The NFL Playoffs roll on with four mouth-watering Divisional Round match-ups. Palmerbet Sports Team has NFL tips and in-depth previews for each do-or-die clash.
History: Played 25: Colts 16 V Chiefs 9
Last meeting: October 30, 2016: Chiefs 30 d Colts 14 at Lucas Oil Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Indianapolis Colts pulled off arguably the biggest upset of Wild Card round, rolling into Houston and sweeping aside the in-form Texans 21-7. Andrew Luck’s experience and class came to the fore, passing for 222 yards and two TDs.
The win was the Colts’ 10th in 11 games – and their third straight on the road.
This week they meet the Kansas City Chiefs, who clinched the AFC’s top seed with a 12-4 record. The Chiefs stumbled with back-to-back late-season losses to the Chargers and Seahawks, but produced a confidence-boosting 35-3 rout of the Raiders to round out the regular season.
Making his playoffs debut will be MVP favourite Patrick Mahomes. The 23-year-old racked up 50 touchdowns and over 5,000 yards in the regular season, but this week represents a new challenge for the wunderkind QB.
The Colts have won 13 of their last 16 against the Chiefs, including seven of the last eight in Kansas City. But the Chiefs won the most recent encounter, in Indianapolis two seasons ago. The teams have met four times in the post-season with the Colts winning all four – including the 2014 Wild Card Game.
The Chiefs scored more points than any team during the regular season but the Colts’ defence is formidable; if they can do to Mahomes what they did to DeShaun Watson, this will be close. But we have to favour a Chiefs side that has dropped just one game at home this season.
History: Played 33: Cowboys 17 V Rams 16
Last meeting: October 1, 2017: Rams 35 d Cowboys 30 at AT&T Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Dallas Cowboys are searching for their first Divisional Playoff win since they won the Super Bowl in the 1995 season. They are also looking to avoid a third Divisional loss in five seasons.
But they give themselves a chance at an NFC Championship Game after a come-from-behind 24-22 home victory over the Seahawks last week. Dak Prescott passed for 226 yards and a touchdown, while also running a TD in. The Cowboys’ work on the ground was a key feature, however – something they’ll need to replicate against the LA Rams.
The 13-3 Rams closed out the regular season with big wins over also-rans the Cardinals (31-9) and 49ers (48-32). Slightly concerningly, they haven’t beaten a fellow playoffs qualifier since November 19, losing to the Bears and Eagles since. Last year’s dismal Wild Card exit to the Falcons may also weigh on the Rams’ minds.
QB Jared Goff’s form slipped down the stretch after a sizzling start and the Rams need him to peak in this post-season. Running back Todd Gurley finished third for rushing yards in the league this season (Cowboys counterpart Ezekiel Elliott topped the category) despite missing the last two rounds and is another key figure this week.
The Cowboys have won three of their last four against the Rams. But the Rams won 35-30 in Dallas last season, with Goff throwing for 255 yards and 2 TDs. The franchises have met seven times in the playoffs (though none since 1986), with the Rams holding a 4-3 advantage.
Dallas are getting a sizeable start and shape as excellent value at the line, with the Rams sure to be slightly rusty.
History: Played 41: Patriots 24 V Chargers 15 (2 Ties)
Last meeting: October 29, 2017: Patriots 21 d Chargers 13 at Gillette Stadium
Final Thoughts: The New England Patriots have made it to the AFC Championship Game in each of the past seven seasons. But this showdown with the LA Chargers looms as one of their more difficult Divisional Round assignments.
The Chargers went 12-4 during the regular season, before putting away the Ravens in Baltimore 23-17. It was a nervy Wild Card win, however, as they watched a 21-3 lead get eaten away. Defensively Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa were superb and their pressure on Tom Brady this week is vital.
Philip Rivers has just one TD and 181 yards or less in the Chargers’ last three games; a big game from the QB wouldn’t go astray.
The 11-5 Patriots finished the season with comfortable wins over the Bills and Jets, but there’s not question they are down on the form they are usually producing at this time of the year. Brady’s 4-TD game against the Jets was a nice fillip before the playoffs, however.
Importantly, the Patriots are 8-0 at Gillette Stadium this season, winning six of the last seven by 12-plus.
The Pats have won 17 of their last 20 against the Chargers, including the last four straight. Last season Tom Brady led New England to a 21-13 victory in Foxborough, where the Chargers have won just once in 12 attempts since 1970. Their most recent playoffs encounter was the AFC Championship Game in 2008, the Patriots winning 21-12.
Brady and the Pats live for this time of the season; the Chargers have not won a Divisional Playoff since 2007, losing three since. Count on the hosts warming up for another Super Bowl tilt by accounting for the start here.
History: Played 31: Eagles 17 V Saints 14
Last meeting: November 18, 2018: Saints 48 d Eagles 7 at Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Final Thoughts: The defending champs take on the Super Bowl favourites in the ‘Big Easy’.
The Philadelphia Eagles kept the back-to-back dream alive with a nerve-shredding 16-15 defeat of the Bears, surviving a late field goal attempt that hit the post and crossbar. Nick Foles has cemented his spot in the pocket for Philly and there is more than a little bit of a sense of déjà vu with last year’s Super Bowl MVP back at the helm.
But the key is the Eagles’ secondary shutting down the New Orleans Saints’ red-hot offence – particularly in the air. They went down heavily to the Panthers in Week 17 but rested Drew Brees, who had 32 TDs and a shade under 4,000 yards during the regular season.
The Eagles need to erase their 48-7 capitulation in New Orleans less than two months ago from their memories ahead of this showdown. Brees had a day out with 363 yards and four touchdowns; Carson Wentz gave up three interceptions in a performance that contributed to his current back-up status.
That landslide was the Saints’ sixth win in their last eight clashes with the Eagles, who have won just one of their last five in New Orleans.
The Saints have won six of their last seven at home, while the Eagles are 4-4 on the road despite winning their last two away. The Eagles have momentum but have also been walking the tightrope for some time – we’re backing the Saints to knock them off it.