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#417885 - 01/04/19 10:25 AM Playoffs
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Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans


The Houston Texans may have saved their season with an overtime win at Indianapolis in Week 4, but the Colts may have done the same by beating their AFC South rivals 10 weeks later to keep their playoff chances alive. The stakes will be considerably higher Saturday when the teams square off for the third time this season in the AFC wild card round in Houston.

"You know them well, and they know you well. You gotta fight to find ways to make slight changes, but don't go crazy," Indianapolis coach Frank Reich said. "You gotta avoid the mistake of, 'We gotta be drastically different just because they know us.'" The Texans prevented an 0-4 start to the season by outlasting the Colts 37-34 on Sept. 30 (as the Texans were -1 point favorite at intertops), a victory that spurred a nine-game winning streak and a worst-to-first finish in the division. Indianapolis avenged that defeat and ended Houston's nine-game run with a 24-21 road victory on Dec. 9 to ignite a season-closing four-game winning streak that locked up the No. 6 seed and a third meeting with the Texans. "Only 12 teams make it and you're bound to play somebody that you've already played. It's just the way it is," Houston coach Bill O'Brien said. "It is what it is. We know there are certain things that they're going to do."

TV: 4:35 p.m. ET, ABC, ESPN. LINE: Texans -1.5 O/U: 48.5

ABOUT THE COLTS (10-6): Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season due to recurring soreness following shoulder surgery, but finished with 4,593 yards and 39 touchdown passes while guiding Indianapolis to nine wins over its final 10 games. His favorite target is wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who has been battling an ankle injury but still has his fifth 1,000-yard season (1,270) and burned the Texans for nine catches and 199 yards in Week 14. Tight end Eric Ebron had a career-best 13 touchdown catches, including one in each matchup versus Houston, while Marlon Mack rushed for nine touchdowns and had four 100-yard outings in his last 10 games. Rookie Darius Leonard, the league leader with 163 tackles, heads a defense that did not allow 30 points over the final 10 games after surrendering at least 34 points in four of the first six contests.

ABOUT THE TEXANS (11-5): Second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had his rookie season derailed by a torn ACL in his knee and dealt with a partially collapsed lung earlier this year, threw for eight touchdowns and zero interceptions and rushed for four more scores over the final six games. DeAndre Hopkins had another monster season with 115 catches for 1,572 yards and 11 scores, finishing the season with 31 receptions and three straight 100-yard games after he was held to four catches and 36 yards by Indianapolis. A late-season ankle injury cost running back Lamar Miller a shot at 1,000 yards but he managed only 82 yards and a TD on 28 carries in both games against the Colts. J.J. Watt returned from two injury-plagued seasons to rack up 16 sacks for a defense that ranked third against the run (82.7 yards) but was vulnerable to the pass (260.4).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Luck has passed for 2,776 yards and 23 touchdowns in 10 career games versus Houston.

2. Watson is the first QB in league history to throw for at least 4,000 yards and 25 TDs and rush for at least 500 yards and five TDs.

3. Hilton has 41 catches for 933 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games at NRG Stadium.

PREDICTION: Colts 26, Texans 23
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#417886 - 01/04/19 10:26 AM Re: Playoffs [Re: FREAK]
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Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys


Ezekiel Elliott was a busy man this season, as the Pro Bowl running back recorded a league-high 1,434 rushing yards and team-best 77 receptions to help the Dallas Cowboys punch their ticket to the playoffs for the third time in five years. After sitting out the regular-season finale, a well-rested Elliott is expected to carry the mail on Saturday as the fourth-seeded Cowboys host the fifth-seeded Seattle Seahawks in an NFC wild-card game.

"Just knowing that we're going into these playoffs, I'm going to have the highest workload I probably had all season," said Elliott, who rushed for 127 yards in Dallas' 24-13 loss to Seattle on Sept. 23 (as the Cowboys were +2 point underdog at intertops). Dak Prescott (career-high 3,885 yards), who was intercepted twice and threw for just 168 yards in that contest, tossed a 32-yard scoring strike to Cole Beasley to cap a season-high four-touchdown performance in the waning moments of Sunday's 36-35 win over the New York Giants. While the Cowboys boast a 7-1 mark at AT&T Stadium and won seven of their last eight games overall, the Seahawks emerged victorious in six of their last seven contests to reach 10 wins and a playoff berth for the sixth time in Russell Wilson's seven seasons with the club. Wilson, who threw two of his NFL third-best 35 touchdown passes in Seattle's win over Dallas in Week 3, is just 3-3 with 11 TDs and 10 interceptions in his last six postseason starts (3-3).

