Wild-card weekend of the NFL Playoffs opened with all four road teams favored, and each of those hold at least one significant statistical mismatch that lends credence to the lines. The "opened" qualifier in the lead is needed because the Packers-Redskins, which started with Green Bay as a 1-point road underdog, has since been bet to a pick'em.
Let's take a look at the most significant statistical edges held in the four wild-card matchups.
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Pittsburgh Steelers (-2) at Cincinnati Bengals
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown vs. Cincinnati Pass Defense
Playoff games between division rivals are always fun, and this one figures to be a barn-burner. These teams split two matchups in the regular season as the Bengals won in Pittsburgh in Week 9, while the Steelers came back to turn the tables in Week 14.
Pittsburgh figures to look for an aerial attack in the third matchup as they face a Bengals team that's been shaky at times against the pass. Roethlisberger and Brown form the core of one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. Brown ranked second in the NFL with 1,834 receiving yards, while Roethlisberger threw for just under 4,000 yards despite missing time with injury. This week the dynamic duo faces the leagues' 22nd-ranked pass defense as the Bengals have allowed an average of 266.5 yards per game.
Seattle Seahawks (-5) at Minnesota Vikings
Seattle Pass Defense vs. Teddy Bridgewater
Paging Adrian Peterson! The NFL's leading rusher may need a huge game for the Vikings when you look at the matchup between Bridgewater and the Seattle pass defense. Bridgewater has certainly shown solid progress in his second season, but the Vikings still rank 31st in the NFL in passing with just 202.9 yards per game. Now they face the league's second-best pass defense in the Seahawks.
The Legion of Boom has allowed just 210.0 yards per game through the air while being at its best to close the regular season. Seattle held high-powered Arizona to just 205 yards passing yards last week, and prior to that St. Louis (103 passing yards) and Cleveland (136) couldn't even sniff 200-plus passing yards.
Bridgewater's playoff debut in frigid weather figures to have Richard Sherman and company chomping at the bit.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) at Houston Texans
Chief Rushing Defense vs. Alfred Blue and Chris Polk
A big reason the Chiefs are favored over the Texans is its stout run defense. Kansas City has allowed just 98.2 yards per game on the ground, which ranks eighth in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Texans rank 28th with an average of just 3.7 yards per carry while tallying only seven rushing touchdowns. The ground game has gotten better in recent weeks for the Texans. However, they have failed to show they can run the ball against an elite rush defense like the Chiefs possess.
It's essential for their success to establish the ground game. To that point, they've surpassed 100 rushing yards each of the past three weeks. The caveat, however, is those came against Jacksonville, Tennessee and Indianapolis. Steel Curtains, they are not.
Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins (pick'em)
Aaron Rodgers vs. Redskins Pass Defense
It hasn't been vintage Aaron Rodgers this season, but his numbers remain solid, and this week he faces one of the league's worst pass defenses. The Redskins have allowed an average of 258 yards per game through the air. Things have been particularly atrocious of late. Washington was gouged for 353 passing yards by the Eagles two weeks ago and ended the season by allowing 412 passing yards to anemic Dallas last Sunday.
Make no mistake, Rodgers and the Packers offense has been wildly inconsistent all season. But having a Super Bowl winner and future Hall of Famer facing one of the league's worst pass defenses is certainly reason for optimism.
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