Sunday NFL Divisional Playoff Previews
The weather outside could be frightening in Foxboro on this Sunday afternoon; it'll be room temperature warm inside the dome in New Orleans. The $64,000 question is will either - or both - visiting teams come into these rather hostile environments and play the survive-and-advance game? Ahh, that's what everyone wants to know on the NFL Sunday:
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (13-4) at NEW ENGLAND (11-5) - 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Sure, everyone is well aware that 37-year-old Chargers QB Philip Rivers is 0-7 SU (straight-up) in his career against a Tom Brady-led Patriots team … and it's also a well-known fact that New England is 6-1 SU and 6-1 ATS (against the spread) when playing in its first playoff game of a season.
So, will all of this stuff get into the heads of the rampaging Chargers who have won 12 of their last 14 games this year (while going a hearty 9-5 spreadwise in these tilts)? The west coast club claims that's all ancient history - the Rivers vs. Brady record, et al. - but you do get the feeling that the former inhabitants of San Diego must put their best foot forward here with another strong start (see last week's win in Baltimore) and RB Melvin Gordon must upgrade last week's shabby stats of 17 carries for 40 yards rushing.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have been listening to "the world" all week long claim that their 20-year run of great football is fast coming to an end while pointing to Brady's modest total of 29 TDs with 11 INTs this year as evidence he's slipping - but if the five-time Super Bowl champ doesn't get pressured in the "A" gaps here by Chargers' pass rushers Melvin Ingram II and Joey Bosa, he'll be a real handful to beat here.
Spread Notes - The Los Angeles Chargers enter this second weekend of post-season action with a 10-7 ATS log on the year and that features four different outright upset wins (against Seattle, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and last weekend's wild card win in Baltimore). Overall, the Bolts have covered eight of their last 10 games when placed in the underdog role under second-year head coach Anthony Lynn. On the flip side, New England's 9-7 versus the vig overall this year and so that makes the Patriots a collective 194-138-9 ATS under 19th-year boss-man Bill Belichick (a superb .584 winning rate). Did you know the Pats are 23-11-2 ATS when playing non-divisional opponents since the start of the 2016 season?
PHILADELPHIA (10-7) at NEW ORLEANS (13-3) - 4:40 p.m. ET, Fox
It's one of those made-for-Hollywood scripts here: Does the NFC favorite to get to Super Bowl LIII three weeks from now have the firepower to snuff out the defending champions once and for all … or is this Philadelphia Eagles' squad gonna ride some more magic momentum through this playoff round one mo' time?
Gotta believe that the Eagles are brimming with confidence following last week's hang-on-for-dear-life 16-15 win at 6.5-point fav Chicago even though it took that double-doink FG miss by new celebrity (gimme a break!) Cody Parkey to get mission accomplished and somewhat lost amidst that great go-ahead drive engineered by QB Nick Foles was the fact Philly sported seven different players that snagged two-or-more receptions including the born-again WR Alshon Jeffery (6 catches for 82 yards against his old Bears club).
Foles may have to be uber-accurate here against a Saints' secondary that's been known to run hot-and-cold just to keep Doug Pederson's squad in the hunt while N'Orleans slinger Drew Brees (32 TDs / 5 INTs) has a little something to prove after his numero uno seed staggered a bit offensively down the stretch. Looking for an X-factor type from the Saints? Speedy WR Ted Ginn could be a field-flipper here should Brees dial 'em up on those "9 routes" (as in long distance).
Spread Notes - New Orleans boasted a nine-game ATS winning streak this season beginning back in Week 3 play yet only finished regular-season play with a 10-6 pointspread mark overall. The Saints - who are a decent 5-3-1 ATS in post-season play under head coach Sean Payton -- own an underwhelming 5-6 spread mark this year when laying 6-or-more points in a game. Conversely, Philadelphia has covered 10 of its last 14 games when placed in the underdog role (dates back to late 2016) but the defending champs have failed to cover seven of its 10 non-NFC East affairs this year.