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Cowboys -1.5 O/U: 43

ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (10-6): Chris Carson (team-best 1,151 rushing yards) had a season-high 32 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown against Dallas, a performance that set the tone for what would become Seattle's top-ranked rushing offense (160.0 yards per game). "(The coaches) were talking about it the whole time of running the ball more and being a run team," the 24-year-old Carson said. "They finally started getting it going against the Cowboys and it's taken off ever since." Carson rushed for a career-best 122 yards and a score in Sunday's 27-24 triumph over Arizona, although he'll face a Dallas rush defense that has surrendered a league fifth-best 94.6 yards per contest. Tyler Lockett, who found the end zone in the encounter with the Cowboys, set career highs in receptions (57), receiving yards (965) and touchdown receptions (10) this season.

ABOUT THE COWBOYS (10-6): Amari Cooper has endeared himself to his new team by collecting 35 receptions for 551 yards and six touchdowns in five home games with Dallas since being acquired from Oakland. The 24-year-old Cooper led the Cowboys with 725 receiving yards despite appearing in just nine games, with Beasley (672) sitting close behind after his 94-yard effort versus the Giants nearly eclipsed the sum total (124) of his previous five contests. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence capped his second straight Pro Bowl season by recording one of his team-best 10.5 sacks in each of the last two games. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch registered 10 of his rookie franchise-record 140 tackles in the previous encounter with the Seahawks.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Seattle Pro Bowl LB Bobby Wagner had eight of his club-high 138 tackles against Dallas in Week 3.

2. Pro Bowl CB Byron Jones had two of his team-best 14 pass deflections for the Cowboys in the previous meeting with the Seahawks.

3. Seattle recorded a league-best plus-15 turnover differential this season.

PREDICTION: Cowboys 21, Seahawks 20
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#417887 - 01/04/19 10:27 AM Re: Playoffs [Re: FREAK]
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Los Angeles Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens

The Los Angeles Chargers finished tied with the best record in the AFC but one loss over the final six games cost them a chance at the No. 1 overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Instead, the Chargers have to open the postseason on the road and will get a chance to avenge a Week 16 defeat when they visit the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Although Los Angeles lost 22-10 -- a deceptive margin after a late fumble was returned for a score -- in the first matchup versus the Ravens, it will take a 7-1 road mark into the rematch in Baltimore. "We love coming into your place -- whichever team you may be -- and doing our thing," Chargers rookie safety Derwin James said. "Our motto around here is 'Any squad, any place,' that's what we say around here." The Ravens went 6-1 down the stretch after turning the offense over to rookie Lamar Jackson, who will become the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game. "It's just a name -- 'the playoffs,'" Jackson said. "You're trying to get the championship now. It was for us to get in it, and we're in it now, so we want the big thing. We want the big thing now."

TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Ravens -3. O/U: 42

ABOUT THE CHARGERS (12-4): Philip Rivers had one of the finest seasons of his 15-year career, posting a passer rating of 105.5 while throwing for 4,308 with 32 touchdowns versus 12 interceptions, but Baltimore picked him off twice and held him to a season-low 181 yards. Running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in Week 16 in his first game back after missing the previous three with an ankle injury, but he said this week that he feels much healthier entering the rematch. Keenan Allen is the favorite target of Rivers with 97 receptions for 1,196 yards and leads a talented receiving corps that could see the return of tight end Hunter Henry, sidelined since May with a torn ACL. Melvin Ingram, one of seven Chargers named to the Pro Bowl, and fellow defensive end Joey Bosa combined for 12.5 sacks for the NFL's No. 9 defense.

ABOUT THE RAVENS (10-6): Jackson relied just as much on his legs as his arm since taking over for an injured Joe Flacco, but he threw for a season-high 204 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers, who held him to a rushing low of 39 yards in his seven starts. Running back Gus Edwards moved into the starting lineup at the same time as Jackson and had three 100-yard games while never rushing for fewer than 67 yards, including 92 on 14 carries at Los Angeles. Kenneth Dixon had at least eight carries in all five games in December, rushing for 289 yards on 47 attempts, but neither John Brown, Michael Crabtree or Willie Snead has seen regular targets with Jackson at quarterback. Baltimore features the league's No. 1 overall defense, ranking fourth against the rush (82.9 yards), fifth versus the pass (210.0) and second in points allowed (17.9).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Rivers can become the fourth QB to post a passer rating of at least 115.0 in three straight playoff games.

