X

NFL Playoff Picture 2019: Updated Scenarios and Bracket Before Divisional Round

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2019

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) andLos Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) speak at midfield after an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne/Associated Press

Eight teams still have a pulse in the 2018-19 NFL playoffs.

Survive this weekend, and they'll have a spot in the conference championships, too. One win after that, and somebody is scoring some sweet Super Bowl LIII tickets.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There are several weekends remaining before a champion is crowned, and as the wild-card contests just showed us, anything is possible in football's second season.

After laying out the lineup for Divisional Round Weekend, we'll take a closer look at all four contests.

                

Divisional Round Schedule

All times ET

Saturday, January 12

No. 6 Indianapolis Colts at No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (4:35 p.m., NBC) 

No. 4 Dallas Cowboys at No. 2 Los Angeles Rams (8:15 p.m., Fox) 

             

Sunday, January 13

No. 5 Los Angeles Chargers at No. 2 New England Patriots (1:05 p.m., CBS) 

No. 6 Philadelphia Eagles at No. 1 New Orleans Saints (4:40 p.m., Fox) 

In addition to the broadcast networks, all playoff games can be viewed on FuboTV.

                 

Colts at Chiefs

Indy is too hot to touch with its 21-7 upset of the Houston Texans making it 10 wins to show for the team's last 10 games. The Andrew Luck-T.Y. Hilton connection is about as potent as any, and it's more properly supported than ever thanks to the likes of Marlon Mack, Eric Ebron and even Dontrelle Inman.

But the Colts can only hope that's enough to keep pace with the explosive Chiefs. They have matchup nightmares at three different spots: quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. If that's not unfair enough, Sammy Watkins (foot) could potentially return to action, too.

Indy needs two things to happen to stay alive.

For starters, the offensive line must ace this assignment. The Colts allowed the fewest sacks, while the Chiefs tied for the most recorded. Secondly, Indy must use Mack's relentless running and Luck's quick decision-making to win the time of possession battle by a healthy margin. While Kansas City can score at a rapid rate, this offense is powerless from the sideline.

            

Cowboys at Rams

While Dak Prescott emerged the talk of the town after Dallas' wild-card win, the real difference-makers were involved in the running game. We should all be buzzing more about Ezekiel Elliott, who followed his second rushing title in three seasons with 26 carries for 137 yards and a score. And since we're talking about rushing, let's shout out the Dallas defense for allowing just 73 yards on 24 carries.

Yet when focusing on the next matchup, attention again shifts to the quarterback spot. It's not that we're taking the rushing production for granted; it's that we know that effort isn't always enough if Prescott is off his game.

That's particularly true against the Rams, who trailed only the Chiefs in scoring with 32.9 points per game. Plus, if Elliott has a running back rival in this league, it's probably Todd Gurley. Assuming both backs look like themselves, this probably comes down to the passers and puts all eyes on both Prescott and Jared Goff.

            

Chargers at Patriots

Seeing what Bill Belichick cooks up over an empty weekend is always worth the price of admission. Tack on the marquee matchup of Tom Brady vs. Philip Rivers, and this looks like the kind of contest worth breaking down doors to enter.

The Chargers are rolling into New England. Los Angeles has only lost twice since September, and it just avenged one of those defeats with a 23-17 triumph over the Baltimore Ravens in the opening round. While the Patriots are usually masters of taking away an opponent's top option, the best version of the Chargers boasts multiple big-play threats in both the backfield and the receiver spots.

The Patriots are...well, the Patriots. It wasn't always the smoothest season, but here they are hosting a playoff game in the second weekend of January. Tom Brady remains an elite passer at 41 years young, and he's surrounded by two dynamic backs in James White and Sony Michel. When New England gets its ground game going, this club is awfully hard to beat.

            

Eagles at Saints

It took a little time, but the playoff switch flipped for Nick Foles, so maybe the Eagles will never look back. The biggest underdogs of Wild Card Weekend escaped with a 16-15 upset of the Chicago Bears, and they'll hope Foles has more miracles in the tank as they try to stop the NFC's No. 1 seed.

The Saints can win games so many different ways. Drew Brees is the most likely candidate to steer them to success—especially indoors—but he's not the only elite in this offense. Michael Thomas catches seemingly every ball headed his way, and the Alvin Kamara-Mark Ingram tandem might be football's most dangerous two-headed monster.

If the Eagles want to make a game of this, they must find some semblance of offensive balance and an ability to pressure Brees without sending extra help. They might check off both boxes and discover it still isn't enough, but leaving either unfilled is a recipe for disaster.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.