Saints vs Eagles

Saints vs Eagles : They are quite the Eagles fans, and from the nine-story villa in Flourtown where many of them live to Chestnut Hill College, where many of them work, they’re ready for Sunday.

That includes Sister Margaret Mary Murphy, 79, who on Friday sported an Eagles sweatshirt that read “Volate Aquilae Volate,” Fly Eagles Fly in Latin, a gift from her foreign language students at the college.

And Sister Cathy Nerney 72, who went to the Super Bowl last year and says Eagles games are “central to what Sunday is about” in the religious community she lives in.

And Sister Mary Theresa Shevland, who can’t watch the games with the other sisters because her blood pressure would shoot too high: “The sisters say I care too much, and I do.”

And so many more.

“Hopefully they will win on Sunday,” said Sister Madeline Davis, 86, a resident at the Flourtown villa, where about 200 sisters live. “We’ll all be on our knees praying.”Sister Mary William Herron came to really love the Eagles when she taught and lived in South Philadelphia, near the Linc. Her move to the Sisters of Saint Joseph Villa in Flourtown has not diminished her passion for the team.

“Those of us who can get on our knees,” clarifies Sister Roberta Archibald, 79.

Not much could shake the faith of these fans. It’s only been bolstered by the contingent of Eagles players who have been public about their faith in God and how it is the guiding principle in their lives. Most prominent are Eagles quarterbacks Nick Foles, who wrote about his faith in his book: Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds, and Carson Wentz, who started a faith-based foundation in 2017 with the mission of “uplifting individuals and communities around the world by demonstrating God’s Love for His people.”

Foles, who led the Eagles on the seemingly miraculous Super Bowl run last year with uncanny calmness and a sense of humility, has even been affectionately dubbed St. Nick. He has talked about taking courses to become a youth pastor after football.

Among the others are tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Jordan Matthews, and backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld. Some of the players pray together. They’re also involved in youth ministry. Foles provided Bibles to the Philadelphia-area Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and along with other players participated in fellowship “huddles” with athletes in local schools.

Their charitable work and success has only made the spotlight brighter on the importance of faith, said Sister Carol Jean Vale, president of Chestnut Hill College.

“It’s a time when we really need to see people who are strong and competent and successful and educated standing for the right kind of values, and they do that,” she said. “Our city is being provided with men of substance and belief in God, and I think it’s critical. It’s a great gift to the city.”

Sister Regina Smith got this shirt from another sister who attended the game where the Eagles beat the Texans.

Spirituality and sports have long been connected and share some of the same values, including the emphasis on relationships and team work and the importance of living in the moment. The connection goes back to the start of the ancient Olympics, which were played in homage to the Greek gods, notes Ed Hastings, an assistant theology professor at Villanova University, who teaches a course on sports and spirituality. The Vatican in 2016 hosted a conference called “Sport at the Service of Humanity.”

“We can learn so much about ourselves and God through sports,” Hastings said, whether it’s how to cope with loss or gain perspective on victory,

The sisters, many of them former elementary and secondary school teachers, noted that even the players who don’t talk about their faith have done much good for the community. And while they may pray for a win, they pray harder that no one — whether an opponent or an Eagle — gets hurt.

“It’s most important to me that they’re safe,” said Sister Roberta.

Some of the Saint Joseph sisters have been fans since they were children, growing up in the Philadelphia area.

Sister Eileen M. Maguire, 78, recalls going to the games with her dad in the 1940s, even in the bitter cold. To this day, she credits the experience for her tolerance to low temperatures.

Members of the isters of Saint Joseph, the order that founded Chestnut Hill College, are big Eagles fans. That’s the college president, Sister Carol Jean Vale, holding Nick Foles’ number.

What really sealed Sister Mary William Herron’s love for the team was working at Stella Maris Catholic School in South Philadelphia and living nearby, where she could hear the loud cheering from the stadium area and joined in.

Some sisters came to Eagles fandom a bit later, including Sister Carol, the college president. She grew up in the Washington area and was a — gulp — Redskins fan. Once, she confesses, she went to a home game when the Eagles were playing the Redskins and wore a Redskins sweatshirt under her coat. The other team she really liked — and this made some sisters wince — was the Dallas Cowboys, something about Roger Staubach, the team’s quarterback in the 1970s.

The sisters waited and watched, hoping for an evolution in her thinking. It happened about 15 years ago, Sister Carol says, when she was driving home from a fund-raiser on the Schuylkill Expressway and knew it was time to embrace the Eagles.

“We knew it would happen,” said Sister Margaret Mary, the foreign language teacher. “We just didn’t know when.”

The sisters are especially inspired by Foles’ comments about the importance of relationships on the team. Their order, which originated in France and came to the United States in the 1800s, also emphasizes relationships.

“We consider everyone our dear neighbor,” said Sister Peg Fleming, 84. “We want to be in relationship with all.”

Patriots vs Chargers

  Patriots vs Chargers Live Stream

The Los Angeles Chargers will leave balmy Southern California to take on the New England Patriots in an AFC Divisional Round matchup on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. ET. It’s L.A.’s second straight cross-country game after Philip Rivers and company defeated the AFC North champion Ravens last week. The spread has been relatively stable this week,

with New England going off at -4 in the latest Patriots vs. Chargers odds, just half-a-point down from the opening line. The over-under for total points Vegas expects to be scored is 47.5 despite expected frigid temperatures. Rivers is looking for his first title in six postseason chances, while Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is looking for a sixth Super Bowl. This season might be Rivers’ best shot yet, so before locking in any Patriots vs. Chargers picks of your own, be sure to check out the NFL predictions from SportsLine’s Projection Model.

