LOS ANGELES. The Wildcards are in the books, and 12 teams are down to eight. The incoming NFL Divisionals are usually when shocking upsets occur. The Divisionals usually favor power football. Running the ball and playing good defense gets the job done.
The Divisionals are supposed to give NFL fans Stone Age football that would make Lombardi and Halas proud. That will not be the case in 2019. These Divisionals belong to the pinball passers. Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are among the greatest passers of all time. Andrew Luck is back to his old self. Jared Goff and Dak Prescott are trying to get to the next level. Patrick Mahomes has crashed the NFL passing party in ridiculous fashion with 50 touchdown passes and over 5,000 yards. These are guys who would make Sid Gilman smile.
Gilman believed that the way to win was to put the ball in the air. He detested establishing the run to throw the ball. If he could pass on every play, he would. He had no interest in West Coast Offense dinking and dunking. He wanted to score on every play, and his teams could. His quarterbacks passed the ball while Gilman passed on his legacy to Al Davis and Don “Air” Coryell. They passed their legacy on to Mike Martz, the offensive mastermind of the 1999 Rams “Greatest Show on Turf.”
Cold weather — which teams often face in the NFL Divisionals — requires running the ball. But this week the Rams play in Los Angeles. The Saints play indoors in the Louisiana Superdome. Andy Reid is pass-happy in all weather. Tom Brady wants to throw until he is 45. That still might not be enough to catch Drew Brees. In this year’s Divisionals, go with the passing game. Throw out the typical game plan and throw the ball. Then throw it some more.
Presenting the 2018-2019 NFL Divisionals:
With that, here is CDN’s 2018-2019 NFL Divisionals Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by Oddshark and all times Eastern.
Saturday, January 12, 2019, 4:30 p.m.
AFC (6) Indianapolis Colts at (1) Kansas City Chiefs (-6) on NBC — The Chiefs have the home field advantage in this, the first game of the NFL Divisionals. Yes, these are not your father’s Chiefs. Yes, Patrick Mahomes is a ridiculous upgrade over Alex Smith. The dink and dunk West Coast Offense has been replaced with the pinball machine Greatest Show on Grass.
None of that matters. The Colts are 10-1 in their last 11 games. Andrew Luck is playing like Andrew Luck. The Chiefs lose playoff games, even at home. Mahomes has never played a playoff game. Luck went on the road and defeated Peyton Manning. Mahomes is a legitimate superstar who will win multiple playoff games in his career. For now, go with experience every time when the other factors are close. Upset special, Colts win outright.
Saturday, January 12, 2019, 8:00 p.m.
NFC (4) Dallas Cowboys at (2) Los Angeles Rams (-7) on CBS — Saturday’s second NFL Divisionals contest is one game where home field advantage might not exist. Cowboys fans travel very well, and Los Angeles is not known for strong fan support. Both Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley bring the ground game as well as any backs in the league. Dak Prescott and Jared Goff can both sling it. With the offenses close enough to even, give the Rams the edge on defense. Both teams lost their last playoff game. With all of that, the Cowboys are still a 10-6 team going on the road to take on a 13-3 team. The Rams are elite. They are healthy. They are rested. Dallas played a tough Wildcard game against Seattle. Rams win but fail to cover.
Sunday, January 13, 2019, 1:00 p.m.
AFC (5) Los Angeles Chargers at (2) New England Patriots (-4.5) on FOX — Yes, the Chargers went on the road and shocked Baltimore last week. They carved up the league’s best defense. Yes, the Chargers have the better record.
Now back to reality for this Sunday NFL Divisionals opening game. Tom Brady is 7-0 against Philip Rivers. When something happens 100% of the time, expect the trend to continue until proven otherwise. The weather last week was not as cold as expected. This week at game time it will be a tad below freezing. Plus, some people are saying Tom Brady is on the decline and that the Patriots dynasty is finally teetering. This will give Brady the excuse to invent invisible enemies to have a grudge against, which he does better than anyone not named Michael Jordan. Patriots cover.
Sunday, January 13, 2019, 4:30 p.m.
NFC (6) Philadelphia Eagles at (1) New Orleans Saints (-9.5) on FOX — The Eagles are the defending champions in this Sunday’s NFL Divisionals finale, and champs don’t go down without a fight. Nick Foles is one of the all-time great feel-good stories in all of sports. A gutty 16-15 win at Chicago has the Philadelphia faithful talking destiny.
Destiny is about to meet reality. The Saints walloped the Eagles 48-7 only a few weeks ago. Drew Brees has the most balanced offense he has ever had. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are running well. The Saints appear unstoppable. Brees has too much firepower and too much experience. Doug Pederson will pull out every trick in the book, which will not impress Sean Payton, who called a successful surprise onside kick in the Super Bowl. The spread is high and the Eagles will make adjustments. The talent gap is deep, although a late garbage touchdown could keep things respectable. Saints win but fail to cover.
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