The Cincinnati Bengals are in the postseason for the fourth consecutive season but seek their first playoff victory in 24 years when they visit the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. To end a drought dating to the 1990 season, the fifth-seeded Bengals need to find a way to avenge a 27-0 drubbing at No. 4 seed Indianapolis on Oct. 19. Star wide receiver A.J. Green missed that matchup against the Colts and is questionable for Sunday due to a concussion.
Indianapolis is in the postseason for the third straight season since using the No. 1 overall pick to draft Andrew Luck, who authored the second-largest playoff comeback in league history in last year’s 45-44 victory over Kansas City. “Suppressing Andrew Luck is going to be kind of hard,” Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson said. “He always starts off kind of slow and the scary thing is, he can always get his team going.” The Colts have won six of their last eight, but the two losses came in lopsided fashion to a pair of playoff teams in Dallas and New England.
TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS.
LINE HISTORY: Oddsmakers opened the Colts -4 and that has been adjusted to -3.5. The total opened 49 and is down a half-point.
INJURY REPORT: Bengals – WR A.J. Green (Doubtful, head), CB Terence Newman (Probable, illness), TE Jermaine Gresham (Probable, leg), RB Cedric Peerman (Questionable, concussion), WR James Wright (Out, knee), WR Dane Sanzenbacher (IR, concussion). Colts – G Joe Reitz (Probable, ankle), RB Trent Richardson (Probable, illness), TE Dwayne Allen (Probable, knee), LB Bjoern Werner (Probable, shoulder), LB Jerrell Freeman (Probable, hamstring), WR Reggie Wayne (Probable, groin), G Hugh Thornton (Out, shoulder).
ABOUT THE BENGALS (10-5-1 SU, 8-7-1 ATS, 6-10 O/U): Much has been made of the big-game failures of quarterback Andy Dalton, who is 0-3 with one touchdown and six interceptions in the postseason. Dalton has 19 scoring passes versus 17 picks this season, including a pair against Pittsburgh in last week’s showdown for the AFC North title, which is among the reasons Cincinnati will lean heavily on rookie running back Jeremy Hill – even if Green is healthy. The 240-pound Hill was a bit player in the first meeting between the teams but took over the starting job two weeks later and rushed for 100 yards five times in the last nine games, including four of at least 147 yards. The Bengals tied for the AFC lead with 20 interceptions but ranked last in the NFL with 20 sacks.
ABOUT THE COLTS (11-5 SU, 10-5-1 ATS, 9-7 O/U): Luck threw for 344 yards and a pair of TDs against Cincinnati in October, which came during a stretch of eight straight 300-yard games en route to career-best totals of 4,761 yards and an NFL-leading 40 scoring passes. Postseason standout T.Y. Hilton and veteran Reggie Wayne each were hobbled late in the season but expect to be ready to go while tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen must be monitored after hauling in eight TD receptions apiece. The Colts amassed a season-high 171 yards on the ground in the first meeting, but Ahmad Bradshaw is done for the season and Trent Richardson has all but disappeared, leaving Daniel “Boom” Herron as the lead back. Indy allowed at least 30 points in all five of its losses – including 42 apiece to the Patriots and Cowboys.
* Favorite is 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings.
* Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings in Indianapolis.
* Bengals are 0-5 ATS in their last five playoff games.
* Colts are 1-4 ATS in their last five playoff games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: According to Covers Consensus, 61 percent of bettors are backing the Colts.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5, 48)
The Dallas Cowboys have become synonymous with late-season swoons over the past two decades, but they appear bent on putting an end to that reputation. The Cowboys surged to the NFC East title in spectacular fashion and take a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s Wild Card round against the visiting Detroit Lions. Dallas, which has one playoff win since 1996 and is in the postseason for the first time since 2009, averaged a staggering 41.3 points in going 4-0 in December.
The Lions came up short in their bid to secure a first-round bye with a Week 17 loss at NFC North rival Green Bay, but they picked up a huge victory off the field when the NFL reversed a one-game suspension against stud defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The successful appeal by Suh for stepping on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sets up an intriguing matchup between Detroit’s No. 1 rush defense and the Cowboys’ second-ranked ground game, featuring the NFL’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray. “The game in a lot of ways may come down to … that matchup up front,” Dallas QB Tony Romo said.
TV: 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX.
LINE HISTORY: Oddsmakers opened the Cowboys as 7-point home faves, but that is now -6.5. The total opened 48.
INJURY REPORT: Lions – DT Nick Fairley (Doubtful, knee). Cowboys – LB Rolando McClain (Probable, knee), DE Tyrone Crawford (Questionable, illness), LB Anthony Hitchens (Questionable, leg), T Doug Free (Doubtful, ankle).
CHEERLEADER WAR: The Lions don’t have cheerleaders, so here’s a doubleheader of Cowboys cheerleaders:
ABOUT THE LIONS (11-5 SU, 7-9 ATS, 5-11 O/U): Detroit allowed a total of 15.5 points during a four-game winning streak – all against teams with losing records – but was gashed for a season-worst 152 rushing yards in the 30-20 loss to the Packers. That more than doubled the per-game average of 69.3 yards allowed by the Lions, who ranked second in the league in points (17.6) and total yards (300.9) allowed while registering 42 sacks and 20 interceptions. Detroit’s offense continues to battle inconsistency despite Matthew Stafford going over 4,000 yards passing for the fourth straight season and wideouts Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate each surpassing 1,000 yards. Johnson, who missed three games due to injury, torched the Cowboys last season with a franchise-record 329 yards and a TD on 14 receptions.
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (12-4 SU, 10-6 ATS, 9-6-1 O/U): Murray ran away with the league rushing title, setting franchise records with 1,845 yards and 12 100-yard games despite undergoing surgery for a broken hand suffered in Week 15. Murray has rushed for six of his 13 touchdowns over the past five games, but Dallas has been equally effective through the air with Dez Bryant hauling in six scoring passes in the last three games en route to a league-best total of 16. The much-maligned Romo played superbly down the stretch to enter the MVP conversation, throwing for 12 touchdowns versus one interception during the four-game winning streak while posting a quarterback rating of at least 129.1 in six of the final nine contests. The Cowboys’ defense, which ranked last in 2013, yielded only three first-half TDs during the winning streak.
* Lions are 1-6 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
* Cowboys are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall.
* Over is 5-0 in the last five meetings.
* Underdog is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: According to Covers Consensus, 57 percent of bettors are backing the Cowboys.