SportsLine’s proprietary computer model went 176-80 straight up last season and beat more than 95 percent of CBS Sports Office Pool players in 2016 and ’17. It also performed better than 98 percent of experts tracked by NFLPickWatch.com during that span. Additionally, it went 48-34 on A-rated picks against the spread last season, and $100 bettors who have followed it the past two seasons are up nearly $4,000.

The model has continued to nail its top-rated picks in 2018-19, entering the divisional round on a blistering 16-6 run. For the season, it is now 30-15 on all top-rated picks, extending its two-year run to a strong 78-49. It also went 170-84 on straight-up NFL picks during the regular season, ranking inside the top 10 on NFLPickWatch.com. Additionally, it hit all four NFL spread picks on Wild Card Weekend. Anyone who has followed it is way up.

Now, it has crunched the numbers for Chargers vs. Patriots (stream live on fuboTV) from every angle and simulated the game 10,000 times. We can tell you it’s leaning Under, but it also says one side of the spread has all the value, making it a must-back. That pick is only available at SportsLine.

The model knows New England has historically dominated Rivers and the Chargers. Rivers is just 1-7 against New England in his career straight-up, with the only win coming against a Matt Cassel-led squad. The Patriots are 11-1 against the Chargers in games played at Foxborough.

Additionally, the Patriots were the only team that went undefeated this season at home, and they’ve made seven consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances. The Pats also have the advantage of a week off, while the Chargers played a physical game against Baltimore in the Wild Card Round. New England is 6-2 against the spread at home this season and has been favored in every game at Gillette Stadium.

Still, New England is no sure thing to cover the Patriots vs. Chargers spread against an L.A. (13-4) team that heads to Foxborough playing perhaps as well as any team in the NFL right now.

The model knows the Chargers had to innovate last week against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, playing seven defensive backs the majority of the time in an effort to contain the opposing quarterback. However, they’ll have to take a more conventional approach this week against the Patriots, which is something they should still be more than capable of after finishing in the top 10 in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and run defense.

The Patriots have struggled when they’re out-gained on the ground, rushing for an average of just 86.8 yards per game while giving up 152 in their five losses this season. A potent pass rush featuring players like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram could make New England’s offense one-dimensional. The Chargers are also 10-7 against the spread this season and a rock solid 8-2 ATS on the road. They’ve covered five of six times as an underdog or pick’em.

Who wins Chargers vs. Patriots? And which side of the spread is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread you need to jump on Sunday, all from the computer model that has returned nearly $4,000 to $100 bettors over the past two seasons.

New Orleans Saints vs Philadelphia Eagles

New Orleans Saints vs Philadelphia Eagles : Following a first-round bye after clinching the number one postseason seed in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints (13-3) host the Philadelphia Eagles (10-7) in the Divisional Playoffs at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday at 3:40 p.m. (CT).

Fans can catch the action on FOX (WVUE-8 locally) with Kevin Burkhardt (play-by-play), Charles Davis (analyst) and Pam Oliver and Peter Schrager (sideline). The game will also air on WWL-870 and 105.3 with Zach Strief (play-by-play), Deuce McAllister (analyst) and Steve Geller (sideline) as well as nationally on Westwood One with Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), James Lofton (analyst) and Ross Tucker (sideline). For Spanish language radio, tune in to 97.9 FM with Marco Garcia (play-by-play), Juan Carlos Ramos (analyst) and Victor Quinonez (sideline).

For full broadcast channel listings, CLICK HERE.

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Eagles vs Saints

Eagles vs Saints : If Foles is going to do it again it may be his most impressive feat yet. Oddsmakers have made the Eagles 8-point road dogs for this matchup. That’s the most points they have gotten in the playoffs over their last two playoff runs. These teams met back in Week 11 on this same field, with the Saints embarrassing the Eagles 48-7 as 7-point faves. But Nick Foles didn’t start and it wasn’t December/January. We break down the best ways to wager this NFC Divisional Round showdown.

The Saints are a great quick strike offense in the comforts of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, ranking fourth in first quarter scoring at home this season at 7.1 points per game. That is thanks to a very balanced offense led by veteran quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints rank eighth in total yards, 12th in passing yards, sixth in rushing yards and third in points per game.

The Eagles offense, while more efficient with Foles under center, are still a bit more methodical when it comes to starting games to put it nicely. Philadelphia ranks dead last in the NFL in first quarter scoring this season at just 2.6 per contest. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the first quarter come to a close with the Saints having at least a small lead.

The Saints come into this matchup well rested and in the comforts of home, where they averaged 18.2 first half points per game this season. Good for fourth best in the NFL. That rest will really help out a Saints offensive line that was a little banged up at the end of the year, not to mention running back Alvin Kamara.

The Saints running back had a terrific season, racking up nearly 1,600 total yards with 18 scores. Kamara and backfield mate Mark Ingram are the key to what makes this offense so dangerous. But they are going up an Eagles defense that ranks sixth against the rush and over the last four weeks haven’t allowed a running back to go over 50 yards. And since the beatdown the Saints handed them, the Eagles have allowed just 18.9 points per game.

Expect New Orleans to rely on some rested bodies and that famous “Who Dat Nation” to get out to an early lead. But Philly’s revitalized defense keeps it close.

One player who seems to benefit greatly with Foles under center is wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The veteran wideout was for the most part a disappointment to Philly fans and fantasy owners alike when Carson Wentz was his quarterback. But things are different with Foles. Over the past two seasons in games which Foles starts and Jeffery plays the full contest (eight games including playoffs), Foles targets the wide out nearly seven times per game. Jeffery has converted those targets into 38 catches for 651. Expect that trend to continue going up a Saints pass defense that ranks 29th against the pass in terms of yards per game, 28th in opponent’s yards per game and 26th in opponent’s completion percentage.