2. Jackson was 4-0 at home, including three games with at least 90 yards rushing.

3. Gordon scored nine touchdowns in six road games this season.

PREDICTION: Chargers 20, Ravens 19
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#417888 - 01/04/19 10:27 AM Re: Playoffs [Re: FREAK]
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Philadelphia Eagles vs. Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears opened the door for the Philadelphia Eagles to defend their Super Bowl crown with a suffocating performance against Minnesota in the regular-season finale. The third-seeded Bears bid to shut that door just as swiftly on Sunday when they host the sixth-seeded Eagles at Soldier Field in Chicago in an NFC wild-card game.

Mitchell Trubisky took a giant step forward following last year's rookie season, recording a franchise-best four games with a 120-plus quarterback rating while throwing for 24 touchdowns and rushing for three more as Chicago elevated from the NFC North's outhouse to the penthouse. Coach Matt Nagy stressed for Trubisky "to not change. For him to continue to do just what he does (and) don't put any extra added pressure on himself." Quarterback Nick Foles thrived under that glaring spotlight last season, guiding the "underdog" -- albeit top-ranked -- Eagles to three straight wins while securing Super Bowl MVP honors for himself in the process. The 29-year-old Foles (ribs) participated fully in Thursday's practice for Philadelphia, which returns to the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since the 2009-10 seasons and bids to become the first repeat Super Bowl champion since the 2003-04 New England Patriots.

TV: 4:40 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Bears -6. O/U: 41

ABOUT THE EAGLES (9-7): While Alshon Jeffery relished his meeting against his former team last year, Sunday's contest carries more weight since it's a playoff tilt as opposed to another battle against the Bears. "I don't have any feelings, honestly. It's a playoff game," said the 28-year-old Jeffery, who spent the first five years (2012-16) of his career in the Windy City. "... We're playing the Bears, but if we were playing anybody else, I still couldn't wait to play this game. I'm excited to be in the playoffs." Jeffery enjoyed one of the best postseasons in Eagles' history last winter, rolling up 219 receiving yards and three touchdowns in wins over Atlanta, Minnesota and New England. Pro Bowler Zach Ertz set an NFL record this season for catches (116) by a tight end to go along with a career-best 1,163 receiving yards.

ABOUT THE BEARS (12-4): Chicago's bread and butter is an aggressive defense that is ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed (17.7), yards per play permitted (4.78), passing yards per play (5.29), takeaways (36) and interceptions (27). Trade acquisition Khalil Mack recorded 8.5 of his club-best 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles at Soldier Field, helping the Bears to a 7-1 mark at home this season. The running game slowly gained traction, with rugged Jordan Howard boosting his touchdown total to a career-high nine with four in the last three games -- including a pair in Sunday's 24-10 victory versus the Vikings. Versatile Tarik Cohen provided a potent threat out of the backfield with 1,169 scrimmage yards (725 receiving, 444 rushing), becoming one of five Bears to earn Pro Bowl honors this season.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Philadelphia Pro Bowl DT Fletcher Cox notched three of his team-leading 10.5 sacks in Sunday's 24-0 win over Washington.

2. Chicago TE Trey Burton, who gained famed as the "quarterback" of the Philly Special in Super Bowl LII, had five receptions in each of his last two contests.

3. Philadelphia CB Rasul Douglas reeled in two of his club-best three interceptions in the last four games.

PREDICTION: Bears 24, Eagles 17
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#418966 - 01/10/19 02:49 PM Re: Playoffs [Re: FREAK]
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Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs

History does not favor the Kansas City Chiefs entering Saturday's AFC divisional round matchup versus the sixth-seeded Indianapolis Colts, but that does not concern the overwhelming favorite for league MVP honors. Second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes leads the NFL's most prolific offense as the top-seeded Chiefs look to secure only their second win in 12 playoff appearances since 1994.

