NFL : Divisional Round Previews
American Football : A preview of the Divisional round of playoffs
LA Chargers @ The New England Patriots – Kick off: Sunday 13th at 18:05 GMT
LA travel to New England this weekend in one of the most highly-anticipated divisional playoff games in some time. The Chargers are the best team on the road in the NFL going 8-1 (including playoffs) this season but this week they come up against the formidable New England Patriots who are undefeated at home in the fortress that is Foxborough winning all 8 games.
The immovable object meets the unstoppable force comes to mind.
LA are coming off the back of a significant win in Baltimore against a much-fancied Ravens side last week. Melvin Ingram starred on the defensive side of the ball that day but I don’t think even a repeat performance will be enough to defeat this Pats side.
New England have struggled (by their sky-high standards) through some of this season, losses to Detroit, Tennessee and Miami were very un-patriot like, and many see a Chargers upset on the cards here. With LA posting the joint best record in the AFC I can see why but not to be forgotten is that Rivers is 0-7 v Brady all time. I’m still taking the GOAT at home all day every day.
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs – Kick off: Saturday 12th at 21:35 GMT
Andrew Luck has turned me into a believer.
The Colts QB threw for 2 touchdowns and drove his team to a 21-0 first half domination over the Texans, ultimately holding off Houston for a comfortable victory. This week’s challenge: take down the red-hot Chiefs including their young superstar (and probable MVP) Patrick Maholmes who became just the second QB to throw for 5000 yards and 50 TDs in a season.
The best part for Chiefs fans? Hes only 23 years old and this is his first season as a starter! Despite my deep love for Maholmes I can’t help but feel the Colts are this year’s bolters from the stable (forgive the horrible pun).
The Colts have been tremendous on defence (none more so than linebacker Darius Leonard who led the league in tackles, as a rookie!) something which has not been mirrored by the Chiefs. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans wide receiver, possibly the best receiver in football was shut down by the Colts defence last week. The Chiefs also have an abysmal playoff record winning just one playoff game in 11 appearances since 1993. This will be high scoring game between 2 high powered offences. I fancy the Colts to win this in a shootout.
Dallas Cowboys @ LA Rams – Kick off: Sunday 13th at 01:15 (am) GMT
My beloved Cowboys travel to the Memorial Coliseum in what is apparently a road fixture but will certainly have a large number of Cowboy fans in attendance. Rewind time to mid-season and this game would have been a foregone conclusion.
The Rams were 8-0 and the Cowboys were 3-5. LA were rampant (horrible pun count: 2) and their high-flying offence was on fire. By contrast the Cowboys had just lost a miserable game to the Titans on Monday Night Football. Good thing there’s 16 games in a season.
The Cowboys have gone 8-1 since (including playoffs) and the Rams have faltered somewhat losing to the Saints Bears and Eagles. Todd Gurley (The Rams star running back) is expected to be back having been out in recent weeks with injury. This will serve as a major boost to Rams side that haven’t quite looked at their best coming down the final stretch losing 2 of their last 4 games. Dallas took down the Seahawks last week, 24-22 in a close game that may well have gone the other way had Seattle’s kicker Janikowski not torn his hamstring mid-game. Dak Prescott threw for 226 yards and ran for 29 including converting a crucial 3rd and 14 in the redzone late in the game. This scramble on 3rd down led to what was ultimately the game winning touch-down and gave Dallas just their 3rd playoff win in 20 years.
Prescott’s clutchness late in 4th quarters bodes well for this weekend.
If I were a betting man id be taking the Cowboys with the spread (which at –7 is too high) as games involving Dallas are generally close, tight affairs. Head says Rams, hearts says Cowboys, gotta go with the head on this one.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints – Kick off: Sunday 13th at 21:40 GMT
Big D*** Nick! The man is beginning to seem like some sort of demi-god, built especially for the NFL playoffs with the sole purpose of winning games he was never supposed to win. The Super Bowl winning QB Nick Foles and the Eagles squeezed past that titanic Bears defence thanks to post and a crossbar, as Chicago’s kicker Parkey hit both, missing a 43-yard field goal and sending the Bears back to their caves to lick their wounds.
So having barely sneaked into the playoffs and squeezing by the Bears, how can the Eagles possibly beat a team in New Orleans who had the joint-best record in the NFL and are currently the favorites to get to the Super Bowl and win the Lombardi trophy. The Saints go into this game as the number 1 seed in the NFC and in Drew Brees they have one of the greatest QBs of all-time.
The one real blunder on their record is the loss at Dallas in week 12 (other losses were in week 1 and a meaningless loss to the Panthers on the final week), where Brees had a torrid time dealing with the Dallas defence throwing for just 127 yards and an interception. If the Philly D could put similar pressure on then maybe we could have a game on our hands. I struggle to see past the Saints even if Foles does seemingly have magic powers. The Saints should push by the Eagles and continue their march towards the Super Bowl.