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Divsional Round Playoff Preview

No totals picks this week as QC is still recovering from a brutal 0-4 Wild Card Round on totals. The Chargers and Ravens each missed a field goal in a game that went under by 1.5 points. Ouch. But what really stung was Dallas QB Dak Prescott's reprising "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" to pick up 16 yards on 3rd down and 14 deep in Q4 in a 24-22 win over Seattle. Without Prescott's (magnificent) effort, the Cowboys would have settled for field goal and it is unlikely the total would not have topped 43.5. It's called gambling for a reason.


Kansas City (-5.5) vs. Indianapolis

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: Kansas City 1st; Indianapolis 18th
TURNOVER MARGIN: Kansas City 6th (+9); Indianapolis 13th (+3)

Since 2009, better designed NFL teams are 18-6 in the Divisional Round (and 3-9 on the road). The Chiefs recipe is simple: Getting QB Pat Mahomes, who ranks No. 2 in the NFL in first half passer rating (115) going early and jump to the lead. Over the past 10 years, Mahomes' 9.355 QCYPA has been betted only by Green Bay's Aaron Rogers in 2011 (Packers were upset 37-20 in Divisional Round by NY Giants) and Atlanta's Matt Ryan (Falcons spanked Seahawks in Divisional Round by near identical score, 36-20). Colts' QB Andrew Luck ranks only No. 24 in first half pass4er rating (88.7). Getting ahead will take a lot of pressure off DC Bob Sutton's run defense, which has yielded 162 yards rushing per game over the last 5 games. Indianapolis is 5-0 ATS when it runs for greater han 158 yards. Moreover, the Colts average 5.1 yards per carry on rushes Nos. 11-20 (No. 4), but only 4 yards per carry on attempts 1-10 (4.0). If Indianapolis falls behind and rushes fewer than 20 times, the advantage will swing to Andy Reid's team as Luck's passer rating is just 64.5 when he is pressured (per ESPN NFL Matchup) and the Chiefs have sacked opposing QBs for at least -13 yards in losses in 14 of 16 games. No HC in the playoffs is getting better O-line play than Frank Reich, so it is likely that Kansas City's only chance to stop Indy is make Reich and Luck one-dimensional. Even if this happens, expect the Colts to mount a furious Q4 charge. Luck never goes away (as Reid knows from seeing a 28 point playoff lead evaporate the last time these two teams met in the playoffs). Compounding that problem is Mahomes is now Reid's leading rusher as a result of the release of RB Kareem Hunt for off-the-field behavior. Hunt provided the four-minute hammer that Reid and Mahomes needed to put teams away. Without Hunt, the Chiefs are 1-4 ATS. For all of those reasons, expect a wild game (unless the weather gets in the way). The result could go in any direction, but QC's best guess is Kansas City hangs on by forcing a late turnover and exapes with field goal win.

QC's Pick: Indianapolis Colts ATS; Kansas City Chiefs SU

New England (-4) vs. LA Chargers

TURNOVER MARGIN: New England 5th (+10); LA Chargers 15th (+1)

LA DC Gus Bradley stunned QC last week by coming up with a brilliant defensive design that deployed 7 DBs to stop the run. QC did not see that coming. Neither did Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson or his play designers. As a result, the Chargers moved with a 23-17 win despite QB Phil Rivers' below average performance. HC Anthony Lynn will need more from Rivers this week, but that might be a problem as Bill Belichick has almost always been able to get the best of Rivers. The LA QB has thrown 1 TD pass in 4 of his last 5 games after throwing at least 2 TD passes in his first 12 games. The Chargers also have committed 10 TO in their last 4 games no passer except KC's Pat Mahomes has exceeded 6.6 QCYPA at Gillette Stadium this year. Yikes! New England has been a ground machine at home, running for at least 122 yards in 7 of 8 home games (8-0 SU; 6-2 ATS). LA is 1-4 ATS when an opponent runs for 122 yards or more. Yikes! The Chargers have been road warriors this year, winning all 9 of their travel games (they lost a "road" game to the Rams in LA won a "home" game over the Titans in London). But this is only the second time they have played back-to-back road games and the first time both games were in the Pacific Time Zone (at Seattle, at Oakland). LA playe at Denver in the thin air, then at Baltimore and now at New England, the toughest venue of all. It has been a great year for the Chargers but lighting really will have to strike for Rivers best Tom Brady for the first time in his career against a team that has won 7 straight Divisional Round games by margins of 35, 13, 21, 4, 7, 18 and 21 points.