Mahomes, the driving force behind an offense that ranked No. 1 in total offense (425.6 yards) and points per game (35.3), bristled at the revelation that Kansas City went one-and-done in 10 of its last 11 trips to the postseason, including four losses to the Colts. "I know the history and stuff like that, but at the same time, we're a different generation," said Mahomes, who threw a league-high 50 touchdown passes. "I'm ready to go out there and win a football game at Arrowhead." Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck finished second to Mahomes with 39 scoring passes after missing the entire 2017 season, but Colts coach Frank Reich pointed to the other side of the ball as the reason for his team's success. "There's no doubt the defense is a huge part of the reason that we are where we're at," Reich said. "The reason, I think, is because, No. 1, we have good players. You can have a great scheme, but if you don't have good players, it doesn't matter."

TV: 4:35 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Chiefs -5.5 O/U: 57

ABOUT THE COLTS (11-6): Indianapolis overcame a 1-5 start by winning nine of its last 10 regular-season games and carried the momentum into the playoffs by knocking off No. 3 seed Houston 21-7 (as the Colts were +2 point underdog at intertops) as Luck threw a pair of first-half touchdown passes to stake his team to a 21-point lead. Running back Marlon Mack did the bulk of the heavy lifting by rushing for 148 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, his fifth 100-yard effort in 11 games. Dontrelle Inman has caught a scoring pass in each of the last three games, giving Luck another target opposite top wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who had five catches for 85 yards last week after amassing 1,270 yards during the regular season. The Colts' defense allowed a league-low 16.4 points over the final 10 weeks of the regular season.



ABOUT THE CHIEFS (12-4): Mahomes joined Peyton Manning as the only players with at least 50 TD passes and 5,000 passing yards (5,097) while also finishing second to Drew Brees with a 113.8 passer rating in his first season as a starter. Mahomes threw for 13 scoring passes against two interceptions over the past five games following the release of star running back Kareem Hunt, which provided an increased role for Damien Williams (four rushing TDs in the last four games). Speedster Tyreek Hill had 87 catches for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns and is a threat to scoring from anywhere on the field while tight end Travis Kelce hauled in 103 receptions for 1,336 yards and 10 scores. The Chiefs tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks but were 31st in yards allowed (405.5).

EXTRA POINTS

1. The 89 TD passes by Mahomes and Luck are the most by any quarterbacks in an NFL playoff game.

2. Mahomes threw for at least 300 yards 10 times and had at least four scoring passes in seven games.

3. Indianapolis allowed the fewest sacks in the league with 18.

PREDICTION: Chiefs 31, Colts 30

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#418967 - 01/10/19 02:50 PM Re: Playoffs [Re: tinfw17]
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Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams

Star running backs will be entrenched in the spotlight on Saturday as two-time league rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys visit the defending NFL Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley and the Rams in an NFC divisional round playoff game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Elliott, who had a league-best 1,434 rushing yards this season, added 137 more and scored a touchdown in Dallas' 24-22 win over Seattle last weekend (as the Cowboys were -3 point favorite at intertops).

"Both big-time players who can do everything you want them to do on the field, and embrace carrying the burden for their team," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Pro Bowl selections Elliott and Gurley. The 23-year-old Elliott will bid to become the fourth player in NFL history to record three consecutive postseason games with at least 125 rushing yards when he squares off against Los Angeles, which has been gashed for a league-worst 5.1 yards per rush. Gurley finished with 1,251 rushing yards and NFL-best 21 total touchdowns despite sitting out the Rams' final two games because of knee inflammation and soreness. The 24-year-old will need to overcome the injury as well as a Cowboys' rush defense that permitted an NFL fifth-best 3.8 yards per carry and limited the Seahawks' run-heavy offense to just 3.0 yards per rush.

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Rams -7 O/U: 49.5

ABOUT THE COWBOYS: Quarterback Dak Prescott downplayed any lingering concerns about his health despite being added to the injury report after he came up a bit gimpy following a 16-yard run in the fourth quarter against Seattle. "Knee's good. I'm great," said the 25-year-old Prescott, who threw a touchdown pass to rookie Michael Gallup and also rushed for a score last week. In-season acquisition Amari Cooper followed up his third 1,000-yard campaign in four years with a team-best seven receptions for 106 yards versus the Seahawks, although he may find the going tough while lined up against cornerback Aqib Talib. Pro Bowl defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who led the team with 10.5 sacks, has collected two to go along with two fumble recoveries in four career postseason games.

