At Houston -3 Cincinnati
The Texans are hitting the playoffs cold. After winning seven in a row from the end of October to mid-December, Houston dropped three straight games to close out the regular season. Yea, TJ Yates got injured and Arian Foster sat out Week 17, but the Texans enter the postseason with a clear lack of momentum.

The Bengals backed their way into the playoffs with some help. They came out flat against the Ravens last week, and Cincy’s D had all kinds of trouble containing Ray Rice. Arian Foster is going to be a challenge for this unit. Yates is healthy and the home crowd will be extra fired up for the first playoff game in franchise history. The Bengals have a great foundation for future success, but they’re going to get bounced out this week.
Pick: Texans -3

At New Orleans -11 Detroit
Remember the quick exit the Saints suffered when traveling to Seattle in the first round of the playoffs last season? You can bet it’s fresh on Sean Payton’s mind, too. And you know he’s prepping his team hard to avoid a trap game at home. This is the biggest spread of the week in what’s sure to be a shootout. The Saints can run when they want to and pass at will. The Lions are a bit more one-dimensional. They’ll put up a fight, but there’s just too many weapons for them to stop.
Pick: Saints -10.5

At NY Giants -3 Atlanta
The Giants are 4-4 at home this year. The Falcons are 4-4 on the road. The Giants have 11 sacks in the past two games. The Falcons have only allowed 26 sacks all season, sixth-best in the league. Both the Giants and the Falcons have top-tier passing games, with players who can stretch the field and pick up big chunks of yards. Eli Manning and Matt Ryan have tossed 29 touchdowns each, and both QBs are experiencing career-best seasons. The Falcons have a decent run D and the Giants are 29th in the league in rushing. The Giants have to be fired up after last week, but the Falcons are coming off a road stellar performance against a terrible Bucs squad. This should be the tightest matchup of the week, but I think Matt Ryan can finally win his first playoff game this week.
Pick: Falcons +3

Pittsburgh -8.5 At Denver
Big Ben is the oddest combination of super tough guy and injury embellishing diva. Back in the Coach Cowher days, Ben claimed to play an AFC Championship game with multiple broken toes. His coach reported that the injury wasn’t in fact that severe. There’s a similar thing going on in Pittsburgh right now, with Ben limping around claiming that he re-aggravated his high ankle sprain against Cleveland, and Tomlin reporting that his QB will be healthy and ready to roll in Denver. No one can question Ben’s toughness, but it’s hard to get a good read on the extensiveness of his injury. He certainly didn’t look anywhere near 100 percent in San Francisco or Cleveland. The Steelers lost Mendenhall to a torn ACL, but Isaac Redman should be a capable substitute as long as he can hang on to the ball. Now if Maurkice Pouncey doesn’t suit up, that’s a huge blow for the Steelers.

Tebowmanina has turned to Turnovermania in recent weeks, but Tebow’s received the green light to fling it on Sunday. Pittsburgh hasn’t exactly blown teams out on the road this year, but this is a matchup that they should win. They’ve allowed the fewest passing yards per game this year and they’re going up against a team that averaged only 152.1 passing yards per game, second-worst in the league behind Jacksonville. I don’t anticipate this being a blow out, but even if the Broncos get four quarters of Tebow Time, it’s not going to be enough.
Pick: Steelers -8.5

Week 17: 7-8-1
Season: 136-113-12

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