Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:45 AM EST odds are subject to change.
Cincinnati +6 -110 over Buffalo
3:00 PM EST. Both of these teams have to count themselves at least a bit fortunate to have survived what was a very wild Wild Card Weekend. Cincinnati needed a big defensive play, as Baltimore was on the doorstep of their end zone in a tied game and they got one of the biggest defensive plays of all time when LB Logan Wilson dislodged the ball from Raven QB Tyler Huntley’s grasp, and DE Sam Hubbard scooped and scored for a 98-yard fumble return for the decisive score in the game and the longest go-ahead TD in NFL postseason history (not to mention the longest fumble-return TD in playoff annals as well). Still, Cincinnati was never going to cover that game. They also didn’t leave a favorable taste in the market. Struggling against a backup QB is never a good look. How do you let a team using its backup QB outgain you 364-234 and allow them to battle back from deficits essentially three times (were it not for a well-timed punch out on the goal line).
Buffalo had its own travails, blowing an early 17-0 lead, with the Bills a bit shocked to find themselves trailing the Dolphins, led by rookie QB Skylar Thompson, 24-20 midway through the third quarter at home. Josh Allen restored order with a couple of TD passes, but the Dolphins responded in the fourth and the Bills left the game feeling they got away with something, while Miami likely thinks they let one get away. From our standpoint, the Bills have a few more questions than the Bengals. Holding Miami to 231 yards and still allowing them to come into Buffalo and score 31 points raises questions. Three turnovers with one converted to a defensive touchdown would normally be a death sentence in a playoff game, but the Bills wriggled off the hook. This could’ve easily been Miami v Baltimore instead of Cincinnati v Buffalo. Had that happened, Roger Goodell and his criminal organization would’ve put out a hit on two referees. As it stand$ now, today’$ two playoff game$ will have the continent’$ full attention.
The Bengals have played just about all the best teams over the course of the last two seasons, and have always, at the very least, been in it with a chance to win it late, winning plenty of times. In last year’s Super Bowl forecast, before they lost it by three points in possession of the ball at the end, we noted then that they played the Packers and 49ers – the NFC Divisional Round players – even for 60 minutes, and beat the AFC #1 and #2 seeds, Tennessee and Kansas City. This season, they lost to Dallas and Baltimore by 3 and 2 points, beat Miami by 12, Kansas City by 3 and Tampa Bay by 11. They were leading the Bills 7-3 three weeks ago, with the ball near midfield when play was halted.
Meanwhile, the Bills flashy offense has had nothing but great fortune for weeks. Down the stretch, the Bills were fortunate (in-game variance bouncing their way to a large degree) to beat Detroit on Thanksgiving day, Cleveland the week prior, the Jets, Miami and New England before beating Chicago 35-13. Buffalo’s schedule was not difficult and they lost to the worst defense in the game when Minnesota beat them 33-30.
The Bills’ pass defense has a great reputation, and often comes through against opponents with mediocre to poor pass offenses, a subset of which Cincinnati’s is not a member. The Bengals have some injuries, offensive line and secondary, thus the ambulance chasers got their motors running with a line-moving lurch on Monday, which brings us back to what is most important ---value.
This game is truly a coin flip but the price doesn’t reflect that. Cincinnati was injured last year too when they came within three points of winning it all. When we look or break down every aspect of this game, we cannot find one area in which the Bills have a clear edge. They’re not better at QB. They’re not better on defense. They didn’t play the tougher schedule and they didn’t beat the tougher opponent last week. Instead, they had to beat a third string QB. The points are well worth taking in this one.
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Cincinnati +6 -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)