ABOUT THE RAMS (13-3): Pro Bowl quarterback Jared Goff (4,688 passing yards, 32 touchdowns) had his name being whispered among the NFL Most Valuable Player candidates before a pronounced three-week slump silenced that talk. The excitement circling the Coliseum hasn't dimmed, however, as Goff expects the noise to be ratcheted up and said the atmosphere will be "fun, fun and electric." Robert Woods posted career highs in receptions (86), receiving yards (1,219) and receiving touchdowns (six) while fellow wideout Brandin Cooks had 80 catches for 1,204 yards. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald received the 2018 Deacon Jones Award after leading the league in sacks (20.5) and could join Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor (1986) as the lone players to collect at least 20 sacks and advance to the conference championship in the same season since 1982.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Los Angeles led the NFC in points per game (32.9) and total yards per contest (421.1) and ranked third in turnover differential (plus-11).

2. Dallas would match Pittsburgh (36) for the most postseason victories all-time should it win on Saturday.

3. Rams Pro Bowl LB Cory Littleton, who leads the team in tackles (125), recorded two of his three interceptions this season in a 48-32 win over San Francisco in Week 17.

PREDICTION: Rams 34, Cowboys 21

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#419045 - 01/11/19 11:36 AM Re: Playoffs [Re: tinfw17]
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Los Angeles Chargers vs. New England Patriots

Having set the bar so high since the arrival of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, even an average season by the New England Patriots was enough to earn a 10th consecutive AFC East title and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Seeking a ninth Super Bowl appearance in 18 years, the Patriots kick off their postseason by hosting the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

New England lost consecutive December games for the first time since 2002 before winning its final two to wrap up the No. 2 seed, leading to talk that both the team and three-time NFL MVP Brady have lost a step. "I don't see that. I see a team winning and figuring out ways to win," Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. "This team has been there so many times, they know how to win this time of the year. We've got to go in and play Chargers ball." Though Los Angeles is the No. 5 seed, it had a better record than the Patriots and turned in an impressive performance by holding off a late rally in a 23-17 road win at Baltimore last week (as the Chargers were -3 point favorite at intertops). "Really impressive football team," Belichick said of the Chargers. "Spent a lot of time watching them the last three or four days here and really pretty good at everything. That's the reason they won 13 games."

TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -4 O/U: 47.5

ABOUT THE CHARGERS (13-4): Philip Rivers has only one touchdown pass in the past three games and failed to throw for more than 181 yards in that span, but he has had one of his best seasons, tossing 32 TD passes and matching his career high with a 105.5 quarterback rating. Running back Melvin Gordon was hobbled down the stretch by an ankle injury that limited him in practice Thursday, but he still rushed for 10 touchdowns and had 50 receptions for four scores in only 12 games. Keenan Allen had 97 receptions to lead a deep, talented receiving corps that could see the return of tight end Hunter Henry, who tore an ACL in May but practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday. Defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa lead a unit that registered seven sacks last week and ranked ninth against the pass this season (227.9 yards).

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (11-5): Brady's numbers dipped across the board from last season, when he won his third MVP award, but he still threw for 4,355 yards with 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions despite a revolving door at wide receiver. Rookie Sony Michel rushed for 931 yards and six touchdowns despite missing three games and fellow running back James White added 425 yards and five scores on the ground while leading the team with 87 receptions and seven TD catches. Julian Edelman is the top wideout with 74 catches but New England is hoping for a postseason revival from tight end Rob Gronkowski, who tied a career low with three touchdowns and had three or fewer catches in seven of his last eight games. The defense yields lots of yardage, ranking 21st (359.1), but has minimized the damage and is tied for sixth in scoring (20.3).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Brady has thrown for 1,982 yards with 13 TDs against one interception in his past five postseason games.

2. Rivers is 0-7 lifetime versus Brady, posting his only win against the Patriots in 2008 when Brady was hurt.

3. Gronkowski has 12 playoff touchdown catches, tied with John Stallworth for second on the all-time postseason list.

PREDICTION: Chargers 26, Patriots 23

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#419046 - 01/11/19 11:36 AM Re: Playoffs [Re: tinfw17]
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Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints

The lowest point in the Philadelphia Eagles' season also provided the inspiration to turn it around. After their postseason plans were put in peril following a lopsided loss in New Orleans, the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles look to exact revenge against the host Saints on Sunday and become the first No. 6 seed to reach the conference championship since 2010.