The Eagles have some real strengths on defense, but Sean Payton and Brees are some of the best in the business at exploiting weaknesses. The Saints will use the run in order to set up some big plays down field later on and Brees, who broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a season, will attack an underwhelming Eagles secondary that ranked 30th in passing yards allowed this season.

That said, the Eagles should also have success on offense in this one. Foles has put up some massive numbers in previous playoff games (last week not withstanding) and he gets to face a Saints pass defense that ranks 29th in passing yards allowed, 28th in yards per attempt and 27th in opponent’s completion percentage. Philly is also one of the league’s better second-half teams, ranking fifth at 13.6 points per contest. The number is just a little too low here.

This is a very difficult game to choose a side. Do you fade the Saints at home in the playoffs? Or do you fade the Foles playoff magic? Not an easy call. So, while the story in this one will likely come down to the men under center, we turn to the defense to help us make this decision.

One thing that is a must in playoff football is strong defensive line play. And the Eagles d-line is starting to look like the one they rode to a Super Bowl title once again. They are active, they get penetration and they have depth. On top of that, the Eagles defense, while it has holes, ranks very high in some clutch categories. They rank first in the league in opponent’s red zone touchdown percentage and fifth in opponent’s 3rd down conversion rate. If they can get a few key stops, they can at least keep this close.

The Eagles’ run likely ends on Sunday, but this number is too big, and we won’t be caught fading the Foles magic if it somehow continues.

Los Angeles Chargers vs New England Patriots

Los Angeles Chargers vs New England Patriots : New England has won four in a row SU and ATS against the Chargers, going back to the franchise’s time in San Diego, and should hold a solid home-field edge with the forecast calling for sub-freezing temperatures in Foxborough – a far cry from the sun and surf of Southern California.

Los Angeles Chargers vs New England Patriots Live

If you’re watching and wagering on this AFC playoff clash Sunday afternoon, here are the best ways to bet the NFL playoff odds for Chargers at Patriots, from quick-hitting props to the full-game spread and total.

The Patriots don’t take long to get started at Gillette Stadium, averaging just under a touchdown in the opening frame when playing at home. And when it comes to New England’s games, the action is hot an heavy out of the gate. A touchdown has opened scoring in seven straight games for the Pats, with Tom Brady & Co. recording four of those seven strikes for six points.

On the other side of the field, the Chargers have seen a touchdown open scoring in five of their last seven outings, however, L.A. was responsible for only two of those TDs and has been first to the score board in just three of those seven outings.

While Bill Belichick has a tendency to defer receiving to the second half, this defense has been solid in the opening frame in front of the friendly fans, allowing just 1.9 points in the first 15 minutes at home. On the year, L.A. ranked among the worst first-quarter stop units, allowing opponents to put up 5.8 first-quarter points

Los Angeles should have rolled Baltimore last week, considering how many times the Ravens coughed the ball up. But the Bolts had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. They attempted six field goals, making five of those kicks, and watched their once-mighty red-zone offense struggle to crack the goal line.

New England may not come to mind when thinking about stout stop units, but this defense has been very stingy over its last six games. Since enjoying a bye in Week 11, the Patriots held opponents to an average of 14.8 points and in their last three games, they’ve allowed foes to find the end zone on just 33 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line.

In classic “bend but don’t break” Belichick fashion, the Patriots will give up some yards but not the full six points in the first half of this ball game, leaving L.A. to kick more field goals than it would like.

For such a big personality, Rob Gronkowski has had a relatively small impact on the Patriots’ output in recent games. Gronkowski had just four total catches for 45 yards in the final three games of a very long season, in which the tight end battled nagging back and ankle injuries.

But, you can only quiet Gronk for so long, and he comes to play on the biggest stage. Gronkowski has scored nine touchdowns in his last eight postseason appearances and could have a very favorable matchup with this new-look Chargers defense.

Los Angeles went small and fast to slow down Baltimore’s run game last weekend, using more defensive backs than linebackers. That worked well against a poor Ravens pass game, but you won’t get away with that against Brady. If Gronkowski finds himself in a size mismatch, expect No. 12 to pick at that sore spot – especially when closing in on the end zone.

“The playoffs are always a different feel — no matter what — every single time we make it. Just the excitement level definitely turns up another notch,” Gronkowski told Boston.com.
Gronkowski has been a thorn in the side of the Chargers franchise in recent meetings, with five touchdown catches in their last four matchups overall. Get ready for at least one giant “Gronk Spike” Sunday afternoon.

The AFC side of the bracket is a “who’s who” of quarterbacks, and Philip Rivers versus Tom Brady seems like a matchup that would promise a lot of points. The Over/Under reflects that, sitting at 47.5 points.

Taking a deeper dive though, Los Angeles has been a fave for Under bettors, staying below the total in four of its last five games. The Chargers are an extremely methodical offense that ranks among the lowest plays per game in the NFL, letting the play clock – and often the game clock – tick away.

New England is always an offensive threat, but this defense has been the star of the second half of the season. Since Week 1, the Patriots have allowed just one of their six opponents to top 17 points and haven’t just built those stats against AFC East cupcakes, taking on capable offenses in Minnesota and Pittsburgh during that span.

The Patriots have paid out for the Under in eight of their last nine games overall, and these teams have stayed below the number in five of their last six matchups, going back to the Bolts’ days in San Diego.

Chargers vs Patriots

Chargers vs Patriots : Two of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks will face off for the eighth time in their storied careers in New England on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately for Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, he has lost all seven of the Chargers and Patriots’ previous matchups in the Tom Brady-Rivers era.

Brady and Rivers’ combined 78 years and 199 days in age makes them the oldest opposing quarterbacks to play since the 1970 merger, according to the NFL.

The last time the Chargers and Patriots met in the postseason was the in the AFC Conference Championship during the 2007 playoffs. That game was also at New England.

