NFL Playoff Picture 2019: AFC, NFC Brackets, Odds, Scenarios and Picks

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2019

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 30: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots makes a pass during the game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After two weeks away from the gridiron, the four best teams in the NFL enter the postseason in the divisional round.

The Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams all made cases to be the favorite to win the Super Bowl during the regular season, but now they have to prove why all the chatter was warranted.

Winning won't be easy for the quartet of teams that earned first-round byes since their competition comes into Saturday and Sunday's games with plenty of confidence and momentum.

Kansas City takes on an Indianapolis Colts team it has struggled with in the postseason before, while the Rams face a dangerous Dallas Cowboys outfit.

The Patriots are opposed by the Los Angeles Chargers, who could have been the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and the Saints go up against Nick Foles and whatever magic the Philadelphia Eagles can conjure up in their bid to repeat as Super Bowl champion.

                        

Postseason Bracket

                

Divisional Round Schedule and Odds

All Times ET. Picks against the spread in bold.

Saturday, January 12

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

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

             

Sunday, January 13

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

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

Odds according to OddsShark.

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

                    

Scenarios

If Kansas City and New Orleans earn victories in the divisional round, Arrowhead Stadium and the Superdome will respectively play host to the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

If the Chiefs falter Saturday against the Colts, Indianapolis would visit the winner of Sunday's AFC game between the Chargers and the Patriots.

Over in the NFC, a Philadelphia win over the Saints would allow the victor of Saturday night's clash between Dallas and the Los Angeles Rams to host the NFC Championship Game.

                       

Picks

New England 31, Los Angeles Chargers 16

It's hard not to trust Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at this time of year.

Even though the Patriots might not be an unstoppable machine like they have been in previous seasons, they still carry the most postseason experience of any franchise left in the divisional round.

Brady is 12-2 in his career at this stage of the postseason, and he hasn't lost on the second weekend of the postseason since 2011, when the New York Jets won 28-21 at Gillette Stadium.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 30: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots runs off the field after a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Since that defeat, Brady's reeled off divisional-round victories against the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans.

On the other end of the matchup, Philip Rivers is 1-5 in his career against the Patriots, and he's 1-4 in the divisional round. The lone victory came against Indianapolis in 2007.

The good news for Rivers is Sunday is his best opportunity yet to take down the mighty Patriots, but his team has to produce an all-around perfect performance to move on to the AFC Championship Game.

With Melvin Gordon, who had his practice time limited by a knee injury, per the team's official website, still banged up, Rivers will be forced to shoulder the load in the Chargers offense, which is something the Patriots will pick up on right away.

The Patriots will be able to force a few stops in the first half, which allows Brady to storm down the field and put points on the board.

While Brady should be the center of attention, the Patriots are expected to rely on Sony Michel and James White to set a steady pace in the ground game as well.

In four of their last six regular-season games, the Patriots ran for more than 100 yards as a team, and they will hit triple digits again Sunday versus the ninth-best rushing defense in the NFL.

By establishing a consistent rushing attack to complement Brady and putting pressure on Rivers, the Patriots seal the victory before the start of the fourth quarter.

                   

Cowboys 21, Rams 16

To the dismay of many, the Dallas Cowboys will march on to the NFC Championship Game with a win over the Rams on Saturday night.

Ezekiel Elliott's production will be the main reason why Jason Garrett's team leaves the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with a victory.

Elliott is coming off a 137-yard outing against the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card Round, and he will produce similar numbers against the Rams' 23rd-ranked rushing defense.

While Elliott receives the majority of the spotlight for his ninth 100-yard performance of the season, Dak Prescott will get credit for pushing the Cowboys on to the NFC Championship Game as well.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JANUARY 05: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys fights off Shaquill Griffin #26 of the Seattle Seahawks on a run in the fourth quarter during the Wild Card Round at AT&T Stadium on January 05, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by T
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Prescott won't put up eye-popping numbers, but he will be able to make a few key throws to keep drives alive, and he will produce a touchdown pass in a red-zone situation.

The Mississippi State product will also find a way to help the Cowboys with his legs to keep a drive or two alive against a Rams defense that rushes past him in an attempt to record a sack.

Dallas' defense also shines Saturday, as its fifth-best rushing defense silences the impact of Todd Gurley and forces Jared Goff to try to beat it through the air.

With Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith clogging up the middle of the field, Goff will be forced to throw more deep passes than he wants, and with not all of them completed to his wide receivers, the Rams have to settle for punts at the end of a few drives.

As Goff continues to press to make an impact play through the air, the Cowboys come up with a late interception that finishes off the contest.

Once the ball gets into Elliott's hands for the final time in the fourth quarter, the Rams won't be able to stop him, and Sean McVay's team suffers heartbreak at home in the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

                         

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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