The NFL has it’s elite eight.
This year’s divisional round features several newcomers, while the Eagles, Patriots and Saints are the only teams to return.
In the NFC, the Eagles and Saints meet again Sunday in the only regular-season rematch in the round. The Cowboys and Rams will square off Saturday for the ninth time in the postseason.
In the AFC, expect the Colts and Chiefs to kick the weekend off in explosive fashion. Then the Chargers face a familiar foe in the Patriots on Sunday.
Colts at Chiefs
4:35 p.m. ET, Saturday (NBC)
The Saints may be a heavy favorite to win the Super Bowl, but the Colts are by far the biggest sleepers, especially after they routed the Texans in the wild-card round last week.
Indianapolis continued its hot streak by picking up its 10th win in 11 games. Andrew Luck was phenomenal as he threw for 222 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, while his offense churned out 200 yards on the ground in a dominating outing.
For the Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes has been sensational under center and is favored to win the regular-season MVP award. However, he doesn’t have history on his side as a first-year starter making his first playoff appearance. In fact, quarterbacks making their first postseason start dating back to 2013 are 4-11. The Chiefs are also 0-6 in their last six playoff games at home and winless at Arrowhead since 1993.
Still, Mahomes’ impressive firepower should be enough to stop the surging Colts.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Colts 21
Cowboys at Rams
8:15 p.m., Saturday (Fox)
Despite a lackluster start to the season, the Cowboys powered through the home stretch and into the playoffs, including their win over the Seahawks in the opening round.
Now facing an uphill battle at Los Angeles, Dallas will need star duo Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in top form if they have any hope of breaking through Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh’s defensive wall. Meanwhile, much of the Rams’ offensive success under Jared Goff will depend on the health of Todd Gurley, who missed the final two games of the regular season.
Barring any setbacks, the top quarterbacks from the 2016 draft class and the two best rushers in the league are sure to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
The matchup will mark the ninth time in NFL history the Rams and Cowboys have faced off in the postseason, which is more than any other two teams in the league. With the all-time record tied at 4-4, there’s more than just a trip to the NFC championship on the line.
Prediction: Rams 24, Cowboys 20
Chargers at Patriots
1:05 p.m., Sunday (CBS)
The thought of taking on Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at Gillette Stadium in the postseason is enough to scare even the most seasoned veteran. But not Philip Rivers.
The Chargers quarterback is 0-7 in games against New England when Brady starts, but the Patriots quarterback hasn’t quite been himself this season, leaving the door open for Los Angeles to take advantage. The Chargers’ pass rush had no problem stopping Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in the wild-card round, and will look to replicate that dominating effect on the road once again.
Yet, Brady leads an offense that ranks No. 5 in total yards thanks to the team’s success on the ground.
Could the end of New England’s undefeated streak at home this season also be the end of their hopes for a sixth Lombardi Trophy and third since 2015?
Prediction: Chargers 20, Patriots 17
Eagles at Saints
4:40 p.m., Sunday (Fox)
It could be argued that the Eagles shouldn’t even be New Orleans-bound, given that they handed the Bears a wild-card loss in front of a stunned home crowd much to the dismay of Bears kicker Cody Parkey.
Still, Nick Foles was his magnificently reliable self as he threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. The only other time the Saints have faced him was in a 2013 playoff game when Chip Kelly was the Eagles coach, and clearly a lot has changed since then. Dating back to last season, Foles has won nine of 10 starts in games from December to February.
But the Eagles are at a severe disadvantage entering the Superdome against Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram with the third-worst pass defense in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Saints finished the regular season as the No. 2 run defense.
With a Super Bowl repeat on the line, Philadelphia will need a powerhouse performance to get past the Saints.
Prediction: Saints 31, Eagles 17