NFL Playoffs 2019: Updated Divisional Round Odds and Bracket Scenarios

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 9, 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

Philip Rivers has almost done it all over his 15-year NFL career.

The future Hall of Fame candidate has thrown for more than 54,000 yards and 374 touchdowns. He's been a Pro Bowler eight times and, at different times, a league-leader in yards, completions, touchdowns and quarterback rating.

What the 37-year-old hasn't done, though, is topple the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots. Rivers has had seven cracks at Brady's bunch and come up empty every time.

But opportunity will knock for an eighth time on Sunday when Rivers leads the Los Angeles Chargers into Foxborough as the strongest underdog of the Divisional Round Weekend. Will Rivers finally solve the Patriots puzzle? Or can Brady keep his club on top?

Keep reading and you'll find the odds (courtesy of OddsShark), particulars and some predictions for the second weekend of playoff action.

               

Divisional-Round Schedule

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All times ET

Saturday, January 12

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

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

              

Sunday, January 13

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

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

               

Updated Super Bowl Odds (via OddsShark)

New Orleans Saints: +225 (bet $100 to win $225)

Kansas City Chiefs: +400

Los Angeles Rams: +400

New England Patriots: +600

Los Angeles Chargers: +800

Indianapolis Colts: +1200

Philadelphia Eagles: +1200

Dallas Cowboys: +1800

                

Predictions

Rams 27, Cowboys 17

Uncredited/Associated Press

While quarterbacks will dominate the preview coverage—and may determine the outcome of this game—it's tough to discuss these teams without starting with their All-Pro running backs.

Ezekiel Elliott is incredible. He's played three NFL seasons and owns two rushing titles, the latest being this year's 1,434-yard masterpiece. An ideal blend of power and speed, the 23-year-old also took on a bigger share of the receiving and posted personal bests with 77 receptions, 567 yards and three touchdowns.

"He's got the ability to go through you or go around you with speed," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "He's gotten a lot more involved in the passing game this year. I think he's truly a complete back and you could see that a lot of what they do is predicated on just him getting a bunch of touches."

You could basically copy and paste all of the above and apply it to Todd Gurley, too. The first team All-Pro produced 1,831 scrimmage yards and 21 total touchdowns, and that was with him sitting out his club's last two regular-season contests.

"He has everything you want in a running back," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He's quick, he's fast, he's explosive, he's strong, has great instincts for the game, great feel for the game, outstanding vision. ... He's just a fantastic player."

Elliott vs. Gurley should be captivating to watch. But if the two elites cancel each other out, this matchup will be decided by something else.

And that gets us back to the quarterbacks. (It always comes back to the quarterbacks, doesn't it?)

Jared Goff and Dak Prescott were 2016 draft classmates, although the former went 134 spots ahead of the latter. While Prescott popped first on the NFL scene, he's struggled to replicate his success over the past two seasons. For Goff, it's the opposite. He was barely playable as a rookie and has been a Pro Bowler ever since.

Goff has become the better passer by volume and efficiency. He has more weapons around him, led by fellow 1,200-yard receivers Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. Oh, and Goff won't have to deal Aaron Donald, which might be the biggest advantage of all.

                

Chargers 31, Patriots 27

Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

This feels a bit like a now-or-never moment for Rivers.

Even though he's heading out on the road as the lower seed, it seems he's on the better team here. The Chargers have been basically unbeatable since the end of September, winning 12 of their last 14 games including Sunday's mostly comfortable 23-17 road win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Rivers has plenty to do with that success. His 105.5 quarterback rating matched his previous personal best. His 68.3 completion percentage was the second-highest of his career. His 32 touchdown passes tied for his third-highest total, and his 13 giveaways were his fewest since 2013.

"He's a great leader," Brady said. "He's a great passer of the football. ... He's got really a great group of skill players—backs, tight ends, receivers. They're playing as well as any offense that's played all season. He's having an incredible year."

As Brady said, there's more to this Chargers offense than elite quarterback play.

Both Melvin Ingram and Austin Ekeler can punish defenses as rushers or receivers. Keenan Allen continues to establish himself as a premier No. 1 pass-catcher. Mike Williams seemingly catches everything in his zip code and can be a nightmare matchup in the red zone. Antonio Gates is old reliable at tight end, and a possibly healthy Hunter Henry could add another weapon to this aerial arsenal.

Brady, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have the loaded supporting cast he's used to.

Running backs Sony Michel and James White have had their moments, but they've been inconsistent. Rob Gronkowski never really found a rhythm, reaching 100 receiving yards just twice the entire season. The team is missing a deep threat without Josh Gordon, and that's making it harder for Julian Edelman to find open space.

This is still Brady and Bill Belichick at home in January, so maybe it's foolish to doubt this wildly successful tandem. But if there was ever a time for Rivers to knock them off, this feels like it.