Editor’s note: These predictions were made as of Friday, Jan. 11. Any results since then have not been included.
AFC: Los Angeles Chargers over New England Patriots: Philip Rivers has never beaten a Tom Brady-led Patriots team. The last time these two teams met in a playoff game, Rivers lost by nine while playing on a torn ACL. The Chargers are now a more balanced team, and Brady had his worst season in quite some time. The Patriots still have a decent run game, but unless they can reawaken the passing attack that made Brady a feared force in the league, they will lose when it matters most.
AFC: Kansas City Chiefs over Indianapolis Colts: The Chiefs have been unstoppable offensively all season long. Unfortunately, their defense was ranked near the bottom of the league. The Colts have momentum after shutting down the Houston Texans in the Wild Card Round, What is shocking is that the Colts scored 21 points in the first half of that game, and were shut out in the second half. For being the seventh best offense in the NFL, that is concerning. While it would be tempting to give the Colts the edge because of prior playoff experience, the Chiefs have the likely MVP-runner up (Yes, I said runner-up) in Patrick Mahomes on their team, and it seems likely the Colts defense will have trouble keeping up with the Chiefs lightning-quick offense.
NFC: New Orleans Saints over Philadelphia Eagles: Unfortunately, the Nick Foles magic will likely end in New Orleans. The Eagles insist they are a different team from the one that lost 48-7 in week 11 because they have learned from their mistakes (they really mean it’s because Foles replaced Carson Wentz due to injury). The Eagles’ secondary has been hit hard due to injury, giving likely MVP Drew Brees the opportunity to pick apart their replacements. Foles will probably still have the 2013-14 Wild Card Game loss to Brees on his mind, and using this as motivation will allow the Eagles to make this rematch more competitive, but the Saints have just too many weapons to slow down.
NFC: Los Angeles Rams over Dallas Cowboys: California is swarming with Cowboys fans, which will make the LA Coliseum sound more like a Cowboys home game. The Rams have struggled against the rush in the second half of the season, and Jared Goff has struggled since WR Cooper Kupp went down due to injury. However, the Rams likely still have a bad taste from last year’s Wild Card Game loss, and will use this as motivation to end the Cowboys season.
Conference Championship Round
AFC: Los Angeles Chargers over Kansas City Chiefs: The AFC Championship game deserves to be between the conference’s best two teams. The Chargers probably felt they could have swept the Chiefs in this years season series, but we have noticed the difference from their Week 1 home loss and Week 15 road win. They are more balanced on both sides of the ball, and their defense will play a key factor in slowing down Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs defense has been nonexistent all season, and when you rely on just outscoring your opponent to win games, you won’t survive forever. The Chiefs defense will disappoint when it matters most, and Philip Rivers will finally have his chance at a Super Bowl.
NFC: New Orleans Saints over Los Angeles Rams: When these two teams met earlier this season, it wasn’t quite the shootout we expected. The Saints built a large lead early, only to let it slip, before rebuilding it to a double digit victory. Chances are it won’t be quite as lopsided this time around, but Drew Brees has been nearly unstoppable at the Superdome this year, and the veteran will outplay Jared Goff and send Los Angeles home.
Super Bowl LIII
Los Angeles Chargers over New Orleans Saints: The Super Bowl this year will take place in Atlanta, home of the Saints’ division rival Atlanta Falcons, meaning plenty of Saints fans will have the opportunity to watch the Saints in Atlanta for a second time this year. This gives New Orleans a favorable home-type crowd. However, Philip Rivers will be hungry to win the ring that has eluded him his entire career, and once again, the Chargers defense will be the difference in this game.
AFC: Indianapolis Colts over Kansas City Chiefs
This matchup is probably one of the best of this weekend’s slate of games. Andrew Luck has resurrected his career, and the afterthought, Frank Reich, has restored the explosivity of this Colts offense. They travel to Arrowhead stadium to take on another AFC powerhouse in the Chiefs, a team that has not won a playoff game at home since 1994. I have the Colts winning this matchup. Andrew Luck certainly has the playoff experience and I trust him more than Mahomes in a potential offensive shootout. I wouldn’t count out the Chiefs since they have defensive playmakers, something that Indianapolis lacks. I would not be surprised if the outcome of this game is determined by one or two turnovers by either team.
NFC: Dallas Cowboys over Los Angeles Rams
I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to say that the Rams offense is not remotely the same offense we saw in week 4, the last time they faced the Cowboys. As it stands, I think Dak Prescott is playing at a much higher level than Goff, and he definitely has the upper hand in getting out of the pocket and making big time throws. Todd Gurley, who has not played a game since week 15, will have a tough matchup when it comes to Dallas’ ferocious group of linebackers that excel when it comes to bouncing to the outside, something that the dynamic duo excel in containing. Todd Gurley is not 100% and has not played at the same MVP-type level he did months ago, something that should concern Rams fans. One thing to note in this game is the Cowboys’ fan-base and their heavy presence in Southern California. It is widely expected that the LA Memorial Coliseum will be filled with the Navy Blue and White.
AFC: Los Angeles Chargers over New England Patriots
Philip Rivers and his two healthy ACLs will get another shot at Brady and company for the first time since losing to them in the 2008 AFC championship game. It seems like the entire NFL community is rallying behind the Bolts, in hopes that they take down a lengthy football dynasty in the Bill Belichick-led-Patriots. I think this game will be another defensive showing by the Chargers, and I expect Melvin Ingram, along with LA’s run-stuffing defensive line to have another monster performance. Rivers will have to throw down the field to capitalize on his defense’s performance, however, and Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Tyrell Williams will need to win their matchups against a stellar New England group of DB’s. Will the dynasty end this Sunday? History tells us it will be business as usual for the Pats, but the Chargers present a completely different challenge for New England.
NFC: Philadelphia Eagles over New Orleans Saints
The tale of St. Nick, is simply too good to be true. The Eagles barely escaped their last game against the Bears, and they are unlikely to have the same luck in New Orleans. The Saints simply have too much firepower in the offensive backfield with Michael Thomas being a heavy target for Drew Brees. The New Orleans defense will continue to defend the short-pass in this game and I predict the secondary will give Foles a lot of trouble. St. Nick will need to launch it this weekend if he wants to give his team any shot at escaping with a win.
AFC Championship: Los Angeles Chargers over Indianapolis Colts
A showdown in Carson. Philip Rivers will have a legacy defining game, and the defense will continue to shine. I have Casey Hayward Jr. locking down T.Y. Hilton and the Colts defense having a meltdown against a trio of play-making receivers. The number five seed hosting the number six seed has never happened– ever. But, crazier things have happened in the NFL.
NFC Championship: New Orleans Saints over Dallas Cowboys
The sight of the Lombardi trophy sitting on $200k cash will be responsible for this deep run for the Saints. This time around, the Cowboys will be in hostile territory and Alvin Kamara will get the best of a stout Dallas backfield. This, combined with another great performance by Michael Thomas will prove overwhelming for Rod Marinelli’s defense and earn New Orleans a trip to Atlanta.
Super Bowl: Los Angeles Chargers over New Orleans Saints
A Super Bowl win has eluded Chargers fans forever, but they won’t have to stress any longer. Rivers and Gates will finally be awarded the Lombardi trophy that they deserve, adding to their already-established Hall of Fame careers. On top of that, a Super Bowl win over a former Charger, Drew Brees, makes the victory just that much more poetic.