This weekend sees the start of the NFL play-offs with wild card weekend, four matches to determine who will face the top conference seeds next week

Recommendations

Kansas Chiefs -3.5 at the Houston Texans Evens with Paddy Power

Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers at 20/21 Ladbrokes

Minnesota Vikings +5.5 versus the Seattle Seahawks at 20/21 Paddy Power

Washington Redskins -1 versus the Green Bay Packers at 10/11 Ladbrokes

The games in scheduled order are as follows (GMT times)

Saturday 9.35pm

Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans

After starting the season 1-5, the Chiefs have won an inxcredible ten games in a row to reach the play-offs as a wild card behind the Broncos in the AFC West. Despite their travails at quarterback, having used four during the season, the Texans have won a weak division. Since Halloween, these two teams havwe a combvined 16-2 win/loss record with two of the best defenses in the NFL to the fore. Houston, in its last nine games, has allowed 6, 6, 17, 6, 30, 27, 10, 6 and 6 points and this should be a low scoring game.

The Chiefs are 3.5 point away favourites in a game with a points over/under of 40. To win, JJ Watt and the Texans defense are going to have to make some game changing plays The Chiefs do a lot of things typical of successful postseason squads: they run the ball effectively, play stout defense and almost always win the turnover battle. And QB Alex Smith, often criticised for a risk-averse style, has taken more chances downfield and thrown for the most yards (3,486) of his 11-year career while keeping interceptions (7) to a minimum. I like the Chiefs -3.5 here.

Sunday 1.15am

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Thanks to the Bills beating the Jets the Steelers, injury hit all season, were able to reach the play-offs with a week 17 win over the Browns and now return to Cncinnati for a reprise of bad-tempered divisional games this season. None of the AFC teams will be pleased to see the Steelers in the play-offs with their explosive offense.

The Steelers beat the Bengals 33-20 at this venue last month, the game that sent Bengals QB Dalton to the sidelines with a broken thumb. However, Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense could be in trouble if RB DeAngelo Williams can’t play. Antonio Brown has made a case as the league’s best receiver but they will need a run game operating alongside him.

Whilst the Bengals will probably still be without Dalton the Bengals have plenty of offensive threats including a top-tier receiver (A.J. Green) and tight end (Tyler Eifert), a dual threat and diverse ground attack fuelled by Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and a stingy defense that allowed more than 24 points only twice in 2015.

For this game, the points spread has Steelers 2.5 point away favourites, with a points total of over/under 46.5. A tough one to call, but i think i have to take the Bengals and their defense with the points given the doubts about the Steelers running game.

Sunday 6.05pm

Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings

Seattle’s strong second half of the season carried on last weekend with a dominant performance on the road against the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals, and this is Seattle’s fourth consecutive playoff berth and they are two-time defending NFC champions. This is a slightly different Seahawks team to previously though, reliant on the arm of QB Russell Wilson — he set team records for passing yards (4,024) and TDs (34) — as much as the defense that has periodically struggled this year and the running game that has suffered big injuries this season.

With three-time NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson, the Vikings should look to the running game to control the clock and an under-rated defense to keep it close.Seattle thrashed the Vikings 38-7 in Minneapolis four weeks ago. The concern for the Vikings is establishing that run against a defense that has shut it down in recent weeks.

Understandably enough given their form and the recent result between the two, the Seahawks are 5.5 point favourites in a game with a 41.5 point over/under. Minnesota with the points for me, i think the game will be close.

Sunday 9.40pm

Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins

Green Bay got off to a 6-0 start this season before fading badly, it has a 4-6 win-loss record since. The offense had its least-productive season since Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre as the starting quarterback in 2008 and ultimately led to them losing the division to the Vikings with a home loss in week 17. The loss of top WR Jordy Nelson to a pre-season knee injury and an inconsistent running game both contributed.

In winning one of the weaker NFL divisions, the Redskins didn’t beat a team with a winning record all season but go into the play-offs on a four game winning streak. QB Kirk Cousins has led a highly effective passing game and cut down on turnovers.

Green Bay boast playoff experience and a quarterback who can take over a game Washington are in form and at home. It should be very tight, as a point spread of Redskins -1 implies in a game with a points over/under of 45.5. I just about favour Washington, as i have seen no recent evidence that Rodgers and this set of receivers will make the 4-5 big plays necessary to win here.

Recommendations

Kansas Chiefs -3.5 at the Houston Texans Evens with Paddy Power

Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers at 20/21 Ladbrokes

Minnesota Vikings +5.5 versus the Seattle Seahawks at 20/21 Paddy Power

Washington Redskins -1 versus the Green Bay Packers at 10/11 Ladbrokes

On Jan. 17, the top seeds (Carolina , Denver) will host the lowest remaining seeds from wild-card weekend. On Jan. 16, the number two seeds (New England, Arizona) will host the remaining two teams.