In 2018, the Patriots are undefeated in Foxborough. However, the Chargers are 8-1 away from Los Angeles this season—including last week’s wild-card win at Baltimore—rendering it basically a wash. That said, the Chargers are flying across the country for the second time in a week.

The Patriots haven’t been knocked out in the divisional round since the 2010 playoffs—making it to seven consecutive AFC Championship games.

Below is a glance at updated odds heading into Chargers-Patriots and statistical predictions for key players. The divisional-round game will begin at 1:05 p.m. ET.

It must be said: Brady’s 41 years of age showed in 2018, but even with that said, the future Hall of Famer still threw for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns. As far as predicting how Brady may play against the Chargers, it depends on which regular-season games you choose to use as samples.

In Week 17, Brady torched the New York Jets for four touchdowns but only 250 yards on 72.7-percent passing. Just the week prior, he struggled to the tune of 126 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on just 54.2-percent passing.

SBNation’s Christian D’Andrea summed it up well:

“While young players like Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield were making major leaps forward and veterans like Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were establishing career highs, Brady reverted back to his career averages — which, to be fair, are:

The Chargers defense sacked Lamar Jackson seven times in the AFC Wild Card round, and Melvin Ingram was a game-wrecker. Brady noted, again via the Chargers’ official website, that the Chargers pass defense was “just unbelievable” against Baltimore.

Playoff Brady is a different animal, though.

With 77 postseason touchdowns already to his name, Brady will add to that total on Sunday. It’s just a matter of how many touchdowns he will throw.

Prediction: Brady continues 2018 trend but still posts 275 yards and two touchdowns with one interception

Who better to assess Rivers than Brady? According to the Chargers’ official website, Brady had this to say:

“He’s kind of like me. He wants the ball out of his hands. He kind of wants to be able to anticipate coverages. He’s got really a great group of skill players—backs, tight ends, receivers. They’re playing as well as any offense that’s played all season.”

One weapon Rivers is expected to have at his disposal for the first time this season is tight end Hunter Henry, who is officially listed as questionable but coyly addressed his status to The Los Angeles Times. Rivers would welcome Henry as another option, but he did just fine in the regular season with the players he had. More than fine.

As Andy Benoit put it for Sports Illustrated a month ago:

“Coaches rave over Rivers’s style because, unconventional as it appears, it leads to plays being executed exactly as they’re drawn up. Rivers’s pocket mobility and toughness are perfect. His control of the pre-snap chess phase is masterful. Rivers understands every nuance of every play’s design, which is partly why he’s become football’s best anticipation thrower.

“Sure, it helps that he can trust big athletic receivers like Mike and Tyrell Williams, Antonio Gates and especially Keenan Allen. But it helps more that Rivers throws with pinpoint accuracy—particularly downfield, both inside and outside. This season Rivers ranks third in passer rating and fourth in yards per attempt.”

The Pats defense ranked 22nd against the pass in the regular season.

Prediction: Rivers has a career-defining game with 350 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while taking care of the ball with no interceptions

Is he fully healthy or not? That is by far the most prominent question surrounding the 29-year-old tight end these days, even though he only missed three games throughout the regular season. Gronkowski only caught three touchdown passes and averaged 52.5 yards per game.

Gronkowski knows, though, according to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, there is “no room for excuses.” Raanan also provides a key statistic regarding who Gronkowski could be matched up against:

“Chargers rookie safety Derwin James has allowed tight ends to catch just 42 percent of their targets when he’s the nearest defender, the lowest catch percentage allowed to tight ends, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.”

This could go either way: a chronically hobbled Gronk hardly makes an impact or he goes off in a way we haven’t seen all season.

Prediction: the former; Gronkowski is kept relatively mute at three catches for 40 yards and no touchdowns

Allen posted his first 1,000-yard season since his rookie season in 2013 with 1,196 receiving yards on 97 catches in the regular season.

Against the Ravens on Wild Card Weekend, Allen was kept modest with four catches for just 37 yards and no touchdowns. In fact, Allen has been kept out of the end zone dating back to Dec. 9 in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Regardless, Allen poses a threat that defenses must account for, which has often left fellow wide receiver Mike Williams wide-open in the end zone. The Patriots will keep track of the 26-year-old, as head coach Belichick stated that “Keenan’s as good a receiver as there is in the National Football League.”

Expect to see the Patriots line up cornerback Stephon Gilmore man-on-man across Allen.

Prediction: Allen sets up the Williams as he has all season with four catches for 60 yards but no touchdowns

White has been crucial to the Patriots offense this season with 1,176 combined yards and 12 combined touchdowns on the ground and through the air.

It’s that dual-threat ability that helped the Patriots mount the largest Super Bowl comeback in history. In Super Bowl LI, White accounted for two rushing touchdowns but what really stood out were his 14 catches for 110 yards and another touchdown.

The 26-year-old back makes his name in the postseason—as Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne perfectly described White as “the perfect Patriots playoff weapon.”

Prediction: White contributes 50 yards on the ground but does real damage as a receiver for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches

In the opposing backfield is Gordon, who said to the Chargers’ official website of his relationship with former Wisconsin Badgers teammate White: “That’s like my big brother, man.”

On Sunday, Gordon will try to steal White’s spotlight as the game-changing back.

The 25-year-old has been nurturing nagging injuries throughout the regular season, which caused him to miss Week 7 due to his hamstring and three games in December because of his knee.

This bled into Wild Card Weekend when Gordon was diagnosed with a “little knee sprain,” according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

From @NFLTotalAccess: #Chargers RB Melvin Gordon, who injured his knee and came back in the game last weekend, is dealing with a little knee sprain. But it’s nothing that makes his availability in doubt.

