Below we take a look ahead at the four intriguing Divisional Round games coming up this weekend. The truly wild wildcard weekend saw 3 out of 4 underdogs win and get one step closer to the Superbowl. As such predicting any of the games scheduled to take place over Saturday and Sunday will be a tough task. While Playoff predictions and Playoff game picks can be hard to call, the chances of certain events taking place during a game such as passing/rushing yards/attempts can be profitable. We will look to give a score prediction for each game, as well as looking at star performers and markets offered by bookies on each game.
The weekends fixtures kick off with what looks like a potential offensive shoot out between two high scoring teams. With the Colts we know what to expect; a heavy dose of Marlon Mack in the rushing game, Andrew Luck with plenty of time to find receivers and a defence that can hold its own. The Colts offensive line deserves much credit for their protection of Luck who attempted 32 passes against Houston and was not sacked once. No sacks against a Houston’s defence that was much vaulted in the regular season and lead by talismanic pass rusher JJ Watt.
What about the Chiefs? How will they appear after a bye week looking for the first playoff victory in 24 years? How will the as til now unfazed Patrick Mahomes handle the pressure of the occasion at home. The Chiefs offence is arguably the leagues most dynamic and prolific and they will score points, but the Chiefs defence is a soft spot and they concede over 26 points a game. If the Colts put up 21 against the Houston D which is undoubtedly better than the Chiefs we can expect a good old fashioned shoot out. The gameplan for Indianapolis has to be to burn the clock with run heavy drives and keep Mahomes and his hot offence off the field. For the Chiefs? They will need to stop the rush which is something the have struggled to do all season as they give up over 130 yards a game.
We feel that the Colts are great value to cause an upset at Arrowhead and are coming into the game with great momentum. The anytime scorer market is filled with potentials but Marlon Mack and Tyreek Hill are both highly likely to be on the scoresheet come full time. With both rosters filled with offensive talent we also feel any bet on over 50 points is almost as good as printing money. Colts to win, Mack to rush for over 100 yards and over 58.5 points are our bets for this mouth watering game.
Luckily for the Rams it is they and not Ezekiel Elliot who are coming off a bye week. The Cowboys running back was rested in Week 17 in preparation for the game against the Hawks and he was certainly rested: 26 carries, 137 yards, 1 touchdown. It was not quite a one man show, as Dak Prescott silenced some of his doubters with a dominant second half performance, but when Elliot is rushing this Cowboys offence starts rolling. It is not an understatement to say that if the Rams can stop or at least slow down the running game, they should see this game out comfortably at home. With a defensive front including the soon to be crowned defensive player of the year in Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh the Rams have the firepower to slow down the rush and also apply pressure to the quarterback.
The Rams had a little wobble towards the end of the regular season but seem to have steadied the ship winning their last 2 games, abeit against the Cardinals and 49ers. How will Sean McVay have utilised the bye week and prepared his team for the visit of the Cowboys after watching the film from last week. His team will be looking to improve on last seasons record, where they were beaten by the Falcons after finishing 11-6, and can expect to welcome back a fit again Todd Gurley who finished as the leagues leading touchdown scorer despite missing the last 2 weeks!
These 2 teams both have young quarterbacks blessed with dynamic running backs who are also a threat in the passing game too. The addition of Amari Cooper has opened up the Cowboys play calling as his speed and height often lead to double coverage which frees up other receivers. Jared Goff started off the season with great numbers as the Rams blew away teams, but as the league started to adjust to counter the threats his performances have nose dived. In his last 5 games Goff has thrown just 5 touchdowns whilst in the same span thrown 6 interceptions. The Cowboys linebackers will be trying to read the quarterbacks eyes for any potential pick plays that could prove pivotal in what could be a close game. Rams to edge this one, both Elliot and Gurley to rush for over 100 yards and Michael Gallup for a touchdown all look great value odds in this NFC matchup.
It’s being hyped as Rivers vs Brady but this Chargers team is probably the most balanced team in the NFL and so much more than just their franchise quarterback. While Brady’s legacy as a great is already confirmed, the fact Rivers has never won a Super Bowl leaves question marks around how he will remembered in years to come. Certainly watching these two experienced QBs battle it out will be great entertainment and going into the game Rivers must feel confident with his teammates heading into Gillette stadium.
The Chargers regular season record of 12-4 is even more impressive when you think that 2 of the losses came to the Chiefs and the Rams. In Melvin Gordon and Austin Eckler the team has a genuine running back duo that will wear teams down with long time consuming drives. Last week the defence flexed its muscle and bought the Ravens rushing offence to a crashing halt, whilst kicker Mike Badgley kicked 5 successful field goals to win the game. From offence, to defence and even special teams this Chargers team has big time players in key positions and will know that they can hurt the Patriots.
While talk of Bradys demise has gotten louder in recent weeks, the veteran has lead an average Pats team to yet another AFC East title and had to handle multiple injuries and suspensions in doing so. Bellichick will have utilised the bye week to rest his banged up players and prepare the team for what will be a tough test. New Englands defence is much improved this year and has been a major reason for winning games when the offence has struggled. Sony Michel will hope to establish a run game that will then open up the game for some play action passing to Gronkowski and Edelman. The Brady / Bellichick record in home payoff games is undeniable and the coaches ability to neutrilise an opponents most dangerous weapon is legendary, but it will come under some threat on Sunday in Boston. Patriots do just enough to win, Sony Michel anytime touchdown scorer, Melvin Gordon anytime touchdown scorer are our favorites for this tense match.
Is it happening again? That was the question on everyone’s lips when Nick Foles led the Eagles down the field in the final minute of the game against Chicago last week. The backup quarterback has returned to lead the offence to replace the injured Wentz and made the leagues Number 1 defence look decidedly average in the fourth quarter just when his team needed him. This week the Eagles will head to New Orleans to face the free scoring Saints and Drew Brees looking to win his second Super Bowl. Philadelphia will need more than 16 points this week if they are to progress in their quest to lift the Lombardi trophy for the second time in a row.
With Drew Brees as a strong MVP candidate, Michael Thomas a genuine WR1 and a running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram the Saints offence is multi faceted and explosive. Sean Payton’s aggressive play calling from the sidelines and faith in his players often see the team convert on big 4th downs that change the momentum in games at key moments. Playing in front of their home fans the Saints defence will be looking to build upon the defensive improvements which saw them hold teams to under 30 points a game apart from the meaningless week 17 loss to the Panthers. With a powerful offence and a defence getting off the field there is no wonder the Saints are currently Super Bowl favorites.
Nick Foles mania aside, Eagles fans will be all to aware that this Saints team is a significant step up in relation to the Bears from last week. Had Cody Parkeys kick bounced inside the upright instead of back out then of course this matchup would not be taking place. Such as the margins in playoff football. Some say its a sign from the football Gods, others say its a sign that it just shows how hard it will be for them this week. First up 16 points will be nowhere near what is required to overpower the third highest scoring team in the league and secondly the Saints will run the ball effectively – something the Bears struggled to do. How much physically mentally and emotionally did the win last week take on the players and how much magic does Foles have left? With a running game that fails to establish any momentum we expect a big day in the passing game in an attempt to keep pace with the Saints. If the Eagles are within one score in the fourth quarter nobody will bet against them, but we see the Saints wrapping this up long before then and in doing so will set up a tantalising championship game with the Rams. Saints to win, Kamara anytime touchdown scorer and Foles over 299 yards are markets that we fancy in this NFC divisional game.