Attempt discovering a quartet of video games that’s superior to professional soccer’s line-up this weekend. We’ll wait.
This yr’s Divisional Spherical represents the top of the game, with all 4 match-ups providing one thing distinctive and engaging.
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas Metropolis Chiefs: The Comeback Participant of the Yr frontrunner (and a former future star) faces the Most Worthwhile Participant frontrunner (and the NFL’s brightest star). Luck-Mahomes is a playoff duel that would recur for years to return.
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams: These franchises intersect at so many factors. Cowboys OC Scott Linehan was the Rams’ head coach. L.A. DC Wade Phillips was Dallas’ head coach. The Cowboys have been constructed by entrance workplace architects Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt, who each beforehand labored for the Rams. And this recreation contains a heck of an RB matchup.
Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots: Even if these two franchises have been a part of the AFL’s unique eight in 1960, this can be solely the fourth playoff assembly between them in 59 seasons. The Patriots have made it to an unimaginable seven straight AFC title video games, however this L.A. group shall be their strongest challenger within the Divisional Spherical since 2010 — the final time they didn’t attain Championship Sunday.
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints: Probably the most poised backup quarterback within the NFL — maybe ever — meets probably the most prolific quarterback ever. And that is the one Divisional Spherical recreation that’s a rematch from the common season, with Philly trying to white-out its ugliest loss in years.
Like I stated, every recreation’s an absolute gem, giving this four-pack the potential to rival probably the most entertaining playoff weekends in league historical past. Like, say, 2014’s Divisional Spherical, which featured an exhilarating Ravens-Patriots basic on Saturday, and the #DezCaughtIt recreation. You realize what? Dez caught it.
Elliot Harrison went 2-2 on his predictions for Wild Card Weekend, bringing his report for the season to 177-81-2. How will he fare within the Divisional Spherical? His picks are under.
Kansas Metropolis Chiefs 30, Indianapolis Colts 22
eight.35am Sunday (AEDT) at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas Metropolis
Can the Chiefs’ cross rushers get to Andrew Luck? Which may decide the result of this soccer recreation. Until, in fact, Patrick Mahomes continues his Tecmo Tremendous Bowl tear by way of the league. The dude is shredding defenses in a Marty Friedman Megadeth method, having joined Peyton Manning within the ultra-exclusive 50-touchdown/5,000-yard membership (a improvement that’ll in all probability foreclose the dream of Drew Brees profitable a late-stage MVP). But, if Mahomes have been to hiccup — as so most of the nice quarterbacks have in postseason debuts — then the result might depend on the power of Chris Jones and Dee Ford to break down Indy’s pocket. For the document, these two have tallied probably the most sacks (28.5) and pressures (118) amongst all pass-rushing duos this season. Getting right into a monitor meet shouldn’t be the best way to go for Indy. Don’t give these Okay.C. rushers an opportunity to tee off. This could, actually, be a Marlon Mack recreation. The Colts’ lead tailback eclipsed 900 dashing yards through the common season regardless of showing in simply 12 video games (10 begins), averaging Four.7 per carry. And he’s recent off his fifth 100-yard effort of this marketing campaign, having piled up 148 yards on simply 24 carries (6.2 a pop) within the Colts’ wildcard win at Houston. There isn’t a purpose to attempt and go toe-to-toe with Mahomes’ rubber-band arm in a shootout.
Arrowhead’s inarguably one of many NFL’s hardest street venues, and whereas I don’t anticipate crowd noise to utterly flummox Luck, home-field benefit doesn’t harm on this tight a matchup. Going with the house staff.
Dallas Cowboys 24, Los Angeles Rams 20
12.15pm Sunday (AEDT) at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
You’ll be able to’t beat Cowboys-Rams, beneath the lights, at soccer’s most historic stadium. Speak historical past, speak Dallas-Los Angeles. These two franchises performed within the postseason eight occasions from 1973 by way of 1985, splitting these video games Four-Four. The final matchup on the L.A. Coliseum, nevertheless, was again within the 1978 NFC Championship Recreation, and it didn’t play out too properly for the house group. The Cowboys’ protection merely wouldn’t let the Rams off the mat, spiking an unimaginative Ray Malavasi offense 28-zip. Dallas security Charlie Waters performed like a person possessed.
