One round of the 2018 NFL playoffs is within the books. Now we’re previewing the divisional game slate with a rundown for every matchup from Dan Graziano, score predictions from our NFL Nation reporters and Soccer Energy Index projections from ESPN Stats & Info.
Plus: Key matchups to watch from Matt Bowen, what to know from a sports activities betting perspective by Rob Nelson of ESPN Stats & Info, officiating nuggets from Kevin Seifert and more.
Leap to a matchup:
IND-KC | DAL-LAR
LAC-NE | PHI-NO
Level unfold: KC -5 | Matchup high quality: 70.three (of 100)
The Chiefs don’t desire to discuss in regards to the 28-point lead they blew after halftime to Andrew Luck and the Colts in a playoff game 5 years in the past in Indy. They do not actually need to speak about final yr’s 18-point collapse within the second half at dwelling to the Titans. Or the truth that they’re zero-6 in dwelling playoff video games since Joe Montana won one for them 1 / 4-century in the past. They’re centered on a Colts staff that has won 10 of its previous 11 video games and often is the hottest No. 6 seed in playoff historical past. Patrick Mahomes makes his first playoff begin, however after a 50-touchdown, 5,000-yard passing season, it is onerous to imagine something fazes this younger man. But the Colts ran for 200 yards in opposition to a troublesome Texans protection final Saturday and ought to have the ability to discover loads of room to run in opposition to a a lot more permissive Kansas Metropolis D. — Graziano
Every little thing you want this week:
• 2018 playoffs protection »
• Full schedule » | Full standings »
• 2019 draft order: Prime 20 picks »
More NFL protection »
FPI win projection: KC, 74.9 %. There ought to be loads of offense on this game, as Mahomes (50) and Luck (39) mixed for 89 passing scores this common season, essentially the most in any QB matchup in postseason historical past, in accordance to Elias Sports activities Bureau analysis. Whereas the Colts’ protection has been higher as of late, rating fifth within the NFL in effectivity throughout their 10-1 stretch, Kansas Metropolis has the sting, in accordance to FPI (No. 1 offense when it comes to effectivity at 85.1 and the league chief in Complete QBR in Mahomes at 81.6).
Matchup to watch: Marlon Mack vs. the Chiefs’ entrance seven. The Kansas Metropolis protection ranked No. 27 versus the run through the common season, giving up 132.1 yards per game. Search for the Colts to lean on their energy operating game with Mack. Block down and pull. The thought right here is to management the road of scrimmage, eat clock and restrict possessions for Mahomes. Let these huge boys go to work up entrance. — Bowen
Betting nuggets: The Colts are 6-zero each in opposition to the unfold and straight up of their six video games in opposition to groups with a successful document this season. Andy Reid, then again, has misplaced outright in every of his previous 4 video games as a house favourite within the postseason, together with twice with Kansas Metropolis. — Nelson
Officiating scouting report: Referee John Hussey averaged 14.6 flags per game through the common season, fifth fewest within the NFL. That frequency shall be examined by the Chiefs, who had been essentially the most penalized staff within the league (163). Their defensive secondary was particularly grabby, committing a league-excessive 24 fouls for defensive holding; the remainder of the league averaged simply 9.Eight. — Seifert
Darren Woodson says the Chiefs will “put huge numbers up” at dwelling, however Tedy Bruschi sees the Colts successful of their playoff game.
