It’s the final weekend of the season before the Super Bowl. Which teams are advancing to the big game? See our staff picks and vote for who you think will win.
So, both the wildcard and the divisional rounds are in the history books and we’re down to the final 4. The competition couldn’t be stronger, with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds remaining in both conferences.
I’m an old school kind of guy, when it comes to watching NFL games, so I am grateful that the likes of the Bears, Ravens and Cowboys have had success with a defense-first approach. But two of the best games this season were offensive shootouts and involved three of these final four teams: The Rams edging the Chiefs, 54-51, and the Patriots holding off the Chiefs, 43 – 40. Combined, these two games totaled 188 points!
Not only are these the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, but they also boast the highest-scoring offenses per game this season.
1st: The Chiefs — 35.3 points per game
2nd: The Rams —32.9 points per game
3rd: The Saints — 31.5 points per game
4th: The Patriots — 27.3 points per game
We should be in for a real a treat this Sunday.
[Also See: DFS Stack Play, NFL Playoffs Championship Round]
No. 2 Rams at No. 1 Saints, 3:05 PM EST
— 5th Down Fantasy (@5thDownFantasy) January 18, 2019
The matchup we all truly wanted. Ol’ faithful Drew Brees against young phenom Jared Goff. Two of the most creative offensive minds the NFL has to offer in Sean Payton and Sean McVay. Not to mention, these two teams present two of the most balanced offenses that can beat you in so many ways. It’s going to come down to one thing: defense. Which defense will make the one play that propels their team to the Super Bowl? The Saints have been the better defense of late; coming together as a unit down the stretch. They’ve allowed just 16.6 points per game over their last nine games, including last week’s win over the Eagles. In that same stretch of nine games, the Rams have allowed 27.9 points per game, including a 45-35 loss to the Saints in New Orleans. The current state of the NFL is certainly dominated by offense. The final four teams were the top four teams in scoring this season; which is not a coincidence. However, the team that can make one, just one, difference-making play on defense will win. Saints 31, Rams 30. — Joe Buttgereit
The Rams 1-2 punch in the backfield is healthy and was the start of everything for the Rams on Saturday night against the Cowboys. The Rams are considered to be a potent passing team, and rightly so, but they run the ball 44% of the time and they did it well in the Divisional round as both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson had over 100 rushing yards and touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Saints took a while to get going against the Eagles but when they did, they stayed lit. Now, you couldn’t ask for more in a championship match up, this has two of the highest-powered offenses, two stout defensive fronts, two coaches with aggressive and dynamic play calling, two excellent quarterbacks and both teams have their eyes on the prize. They are both so evenly matched that I feel the only difference could be who wants it more and the fact that it will take place in the Superdome. The evolution of the game belongs to the likes of McVay and Goff, but for now, give me the experienced gunslinger. Saints to win. — Colin McDonnell
The Los Angeles Rams absolutely dominated the Cowboys by running the ball for a total of 273 yards in their divisional matchup. The Saints struggled to get their offense going against the Eagles for much of the game, eventually getting a boost from a fake punt that propelled them to a touchdown and changed the game’s momentum. Just like the AFC Championship, this is the second time that these teams have met this season, with the Saints earning a 10-point victory over the Rams at home in week nine. The Saints have excelled at stopping the run all season and week nine was no different, as they held the Rams under 100 yards rushing. Drew Brees repeatedly took advantage of the Rams secondary as he threw touchdowns to four different receivers. I see this game playing out in a similar way, with the Saints slowing down the running attack of Gurley and Anderson, forcing the Rams into 3rd and long situations. Brees should again have a strong day, with Ted Ginn Jr. giving an extra boost to the offense. The Saints will get the victory and will travel to Atlanta for Super Bowl 53. Saints 38, Rams 28. — Joshua Mutters
Since Week 6, the Saints have been held under 28 points just four times, and the three teams to do it — the Eagles, Cowboys, and Panthers — have one key strength in common: great run defense. If you can take Kamara and Ingram out of the game, you make the Saints one-dimensional on offense and limit their ability to chew the clock in the second half. Unfortunately for the Rams, run defense is not one of their strong points. In fact, no one was worse on a per carry basis than the Rams this season, who allowed 5.1 YPC. This was one of the hardest games for me to pick, but I’m taking the Saints to beat the Rams for the second time this season. Saints 31, Rams 28. — Paul Patterson
It is possible this game could be better than the Super Bowl. And I do not care what the over-under is, you should take the over, which opened at 57. This game will come down to defense. Not the defenses’ ability to completely shut down their opponent, but rather the defense that capitalizes in clutch moments, especially late in the game. Stopping the run would be at the top of the list for both teams. As of late, the Rams are very similar to the Saints with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson each performing at high levels. The other factor is Jared Goff, who is the type of player that can make poor decisions when he is uncomfortable. I believe that if the Saints get pressure on Goff regularly, he will make detrimental mistakes. But that is dependent on whether or not the Saints can stop the run first. For the Saints, they have to get Michael Thomas going, which will let Drew Brees carve up the Rams’ defense. In addition, New Orleans must keep their run game flourishing. With the Rams coming to the Superdome once already, the depth they have on their defensive line, I have to reward the edge to them. Rams 34, Saints 27. — Garett Thomas
No. 2 New England at No. 1 Kansas City, 6:40 PM EST
4 of our 5 experts like the @Chiefs to advance to the Super Bowl. Agree?
