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NFC Divisional Round: Breakdown and Picks

Feel the Brees. Don’t sack Dak. Gurley Men everywhere. Foles Rises Again.

Drew Brees by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NFC Divisional Round: Breakdown and Picks

Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Unlike the AFC, the NFC Divisional Round games feature a pair of significant underdogs trying to take down the top two teams in the conference. Will Drew Brees continue his MVP-caliber season on to the NFC title game? Or will Nick Foles once again find a way to steal another playoff win? Will the revamped offensive attack of the Cowboys get them to the next round, or will the Rams defense be too much to handle? Let’s break things down, and get into some predictions.

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

Rams: Finished 13-3, first in the NFC West and second overall in the NFC. They earned a first round bye in the playoffs.

Cowboys: Finished 10-6, first in the NFC East and fourth overall in the conference. They beat the Seattle Seahawks in Wild Card Weekend to move on to the Divisional Round. 

The Dallas Cowboys hung on by the skin of their teeth to edge past the Seahawks last week, and the challenge before them this weekend won’t be any easier. The Rams lost only a single game at home this year, while Dallas went a mediocre 3-5 on the road.

That’s not to say this game can’t be close. The Dallas offense, which already boasts the NFL’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott, seemed absolutely rejuvenated following the mid-season acquisition of Amari Cooper. The two should give the Rams linebackers and secondary a run for their money. But the difference in this game could come down to the offensive line for Dallas. The Cowboys gave up 56 sacks this season, good for a putrid ranking of 31st in the league. Aaron Donald and company can (and likely will) have a field day, and quickly stall out any Dallas drives.

And we haven’t even gotten to Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks. I think there’s just too much talent for the Cowboys to handle on both sides of the ball. Dallas has not won a road playoff game since 1992, and I don’t think that’s changing any time soon.

Rams 33, Cowboys 24

Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints

Saints: Finished 13-3, and first place in both the NFC South and the NFC overall. They locked up a first round bye in the playoffs.

Eagles: Finished 9-7, and second place in the NFC East. They beat the Chicago Bears on the road in Wild Card Weekend to advance to the Divisional Round.

On paper, this is the most lopsided matchup we have in the Divisional Round between both conferences. The Philadelphia Eagles, thanks in part to solid defense, a questionable replay review, and a timely BLOCKED field goal, snuck by the NFC North-winning Chicago Bears on the road. Somehow, some way, a professional football team with Nick Foles on it found a way to win a playoff game. Again.

And now Foles and his crew will take on the proverbial cream of the crop. Despite the notable skid late in the season on the offensive side of the ball, The Saints boast an offense that can beat you a million ways. Drew Brees has the league-leader in receptions, Michael Thomas, at his disposal. Along with a potent two-headed monster at running back and a few gadget plays with Taysom Hill, there’s a lot for Doug Pederson and his staff to account for. Unless he can coach up that 30th ranked pass defense, this game is going to be all Saints. Maybe not as bad as the 48-7 shellacking the Saints laid upon them earlier this season, but not far off. Forgive me for being boring in the NFC, but I’m sticking with the favorites this weekend.

Saints 31, Eagles 17

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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