PFT’s divisional round picks

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Wild-card weekend was great for me, not so great for MDS.

I went 3-1 for the first four games of the postseason, nailing upset selections in both Houston and Chicago. (A prediction of a 17-15 Eagles win missed by a single point.) MDS, on the other hand, ate a donut in the straight-up picks game, guessing wrong on all four contests.

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This week, he has a chance to gain some ground, because we disagree on two of the games. For all of the divisional round selections, keep scrolling.

And check out the “best bets” video accompanying this post, for our picks against the spread. With points factored in, we’re on the opposite side of three of the four games.

Last week, we picked the opposite side of one game, fueling my 3-0 performance and keeping MDS at 2-1.

Colts at Chiefs

MDS’s take: These may be the two hottest teams in the NFL right now. The Colts had a dominant all-around performance against the Texans, and that’s the way they’ve been playing for three months. The Chiefs have been the best offense in the league and one of the best offenses in NFL history all season. If this were in Indianapolis I’d take the Colts to win this game with their stout defense and balanced offense, but I just can’t pick against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 28, Colts 21.

Florio’s take: The Chiefs haven’t won a home playoff game since 1993. In fact, they’ve won as many playoff games at Arrowhead Stadium as the Colts have: Two. The problem, as evidenced by various big games lost by the Chiefs this year, is the defense. Can they keep Indy’s offense from not outscoring Patrick Mahomes? That’s where the game will be won or lost. This one could go either way, but I’ll say it will be won by the Chiefs, barely.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Colts 27.

Cowboys at Rams

MDS’s take: The Rams’ biggest weakness is their run defense, so I see Ezekiel Elliott having a big game. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, that’s the only area where I anticipate them having an advantage over the Rams. Elliott probably gets off to a hot start, but after the Rams put some points on the board and the Cowboys are playing from behind, Dallas will be forced to pass, and Aaron Donald will make it a long night for Dak Prescott.

MDS’s pick: Rams 31, Cowboys 21.

Florio’s take: In most Dallas games, it becomes obvious whether the Cowboys will win within the first half of the first quarter. This week, it quickly will become evident that their approach is working against a Rams defense that will have its hands full with one of the best offensive lines in football, and against a Rams offense that isn’t as good as it was before Jared Goff‘s skills regressed and Todd Gurley‘s knee became swollen. In their home away from home, Dallas gets its first road playoff win in 26 years.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 17, Rams 13.

Chargers at Patriots

MDS’s take: I actually think the Chargers are a better top-to-bottom team than the Patriots right now. But the Chargers’ disadvantages are having to play against the Ravens while the Patriots were resting, two long cross-country flights, and an early kickoff. The Patriots’ playoff experience can’t hurt, and the Chargers are going to have to radically change their defensive approach this week against Tom Brady from the way they played last week against Lamar Jackson. The Patriots will pull out a close win.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Chargers 23.

Florio’s take: Something’s got to give. The Chargers are 9-0 away from L.A., the Patriots are unbeaten at home, and Tom Brady has never lost to Philip Rivers. Playoff experience becomes the difference for a New England team that was left for dead not long ago.

Florio’s take: Patriots 24, Chargers 17.

Eagles at Saints

MDS’s take: When these teams met in the regular season, the Saints won in a 48-7 beatdown. That was the second-biggest margin of victory in the NFL during the 2018 season, second only to the Ravens destroying the Nathan Peterman-led Bills in Week One. If Nick Foles can lead the Eagles to a win over the Saints after the same opponent dominated Carson Wentz in the regular season, it’s going to lead to increased calls to make Foles, not Wentz, the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. Fortunately for the Saints (and for Wentz), I don’t see that happening. Drew Brees should have a big day against the Eagles’ defense, and although the Saints aren’t going to win by 41 again, they should win by a healthy margin.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Eagles 17.

Florio’s take: Few believed the Eagles could beat the Bears in Chicago. (I did.) Fewer believe the Eagles can beat the Saints in New Orleans. I do. Coupling the bye week with a lackluster Week 17 game against the Panthers, and it will have been a long time since the Saints played a meaningful game. The Eagles have been playing meaningful games week after week after week. The road team has improved greatly since losing 48-7 in the Superdome, and the Saints peaked during round one. So push the chips into the middle of the table, hope the Eagles keep it close, count on a little magic late in the game, and prepare for the biggest debate of the offseason regarding whether the Eagles should keep Nick Foles or Carson Wentz.

Florio’s pick: Eagles 20, Saints 17.

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