NFL Divisional Playoff odds, picks, how to watch, stream: Chargers hold off Patriots, Eagles cover
Is this the year Philip Rivers finally gets to the Super Bowl?
It is, as they say, go time. After visitors won three of four games during wild-card weekend, it's now the divisional round. It all starts Saturday with Colts-Chiefs at 4:35 p.m. ET followed by Cowboys Rams at 8:15 p.m. Then on Sunday, the Patriots host the Chargers at 1:05 p.m., and the Eagles-Saints wrap things up at 4:40 p.m.
Alright, let's get to all the games below.
What TV will you be watching the games on? CNET shared their best picks for every budget.
LAST WEEK: 1-3-0
OVERALL RECORD: 165-93-2
No. 6 Indianapolis (11-6) at No. 1 Kansas City (12-4)
Saturday: 4:35 p.m. ET (NBC)
Line: Chiefs, -5.5
The Colts are one of the most exciting teams in the playoffs. Again, it sounds nuts -- they started 1-5! -- but have been red hot ever since, and have now won 10 of their last 11, including last Saturday's thorough dismantling of the Texans. That game got out of hand early -- it was 21-0 in the second quarter -- but the Chiefs' offense isn't the 21st-ranked unit in the league, it's No. 1.
Not only is it No. 1, it's the NFL's most well-balanced offense -- first in passing, fourth in rushing. The good news is that the Colts are built to hang with the Chiefs; their defense is a top-10 unit and their offense is also well balanced -- 10th overall, 10th in passing, 13th in rushing. And that's the thing: Indy can compete. Andrew Luck has been sacked just 18 times all season (by comparison, last week's opponent, Deshaun Watson, came into the wild-card round having been sacked 62 times -- and he was sacked three more times in the loss), he's playing the best football of his career, tight end Eric Ebron is too, and Marlon Mack can control the clock -- and keep the Chiefs' offense on the bench -- through an effective running game.
Plus there's this: Patrick Mahomes, for as great as he's been, has gotten off to slow starts in big games. He needed a quarter or so to get going against the Broncos, Patriots and Rams. He still finished strong, and that should be the expectation this weekend, but the Colts could complicate things by starting strong, just like they did in Houston.
Pick: Chiefs 35, Colts 31
No. 4 Dallas (11-6) at No. 2 Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
Saturday: 8:15 p.m. ET (Fox)
Line: Rams, -7
Back in Week 11, the Cowboys had just eked out a three-point win over the Falcons to move to 5-5 on the season while the Rams and Chiefs were in a 54-51 shootout in one of the most amazing displays of offensive football in recent memory. L.A. won that game to move to 10-1. At no point during that stretch did anyone think, "You know what? The Cowboy and Rams -- teams going in different directions -- will probably meet in the NFC Divisional round, and not only that, the Cowboys are winning!"
And yet here we are. The Cowboys beat the Seahawks at their own game a week ago while the Rams had a bye to scheme up their best selves against a formidable opponent. It sounds silly to say -- Dallas was languishing midway through the season and coach Jason Garrett was more hindrance than help. But the offense, while still not replacement level, has found balance, and the defense has been dominant. And that's the thing: If Dallas' offense can lean on Ezekiel Elliott (the Rams' run defense ranks 28th, according to Football Outsiders), control the clock, and keep Dak Prescott from having to win it by himself, they can win.
Because the Cowboys' defense can shut down Todd Gurley (Dallas is fifth against the run). If that happens, it becomes much more difficult for Sean McVay to run his offense -- everything is built off an effective running game and Jared Goff isn't equipped to pick up the slack if things go sideways early.
Pick: Cowboys 24, Rams 21
No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers (13-4) at No. 2 New England (11-5)
Sunday: 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
Line: Patriots, -4.5
Last week, we had no confidence in the Chargers. They had their doors blown off by the Ravens late in the regular season -- at home, no less -- and there was no way we could envision them traveling across the country for a 10 a.m. PT game and finding a way to out-scheme the Ravens' running game and the AFC's best defense. But that's exactly what happened, thanks to a great defensive game plan and Philip Rivers Philip Rivers-ing it up.
This week will be different because, well, it's the Patriots in Gillette Stadium after a bye. It's also another 10 a.m. game for the Chargers. But you know what, maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe L.A.'s roster is full of morning people. It sure seemed that way in Baltimore. Either way, there are reasons to like the Chargers; they have the No. 8 defense (10th in run defense, 10th in pass defense) and the No. 3 offense (first in rushing, fifth in passing). The Patriots, meanwhile, are No. 5 in offense (ninth in passing, fourth in rushing) but just No. 16 in defense (19th in run defense, 14th in pass defense).
And unlike previous years, where special teams was a decided liability for the Chargers, it's now ... replacement level. Given recent history, that's a win in our book. Kicker Michael Badgley made 94 percent of his attempts in the regular season and was 5 of 6 against the Ravens in the wild-card round. In a game that could be decided by a field goal, that's huge.
Is this the year Philip Rivers finally puts together a Super Bowl run, and in the process hastens the end of the Patriots' decades-long run?
Pick: Chargers 20, Patriots 17
No. 6 Philadelphia (10-7) at No. 1 New Orleans (13-3)
Sunday: 4:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Line: Saints, -8
It was another miraculous playoff performance from the Eagles, but the reality is that they didn't play well. They managed just 16 points (yes, it was against the world's best defense), but if not for Treyvon Hester's fingertip block of Cody Parkey's last-second field goal, right now we're talking about well Mitchell Trubisky played and whether the Bears would have a chance against the Rams.
Nick Foles came up with timely, take-your-breath-away throws, but he didn't have a good night. And while the Bears' defense is the NFL's best, the Saints' defense can get after it too. But even the Eagles are able to move the ball, are they scoring on every drive? Because that's what it's going to take against Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram.
There's also this: These teams met in New Orleans in Week 11 and the Saints squeaked out a 48-7 win. Perhaps the Eagles, like the Chargers last week in Baltimore, have learned something from that first matchup. The difference: You can make a good case that L.A. should've beaten Baltimore in that initial meeting. No amount of arm-waving is willing the Eagles to victory in what ended up being a 41-point beatdown. But it's January. And that's when Foles is at his best. He'll need that and then some on Sunday afternoon.
Pick: Saints 28, Eagles 21
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