NFL Divisional Round Preview: And Then There Were Eight

If you thought last week was good, grab some popcorn, turn down the lights, and tune in to this week’s slate.

The divisional round of the 2019 NFL playoffs is here and it’s the most wide open playoffs that I can remember in a very long time. Each of the remaining teams has an identity and can do one or two things that will give them an advantage in any game. These are the eight teams left, ranked from 8-1.

8. Philadelphia Eagles

It is a miracle that the Eagles have made it to the final eight teams. They were in a bad spot at the end of the season, but a late run and some help from others got them to where they are now. The best thing Philadelphia has going for them is a really good on defense. The Eagles have as good a front seven as any team left in these playoffs. The defense is as elite as it comes.

The only thing keeping the reigning champs from being higher on this list is the offense. Nick Foles is proving again that it is foolish to doubt him, but I just can’t help myself. During the Wild Card game against the Chicago Bears he made some throws that had Eagles fans holding their breath. He did not play particularly well. But Doug Pederson has shown he can call a different game with Foles under center. Pederson is going to be the X factor for this team. He needs to coach his ass off if he wants his team back in the Championship game.

7. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have wanted to play smash mouth football since the 2013. Finally, they can. The Cowboys try win games on the interior, which is an old school way of playing, but still very effective. In a league that is focused on the passing game, Dallas has decided they are going to defeat the opposing team on the ground. With running back Ezekiel Elliott, they can move the sticks running the ball on 1st and 2nd down. This style of play kills clock and keeps the ball out of the opposing offenses hands.

On defense, Dallas has the best front seven in the NFL. The secondary is a bit shaky, but having Demarcus Lawrence and Vander Esch in the defensive front seven makes it hard to do anything except throw down field. With the speed of their linebackers, opponent’s will struggle in the short passing and running game.

6. Indianapolis Colts

It is no secret how much I love Andrew Luck. This season Luck has done nothing but prove to me that he is second best quarterback in the NFL and should be the MVP of the 2018 season. Without many household names on offense, the Colts have still managed a dynamic attack. Former 1st round pick Eric Ebron has stepped up as Luck’s number two. Ebron is a reliable red zone threat for the Colts.

The question mark all season for the Colts was going to be the O-line and the defense. Both surpassed expectations coming into the season. Statistically, the offensive line has been top 5 in the league. The defense has looked completely different after drafting LB Darius Leonard. Many thought Leonard was going to be a bust, but he has been the driving force behind the revamped Colts defense.

5. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have been the most feared team on offense since the get go. Patrick Mahomes has had an all time season, dropping jaws on every throw. So why do I have them in the bottom half of my list? I don’t trust this defense. Every game they have lost this season has been in a shootout. The Chiefs are not able to stop anyone and that will be their downfall. I have no doubt Patrick Mahomes is going to play a great game, but this is his first taste of the NFL PLayoffs. It could very well come down to a late game situation that he just doesn’t have the experienced to handle. The future's so bright for this kid, but due to his lack of playoff experience and the defense, I have to put them at number 5.

4. Los Angeles Rams

The first eight weeks of the season it looked like the Rams were going to run the table and pull off what the 2007 Patriots couldn’t: the perfect 19-0 season. That came to a screeching halt however. I still liken this team to the Golden State Warriors: they just have too much talent. And Sean McVay is a mastermind on offense.

That being said, there’s very little experience on this roster. Much like the Chiefs, the defense is an absolute mess. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib have not been playing well. And even the offense has been hit or miss since the injury to Cooper Kupp. I think with a few weeks of playing without him and the extra week to prepare, this team is good enough to make it to the next round.

3. New England Patriots

In 5 of the past 6 games the Patriots have let up 17 points or fewer. The defense has really stepped up in the latter half of the season after a brutal start, but that seems to be the case every year. It is no secret that the Patriots don’t go into each week with the same gameplan. They make adjustments to take advantage of the opposing team’s weaknesses. Yes, the Pats are getting older; Brady, Gronkowski, and Edelman are not the players they once were. But the game plan will still put these guys in a position to succeed. After all, Belichick is the best coach in league history.

2. New Orleans Saints

This is the year of Drew Brees. He has been near perfect all season, thanks in part to the fantastic pieces around him. The Saints have the best backfield in the league with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. They are a one-two punch that is impossible to game plan against. Sean Peyton has been calling very aggressive games, which has worked this season. He goes right at the throat of the opposing team and wont let up. The Saints have an average defense that hasn’t impressed me all too much. But the offense has been so good and so above everyone else, they are my second best team in the playoffs.

1. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have been very good all season long. They don’t have a single weak spot on the field. Philip Rivers has had a career year and this may be his last shot at a superbowl; he absolutely understands that and so does the rest of his team. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon has been one of the most consistent running backs in the league and Keenan Allen is back to usual. Add in Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams and the Chargers have the best wide receiver group in the NFL. But what I like most about the Chargers is the defense. The duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa is the best D-line tandem I have seen in years. They make life miserable for the quarterback and never allow the offense to get comfortable. With so many pocket passing teams left in the playoffs, Bosa and Ingram will wreak havoc.

*These ranking have nothing to do with who I believe will win this upcoming weekend as any team can win on any given Sunday*

Betting mastermind. Didn't have the height or talent for sports but I can talk and pick them like a champ.

Twitter: @MatthewSulla