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Friday, January 2, 2015

NFL Predictions 2015 Wild Card Playoffs: Bengals Vs Colts [update]

Cincinnati Bengals Vs. Indianapolis Colts: IND -3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

This is another game where we've seen some line movement. The Colts opened as -4 point favorites, but early money dropped this number all the way down to -3. That's only 1 point, but the fact that it moved to the key number of 3 tells us that there isn't a lot of respect for Indy out there. And that's saying something considering the narrative on Dalton.  Most casual bettors are still on the Colts though, with 69% of the tickets on the home team.

Bottom Line

Like most playoff games, this one is a tricky matchup to handicap. I can certainly understand why people took Cincy plus the points. The Colts have not been that impressive, and the underlying numbers signal some red flags.

That said, are the Bengals any better? Their passing game fell from a middle of the pack unit to 24th in the second half of the season. The run game? Fell from 6th in the league to 17th. The offense as a whole is worse on the road as well - 22nd, vs 14th at home.

Even if they do have A.J. Green, Davis has done a good job against #1 WRs this year. UPDATE: AJ Green has just been downgraded to "doubtful". The Bengals have also switched to a run-first attack since they got beat down in Indy earlier in the year.  This approach should be able to counter an iffy Indy run D, and blitz-happy scheme. At the end of the day, Dalton is still going to have to make plays to win this game though.  Indy's D might not be that great, but they were 6th in the league at home, compared with 21st on the road.

I think the primary reason that people are fading the Colts is because of what's happened to their offense. Much like the Bengals, Indy's offensive numbers have declined as the year has gone on. Their passing game fell to 25th in the league by the end of the season, and the running game was poor throughout. The offense is also worse at home than they were on the road - 20th vs 13th.

Making things more complicated, the weakness for the Bengals D has been on the ground - something the Colts don't really know how to take advantage of.

Yet, what I think is the biggest factor when the Colts have the ball is whether or not Cincy can get pressure.  If Luck has time to throw, I'm not worried about this matchup.  And the numbers say he will. The Bengals have the worst pressure-rate in the entire NFL. After Dunlap, who is a threat?

That's not a recipe for success against Andrew Luck on the road. I'll go ahead and lay the -3.

UPDATE: This line is headed for -3.5 fast, and has already moved at a number of shops. If you want IND -3, don't hesitate.

NFL Pick: IND -3.

Read more: Wild Card picks.

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