Folks, we have made it to perhaps the best week of the entire football schedule.
Sadly, there are only seven games left on the NFL docket, but we’re not going to harp on the negatives. Instead, we’re ready to embrace this weekend’s divisional round with four highly intriguing matchups.
As you’re looking to handicap, keep this wild stat in mind: Since the start of the playoffs last season, underdogs are a ridiculous 14-1 against the spread and have covered 62 percent of the time over the last five years.
Basically, what we’re saying is be ready for a wild weekend.
And before you dive into the upcoming slate, make sure to dive into our against-the-spread picks from the NESN.com trio of Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian.
Here’s how they fared last week:
Mike Cole: 2-2 (128-123-5 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 3-1 (131-119-5)
Andre Khatchaturian: 2-2 (135-116-5)
Here are their divisional-round picks with lines courtesy of OddsShark.com.
SATURDAY, JAN. 12
Indianapolis Colts at (-5.5) Kansas City Chiefs, 4:35 p.m. ET
Mike: Chiefs. I opened on the Colts because I think they do some things that will give the Chiefs trouble. That being said, Indy quite literally hasn’t seen a team like the Chiefs all season. The Colts haven’t faced a single top-10 offense, and now they take on arguably the league’s most explosive unit. There’s also this from The Action Network: Dome teams playing outdoor playoff games since 1990 are 12-44 straight-up and just 18-36-2 against the spread. That has even kind of been the case for the Colts this season, with four of their six losses coming outdoors. The Colts have injuries in the secondary with safety Mike Mitchell going to injured reserve. That could be especially costly for a defense that’s struggled to stop tight ends all season and now has to find a way to stop an All-Pro in Travis Kelce.
Ricky: Colts. Can you ever really trust Kansas City come playoff time? The Chiefs have been on a whole different level offensively this season, but their defense will be their fatal flaw this week. Kansas City has the 31st-ranked run defense, according to Pro Football Focus, and now must face an Indianapolis offense that’s coming off a tremendous ground showing against the Houston Texans’ stout front seven. The Colts’ offensive line, which ranks third in run blocking, per PFF, will control the line of scrimmage, ultimately opening up shots down the field for Andrew Luck. The Colts also rank first in third-down conversion percentage and fifth in red-zone scoring percentage, whereas the Chiefs rank 25th in opponent third-down conversion percentage and dead-last in opponent red-zone scoring percentage. Look for Indianapolis to extend and finish drives, resulting in an upset.
Andre: Colts. Marlon Mack — not Andrew Luck or Patrick Mahomes — will be the difference in this game. Mack has been unreal since Week 15, averaging five yards per carry against elite rush defenses like the Dallas Cowboys and Houston. The Chiefs have the league’s second-worst rush defense, allowing more than five yards per carry. Mack’s success will alleviate Luck’s workload. The Colts are 9-0 this season when Luck throws fewer than 40 times in a game. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have to go up against Indy’s elite rush defense, which allowed fewer than four yards per carry this season. Luck also gets protection. The Colts allowed 18 sacks in the regular season, and they’ll be ready for the Chiefs’ strong pass rush.
Dallas Cowboys at (-7) Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. The Rams just haven’t been the same team since losing Cooper Kupp to a knee injury. LA was 9-1 before losing him for the season and is just 4-2 since. Jared Goff really has struggled, with his passer rating being 30 points lower in games without Kupp while completing just 60 percent of his passes compared to the 68.4 percent mark he was completing before the injury. We also don’t know how healthy Todd Gurley is, and even if he’s healthy, Dallas apparently has the sort of defense that has…