NFL Division Round Preview: QB Showdown and the passing of the crown?
Odds and look-ahead for the divisional round fixtures
We’re down to the final eight teams in the NFL, with four division titles to be decided this weekend after the Wild Card round delivered no real shock results.
After a week’s break, the division leaders are all back in action looking to get one step closer to Super Bowl LIII. Ahead of this round of fixtures, we preview the important on-field battles, and what to look forward to this weekend…
Battle of the Quarterbacks in Chiefs-Colts Match-up
In only his second season in the league, Kansas City Chiefs’ Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is having a highlight year. After playing only one game in his rookie year, the season finale against the Broncos, he’s taken the starting role from Alex Smith and made it his own.
It’s already proving an inspired choice with Mahomes throwing 50 touchdown passes, 24 more than Smith’s total from last season. In the final three games of the season, he threw for 797 yards and seven touchdowns.
For Indianapolis Colts, seven-year veteran Andrew Luck is putting up decent numbers too. Sitting second in the league in completed touchdown passes with 39, with a further two in the Wild Card round, a number only Mahomes has bettered.
The Chiefs have a leakier defence, allowing 51 touchdowns in comparison to the 37 allowed by the Colts, a stat that could help Luck and the Colts find a way to the end zone.
Poor road form to knock Cowboys on Rams trip?
A match-up against the league’s joint-best team is tough enough, but the travel sickness of Dallas Cowboys could be another reason pointing towards Los Angeles Rams advancing to the conference championship.
The Rams record of 7-1 at home is impressive, with a week 15 defeat against reigning champions Philadelphia Eagles being their only blot on the copybook. Partner that with a not so impressive 3-5 road record for the Cowboys, it points towards an uphill battle.
In addition, the Rams’ only other defeats in the league have come against the number one seeds in New Orleans Saints, and the water-tight defence of Chicago Bears.
Unbeaten home record to see the Pats through?
Two of the most impressive home and road records face off this weekend, with New England Patriots (8-0 at home) against Los Angeles Chargers (7-1 on the road). Although the odds may suggest otherwise, it’s the toughest game to call this weekend.
If the Chargers are feeling confident about their chances this year, then they should be cautious. Although the Patriots haven’t lost at home this campaign, they’ve lost to a few of the teams lower down the league by double digits, such as the Jaguars and Lions. But they’ve also managed to go 4-0 against the playoff contenders they faced in the autumn, beating the Chiefs, Texans, Bears and Colts.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be desperate to return to a Super Bowl, his ninth if he manages it. But Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has the extra motivation of trying to reach his first, with his legacy in question if he retires never reaching the NFL showpiece.
Reigning champions to lose grip on their crown to the Saints?
In the one prior meet-up this season, Philadelphia Eagles struggled to get into the game against New Orleans Saints, with the one-sided game eventually ending in a 48-7 Saints win.
There was another impressive Nick Foles-inspired Eagles win in the Wild Card round however, narrowly seeing off the Chicago Bears in a 16-15 win, with Foles competing two touchdown passes and picking up 266 passing yards. After not playing in their earlier season fixture, stopping Foles will be the key to the Saints advancing to the conference championship.
Similarly, the Eagles will need to stop a rested Drew Brees from running the park, with the 18-year veteran looking as sharp as he has ever been, throwing 32 touchdown passes this season. The Eagles defence will be tasked with stopping Brees from having the freedom of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, having completed 44 sacks in the regular season, joint 8th in the league.
NFL Divisional Round Games [UK Times]:
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs – 9:35pm, Saturday
Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams – 1:15am, Sunday
Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots – 6:05pm, Sunday
Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints – 9:40pm, Sunday
Click here for the latest NFL Play Off odds.
All odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.