Wild Card weekend, the start of the play-offs. Four games spread over Saturday and Sunday, the winners advancing to the divisional round. Each game is previewed and tipped here

Recommendations

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers under 38 points at 11/12 888Sport

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: Baltimore +3 points at Evens William Hill

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts Under 49 points at Evens Boylesports

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Over 48.5 points at 11/12 888Sport

Saturday

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

The Cardinals (11-5) are the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs after finishing second in the NFC West having lost four of their last six games. Despite one of the league’s best defenses, the relative decline in results occurred due to quarterback injuries which have stymied the points scoring potential of the team only scoring 64 points in those last four games. Current quarterback Ryan Lindley has completed less than 50 percent of his passes in the last two games, for 532 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, including three last weekend.

If this is a match up where momemtum counts, Carolina have it and could well be a dangerous team in the play-offs. The defense in particular has improved dramatically through the season, returning to its 2013 form. It was ranked 24th in Weeks 1-9, then 5th in Weeks 10-17. At the same time the Carolina offensive line, suspect all year, has been protecting Cam Newton a bit better. Against Atlanta last weekend Four Carolina backs, including the quarterback, gained 40 yards or more rushing.

Carolina are 5.5 point favourites at home for this match up, a points spread that would have seemed amazing a month ago but testament to performances since. Carolina will try to run on Arizona and the once reliable Arizona run defense has allowed 473 rushing yards in the last two weeks., Arizona are likely to struggle to score points. If pushed I would have this closer than a 5.5 point game but the better bet is under 38 points at 11/12 888Sport

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers

A fierce AFC North rivalry for the first AFC North game of the weekend with Baltimore winning at Cleveland and back-dooring into the play-offs on the final weekend. This should be a very close game (Pittsburgh are three point favourites at home) between two teams who know each other well. With Haloti Ngata the top run defender for the Ravens back from his four-game suspension, the big question is the availability of Pittsburgh back Le’Veon Bell, who suffered a hyper-extended knee last weekend. If Bell is hampered, that would send Pittsburgh to the air; with the game’s most productive receiver, Antonio Brown (129 catches, 1,698 receiving yards, both league bests) going to be the key. Whether he can perform to the same extent without the opposition loading up the line of scrimmage to stop Bell’s running and leaving him one on one with cornerbacks is a big question

In the circumstances I like Baltimore +3 points at Evens William Hill

Sunday

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts

These two teams played in week 10 and the Colts won comfortably, shutting out the Bengals. Nearly two months on and this looks like an even matchup. The Colts major on Andrew Luck and the passing attack and don’t match up with the best teams in the play offs in two crucial areas, defense and the running game. The last three playoff teams Indianapolis has played have scored 51, 42 and 42 points.

After losing the AFC North title to Pittsburgh on the road, Cincinnati will most likely play it conservative, try to run Jeremy Hill as much as they can, keep Luck off the field and at least keep it close. Predicting Cincinnati is tough, Andy Dalton is inconsistent. As i don’t really trust either team, the bet I am looking at is Under 49 points (Evens Boylesports). The quote is high and i don’t see a shoot out here with Cincinnati’s likely approach

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys

The final game of the weekend on Sunday night. Dallas were already seven point favourites for the game when news came through early in the week that Lions all-pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is suspended for Sunday’s game. A big blow to one of the top defenses in the league about to face demarco murray behind a top offensive line and Dez Bryant out wide.

The key will be pressure on Romo, which is why Suh’s absence is important. In Dallas’ 4-0 run to the NFC East title in December, Romo was sacked only six times, and he hasn’t been hurt much at all recently by up-the-middle pressure. I can’t hand on heart take the Cowboys giving seven points though, but Suh’s absence leads me to think this may be an overs game. Dallas should score plenty and Matthew Stafford, megatron et al can certainly attack Dallas through the air

Over 48.5 points at 11/12 888Sport

Recommendations

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers under 38 points at 11/12 888Sport

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: Baltimore +3 points at Evens William Hill

Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts Under 49 points at Evens Boylesports

Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Over 48.5 points at 11/12 888Sport