Saturday NFL Divisional Round Mega Preview: All You Need to Know for Colts-Chiefs, Cowboys-Rams
Pictured: Aaron Donald, Dak Prescott and Andy Reid
All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets.
Betting odds: Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
- Spread: Chiefs -5
- Over/Under: 57
- Time: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET
- TV channel: NBC
When the Chiefs opened at -4 they were the choice of early bettors. From Sunday night to Monday morning, they moved from -4 to -6 and at one point had more than 60% of bets.
Since then, it’s been all Colts. They now command 57% of bets and nearly 70% of the money, which has helped drive the line back down to +5 as of Thursday (check out the live odds here).
The over was also a popular choice early on. After opening at 55.5, it had moved to 57 by Tuesday morning behind about 70% of bets and 80% of dollars. It has remained at 57, but more support has come in on the under to push those percentages down to about 65% and 60%, respectively. — Mark Gallant
Initially, snow in New England was expected to be this weekend’s weather storyline. The forecast in Foxboro is dry now, but Kansas City is trending in the opposite direction.
Snow in the morning will simmer down by gametime, but snow (maybe even rain), squalls and showers will be in the area for the rest of the day.
Snow is probably the ficklest of things to predict so I would check to see the latest forecast on Saturday morning. — Gallant
Trends to know
Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the Chiefs are 4-16 straight up and 3-17 against the spread in the playoffs, including 0-9 against the spread at home. — Evan Abrams
This will be the ninth time Andy Reid has led a team to the playoffs since reaching the Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2004-05 season.
Reid’s teams have gone 4-8 straight up and against the spread, according to our Bet Labs data.
Reid has gone one-and-done in five of his past nine playoff appearances — John Ewing
The Colts, a dome team, will be playing outside on Saturday. Since 1990, dome teams are 12-44 SU and 18-36-2 ATS in outdoor playoff games. — Ewing
The over/under for Chiefs-Colts opened 56.5 and has been bet up to 57 at the time of writing.
Since 2003, there have been four playoff games with a total of 57 or more points. The over went 4-0 in those games going over by 6.5 points on average. — Ewing
Three teams enter the playoffs this year averaging at least 30 points per game: Chiefs, Rams and Saints.
Since 2003, teams averaging 30 PPG or more, facing a team averaging fewer than 30 PPG are 13-21 (38.2%) against the spread, failing to cover by 3.4 PPG.
When the prolific offense has more than a week to prepare for their opponent, which all three of these teams do, they are 7-17 (29.2%) ATS. — Abrams
When the Colts have the ball: Colts run-blocking vs. Chiefs front seven
Saturday will mark just the seventh game that the Colts have had all five of their starting offensive linemen this season.
The previous six games went spectacularly, as they posted a 5-1 record, averaged 33.5 PPG and allowed zero sacks.
There isn’t a single weak link on this unit:
- LT Anthony Castonzo (ranked No. 17 at his position by Pro Football Focus)
- LG Quenton Nelson (No. 4)
- C Ryan Kelly (No. 11)
- RG Mark Glowinski (No. 13)
- RT Braden Smith (No. 27)
The Chiefs’ pass rush has certainly been solid this season, as they rank seventh in adjusted sack rate and have the 10th-best pressure rate in the league.
Still, defending the run has been a different story for Kansas City. It has allowed league-worst marks in both adjusted line yards per rush (5.28) and yards per carry (4.97).
Marlon Mack & Co. should be able to find some running room on the ground. The question is whether or not the Colts will have the luxury of not playing from behind against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ top-ranked scoring offense. — Ian Hartitz
When the Chiefs have the ball: Travis Kelce vs. Colts Secondary
Kelce is fresh off of posting one of the best regular seasons the tight end position has ever seen. Up next is the Colts’ 29th-ranked defense in DVOA against tight ends that has yielded a league-high 76.2 receiving yards per game to the position.
Second-year stud Malik Hooker is PFF’s No. 13 overall safety, but his range is typically utilized as the middle-high safety.
We can expect Kelce to instead spend most of his time across from both safety Clayton Geathers (No. 46) and slot corner Kendall Fuller.
This hasn’t worked against tight ends for the better part of the season, as Dallas Goedert (7-73-1), Evan Engram (6-87-0), Rob Gronkowski (6-76-0), Jordan Reed (6-55-0), Jonnu Smith (6-44-0), Ryan Griffin (5-80-0), Zach Ertz (5-73-0) and freaking James O’Shaughnessy (5-46-0) were all able to catch at least five passes against the Colts.
