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After a wacky wild-card weekend that kicked off with a beatdown in Houston and wrapped up with heartbreak in Chicago, the playoff field has been reduced to eight.
All four first-round winners, three of which were road underdogs, live to fight another week while the top seeds hope extra rest can help them defend home turf. Fans are two wins away from Atlanta and Super Bowl 53. Here is a peek at this weekend’s divisional round slate.
—Colts @ Chiefs: The AFC’s top-seeded Chiefs and MVP frontrunner Patrick Mahomes II battle Andrew Luck and the surging Colts. These two quarterbacks were #1 and #2 in touchdowns thrown this season, respectively.
—Cowboys @ Rams: The Cowboys escaped at home against the Seahawks, but will face an even tougher test in L.A. Saturday. Dallas blasted into the playoffs while the Rams showed late-season vulnerability with two of their three losses coming in December.
—Chargers @ Patriots: The Patriots earned a divisional round home game yet again, but these aren’t the dominant Patriots fans are used to. The Chargers are 8-1 on the road this season, but no one has exited Foxborough with a playoff win in six years.
—Eagles @ Saints: Nick Foles is back and playing in January, but it took an improbable missed field goal to advance past the Bears and onto New Orleans. The Eagles will fight to defend their title against potentially the NFL’s best team.
Guiding you through every game is Bing Predicts, which leverages search, social, and historical statistics to forecast the week’s winners and losers. Read on for divisional round predictions.
ALSO: See how Bing predicted the entire season here.
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Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs
Game time: Saturday, Jan. 12, 4:35 p.m. EST
Historical matchup: Indianapolis Colts lead series 16-9-0
It feels like the Indianapolis Colts have been in playoff mode for months now. After a 1-5 start to the season, nearly every game has been a “must win” to reach this point. Now they'll face their toughest test of the season against the league's top regular season offense. Indy easily handled the AFC South champion Houston Texans 21-7 over wild-card weekend behind 222 yards passing and two scores from Andrew Luck, plus 148 yards rushing by Marlon Mack.
The Kansas City Chiefs have never beaten the Colts in the playoffs, but they've never had a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes II. The second-year phenom threw 50 touchdowns in 2018, tying him for second all-time with Tom Brady. He also had over 5,000 yards passing.
A key to the Colts' success this season has been an impenetrable offensive line keeping Luck upright in the pocket. The Comeback Player of the Year frontrunner was sacked a league-low 18 times in 2018 and didn't take a sack in last Saturday's victory. The Kansas City defense led the league in sacks this season (52) but gave up more yards-per-game than every team but one. If Luck can avoid pressure, Indianapolis has a shot to put up big numbers and maybe even escape with a road victory.
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Bing Predicts Winner: Kansas City Chiefs (61% chance)
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Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams
Game time: Saturday, Jan. 12, 8:15 p.m. EST
Historical matchup: Dallas Cowboys lead series 17-16-0
Up by three with a little more than two minutes to play, Cowboys' quarterback Dak Prescott found a crease and sprinted up the middle on a third-and-14 to advance the ball to the Seattle Seahawks' one-yard line. Prescott would rush the ball in on the next play, and that touchdown would be enough to hold off a Seahawks' comeback and secure a 24-22 wild-card victory. The Cowboys looked dead in the water after their 3-5 start to the season, but owned the second half of the year, going 7-1 and capturing an NFC East crown.
One issue for the Cowboys: all but one of their losses this season has come on the road, which is where they'll be this Saturday in L.A. The Rams tied the New Orleans Saints for the best record in all of football this season, but slumped a bit toward the end of the year, losing two of their last four games.
If the Cowboys want to sneak past the Rams, they'll need to rely heavily on the run game: Ezekiel Elliott finished with the highest yards-per-game average among players with 50 or more attempts (95.6) and had 137 yards and a touchdown on wild-card weekend. The Rams' defense finished worst in the NFL in yards-per-rush (5.1), despite their defensive line being anchored by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who is likely to repeat this year. But Donald's specialty is getting after the QB: He led the NFL with 20.5 sacks this season. Los Angeles hopes for the return of star running back Todd Gurley II, who missed the last two games of the regular season with a knee injury.
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Bing Predicts Winner: Los Angeles Rams (70% chance)
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Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots
Game time: Sunday, Jan. 13, 1:05 p.m. EST
Historical matchup: New England Patriots lead series 24-15-2
Despite having a better record than the New England Patriots, the Los Angeles Chargers will head to Foxborough this Sunday for a chance to advance to the AFC Championship game. Playing on the road hasn't been an issue for the Chargers this season, where every game feels a little like a road game until their new stadium opens in 2020. They are 8-1 this season away from L.A. (including a game in London), but New England is historically tough at home in the playoffs.
This is the ninth-consecutive year New England won its division and earned a first-round bye. New England has also won its past seven divisional round games, but this Chargers team might be the squad to take them down. Since Philip Rivers took over as the starter in 2006, the Chargers are 0-7 against the Pats in the postseason.
Los Angeles was able to hold off the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 after building a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter. Rivers wasn't great against the league's top defense—22-for-32 for 160 yards—but controlled the tempo enough to squeak out of Baltimore with a victory. The Patriots and the postseason experience of quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick will likely pose a larger obstacle.
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Bing Predicts Winner: New England Patriots (61% chance)
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Game time: Sunday, Jan. 13, 4:40 p.m. EST
Historical matchup: Philadelphia Eagles lead series 17-14-0
The late-season magic for quarterback Nick Foles continues as he and the Philadelphia Eagles eked out a win over the Chicago Bears, relying on a Cody Parkey missed field goal that hit off of the left upright and the crossbar. This game is a rematch of a Week 11 bout in New Orleans where the Saints spanked the Eagles 48-7. New Orleans is still the clear favorite this time around, but this is not the same Philadelphia team from Week 11.
Foles, along with dominant play from the offensive line, has been crucial in the four-game winning streak. Filling in yet again for an injured Carson Wentz, the backup quarterback is 9-1 in games played in December, January, or February in the past two seasons. The reigning Super Bowl champions were the #1 seed in the NFC last season, though, and didn't have to leave Philly en route to Minneapolis.
The Saints, arguably, have been the best team in football—if not for resting players Week 17 with the #1 seed already secured, they could have finished with the best record in football. The Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas trio is maybe the most potent QB/RB/WR group in all of football. If their defense, which has looked extremely impressive in the latter half of the season, can generate pressure against a now-healthy Eagles o-line, expect NOLA in the NFC championship game.
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Bing Predicts Winner: New Orleans Saints (70% chance)
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