NFL Playoffs 2019: Schedule, Odds and Predictions for Sunday's Games

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2019

Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are squaring off in the AFC title game.
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes are squaring off in the AFC title game.Uncredited/Associated Press

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs answered quite a few questions in the divisional-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

While Mahomes had nothing do do with it, the Chiefs brought a 1-11 postseason record in their past 12 playoff games and 0-6 in home playoff games.

A 31-13 victory brought momentary relief from that heavy-duty burden, but the pressure will be thick and heavy Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots.

Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are set to contest their eighth straight AFC title game, and the Patriots are the AFC's perennial power.

It would seem New England should be more prepared to play in the conference title game than any other team in the NFL.

That does not mean that they are immune to nerves, but they know how to perform when the lights are brightest.

Brady said that the key to performing well is preparation. "I feel like the more I prepare, the less nervous I get because I can kind of expect how things are going to go a little bit more if I have a little more information on the team," he said, per Nora Princiotti and Christopher Gaspar of the Boston Globe. "So the more film I watch, the less nervous I get, and as soon as the ball's kicked off, there's not too many nerves."

The bigger problem for the Patriots is the game's location. Playing at Arrowhead Stadium means that he will be contending with a cacophony of noise, and that's an issue. But the bigger problem is simply playing on the road.

New England was 3-5 away from home this season, and they have also lost three straight AFC title games on the road.

Pro Football Focus @PFF

Patrick Mahomes was dominant from a clean pocket this season https://t.co/mLxQRQdbzB

Mahomes will certainly look to attack the New England defense, even if the weather is expected to hit a high of 21 degrees Fahrenheit, per the Weather Channel. While that's cold, the expectations at the start of the week were for far more brutal conditions.

Mahomes threw 50 TD passes this year, and he has two dangerous receivers in Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. 

If the Patriots are going to compete for 60 minutes, they are going to have to keep one of them from having a big game and keep the other from dominating.


AFC Championship: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

Date: Sunday, January 20, at 6:40 p.m. ET

TV and Streams: CBS, CBS All Access and fuboTV

Spread: Chiefs -3 (per OddsShark)


NFL Films @NFLFilms

.@drewbrees and the @Saints are LETHAL! 🔥🔥🔥 #MondayMotivation https://t.co/bjeH59d0Ke

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

The Los Angles Rams are not playing the Detroit Lions this Sunday, but they have to go into the lion's den and beat the New Orleans Saints on the road if they are going to the Super Bowl on the first Sunday in February.

The Saints dropped their season opener to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and also dropped a relatively meaningless game in the final week of the regular season to the Carolina Panthers. Between those games, Drew Brees led the Saints to 13 wins in 14 games.

One of those games was a 45-35 home win over the Rams.

Both the Saints and the Rams are capable of lighting up the scoreboard, but the Saints appear to be the more consistent team. One of the reasons for that is Brees is a more dangerous quarterback than the Rams' Jared Goff.

Sean McVay reads defenses and calls the plays for Goff, and Sean Payton takes on a similar role for the Saints. However, Brees is far more capable of reading a defense and adjusting out of a play to one that is far more appropriate.

Goff's adjustments are less frequent, and he clearly can't the have same know-how in his third season that Brees has in his 17th year.

Brees has completed 74.4 percent of his passes, and he has a 32-5 TD-interception ratio. He has one of the best big-play receivers in the NFL in Michael Thomas (125 receptions for 1,405 yards and nine TDs) and a game-changing running back in Alvin Kamara, who can take over a game with his running or receiving

Goff has completed 64.9 percent of his passes with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Running back Todd Gurley has rushed for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are a pair of outstanding receivers.


NBC Sports @NBCSports

When #NFL QB age was brought up, Tom Brady said he and Drew Brees are still plugging around and having fun https://t.co/Lj3V0JfpZG https://t.co/1KtZtChT6B


The Chiefs finally broke their playoff dry spell, but now they have a more pressure-packed assignment. They have never hosted an AFC title game, and they haven't been to the Super Bowl since 1970, when they represented the American Football League in a 23-7 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.

The Patriots will not be feeling sentimental here, and if they sense any nervousness in their opponents, they should be able to take advantage.

Even though the Chiefs are were the better regular-season team and the Patriots have struggled on the road, they are more prepared to play in a championship game and will find a way to outlast Kansas City and advance to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

The same should hold for the Saints. While the Rams are dangerous and explosive, the Saints are the more mature team with more expertise.

It's difficult to see Goff playing mistake-free football for 60 minutes. Brees and the Saints will win this game by at least seven points, setting up a Brady-Brees matchup in the title game.


NFC Championship: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

Date: Sunday, January 20, at 3:05 p.m. ET

TV and Streams: Fox, Fox Sports Go and fuboTV

Spread: Saints -3 (per OddsShark)


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