NFL Playoffs 2019 Bracket Projection: Patriots beat Cowboys in Super Bowl LIII game that delivers epic drama
Imagining a world where two of the most hated teams in the country end up making the Super Bowl
Last week I put together a decent little playoff bracket that predicted two upsets in the wild card round. Nailed it! Unfortunately I also missed on a pair of teams -- the Seahawks did not claim a victory in Dallas (although they certainly could have if they hadn't run into a brick wall over and over again) and the Bears did not handily defeat the Eagles (because Nick Foles is a playoff zombie, what is dead cannot die).
This week we are running back the playoff bracket projection starting with the divisional round. Please bear in mind: my official playoff prediction (Chargers over Saints) remains the same. But I'm a weird human, someone who likes to explore alternate realities. Which is why I'm going to test out some different endings for the Super Bowl with each round of projections. We have more knowledge about what will happen, so we can maybe have a little more clarity with our picks.
Divisional round odds via the Westgate (I was pretty close on the two games that actually happened by the way) and all future odds are of my own design.
What TV will you be watching the games on? CNET shared their best picks for every budget.
This rematch from 2014 -- when the two teams met in Indy in the wild card round -- actually came to fruition. And it's a fantastic way to kick off the second round of the playoffs. The Colts are a matchup nightmare for the Chiefs, man. They run the ball effectively, they have a physical offensive line, they have a smart quarterback who is only getting better as the season goes along, they have a lethal deep threat in T.Y. Hilton and they have a coach who can hang with Andy Reid in Frank Reich. THAT BEING SAID ... give me the Chiefs in a close one. Indy jumps out to an early lead before Patrick Mahomes settles in and starts hitting deep shots to Tyreek Hill.
Prediction: Chiefs 28, Colts 24
Fascinating matchup here for a number of reasons. The Rams will wear their throwbacks. Maybe Wade Phillips will wear a bucket hat and cowboy boots to honor his late father Bum when he squares off against the team that (unnecessarily) fired him in order to promote the guy who is currently coaching them? Wade Phillips vs. Jason Garrett is some delightful revenge. Sean McVay vs. Rod Marinelli is the match to watch though. The Cowboys snuffed out the Seahawks run game and Seattle didn't adjust. Will McVay, the brilliant young offensive mind, be able to change up how Los Angeles approaches this game? Will he try and force Todd Gurley in the outside zone run scheme to set up Jared Goff? Or will the Rams come out throwing, knowing they can't run against Dallas. I'm sold on the Cowboys defense right now and I think they pull off a stunning upset.
Prediction: Cowboys 21, Rams 18
(5) Chargers at (2) Patriots (-4) - Sun., Jan. 13, 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
You know where I stand on this. I picked the Bolts to win the whole thing before the playoffs began (and wanted to pick them before the season began but felt the need to distance myself so the Chargers could thrive without me, let what you love go and whatnot). And I'm picking the Chargers to win this weekend. But for the sake of trying something different, knowing that I won't get a chance to imagine the Patriots progressing in the playoffs if I don't do it now, I'm going to give the Pats a win here. It's not hard to imagine Tom Brady and Bill Belichick winning a divisional round at home. It has happened literally every year for the last eight years.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Chargers 27
(6) Eagles at (1) Saints (-7.5) - Sun., Jan. 13, 4:40 p.m. ET (FOX)
The Nick Foles magic stops here. I don't like betting against Foles and it hasn't been profitable. But the Saints are unstoppable at home and/or with two weeks to prepare. Sean Payton is 9-2 straight up since the 2009 season with two weeks to prepare (including one playoff game) and 10-1 against the spread in those games with a +116 point differential. He and Drew Brees are 5-0 straight up and 5-0 against the spread at home in the playoffs. The over has also hit in all those games, if you're interested in such things. I think Foles and Doug Pederson will cook up enough offense to score in 20+ points, but I don't see how Jim Schwartz and the Eagles defense slows down Brees when he's got time to prepare. Anything less than 40 is a victory.
Prediction: Saints 38, Eagles 24
(2) Patriots at (1) Chiefs (-1.5) - Sun., Jan. 20, TBD (CBS)
An excellent matchup here, with Andy Reid getting the opportunity to avenge many a playoff loss to the Bill Belichick and the Patriots reminding us that DEAR GOD THEY'RE RIGHT BACK IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AGAIN. Seriously: I will be covering my ninth Super Bowl for CBS this year and if the Patriots make it, they'll have been in six of them. It's just ridiculous. And I think going up against Kansas City, they would make it back again. They have beaten Patrick Mahomes and while this game is in Arrowhead, the Patriots aren't scared of a little travel. They're better at home, but the Patriots can win this game in a shootout. The over/under would be through the roof.
Prediction: Patriots 38, Chiefs 35
(4) Cowboys at (1) Saints (-6.5) - Sun., Jan. 20, TBD (FOX)
The Saints have never lost at home in the playoffs under Drew Brees and Sean Payton. But this team is designed to run the ball and the Cowboys are excellent at stopping the run. New Orleans can still wing it around with Brees, of course, but I'm not sure they can slow down Dallas enough to ensure this is a blowout. I think we would be looking at a really close game given how the Cowboys are playing right now. I also realize this may be my last chance to project the Cowboys into the Super Bowl. So I'm shooting my shot, man. The Saints can come back next week. Ezekiel Elliott goes nuts on the Saints defense, Dak Prescott throws some deep bombs to Amari Cooper and the stunned Saints can't score enough to overcome a defensive lapse against Dallas.
Prediction: Cowboys 31, Saints 28
Super Bowl LIII
Cowboys vs. Patriots (-5.5) - Feb. 3, 2019, (CBS)
HELLO RATINGS. The Patriots versus the Cowboys? America's two "favorite" (read: most hated by other fans) teams? This would be incredible theater. My bosses' bosses' bosses' bosses are drooling at this idea, because it would mean boffo ratings barring a blowout. Tom Brady in what could be his final hurrah against an NFC East team with a young quarterback and a stud running back. The Patriots would absolutely be favored, but I'm not sure this is a great game for them. They don't have a ton of field stretchers on offense, Rob Gronkowski is banged up but it's freaking Tom Brady, man. Bill Belichick versus Jason Garrett with two weeks to prepare? Please. The Pats will scheme some stuff up to slow down the Cowboys offense and New England will use a short passing attack to limit the Cowboys strength and keep its young linebackers off guard. The Pats grind this thing out in a shockingly low-scoring affair.
Prediction: Patriots 21, Cowboys 17
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