Against the Ravens, Gordon punched in one touchdown but was contained to 40 yards on 17 carriers. Even missing four games in the regular season, Gordon posted 885 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He also notched three 100-yard rushing games.

The Patriots finished the regular season ranked 11th in rushing defense. Without Gordon in the fold, the Chargers have utilized Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson; but it is a different game when Gordon is in and healthy (enough).

There is just no way of truly knowing what percentage we’re getting from Gordon’s body.

Prediction: Pats underestimate Gordon; Gordon goes for 105 combined yards and two touchdowns.

NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoffs 2019: Schedule, Predictions and Odds for Divisional Round.Eight teams remain as the NFL playoffs enters the divisional round.In the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles are trying to do it again with backup quarterback Nick Foles at the helm. They edged the Chicago Bears 16-15 in their wild-card matchup with a little thanks to a slightly tipped field goal off the foot of Cody Parkey, sending them to a contest with No. 1 seed New Orleans Saints.

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The Dallas Cowboys, meanwhile, held off the Seattle Seahawks and will have a date with the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday.

In the AFC, the Los Angeles Chargers will be trying to win back-to-back road games during their showdown against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, while Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs after taking care of the Houston Texans in a Wild Card Weekend rout.

Divisional-Round Schedule

Saturday, January 12

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (4:35 p.m., NBC)

Odds: Kansas City (-5), O/U (57.5)

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (8:15 p.m., Fox)

Odds: Los Angeles (-7), O/U (49.5)

Sunday, January 13

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (1:05 p.m., CBS)

Odds: New England (-4), O/U (48)

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (4:40 p.m., Fox)

Odds: New Orleans (-8), O/U (51)

In addition to the broadcast networks, all playoff games can be viewed on FuboTV.

The playoffs have not been kind to the Chiefs during the Andy Reid era. They are 1-4 in total and 0-2 at Arrowhead Stadium. But this year seems different, and that is because of Patrick Mahomes.

The first-year starter dazzled with a league-leading 50 touchdown passes on the No. 1-ranked offense in the league.

He goes up against a Colts team that has plenty of momentum from a late-season surge into the playoffs and fresh from dismantling the Texans on the road in the Wild Card Round.

The biggest variable this time around is that a wintry mix of rain and snow is expected, per 41 Action News’ Gerard Jebaily:

The Colts have the offensive line to excel in those conditions, as well as running back Marlon Mack, but they are a dome team not used to playing in the elements. It also seems too hard to go against Mahomes at Arrowhead after an MVP-caliber season.

The Cowboys are feeling good about themselves after defeating a tough Seahawks team at home to advance to the divisional round, but they face another tall task in facing the Rams on the road.

Los Angeles should have a healthy Todd Gurley, who has had three weeks to rest up for this game and will be a key factor, especially after some less-than-encouraging performances from quarterback Jared Goff toward the end of the season.

Dallas also struggled on the road this season, going 3-5 away from AT&T Stadium. If the Cowboys can find a way to contain Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald and keep it close, they will have a chance, but that feels like a long shot.

Philip Rivers and the Chargers have proved doubters wrong all season and showed in the Wild Card Round that the defense can make the necessary adjustments to wreak havoc, as they beat the Baltimore Ravens on the road just two weeks after the Ravens topped the Chargers in Los Angeles.

The Chargers are heading to Gillette Stadium in January, which is always a daunting task, especially when the Patriots are 8-0 there this season and frigid temperatures are expected, per AccuWeather, which does not bode well for a team located in Southern California.

While the Chargers have seemingly answered every call, it is tough to see them go back-to-back weeks on the East Coast to play the 1:05 p.m. game and beat the Patriots in freezing temperatures.

Indianapolis Colts vs Kansas City Chiefs

Indianapolis Colts vs Kansas City Chiefs prediction: Key matchups, how to watch, stream AFC Divisional game.Everything you need to know for Saturday’s AFC divisional round showdown.The opening game of divisional weekend is a fascinating one. The paths the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts took to get to this point could not really have been more different, after all.

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Kansas City opened the season 5-0, with the offense exploding out of the gates with record-setting performances, and the large division lead they staked themselves to early on helped maintain their playoff positioning even after a late-season stumble where they lost twice in a row. The Colts opened the year 1-5, with their offense unable to get fully untracked early on, and it was only a five-game winning streak and nine-wins-in-10-games stretch that propelled them into the playoffs, a stretch that also needed a Week 17 playoff play-in to cap it off.

The Chiefs have one of the league’s longest-tenured and most respected coaches, and though they lost their offensive coordinator and changed their starting quarterback, they have a lot of the same infrastructure left over from last year’s playoff squad. The Colts have a first-year coach who wasn’t even their first choice, all new staffers at every position, several rookies playing enormous roles, and a seventh-year quarterback who was coming off a major injury and who nobody knew whether he would ever be the same.

But things worked out similarly for both of them. Andy Reid’s decision to make the switch from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes worked out better than anyone could have imagined. Frank Reich ended up being the right coach at the right time and Andrew Luck ended up being just fine. So now, here we are. Chiefs. Colts. Playoffs. This should be fun (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC).

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All week we’ve been hearing about how the Colts would be wise to try controlling the ball on the ground with Marlon Mack and their strong offensive line in an effort to keep Patrick Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs offense off the field. There is certainly merit to that idea.

After all, the less time Mahomes and company spend on the field, the fewer opportunities they have to score. And the Chiefs did finish the season with the NFL’s worst run defense, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Not just that, they finished dead last in Adjusted Line Yards, which assigns credit to the offensive line based on a percentage of yards gained. They ranked 30th in Power Success, indicating that they could not get stops in short yardage situations. They ranked 27th in stuff rate, stopping only 15 percent of opponent runs at or behind the line of scrimmage. And they ranked last in second-level yards per carry, indicating that they did not do a strong job of tackling on the back end.

