And then there were eight! Eight teams remain in the hunt for Super Bowl 53, which should make for an exciting slate of games during the weekend! Each game holds its own value of excitement. Whether you’re anxious to see an offensive showdown or defensive dominance, all four games are set to live up to their hype! That being said, let’s take a look at my Divisional Round predictions for each matchup, as well as my analysis of each team.
Indianapolis Colts (10-6) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), Saturday, 1/12/19 4:35 pm, NBC
Words can’t describe how this Colts team performed in Houston last week. They dominated in every phase, as the defense held one of the league’s more dynamic offenses to seven points. In fact, since week seven, the Colts’ defense ranks #1 in points allowed per game with 15.5. The team also ranks #1 in the following categories since week seven: Record (10-1), point differential (+131), points allowed per game (15.5), sacks allowed (8), and 3rd down percentage (49.6).
This defense will face its toughest challenge in Kansas City, who’s offense ranks #1 in the following categories: Points per game with 35.1 and total yards accumulated with 425.6. With weapons like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce as Patrick Mahomes’ disposal, the Colts may have their hands full, especially considering they play a lot of Tampa 2.
Indy has to keep pace with this Chiefs offense if they wish to leave Arrowhead Stadium with a win.
The NFL’s #1 seed comes in as slim favorites against arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now. This is an offensive juggernaut. Patrick Mahomes is the runaway MVP and has an arsenal of weapons that no one wants to see, including the red-hot Colts. Their offense may be explosive and dynamic, but their defense has many, many concerns, especially in the secondary.
Kansas City ranks 26th in points allowed per game with 26.3, 31st in yards allowed per game with 405.5, 31st in passing yards allowed per game with 273.4, and 27th in rushing yards allowed per game with 132.1. I seriously believe that in order for Kansas City to win on Saturday, they must find ways to stop Indianapolis while on defense. Priority #1: Get after Andrew Luck! If there’s one thing the Chiefs do well, it’s rush the quarterback with Chris Jones and Dee Ford.
There’s only one problem, they’re going against the best offensive line in Pro Football, who completely eliminated two of the league’s best passing-rushing duos in J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. In other words, sacking Luck won’t be easy.
As dynamic as this Chiefs’ offense is, and seeing as how this is Mahomes’ first career playoff start, I think the Colts find a way to force a turnover or two. After all, Kansas City hasn’t won a home playoff game since Joe Montana was their quarterback in 1993 (0-6 overall at home). This game has offensive galore written all over it. And with Mahomes and Luck at center stage, this could be a potential playoff matchup for seasons to come. That said, I am going with Indianapolis in this game for one reason: Their defense! It’ll be a very close game offensively, but I’m going with the hottest team in Pro Football right now!
Score Prediction: Colts 31, Chiefs 27
Dallas Cowboys (10-6) vs. Los Angeles Rams (13-3), Saturday, 1/12/19 8:15 pm, FOX
This, to me, looks more like a defensive matchup than an offensive showdown. Dallas’ defense did its job last Saturday, holding the Seahawks’ #1-ranked rushing attack to just 73 total yards, which is phenomenal considering Seattle was averaging 160 yards per game. Meanwhile on the flip side of things, Zeke Elliott did his thing, rushing for 137 yards on 26 carries. Dak Prescott wasn’t half bad, either, as he threw for 226 yards and had two total touchdowns (1 rushing and 1 passing).
Here’s the only problem, Dallas played that game at home, and still had a couple of errors. Now they must travel and play the #1 seeded Los Angeles Rams in order to advance to the NFC Championship game. Elliott’s the workhorse of this entire football, and the Cowboys go as he goes, so getting him involved early and often is going to be vital to Dallas’ success. The addition of Amari Cooper has certainly helped the offense become more dynamic over the last several months, too.
It will take more than just another explosive game from Elliott for Dallas to walk away with a win, Prescott is going to have to air it out, and the ‘Boys defense must find a way to make Jared Goff uncomfortable. Good thing they have Demarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch as a part of their front seven. Question is: Can they rattle Goff enough to force a few mistakes?
Next to Kansas City, this is possibly the second-best offense in the entire NFL. They rank 2nd in points per game with 32.9, 2nd in yards per game with 421.1, 5th in passing yards per game with 281.7, and 3rd in rushing yards per game with 139.4. Seeing as Dallas only surrenders 20.2 points per game, the Rams may have their hands full. For the first time in weeks, Todd Gurley is healthy, which could cause the Cowboys some trouble.
Over the last stretch of games, Jared Goff hasn’t looked like himself, as he tossed six interceptions over the last five regular season games. Despite the offense not having great success over the last few weeks, there is one thing Los Angeles has that the Cowboys don’t: Aaron Donald! Donald led the entire NFL in sacks with 20, and was only three shy of a new NFL record for most sacks during the regular season.
If you think that’s scary, this’ll really knock your socks off. As Donald accumulated all 20 sacks, he was double teamed on over 70% of his defensive snaps. This Rams’ front seven is scary, as is their secondary, regardless of whether their playing up to par or not.
