NFL Playoff Predictions – Divisional Round
Only 5 of last year’s playoffs teams ended up making back to the playoffs this season, but all 5 of those teams are still alive! (of course, 4 of them had a bye). But as we get into the playoffs I’m bringing the next round of predictions for the NFL Playoff games.
Indianapolis at Kansas City – 3:35PM Saturday 1.12.2019
The Colts have now won 10 of their last 11 games, including a dominant performance against the Texans. The offensive line absolutely abused the Texans defense in the first half as they hurried out to a 21-0 lead halfway through the second quarter. The rest of the game was pretty ugly for both teams as the Colts tried to run the ball and the Texans tried desperately to get anything going on offense. Neither did and the Colts hung on to a 21-7 win.
As impressive as the Colts looked offensively in the first half, they looked equally inept in the second, and I’m not sure how well they could withstand a comeback if the other team was an offensive juggernaut like the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes is the prohibitive MVP favorite, and rightfully so. He led the league in TDs and had the most yards by a quarterback (2nd if you don’t include rushing yards) and he led his team to a 12-4 record, including the best offensive in the NFL. Cutting Kareem Hunt (rightfully so) hurts the offense, but Spencer Ware or Damien Williams – both will likely be active – are more than enough to provide similar production in his stead. Kansas City was held under 30 points just 4 times, and didn’t score less than 26 even once. If the Colts score 21 again, that isn’t going to cut it.
The Colts have been held under 30 points 4 times as well… in their past 5 games alone. They have struggled with inconsistency at times, and it showed in the second half against the Texans. But they should have an easier go of it this week. The Chiefs defense has not been good, and has been horrific against decent opponents. In their 6 games against teams that made the playoffs, the Chiefs went 2-4 and allowed an average of 36 points per game. The worst defense in the league (Oakland Raiders) allowed 29.2 points per game. Suffices to say that the Colts should be able to move the ball against the Chiefs.
Prediction: Kansas City by 10
This game should be a shootout from the start, as I don’t see either team getting many stops during the game. I have less confidence in the Colts after seeing them unable to sustain a drive after their hot start in Houston, and really nobody has been able to stop the Chiefs. Plus the Chiefs have had plenty of high scoring games and I expect them to be more comfortable with the fast pace and back-and-forth scoring I expect to see. Give me all the Mahomes action!!
Dallas at Los Angeles (Rams) – 7:15PM Saturday 1.12.2019
The Cowboys were impressive in their win over the Seahawks, and ran the ball well most of the game. Their defense played well, and Dak did enough to get them the win. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still don’t believe in the Cowboys, or Dak. He had a few great passes, but he was also careless with the ball and almost turned the ball over a couple more times in the first half.
The Cowboys defense looked strong and they’ve been especially good at home, but I don’t see them putting on that kind of performance on the road against a team who outmatches them on both sides of the ball. The Rams have a strong offensive and defensive line, and they also don’t have any real areas of weakness. The Cowboys have an elite running game and solid defense. The Rams have an even better running game, and a despite struggling at times, they have playmakers at every level of their defense. Dak has been inconsistent and was just good enough to lead the Cowboys over the Seahawks. Goff is better and won’t make mistakes. Dak will need to play his very best to keep this one close.
Prediction: Los Angeles by 13
The Cowboys haven’t won multiple playoff games since 1996 and I don’t think that changes this week. The Rams are a complete team, and well-suited to playoff football, and are playing at home. This one should be a rout from start to finish.
Los Angeles (Chargers) at New England – 12:05PM Sunday 1.13.2019
As I mentioned last week, the Chargers were the losers of the dumb rule that gives seeding preference to division winners. Instead of being the 2 seed in the AFC and getting a bye and then hosting this week, they get to go back on the road into Foxborough. This Chargers team has been excellent all season, and their defense really shined in Baltimore. Despite a last minute surge by the Ravens, the Chargers held stout and won their first of 3 potential road games.
Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, and the Chargers offense started strong, but the Ravens defense did a decent job of containing them. Still, the Ravens were the best defense in the league this season, and even though it’s the Patriots and Belichick, I don’t see the Chargers scoring less than 21. Tom Brady and the offense will need to put up big numbers to take down this team. Usually, the rule of thumb is never doubt the Patriots in the playoffs, especially at home. This year feels a bit different. Something is clearly not right with Rob Gronkowski, Josh Gordon is gone, and Tom Brady is starting to look like end-of-career Peyton Manning who couldn’t throw the ball more than 20 yards downfield. Still, I can’t overlook Belichick having an extra week to prepare for the Chargers and coming with a gameplan that somehow just works.
Prediction: New England by 3
I hate this prediction because I’ll be rooting for the Chargers all the way. The Patriots had their time, their franchise is super hateable, and Philip Rivers deserves his moment. But I just can’t bet against the Patriots in the playoffs at home coming off a bye. Bill Belichick has shown me too many times how stupid people are that bet against him. Long live the reigning AFC villains.
Philadelphia at New Orleans – 3:40PM Sunday 1.13.2019
So the Vikings go to the NFC Championship about once every 10 years. As depressing as that is, it gives those losses (since they don’t ever win them) more significance to Vikings fans. The last two teams that beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship were the Eagles (2018) and the Saints (2010). As much as I hate the Eagles, the sting from Bountygate will never, ever leave until the Vikings win a Super Bowl. The Minneapolis Miracle was a bit of catharsis in the face of all the “who dat” mouthbreathers, but without the Lombardi Trophy to follow it up, the memory is hollow. All that is to say that I really wish both teams could lose this game.
Both teams are very good, but the Saints are elite at every level. They have arguably the best offense in the league (alongside the Chiefs and Rams) and after their early struggles, the defense has been dominant as well. Over their first 3 games, the Saints defense allowed over 34 points per game (even including one game against the Browns when they were still starting Tyrod Taylor). Since that start, the defense allowed 24 points or more just 3 times the rest of the season. Once against the Rams, once against the Steelers, and once in week 17 against the Panthers when they were sitting their starters.
Nick Foles has started to turn on his magic, and I’m honestly in shock about how someone can be so average at times, and then in the biggest moments in the biggest games, just do absolutely whatever it takes to win. The Chicago defense was incredible all season, and held the Eagles to only 16 points. But when it mattered, Nick Foles delivered.
Prediction: New Orleans by 17
Nick Foles is ready to make me look dumb for doubting him again, but this Saints team in the Superdome is too damn good to underestimate. I’m not sure there’s a team in the NFL that go into New Orleans and beat the Saints. If there is, and the Eagles win, Nick Foles will be even more legendary than he is now.