After seven days of wait, the NFL’s divisional playoff round has arrived and over the next two days, the remaining eight teams will show us which four will go on to play in one week in the two conference championship games. All in all, the following slate of games will be played this weekend...
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots
...and we are here to tell you which teams will advance. Without a doubt. Book it. We are 100% confident in our choices — although we are not all on the same page as you can see. Anyway, here are the Pats Pulpit picks for this weekend’s slate of games:
Pats Pulpit playoff predictions
|Colts at Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Colts||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Colts||Chiefs||Colts||Colts||Chiefs (7:4)|
|Cowboys at Rams||Rams||Rams||Rams||Rams||Rams||Rams||Cowboys||Rams||Rams||Rams||Rams||Rams (10:1)|
|Chargers at Patriots||Patriots||Chargers||Patriots||Patriots||Patriots||Patriots||Patriots||Chargers||Patriots||Patriots||Patriots||Patriots (9:2)|
|Eagles at Saints||Saints||Saints||Saints||Saints||Saints||Saints||Saints||Saints||Saints||Saints||Eagles||Saints (10:1)|
According to our picks, all four home teams will advance for just the fourth time since divisional realignment in 2002: the Rams, Saints, Chiefs — the tightest pick of the weekend — and Patriots are projected to play on championship weekend. This, in turn, would set up conference title games in New Orleans and Kansas City.
But what is the rationale behind those picks? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Colts at Chiefs
Bernd Buchmasser: The Chiefs have as powerful an offense as their is in the NFL, and while the Colts defense has been solid as of late they won’t be able to stop Kansas City often enough to pull off the upset.
Rich Hill: I’m riding with the Chiefs here since Kansas City has been the best team in the AFC all year. The Colts are on a tear, but the Chiefs have been even better, even if their record doesn’t match.
Alec Shane: The Colts might be the hottest team in the NFL right now, and if history is any indicator, you ride the hot hand. Andy Reid’s postseason record and decision making speaks for itself, and I expect that trend to continue Sunday against an Indy team that shredded a very good Houston defense.
Marima: Chiefs win and the Colts’ banner will have to be reprinted as: 1-1 or ‘2018 Divisional Round participant’.
Oliver Thomas: This won’t be the last Andrew Luck-Patrick Mahomes playoff meeting, but it’s hard to envision even a red-hot Colts team with a cap space galore for March going into Arrowhead and stealing this one.
Michael McDermott: Chiefs 30, Colts 24: Colts stay in it all game long despite the Chiefs putting up ungodly yardage totals. However the Colts final drive stalls in the red zone.
Matthew Rewinski: What’s the over/under on this game, 97ish? It’s hard not to take the Chiefs in a shootout, and it’s also hard to take either of these teams seriously in an elimination game no matter how beastly their respective resurgences have been this season. Put me down for Kansas City, I guess?
Doug Moore: Despite being the sixth seed, the Colts are a serious contender. They won handily over Houston last week on their turf and their second half turnaround during the season is nothing short of remarkable. Despite heading into Arrowhead against the #1 seed, I think Indianapolis pulls it off again against a team led by a coach whose playoff history recently isn’t the best and a quarterback (albeit the NFL MVP) whose never played in a playoff contest.
Ryan Keiran: The Colts are the darling of the league right now, but they are a heavy cover two team and the Chiefs have the best cover 2 cheat code in the league right now in Travis Kelce. Andy Reid could Andy Reid it up, or the moment could be too big for Pat Mahomes, or the defense could be too bad, but I’ll ride the Chiefs for this week at least.
Pat Lane: In the playoffs, as the Patriots know, it’s often the hottest team that wins. The Colts have won 10 out of 11, and are playing great. They also finished the season with a top 10 scoring offense and defense. To beat the Colts, you need a team to be able to slow them down, but also score a decent amount of points. Their lowest total for the season was 26. The Colts can do both of those things. The Colts pull off the upset.
Chris Blackey: I’ve been going back and forth with this one all week. I think the weather plays a factor. The Colts offensive line has been nails this season. In what will be the first of many clashes between Mahomes and Luck, I’m going with the Colts in an upset.
Cowboys at Rams
Bernd Buchmasser: Dallas surprised many — [raises hand] — when it beat the Seahawks last week. However, the Rams are just too good of an all around team and will stifle the Cowboys on defense while controlling the game on offense.
Rich Hill: The Rams should end the Cowboys’ season pretty comfortably.
