PFW staff picks for the divisional round:
Bob LeGere: IND*
The Chiefs’ offense can score with anyone, but their defense can’t stop anyone, at least anyone with a balanced attack like the Colts. QB Andrew Luck gets a lot of publicity, but RB Marlon Mack has at least 119 rushing yards in three of the last five games.
Eric Edholm: KC
The Colts can move the ball against this Chiefs defense, no question. Andrew Luck has an array of zone beaters that will give Kansas City fits. But the Colts, as respectable as they've been lately defensively, might not have a ton of answers for Patrick Mahomes. A valiant effort, but the Colts come up just short at Arrowhead.
Arthur Arkush: KC
The Colts are constructed well to keep this one close with their ability to sustain drives and make opponents drive the length of the field. But Patrick Mahomes is the MVP because he doesn't play like a 23-year-old first-time starter, and he won't be zoned out by Indy's 'D.'
Hub Arkush: IND*
Based on the way Indy and Andrew Luck are playing right now I'd love to pick the upset here, but Mahomes is (going to be) the MVP and I just can't see another playoff opening collapse in Kansas City. Matchup of Colts O-line vs. Jones, Ford and Houston will dictate the outcome.
I’m not buying Dak Prescott as a playoff-caliber QB, even with Amari Cooper elevating the air attack. The Cowboys are a much different team on the road, so as long as Todd Gurley is healthy, the Rams should have no trouble here. Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott is the better runner, but he’s not enough.
The Cowboys are a good defensive team, and they have two big weapons in Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. But it says here they'll come up just a little short trying to match the prowess of the Rams' passing game for four quarters. Todd Gurley will do damage more as a receiver than as a runner.
Unlike Seattle, the Rams will adapt and lean on their pass game rather than continuously bang their heads against one of the NFL’s top run defenses. The Cowboys also won’t be able to block Aaron Donald, causing Dak Prescott into too many mistakes to overcome.
As long as the Rams put this game on Todd Gurley's shoulders and let Jared Goff and company go for best supporting actor they should be okay. Why not the same for Ezekiel Elliott? Because he doesn't have anywhere near the supporting cast Gurley does.
The Chargers’ defense will have a much more difficult time with Old Man Tom Brady than they did with 21-year-old Lamar Jackson. Giving Patriots coach Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare for anyone is a recipe for disaster. The concern with the Patriots is that rookie RB Sony Michel appears to be wearing down. But the Patriots at home with a week of rest? Easy pick.
The road-warrior Chargers are among the more talented defenses remaining in the playoffs, and even with New England's sterling home postseason record, something just seems off with Tom Brady and this passing attack. The Chargers pull the upset in one of their biggest victories in recent memory.
The Chargers won’t pull off the upset using the same conservative approach on offense that worked in Baltimore. So this pick hinges on Anthony Lynn putting more on Philip Rivers, in addition to Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa tormenting Tom Brady and an unusually pedestrian offense.
I never pick against the Pats in the AFC playoffs which is why over the past 11 seasons I am 13-5 picking these Pats games, but I just can't escape the feeling the Chargers are the best team in the AFC right now. This is the pick I'm the least comfortable with and it should be the best game.
The Eagles don’t run the ball very well and they’re not very adept at stopping the pass, as they demonstrated last week when they allowed Bears QB Mitch Trubisky to have a big second half. But they keep winning and Nick Foles somehow gets the job done when it matters most. I’m not saying they’ll win, but eight points is too many.
Nick Foles is dangerous, and Drew Brees has looked human in recent games. Yet I just can't pick against New Orleans in the Superdome. This game won't be the blowout we saw in Week 11, but the Eagles' lack of balance and the Saints' extra rest will give them just enough to survive a fearless Philly team.
Sean Payton will be aggressive but balanced for four quarters, unlike Matt Nagy a week ago, and the Eagles won’t be able to replicate the erasing of Tarik Cohen in trying to stop Alvin Kamara. Nick Foles wasn’t great until late in Chicago, and that won’t cut it in the dome against a ‘D’ arguably as hot as the Bears.
The Eagles went to New Orleans Week 11 and got embarrassed 48-7, leaving them at 4-6. Yes, they've won 6 of 7 since, but they're back here mostly because of the Bears — Philadelphia is only in the playoffs because Chicago beat Minnesota in Week 17 and because of the blocked/missed field goal last week — and are again in way over their heads.
* — team will lose game but cover point spread
LAST WEEK'S RESULTS (Overall / ATS)
BL: 0-4 / 0-4
EE: 3-1 / 3-1
AA: 3-1 / 3-1
HA: 2-2 / 2-2