2018 NFL Divisional Round Picks: No Return Trips
Last Week: 3-1
So close, and yet so very far from a perfect 4-0 start to the postseason. My own team betrayed me in a devastating way, banking a late field goal to blow not only the game but also the remaining chance of hitting on a teaser. Otherwise, Sebastian Janikowski’s gimpy hamstring rescued me from Brian Schottenheimer’s miserable play-calling, the Chargers figuredd out how to stop a running quarterback, and the Colts handled their business easily. Momentum in my picks is every bit as real as momentum from week to week in the NFL, so if you believe what the announcers say, these picks should be straight money!
Indianapolis Colts +5.5 at Kansas City Chiefs
I’m a little sad this is our Saturday afternoon game, because I really think it will be the most exciting of the weekend. The Chiefs shouldn’t struggle to move the ball against the Colts the way many of Indianapolis’s opponents have in the second half of the year. I’ve been very impressed with Matt Eberflus’s coordination (and name), but the Chiefs are a much different beast than the teams Indy has faced since their Week 9 bye: Jacksonville (twice), Tennessee (twice, with Blaine Gabbert), Miami, Houston, Dallas, and the Giants. The Giants are the best offense of that bunch, and they finished the season 13th in offensive DVOA at 1.3%. Kansas City finished 1st, at 30.6%. I don’t see any reason why the Colts can’t keep pae, though. The Chiefs’ biggest defensive strength, their pass rush, should be entirely neutralized by Indy’s excellent offensive line and sack-averse gameplan. Andrew Luck has been playing the best football of his career (who knew, staying upright is helpful for passing?) and the Colts’ offense has been rolling against the relatively strong defenses of the same teams above. Playing at Arrowhead Stadium will be a considerable advantage, but I don’t think it will be enough to cover the spread. Chiefs win, 38-35.
Los Angeles Rams -6.5 vs. Dallas Cowboys
I can’t tell if it’s my location in Texas or a general misunderstanding of football, but the Cowboys are getting a lot of credit for beating a mediocre Seahawks team with the most confounding offensive approach I can recall watching. Their defense is good, but they’ve struggled against play-action and the Rams are as good as any team in the league at running the ball and designing plays off of it. I also expect the Rams’ defense to play better than they have most of the season with time for Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters to recover from their injuries and Wade Phillips to plan for a less-than-creative Dallas offense. Take a better overall team, with a superior head coach and the benefit of pulling the Cowboys out of Dallas (I hesitate to call anything in L.A. a home-field advantage), and you should get a comfortable victory. Rams 28, Cowboys 17.
Los Angeles Chargers +4.5 at New England Patriots
Factors favoring the Chargers: Total DVOA, Offensive DVOA, Special Teams DVOA, and general athleticism. Factors favoring the Patriots: home field advantage and a history of Brady-Belichick wins there. Rob Gronkowski looks slow, the Patriots have struggled against every competent offense they’ve faced this year, and Tom Brady has shown flashes of mortality all season. I don’t think the New England defense has the athletes to keep up with the Chargers’ offensive weaponry, and the Patriots will have trouble keeping Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram out of the backfield. I’m sure the New England coaching staff will be prepared for what Philip Rivers and Anthony Lynn have to throw at them, but at some point the personnel advantage is too much to overcome. This is the week the Patriots lose at home in the playoffs. Chargers 28, Patriots 24.
New Orleans Saints -7.5 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
A rematch of a blowout in mid-November that would hold a much larger line if the Eagles hadn’t switched from Carson Wentz back to playoff hero Nick Foles. The curious part to me is the assumption that Foles can continue defying regression for another whole playoff run. He didn’t look great against the Bears last week, and I can guarantee 16 points won’t be enough to topple the Saints. He may connect on a deep shot or two, but nothing will make up for the advantage Drew Brees will have against the susceptible Eagles’ secondary. Every statistical measure points to another blowout for the Saints, and I don’t believe enough in Nick Foles or drastic turnarounds to think the Eagles can work their way into this game. Saints 35, Eagles 23.
That's all for this week! Kick back, grab a drink, and feel free to blame me if you put money on these picks and come out behind. I won't compensate you, but maybe your significant others will send their wrath in my direction instead of yours.