NFL Playoffs 2019: Schedule, Odds and Predictions for Saturday Divisional Games

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Head coach Sean McVay and Sean Mannion #14 talk to Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams during a game with the Seattle Seahawks  at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. The Rams won 36-31. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
John McCoy/Getty Images

After a wild week off the field in the NFL, complete with a slew of new head coaches and plenty of drama coming out of Pittsburgh, the spotlight finally gets turned back on to the field.

Four games are on the docket in the divisional round of the playoffs, as the bracket will be whittled down to four teams by Sunday night.

There is the potential for fireworks, as the four highest-scoring teams in the league are hosting the games. With high-powered offenses and home-field advantage, each of those teams is favored by at least four points.

                           

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

Odds per OddsSharkAll times ET.

Where to Watch: NFL playoff games, studio shows and more are available through fuboTV

                

Colts at Chiefs

The divisional round of the playoffs kicks off with what could be the highest-scoring game of the postseason between the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs. According to OddsShark, this matchup has the highest over/under of the divisional round, set at 57 points.

One of the reasons this game has shootout potential is each squad's efficiency in the red zone:

Further influencing the potential for points is the fact that the Chiefs defense struggles in the red zone. According to ESPN's NFL Matchup, the unit is the worst out of the remaining playoff teams in terms of red-zone defense.

The challenge for the Colts will be finding a way to slow down quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has excelled against all types of defense this year.

Unfortunately for Indianapolis' defensive coordinator, Matt Eberflus, who runs a zone at a high rate, Mahomes has been among the best at picking apart zone coverage this season:

However, while Mahomes excels against zone coverage, perhaps no one in the league is better at disguising their coverage than the Colts.

Under Eberflus' guidance, the Indianapolis defense has been one of the standout units in the league, running a high percentage of zone coverage but keeping quarterbacks confused because of some unexpected pre-snap looks.

Mahomes is a gambler—that's part of what makes him great—but against a defense prone to confusing quarterbacks, he is likely to commit a few costly errors in this game.

It may not be enough for Indy to pull off the upset, but if the Colts defense can force a turnover or two, it should keep this game close.

Prediction: Chiefs 31, Colts 28

            

Cowboys at Rams

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 05: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter during the Wild Card Round at AT&T Stadium on January 05, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

As one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league, it's easy to understand why the Los Angeles Rams would be favored by a touchdown over the Dallas Cowboys. If the Rams can turn this game into a shootout, it may be difficult for Dallas to keep up.

However, there are some signs that the inconsistent Cowboys offense may be able to put points on the board against Los Angeles.

The Rams defense causes issues for opposing quarterbacks, in large part due to Aaron Donald's ability to generate pressure up the middle. To counter Donald's penetration, opposing quarterbacks need to be effective rolling outside the pocket—an area in which Dak Prescott excels.

According to Nate Weller of Sports Info Solutions, Prescott is better outside the pocket than when he stays in, based on his Independent Quarterback Rating.

Some of the more mobile quarterbacks the Rams have faced, such as Seattle's Russell Wilson and Kansas City's Mahomes, have had success throwing against their defense.

Mahomes threw for 478 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions against the Rams this season, while Wilson accounted for six touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his two games against Los Angeles.

Despite the success of Mahomes and Wilson, the Rams ended up victorious in each of those games. So while Prescott may have the skill set to keep this one close, the Rams are still a good bet to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Rams 31, Cowboys 27

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