Don’t expect things to be any different for the league’s best tight end. — Hartitz
Luck ranked second in the league in touchdown passes with 39, and yet he still finished 11 behind Mahomes’ 50.
The only thing that gives you pause about Mahomes is seeing the quarterbacks who made their first postseason starts — Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, Mitchell Trubisky — struggle to varying degrees last week, with none leading their team to more than 16 points.
Even so, it’s still tough to go against Mahomes. Both of these quarterbacks were below-average against pressure this season, with Luck ranking 19th in passer rating under pressure (73.4) and Mahomes clocking in at 22nd (70.4), but a Chiefs defense ranked seventh in adjusted sack rate (8.0%) is more likely to get pressure than Indianapolis’ 29th-ranked unit (5.3%). — Chris Raybon
Andy Reid’s experience should give him the edge here, but his previous postseason failures and questionable late-game clock management allows Frank Reich and his staff to draw even.
In Reich’s first postseason appearance since overseeing an Eagles offense that piled up 513 yards and 41 points Super Bowl 52, he entered Houston with a balanced game plan that netted his team 422 total yards, including 200 on the ground, and a 9-of-14 third-down conversion rate.
On the other side of the ball, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has led his defenses to above-average finishes in points allowed and takeaways five times each in six seasons
Sutton’s defenses play especially well in Arrowhead, which is a big reason the under has hit at a 65.3% rate in the Reid-Sutton era, per Bet Labs.
But Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is a rising star who perfectly defended Deshaun Watson with Cover 2 looks, and though that won’t be as easy against Mahomes, who destroys zone coverage, Eberflus has earned plenty of respect by taking the Colts defense from 27th to 10th in DVOA in Year 1. — Raybon
Special teams: Chiefs
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri went just 23-of-27 on field goals and missed three extra-points during the regular season.
Harrison Butker finished the 2018 regular season with slightly better stats for the Chiefs, making 24-of-27 field goals and a tad higher XP percentage.
I still trust Vinatieri and his track record, but given their respective performances this year, I have to give a slight edge to the Chiefs at kicker.
Both teams have had solid production in the punting game, although Indy has the better net numbers and inside 20/touchback numbers.
The Colts’ 44.5 net punting average ranked third in the NFL, while the Chiefs came in at a respectable 42.8 (ninth).
Also, while the Colts don’t have the best punt returner in all of football in Tyreek Hill, they did finish with the top-ranked punt coverage unit in the NFL, as opponents average only 4.4 yards per return. The Chiefs don’t trail too far behind at 5.7 (fourth).
Two solid overall teams in this department, but Hill gives KC a small advantage.
Thanks to the electric Tremon Smith, the Chiefs average nearly five yards more on average per kick return than Indy.
Smith’s 26.8 average ranks second in the NFL, trailing only Jets Pro Bowler Andre Robers (min. 25 attempts).
It’s also worth noting the Colts only returned 17 kicks during the regular season, the second-fewest in the league. Both teams are similarly below average in kick coverage, but Smith, like Hill, gives the Chiefs the edge here as well. — Stuckey
Which team is healthier? Chiefs
The Chiefs are tentatively expected to welcome back wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot), who has been reportedly planning on a playoff return since re-aggravating his injury in Week 11.
The return of all-world safety Eric Berry (heel) looks less certain after he was downgraded to a DNP on Wednesday.
It’s also unclear if running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) or linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (calf, ankle) will suit up, although linebacker Reggie Ragland (hip) is fully expected to play.
Meanwhile, the Colts have already ruled out wide receiver Ryan Grant (toe) and safety Mike Mitchell (calf, IR).
Defensive end Tyquan Lewis (knee) and difference-making free safety Malik Hooker (foot) should each be considered questionable.
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (ankle), tight end Eric Ebron (hip), and wide receiver Dontrelle Inman (shoulder, finger) are far from 100%, but they’re each fully expected to suit up with the season on the line.
Colts: Andrew Luck will be tested on the road at Arrowhead, but his offensive line is allowing him to be pressured on just 29.3% of his dropbacks and he’s getting sacked on 8.6% of those pressures.
Also, the Chiefs defense can be exploited as they’ve allowed the fifth-highest scoring rate to opposing offenses along with 273.4 passing yards per game.
The Colts own the sixth-highest scoring rate this year and Luck’s Projected Plus/Minus on DraftKings and FanDuel trails only Patrick Mahomes this weekend.
Pairing Luck with Inman could be a way to differentiate in tournaments with Hilton expected to be popular.
