pass rush at bay and one screen pass to Dunbar could very well see this bet land.