Mike Wells’ decide: The Colts have been the NFL’s stingiest protection since Week 7, giving up a median of 16.Four factors per game over that span. However additionally they have not confronted a staff with the scoring skill of Kansas Metropolis. The Chiefs are first within the league in yards per game (425.6), yards per play (6.84) and factors per game (35.three). However the alternative to run the ball shall be there for the Colts, because the Chiefs had been 31st within the league (5.zero yards allowed per carry), which might maintain Mahomes on the sideline. It would not be surprising if the Colts won, however the Chiefs get the slight edge as a result of they’re taking part in at dwelling. Chiefs 34, Colts 30
Adam Teicher’s decide: Few street groups have been in a position to run up the score in opposition to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, the place the house staff allowed 18 factors per game this season (sixth finest within the NFL). The Chiefs are second in sack charge (10.5 %) and third in interception charge (Four.1 %). That is sufficient defensive goodness to beat Luck and the Colts at dwelling. Chiefs 31, Colts 27
In case you missed it: What’s behind Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s struggles within the playoffs? … Colts’ unbelievable turnaround occurred quick, however was no fast repair
Level unfold: LAR -7.5 | Matchup high quality: 61.Eight (of 100)
Dallas is Eight-1 at dwelling this season and simply three-5 on the street, so the query is whether or not the Cowboys can get management of the game with out the assistance of their very own pleasant confines. The Rams allowed the next yards-per-rush common than some other staff within the league this season, so it is attainable Ezekiel Elliott can get one thing going in opposition to L.A.’s aggressive, pursuing defensive entrance. However the Rams seem set to get their very own star operating again, Todd Gurley, again for this game and are coming off a bye week. They need to have solutions for Dallas’ younger linebackers and fearsome line of defense led by DeMarcus Lawrence. The Rams had been within the playoffs final season and felt they did not play their finest in a first-round loss to Atlanta. What did Sean McVay’s crew study from that have? — Graziano
Who wins Colts-Chiefs, Cowboys-Rams, Chargers-Patriots and Eagles-Saints?
The Cowboys wished different quarterbacks over Dak Prescott. Sean Payton settled for the Saints job. This is how these groups had been constructed by chance.
Prime-time Parlay is your FPI-primarily based guide that predicts the outcomes of this weekend’s NFL divisional round motion.
FPI win projection: LAR, 78.7 %. The Rams completed the common season ranked first in offensive effectivity within the NFC, in accordance to FPI (78.1), but in addition ought to trigger Dak Prescott and the Cowboys issues on the defensive aspect of the sphere. The Rams ranked second within the NFL in ESPN’s go rush win charge (how usually a go-rusher is in a position to beat his block inside 2.5 seconds), utilizing knowledge from NFL’s Subsequent Gen Stats. That is thanks largely to Aaron Donald, who led all gamers with a PRWR of 46 % this season.
Matchup to watch: The Rams’ first-down play-motion vs. the Cowboys’ protection. The Rams’ foundational go ideas begin with play-motion off the surface zone run look. It permits L.A. to create voids in protection schemes, with Jared Goff throwing on rhythm to Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. If the Cowboys lean on their core zone coverages, McVay can dial up early-down play-motion to assault the center of the sphere. — Bowen
Betting nuggets: The Cowboys have won every of their three video games as an underdog of at the very least seven factors outright this season. And Goff is Four-11-1 ATS in 16 profession begins in opposition to groups with a successful document, together with zero-three-1 ATS this season. — Nelson
Officiating scouting report: Referee John Parry threw the second-most flags for roughing the passer (11), a notable complete in a game that features the Rams’ aggressive defensive entrance. The Rams had been referred to as for six such penalties, second most within the league. — Seifert
Todd Archer’s decide: Matchups matter, particularly within the playoffs. It was believed to be higher for the Cowboys to keep away from the Saints within the divisional round as a result of the Saints are practically flawless at dwelling, however the Rams went 7-1 on the Coliseum and averaged 37 factors per game. The stat that stands out essentially the most, nonetheless, is 5.1 yards per carry. Los Angeles allowed that through the common season, and the Cowboys clearly need to construct their game round Elliott. That is one of the simplest ways to maintain a excessive-scoring staff off the sphere. And that is one of the simplest ways for the Cowboys to advance to the NFC title game. Cowboys 23, Rams 20
Lindsey Thiry’s decide: The Rams’ run protection is definitely a priority dealing with the NFL’s main rusher in Elliott. Nonetheless, it may’t be ignored that the Rams’ protection has made late-game stops all through the season when it has wanted to in crunch time. As for their very own operating game, teammates mentioned Gurley appeared robust and contemporary in his first practices again from a knee situation that had saved him sidelined since Week 16. Rams 32, Cowboys 28
Darren Woodson says the Cowboys will take away the Rams’ operating game to win, however Tedy Bruschi sees L.A. getting off to a quick begin.
