NFL Divisional Round Preview

We’re one step closer to the Super Bowl with the Wild Card round finishing last week and the Divisional Round matchups this upcoming weekend (two games Saturday, two games Sunday). Last week’s wildcard matchup wrapped up with all games but one (Colt won by 14) finishing within one score. We also had a dramatic finish in Chicago, with kicker Cody Parkey missing a 43-yard field goal, which exploded Twitter as the “Double-Doink” (The football hit both the upright and the crossbar on the attempted field goal). Hopefully, we’ll see some more tight football games this upcoming week. Let’s recap last week, so you’re well versed on how the winners won, and then we’ll talk about this week’s NFL Divisional round preview.

WILD CARD WEEK’S RECAP

Colts 21, Texans 7
The Colts dominated the Texans from the very start of the game, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. They looked very hot on their first couple drives (TY Hilton dominated early) but did fade during the second half – which ultimately lead them to being shutout in both the third and fourth quarter. The Texans didn’t manage much better, scoring their lone TD in the 4th quarter. Andrew Luck continued his bid as Comeback Player of the Year by going 19/32 on his passes, passing for 222 yards, two touchdowns, and only one interception against a strong Texans defense which held the Jags to just a field goal in Week 17. While the Jags are far from where they were last year when the beat the Steelers to go the AFC championship game vs. New England, the Texans were no doubt the favorite in the game, especially being at home and by splitting the regular season series vs. Colts (a field goal decided both games). Ultimately though, the Colts caught fire at the end of the season and took that momentum into NRG Stadium and upset the Texans behind Marlon Mack’s 148 yards on 24 carries. The passing game nor Tight End Eric Ebron was a big factor in terms of yards, as TY lead all receivers with 85 yards and Ebron only had 26 yards on three catches (note he did have a touchdown, but that came when the Colts were hot on their opening drive). All in all, the Colts dominated their division foes in the Wild Card Round and advance to play Patrick “Big Ketchup” Mahomes and Chiefs in Arrowhead on Saturday. Game preview for the Colts/Chiefs game is below.

Cowboys 24, Seahawks 22
The second Saturday game provided much more anticipation and action than the Colts game. The Cowboys and Seahawks faced off earlier this year back in Week 3, with the Seahawks beating the Cowboys in Dallas 24-13. At that point, the Cowboys were just 1-1, which was WAYYYY before Dak and the Cowboys defense (lead in part by 22 years only rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch out of Boise State) caught fire to their eventual winning of the NFC East. The Cowboys live and die by Elliott’s rushing attack, and it was on full force against the Seahawks redeveloped defense: he ran for 137 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries. Dak also looked impressive, by going 22/33 on his passing for 226 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. While not exactly an eye-popping stat line, the Cowboys rallied late and scored 14 points in the 4th quarter to put the Seahawks away. As for the receiving game, it was all Amari Cooper once Allen Hurns left due to injury early in the first half. Cooper, acquired during the year from Oakland for a first round pick, definitely showed his worth with 106 yards on seven receptions. While he didn’t score a TD, the next closest receiver in terms of yards was Cole Beasley, who went for only 26 yards. While the Cowboys gained confidence after avenging their defeat with a win vs. the Seahawks, their passing games become once again one dimensional with Amari as the only respectable receiver with Hurns now on the IR.

Chargers 23, Ravens 17
This game looked to be the most intriguing of the pair of games on the Sunday slate of games. Heading into the game, the Chargers had a tremendous regular season behind head coach Anthony Lynn at 12-4, while the Ravens narrowly escaped an upset at the hands of a Baker Mayfield lead Browns in Week 17 to almost lose the AFC North Title. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson became the youngest quarterback ever to start a playoff game. But that lack of experience showed against the veteran, less athletic, Philip Rivers. In the first half, the Chargers shutout the Ravens and scored a total of four field goals. While it looked bleak for the Louisville product, Lamar Jackson rallied the Ravens late with a pair of TDs to wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the fourth quarter to make the game interesting. But a late strip sack, with a recovery by Charger’s defensive end Melvin Ingram, ended the Ravens chance of one last drive for the win. The Raven’s strength of running the ball seemed to stall against the Chargers throughout the game, with running backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon and quarterback Jackson not even combining for 100 yards (90 collective yards among the trio). The Chargers also shut down the passing attack by Lamar, with the leading receiver on Baltimore (Kenneth Dixon) tallying only 53 yards in the whole game.
Regarding pure numbers, the Chargers offense had similar stats, but Rivers was much better at captaining his team downfield and within field goal range. Melvin Gordon’s health also remains a concern heading into the game vs. New England on Sunday (he sat out practice on Wednesday).

