NFL divisional playoff preview: Patrick Mahomes begins new era as Tom Brady aims to extend New England Patriots dynasty

Kiran Moodley
The Independent

Patrick Mahomes stands out amongst a mouth-watering slate of games in the NFL's divisional playoff round.

The Kansas City Chiefs phenom has captured the hearts of fans throughout his debut season as a starter, tossing 50 touchdowns throughout a rampant season to lead the MVP race.

Drew Brees is still in the mix after guiding the New Orleans Saints to the NFC's No 1 seed, despite sitting out their final regular season game to show the staggering drop-off when replaced by Teddy Bridgewater.

Both star quarterbacks are back in action after their bye weeks following an absorbing wildcard weekend, as well as the return of the No 2 seeds: the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.

It promises to be another engrossing watch this weekend with all four underdogs tipped in some capacity.

Namely Mahomes' Chiefs, who surrendered a 28-point lead a matter of weeks ago against the Colts.

Led by Andrew Luck and rolling off the back of a 10-1 record over the last 11 weeks, Arrowhead could quickly descend into a bowl of nerves given their 0-6 record in home playoff matches. So can Mahomes rise to the occasion and deliver those jaw-dropping, no-look passes when it really counts?

As one generational talent begins his playoff career, another approaches the end: Tom Brady, fresh from a mediocre campaign by his own standards, and now 41 years of age, aims to guide the Patriots back to the Super Bowl.

Another veteran QB, Philip Rivers, awaits: the Chargers' 0-7 record with their leader when facing Brady is problematic, but the star power surrounding Rivers ought to ensure confidence heading to Gillette Stadium.

Tom Brady led the New England Patriots back to the playoffs (Reuters)
Tom Brady led the New England Patriots back to the playoffs (Reuters)

The Chargers' rookie safety Derwin James will be bouncing off fans' screens, whilst defensive linemen Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, ready to unleash his devastating spin move, ought to help provide the answer to whether Brady is indeed an alien and able to extend the Pats' legacy.

Then there's America's Team, heading West to Los Angeles, where a stuttering Rams side, still heavily favoured, aims to rekindle their high octane offence against one of the most intimidating defences in the NFL.

Dak Prescott, on form, matches up well to Jared Goff behind centre, but the game should be won elsewhere, perhaps by the team able to apply the most pressure to the quarterback.

Aaron Donald is one of the scariest sights a quarterback can glimpse when stepping back to pass, but Dallas has their own version aiming to drill the opposition's passer into the turf: DeMarcus Lawrence.

Brees and the Saints have home field advantage throughout the playoffs (Getty)
Brees and the Saints have home field advantage throughout the playoffs (Getty)

Look too for Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley as they aim to stake a claim as the premier rusher in the sport.

And finally you have the champions, the Eagles, who were scarcely alive a matter of weeks ago, with Nick Foles, in for the franchise quarterback Carson Wentz once again, is aiming to pull of another miracle.

Brees and the Saints, especially in the Dome, will surely have too much? But this is a team peaking at the right time with players making plays at the opportune moments; Nigel Bradham, amongst others, delivered last week against the Bears, who will seize their opportunity this weekend?

Playoff picks

Saturday - 21:35 GMT: Indianpolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5)

Sunday - 01:15 GMT: Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams (-7)

Sunday - 18:05 GMT: Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots (-4)

Sunday - 21:40 GMT: Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints (-8)

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