Typically, the divisional round is the weekend that features some of the greatest memories of an individual playoff season but I expect some great memories to be made starting today. There are two games today and two tomorrow but I’m focusing on today’s match-ups taking place in Indy and Philly. Let’s get to it.
Kansas City (+1) at Indianapolis – It appears we have a candidate for ‘hottest team entering the playoffs.’ Indianapolis has won three straight games and the second of those was a 23-7 win over the Chiefs in Kansas City. If anything is fueling the Colts right now it could be the defense where they have given up just 20 points combined during this three-game winning streak.
Despite taking the San Diego Chargers into overtime, the Chiefs essentially took last week off in preparation for this playoff opener. Starters like Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith didn’t even dress last week and now must prove the ‘off week’ will not result in any rust.
The one area that concerns me for the Colts is in stopping the run. Although they won that week 16 game, Charles still managed over 100 yards on the ground. For the season, the Colts rank 26th in the NFL with about 126 yards given up on the ground per game. I have to believe Andy Reid will try to expose that as much as possible.
For Indy, Andrew Luck is 0-1 in the playoffs but his first time at home and I expect him to play well. Part of that will be whether or not the Colts can get Donald Brown going in the running game. Balance will be key for Luck who will need to avoid a heavy KC pass rush.
The over/under this afternoon is 46.5 and I’m going to take the under. I think this will be a more defensive battle than some think. The Chiefs are 3-11 against the spread in their last 14 games against the Colts. Meanwhile, Indy is 12-2 straight in their last 14 at home and is 12-2 straight up in their last 14 against the Chiefs. This has really become a ‘pick’em’ type game and I will go with the Colts at home to cover.
New Orleans (+3) at Philadelphia – It’s going to be brutally cold in the City of Brotherly Love tonight and we know what that means for Drew Brees and the Saints. What it means is that we should expect a New Orleans’ loss because they just don’t play well outdoors. This year for example, the Saints were 8-0 at home and just 3-5 on the road.
In the Superdome, the Saints averaged 34 points per game and on the road; they average just half of that with 17 points per game. Factor in today that Saints’ leading rusher Pierre Thomas will not play due to a chest injury and suddenly the Saints offense is short-handed.
The Eagles are not exactly a defensive juggernaut so they will give up some plays but I expect a good performance and a lot of attention focused squarely on Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham. Offensively, the Eagles will look to get LeSean McCoy involved early and often in an effort to take pressure off of Nick Foles who makes his first career playoff start tonight.
The Eagles are 3-10-1 against the spread in their last 14 games at home while the Saints are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games against the Eagles. The over/under tonight is 53.5 and I expect the over to dominate here despite the weather.
Drew Brees just doesn’t play nearly as well on the road as he does in the dome and I believe that’s a huge factor tonight. Look for a couple of turnovers from him. Although they haven’t played well at home the last couple of seasons, I’ll take the Eagles to cover tonight.