Saturday NFL Divisional Playoff Previews


Okay, so exactly when is all this underdog madness in the NFL post-season gonna end ... or is it? Go back to the start of last year's playoffs when pups cranked out a 9-1-1 ATS (against the spread) record and include last weekend's Wild Cards and this is what you see: Underdogs are a collective 13-1-1 versus the vig (that's a .929 winning percentage) in the league's last 15 post-season games. Mama-mia!

Now, the NFL storms its way into the "best weekend of the season" - don't you wish you had a dime for every time you hear that this week! - with Four (4) Divisional Playoff games and the $64,000 question is whether or not the chalk sides (that's Kansas City, the Los Angeles Rams, New England and New Orleans) can break on through or whether we're gonna have another clean sweep for the doggies?  

INDIANAPOLIS (11-6) at KANSAS CITY (12-4) - 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC

Let it snow, let it snow ... let it snow? That's the immediate weather forecast for this tilt at Arrowhead Stadium and, who knows, maybe that'll help this here-and-now Chiefs team that is winless in four other playoff games against the Colts since the mid-1990s. Heck, the last time these clubs clashed in the playoffs the Chiefs blew a 38-10 lead en route to a 45-44 loss back in 2013 ... and that one was indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Note that this is the first time since the 1995 season that Kansas City is the AFC's #1 seed but there's major questions as to how the Chiefs were playing late - KC covered just once in its last seven regular-season games - and with weather a likely factor here who knows if kid QB Patrick Mahomes (5,097 yards passing with 50 TDs) will be jetting the AFC West team up and down the field with aerial strikes to TE Travis Kelce (103 receptions with 13 of 'em for 25+ yards) and speedy WR Tyreek Hill (87 receptions and 12 TDs).

Key for the Colts: Give QB Andrew Luck (4,593 yards passing / 39 TDs) his now customary time to set and throw and trust RB Marlon Mack (team-best 908 rushing yards) with a minimum of 25 touches here.

Spread Notes - Kansas City's just 1-5-1 ATS (against the spread) since early November but remember last year the Chiefs entered the post-season riding a four-game spread winning streak (and then got bopped by Tennessee in the Wild Card Round). Overall, KC is a rotten 1-4 vig-wise under 6th-year head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs are a rock-solid 8-4 ATS when playing fellow AFC teams this year. On the flip side, Indianapolis is 9-7-1 against the odds overall this year including last weekend's 21-7 AFC Wild Card win at 1.5-point favorite Houston. Note the Colts have covered six of their nine away games this season.

DALLAS (11-6) at LOS ANGELES RAMS (13-3) - 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC

Here's something worth mentioning right outta the starting gate: This year's Dallas Cowboys were underdogs of 7.5 points on three different occasions - and they won all three of these games in outright upset fashion (at Philadelphia, New Orleans and at the New York Giants).

Now, here's Jason Garrett's gang latching onto 7 or 7.5 points (depending on your locale) and the question looms ... can Dallas do it again and win the "whole game"? No question that last week's hang-on-for-dear-life playoff win against Seattle proved a coming-out party of sorts for QB Dak Prescott who hurdled his way into Cowboys' lore with that critical run for a first down near the goal line but Prescott (22 TDs / 8 INTs) may be under siege right from the start here with NFL Defensive Player of the Year lock DL Aaron Donald snooting around the Dallas backfield. Gotta believe that for the Cowboys to pull the surprise here, RB Ezekiel Elliott (1,434 yards rushing) may have to take it hard right at Donald and friends and chew yards / clock.

On the flip side, the Rams - the league's #2 overall offense while ranking in the top five in rushing and passing - can't afford the sloppiness connected with last year's dreadful 26-13 Wild Card Playoff loss versus 6-point dog Atlanta. So, LA slinger Jared Goff (4,688 yards passing / 32 TDs) must be on target from the start and those Rams special teams have to make some positive plays. Remember those punt return muffs against the Falcs?

Spread Notes - The Los Angeles Rams are a dead-even and vig-losing 7-7-2 ATS this season and that includes home favorite covers versus Arizona, the LA Chargers and San Francisco. The NFC West champs are 3-5-2 ATS against non-divisional foes this season but they do roll into this game off back-to-back covers. Dallas, meanwhile, is 9-7-1 ATS overall this year including last weekend's 24-22 non-cover win against 2.5-point pup Seattle in the NFL Wild Card round. The 'Boys do own a decent 14-9-1 ATS away record the past three seasons.