NFL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS
SATURDAY INDIANAPOLIS AT KANSAS CITY
4:30 p.m. ET, NBC
The Colts are 4-0 in the postseason against the Chiefs, 2-0 at Arrowhead Stadium. They are on quite a roll from going 1-5, with an efficient offense that protects its quarterback better than any team, allowing sacks on only 2.7 percent of Andrew Luck’s passes. That could be a key because the Chiefs’ defense is one-dimensional, with a strong pass rush but otherwise plenty of holes.
Kansas City scored a franchise-record 565 points, third most in NFL history. All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes led the league with seven games with a 100-plus passer rating (Luck was third with five). Mahomes set a franchise record for TD passes (50), touchdown interception differential (plus-38) and 300-yard passing games (10).
Worth focusing on: The tight end production for Indy’s Eric Ebron, who had 15 touchdowns this season, and KC’s Travis Kelce, second among TEs with 1,336 yards receiving. He has a catch in 79 straight games.
DALLAS AT LOS ANGELES RAMS
8 p.m. ET, Fox
These franchises have split eight postseason games, and the Rams are the most frequent playoff opponent for Dallas. The Cowboys last won a road playoff game in 1993 on their way to a Super Bowl title, but their next playoff victory will be their 36th, tying Pittsburgh for the most in NFL history.
Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald topped the NFL with 20 1/2 sacks, nearly twice as many as Cowboys leader Demarcus Lawrence’s 10 1/2. Under former Dallas coach Wade Phillips, LA’s defense had 41 sacks to the Cowboys’ 39, yet the Rams had 97 more sack yards.
Worth focusing on: This game could be decided on the ground, which means All-Pro Todd Gurley for the Rams and second-teamer Ezekiel Elliott for the Cowboys. Elliott won the rushing title for the second time in three years, but Gurley was sidelined late in the schedule by a knee injury. Gurley led the league in touchdowns with 21, 17 rushing.
SUNDAY LOS ANGELES CHARGERS AT NEW ENGLAND
1 p.m. ET, CBS
New England was 8-0 at Gillette Stadium, the only perfect home record in the league. And the Chargers were a leaguebest 7-1 on the road.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has a 1-7 record against the Patriots, including 0-4 in Foxborough and 0-2 in the playoffs. There is concern about leading rusher Melvin Gordon, who hurt his knee in last week’s win at Baltimore.
Conversely, Tom Brady is 2-0 in the playoffs and 6-2 in regular-season meetings.
Worth focusing on: If the weather is decent, Brady and Rivers will be testing defensive backfields of varying accomplishments. There often have been gaping holes in New England’s coverages, while the Chargers have an All-Pro in rookie safety Derwin James, and another standout back there in Desmond King.
PHILADELPHIA AT NEW ORLEANS
4:30 p.m. ET, Fox
They call him St. Nick around Philly, and the way Nick Foles has performed, why not? He guided the Eagles to the championship and was Super Bowl MVP last year after replacing an injured Carson Wentz. This time, with Wentz sidelined again, Foles got the struggling Eagles into the postseason, then helped them beat the Bears in the wild-card game.
For the Saints, the league’s top team in the regular season. Drew Brees has had perhaps the best season of his Hall of Famecaliber career. And of all the teams coming off byes, New Orleans is the most balanced. Oh, yeah, the Saints also routed the Eagles 48-7 in November, before Philly won six of the next seven, including the 16-15 verdict in Chicago.
Worth focusing on: Again, the secondaries. The Eagles have prospered despite a rash of injuries there, and the Saints’ DBs can be had when the guys up front don’t get in a QB’s face.