I don't really have serious insights on all four games, so I will just discuss the two picks I like, which also happen to follow a similar theme.
A classic case of a superior team limping into the playoffs going against a weaker team that seems to be catching fire at the right time. It's not clear which team has an advantage in cases like these, and it appears even Vegas isn't sure, with the line set at that dreaded home team -4.5 spot.
Perhaps more can be gleaned from studying what went well or poorly for the teams during their recent runs. For Cincinnati, their recent string of success has clearly been led by their defense. They have not allowed more than 20 points in any game in the second half of the season, and have limited six of their last eight opponents to 13 points or fewer. Their offense has managed to do just enough to win, but the Red Rocket has thrown only two TD passes in his past three games while the Law Firm is dealing with a sore hamstring.
For Houston, their swoon has coincided with a drop in offensive production, having only managed one offensive TD in their last two games. While many will point to the shootouts against Detroit and Jacksonville, as well as the mauling by the Patriots, the defense has actually not played that badly during this stretch.
Why pick a side in the fight between the irresistible force and immovable object. If you think one or both teams will keep playing as they have in recent games, the under rates to be the play.
Pick: Under 43
This case is a little different than the game above, with both teams being red hot, having each won 7 of their last 8. While Seattle's stellar home record and strong defense throughout the season have been key focal points, it's the offense that's made its mark during the Seahawks' recent run. They managed an astounding 150 points spread across three consecutive games, and featured a balanced attack with Wilson throwing 16TDs to 2INTs in his last eight games while Lynch finished the season with four consecutive 100 yard rushing games en route to finishing third in the league in rushing yards.
It's unclear just how healthy RG3 is, but his accuracy throwing the ball, along with his good reading skills in the option, should keep the Redskins offense humming along even if he can't motor down the field himself like he did earlier in the season. During their 7 game win streak, the Redskins have scored less than 27 points only once.
If this game was played in Seattle, I'd give a lot more consideration to the possibility that the Seattle defense can shut down the Redskins' offense. But with the game being played in Washington, I think both teams will continue to focus on what's been working for them.
Pick: Over 46
ND vs ALA National Championship Game
I have a lot of friends who like Notre Dame in this matchup, both getting the points and perhaps even pulling off the big upset and winning. Similar to the theme that I used for my picks above, I would suggest focusing on what it is the teams do best, which in this case is defense. If Notre Dame really were to make a game of it, I would think that it'd be because their stellar defense continues to shine. On the other side, it's not too unlikely for the Alabama defense to completely shut down the Notre Dame offense. Seems like there are many ways for this game to play out that will result in a low scoring game.
Pick: Under 40.5