NFL Playoffs 2019: Early Odds and Predictions for Divisional-Round Bracket

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2019

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 06:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks to pass during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on January 06, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Eagles defeated the Bears 16-15. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Football underdogs are on fire.

Three of them scored outright upsets during the 2019 version of Wild Card Weekend, and the one that didn't still covered the spread (Seattle, plus-2.5). The football gods even extended this trend to the college game, where Clemson, a five-point dog, delivered a 28-point knockout of Alabama in Monday's national championship.

Will road teams continue riding this wave through the divisional round? Or will the better-rested, home-based favorites start to look the part?

After running through the latest lines, courtesy of OddsShark, we'll answer those questions with brief predictions for every contest.

                 

Divisional-Round Schedule and Odds

Saturday, January 12

Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5), 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (-7), 8:15 p.m. ET on Fox

                       

Sunday, January 13

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (-4), 1:05 p.m. ET on CBS

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (-8), 4:40 p.m. ET on Fox

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

                 

Playoff Bracket

                  

Divisional-Round Predictions

Chiefs 34, Colts 30

Indianapolis has the look of a team that could topple anyone. Saturday's 21-7 triumph over the Houston Texans was the Colts' 10th win in 11 tries. The defense has held three of its last six opponents to single digits and five of them to 21 points or less. The offense can follow the lead of four different players: usually Andrew Luck, but also Marlon Mack, T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron.

But Kansas City is a different test than anything Indy faced down the stretch. The Chiefs cruise at speeds the Colts rarely ever hit. Kansas City averaged an NFL-best 35.3 points per game; Indy only reached 35 points three times all season.

This feels like too much Patrick Mahomes, too much Travis Kelce and too much Tyreek Hill for the Colts to keep up.

                 

Rams 27, Cowboys 17

We get that games aren't played on paper. But that doesn't mean serious statistical advantages should be thrown out the window, either.

Some will see upset potential here with the Cowboys presumably peaking at the right time (8-2 since November) and the Rams wobbling a bit down the stretch (3-2 in December). Here's why we don't—L.A.'s plus-143 point differential was third-best in the entire league; Dallas' plus-15 mark was worst among all playoff teams and two that didn't make the final cut.

The Cowboys win with defense, but they don't have a dominant force like Aaron Donald. They overwhelm with rushing, but this will be one of the few times Ezekiel Elliott doesn't have an obvious advantage over his counterpart. If Jared Goff and this passing game get on track, they could breeze past Dak Prescott and Co.

                

Chargers 31, Patriots 27

History says New England should be the pick. A bye for the Patriots usually means a Super Bowl trip is imminent, and Philip Rivers is winless against Tom Brady. But if New England could have hand-picked its divisional-round opponent, Los Angeles might have been its last choice.

"Of the possible draws for the Patriots in this field, I think the Chargers are the worst matchup," CBS Sports' Will Brinson wrote. "They play great defense, can be versatile with how they use defenders...and have stud pass-rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram."

Considering the two receiving groups, New England might not have an advantage in the passing game. L.A. has the pass-rushers to get to Brady without sending extra help (maybe the only successful formula for beating this team in the playoffs) and the ball-carriers to exploit a New England defense that ranked 29th with 4.9 yards allowed per rushing attempt.

             

Saints 31, Eagles 20

Other than the maybe-real, maybe-not Nick Foles' magic, what could lead anyone to pick the Eagles?

Foles' playoff record aside, he's still a backup quarterback. His counterpart in this matchup, Drew Brees, is a Hall of Fame-bound former Super Bowl MVP. Brees also has a top-10 rushing attack supporting him; Philly's offense has been one-dimensional all season. The Saints have been breathing easy for the last two weeks; the Eagles just sweated out a one-point victory clinched only by a blocked field goal.

New Orleans is more rested, better balanced and playing in a place where it's almost unbeatable. This is the weekend's heaviest favorite for a reason.

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