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The Colts, meanwhile, were able to control several games with Mack beating up on defensive fronts — even against teams with good or even elite run defenses. Mack ran for 126 yards against an above-average Bills run defense, 139 yards against the Cowboys’ fifth-ranked run defense, and last week he pounded out 148 yards against the Texans’ top-ranked group against the run. The Colts’ offensive line was better in protection than clearing the way for runs, but it was still one of the better run-blocking groups in the league. And particularly in rookie Quenton Nelson, they have one of the better road-graters in football.

In order to ensure they’re able to run the ball throughout the game and not just early on, however, the Colts have to ensure that they do not get down by multiple scores early in the game. The Chiefs jumped out to a double-digit lead inside the first 20 minutes in nine of their 16 games. They went 8-1 in those games. In the seven where they did not establish a double-digit lead in the first 20 minutes, they went just 4-3.

But keeping pace early is not just about running and taking time of the clock. You have to get some points on the board yourself. And for the Colts, that usually means going to the air. Which means they’ll have to protect Andrew Luck against a strong group of Chiefs pass rushers. Chris Jones finished the season with 15.5 sacks and 29 quarterback hits, as well as 71 pressures, which ranked third among defensive tackles. As if it’s not difficult enough to deal with him over the middle, there’s also Dee Ford (13 sacks, 29 hits, 77 pressures) and Justin Houston (nine sacks, 12 hits, 48 pressures) to deal with on the edge. And Allen Bailey, Derrick Nnadi, Xavier Williams, Breeland Speaks and more come in waves along with them.

Of course, the Colts protected Luck far better this season than they ever have before. Luck was routinely among the handful of most-heavily pressured quarterbacks in the NFL during his first five years in the league, but this year, only five quarterbacks were pressured less often. And no quarterback was sacked less often either overall (2.7 percent of his drop backs, per Pro Football Focus) or when pressured (9 percent of pressures resulted in sacks) than Luck.

As we explored in last week’s preview, Luck sped up his delivery this season, getting the ball out about a third of a second quicker than he ever had before.

According to Pro Football Focus, Luck allowed an average of only 2.54 seconds to tick on by between the snap and his average pass. That time-to-throw average was eighth-fastest in the NFL, but it was also by far the fastest of Luck’s career. He had previously taken at least 2.80 seconds, on average, before throwing, in every single season of his career. And after seeing his percentage of throws that came within 2.5 seconds of the snap hover in the low-40s for most of his career, Luck threw considerably more than half his passes inside of that window this year.

Speeding things up allowed Luck to avoid hits but also meant the offense was more often working on schedule as opposed to freelancing, which meant Luck was making schemed throws more often, and those are usually the kind that are more open. It all added up to a possible Comeback Player of the Year season, with Luck establishing career-highs in completion percentage, passer rating, and QBR. Keeping Luck protected is the single best thing the Colts did all season. It’s likely to continue if they can keep the game manageable throughout, but if they get down big early, the Chiefs will be able to pin their ears back and not have to worry about the run game. And that’s likely to cause the Colts a problem.

Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce et al. vs. Colts defensive backfield

Last week against the Texans, the Colts sat in a soft zone and dared Deshaun Watson to pick them apart with precise passes fitted in between multiple defenders. Watson struggled to do so, completing 29 of 49 throws overall, for just 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception. A passer that completed 68.3 percent of his passes during the regular season completed only 59.2 percent during the Wild-Card round. A passer that averaged 8.2 yards per attempt during the year netted just 4.8 per attempt in his team’s playoff loss. A quarterback who finished the regular season with 26 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions threw one of each in that game.

The Colts held DeAndre Hopkins to just five catches and 37 yards on 10 targets and Watson directed almost all of his throws to either slot man Keke Coutee (14 targets) or one of his running backs (13 targets combined). Perimeter corners Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson did an excellent job of redirecting routes and sitting underneath the easy throws into in-between zones, forcing Watson to come off his first read and check down for short gains or fire into tighter windows than he wanted to.

It was surprising, if not necessarily shocking. Watson had a better passer rating against man defenses (106.0) than zones (100.3) during the regular season, per data from Sports Info Solutions. The same is true of Patrick Mahomes, but he’s even better against both man and zone defenses than Watson.

For a team that played more snaps in zone coverage than almost any team in the NFL this season, it is not necessarily a good sign that this week’s opponent was so dominant against zone coverages during the regular season. Given the design of Kansas City’s offense and the weapons they have on hand, it’s not exactly surprising that zones could not stop Mahomes.

The Chiefs have elite vertical field stretchers on the perimeter (Tyreek Hill) and over the middle (Travis Kelce) and the Chiefs surround them with several more athletic playmakers, giving them arguably the deepest, most versatile corps of pass-catchers in the league. Hill and Kelce are each elite athletes, and the Chiefs supplement them with Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, Spencer Ware, and Damien Williams. Each of those players is some combination of huge, fast, and shifty, or all three. They can all make plays with the ball in their hands, and are comfortable getting it through the air or via hand-off. They can all take a quick screen and make something happen and all of the receivers can get deep.

And the Chiefs get the damn ball deep. Mahomes threw 20 or more yards in the air on 15.9 percent of his pass attempts this season, per Pro Football Focus, the third-highest rate in the league. He was fantastic on those throws, if a bit interception prone compared to when he threw to the short or intermediate areas of the field. But that’s sometimes the price you pay for the howitzer arm that can turn any play into a touchdown. And he did that quite often, tossing 15 scores on throws 20 or more yards in the air, more than any other quarterback in the NFL.