Alec Shane: This Cowboys team continues to overachieve, and while they have a shot of riding that’s a wild card round momentum to an upset, the Rams are too disciplined to make enough mistakes to give Dallas a chance.
Marima: Rams, another home team, will beat the Cowboys (an underwhelming 3-5 on the road). Rams talent on both sides of the ball will tip the scales.
Oliver Thomas: Another Wade Phillips revenge game? Sounds good. Having a table saw named Aaron Donald in the middle doesn’t hurt, either. The Rams should be able to set the pace, and then pin their ears back.
Michael McDermott: Rams 23, Cowboys 27: Rams sloppy play over the last month of the season comes back to bite them when Zeke Elliott and Dak Prescott combine for 150 rushing yard and three scores.
Matthew Rewinski: Like Robert Mays pointed out on The Ringer the other day, the Rams are running 11-personnel on NINETY-SIX PERCENT (96%!) of their offensive snaps and still leaving teams grabbing at their ankles. If you throw out that one clunker against Chicago (you know, the best defense in football), they’ve hung 30 or more points on everyone they’ve played going back to Week 9. I also 100% endorse Ryan’s assessment that the Cowboys are fake.
Doug Moore: Even though Dallas won last weekend (which I was the only one on the PP writing team that chose them to win), they face a much tougher match-up this weekend. Not only are they now outside the cozy confines of JerryWorld, but they travel to LA to face arguably the best offense in football. Todd Gurley has had close to three weeks now to rest his knee and the Cowboys barely won against the Seahawks last weekend. Dallas’ defense has been very impressive this season but they are going up against one of the best offensive lines in the game along with a very solid receiving core and Gurley of course. In the end, I see the home team walking away the victors.
Ryan Keiran: The Cowboys are a fake team (the only playoff team to finish as a below average passing offense and defense) and while everyone is down on the Rams and playing up the “LA will be neutral field” narrative, unlike the Chargers the Rams have an actual fan base in LA. Rams take it.
Pat Lane: The Cowboys are a fraud team. I know the Rams have been struggling since their bye, but, outside of one game, they’ve still been scoring in bunches. That offense will be too much for the Cowboys. I don’t think it’ll be that close.
Chris Blackey: This one is the easiest pick for me. The Rams offense takes care of business in this one, giving them a comfortable win. The fact it was an easy pick for me suggests Cowboys probably win, but that’s why they play the game.
Chargers at Patriots
Bernd Buchmasser: The Chargers have a very good team, but one that is actually similar to New England’s in that it struggles at times with consistency. The Patriots, meanwhile, will come into this contest with two weeks of rest and the homefield advantage — they will play the more complete game on Sunday. Also: I just can’t pick against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium.
Rich Hill: I actually don’t feel great about this game. I think this will come down to the final possession and that the Chargers will win this one.
Alec Shane: The 2018 Chargers are more talented than the 2018 Patriots; they won more games, they have more statement victories, and there are more weapons on both sides of the ball. But they’re coming into a very, very cold Gillette Stadium, making their second cross-country trip in as many weeks, and Philip Rivers is 0 for life against Tommy B. If this game was in San Diego — not LA, San Diego where this team belongs — I’d take the Chargers here. But weather and home field advantage will be too much for them to overcome.
Marima: I’m not expecting Gronk to play like his 2014 self, but his stellar blocking will help what I believe will be a running back-powered offense with their versatility.
Oliver Thomas: The all-time record between Philip Rivers and Tom Brady provides fodder. So does the fact New England is undefeated at home and Los Angeles’ lone road loss this year arrived at LA Memorial Coliseum. So does the forecast. The brain says Chargers, the gut says Patriots.
Michael McDermott: Patriots 31, Chargers 20: Patriots running backs combine for more than 200 scrimmage yards with Sony Michel putting up his first playoff hundo.
Matthew Rewinski: When they’ve sold out to shut down the passing game and dared teams to run on them this season, they’ve held A.A. Ron Rodgers, the Vikings (I’m not going to ID the Vikings offense as “Kirk Cousins”, thank you very much), and the Steelers to 2, 1, and 2 passing touchdowns and no more than a hair over 250 passing yards apiece. Yes, that basically leaves a freeway up the middle. Also, I’ll start betting against a Cali team in the playoffs in New England in January when they start winning. K thanks.