Nicely, this Sean McVay offense is all issues imaginative. The best way the Rams get Todd Gurley out in area, creating one-on-ones for the dynamic tailback … The home windows they open for the premier intermediate thrower within the enterprise, Jared Goff … And the alternatives dialled up for all elements outdoors, even the little-known Josh Reynolds. Thus, Leighton Vander Esch may need to make like Waters, enjoying everywhere in the area — staying with Gurley out of the backfield, in addition to getting sufficient depth in his drops to disrupt skinny posts, deep slants and Goff teardrops in between layers of protection. My colleague Maurice Jones-Drew feels McVay will go up-tempo, in order that Dallas DC Rod Marinelli can’t rotate linemen. Maybe. But when Goff begins slowly, like he did in a number of December video games, the 2018 Dallas dashing offense won’t let L.A. off the mat, both. The Rams should thwart Ezekiel Elliott, or else they gained’t have sufficient possessions to impose their offensive will. Particularly if Scott Linehan wakes up and realises how gifted a runner his QB could be. Nice matchup.
New England Patriots 28, Los Angeles Chargers 24
5.05am Monday (AEDT) at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
The rematch of the 2007 AFC Championship seems to be totally different. Then once more, it kinda doesn’t. The quarterbacks are the identical. The Bolts once more are available as wild playing cards, that includes a formidable dashing assault, a la the ‘07 group with LaDainian Tomlinson. The key difference being that Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are healthy (or at least healthy-ish), unlike LT on that overcast day 11 years ago. And yes, Philip Rivers has both ACLs intact this time around.
Rivers loves delivering the ball to his running backs — on early downs in order to make third down more manageable AND on the money down itself — as evidenced by Gordon/Ekeler’s 89 mixed catches. Additionally notable: Gordon averaged 9.eight yards per catch and Ekeler posted 10.Four, each wonderful marks for operating backs. These strong figures converse to each backs making defenders miss, in addition to Anthony Lynn’s employees getting them out within the open area by way of scheming. We’re not talkin’ checkdown, none-yard-out crud. That is the place the Bolts might put New England’s protection in arrears. Let’s be straight right here: This New England workforce isn’t close to the standard of the 2007 group, notably on the defensive aspect of the ball (with much less veteran management being an element), whereas the offense misses its closest Randy Moss equal, Josh Gordon. What this 2018 group does have is operating backs — in spades. This place group is the place the Patriots, just like the Chargers, current points for his or her opponents. Sony Michel is wholesome, and — offered he hasn’t hit the proverbial rookie wall — must be a central determine within the recreation plan. Rex Burkhead, too. James White x2. The latter will catch 10 balls if Bolts DC Gus Bradley is just too aggressive together with his ‘backers. Not to mention, Tom Brady will get the ball out fast enough to frustrate Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Can he will another championship game appearance out of this iteration of the Patriots?
New Orleans Saints 28, Philadelphia Eagles 27
8.40am Monday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
When these two teams faced off in New Orleans two months ago, the Eagles played their worst game in recent memory, getting blown out of the Superdome, 48-7. This rematch feels like when you failed freshman geology in college, then took it again as a junior to expunge it from your GPA. (Not that I did that or anything.) According to all the pundits lurking out there in the football ether, Nick Foles is the difference between then and now. Does the lanky QB make tackles or cover RBs out of the backfield? No. But you can’t dismiss the truth that Jim Schwartz’s guys are competing like they’ve one thing to compete for, enjoying each down with a way of urgency. This may be seen on professional soccer’s most pressing down: The Eagles have allowed opponents to transform simply 12 of their 47 third-down makes an attempt during the last 4 video games (which, fortuitously for Foles, occurs to be the time interval when he’s retaken the reins). From an expanded view, Philadelphia has allowed 18.9 factors per recreation since getting decimated in New Orleans again in Week 11. The Eagles additionally personal a whopping plus-10 sack differential throughout this span. For each sack, there’s strain. And each hit on the QB rattles him a bit extra. The Eagles are making life far more troublesome for opposing passers than their very own.
So, since Philly was destroyed handily within the Massive Straightforward, the Saints have simply sat on their butts, proper? Not precisely. Sean Payton has stored his workforce motivated, even when issues haven’t gone swimmingly (SEE: that Thursday nighter in Dallas). Underneath the radar, nevertheless, is the truth that New Orleans has brandished its personal model of championship protection. From Week 10 to Week 16, Dennis Allen’s unit allowed simply 14.6 factors per recreation. Cherry-picking stats? No. In Week 17, Payton rested starters in a blowout loss to the Panthers. The earlier seven video games, his staff was preventing for the fitting to host this very recreation I’m writing about. Put one other means: Folesmania has someway diminished the accomplishments of the highest group in soccer — particularly relating to a protection that, just like the Eagles, spun the 2018 narrative on its axis after permitting 48 factors to a red-and-pewter LSD journey in September. For all of the match-up issues Drew Brees and his offensive mates current, it’s the less-considered aspect of the ball that delivers the W. Not as a result of Foles might be overcome by the second or the gang noise, however as a result of the Saints’ protection gained’t be out on the sector all recreation. Payton will run the ball, in contrast to Philadelphia’s opponent final week.