No shockers this year in the NFL Divisional Playoffs. The top four teams advanced to their respective conference championship games.
Patrick Mahomes won his first playoff game and the Chiefs brushed aside Andrew Luck and the Colts. The Patriots obliterated the Chargers. Drew Brees and the Saints knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs and snuffed out the last whiff of Foles Magic. The Rams did their homework and the Todd Gurley-C.J. Anderson combo ran all over the Cowboys.
Kansas City Chiefs 31, Indianapolis Colts 13… The Colts (11-7) were coming in red-hot and the Chiefs (13-4) were still haunted by the ghosts of their past (0-6 in their previous six home playoff games). The elements came into play (snow, wind, cold… your typical bleak January in the heartland of America), so insert your standard “Andrew Luck can only play inside a dome” cliche. The Chiefs defense set the tone early in the game forcing four consecutive three-and-outs by Andrew Luck. The Chiefs offense jumped out to a 14-0 lead via two efficient drives engineered by Mahomes. Luck couldn’t get anything going and they were doomed. By halftime, the Colts trailed 24-7. In the second half, the stingy Chiefs defense allowed just six more points. The Colts were 0-9 on third downs. Marlon Mack and the run game were a non-factor. The Chiefs shut down Mack, limiting him to 46 yards. The Colts were running so bad that even Adam “Automatic” Vinatieri missed a chip shot of a field goal and an extra point. The Colts held Mahomes to zero passing touchdowns, but that didn’t matter. The Chiefs scored four rushing touchdowns. Damien Williams rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown and Tyreek Hill ran another in for a score. Kelce, Hill, and Watkins combined for 21 receptions and the bulk of the yardage. Mahomes threw side arm and sideways and kept moving the chains.
Mahomes Magic strikes again. ?♂️ pic.twitter.com/GQdpINdonw
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 14, 2019
LA Rams 30, Dallas Cowboys 22… Even though the Rams (14-3) were coming off a bye, the home-field advantage wasn’t much of anything. From the get-go it was obvious the Coliseum was filled with more Cowboys fans. I mean, they’re everywhere. It also didn’t help that the Los Angeles area was about be deluged with rainfall. As a friend joked, “It’s raining in LA. The entire stadium will be filled with Dallas Cowboys fans.” The Cowboys (11-7) had a home game on the road, but it didn’t matter. They couldn’t get the run game going and Zeke Elliott lost the running back battle. The Rams run D stuffed Zeke and held him to 47 yards on 20 carries. The box score was so lopsided that Elliott got outrushed by the Rams’ backup! Then again, CJ Anderson ran for more yards (123 vs. 115) than even Todd Gurley. It was one of those wacky playoff games when a minor player steps up to steal the show (Anderson’s two TDs). There’s an old hippie mantra, “If the thunder don’t get ya, the lightning will.” That aptly describes the running backs for the LA Rams. It seems like CJ Anderson came out of nowhere. The former Broncos RB has been a valuable part of the running attack the last couple of weeks of the season subbing in for Gurley, and he played a significant role in the playoffs. Anderson and Gurley became the first RB tandem to rush for 100 yards each in a playoff game in over twenty years. And it’s not like they ran down the throats of a bad team. The Cowboys were a top 5 run defense, but they had a serious flaw in tipping their stunts. I had not seen a tell so obvious since Teddy KGB twisted Oreos in Rounders. The Rams did their homework and Sean McVay tweaked his playbook, which is why lightning and thunder ran for 238 yards and three touchdowns.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 14, 2019
New England Patriots 41, LA Chargers 28… The Chargers (13-5) logged a ton of air miles the last five weeks with four road games. They had back-to-back early Sunday games on the East Coast in the playoffs. But they could have played this game at Midnight on Monday and it still would not have mattered against the Patriots (12-5). Bill Belichick is impossible to beat when you give him two weeks to prepare. The game plan this week was simple: run and pass to a running back. Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and three touchdowns. James White caught 15 passes for 97 yards. Brady took advantage of what the Chargers D gave him, and all those dink and dumps added up to successful scoring drives. Julian Edelman added 151 yards on nine catches. Poor Gronk caught only one ball. Philip Rivers threw three touchdowns and Mel Gordon scored once, but those 28 points were nowhere close to matching the Pats’ 40 plus. The Chargers were behind the 8-ball from the kickoff and chasing the Pats the rest of the game. It was 35-7 at halftime and the Chargers were toast. They ran ten times all game and passed the rest. The Chargers scored thrice in the second half and all three were legit garbage-time scores. Rivers saw his career record continue to be winless against Tom Brady.
Playoff mode activated for @edelman11
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 13, 2019
New Orleans Saints 20, Philadelphia Eagles 14… The closest of all four divisional games came down to a pass that went through Alshon Jeffery’s hands and resulted in the second interception of the game by Marcus Lattimore. The Eagles (10-8) came out fired up and scored the game’s first 14 points, but the rest of the game belonged the Saints (14-3). A successful fake punt deep in their own territory by Taysom Hill fired up the crowd and the offense. The Saints went on to score to trim the lead to 14-7. At that point everyone inside the Superdome knew the Saints were finally ready to rock and roll. Hey, sometimes things start a little slow in New Orleans. But when things get rocking and rolling, it’s gonna be a raging party. The Saints offense put on a couple of displays of sheer excellence including a 92-yard drive that lasted 18 plays. The 3Q-drive that lasted pretty much the entire quarter will be studied by players and reverse engineered by coaches for decades to come. As expected, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas hooked up 12 times for 171 yards and a touchdown. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram combined for 124 rushing yards and 44 passing yards. Foles Magic ended at seven games. He can now leave the nest and go somewhere else to get paid mega bucks.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 13, 2019
Pauly McGuire is a writer specializing in sports betting. He’s covered the NFL, NBA, college basketball, MLB, and the Olympics for numerous outlets. He’s the former co-host of the Everything Is Bettable podcast with Jesse May. You also might remember Pauly as the creator of the Tao of Poker blog. He was a partner in one of the first daily fantasy sports sites, Fantasy Sports Live.