When Mahomes went deep, he was most often targeting Hill, who led the league in deep catches (20), deep receiving yards (754), and deep receiving touchdowns (seven) while also posting the second-highest catch rate among the 20 wide receivers with 20-plus deep targets. Kelce, meanwhile, led all tight ends in deep catches (nine) and deep receiving yards (243) while ranking second in deep-ball touchdowns (two), behind only Eric Ebron.

Having that duo stretch the field vertically opens up all kinds of crossing patterns and mesh routes and smoke screens and release valves underneath, which Mahomes was happy to take when they were available to him. He has the arm talent to fire the football into the tightest windows imaginable, but he almost never had to: only 12.2 percent of his passes were thrown into tight windows, per the NextGen Stats on NFL.com. That was the single lowest figure in the NFL among regular starters. (Only Brock Osweiler and Nick Mullens had better figures, but Mullens threw less than half as many passes as Mahomes and Osweiler only started five games.)

Andy Reid schemed Mahomes into a ton of layup-type throws that had extraordinarily wide windows, allowing him to hit his man in stride so that the Chiefs’ various speedsters could make hay after the catch. The Chiefs’ pass-catchers created 2,530 of Mahomes’ league-high 5,097 passing yards after they’d caught the ball, a rate of 49.6 percent. Among 30 qualifying quarterbacks, only seven had to create a lower percentage of their yards in the air as opposed to with the ball in their receiver’s hands.

So the Colts’ defensive backfield has to not only prevent all these dynamic players from getting open, but be sure to wrap up and tackle as soon as possible once they do. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Especially against these guys.

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Colts 24

Chiefs vs Colts

Chiefs vs Colts odds, line: 2019 NFL divisional round picks and best playoff predictions from model on 16-6 run.SportsLine’s advanced computer model simulated Saturday’s Chiefs vs. Colts game 10,000 time.Considering that the Indianapolis Colts had to sneak into the 2019 NFL Playoffs on the last day of the season, while the Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the NFL’s best from start to finish, you’d think that Saturday’s.

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 AFC Divisional Round game between the Nos. 1 and 6 seeds might be one-sided. However, Indianapolis is red-hot and sports books are expecting a game. Kansas City is favored by 5.5, with the total at 57 in the latest Chiefs vs. Colts odds. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Colts veteran signal caller Andrew Luck have been two of the best at their position, so expect plenty of fireworks in the first game of the NFL Divisional schedule at 4:35 p.m. ET. Before you make any Chiefs vs. Colts picks, be sure to check out the NFL playoff predictions from SportsLine’s Projection Model.

The advanced computer model simulates every NFL game 10,000 times, and those who have followed it have seen massive returns. SportsLine’s proprietary computer model went 176-80 last season and beat over 95 percent of CBS Office Pool players in 2016 and ’17. It also performed better than 98 percent of experts tracked by NFLPickWatch.com during that span. Additionally, it went 48-34 on A-rated picks against the spread last season, and $100 bettors who followed it the past two seasons are up nearly $4,000.

The model has continued to nail its top-rated picks in 2018-19, entering the divisional round on a blistering 16-6 run. For the season, it is now 30-15 on all top-rated picks, extending its two-year run to a strong 78-49. It also went 170-84 on straight-up NFL picks during the regular season, ranking inside the top 10 on NFLPickWatch.com. Additionally, it hit all four NFL against-the-spread picks on Wild Card Weekend. Anyone who has followed it is way up.

Now the model has dialed in on Colts vs. Chiefs (stream live on fuboTV). We can tell you it’s leaning under, but it has also generated a strong point-spread pick that’s hitting nearly 60 percent of the time. You can only see that one over at SportsLine.

The model knows that the Chiefs should benefit greatly from the bye week. Kansas City sprinted out to a blistering 9-1 start to the season, but looked more beatable down the stretch, losing three of its final six and two of the last three. Those losses came against playoff teams like the Chargers, Rams, and Seahawks.

Injuries were a big factor in that, and the week off should give several key players a chance to return at closer to 100 percent. Receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) has a chance to play for the first time since Week 11, while safety Eric Berry (heel) and running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) are also important players who will benefit from time off. A full strength Chiefs team will allow Mahomes to flourish in the NFL Playoffs 2019.

But just because Kansas City is getting healthier doesn’t mean it will cover the Chiefs vs. Colts spread on Saturday.

The model also knows that Luck is the heart and soul of the Colts, and his play has been impressive after battling through shoulder injuries the last two seasons. However, coordinator Matt Eberflus’ turnaround of the Colts’ defense is a major part of why they’ve made it this far as well.

After ranking 30th in the NFL in scoring defense and total defense in 2017, the Colts were 10th in points allowed and 11th in total defense in 2018. Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard has been at the center of it all, earning first-team All-Pro honors with 163 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

Leonard was all over the field again during Wild Card Weekend in Indy’s 21-7 win over the Texans, making 13 tackles and deflecting a pass. Leonard’s ability to impact the game in coverage, as a run-stopper, as a pass-rusher and as a turnover-creator could be key to disrupting the high-powered Chiefs offense just enough to let Luck and the Colts outscore Kansas City on Saturday.

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AFC divisional playoffs

AFC divisional playoffs tale of the tapeLet’s use advanced stats to break down all the key matchups in this week’s AFC divisional round and make final score predictions.

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Per both FPI and DVOA, the best team still standing in the AFC has the single weakest unit of any remaining teams in the AFC. Kansas City’s offense and special teams have been so dominant that they’ve been able to win the most games in the conference despite having, at best, one of the seven worst defenses in the league.

That makes the Colts an interesting foil. Frank Reich’s squad has maybe the most well-rounded remaining team here. They aren’t necessarily elite in many areas, but their biggest strength is that they don’t have a damning weakness. You can win a lot of playoff games with that trait.

AFC East champ New England is only hosting this game because the Chargers happen to share a division with the Chiefs. That gives the Pats their most defining advantage: home field. (Then again, Los Angeles might be the best road team in the league this year.)