Inman has cleared 45 receiving yards and scored a touchdown in three-straight games. — Justin Bailey
Chiefs: Speaking of Mahomes, he should likely be the preferred option in cash games since his Median Projection and Projected Plus/Minus in our FantasyLabs Player Models leads all positions.
Mahomes averaged an absurd 8.8 yards per attempt and 318.6 passing yards per game, while the Chiefs led the league in scoring rate (52.6% of their drives).
Nobody can stop him. — Justin Bailey
Bet to watch
It’s basically automatic for me to bet the Arrowhead under. With coach Reid, no home team has been more profitable for under bettors than the Chiefs, who have a 32-17-1 record to the under since 2013 (including playoffs), good for a 27.2% return on investment (per Bet Labs).
The outdoor elements and raucous environment inside Arrowhead Stadium makes it a hard place for visiting offenses to play, especially once the weather is cold.
And it’s not just road teams that have played worse in Kansas City this season (per the RotoViz Game Splits App):
- Home Games: 52.81 total | 50.38 points scored | Chiefs 32.38 | Opponents 18
- Road Games: 55.19 total | 72.87 points scored | Chiefs 38.25 | Opponents 34.62
Throughout the Reid era, the Chiefs have scored 3.08 fewer points at home and opponents have scored 6.25 fewer points in Kansas City.
It’s just an added bonus that the Colts are a dome team that could struggle outdoors. — Matthew Freedman
Betting odds: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
- Spread: Rams -7
- Over/Under: 50
- Time: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
>> All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets
The Cowboys are commanding 57% of the spread bets, but the sharper money appears to be on the Rams, if the juice is any indication.
LA -7 is juiced up to -119 at the time of writing, meaning a move to -7.5 could be in store (check live betting data here).
This over/under is definitely the least interesting of the week. Both bets and dollars are within a couple percentage points of 50/50 and the total has only ticked up a half-point from the opener of 49.5. — Mark Gallant
Trends to know
Since the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl win in 1995-96, they are 4-9 straight up and 3-9-1 against the spread in the playoffs. — John Ewing
The Rams earned a first round bye. Under Sean McVay, they are 5-1-1 ATS when they have eight or more days between games (including the first game of the season).
The Rams have covered the spread by 11.9 points per game in those games. — Ewing
The Rams finished the regular season 7-8-1 (46.7%) against the spread. Since 2003, only two teams have played a playoff game off a bye week with a losing record ATS:
- 2017 Divisional Round: Steelers vs. Jaguars (lost, 42-45)
- 2003 Super Bowl: Panthers vs. Patriots (lost, 29-32) — Evan Abrams
The Cowboys beat the Seahawks — a physical, run-heavy team — in the Wild Card Round. Now they face an offensive, pass-heavy, powerhouse.
Under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys are 3-0 ATS in December or later when playing a team that’s averaging at least 30 points per game.
In those three games, Dallas’ opponents averaged only 11 points per game. — Abrams
When the Rams have the ball: WR Robert Woods vs. CB Anthony Brown
The Rams rank first in rush offense, and the Cowboys rank fifth in rush defense, so they are fairly evenly matched there.
But the Rams are fifth in pass offense while the Cowboys are merely 16th against the pass. And the Cowboys have been especially weak when defending supplementary (usually slot) receivers, ranking 22nd in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA defense against the position.
Since Week 11, Woods has been the primary slot receiver for the Rams in the absence of Cooper Kupp (knee, IR), which means that Woods is likely to run most of his routes against Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown, who plays almost exclusively in the slot.
While Woods leads the Rams with 130 targets, 86 receptions, 1,219 yards receiving and six touchdowns through the air, Brown is last among the three Cowboys corners with his 64.7 PFF coverage grade and 67.8% catch rate allowed.
The Rams tends to spread the ball around, so it’s unlikely that Woods will have double-digit targets, but when quarterback Jared Goff looks the WR’s way, the Rams should be able to exploit his matchup. — Matthew Freedman
When the Cowboys have the ball: Aaron Donald vs. Connor Williams/Joe Looney
The Cowboys are likely to start rookie Connor Williams in place of injured left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (ankle), who missed last week’s wild-card game.
Additionally, they’ve been starting Joe Looney all season for the All-Pro center Travis Frederick (illness, IR).
Williams and Looney are the weakest players along the Cowboys offensive line, and this weekend they will be tasked with facing Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has a clear edge against them.
Donald is the only unanimous first-team All-Pro of the 2018 season, and he’s the presumptive Defensive Player of the Year. The Rams rank 28th against the rush in DVOA, but that’s through no fault of Donald’s.
