NFL Divisional Round Preview: Saints And Chiefs Headline The Weekend
After an exciting wild-card round that saw two big upsets, as well as some unbelievable finishes, the Divisional Round is finally upon us. Now if your team lost last weekend, we’re sure you’re upset and you have every right to be. Even this writer is annoyed that they only got one out of their four predictions right, but that’s beside the point.
Considering the matchups we have been blessed with, there are plenty of reasons to watch some football this weekend. The Super Bowl is just three weekends away and the games are getting more and more intense. Whether your team is still in it or not, there is no denying how entertaining this weekend’s matches are going to be.
Having said that, let’s take a look at how these teams stack up.
Saturday, January 12th
No. 6 Indianapolis at No. 1 Kansas City, on NBC at 4:35 p.m. ET
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesWhen you consider that the Indianapolis Colts are a six seed going up against a one seed in the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s easy to catch yourself saying the Chiefs will win easily. Don’t be fooled that easily though. Yes, the Chiefs have an amazing offense with one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the game, but the Colts’ momentum coming into the weekend is palpable.
Including last weekend’s win against the Houston Texans, the Colts have won 10 of their last 11 games. They started the season 1-5 and won 9 out of their last 10 just to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Chiefs started the year 9-1 and went 3-3 in their last six.
Regardless of momentum, the Chiefs have a clear advantage over the Colts when it comes to offense. According to NFL.com, the Chiefs finished first in total points per game with 35.3 and first in total yards with 425.6 yards per match. In those same categories, the Colts finished fifth and seventh respectively. The Chiefs success is in large part thanks to quarterback Patrick Mahomes who finished the year with 50 touchdown passes. In comparison, Andrew Luck had 39 touchdowns.
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesOn the other side of the ball, the Chiefs struggle on defense. Bad defensive performances have been the reason for the majority of the team’s losses this season, including a 54-51 shootout against the Los Angeles Rams. The Chiefs gave up 26.3 points per game (24th in the league), and 405.5 yards per game (31st in the league). Comparatively, the Colts are 10th and 11th in those categories, giving them a clear advantage on defense, according to NFL.com.
Neither of these teams have played each other this season so both teams will be getting a fresh look at each other on Saturday. The winner gets to play the victor of the New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers game in the AFC Championship match.
No. 4 Dallas at No. 2 Los Angeles Rams, on Fox 8:15 at p.m. ET
John McCoy/Getty ImagesHeading to the NFC now, the Dallas Cowboys are fresh off of a 24-22 win against the Seattle Seahawks where the team blended some solid defense with timely offense. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams were one of the best teams in the league this season, finishing with a record of 13-3.
In terms of offense, this game is a complete mismatch. The Rams finished second in points per game with 32.9, and second in total yards with an average of 421.1 every match. Thanks to running back Todd Gurley, their rushing game was third in the league, with 139.4 yards a game. Gurley was impressive this season amassing over 1200 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. Dallas, on the other hand, has been less impressive. They rank 21st and 22nd in points and yards per game respectively. All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
As for passing, this game comes down to a battle between Jared Goff of the Rams, and Dak Prescott of the Cowboys. According to Pro-Football-Reference, Goff finished the season with 32 touchdowns and 4688 passing yards. Prescott finished with 22 touchdowns and 3885 yards. Goff and Prescott finished with 12 and 8 interceptions respectively.
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesMuch like the Chief/Colts matchup, the team with the phenomenal offense is lacking a little on defense. The Rams finished 20th and 19th in points and yards allowed per game, while Dallas was sixth and seventh in those categories. This season it’s been the Rams’ offense that has bailed them out of bad defensive performances. For the Cowboys though, it’s the defense that keeps them in every game.
Both teams have yet to play each other this season. The winner gets to play either the Philadelphia Eagles or the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game.
Sunday, January 13th
No. 5 L.A. Chargers at No. 2 New England, on CBS at 1:05 p.m. ET
Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesThe first game on Sunday will see the New England Patriots partake in their first playoff game of the season in a campaign where they’re looking to reach their third-straight Super Bowl. On the other side, Philip Rivers and the Chargers will look to build on last week’s 23-17 win against the Baltimore Ravens.
One of the more interesting storylines of this game is how old the quarterbacks are. This is a tale of two veterans as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 41, while Rivers is 37. Their age hasn’t held them back at all really. Brady had 29 touchdowns and Rivers had 32 this season, making them amongst the elite quarterbacks in the league. While Rivers may have had a better season passing, Brady has the biggest pedigree championship wise. Rivers has yet to win a title, all while Brady has five of them.
The Patriots finished 11-5 this season and continued to be one of the best offensive teams in the league, finishing fourth in average points per game with 27.2. Thanks to Brady they had the eighth-best passing offense and fifth-best total offense. Running back James White was also a big factor for the Patriots offense, amassing over 1000 total yards this season. The Chargers are also no slouch on offense. They had the eighth best average points per game and the 10th best passing offense. While the Chargers are formidable in that category, the Patriots do have an edge. All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesDefensively the Patriots are lacking in terms of stopping the pass and keeping yards to a minimum. They have the 22nd ranked pass defense and 21st ranked total defense. Although it isn’t all bad. The team only gives up 20.3 points per game which was the seventh-best average in the league. On the other side of the field, the Chargers are much more consistent defensively. They were eighth in points allowed and ninth in total yards, pass yards, and rush yards given up. All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
In the Brady/Rivers era, the Chargers and Patriots have met twice in the playoffs, with the Patriots taking both games. However, Brady has struggled in those matches so it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
The winner will take on either the Kansas City Chiefs or the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.
No. 6 Philadelphia at No. 1 New Orleans, on Fox 4:40 at p.m. ET
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesIn the final game of the weekend, the defending champs take on the best team in football, the New Orleans Saints. Considering how lucky the Eagles got last week with Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey missing a game-winning field goal, this matchup probably should have never happened. Regardless, it should be one of the more intriguing games we’ll be blessed with.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has been on a roll as of late, while Saints QB Drew Brees continues to be one of the best players in the league. In 16 games this season, Brees registered 32 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He also completed 74.4% of his passes which just goes to show how the 39-year-old still has it.
On offense, it appears as though these teams are in two completely different leagues. The Saints have the third best points per game average, while the Eagles are 18th in that category. There is only one category the Eagles beat the Saints in and that’s passing yards per game as the Eagles rank seventh and the Saints 12th. Not to mention, the Saints have the sixth best rush offense, whereas the Eagles were the fifth worst team in that department. All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesThe defensive matchup in this game is looking pretty even although the Saints clearly have an advantage on rush defense, only giving up 80 yards per game, good enough for second in the league. In terms of points per game, the Saints rank 14th, allowing 22.1. The Eagles are 12th in that same category, forfeiting 21.8 points per match. Both the Saints and Eagles are abysmal on pass defense, ranking 29th and 30th in the league respectively. All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
This won’t be the first time these two teams play each other this season. On November 18th the Saints routed the Eagles 48-7 in a game that wasn’t even close.
Whoever wins will play the Dallas Cowboys or the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game.
Who do you think is going to come out victorious this weekend?