QC's Pick: New England Patriots ATS and SU


LA Rams (-7) vs. Dallas

TURNOVER MARGIN: LA Rams 4th (+11); Dallas 12th (+3)

LA Rams' HC Sean McVay has done everything an HC can do in the NFL except win a playoff game. The Rams bombed in this spot last year against Atlanta. This looks like a great spot for LA to reverse that outcome. LA led the NFL in first downs (400) and committed just 1 TO per game at home. It's defense led by monster DT Aaron Donald forced 30 TO during the regular season. Against negatively designed teams like the Cowboys, the Rams were 6-0 SU and 4-2 ATS with wins by 20, 34, 3, 2 14 and 22 points. The Cowboys' will need QB Dak Prescott to both move the chains and avoid TO. But Prescott has been sacked for -21.7 yards per game and that will make achieving either objective difficult. If Zeke Elliott can have a big game on the ground, Dallas' chances will increase dramatically as LA is 0-5 ATS when its opponent runs the ball 30 or more times. While Elliott and friend have run the ball 30 or more times in 5 games and are 4-1 ATS in those games, all of those efforts came at home under the big video board in the Jones Mahal. The Rams led the NFL in first half scoring (about 20 points per game) while Dallas comes in near the rear (about 5 points a game). If LA its these averages and holds a 14-point halft-time lead, the second half could be ugle as Donald, et al. will not have to concern themselves with Elliott runs and will be able to pin their ears back and turn the ferocity of their pusuit of Dak up to full blast.

QC's Pick: LA Rams ATS and SU

New Orleans (-8.5) vs. Philadelphia

PLAY DESIGN DIFFERENTIAL RANKINGS: New Orleans 11th; Philadelphia 14th
TURNOVER MARGIN: New Orleans 7th (+8); Philadelphia 25th (-6)

Philadelphia lost in New Orleans during the regular season 48-7 and will be trying to pull off what Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the rest of the NY Jets pulled off in 2010: Beat a No. 1 seed (Patriots) on the road who had handed them a 40+ point defeat during the regular season. That New England team was both better designed than the Saints and posted an incredible +28 TO margin. Sean Payton's team is solid, but it is not nearly as scary as the 2010 New England team. Like Sanchez in 2010, Eagles QB Nick Foles will have to play TO-free and efficiently for Philadelphia to win. He has a good chance to do so because Jason Peters and his O-line mates have been playing great of late. Foles has plenty of weapons with which to work. While the Eagles run game is meh, Foles has the best duo of TEs in the NFL in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goeddert. Expect to see a lot of multiple TE formations and Foles target his TEs perhaps as many as 20 times to keep the chains moving. If he can do that, he can keep the ball out of Drew Brees hands. Sentimalists are pointing out that the last time Payton's team was a No. 1 seed in 2009, it also finished 13-3 with losses to Dallas, Tampa Bay, and Carolina. That team (like this one) was just 4-4 ATS at home. The Saints are a running team. Brees did not throw more than 1 TD pass in any of his last 4 starts. New Orleans is 10-2 ATS this year when it runs for more than 100 yards. But the Saints are 0-3 ATS when they run the ball less than 20 times (including a late meeting at home with Pittsburgh). DT Fletcher Cox and company have seen less than 20 rushes in 6 of their last 7 games. If that happens again in the Super Dome, then Philadelphia is likely to not only cover the spread, but also win SU.

QC's Pick: Philadelphia Eagles ATS and SU

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