The 2021 NFL Playoffs are here. Everybody’s abuzz with what might happen in the AFC where four solid teams do battle in this weekend’s Wild Card Round. Cincinnati takes on Houston on Saturday, January 5, while Indianapolis battles Baltimore on Sunday, January 6. Keep reading for analysis and free AFC Wild Card picks ATS.
AFC Wild Card Picks ATS
Cincinnati Bengals 10-6 vs Houston Texans 12-4
Where: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
When: Jan. 5 at 4:30 pm ET
NFL Betting Odds: Houston -4.5
Let’s start with the Houston Texans. 52% of Football handicappers are willing to lay the 4.5 points and back the Texans in their quest to knock the hot Bengals out of the AFC Playoffs.
Houston’s offense has hit a sort of wall lately. Overall, the offense had a great regular season. It racked up 372.1 yards per game. It averaged 132.8 yards on the ground per contest. The problem is that QB Matt Schaub sort of broke to the downside in 3 of Houston’s final 4 games. Save for a 109.7 QB rating against Indianapolis in Week 15, Schaub produced QB ratings of 68.8 versus the New England Patriots, 72.1 versus the Minnesota Vikings and 66.3 versus Indianapolis in their second matchup.
The Houston defense hasn’t been all that great lately, either. The unit has suffered some injuries at the worst possible time, leaving it vulnerable against the pass. Tom Brady passed for 296 yards and 4 touchdowns against Houston’s secondary.
More telling, of course, is the fact that Houston goes into this Playoff game having lost 3 out of their final 4 regular season games both straight up and against the spread. That’s a stark contrast to the Cincinnati Bengals who is flat out hot right now.
The Bengals have gone 7 and 2 Straight Up and Against The Spread since their bye week. That’s a huge accomplishment considering that they’ve beaten the New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers on the road, the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, and the Baltimore Ravens during that stretch. The only losses occurred to the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys.
Cincinnati’s defense has become a shutdown unit. It’s allowing only 319.7 yards per game on average and it’s ranked in the Top 10 against the pass and in the Top 15 against the rush.
The Bengals are hot while the Texans are not. Cincinnati is the team to back Against The Spread.
Free AFC Wild Card Pick: Cincinnati Bengals +4.5
Indianapolis Colts 11-5 vs Baltimore Ravens 10-6
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
When: Jan. 5 at 8:30 pm ET
Betting Spread: Baltimore -6.5
This is another situation where the underdog road team goes into the game hotter than the favored home team. The Indianapolis Colts‘ bye week was back in Week 4. Since then, Indianapolis has gone 10 and 3 both straight up and against the spread. Wagers on Luck and Co. would have yielded riches during the regular season.
Speaking of Andrew, although he finished the regular season with a 76.5 QB rating and completed only 54% of his passes, there’s no doubt that he’s the AFC Rookie of the Year. Why? Luck has what few quarterbacks enter the NFL with, incredible leadership and management skills. Sure, RGIII in Washington has better stats and was flashier than Luck in 2012, but Luck played on a worse team and he didn’t have a great offensive line and a monster at running back like RGIII has.
The Colts are a solid team and now that coach Pagano is back, all bets are off as to how far they can go in the AFC Playoffs. The same can’t be written about the Baltimore Ravens.
QB Joe Flacco’s rating is only an 87.7. Flacco has been in the league since the 2008 – 2009 season yet he hasn’t produced a QB rating higher than a 93.6 for an entire season. He’s as inconsistent as they come and he doesn’t appear to have very good leadership qualities. Baltimore’s offense hasn’t been very good lately. It failed to put up more than 20 points in 2 out of the Ravens final 3 regular season games.
The defense has been okay, but it hasn’t been good enough to bring victories to the Ravens lately. Baltimore goes into the Wild Card Round having lost 3 of their final 4 straight up. The Edgar Allan Poes also went 1 and 3 against the spread in those final four games.
Indianapolis is the pick against the spread against a reeling Baltimore Ravens’ squad.
Free AFC Wild Card Pick: Indianapolis Colts +6.5