Luck tops Mahomes, Saints march on in NFL divisional round

  • Nick Celario

I was 2-3 last week in my weekend predictions for the CFP National Championship game and NFL Wild Card games. Not a great weekend.

I believed Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama would raise another national title, but the Tide were thoroughly outplayed by the Clemson Tigers.

For those of you who were pulling for Hawaii’s Tagovailoa to put out another title-winning performance, well, chin up. The local boy has at least one more season to go for another championship.

As for whether he will forgo his senior season and opt to turn pro, that’s a discussion to be had in the future.

As for the NFL wild card slate, I was split down the middle.

I thought Andrew Luck and the Colts would run out of luck in Houston. No such luck.

I thought the perennial backup quarterback Nick Foles and the Eagles would end their Super Bowl-defending run early. But the defending champs got by Chicago on a missed potential game-winning field goal by Bears kicker Cody Parkey.

But, there were a couple I did get right.

Dallas’ home-field advantage helped the Cowboys get by the Seahawks by a slim margin, and the Chargers eliminated the Ravens and upstart QB Lamar Jackson.

So, on to the divisional round. Here we go:

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-4), Chiefs -5.5 favorite: The MVP award is supposed to be a regular season accolade, but I can’t help think that this game will sway peoples’ minds as to who should be the rightful winner.

Luck carried this Colts team to a postseason berth. 39 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and 4,593 passing yards would solidify anyone’s case for MVP.

But this year’s NFL darling, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, has a monstrous year with 50 TDs to 12 interceptions and 5,097 passing yards.

Mahomes’ performance this year justified the Chiefs’ decision to move on from veteran Alex Smith.

I doubted Luck once. Not this time. As with the Chargers-Ravens matchup last week, I’m going with the more experienced Luck over Mahomes.

And, here is where I think the Chiefs will miss running back Kareem Hunt, who was let go by the team after a video surfaced in November of him kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February.

I peg that Luck gets back to the AFC Championship for the first time since 2014.

Pick: Colts

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) at Los Angeles Rams (13-3), Rams -7 favorite: Of all the matchups this weekend, this one is the hardest to make a pick.

The Rams had a fantastic year en route to clinching the NFC West. LA’s offense is lead by QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley, both are players I wouldn’t be surprised if they were in the running for MVP as well.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, seem to be on the rise. Rusher Ezekiel Elliott and receiver Amari Cooper had great performances to lead the Cowboys past the Seahawks last week.

The Cowboys play great at home, finishing with a 7-1 home record in the regulars season. Dallas’ road record, on the other hand, is 3-5.

The Rams also boast a 7-1 record at home.

I feel the Rams’ defensive front led by DT Aaron Donald will limit Elliott and the Cowboys rush attack.

If the Cowboys have to rely on QB Dak Prescott to lead them to the conference championships, then I don’t like he’s going to keep up with Goff and Gurley.

Pick: Rams

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at New England Patriots (11-5), Patriots -4 favorite: I’m never going to get past hearing “Los Angeles Chargers.” It’s just too weird.

This pegs to be a matchup of a strong home team (Patriots were 8-0 at home) against a strong road team (Chargers are 7-1).

Another story line is a matchup between two quarterbacks surely headed for Canton in Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.

With the kind of career Rivers has had, he deserves a chance at a Super Bowl title.

But, I’m not overthinking this.

Brady is vying for his sixth Super Bowl ring. Until it really shows that Father Time has caught up to him, there’s just no reason to think that one of the greatest to have ever played QB will be cut short at this point of the postseason.

Pick: Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at New Orleans Saints (13-3), Saints -8 favorite: Can Foles really do it again? Can the super backup lead the Eagles all the way one more time?

Slow your role.

Yes, Foles again has done exceedingly well off the bench.

And, yes, it seems the Eagles front office will again have to wrack their brains on whether to let Foles walk and stick with the talented yet oft-injured starter Carson Wentz. That will be a fun storyline to follow in the upcoming offseason.

But, again, I’m not overthinking this. If you had to bet the house, are you betting on Foles or Drew Brees?

I’m picking Brees.

With Brees and tandem rushers Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the Saints offense is poised to do damage this postseason.

That story about Saints coach Sean Payton whooping out the $200K, a Lombardi Trophy an a Super Bowl ring in front of the team as a means to motivate, that’s all well and good.

But I’d believe the Saints would be even more motivated because of what happened last year, when the Saints fell out of the division round to the Minnesota Vikings on a walk-off 61-yard TD pass.

Pick your poison. I’m sure the Saints won’t be lacking on motivation.

Pick: Saints

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Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or ncelario@thegardenisland.com.

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