"That game has helped us become the team we are today," Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles said of the 48-7 shellacking in Week 11. "Going through that, that's not easy as a team to lose like that. But there was never a pointing of the finger. It actually brought us closer." The Eagles won five of their last six games to squeeze into the playoffs, and Foles helped lead the team to its fourth straight victory overall by throwing for 266 yards and two touchdowns in a 16-15 decision at Chicago on Sunday (as the Eagles were +6.5 point underdog at intertops). While Philadelphia's advanced to the divisional round after former Eagles kicker Cody Parkey misfired on his bid for a game-winning kick, New Orleans' starters have been well-rested for quite some time. Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees, who shattered his own NFL record for completion percentage in a season (74.4), finished close to that number on Nov. 18 after completing 22 of 30 passes for 363 yards with four touchdowns against the Eagles.

TV: 4:40 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Saints -8 O/U: 50.5

ABOUT THE EAGLES: Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz labeled Philadelphia's previous visit to New Orleans as "probably the worst loss I've ever been a part of" while left tackle Jason Peters accused the Saints of running up the score. The Eagles barely bothered the scoreboard operator on that day, save for rookie Josh Adams' 28-yard rushing touchdown midway into the second quarter that trimmed New Orleans' lead to 17-7. Former Saints running back Darren Sproles could prove pivotal in the passing game on Sunday after finding the end zone three times (two receiving, one rushing) in his past six games. Alshon Jeffery, who had a team-leading six catches for 82 yards versus the Bears, has 18 receptions for 329 yards and two scores in his last three meetings with New Orleans.

ABOUT THE SAINTS (13-3): Brees' most trusted target this season was Michael Thomas, although the Pro Bowl wideout was "limited" to just four of his NFL-best 125 catches against Philadelphia as the quarterback established his connection with rookie Tre'Quan Smith (10 receptions, 157 yards, touchdown). New Orleans' high-octane offense looks for another dominant performance against an Eagles' third-worst pass defense that allowed Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky to throw for 303 yards and Allen Robinson to collect 10 receptions, 143 yards and a score. The two-pronged backfield attack of Mark Ingram and the electric Alvin Kamara flustered Philadelphia, with the former rushing for 103 yards and two touchdowns while the latter had 71 yards to go along with a 37-yard scoring reception. Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan bids to ride the momentum of his team-leading 12 sack season into the playoffs, as he has 3.5 in four career postseason games.

EXTRA POINTS

1. New Orleans has won six consecutive postseason games at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

2. Eagles WR Golden Tate has recorded at least five catches in four of his last eight games, including in the previous contest versus the Saints.

3. New Orleans enjoyed a plus-8 turnover ratio this season while Philadelphia finished minus-6 in that department.

PREDICTION: Saints 31, Eagles 14

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#420178 - 01/18/19 04:30 PM Re: Playoffs [Re: tinfw17]
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Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints made a statement by outscoring the high-octane Los Angeles Rams in their midseason meeting, handing the latter its first blemish and ultimately taking a large step toward home-field advantage in the playoffs. The Saints and Rams stayed the course for the duration of the season and each defeated an NFC East foe heading into Sunday's conference championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

While potential NFL Most Valuable Player candidate Drew Brees holds the all-time league record for completions and passing yards, the now-40-year-old quarterback is returning to the conference title game for just the first time since the 2009 season. Pro Bowl selection Michael Thomas had 12 receptions for 171 yards and a touchdown to toy with Philadelphia's injury-ravaged secondary in Sunday's 20-14 divisional-round victory (as the Saints were -8.5 point favorite at intertops), but his 12 catches in the 45-35 win over Los Angeles in Week 9 resulted in a franchise-record 211 yards and a 72-yard score. The Rams rebounded from that defeat to emerge victorious in five of their next seven and ultimately outlast Dallas to advance to their first NFC title game since 2001. Pro Bowl selection Todd Gurley (115 yards, touchdown) and C.J. Anderson (123 yards, 2 TDs) had their way in Saturday's 30-22 win over the Cowboys, although the Saints' No. 2-ranked rush defense yielded just 80.2 yards per game this season and 92 to the Rams in Week 9.

TV: 3:05 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Saints -3.5 O/U: 56.5

ABOUT THE RAMS: Cornerback Marcus Peters found himself covering old ground this week by downplaying a tasty morsel that gained traction shortly after the first encounter. Peters took issue with coach Sean Payton telling reporters in November that the Saints liked the 26-year-old lining up against Thomas, prompting Peters to promote the rematch before sarcastically saying of the coach that "we're going to have a nice little bowl of gumbo together." Pro Bowl selection Jared Goff ate up New Orleans' pass defense by completing 28 of 40 passes for 391 yards with three touchdowns, although he has failed to reach 200 yards in each of his last two outings. Former Saints wideout Brandin Cooks highlighted his fourth career season of 1,000-plus yards by making six catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in the previous meeting with New Orleans.

