The 2011 NFL regular season wraps things up this Sunday and after 16 weeks of games there are still several key matchups that will have a major impact on the final playoff picture. The only thing we know for sure is that Green Bay has clinched the No.1 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye, but the rest of the matchups for next week’s Wildcard Round of games have yet to be determined.
The playoff picture in the NFC is pretty much set as far as which teams are in with just one spot remaining for two teams. The final game of the regular season features a Sunday night showdown for the NFC East title between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. Both teams come in with 8-7 records straight-up so the winner advances and the loser goes home. BetOnline currently has the Giants as 2.5-point home favorites with the total line set at 46. They won the first meeting between the two this season 37-34 as 4.5-point road underdogs with a dramatic comeback after trailing the Cowboys 34-22 with less than six minutes left in the game.
Neither team comes into this game in good form with Dallas losing three of its last four games and New York stumbling to a 2-5 record down the stretch after a 6-2 start. The Cowboys are just 1-5 against the spread in their last six games overall and 0-5 ATS in their last five games against the NFC East. The Giants are just as bad with a 1-4-1 record ATS in their last six home games and a 2-5 record ATS in their last seven games in the division. The key to handicapping this game could be in the head-to-head trends. Dallas is 2-6 both SU and ATS in the last eight meetings and 1-4 SU and ATS in the last five.
The AFC remains a mixed bag of tricks with both of the top seeds, two divisional titles, and one wildcard spot up for grabs. The game that will have the biggest impact on all three of these areas is the Baltimore Ravens on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Ravens are still in line for the North title and No.1 seed but could fall as low to the fifth seed with a loss. The Bengals’ scenario is fairly simple; win and they are in as wildcards. They can still get in with a loss, but it becomes extremely complicated.
Baltimore drew first blood this season with a 31-24 victory in Week 11 in a game that ended as a ‘push’. This game was a bit uncharacteristic for two teams that have struggled to find consistency on offense this season, but have a defense that is ranked in the top 10 in points allowed. BetOnline has opened the Ravens as slight 1.5-point road favorites this time around with the total line set at 38. Baltimore is 3-1-1 ATS in its last five games against the AFC North, but just 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine games as a favorite. Cincinnati is 0-3-1 ATS in its last four games in the division, but 6-2-1 ATS in its last nine games as an underdog. Head-to-head, the underdog in this series is 4-0-1 ATS and the Ravens are 1-5 ATS in their last six trips to Cincinnati.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.