Playoff picks: Packers a good bet this time

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Cincinnati (plus 5) at Houston

The Texans stumbled into the playoffs, losing three of four and blowing home-field advantage and a bye in the AFC. Cincinnati, on the other hand, won seven of its last eight with a staunch defense.

Houston made the postseason for the first time last year and promptly knocked off the Bengals in the wild-card round. Both teams are improved this season, and the key could be which side protects its quarterback better. Houston has J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith providing pressure on the quarterbacks. For Cincinnati, it’s Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson.

Houston will do it better.

TEXANS, 24-20

Seattle (minus 1 1/2) at Washington

The juiciest of the weekend’s matchups features two streaking teams: Washington won its final seven games to take the NFC East, Seattle took its last five and seven of eight.

Rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III for the Redskins and Russell Wilson for the Seahawks have been sensational, like Indy’s Luck. RG3 showed enough mobility in the win over Dallas to clinch the division, and his knee should be even stronger on Sunday to provide the double-threat potential that highlights his game.

Wilson is healthy and has similar skills. Even more encouraging for him is the Seahawks have an intimidating, resourceful defense with the speed to slow down Washington’s offense. Seattle also has learned how to win on the road.

SEAHAWKS, 23-16

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2012 RECORD:

Against spread: 7-6 (112-124-7). Straight up: 12-4 (159-92-1)

Best Bet: 7-8-2 against spread, 11-6 straight up.

Upset special: 11-6 against spread, 9-8 straight up.

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