Superbowl 2019: NFL divisional round preview and predictions

Patrick Robinson
Patrick Robinson celebrates after winning Superbowl 2018 with the Eagles Photo credit: Reuters

The NFL playoffs are underway; eight teams left will soon become four as they look to earn a spot in next week's conference championships.

With Superbowl looming on the horizon here's how the team line up and what you can expect.

Marlon Mack
Colts running back Marlon Mack Photo credit: Reuters

Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) vs Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

Sunday, 10:35am (NZT)

The most talked about battle in this game is the quarterback matchup - Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck.

But the difference maker in the game will be Colts running back Marlon Mack. 

Since week 15 he's been unreal, putting up big time numbers against great rush-defences like the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans.

The Chiefs have been on another level to the rest of the league on offence this year but have been woeful at defending the rush, which I believe will be their undoing this week.

They come into the match ranked 31st in run defence against Mack who is averaging five yards per carry since the middle of December.

But the Chiefs pose a potent threat on offence in tight end Travis Kelce - the pro bowler has scored 10 touchdowns on the season and is averaging close to 13 yards per catch.

It really is a tight game to call and could come down to a coin flip, but I'm going with Andrew Luck and company to prevail in a high scoring thriller.

Prediction: Chiefs 28 - Colts 31.

Dak Prescott
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott Photo credit: Reuters

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) vs Los Angeles Rams (13-3)

Sunday 2:15pm (NZT)

This will be another game dominated on the ground as two of the best running backs go head-to-head in Ezekiel Elliot and Todd Gurley.

Expect Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to hand the ball to Elliot and let the big man get to work on the majority of plays.

Add to that the fact that the Rams are the worst team in the league at defending the rush, allowing 5.1 yards per carry. I think we could see Ezekiel Elliot rush for up to 200 yards.

Gurley leads the NFL in first down rushes of four yards or more, and he will be going up against the young linebacker duo of Jaylen Smith and Leighton Van der Esch who are the best at defending the first down, something's got to give.

The Rams started the season 9-1 but since wide receiver Cooper Kupp tore his ACL against the Seahawks, they have gone 4-2. Quarterback Jared Goff is completing eight per cent less passes since Kupp's injury.

You can expect a high-scoring game with a lot of running, and the Cowboys eventually getting over the line thanks to the Rams not being able to deal with the Elliot rush.

Prediction: Cowboys 24 - Rams 23.

Tom Brady
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady Photo credit: Getty

New England Patriots (11-5) vs Los Angeles Chargers (12-4)

Monday, 7:05am (NZT)

The game is set to be played in typically cold conditions at Foxborough.

Quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots are 8-0 at home this year, which bodes well coming off the bye week. Another string to their bow lies with Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers who has never beaten Tom Brady in his seven tries.

In saying that, the Chargers have the better roster. Pro bowlers Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen will look to make it a long night for the Patriots defence.

Look for defensive end Melvin Ingram to unleash on Tom Brady. He caused a heap of trouble for the fast feet of quarterback Lamar Jackson last week against the Baltimore Ravens, so I can only imagine the pressure 41-year-old Brady will be under.

A lot of the Patriots offence will rely on the fitness of Rob Gronkowski who is arguably the greatest tight-end the game has seen. Brady will go to him a lot.

This will be a tight game throughout, it will be high scoring and will come down to which quarterback can produce - if you ask me - I'm riding with Brady.

Prediction: Patriots 34 - Chargers 31.

Drew Brees
Saints quarterback Drew Brees Photo credit: Reuters

New Orleans Saints (13-3) vs Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)

Monday, 10:40am (NZT)

Let's get one thing straight. The Nick Foles show ends here.

The Saints will be far too strong for the Eagles. Drew Brees has been fantastic all season; he connected with Michael Thomas for a league leading 25 catches.

The Saints running game was just as important to their season - making the sixth-most rushing yards in the league and scoring the most rushing touchdowns, led by running back Alvin Kamara.

Eagles quarterback Foles has been the fairy-tale story of the NFL over the past two seasons, but to presume the magic will continue is a stretch; the Saints are a better all-round team.

Expect Drew Brees to throw for over 250 yards with Kamara scoring two or more touchdowns.

Prediction: Saints 30 - Eagles 17.

Luke Robinson is a Newshub online sports producer. Join us on February 4 for live updates of Superbowl 2019.

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