ABOUT THE SAINTS: The electric Alvin Kamara finished second to Gurley (21) in scrimmage touchdowns with 18, although the former had three (two rushing, one receiving) in the previous meeting with the Rams. While New Orleans showed its offensive chops in its high-scoring win over Los Angeles in Week 9, the Saints have shown some moxie on the other side of the ball in the latter half of the season. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore punctuated their divisional-round victory over the Eagles with his second interception in the latter stages of the fourth quarter. Linebacker Demario Davis (club-best 110 tackles) led the team with eight in last week's contest and seven versus the Rams.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Los Angeles features the NFL's second-ranked offense (421.1 yards per game) and third-ranked ground attack (139.4) while New Orleans resides eighth (379.2) and sixth (126.6), respectively.

2. The Saints have won their last seven home playoff games, with six coming under the watch of Brees and Payton.

3. Los Angeles Pro Bowl DT Aaron Donald registered a league-best 20.5 sacks this season, although the Rams failed to record one on Brees in Week 9.

PREDICTION: Saints 31, Rams 27
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#420179 - 01/18/19 04:31 PM Re: Playoffs [Re: FREAK]
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New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are right where many observers expected them to be, although Andy Reid's team is in uncharted territory. The New England Patriots, conversely, are on familiar turf even in Kansas City's backyard. The top-seeded Chiefs seek to advance to their first Super Bowl in 49 years when they host the No. 2 seed Patriots in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

Kansas City, led by second-year quarterback and league Most Valuable Player front-runner Patrick Mahomes, is in the conference title game for the first time since 1994. Mahomes and the high-scoring Chiefs shredded Indianapolis in the divisional round and will be looking to avenge a 43-40 road loss to Tom Brady and New England in Week 6 and hoist the Lamar Hunt Trophy -- named for the late founder of the franchise. The Patriots, despite posting their worst record since 2009, are making their eighth straight conference title game appearance and vying to become the third team in history to advance to three consecutive Super Bowls. "We see our quarterback is too old, we're not good enough on defense, the skill players aren't good," New England safety Devin McCourty said of his team's underdog status. "We see it. But it doesn't affect how we prepare."

TV: 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Chiefs -3 O/U: 55.5

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (12-5): New England lost five times on the road -- three by double digits -- and struggled in December, but put on a clinic against the Los Angeles Chargers a week ago, scoring touchdowns on its first five possessions en route to a 41-28 cakewalk. Brady, who has won five Super Bowl titles and earned game MVP honors four times, threw for 343 yards and a touchdown on 34 of 44 passing against the Chargers and had nearly identical numbers against the Chiefs in mid-October. Rookie running back Sony Michel rushed for 106 yards and two TDs in the first meeting versus Kansas City and warmed up for the rematch by rumbling for 129 yards and three scores against the Chargers. The Patriots, who surrendered an average of 28.4 points on the road, did not register a sack but intercepted Mahomes twice in the first matchup.

ABOUT THE CHIEFS (13-4): Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass for only the second time this season but Kansas City held the ball for nearly 40 minutes in the 31-13 win over the Colts (as the Chiefs were -4.5 point favorite at intertops) as running back Damien Williams rushed for 129 yards and a score on 25 carries. Mahomes led the league's top-ranked offense to 31 second-half points at New England by throwing for 352 yards and four scoring passes, three of which went to speedster Tyreek Hill, who burned the Patriots' secondary with seven receptions for 142 yards. Tight end Travis Kelce, who had 10 touchdown passes during the regular season, was held to five catches for 61 yards in the first matchup but went for 108 yards on seven receptions last weekend. Kansas City's defense ranked 31st overall and against the pass but tied for the league lead with 52 sacks.

EXTRA POINTS

1. New England is looking to advance to its ninth Super Bowl in the past 18 seasons under coach Bill Belichick.

2. Mahomes could become the fourth quarterback, including Brady, to pass for 5,000 yards and reach the Super Bowl in the same season.

3. Patriots RB James White, who had a team-high 87 catches in the regular season, added 15 in last week's win over the Chargers.

PREDICTION: Chiefs 34, Patriots 30
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