We close the book on the NFL regular season and now head to the playoffs where things start to get fun in terms of matchups and handicapping. Depending on where you look, all four road teams are favored this weekend. I'll tell you this, there's no way that all four of them will pick up victories.
I closed out the regular season on an incredible run and will provide my thoughts and/or selections on every game the rest of the way. Let me say as an aside that there is a ton of value out there to make the Super Bowl with some of the teams playing this weekend. I wouldn't hate it if you told me you could get the Chiefs to win the AFC at a decent price.
Record: 42-23-2 (3-1 last week)
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at Houston Texans (9-7)
Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET
Just in case you didn't know, the Chiefs enter this one having won 10 in a row. Lost in the storylines, I don’t feel like enough is being made of a 10-game winning streak. They don't do it with flash, as their quarterback is Alex Smith and the starting running back is Charchandrick West. Kansas City does just enough on offense to make things easier for its defense that has allowed 20 points or fewer in five straight games. Detractors will point out the quality of opponent the Chiefs played down the stretch as being fairly weak, but they do have a win in Denver back on Nov. 15.
On the other side, you have a Texans team that has won three straight and also is playing dominant defense. Houston allowed just 22 points in its last three games, all against AFC South foes. Last year these two teams played in Houston with Kansas City winning 27-20. I really want to take the Texans to win this one outright, but I think we've been tricked a bit by how well they've played as of late. It's not hard to slow down Matt Hasselbeck, Zach Mettenberger and a checked out Jags team. SELECTION: Under 40 (Kansas City 20-17)
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Funny how the NFL goes. Just two weeks ago, the Steelers were the team you didn't want to play in the postseason and then they lost to the Ravens in Baltimore. Last week, you didn't want to play the Jets and then they lost to the Bills and now Pittsburgh takes that title over once again. There are several things that concern me entering this matchup. Pittsburgh is most likely going to be without DeAngelo Williams, which means it's Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint in the backfield. This means Cincinnati can blitz and worry more about Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers’ QB called out Martavis Bryant on Tuesday for not being tough enough and I don't know if that's the message I'd want to send. Everyone knows how good Antonio Brown is, but I feel like Big Ben forces the ball to him way too much, which often results in turnovers.
These two teams each won on the other's home field earlier this season. Pittsburgh lost 16-10 back on Nov. 1 at home in the game where they lost Le’Veon Bell for the year. Cincinnati's turn to lose at home came on Dec. 13 in the game where Andy Dalton got hurt. AJ McCarron hasn't been awful for Cincy although the offense has tried to run the ball more to protect him. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are big threats out of the backfield. The Steelers’ secondary is pretty bad and A.J. Green should be able to go off if McCarron can get him the ball. Tyler Eifert being healthy helps as well as Pittsburgh has been vulnerable covering tight ends. The Bengals are 12-3 ATS this season and 13-4 ATS the last three years as an underdog. SELECTION: Bengals +3 (Cincy 24-23)
Seattle Seahawks (10-6) at Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET
This one was an ugly contest back on Dec. 6 with the Seahawks rolling 38-7 over Minnesota at its place. Russell Wilson threw for 260 yards while the Hawks’ ground game put up 173. The Vikings managed just 125 yards of total offense in the loss. What's changed since then? Well, Seattle won three of four, including dominating victories at Baltimore and Arizona. The defending NFC champions outscored all four opponents 118-48 with an odd loss to the Rams somehow thrown in the middle.
Minnesota lost to the Cardinals on the road, but then ripped off three wins on its way to an NFC North title. The Vikings are like the Chiefs of the NFC. Their offense does just enough to keep their solid defense rested on the sidelines. Teddy Bridgewater had been doing a good job reducing his turnovers before the win in Green Bay where he had an awful interception. The game plan against Minnesota seems relatively simple as you load the box and force Bridgewater to beat you through the air. The funny thing is that I'm sure a lot of teams have tried to do that, but have been unsuccessful.
The way too early forecast for Sunday is the temperature will be three degrees, which will be cold that Seattle hasn't dealt with in a long time. Something to watch as the week goes along is the status of Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who has been out with a toe injury. He is pretty necessary in this game especially if Marshawn Lynch returns. I really struggled with this one, because it seems too easy to take the Seahawks. This is the pick I feel the least confident about. While I'm picking a blowout victory for the road team, I feel more "confident" that it's lower scoring. SELECTION: Under 39.5 (Seattle 31-6)
Green Bay Packers (10-6) at Washington Redskins (9-7)
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET
Redskins fans were rooting for a matchup with Aaron Rodgers during the Sunday night game. This line has moved all over with each team being favored at one point. Kirk Cousins is putting up Rodgers-like numbers especially at home where he has just two interceptions. I sat at Redskins training camp and saw a defense that was going to be a force for teams to deal with. We are finally getting to see that group although the secondary is vulnerable. Any time you need to sign burnt toast corner Cary Williams, you know you are in trouble. Because of an injury to Kyshoen Jarrett, Washington will have to find someone to fill that hole. The Redskins are a terrible favorite ATS going 54-87 since 1992. There will be an incredible energy in this one as it's a fan base that was dying for a winner and finally got one. SELECTION: Redskins +1 (Washington 24-16)
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.