This season he has a team-high 93.0 Pro Football Focus grade in run defense and a league-high 50 run stops among all interior linemen.
And as a pass rusher, Donald is unrivaled. Even though he plays in the middle of the defensive line, he leads the NFL with his 20.5 sacks.
Williams and Looney have subpar 61.6 and 65.1 PFF grades in pass-blocking, and in the regular season quarterback, Dak Prescott took a career-high 56 sacks, the second-highest mark in the league.
Whether defending the run or rushing the passer, Donald should have his way against Williams and Looney. — Freedman
Who Has the Advantage in Key Areas?
As recently as midseason, this would have been no contest in favor of Goff. But life comes at you fast in the NFL, and things change quickly.
As it stands heading into the Divisional Round, Prescott averages more yards per attempt (7.6) in 10 games with Amari Cooper than Goff in eight without Kupp (7.3).
Prescott has also handled pressure much better than Goff this season, completing 52.6% of his passes with a 9:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 87.1 passer rating, third-best in the NFL.
Goff, meanwhile, has completed only 42.3% of his passes with a 5:5 touchdown to interception ratio and 59.8 passer rating under pressure, which ranks 29th.
This will be Prescott’s third postseason start compared to Goff’s second, and thus far, Prescott has acquitted himself far better in January than Goff, with Prescott’s 7.4 yards per attempt and 94.1 passer rating in two starts easily besting Goff’s marks of 6.8 and 77.9, respectively, in his lone playoff appearance.
Home-field advantage is in Goff’s favor, and this will be Prescott’s first postseason start on the road, but Goff has to show he can translate his regular-season success at home (313.1 yards, 2.1 touchdowns per game under McVay) to the postseason better than he did last season before declaring it an X-factor.
While the pendulum has started to swing toward Prescott in this matchup of quarterbacks, Goff is working with one unique advantage not available to Prescott.
Coaching Edge: Rams
We’ve increasingly seen less clapping and more winning from Jason Garrett as of late as Garrett has led his team to a 32-16 record and two playoff appearances over the past three seasons.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and defensive backs coach Kris Richard, a key offseason hire by Garrett, have done an excellent job in turning the defense into the ninth-best unit in the league according to DVOA.
But it’s tough for any team to have a coaching advantage against a Rams staff headed by Sean McVay, who followed up an 11-5 debut season with a 13-3 mark and first-round bye in Year 2.
McVay’s offense led the league with 29.9 points per game last season and followed that up with 32.2 this season. The Rams have put 30-plus on the scoreboard in 21-of-32 (65.6%) regular-season games since McVay took over.
And let’s not forget defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is essentially the King Midas of defensive coordinators.
If the Rams blow a home playoff game for the second straight season, we may have to knock them down a peg or two, but until then, it will be advantage McVay against every opponent this side of Bill Belichick. — Chris Raybon
Special Teams: Rams
With Greg Zuerlein back, you have to give the edge to the Rams here at kicker. However, it’s worth noting that the Cowboys’ Brett Maher is 6-of-7 from 50-plus yards this season.
- Maher: 29-of-36 (80.6%) | 32-33 XPs (97.0%)
- Zuerlein: 27-31 (87.1%) | 35-36 XPs (97.2%)
Dallas is allowing opponents to return kicks 26.5 yards on average — the second-highest in the league. However, that weakness might not hurt them against a Rams team that has struggled in the return game all season (22nd in NFL).
Dallas hasn’t been great in the return game and only returned a league-low 13 kicks during the regular season. I have to give the nod to the Rams here as the Cowboys are almost a minus-5 yards net on kickoffs.
Both teams have below average punt coverage units, but the Rams have the much better punt return team. LA averages 10.2 yards per return (10th), while the Cowboys have a horrid punt return unit that averages the second-fewest yards per return at 5.7.
That five yard differential adds up over the course of a game.
LA will also have an advantage in the punting game with all-world athlete Johnny Hekker (look out for a potential fake as well!). Dallas ranked 22nd in the league with a 40.3 net, while LA ranked in the top-five at 43.9.
The Rams should consistently win the field position battle all game long. — Stuckey
Which team is healthier? Rams
Todd Gurley (knee) is expected to suit up Saturday despite being limited in practice throughout the week. Still, it remains to be seen just how involved backup RB C.J. Anderson will be.
The Rams are otherwise healthy, as safety Lamarcus Joyner (ankle) was able to practice in full all week.
The Cowboys have a few more question marks to worry about. Starting slot receiver Cole Beasley (ankle) and tight end Blake Jarwin (ankle) should each be considered questionable. No. 4 receiver Allen Hurns (ankle) was lost for the season during the Wild Card Round.
