2018 NFL – Divisional Round Predictions

Strong first round of the playoffs for the FV crew as we went 3-0-1 in on Wild Card weekend. We did get that absolute miracle of a cover in the Seattle/Dallas game when the Janikowski injury not only forced the seahawks into two successful two-point conversions but also forced them to go for it in the second half in a situation where they likely would have kicked a field goal instead.

Playoff Record: 3-0-1

Divisional Round Picks

Colts +5.5 at Chiefs

Only three things in life are certain: Death, Taxes, and Andy Reid choking in the playoffs. Since joining the Chiefs in 2013, Reid only missed the playoffs in 2014. However, Reid and the Chiefs are only 1-4 in their five playoff games and they have famously suffered bouts of poor clock management at inopportune times. Coaching continuity could also be a factor here as KC has had four offensive coordinators in their last four years. Two of whom, Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy, are now the Head Coaches for the Eagles and Bears, respectively.

Kansas City, additionally, is catching the Colts at the wrong time as Indy has won nine of their last 10, while KC has lost three of their last six and is only 2-4 on the year against playoff teams.

Patrick Mahomes could be the x-factor KC needs to get over the hump, but my money is on the Colts.

Cowboys +7 at Rams

Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys are riding high off Jason Garrett’s 2nd playoff win as America’s Team’s head coach. Depending on when in the week you bet on the Cowboys last week you could have won, lost, or pushed. This week we will likely get a definitive result though as this game should be decided by fewer than seven points.

Sean McVay and the Rams started out red-hot this year by winning their first eight games as well as 11 of their first 12. They went 4-3 in their seven games against playoff teams, but only won their week 3 matchup vs the Chargers by seven points or more. Dallas meanwhile, was 4-3 straight up against playoff teams and only lost two of those by more than seven. However, in the last nine weeks Dallas has beaten New Orleans, Philadelphia (twice), and Seattle and have allowed 24 points or fewer in all seven games against fellow-playoff opponents. Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence, and the rest of the Cowboys defense will keep the game close, Dallas to cover.

Patriots -4 vs Chargers

Not only is this is one of the more intriguing matchups of the Divisional round, but the Chargers got screwed. Despite splitting the season series with the Chiefs at one win apiece, the Chargers lost the tiebreaker and got stuck with the five seed. As five seed, their theoretical road to the Super Bowl takes them through Baltimore, New England, and possibly Kansas City, three very difficult places to play. They also suffer the disadvantage of being a west coast team that has to travel east for a 1pm ET start (their body-clocks will feel like it’s 10:00am), and there is a possibility of snow which warm weather teams historically have a disadvantage in.

The Patriots have one of their weakest rosters in the Brady/Belichick era, and were only able to win 11 games on a very soft schedule where they only played four other playoff teams. The Pats did, however, go 7-3 against against playoff/borderline playoff teams with one loss coming against former Patriots great Mike Vrabel, and another coming on a last-second miracle 69-yard TD in Miami. Bill Belichick is notoriously dangerous off a bye, so I’ll take the Pats even after giving LA a four point head start.

Eagles +8 at Saints

Only one of last week’s games was decided by more than eight points but that was the Colts beatdown of the Texans and Houston was probably the weakest division winner. Since Nick Foles was inserted into the starting lineup the Eagles are 4-0 and have beaten three other playoff teams in the Rams, Texans, and Bears. While the Saints were the best team all year, this is a matchup of strength vs strength, and the Eagles have all the right pieces to match up with New Orleans.

One key stat, as it always is with the Eagles, is 3rd down conversion percentage. The Saints converted 44.57% of their third downs this year and are over 46% at home. Nick Foles is converting at 53.49% in his last three games, and has proven the ability to convert in key situations at the end of games. Call it the Nick Foles factor, but even if the Saints win this game the Eagles will be within striking distance in the fourth quarter.

Stats from ESPN

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