NFL playoffs 2019: Everything you need to know for Saturday’s divisional-round games SportsPulse: As we get deeper into the NFL playoffs, predicting which team will come out on top gets tougher. USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes is here to help you pick an upset and a lock heading into the weekend. USA TODAY
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff time: 4:35 p.m. ET
Streaming: NBC Sports Live
Location: Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City
Line: Chiefs by 5
Injury report: Kansas City could be without several notable contributors on both offense (wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Spencer Ware are both questionable) and defense (safety Eric Berry is questionable while linebacker Dorian O’Daniel is doubtful). Indianapolis has already ruled wide receiver Ryan Grant out, and defensive end Tyquan Lewis is doubtful. Defensive tackle Denico Autry and safety Malik Hooker are both questionable.
1. QB play: Fans of potent offenses should be salivating. This matchup features the favorite for league MVP in Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the seeming choice for comeback player of the year in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. In the regular season, the two combined for 9,690 passing yards and a stunning 89 passing scores. But both also had issues with interceptions. Luck tied for second most with 15, while Mahomes tied for ninth most with 12.
2. Strength on strength: This matchup pits an Indianapolis offensive line that gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL (18) against one of the league’s most prolific pass rushes, the Chiefs tying for first with 52 sacks. Against the Texans, the Colts offensive line didn’t allow a sack of Luck and gave up just four QB hits. And when Luck has time to throw, he can pick apart opposing defenses. Generating pressure in Luck’s face will be key for a Kansas City defense that ranked second-to-last in passing yards allowed.
3. Elements of familiarity: Though Colts coach Frank Reich never served as an assistant under Chiefs coach Andy Reid, there should be plenty of overlap and familiarity between staffs. That’s because Eagles coach Doug Pederson, whom Reid closely mentored as a player and coach, was Reich’s boss in Philadelphia from 2016-17. Reich has indicated how influential Pederson has been in his own rise in becoming an NFL head coach, and Reid’s fingerprints are all over the scheme Pederson and Reich ran while both worked in Philly. Reich has incorporated much of that in Indianapolis. That shared knowledge could be instrumental for both staffs in trying to craft a defensive game plan.
And though it was four years ago and there are only a handful of players remaining on both teams from the matchups, the last time these two faced in the postseason produced a memorable outcome. The Colts dealt Reid and the Chiefs a 45-44 loss in a 2013 wild-card game after Kansas City held a 28-point second-half lead. It was the second-worst collapse in postseason history. The only one worse was when the Oilers blew a 32-point lead in a 1993 wild-card game against the Bills, who were – coincidentally – quarterbacked by Reich.
Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
Kickoff time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Line: Rams by 7
Injury report: Los Angeles is mostly in the clear, as defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks (questionable with a thigh ailment) is the only player with any injury designation. Dallas, on the other hand, is facing more uncertainty. Wide receiver Cole Beasley, defensive tackle Maliek Collins, tight end Blake Jarwin, left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo and safety Darian Thompson are all questionable, while defensive lineman David Irving is out.
1. Return of the back: As much as the NFL has come to be defined by the pass, these clubs’ best offensive players are their tailbacks. Gurley led the league with 21 TDs, and is a Swiss Army knife who’s effective running the ball, catching it or pass blocking for QB Jared Goff. And, yes, he’s now got relief available after Anderson rushed for 299 yards in his two starts. On the other side, Ezekiel Elliott just won his second rushing title with 1,434 yards, has led the NFL in yards per game on the ground in all three of his seasons and chewed up Seattle for 137 more and a touchdown in the wild-card round. Elliott should have much easier sledding against a shaky L.A. run defense. Gurley and Anderson will be facing a Dallas bunch that just shut down the Seahawks’ No. 1-ranked ground game, allowing just 73 yards.
2. Donald vs. Cowboys blocking: Dallas’ offensive line has been the team’s primary strength for years, but 2018 was a little rough. RG Zack Martin still made the all-pro team, even though repeated knee setbacks meant he wasn’t his typical dominant self. The bigger problems on the interior have been the loss of all-pro C Travis Frederick to Guillan Barre Syndrome while rookie Connor Williams and Su’a-Filo have often struggled to hold down the fort at left guard. Rams wrecking ball Aaron Donald is almost certainly headed to his second defensive MVP award after recording a league-best 20½ sacks, most ever by an interior lineman. He’ll likely be more than a handful for the Cowboys, especially given Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times in the regular season, most among NFC quarterbacks.
3. Young guns: Finally, a nod to Prescott and Goff. Prescott was solid against the Seahawks, making just enough plays to notch his first career postseason win — which is exactly what Goff is hoping to do Saturday night. Prescott will probably have to do even more against the Rams considering No. 1 WR Amari Cooper faces a tough assignment against CB Aqib Talib. Prescott may have to try and use the aggressiveness of Donald and Ndamukong Suh against them and exploit running lanes given the way those linemen look to get upfield quickly. On the other side, Goff could quickly find the game on his right arm if Gurley struggles physically and/or has a hard time cracking the Dallas defensive wall. The Cowboys are also quite effective against the pass, rangy LBs Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch being potentially quite disruptive against some of Los Angeles’ crossing routes. But Goff might have an advantage numbers-wise with Gurley, a pair of 1,200-yard receivers (Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods) and X-factor Josh Reynolds.