Friday, January 11, 2019

NFL PLAYOFFS - Divisional Round Preview

Here we go, it's time for the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.
There are four games on tap and all of them could be very close, possibly being decided on the final possession of the game.
The action starts Saturday in Kansas City where the Chiefs, the top seed in the AFC, will host the upstart Indianapolis Colts, who have rebounded from a 1-5 start to advance to this round of the playoffs.
The night game on Saturday is the Dallas Cowboys at the Los Angeles Rams in what will likely be a test between the new "Doomsday" Dallas defense going against the Rams high octane offense.
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers head back to the East coast where they will face the mighty New England Patriots, who have been to three of the last four Super Bowls and won two of them.
The final game of the weekend will have the New Orleans Saints hosting the Philadelphia Eagles, who are the defending Super Bowl champions and won a thriller on the road last week against the Chicago Bears.
The following offers a look at the games this weekend and the Heftyinfo picks will follow.

Saturday, January 12

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs -  The Chiefs boast the NFL's highest scoring offense, led by hot shot quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who passed for over 5,000 yards and had 50 touchdown passes. Top flight wide receiver Tyreek Hill (87 receptions for 1,479 yards with 12 TD) is a threat to score whenever he gets the ball in his hands. Another big weapon is tight end Travis Kelce, who had 103 receptions for 1,336 yards and ten touchdowns.
Not to be outdone is Colts QB Andrew Luck, who had 39 TD passes this season and also in the mix is running back Marlon Mack, who went off for 148 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in last week's 21-7 victory over the Houston Texans. Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (76, 1,270 yards and six TD) and tight end Eric Ebron (66 receptions, 13 TD) are the main targets Luck will throw to.
Defensively, the Colts rate the edge as they defend both the run and the pass fairly well. The Chiefs can get after the quarterback, but they also give up too many big pass plays and that could be what makes the difference in this game.

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams -  The Rams have a talented offense that scores points at a rapid fire pace behind QB Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley, who is expected back in the game after missing the final two games of the regular season with nagging injuries. Gurley led the NFL with 21 touchdowns this season.
The Cowboys have a triple threat with QB Dak Prescott (passing and running TD in last week's wild card game win), RB Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper, who is the deep threat the team lacked in the first half of the season when they stumbled out to a 3-5 start.
The Rams have some playmakers on the defense, especially pass rusher Aaron Donald, but the Cowboys defense is better overall and is a cohesive unit that plays strong against both the run and the pass.

Sunday, January 13

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots -  The Chargers bring the best road record (8-1 including playoffs) in pro football against the Patriots, who are nearly unbeatable at home in the playoffs in the Belichick-Brady era. In fact, New England had an 8-0 home record this season, so something has to give in this game.
The Chargers are loaded with talent on both sides of the football, led by QB Philip Rivers (32 TD passes and 12 interceptions) and a trio of gifted wide receivers, led by Keenan Allen (97 receptions, six TD) and also Mike Williams, who had ten touchdown receptions this season. Also running back Melvin Gordon (provided he is completely healthy) is a threat to break one whenever he carries the ball. Gordon scored 14 touchdowns and averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
The Patriots have arguably the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady and he has never lost a game against the Chargers when Rivers is the starting quarterback, including 2-0 in playoff games.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski will be a key factor for the Patriots to have success against a strong Chargers defense, which kept Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson in check in last week's road win against the Ravens in the wild card game.
Whichever team has the fewest turnovers will most likely win this football game and advance to the AFC Championship Game next weekend. The Patriots will be looking to get there for the eighth consecutive time, an NFL record they already own with trips to that game the past seven years.

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints -  The Eagles surprised the Chicago Bears 16-15 in the wild card game last week and will look to continue their magic carpet ride behind quarterback Nick Foles, who helped take the Eagles to the Super Bowl title last season.
The Saints have one of the top offenses in the NFL and QB Drew Brees set a new record this season for completion percentage (74.4 percent) along with 32 touchdown passes and only five interceptions thrown. It helps too that he has so much talent around him, especially the running tandem of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas had 125 receptions (1,405 yards) and nine touchdowns. Kamara scored 18 touchdowns and had over 1,500 combined yards rushing and receiving.
If the Eagles defense can get after Brees and keep the offense in check, they stand a chance to pull off the upset. However, if Brees and company can do what they did against Philly (in Week 11, New Orleans won at home 48-7 vs. the Eagles) last time, it could very well be another blowout win for the Saints.

The Heftyinfo predictions for the Divisional Round  . . . . . . .   (Home teams are listed in bold)

Indianapolis over Kansas City 
LA Rams over Dallas
LA Chargers over New England 
New Orleans over Philadelphia

Last Week's Record -  2-2 

Playoffs Record -  2-2

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