Free Expert NFL Picks: Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 12/30/2014
Unlike the unexpected 4-5 matchup in the NFC wild-card round that features Carolina and Arizona on Saturday, I did expect both Cincinnati and Indianapolis to be playoff teams this season. No shock whatsoever that the Colts repeated as AFC South champions. They were heavy preseason favorites and never much in danger of not winning the division. Indy was two games behind Houston after two weeks, but there was never much worry there. I am a bit surprised the Bengals didn't win the AFC North, although I didn't like them to win the Week 17 winner-take-all game in Pittsburgh.
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I am fascinated to see what happens here if the Bengals lose ugly. I don't know how Coach Marvin Lewis could be fired after leading the team to four straight playoff appearances. However, Cincinnati looked terrible in losing its postseason opener the previous three years. QB Andy Dalton got his big new extension this season, but he will have a bulls-eye on his back if he struggles again in the playoffs. He has just one touchdown pass and six interceptions in those three losses, completing only 56.9 percent of his passes with a rating of 56.2. Those are not the numbers a $100 million QB should have.
It Pittsburgh beats visiting Baltimore on Saturday night, the winner of this game heads to New England. If the Ravens win, then either Cincinnati or Indy goes to Denver. Pick your poison there. The Colts are fourth favorites on Bovada at +1400 to win the AFC, and the Bengals are +2000 long shots.
Bengals at Colts Betting Story Lines
As usual, I will start with the injury situation, and it's potentially huge for Cincinnati. Star receiver A.J. Green has had a down season because of injuries but is still a difference-maker. He barely played in Week 16 because of an arm injury and then suffered a concussion in the regular-season finale in Pittsburgh. So he has to go through the NFL's concussion protocol to play. If you saw the hit that Pittsburgh's Mike Mitchell laid on Green last week, you wouldn't be surprised that Green had a concussion. It came right after a Green fourth-quarter fumble that would lead to Pittsburgh essentially putting the game away with a touchdown four plays later.
The injury news appears better for Indy. Receiver Reggie Wayne suffered a groin injury in Week 17 but says there's no way he won't play. Tight end Dwayne Allen, who had eight TD catches to tie for the team lead, should play after sitting out Week 17. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, who has missed the past two games with a groin injury, should return. Ditto right guard Joe Reitz, who has been out the past three games with a high-ankle sprain. The Colts started their 10th different offensive line group of the season in Week 17. Indianapolis used eight different offensive linemen in the win the Titans.
A lot has changed since Indianapolis dominated visiting Cincinnati 27-0 in Week 7 in easily the Colts' best defensive performance of 2014 and the Bengals' worst on offense. Andrew Luck threw for 344 yards and two scores and Indy rushed for 171. The Bengals had a total of 135 yards and only 32 on the ground. Cincinnati ran just eight plays in Colts territory and had only eight first downs and 20:17 of time-of-possession. The Bengals were 1-for-13 on third down with punter Kevin Huber called upon 11 times in 14 drives.
Here's what's different from then. For one thing, Green didn't play for the Bengals due to injury. Also, rookie Jeremy Hill hadn't taken hold of the Bengals' featured back role yet. He had just four carries for 15 yards. Hill enters the playoffs with three straight 100-yard games. He has 929 rushing yards since Week 8, 105 more than any other player during that span. Also, Indy still had running back Ahmad Bradshaw healthy then. He had 88 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Now Daniel Herron is the main guy because Trent Richardson is no good, although Richardson had perhaps his best game as a Colt in the first meeting with 77 yards rushing and four catches for 41 yards.
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts NFL Wild Card Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Indianapolis is a 3.5-point favorite (+100) with alternate lines of 3 (-125) and 4 (+108). The Colts are -175 on the moneyline and Bengals +155. The total of 49 is the highest of the four wild-card games. Cincinnati was 8-7-1 against the spread this season (4-4 on road) and 6-10 "over/under" (1-7 on road). Indianapolis was 10-5-1 ATS (5-2-1 at home) and 9-7 O/U (4-4 at home).
The Bengals are 5-1 ATS in their past six after a loss. Cincinnati is 0-5 ATS in its past five playoff games. The Colts are 5-0-1 in their past six at home vs. teams with a winning road record. Indy is 1-4-1 ATS in its past six after a win. The Colts have failed to cover five straight vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 6-2 in Cincinnati's past eight overall. The under is 4-0 in the Colts' past four overall.
Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts Expert Picks and Betting Predictions
I'm certain this game will be closer than the first. Just consider last year's Colts as to why a regular-season meeting often means little in the playoffs. In Week 16 of 2013, Indy went to Kansas City and dominated the Chiefs 23-7. Two weeks later in a wild-card game the Colts fell behind at home to the Chiefs 38-10 early in the third quarter only to win when Luck went crazy the rest of the way. Luck is 1-2 in his playoff career, completing 55 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and eight picks.
The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season, a 23-year drought that ties for the sixth-longest in NFL history. That continues, and if it's lopsided I can see Lewis getting fired and the team promoting offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Indy has been good stopping the run of late, allowing just 3.7 yards per carry over the past six weeks. The Colts will dare Dalton to beat them and even if Green plays he's obviously not 100 percent. Give the 3 points and go over.
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