NFL Divisional Round Playoffs Betting: Keys and Distractions
Handicapping successfully at any time is all about separating what actually matters from all the stuff that doesn't. If you can do that consistently, you will probably be a winner. And that is more important than ever in the NFL Playoffs when everyone is an expert, and there is wall-to-wall coverage of every game. Don't worry, though, we are here to help. Here is one of the biggest keys for each playoff team if they want to live to fight another day and a distraction that you will hear a lot about but you need to ignore.
Colts at Chiefs
Key for Indianapolis: Run, run, run. The Colts ran the ball very effectively against a Texans team that was ranked third in the league against the run before the game. The 200 yards on the ground were the biggest reason the Colts won so handily. They set the tone and ground out the win. Now they are facing the 27th-ranked run defense. And even that lousy ranking is flattering because of how often Kansas City games turned into aerial shootouts out of necessity because of the explosiveness the Chiefs have on offense. Indy needs to establish the run early, set the tone, and grind.
Key for Kansas City: Make it a shootout. Andrew Luck had the second most touchdowns in the league, but he still had 11 fewer than Patrick Mahomes, and Luck's most important receiver is banged up. If the Chiefs can get out of the gate early, they can force the game into the air and give themselves the best advantage.
Distraction: Don't get caught up in Andy Reid's playoff struggles. Sure, he has underperformed at the most important time of year. But he is very good coming off of byes, and this is a new QB and a different team.
Cowboys at Rams
Key for Dallas: All Zeke, all the time. The Rams are the worst team in the league against the run. Ezekiel Elliott is the only truly impressive part of the Dallas offense. The Cowboys need to establish the run early and ride it as hard as they possibly can.
Key for L.A.: Gurley's health. Todd Gurley does it all, ruling on the ground and keeping things honest through the air as well. But he has been really banged up lately, and it has had a serious impact on this offense. They need Gurley to be healthy, and they need to get him going right away.
Distraction: Cowboys road record. Sure, Dallas has been much better at home than on the road this year. But this is just one game, and they will have plenty of support in L.A. for this one.
Chargers at Patriots
Key for L.A.: The Chargers need to get to Brady early and often. They have a strong front four, and that line was able to rattle Lamar Jackson for the first three quarters of the last game. If Brady is able to have time and settle in, he will tear apart the Chargers - especially if they go with seven defensive backs like they did against Jackson with such success. But if Brady is scrambling, then the Chargers will be in good shape.
Key for New England: Get top tight end play. This means that they need to hope that Gronk is both healthy and finally effective again. He hasn't been much of a factor for big parts of this season, but they really need him here.
Distraction: The Chargers road success. Every time the Chargers have flown to a game this year, they have won it. While that is impressive, they also have not played New England in Foxboro in January yet. What has happened in the past doesn't matter in the present in this case.
Eagles at Saints
Key for Philadelphia: Be strong on third down. The team has been notably better at converting third downs with Nick Foles starting than with Carson Wentz. And since they are at a disadvantage on both sides of the ball in this game, they are going to have to do it well again here to have any real chance.
Key for New Orleans: Make Foles uncomfortable. Foles threw two bad picks, and it should have cost him the game last weekend. The line in front of him is good, but the Saints can apply pressure. If they can shake him and force him into decisions, then chances are good he will make mistakes again. The margin for error is very slim for the Eagles, so any error from Foles will be even more costly than usual.
Distraction: Foles as superhero. The guy is on a heck of a playoff run, but he didn't deserve to win the last game and certainly didn't win it for his team. I'm certainly not saying he can't win, but don't make the mistake of buying into the belief that he can't lose.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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