In case you missed it: Showtime Rams? Not but, however Rams are prepared for the A-listers … Need to study Rams tradition: Study your McVayisms … Gurley, Elliott headline Rams-Cowboys playoff matchup … Cowboys headed to L.A., aiming to elevate bar on expectations
Level unfold: NE -Four | Matchup high quality: 76.5 (of 100)
The Patriots at dwelling in January coming off a bye looks like simple cash. Philip Rivers is zero-7 in his profession in opposition to Tom Brady, and the Patriots are tried-and-true playoff blue bloods. However these Chargers are 9-zero this season after they’ve had to journey outdoors of Los Angeles. Flying to Baltimore final week, again dwelling Sunday night time and again to New England this week may trouble some groups, but it surely’s not going to make a lot distinction to Anthony Lynn’s street warriors. Will Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley have an ingenious new game plan to fight Brady and the New England operating game, as he did final week in opposition to the Ravens? And what facet of the Chargers’ various offense will Invoice Belichick scheme to take away? It could be now or by no means for Rivers, who has his finest staff in years and an opportunity for a candy late-profession addition to his legacy. — Graziano
Atone for what’s occurring heading into the divisional round:
• Barnwell: Destroying myths in regards to the eight remaining playoff groups »
• Overhaul rankings: Groups that can change most for 2019
• Tremendous Bowl probabilities for remaining groups »
• Overreactions: O’Brien on the recent seat? »
• Playoff bracket reset »
• 2019 draft order: First-round picks from 1-32 »
• Head-teaching carousel: Newest on firings, hirings »
More NFL playoff protection »
FPI win projection: NE, 65.zero %. The Patriots are the smallest favourite on this round, in accordance to FPI, however had been additionally the one staff to go undefeated at dwelling this common season. New England completed fourth in offensive effectivity (78.Four) and second in defensive effectivity (80.5) at dwelling, in accordance to FPI. Rivers was second within the NFL in QBR in street video games through the common season (81.three) and posted a 78.three at Baltimore within the wild-card round.
Matchup to watch: Belichick vs. Rivers. Let’s regulate the protection schemes and rotations Belichick attracts up to restrict Rivers’ skill to throw intermediate cuts off excessive-low ideas. Within the Chargers’ playbook, Rivers can work two-stage reads inside, which places defenders in battle — and that leads to open home windows. New England’s linebackers and secondary should take away his skill to make excessive-proportion throws with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams on inside breaking routes. — Bowen
Betting nuggets: The Chargers have won outright in every of their previous 5 video games as an underdog and are led by Rivers, who’s 6-1 ATS with 4 outright wins in seven profession postseason begins as an underdog. As for the entire, eight of the Patriots’ previous 9 video games have gone beneath. — Nelson
Officiating scouting report: Referee Ron Torbert’s common-season crew threw the second-lowest complete of flags (13.7 per game) this season. That will increase the seemingly chance of a low-flag game. The Patriots completed the season tied for seventh within the NFL with 113 penalties. The Chargers ranked No. 14 with 124. — Seifert
Eric D. Williams’ decide: The Bolts may have to play a close to-good game on the street to earn a victory. Nonetheless, with a veteran teaching workers and two edge rushers, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who can stress Brady, the Chargers have an opportunity to pull off the upset. The key for the Chargers shall be limiting errors and scoring touchdowns on offense. The Patriots allowed Four.9 speeding yards per play through the common season, tied for third worst within the NFL, which bodes nicely for Melvin Gordon. New England additionally allowed 59 passing performs of 20-plus yards in 2018, so the Chargers’ receivers ought to create some explosive performs down the sphere. Chargers 24, Patriots 21
NFL Live’s Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson clarify their picks for the AFC divisional matchup between the Chargers and Patriots.
