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NFL Playoffs 2014-15: Predictions and Odds for Every Weekend Matchup

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 31 Dec 2014

It doesn't take a lot for players to get their minds right for the NFL playoffs.Practically all season long, teams are mired in must-win situations. With only 16 games on the slate and the level of parity at an all-time high, many of the 12 teams that made the postseason have already experienced pressure-cooker situations this season.But while a few of these teams took must-win games to get here, there are no bones about it nowevery game brings a win-or-go-home mentality. While teams had scenarios to lean on throughout the season, the only way to stay alive now is to win every time you step on the field.There's nothing like playoff time, and few professional sports can mirror the high stakes and style of the NFL postseason. Take a look below to get your minds right for itbecause the players are already a few steps ahead of you.Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark,last updated December 30Biggest Wild Card GamesCincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis ColtsThe Bengals and the Colts enter the 2014 playoffs with young quarterbacks intent on erasing some painful recent postseason woes.Cincinnati clinched a spot in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, making it 4-for-4 for quarterback Andy Dalton, but the Bengals can also make it 4-for-4 in opening-round playoff exits in that span.As for the Colts, they have made improvements in each of Andrew Luck's first two playoff appearances, going from 2-14 to making the Wild Card Round and then advancing to the divisional round last year. But with a 1-2 overall playoff record, Luck will be set on getting his Colts to next weekend.Recent history in the playoffs doesn't bode well for either team, but 2014 results bring more reasons for concern for the Bengals. They were absolutely manhandled by Indianapolis back in Week 7 in a 27-0 loss, as Bleacher Report's Cian Fahey noted:Just like in that showdown, the Colts offense will be too much for Cincinnati here. The Bengals defense ranks 20th in the league against both the run and the pass, while Luck leads arguably the NFL's most dangerous passing attack, which doesn't miss a beat even when the running game is ineffective.Dalton has been forcing it to A.J. Green too much, and the Bengals' stout young running backs won't have a lead to work with. Forced to air it out, Cincinnati won't be able to pull through.Prediction: Colts 27, Bengals 20Detroit Lions at Dallas CowboysLate-season collapses spurned the postseason chances of both the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys a season ago, but a repeat performance wasn't in the cards for 2014. Two of the NFC's most impressive teams this season will face off in AT&T Stadium for a spot in the divisional round.Although the Cowboys finished the season on a tear with a 12-4 record, it wouldn't be far-fetched to say they might rather play on the road. They're a perfect 8-0 away from home but just 4-4 in Dallas.However, the Lions' biggest success has come at home (7-1), while they're 4-4 on the road.Detroit's running defense has been its calling card all season, and it will be more important than ever against DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys' stout offensive line. Detroit boasts the NFL's top-ranked run defense, but Murray has been a workhorse even with an injury.Detroit's secondary figures to be one of the tougher units Dallas has faced this season, but it is a shell of itself without dominating the trenches. If the Lions cannot slow down Murray, the onus will fall on the their defensive backs to help slow down Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.The Lions have the talent on the offensive side with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson to stick around, but the Dallas defense will have much more success than the reeling Lions and will take control of this one. The Cowboys are a much more complete team, and it will show over the course of 60 minutes.Prediction: Cowboys 31, Lions 17
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