The narratives in this game are off the charts — Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has a chance to actually beat Tom Brady for once, to totally redefine his legacy, etc. Narratives and losing streaks can be overpowering some times, but Los Angeles is the only team in this AFC field that ranks in the single digits in both offensive and defensive DVOA. They’ll never be more ready for this challenge.

Indianapolis isn’t all that explosive, doing most of its damage with pass precision and solid red-zone offense, and Kansas City’s extremely flexible (to put it diplomatically) defense should be quite vulnerable to said efficiency. But the Chiefs will score enough to overcome that as long as they’re creating some gashes against the most gash-proof defense in the league and/or continuing their own red zone proficiency.

Kansas City’s defense is incredibly inefficient, yes, but most of that comes from the run defense. That’s good for them because Indy doesn’t run the ball efficiently. Meanwhile, Indy’s biggest strength (pass efficiency) is Kansas City’s only area of efficiency.

One of the biggest tension points in this game will come with Andrew Luck drops to pass on second- or third-and-long. For both Luck and any opponent facing the Chiefs, third-and-long is like third-and-3. Kansas City has a strong pass rush — Chris Jones, Dee Ford, and Justin Houston have combined for 37.5 sacks this year — but if they don’t get to the QB, the QB is finding an open man. The Chiefs don’t usually get gashed on passing downs, but they let you catch back up to the chains.

The Chiefs could find equal advantages on offense, though. They are second in passing marginal efficiency, and Indy’s defense is 31st. They are one of only two offenses better than Indy’s on passing downs, and the Colts’ defense is even less efficient than KC’s.

Granted, the Chiefs’ offense slid just a hair late in the year while dealing with receiver injuries (Sammy Watkins is listed as questionable for Saturday) and the release of running back Kareem Hunt. But they still have elite talents in receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. And, they still have Patrick Mahomes.

This is going to be a quarterback’s game, and that’s exciting. It’ll come down to which passer makes bigger plays under pressure and which offense executes better in the red zone. Can’t wait.

Really, I guess you could say that every game comes down to passers making plays and operating well in the red zone, huh? That will probably be the case at Gillette Stadium, too. Both the Chargers and Patriots are top notch on both sides of the ball in scoring opportunities, and, well, they have Rivers and Brady, respectively.

It’s hard not to notice Los Angeles’ offensive advantages, though, isn’t it? It’s been a while since New England’s defense was at its Belichick best, and in terms of possessing both efficiency and explosiveness, the Chargers have the most balanced offense in the AFC outside of Kansas City’s. They are built to take advantage of whatever defensive weaknesses you have. I’ll say it again: Philip Rivers will never have a better chance than this.

Like the Chiefs, the Patriots’ biggest defensive weakness comes on the ground. We’ll see if LA can take full advantage of that with Melvin Gordon seemingly battling an infinite number of lower-body injuries at this point.

Gordon missed four games late in the regular season and has averaged only 3.2 yards per carry since his return. The Chargers advanced in Baltimore last week even with him limping in and out of the game, but their red zone offense faltered, and their settling for field goals allowed the Ravens to nearly surge to a comeback win.

The Chargers will likely lean more on the pass, then, which plays into New England’s hands. Star safety Devin McCourty left the last game of the regular season with a concussion but returned to practice this week, and they will likely be full-strength.

Once again, the dichotomy on passing downs is most noticeable. New England takes a very bend-don’t-break approach there, and if the Pats can avoid some big-play touchdowns, they can take advantage of the Chargers’ weakening red zone offense. Meanwhile, the Chargers’ defense takes the opposite approach — attack, attack, attack — on passing downs, and they get good results.

But they’re facing Playoff Tom Brady. If you don’t bring him down on third-and-long, he’s going to beat you. The Chargers know that pretty well.

In Desmond King, the Chargers have one of the most dangerous punt returners in the league. Unfortunately, I just listed all of their special teams strengths. New England is inefficient in the kickoffs game but solid at everything else, and unless King breaks a big one, if there’s an advantage to be gleaned in this matchup, it probably favors the Pats.

Back in Kansas City, special teams are just about survival for the visiting Colts. Hill is nearly as scary in the return game as he is on offense, and the Chiefs’ legs don’t give you many return opportunities.

You would assume that a team led by maybe the greatest QB of all time would be pretty stable and reliable. In this instance, you would also be wrong to assume that. The Pats are fifth in the league in scoring margin, but they have the third-largest standard deviation as well. Contrast that with the Chiefs and Chargers, which are both top-6 in scoring margin and have among the nine lowest standard deviations.

New England won seven of its 16 games by at least two touchdowns but also lost by 24 to Tennessee, by 16 to Detroit, and by 11 to Jacksonville (average points scored in these games: 13.3) and let a pretty spectacular set of miscues lead to a loss in the most memorable finish of the regular season. Their top gear is as strong as it’s been in a while, but they have stalled out sometimes as well.

Honestly, it’s not hard to talk yourself into both road teams here. Indianapolis is smoking hot, and when you take Kansas City’s morbid home playoff history into account, it’s pretty easy to see a scenario in which the Chiefs’ defense can’t get off of the field early in the game, and the Arrowhead crowd — which can be so intensely joyful in certain moments — falls into a palpable “Here we go again” state.

Meanwhile, history is basically the thing the home team has going for it the most. These aren’t games Rivers and the Chargers tend to win, but they’ve already ended a long losing streak to the Chiefs this year, and they’ve handled massive road test after massive road test. And on average, they have simply been better and more consistent than New England.

I’ll split the difference, if only because I think a third Chargers-Chiefs battle this year would be incredible. History suggests we’ll gets a Colts-Pats conference title game, but I’ll go with the two best teams in the conference instead.