Indianapolis Colts +5.5 vs Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET)
Expect fireworks. Kansas City led the NFL in scoring, averaging 35.3 points per game behind superstar Patrick Mahones, who threw for 5,097 yards and 50 TDs in his first year at the helm. Indianapolis ranked seventh in scoring (27.1 points) and exit an impressive wildcard-round showing at Houston, jumping out to a 21-0 halftime advantage and surrendering no sacks as Andrew Luck had all day to throw against one of the best pass rushes.
Defensive coordinators can’t stop Mahones but playoff-bound teams Baltimore and Los Angeles Chargers were able to slow down the prolific attack late in the season. Chiefs lost three of their last six games, finishing on a 1-5-1 ATS slide, and felt the loss of RB Kareem Hunt over the final month of the season. He was a key component along with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Kansas City hopes to have WR Sammy Watkins and S Eric Berry back from injury but we’ll see whether either can be effective. Arrowhead Stadium remains a potentially significant advantage but I don’t want to lay more than a FG against Indianapolis.
Colts offensive line playing better than any remaining AFC team and Chiefs reliant upon a disruptive pass rush from Justin Houston, Chris Jones and Dee Ford. That favors Indy, which led the league by allowing only 18 sacks all year. And Colts peaking offensive line really made a difference in recent weeks, allowing RB Marlon Mack to thrive by rushing for 100+ yards in three key wins including last week’s playoff road win (Mack had 148 yards with a 6.2-yard average against Houston’s 5th-ranked run defense).
T.Y. Hilton, who is playing his best football presently and ranked eighth with 16.7 yards per catch, should have a big afternoon. Chiefs were 31st versus the pass this year (273.4 yards per game) and 27th versus the run (132.1 yards per game). Nobody expects to see such an atrocious defense from a Super Bowl contender.
After starting 1-5, Indy has won 10 of the last 11 games. And the resurgence hasn’t been strictly due to offense. Rookie LB Darius Leonard (NFL’s leading tackler and first-team All-Pro) leads a stingy unit that improved greatly during the season, allowing only 12 points per game over the final six weeks. In three games against playoff teams since mid-December, Colts have allowed a total of 28 points (9.3 points per game).
Colts 4-1 ATS in last five games and 4-2 ATS as a road underdog this year. Kansas City 4-4 ATS as a home favorite and 2-3 ATS when laying seven or more points this season. Chiefs 1-4 SU in playoff games under Andy Reid and 0-4 all-time versus Indy in the postseason.
Indianapolis has all the momentum. And behind a formidable offensive line, Colts appear capable of keeping Mahones off the field by controlling the clock. Give me the points with Indianapolis!
Saturday’s Divisional NFL Free Picks – Bet Indianapolis +5.5 over Kansas City!
Dallas Cowboys +7 vs Los Angeles Rams (Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET)
Dallas must play good defense and Los Angeles will look to outscore opponent.
Both teams feature excellent running backs and while Dallas may have an edge with Ezekiel Elliott, who led the league in rushing during the regular season and has averaged 131 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry in the playoffs, Todd Gurley’s return is very significant.
Rams were lost offensively with a banged-up Gurley against the Bears and Philly, putting too much pressure on Jared Goff and the defense. They didn’t need him in the final two games of the season, confidence-building wins over Arizona and San Francisco, but Gurley will be important against a stout Dallas defense. Look for him to have a lot of catches as well as L.A. utilizes his skills as a receiver and rusher.
Dallas has had trouble in the red zone and really laid an egg in the last road game against a playoff team, losing 23-0 at Indianapolis. Cowboys went 6-2-1 ATS over the last nine weeks but did have five of seven at home.
This will be a tough spot for the Cowboys because the high-scoring Rams have had a week to prepare. Los Angeles averaged 32.9 points per game, second-best in NFL, and ranked in the top 5 in rushing (third) and passing (fifth). They have a huge coaching advantage with Sean McVay and I’ll take Goff over Dak Prescott, who was sacked 56 times this year and orchestrates a pedestrian attack that ranks low in every category but rushing (Dallas 22nd in scoring offense and 23rd in passing offense).
Dallas simply can’t afford to fall behind with Prescott and I don’t think they’ll be able to match points with the Rams, who have turned things around with 79 points in the last two games after going through a slump offensively.
Rams will win going away by double-digits, lay the points!
Saturday’s Divisional NFL Free Picks – Bet Los Angeles Rams -7 over Dallas!