Left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (ankle) is trending towards a return, but it’s probably not a good idea to rush back a wounded gazelle against Aaron freaking Donald.
The Cowboys are otherwise healthy with the potential exceptions of blocking wide receiver Noah Brown (illness) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins (illness, ankle).
Cowboys: Both Cooper and Prescott possess less-than-ideal home/away splits for the Cowboys’ trip to Los Angeles (per the FantasyLabs NFL Trends Tool).
Still, Prescott could feed his No. 1 receiver more than ever before if Cole Beasley (ankle) and tight end Blake Jarwin (ankle) are ultimately unable to suit up. No. 4 receiver Allen Hurns (ankle) is done for the season.
Gallup is the preferred pivot play off of Cooper thanks to his fantasy-friendly target depth of 14.4 yards.
Prescott also seemingly trusts the rookie receiver near the end zone, as Gallup was fed back-to-back fades during the Cowboys’ wild-card victory over the Seahawks.
Rams: The Cowboys were largely picked apart by Russell Wilson last week, although the Seahawks stubbornly continued to try to run the football.
The Dallas defense boasts plenty of speed and talent at all three levels, but they’ve resembled a pass-funnel unit by ranking 16th in DVOA against the pass, compared to fifth against the run.
This is great news for Woods and Brandin Cooks, who are the second- and fourth-highest rated wide receivers in Adam Levitan’s Pro Model on DraftKings. Cooks has the group’s toughest matchup against Byron Jones (PFF’s No. 10 overall cornerback this season).
Meanwhile, Josh Reynolds has more-or-less worked as the passing game’s third option in eight games without Kupp (knee, IR) this season.
- Woods (65 targets in eight games without Kupp)
- Cooks (57)
- Reynolds (47)
- Todd Gurley (40 – missed 2 games)
- Gerald Everett (32)
- Tyler Higbee (18)
Helping matters for everyone involved in the passing game is the fact that Goff has easily been at his best when operating in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since McVay took over for Jeff Fisher in 2017.
- On road (16 games): 62% cmp | 7.72 Y/A | 28 TDs, 11 INTs | four games with 300+ yards | four games with 3+ TDs
- At home (16 games): 64% cmp | 8.38 Y/A | 33 TDs, 8 INTs | nine games with 300+ yards | six games with 3+ TD passes
Still, there’s also been some evidence that Goff simply struggles without his favorite check-down option, as he’s averaged 9.65 yards per attempt in eight games with Kupp this season compared to just 7.32 yards per attempt in eight games without.
DraftKings seems to be siding with the latter narrative, as Goff is priced down to just $5,500. His 58% Leverage Rating is the second-most GPP-friendly mark on DraftKings in the Divisional Round. — Hartitz
Bets to watch
This line is simply too high. The Cowboys have been a different team offensively since trading for Cooper. It has allowed Prescott to have a legitimate deep threat, while also using his tight ends more effectively. Ezekiel Elliott looked great against Seattle.
The Cowboys defense has been playing exceptionally well to boot. They can get pressure up front and have two of the league’s best, young linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.
The Rams may well win this game — I expect them to — but laying a touchdown is too much for a team that struggled against the spread this season.
I’d hold off on betting this until you see whether it moves to +7.5. The juice was trending that direction at the time of writing. — BlackJack Fletcher
I’ll tangle with BlackJack here. The Rams covered the spread just 46% of the time during the regular season, so it feels uncomfortable to lay seven points with them this week.
Perhaps that’s why the public is going with the dog here.
“Uncomfortable,” however, is my sweet spot. Teams that cover less than 50% of the time have gone 20-14-2 (58.8%) ATS in the playoffs, a record that improves significantly if the public has lost faith.
In fact, filtering for teams that are also getting less than 50% of bets in the game improves the record to 12-4-2 (75%) ATS. — Danny Donahue
What we saw from the Cowboys Saturday night against Seattle was a very straightforward gameplan based on running Elliott as much as possible (26 carries), avoiding mistakes, and relying on a great defense.
Kris Richard’s unit did a good job against an admittedly mediocre Seattle offense for most of the game, and I think this defense can travel and play well against the Rams, too.
With the Cowboys now playing in a somewhat more hostile road environment, I don’t expect the plan gets any less conservative.
Two teams that really want to establish the run could create a field-position, clock-control game. I was surprised this wasn’t closer to 47, to be honest.
I’ll take the under. — Ken Barkley
Editor’s note: The opinions on these games are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.