Mike Reiss’ decide: The Patriots’ protection has been a unique unit at dwelling (the place the staff is Eight-zero) and that can in the end be the distinction-maker in opposition to a Chargers staff that’s dominant outdoors of Los Angeles County. The Patriots are nicely-rested and wholesome coming off the playoff bye, and gamers felt like Wednesday’s full-pads observe was an essential one for them to ramp issues up for a bodily game. In the meantime, the Chargers are banged up in some key spots (operating again, for one) and shall be making one other flight throughout the nation after taking part in in Baltimore on Sunday. Patriots 27, Chargers 20
In case you missed it: MMA obsession is toughening up the Chargers’ receivers … ‘Cash Badger’ Michael Badgley continues to make clutch kicks for Chargers
Level unfold: NO -Eight | Matchup high quality: 60.Four (of 100)
To get to final yr’s Tremendous Bowl, the Eagles had to win two dwelling playoff video games. To get to this yr’s huge game, Nick Foles & Co. have to win three street playoff video games. One down and two to go, with the assistance of a Soldier Area upright, however this week’s journey to the Superdome often is the hardest take a look at but. They’re going to see a rested Saints staff that completed within the high 5 within the league in speeding and passing offense for the second yr in a row. If the Saints’ offensive line can maintain the Eagles’ defensive entrance from wrecking the game with the go rush, Drew Brees ought to have loads of time to decide aside Philadelphia’s decimated secondary. New Orleans could be clever to construct a giant lead, although. Based mostly on the previous two postseasons, the very last thing you need to do is put the ball in Foles’ palms late in an in depth game. — Graziano
FPI win projection: NO, 80.9 %. The Saints are the most important favourite of the weekend, thanks largely to their offensive prowess at dwelling this season. Brees posted a league-main 89.7 Complete QBR in dwelling video games this season, the second highest since ESPN started monitoring QBR in 2006 (Aaron Rodgers, 90.5 in 2011), main the Saints to the second-finest offensive effectivity in dwelling video games (85.zero), in accordance to FPI. One ray of hope for Philadelphia is that the Saints had a 30.Four defensive effectivity at dwelling, second worst within the league.
Matchup to watch: Brees vs. Avonte Maddox. Maddox is an aggressive nook with the transition velocity to break downhill on the ball. He is going to shut in a rush. However that additionally leads to alternatives to run double strikes on the younger cornerback. If Maddox is sitting on the slant or the fast out — like we noticed within the wild-card matchup in opposition to Chicago — search for Brees to goal the rookie with a double transfer excessive. — Bowen
Betting nuggets: The Eagles have won outright in every of Foles’ previous six begins as an underdog, with 4 of these wins coming within the postseason. As for the entire, the over is 9-zero within the Saints’ 9 postseason video games performed in Superdome. — Nelson
Officiating scouting report: Referee Carl Cheffers’ crew will get two of the least-penalized groups within the NFL. The Saints had the second-fewest penalties (109), and the Eagles ranked No. 6 (112). Officers did nab the Saints for 20 defensive go interference (DPI) calls, second most within the league, however Cheffers’ common-season crew made the second-fewest such calls (9), and total had the bottom mixed complete of DPI, unlawful contact and defensive holding (27). — Seifert
NFL Live’s Tedy Bruschi and Darren Woodson clarify their picks for the NFC divisional matchup between the Eagles and Saints.
Tim McManus’ decide: The Eagles are taking part in their finest ball of the yr and are Four-zero since Foles got here in for the injured Carson Wentz. The protection was gashed for 546 yards and 48 factors by New Orleans in Week 11, but it surely has since stabilized, yielding 15 factors complete over the previous two video games. This shall be a a lot nearer game, however the dwelling-discipline benefit the Superdome gives will come into play and tilt the game the Saints’ means. Saints 27, Eagles 24
Mike Triplett’s decide: After all I do not anticipate one other 48-7 rout like their final assembly two months in the past, however the Saints do have quite a bit going of their favor because the No. 1 seed. Most significantly, their banged-up offensive line has had time to relaxation, which ought to assist their offense get again on monitor and assist nullify Philly’s terrific entrance 4. New Orleans’ receiving corps can be more healthy with Ted Ginn Jr. coming again late within the season, and a refreshed Alvin Kamara ought to play an enormous half within the passing game. Final however not least, the Saints are at dwelling, the place they’ve averaged 40 factors per game prior to now 5 video games that Brees performed. The Saints are 5-zero within the Superdome within the playoffs through the Sean Payton-Brees period. Saints 30, Eagles 20
In case you missed it: Eagles carry ‘totally different staff’ into rematch with Saints … Payton, Saints rewarded for sticking collectively by means of lean years