This game will come down to who’s defense can force the most mistakes. Seeing as how Dallas doesn’t play very well on the road, even though there will probably be more Cowboys fans than Rams fans at the game, I still have to go with Los Angeles, simply because I believe their defense can force a mistake or two from Dallas’ offense.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 17, Rams 24
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) vs. New England Patriots (11-5), Sunday, 1/13/19, 1:05 pm, CBS
Here’s another dynamic offense that can score in various ways. The Chargers are 8th in points per game with 26.8. They managed to score 23 against the league’s #1 defense last week in Baltimore. At one point, they were up 23-3, but won the game 23-17. Thanks to their defense, specifically Melvin Ingram, they will play New England Sunday for a chance at advancing to the AFC Championship game.
If there was a year for the Chargers to upset New England, it would be this year. The amount of talent that this team has on both sides of the ball is ridiculous. In my opinion, they have the best arsenal of weaponry in the entire league. From Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, to Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, Phillip Rivers could pick the Patriots’ 22nd ranked pass defense apart Sunday afternoon.
Yet, there lies one issue. Rivers is 0-7 all time against Tom Brady, including playoffs. To make matters worse, he’s constantly lived in Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger’s shadow. What do I mean by that? I mean all of these quarterbacks were drafted in 2004, both Big Ben and Manning have two Super Bowls each, whereas Rivers has none. He’s had plenty of opportunities, and was unable to capitalize throughout the years. He’ll get another crack at it Sunday. Can he capitalize and finally remove himself from beneath the shadow of his fellow ’04 draftee’s?
Then there’s New England. The team that just seems to find a way to pull it off. They’re like a severe pain in your back. No matter how many doctor’s you go to, how many surgeries you have, how many opinions you get, the result seems to always be the same. The pain just keeps coming back.
As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are at the helm of this team, they aren’t going away. They, too, can score in various ways. New England ranks 4th in points per game with 27.2, 5th in total yards per game with 393.4, 8th in passing yards per game with 266.1, and 5th in rushing yards per game with 127.3. Even with a lack of weapons at Brady’s disposal, he and OC Josh McDaniels will find creative ways to get his weapons open.
This Patriots defense is nothing to look past, either. They rank 7th in points allowed per game with 20.3 and 11th in rushing yards allowed per game with 112.7. That said, It’ll be very interesting to see if Belichick can find a way to slow down this dynamic Chargers offense.
This game could possibly be the most exciting of all the games this weekend. Rivers and Brady never seem to disappoint when going against one another. And both these defenses can hold their own, too. With that said, I’m going with the Chargers because of their defense, even though Brady has a phenomenal record against top defenses over the years (16-5). I believe Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, along with rookie-stud Derwin James, Desmond King and Casey Hayward will be too much for Brady to handle. It’ll be very close, but Rivers finally gets the best of Brady in this one.
Score Prediction: Chargers 31, Patriots 28
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) vs. New Orleans Saints (13-3), Sunday, 1/11/19, 4:40 pm, FOX
Nick Foles is at it again! The Super Bowl 52 MVP is once again trying to bring the Eagles to back-to-back Super Bowls. But they will face their toughest challenge yet, as they travel to take on the league’s #1 seeded New Orleans Saints Sunday afternoon. I don’t know what it is about Foles, but he seems unfazed when the game is on the line. Just last weekend, he marched his offense down the field against one of the league’s best defenses in Chicago, and tossed what ended up being the game-winning touchdown to Golden Tate.
This offense is very potent. And get this, Nick Foles is just crazy good in the playoffs. He’s 4-1, averages 286.4 yards per game, has a TD:INT ratio of 10-3, and has a passer rating of 105.2. I know this, the Eagles are going to need a lot of Foles’ magic, because the team ranks 28th in rushing yards per game with 98.1. They are also only ranked 18th in points per game with 22.9.
It pretty much goes without saying that Philly is going to need a lot of help from their air attack and defense Sunday afternoon. Although, I’m not sure if the defense can be of much assistance, considering they rank 23rd in yards allowed per game with 366.2, and 30th in passing yards allowed per game with 269.2.
What many consider to be Super Bowl 53 favorites, the Saints come marching into The Big Easy with a dynamic offense that is almost unstoppable at home. To no one’s surprise, their offense is ranked 3rd in points per game with 31.5, 8th in total yards per game with 379.2, and 6th in rushing yards per game with 126.6. Drew Brees has put on a clinic all season, tossing 32 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions, while posting a quarterback rating of 115.7.
This is a team no one wants to see, both AFC and NFC because they can beat you in various ways. Sean Payton is an offensive mastermind, and Brees has a boatload of weapons at his disposal. Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Tre’Quan Smith are only a few. There is one thing that concerns me about New Orleans, and it’s their secondary. New Orleans ranks 29th in passing yards allowed per game with 268.9, which is good news for Nick Foles and company, considering they rank 7th in passing yards per game with 267.2.
One thing New Orleans does very well, though, is stop the run. They rank 3rd in rushing yards allowed per game with 80.2. You can’t run on this team, plain and simple. The secondary may be an issue, but that front seven for the Saints is another story. There’s no debate for me. New Orleans has the clear-cut advantage up front defensively, as they garnered 49 total sacks over the regular season.
Seeing as how Philadelphia surrendered 40 sacks this season, and New Orleans can rush the quarterback very well, I’m picking the home team. Foles and company will make it interesting for awhile, considering they may be looking for some revenge after that Saints dominated them earlier this season by a score of 48-7. However, Brees and this dominant Saints team get it done at home, handily at that.
Score Prediction: Eagles 21, Saints 35