2018 NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview
By Julie Voigt and Russell S. Baxter (VIBE)
Special to Pro Football Guru
Last weekend, three of the four teams that traveled for the NFL Wild Card Playoffs came out on top. The Indianapolis Colts won at Houston for the second time this season. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers prevailed at Baltimore and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles slapped away the Chicago Bears, 16-15.
Now the Top 2 seeds in both the AFC and NFC shift into action. Will the Colts, Chargers, Eagles and Dallas Cowboys all have success this weekend as they travel to Kansas City, Foxborough, New Orleans and Los Angeles?
Here is PFG Vibe’s somewhat-unique look at the AFC-NFC Divisional Playoffs. Julie Voigt (VI) and Russell S. Baxter (BE) offer their quick analysis on each contest (All times ET).
Note: Win-loss records include playoffs
Saturday, January 12
Indianapolis Colts (11-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), 4:35 pm
VI: The showdown of showdowns. Andrew Luck vs. Patrick Mahomes. A QB that has never played in s playoff game vs. an experienced signal-caller QB. Although the Colts are 4-0 lifetime vs. the Chiefs in the playoffs (2-0 at Kansas City), this is a completely different team from seasons’ past. Andy Reid’s troop has lost two of its last three games (to the Chargers and Seahawks) but are coming off a bye week so they are rested and ready to go. Can the smoking Chiefs’ offense solve a hot Colts’ defense? Or vice versa? Snow is expected, so this could be a messy and cold game.
BE: The Chiefs totaled at NFL-best 565 points in 2018 – the third-highest single-season total in league annals. Prior to this year, there were nine examples of club totaling at last 540 points in a season and none resulted in a Super Bowl win. Kansas City also allowed 421 points, which would be the most ever surrendered by a Super Bowl champion if Andy Reid’s club managed to win the whole thing. It’s still pretty astounding to not that the Chiefs combined to score an incredible 150 points in the four games they lost in ’18.
Dallas Cowboys (11-6) at L.A. Rams (13-3), 8:15 pm
VI: The Rams have been near unstoppable, keyed by the play of their offensive line. Like Kansas City, the Rams are explosive on offense and have their question marks on the defensive side of the ball. Like the Colts, the Cowboy started slow and began a different season when it counted. Can the Dallas back-seven contain quarterback Jared Goff, versatile running back Todd Gurley, wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods and Rams’ play-action attack?
BE: This will be the ninth postseason meeting between these franchises, which would be the most in NFL history. But the clubs haven’t squared off in the playoffs since 1985. Dallas’ ground attack finished 10th in the league this season but features the NFL rushing leader in Ezekiel Elliott. Stopping the run has been a problem for Wade Phillips’ defensive unit two straight seasons in Los Angeles. But can Todd Gurley frustrate the Cowboys’ linebackers?
Sunday, January 13
L.A. Chargers (13-4) at New England Patriots (11-5), 1:05 pm
VI: Some would say that this New England team is on the last legs of its dynasty. But the Patriots were also on a bye week and are fully rested and ready to go and look to make it eight straight appearances in the AFC Championship Game. On the other hand, the Chargers are 8-1 on the road this season. Could the Patriots’ defense have a problem with the possible return of Chargers’ tight end TE Hunter Henry?
BE: Dating back to 2001 and including their incredible eight Super Bowl appearances, the Patriots are a combined 27-10 in the postseason. Of course, the club won its initial 10 playoff games, including its first three Super Bowl titles, with Brady as the starting quarterback and Belichick on the sidelines. That being said, keep an eye on New England’s run defense, which struggled down the stretch and will certainly be tested by the Chargers.
Philadelphia Eagles (10-7) at New Orleans Saints (13-3), 4:40 pm
VI: A Super Bowl trophy and $200,000 in cash must be a way to motivate the New Orleans Saints, at least according to head coach Sean Payton. But the Philadelphia Eagles just beat a highly-regarded Bears’ team at Soldier Field. The Eagles have been on the right path since the end of their season. But the New Orleans Saints have been on a roll for most of the year. Saints have been favored to win the Super Bowl this year. Can they take on the current defending Lombardi Trophy winners?
BE: Only the Chicago Bears allowed fewer rushing yards per game than the Saints this season. And Payton’s defense played much better the second half of the season. Yes, the Birds fell at the Superdome back in Week 11 (48-7) and this is a different team with a different quarterback. But New Orleans is also playing exceptional football on both sides of the football and have proven they can win numerous ways.
Julie Voigt (JulieNoted_PFG) and Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru) are the co-founders of @pfgVIBE. Julie is also the Colts’ reporter for OurTurf Football while Russell writes for FanSided and NFL Spin Zone.