Eagles 16, Bears 15
The Bears were 6.5 point favorites heading into the game, but throughout, the defending champion Eagles went toe to toe with the Bears and overall looked evenly matched. While low scoring, Foles was able to make the most out of his nonexistent run game (Sproles and Smallwood combined for 41 yards on 21 total carries.) Foles found Golden Tate, a trade acquisition from Detroit, late in the game for a touchdown – look for this relationship to develop with Tate, as Tate has the potential to be the best receiver on the team along with Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery, playing in a revenge game against his former team, had 82 yards on six receptions. The biggest storyline of this game was the missed kick (the “Double Doink”) by Bears kicker Cody Parkey, which, if it had gone in, would have won the Bears the game. Some say the ball was tipped and others say Parkey has a history of the upright on his kicks (which he does), but either way, the Eagles looked capable of matching anything the Bears could produce, both offensively and defensively.

NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND PREVIEW

Colts @ Chiefs (Saturday, 1/12 – 1:35 PM PST)
Betting: The Chiefs are favored by 5.5 points, and the game has an over/under total of 57.

Preview: All (AFC) roads lead through Arrowhead. The Chiefs are the one seed, and they’re taking on Andrew Luck and a hot Colts team that shut down the Texans in Houston. The Colts should challenge the Chiefs for the most part (mainly in the first half) but expect the Colts offense to fade in the second half as they did against Houston. While KC lost running back Kareem Hunt during the season, the trio of Mahomes-Hill-Kelce is one of (if not the) best trios in the NFL right now. With that said, the Colts could not be any better prepared to take on the challenge, as they have momentum – carrying a five-game winning streak into the game.

Bottom Line: An upset of the one seed by a six seed is unlikely, but look for the red-hot Colts to keep the game close in the first half (at the very least). I’d take the Colts plus five and a half points.

Quick hits:
● Indianapolis is 5-0 SU & 4-1 ATS in its last five games
● Indianapolis is 4-1 SU & 4-1 ATS in its last five games on the road
● The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Indianapolis’s last eight games
● Kansas City is 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven games but 16-5 SU in its last 21
● The total has gone OVER in 5 of Kansas City’s last six games
● KC is 7-1 SU in its last eight home games, but 1-4 ATS in its last five games at home

Cowboys @ Rams (Saturday, 1/12 – 5:15 PM PST)
Betting: The Rams are favored by seven points, and the game has an over/under total of 49.5

Preview: While this game is close in terms of seeding, only a difference of two, I expect the Rams to annihilate the Cowboys. If Rams can shut down Amari Cooper, it’s going to be a long day for Dak Prescott and the ‘boys. The Rams offense scores a lot, and the best scoring team in AFC (the Chiefs) couldn’t even keep up with them. If the Cowboys struggle to get Zeke involved and Dak can’t find Amari, the Rams offense will be too much for the Cowboys to keep up with and Rams will blow out the Cowboys.

Quick Hits:
● Dallas is 6-2-1 ATS in its last nine games but 8-1 SU
● Dallas is 4-2 ATS in its last six games on the road
● The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Dallas’s last 12 games on the road
● LA Rams are 4-7-2 ATS in its last 13 games
● LA Rams are 1-3-2 ATS in its last six games at home

Chargers @ Patriots (Sunday, 1/13 – 10:05 AM PST)
Betting: The Pats are only favored by four points, and the game has an over/under total of 45.5

Preview: Chargers are the five seed and are coming off a strong road victory against a dual-threat QB, but the Patriots are at home and in their element (The game is expected to have up to 4 inches of snow). While the Chargers are undefeated outside of LA (only road loss came against the LA Rams), Tom Brady and the Patriots are a different animal the Chargers haven’t face yet. Brady-Edelman-Gronk and now with a healthy Sony Michel, the Patriots have too many offensive weapons for the Chargers to keep up with, especially is Melvin Gordon is out or playing injured. Also, note Hunter Henry is expected to play in this game.
Pick: Patriots

Eagles @ Saints (Sunday, 1/13 – 1:40 PM PST)
Betting: The Saints are favored by eight points, and the game has an over/under total of 50.5

Preview: While a 6th seed beating a one seed is unlikely, it’s not impossible – especially if your quarterback is the Miracle-worker himself: Nick Foles. Foles once again stepped in for the injured Carson Wentz this season and guided the Eagles to a playoff victory. After a nailbiter in Chicago, the Eagles mixture of calm demeanor, grit, and undervalued skill players makes for this game to be the upset of the weekend. Remember, the Saints have a recent history of playoff flubs – the Minnesota Miracle being the most recent.
As a whole, expect a repeat of last week’s low scoring (except for the Rams game) but close games. My predicted upset is the Eagles over the Saints and the Colts with the five and a half points.

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