NFL Playoff Bracket 2019: TV Schedule, Live-Stream Guide and Final Picks

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2019

FOXBOROUGH, MA - DECEMBER 23:  James White #28 of the New England Patriots rushes for a 27-yard touchdown during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The final two participants of the NFL's championship weekend will be determined by Sunday's divisional-round games.

The two-game slate kicks off with the New England Patriots hosting the Los Angeles Chargers, with the winner headed to Arrowhead Stadium to play the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs. 

New Orleans can assure itself of a second home playoff game if it knocks off Philadelphia in Sunday's second contest.

If the Eagles continue their red-hot streak with Nick Foles at the helm, they'll ship out to Los Angeles to take on the Rams in a week's time. 

Although the conference championship matchups aren't set yet, we do know both games won't be played in the Los Angeles area, as the Chargers' lone chance of hosting a game next weekend went away with Indianapolis' defeat to Kansas City.

                              

Sunday Divisional-Round Schedule

All Times ET. 

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

Philadelphia at New Orleans (4:40 p.m., Fox, Fox Sports Go) 

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

                    

Picks

New England 31, Los Angeles 16

Tom Brady is 12-2 in the divisional round, and the Patriots haven't slipped up at this stage since 2011. 

Philip Rivers is 1-5 in his career against the Patriots, and he has a 1-4 record in the divisional round. 

Those numbers immediately lead you to believe that the Patriots will easily handle the Chargers at Gillette Stadium. 

But there are plenty more reasons why the Patriots will end up in their eighth consecutive AFC Championship Game in Kansas City in a week's time. 

New England's rushing defense will enjoy success against a Chargers backfield that isn't at full strength with Melvin Gordon dealing with a knee injury. Gordon was a limited participant in practice this week, per the team's official injury report.

During the regular season, the Patriots put together the 11th-ranked rushing defense, and they conceded the second-fewest rushing touchdowns in the NFL with seven.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 30: Trey Flowers #98 of the New England Patriots reacts during the third quarter of a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty I
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Kyle Van Noy combined for 30 quarterback hits, 14 tackles for loss and 11 sacks over 16 games. 

While it will be important for New England's top defenders to put pressure on Rivers, the biggest difference they'll make is silencing the Chargers running backs. 

By doing so, the Patriots force the Chargers into a few difficult third-down situations in which the pass rush can take over and make the visitors punt. 

Offensively, Brady should be able to spread the ball around to a wide array of wide receivers, and he might even get a decent game out of tight end Rob Gronkowski.

However, the true difference-makers in the Patriots offense will be running backs James White and Sony Michel, who have formed a dynamic one-two punch behind Brady in the backfield. 

In each of their last four victories, the Patriots eclipsed triple digits in rushing yards and they recorded a season high of 273 in Week 16's win over Buffalo.

Although Los Angeles possesses the ninth-best rushing defense in the NFL, the Patriots find holes in the Chargers game plan by pounding the ball between the trenches early and then opening up the passing game with White and Rex Burkhead acting as short-yardage safety valves for Brady.

Once Brady and the offense develop a rhythm, the Chargers will have a hard time stopping the AFC East champion, while Rivers experiences difficulty coming from behind with the Patriots continuing to impose their will in the backfield.

                                

New Orleans 34, Philadelphia 24

Sunday's game at the Superdome won't be a repeat of Saints' Week 11 blowout, but some of the elements that helped Sean Payton's team win against the Eagles the first time around will be on display. 

Philadelphia comes into Sunday's divisional-round clash with the 30th-ranked passing defense, which is not a good sign with Drew Brees lining up across from it.

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 17:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints throws a pass against the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 17, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lec
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Just like Brady, Brees has a nice collection of offensive weapons to attack the opposing defense with, and he'll use as many as of them as he can Sunday to break away from the defending Super Bowl champion.

In the 48-7 win on November 18, Tre'Quan Smith launched himself into a starring role by hauling in 10 catches for 157 yards, while Michael Thomas came close to the century mark with 92 receiving yards. 

In total, Brees connected with seven players in his first meeting with the Eagles, but that number will grow Sunday as he gets his running backs more involved in the passing game. 

In an attempt to keep the Eagles front seven off balance, Brees utilizes Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram on short passes right away to force Jim Schwartz's defense to respect those plays and ease off the pressure it wants to get on the quarterback. 

The production out of the Saints offense forces the Eagles to keep up with it drive-by-drive, and that won't be able to happen since Nick Foles is prone to turnovers. 

Foles has thrown an interception in four straight games, including the two times he was picked off by the Chicago Bears in the NFC Wild Card Round. 

In past games, the Eagles have been able to stop Foles' interceptions from affecting them with key defensive plays, but that won't be the case against Brees and the Saints. 

Foles will make sure the game stays interesting, as he engineers a few second-half scoring drives, but he won't have enough to overcome the mistakes made early in the contest. 

                            

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.

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