— 5th Down Fantasy (@5thDownFantasy) January 18, 2019
The Chargers were the NFL’s sweetheart that had a prime opportunity to end the Patriots’ 21st-century dynasty. But, in the end, Belichick and Brady did it again. The game was over halfway through the 2nd quarter, and we’re left with the matchup we believed would come to fruition if we thought with our brains, rather than our hearts. Tom Brady-led teams, as dominant a playoff quarterback he’s been, are just 3-4 on the road in the playoffs. However, Andy Reid-led teams are just 7-6 at home in the playoffs, including 1-2 with the Chiefs. Something must give. Will Andy Reid exercise his demons and finally knock off the Patriots or will Brady and the Patriots find the road magic in January after finishing the regular season 3-5 on the road? I believe it will come down to weather. The early predictions are sub-zero temperatures at Arrowhead on Sunday. If this is the case, I believe it heavily favors the Patriots. Brady is familiar with frigid temperatures this time of year and New England finally has the strong running game to control the clock in a ground-and-pound style game. I expect Belichick to out-coach Reid and pull just enough strings to advance to yet another Super Bowl. Patriots 34, Chiefs 31. — Joe Buttgereit
At the end of the Patriots win over the LA Chargers in last week’s Divisional round, game Brady said: “everyone thinks we suck, it will be fun, we will see,” with a huge smile on his face. This very well could mean bad news for the Chiefs, though this Kansas City team is truly frightening. Offensively, they are by far the best in the league and last week against the Colts everyone showed up. It was clear that the Patriots were highly motivated as well against the Chargers. During the first half commentary, Nantz and Romo said that the Patriots grow during the season; they work out what they have and play to those strengths. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it makes sense. Much like the other game, both sides have the offenses, both have the defenses, both have the coaching staff and both sides have the motivation and a realistic chance of making it to the dance, so, who to pick? I love greatness and to see Brady have a chance at another ring would sit fine with me, but greatness is also present in Patrick Mahomes we just haven’t seen the end product just yet. I really can’t decide who wins this one so I flipped a coin and it landed on the Chiefs. (I got 4 of 4 correct in the Wildcard round I predicted 0 of 4 in the Divisional, so flipping a coin seems like the way to go). Chiefs to win. — Colin McDonnell
The Patriots and Chiefs both made me look like a fool for picking against them in their divisional games last week. Each team started strong, took an early lead, and never really looked back on their way to decisive victories. These two teams are familiar with one another as they met in Foxborough in Week 6, resulting in a very close 43 to 40 New England victory. Patrick Mahomes threw four touchdowns in the game but more importantly, threw two interceptions. This time around the Chiefs will enjoy home field advantage in what will surely be a ruckus Arrowhead Stadium. It may be foolish to pick against Brady and Belicheck again, but they have been much more vulnerable in their rare road playoff appearances. Mahomes will have less than two turnovers this time around and with home field advantage, the Chiefs will secure their spot in Super Bowl 53. Chiefs 37, Patriots 34. — Joshua Mutters
Suddenly, the Patriots look like the Patriots again and approximately every analyst and writer in the world, myself included, looks like a fool for declaring them dead too soon. However, the Pats are just 3-5 on the road this season, and they’ll have to win in Arrowhead, one of the most difficult destinations for opposing teams, if they want to reach the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Chiefs demonstrated last week just how well their defense can play at home, holding the Colts to just 13 points and sacking Andrew Luck three times. The fact that this is a rematch should help Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes better prepare for New England’s defensive wrinkles as well. Though I may live to regret it, I’m picking the Chiefs to win in a shootout. Chiefs 34, Patriots 30. — Paul Patterson
This game makes my feet cold just looking at the weather report. With the over-under being dropped down to 55.5, I am more inclined to take the under and frankly that is because of the weather. For New England, they cannot fall behind early, opposite of what the Colts did. Part of that is limiting the Chiefs’ explosive plays, but stopping Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill is no small task. On offense, the Patriots need time-consuming drives. New England also has a huge edge on the Chiefs when it comes to experience. This is just another game for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, but for Patrick Mahomes and co., this is a new experience. Surprisingly, the Patriots have only been victorious in one of their last five road playoff games. For the Chiefs, they are going to have to use their home crowd to keep themselves juiced throughout the sub-freezing temperatures. If the Chiefs want to play dynasty-killers, they have to limit Sony Michel and James White, both on the ground and through the air. In addition, Kansas City has to get off the field on third-down. On offense, the Chiefs have to be themselves: get ahead quick, make big plays and bury teams early. I will also say that an underlying factor will be the turnover battle. Whoever forces the most turnovers will likely be the winner. I see Kansas City handling Tom and Bill and covering the spread. Chiefs 28, Patriots 17. — Garett Thomas