A stellar weekend of Wild Card playoffs is in the books, and we can now set our sights on what is arguably the best weekend of football for the entire year. The Divisional Round gets underway on Saturday afternoon, and we have what look to be four dandies on tap.
Underdogs wreaked havoc on the playoff brackets last weekend, and that only ramps up the intrigue for this slate of games. Those with last weekend off have had some extra time to prepare, but that can be a blessing and a curse.
The four road teams are all playing exceptionally well, and there could certainly be some more upsets on the way as a result. Oddsmakers have placed their chips on the side of all of the home teams, so there’s plenty of value to be found for handicapping purposes.
We’ll kick things up a notch by including a parlay of all four games in addition to our individual wagers. It’s tough to hit all four, but the returns can be fantastic if everything goes our way. Let’s take a look at all of the divisional round contests, starting with an intriguing tilt on the AFC side.
All betting odds provided by: Sportsbetting.ag
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs, Sat. 4:35 PM EST, NBC
Colts vs. Chiefs pick:
The weekend gets started with a bang when the AFC #6 seed Indianapolis Colts head to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs, the top seed in the conference. The Colts have evolved from a squad that started off the year with a mark of 1-5 to one that’s playing as well as anyone in the NFL. The Chiefs had a stellar start to the season while looking unstoppable on offense, but the club came back to earth down the stretch.
The turnaround for the Colts can’t be overstated, and Frank Reich deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year honors as a result. This is a team that looked like it was on its way to a lost season that responded by winning nine of its final ten contests. They followed that up by going to Houston and dominating the Texans last week.
The Chiefs had last week off, a nice reward for a 12-4 regular season. It was the team’s stellar 9-1 start which pushed them over the edge to the top seed in the conference, as they had a bit of a tough time down the stretch. The Chiefs closed out the year by going 3-3 over their final six, and just 1-2 over their final three.
On Saturday, we’ll get a clear answer to a burning question that rears its head just about every year in the playoffs. What’s more important come playoff time: a team that has been consistently good throughout the season, or a team that gets hot at just the right time? We’ll find out for sure on Saturday, but our suspicions tell us that the team in the latter camp is the better squad right now.
The Colts do not resemble a #6 seed. They are playing like one of the best teams in the league, and we expect that to continue on Saturday. The weekend kicks off with another upset.
We’ll take the Colts plus the points.
Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams, Sat. 8:15 PM EST, FOX
Cowboys vs. Rams pick:
The primetime contest on Saturday features a similar tale. A red-hot Dallas Cowboys team will be hitting the road to take on a Los Angeles Rams squad that cooled off a bit at the end of the season after a blazing start. It’s an intriguing matchup of the NFC’s #4 and #2 seeds, and we should be in line for a solid game as a result.
It certainly didn’t look like it was the Cowboys year in the early part of the season. The club started out 3-5, and there was plenty of scuttlebutt that suggested head coach Jason Garrett could be on the outs. The team made that an afterthought by turning things around in dramatic fashion. The Cowboys won seven of their final eight games to take down the NFC East crown.
The Rams burst out of the gates with eight consecutive wins. Their first defeat came at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, a tough road loss to one of the top teams in the league. The team had another three-game winning streak from that point, but they ran into a rough patch in December. The Rams dropped consecutive games to the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles before righting the ship and winning their final two.
The Cowboys come in off of a hard-fought victory over the Seattle Seahawks, while the Rams had last week off. Will the extra time off result in the Rams rounding back into form this week, or will the Cowboys strong recent play carry over and be the difference maker? We’ll find out on Saturday night, but oddsmakers are leaning towards the Rams.
There’s no doubt that the Rams deserve to be home favorites, but a touchdown spread may be a little ambitious. It’s going to be tough for the Cowboys to pull of an outright upset versus a team that’s loaded with as much talent as the Rams, but there’s no reason they can’t make quite the game of it.
We’ll take the Cowboys plus the points.
Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots, Sun. 1:05 PM EST, CBS
Chargers vs. Patriots pick:
The early Sunday game features another AFC Wild Card squad that went on the road last week and exited with a win. The #5 seed Los Angeles Chargers handled business versus the Baltimore Ravens, and they have advanced to a date with the #2 seed New England Patriots. This may be the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, not to mention one that’s a brain teaser for handicapping purposes.
After a tough start of 1-2, the Chargers quickly got it together. They would drop just two more games the rest of the way, and they gave off the vibe of being the most complete team in the AFC during the regular season. This is a team that can score with anyone and get the job done on defense, and they are an imposing matchup for any opponent as a result.
The Patriots are in their usual position of being one of the top teams in the conference, but they don’t look as solid as normal. That has been exacerbated by the fact that the team had a pair of two-game losing streaks in 2018, something that is nearly unheard of during its current dynasty era. The final month provided an interesting snapshot of the team, as they went 2-2 over their final four.
It’s one road victory down for the Chargers, and one more to go if they hope to advance to the AFC title tilt. They were real close to snagging the top seed in the conference, but a late season loss to the Ravens put an end to those dreams. As for the Patriots, it took some doing this year, but they are once again the champions of the AFC East.
The Patriots have been subjected to plenty of chatter that suggests they are on their last legs as a dynasty. However, the team has a pretty good track record versus critics who have been dying to write them off for years. It would be foolish to completely count them out. While it wouldn’t be too shocking for the Chargers to pull off the upset, betting against the Patriots at home in the postseason is a risky proposition.
That doesn’t mean we can’t find some value here. The Patriots are favored by four points, but this game has all the earmarks of one that comes down to a field goal at the end. The hosts quell talk that their dynasty is collapsing around them for at least a little while, but the Chargers keep it close and interesting.
We’ll take the Chargers plus the points.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints, 4:40 PM EST, FOX
Eagles vs. Saints pick:
Our final contest of the weekend pits a team that squeaked into the playoffs versus one who is the current favorite to win the Super Bowl. The #6 seed Philadelphia Eagles will be heading to New Orleans to take on the #1 seed Saints. These two clubs squared off in the regular season, with the Saints cruising to a dominating 48-7 home victory. However, this Eagles team is much different than the one that no-showed in the Superdome back in November.
For much of the regular season, the Eagles seemed to be dealing with a dreaded Super Bowl hangover. Their record stood at 4-6 after the beatdown at the hands of the Saints, and it looked like they were going nowhere fast. However, the team caught fire in the end, winning five of their final six to snag the final playoff spot in the NFC. Much of the credit for the resurgence is owed to Nick Foles, who has once again stepped in for an injured Carson Wentz.
The Saints have looked every bit the part of the top team in the NFL for much of the season. They’re dangerous on offense and effective on defense, and Drew Brees has been playing like a man with a laser-like focus on securing a second Super Bowl ring. The Saints are current favorites for the Super Bowl for a reason, and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs certainly won’t hurt their cause.
The meeting from earlier in the season is definitely a factor to consider while breaking down this game, but it shouldn’t be leaned on too heavily either. The Eagles look nothing like the listless squad that delivered such a poor showing. They played really well down the stretch, and they got the job done last week versus a favored Chicago Bears team.
We’re not going to expect the Eagles to pull off another road upset, but we do anticipate them making this much more of a game than oddsmakers indicate. The team steps its game up substantially with Foles leading the charge, so we’ll expect them to go down swinging. Saints win outright, but the Eagles make them work for it.
We’ll take the Eagles plus the points.