The NFL has it’s version of the elite eight. In this year’s divisional round their are several newcomers, while the Eagles, Patriots and Saints are the only teams to return.
In the NFC, the Eagles and Saints meet yet again Sunday in the only game that is a regular-season rematch in the divisional round. The Cowboys and Rams will square off Saturday for the ninth time in a postseason setting
In the AFC, expect Indy and Chiefs to kick the weekend off in a big big way! Then you have the Chargers who now face a familiar enemy in the Patriots on Sunday afternoon.
Indianapolis vs Kansas City
You have the top candidate for comeback player of the year on one side, and a possible MVP candidate on the other. You have Quarterback Andrew Luck, and you have Quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Both are playing at a high level coming into this game.
Quarterbacks making their first postseason start dating back to 2013 are 4-11. This does not bowed well for Pat Mahomes. Pat isn’t your average quarterback however, so if anyone can make that record 5-11 it could be Pat. The Chiefs are also 0-6 in their last six playoff games at home and winless at Arrowhead since 1993. Couple this with the fact that Indy has won 10 of their last 11 games, the favorite you would think would end up being the team from Indianapolis? However the Chiefs are favored by 5.5 points in a game that has a 57 point over under in Vegas.
This game could come down to the weather and the run game, along with who can be more creative on offense. The weather forecast is calling for cold temps and a possibility in snow in KC. Turnovers on defense, running the ball, and creativity are the keys to the game for Indy and KC.
Chargers vs Patriots
The Chargers are 9-0 on the road this season, you could say they have played every game this season on the road. The Patriots are undefeated at home this season. Something has to give, but which one will it be?
The Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers is 0-7 in games against New England when Tom Brady starts under center. Rivers is also just 1-5 overall in regular-season games against New England, with his only victory coming in 2008 when Brady was sidelined with a knee injury. This season however, the Pats quarterback hasn’t quite been himself. This season Brady has 4,355 passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns.
This season however has been less about Brady and more about the running game of Sony Michel, James White, recently returning Rex Burkhead, and James Develin. Michel ended the season with 931 yards and six touchdowns. The impressive thing was Michel didn’t even start the season as the number one running back, he left a game early with an injury and missed a few others because of the injury. The Patriots have a significant running game, and a mix of tricks to use with James White and wide receiver Cordarelle Paterson in the back field. Brady lead an offense that ranks number five in total yards thanks to the Patriots success on the ground.
Phillip Rivers may have to use his arm to win this game. Melvin Gordon who came into the wild card round already a bit banged up, left Baltimore just a bit more banged up. At one point he left the game due to a knee injury on the opposite knee that was already beat up. Gordon however had a touchdown on 17 rushing attempts and just 40 yards gained on the ground. Expect to see a mix of Austin Ekeler and young running back Justin Jackson who has a monster game late in the season while both Gordon and Ekeler were sidelined due to injury. In 12 games Melvin Gordon had 885 rushing yards with a 5.1 yards per carry average and 10 touchdowns, while adding another four touchdowns receiving.
Could the Chargers have a new offensive wrinkle and weapon? Los Angeles activated young tight end Hunter Henry who was expected to be a huge part of the Chargers offense. Henry was part of the reason why Antonio Gates felt comfortable retiring from the NFL and leaving the Chargers in good hands. In Henry’s two seasons with the Chargers he has 81 receptions, 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Cowboys at Rams, Saturday, 8:15 p.m. FOX
The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams square off in what should be the game of running the football with the likes of Ezekiel Elliott taking charge for Dallas, and Todd Gurley leading the way for the Rams. Through the course of the regular season, Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys led the NFL in rushing with 1,434 yards, and he also obtained six touchdowns. As for Los Angeles, Todd Gurley had 1,251 rushing yards this season, along with 21 total touchdowns. Look for both running backs to be a significant factor, and both Elliott and Gurley should have 20 or more carries tonight.
Stats to Know:
Dallas’ 7th best ranked defense will face the 2nd best ranked Rams offense in what should be an interesting matchup. The Cowboys made it to the divisional round by defeating the Seahawks in the Wild Card round by a score of 24-22. Moreover, since Super Bowl XX, the Cowboys are 0-5 in the divisional round, and it could quite possibly be 0-6 with a tough matchup on the road. The last meeting between the two teams was last season, where the Rams defeated the Cowboys in a shootout by a score of 35-30, at AT&T Stadium. In my opinion, the Rams will edge out the Cowboys by a score of 27-20.
Eagles at Saints, Sunday, 4:40 p.m. FOX
The Saints and Eagles battle it out in New Orleans for the 2nd time this season, and it’ll likely come down to the Quarterback play of Drew Brees of the Saints, and Nick Foles of the Eagles. Philadelphia reached the divisional round by defeating the Chicago Bears in upset fashion on the road by a score of 16-15, off a blocked field goal attempted by Cody Parkey. Eagles signal caller, Nick Foles, took over for the Eagles after Carson Wentz was sidelined with a back injury, and he’ll likely not play for the rest of the postseason. On the other side, the Saints have been tearing apart teams this season, by averaging 31.5 points per game this season, which was the 3rd best in the entire league behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams.
Stats to Know:
The Eagles currently have the 7th best ranked passing offense, and they’ll face the 6th best ranked rushing offense of the Saints. The last meeting between the two teams was earlier this season, where the Saints dominated at home and picked up the victory by a score of 48-7. As for the playoffs, the Saints and Eagles battled it out in a 2013 NFC Wild Card game, where Drew Brees led a game-winning drive that led to a successful field goal and a victory, by a score of 26-24 in Philadelphia. Look for the two offenses to shine bright, as both Quarterbacks have performed well in recent history in the postseason. Lastly, my score prediction for this game is the Saints dominating at home with the Eagles struggling late, and New Orleans winning 34-17, sending themselves to the NFC Championship.
Note: The AFC preview was written by Matt Bachota, while the NFC preview was written by Ansh Suchdeve.