NFL Divisional Round Predictions

After an entertaining wildcard round where three of the four games were decided by one score, the divisional round gives us more intriguing matchups. We are down to eight teams in the quest for a Super Bowl championship, and that total will get cut in half after this week. Who will win to keep their championship hopes alive? Let’s predict the divisional round.

Colts (11-6) at Chiefs (12-4)

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In matchup between two MVP candidates, Andrew Luck and the Colts will travel to Kansas City to take on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to start of the divisional round. Though these teams started off at completely different trajectories, with the Colts starting at 1-5 and the Chiefs 5-0, this game features two of the league’s top teams and should be a tremendous game. There’s no denying how dominant Luck has been down the stretch, and Indianapolis’s 6th ranked pass offense should move the ball easily against a Kansas City defense that ranked second worst against pass in the regular season. There’s also no denying how stellar the Colts have been recently, winning 10 of their last 11 games including a 14 point win on the road against the Texans last week. Still, the Chiefs are the #1 seed for a reason, and they should be expected to take care of business at home this week. Kansas City went 7-1 at home this season, and their offense that averaged 35.3 points in the regular season will be fresh off a first round bye. Yes, Indianapolis’ defense looks good on paper, allowing just 21.5 points per game, but they haven’t played a top ten offense since they gave up 38 points at New England in Week 5. They still have some holes in the back end of their secondary, and Mahomes should expose those holes. Luck should keep things close, but the Chiefs are a completely different monster coming off a first round bye at a home venue where they barely lose. Prediction: Colts 27 Chiefs 30

Cowboys (11-6) at Rams (13-3)

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This matchup between the Cowboys and Rams on Saturday night in the NFL’s dream come true. It features “America’s Team” in a game full of stars in primetime in Los Angeles off all places. This game shouldn’t disappoint, as these two teams match up so evenly on paper that its hard to choose a winner. Therefore, I’ll go with the more talented team coming off a bye, and will take the Rams. Despite tiring out towards the end of the regular season, Los Angeles still finished in the top five in passing and rushing, while averaging 32.9 points per game. They should be rejuvenated off of a bye with running back Todd Gurley returning from a knee injury, and it’s likely we’ll see a return of the potent Rams offense we saw from Weeks 1 through 11 rather than the one we saw at the latter half of the regular season, even going up against a tough Dallas defense. Furthermore, the Cowboys have uncharacteristically had troubles protecting Dak Prescott this season, and they’ll have their work cut out for them going up against Aaron Donald and a strong Rams defensive line. Also, in the likely event that this game is close, it’s much easier to trust Jared Goff and Sean McVay over Dak Prescott. I could definitely see the Cowboys pulling off the upset, especially since they’ll likely have more fans at the game than the Rams, but I’ll go with the safe pick. Rams move on to the NFC Championship Game with a  huge win over the Cowboys in a game that may come down to the final minutes. Prediction: Cowboys 24 Rams 27

Chargers (13-4) at Patriots (11-5)

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Can Phillip Rivers finally do the unthinkable, and defeat Tom Brady? Up to this point, Rivers is 0-7 against Brady, something that has been discussed heavily this week. It’ll be a tall task to get that monkey off of his back, as he’ll have to go into New England and beat a team that hasn’t lost at home this season and never does so in the playoffs. The issue isn’t talent, as the Chargers may be the more talented team, but rather the tragic event of a Super Bowl caliber team slowing down at the wrong team. Rivers hasn’t thrown for over 200 yards in any of his last three games, while Los Angeles is averaging less than 20 points per game in that span. Melvin Gordon is currently dealing with a knee injury, which could disrupt the flow of the offense, while the Chargers are facing a defense that us allowing just 16.6 points per game at home this season. Meanwhile, Brady is still Brady, and therefore can’t be doubted in the playoffs. I don’t trust a notoriously slow starting team that has been constantly traveling between East and West coast and seems to be wearing down to go into New England and do what few teams in the last decade have been able to do. It looks like the Patriots will be heading to the AFC Championship Game once again, and one can only think how much more interesting this game would be if these two teams weren’t going in different directions. The Chargers are falling, while New England is thriving, and therefore it’s impossible to go against the home team here. Prediction: Chargers 19 Patriots 24

Eagles (10-7) at Saints (13-3)

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In the final game of the weekend, the Saints will host the red hot Eagles in a game where the home team is set up for disaster. Since Nick Foles has taken over for the injured Carson Wentz under center, Philadelphia is 4-0 and averaging 25.5 point per game, including an impressive 16-15 win at Chicago last week. Foles has flourished due to his ability to throw the ball down the field effectively, and against a weak New Orleans secondary ranked 29th that allows a flurry of vertical plays, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he topped 400 yards in this game. That may be enough on its on to secure a Eagles victory, but Philadelphia also was the 7th ranked rush defense in the NFL this season. Considering New Orleans relies on the run, that’s a concern. Philadelphia’s secondary is improving as it’s getting healthier, and it’s unclear how this team under Foles can be defeated. If a team’s going to prevent the Eagles from winning back to back championships, it certainly won’t be the Saints, who will go one and done in the playoffs with a rough loss to a Philadelphia team that looks as good as it did a year ago, if not better. Prediction: Eagles 28 Saints 27

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