Doug Moore: The Patriots have had two weeks of rest, come into this game as healthy as they have been and get to play at Gillette, where they are undefeated this season. But the Chargers are a team that are just as good on the road (9-1, if you count the wild card round). Philip Rivers has had an up-and-down few weeks despite a strong regular season. But they are also in a pretty good situation with Melvin Gordon likely to play and even Hunter Henry being active for the first time all season. And on top of that, the Chargers have arguably the best secondary in the game going up against a rather weak receiving corp. of the Patriots. I know Rivers’ record against Brady in head-to-head matchups clearly favors the Patriots, but I’m going to take LA in this one.
Ryan Keiran: This is going to be a tough game for the Patriots. It’s definitely the hardest out of the three possible matchups they could’ve gotten this week. With that being said, the Patriots are a different team at home, finishing the season undefeated at Gillette. It’ll be a close game, but the Patriots will pull it out. Look for Gronk to be a key contributor in the game.
Pat Lane: The Chargers are very good. They should not be taken lightly. However, Philip Rivers hasn’t looked good for a month and a half, the Chargers haven’t put together a complete game since they played the worst team in the league just after Thanksgiving, they are on their third straight road game and second straight east coast early game, and the Patriots are not only a much better home team but the best home team in football this year and with Melvin Gordon reportedly not going to be looking like himself and the fact that there’s no way Hunter Henry is in game shape, the Patriots are in a good spot to matchup against the Chargers offense. The Chargers have the talent to overcome all this, but their margin of error is incredibly thin for a team who has trouble putting together 60 minutes of football. I think the Patriots ride this one out and do so semi-comfortably at that.
Chris Blackey: The Pats do enough in this game for the win. The majority of people seem to be picking the Bolts in this game, but the Pats have a rested team that pays dividends in this one.
Eagles at Saints
Bernd Buchmasser: While Nick Foles and the Eagles are yet again making waves, they will run into a buzzsaw this week: the Saints are arguably the most compete team in football and won’t make the mistakes — especially on offense — that the Bears made.
Rich Hill: The Saints should also be able to beat the Eagles pretty comfortably.
Alec Shane: The Saints are an absolute wagon. The Eagles needed some last minute kickery to sneak past the Bears and may have used up all their postseason magic last week. Never count out playoff Foles (what is it about mediocre NFC East QBs and the playoffs?), but this is Drew Brees’ best shot at a much-deserved second Lombardi, and he isn’t going to squander it by going one and done.
Marima: This is Drew Brees’ year to lead New Orleans to another Super Bowl. Despite the Eagles’ late-season turnaround, it won’t be enough to win.
Oliver Thomas: Nick Foles’ career arc is something else. But Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome are something else, too.
Michael McDermott: Saints 28, Eagles 26: QB duel between Brees and Foles ends with the Saints getting a stop on a potential game-tying 2-point conversion in the final minute.
Matthew Rewinski: Believe it or not, like ESPN’s Bill Barnwell crunched the numbers for on Monday, the Saints actually have a slightly better point differential on the road than at home. That’s kind of a backhanded compliment to New Orleans - they’ve been way more consistent recently than people tend to give them credit for, no matter whether they’re home in the dome or outdoors in our neck of the woods. Nick Foles may have the luck of a blackjack rookie on a heater, but after what happened last season, you really think Drew Brees and, hell, the entire Saints team is going to let THIS one slip by them? Keep an eye on Saints DT Sheldon Rankins too. That man consumes souls.
Doug Moore: I know I predicted Philadelphia to lose last week but they proved me wrong (despite it coming down to a blocked field goal to win them the game). Nick Foles is continuing his playoff magic this year and New Orleans’ defense doesn’t pose nearly the threat that Chicago’s did last weekend. But with one of the best offensive lines in the game and also a strong playmaker group including Michael Thomas going against PHI’s banged up secondary, not to mention the fact that they are at home, I have to go with NO winning this game.
Ryan Keiran: The Saints are the best team in football. Something has been in the back of my head all year telling me they’re not going far in the playoffs. Now, Nick Foles is doing the Nick Foles thing again. This feels to me like the spot for exactly what that voice has been telling me all year. However, the Saints are really, really good in the Superdome. I’m gonna trust the rest of my head, not the back of it. Saints host the NFC Championship Game.
Pat Lane: Almost a year later, and we finally get a Saints/Eagles playoff matchup. They were seconds away from traveling to Philly before Stefon Diggs broke the Saints hearts last year. That’s part of the reason they teed off on them in the regular season, and I see more of the same this weekend. Nick Foles has a ton of playoff magic, but I don’t think he has enough to take down the Saints.
Chris Blackey: Does Nick Foles have a lucky horseshoe again? I think he does despite the Saints being a vast superior team. There’s just something about this Philly team with Foles as the quarterback.