Welcome to Divisional Round Saturday!
Today’s slate of games is the less interesting one from our perspective as inveterate Saint-haters, but both games have the potential to be genuinely great.
Colts @ Chiefs, 4:35 p.m.
This might prove to be the most compelling game of the Divisional Round. The Colts have been one of the NFL’s most surprising teams, with massive improvements under Chris Ballard and Frank Reich that have turned their defense into a nasty unit and improved the offensive line to the point where Andrew Luck has been able to enjoy a comeback season. They dispatched the Ravens pretty handily, and Baltimore was one of the toughest defenses and most dynamic offenses of 2018 with Lamar Jackson at the helm.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are basically the 2012 or 2016 Falcons, a team with a tremendous offense that is significantly limited by its defense. Patrick Mahomes should be the league’s MVP and it’s awfully tough to hold this team under 30 points, but a quality offense can easily score 30+ without breaking a sweat against them. Those kinds of teams typically have trouble going deep into the postseason, but the Chiefs are an absolutely brutal offense to stop. I’d expect this one to be a compelling battle, especially if Kansas City can force a couple of turnovers to pour gasoline on things.
Ultimately, though, the Colts have the advantages in the trenches, and have a much better chance of walking away with this one if things get ugly. I like their chances here.
Prediction: Colts 38, Chiefs 34
Cowboys @ Rams, 8:15 p.m.
This is another great defense versus a great offense, but the matchup is a little different here.
The Cowboys do not have a great offense. It’s no secret that while Dak Prescott is a capable, mobile quarterback who has some eye-popping efforts in his career, but struggles with consistency and has some very weak games this year. Ezekiel Elliott is a top-notch back and Amari Cooper is difficult to defend, but scratch by those guys and this is just a mediocre unit. They need to win by containing other teams, and to their credit, they’ve been able to do so thanks to a stellar front seven and better-than-expected secondary.
Their opponent is going to be tough to beat for a team like that. The Rams are bristling with weapons and creative ways to hurt you, from Todd Gurley to Robert Woods to Sean McVay’s brain, which looms over everything that’s happening. The Rams defense has not been stellar all year, but they have potent players up front like Aaron Donald and an opportunistic secondary, so they’re hardly as shaky as the Chiefs in that regard.
The Rams are just a better team. Dallas has been beating the odds and I’m hesitant to bet against them because of it, but unless the Rams just utterly mess the bed on offense, they should be able to get by Dallas. If they get up early and Dallas has to pass to rally, it could get downright ugly.
Prediction: Rams 27, Cowboys 20
Please do use this as your open thread for this afternoon’s game, and enjoy.