Tuesday 22 January 2019

Chiefs aiming to lead the charge on Super Bowl

Flying Cowboy: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) is tackled at the one-yard line by Tedric Thompson of the Seattle Seahawks last weekend. Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Flying Cowboy: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) is tackled at the one-yard line by Tedric Thompson of the Seattle Seahawks last weekend. Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The eight best teams in the NFL go head-to-head in the playoffs this weekend with everything on the line as the race to the Super Bowl hots up among a strong slate of contenders . . .

Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs, tonight, 9.35 (Sky Sports)

Once again, the offensive line is going to be key to the Colts' success. The longer Indy's offense can stay on the field, the less time Chiefs quarterback wizard Patrick Mahomes will get to hurt them.

It worked well against the Texans' elite run defense last week - Marlon Mack rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown from 24 carries - so they should be able to punish a Chiefs defensive front which ranks worst in the NFL.

That's not to say the Colts will want to take the ball out of Andrew Luck's hands. Their season lives and dies with him, and he will absolutely fancy his chances of dicing up Kansas City's dire secondary with the red hot TY Hilton.

That said with Tyreek Hill's speed and Travis Kelce's ability to snap up anything Mahomes throws remotely near him, it's hard to see the Chiefs being held much below 25 points which would be tough for the Colts to match. Either way, this could be a classic.

Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams, tomorrow, 1.15am (Sky Sports)

The Cowboys are talked about so much they have the air of one of those perennially successful franchises, but they've not reached the NFC Championship game since 1995.

If they're to break this long drought it will be on their defense that will have to stop quarterback Jared Goff and running back tyro Todd Gurley.

Goff lit up the league in the opening weeks including a stunning victory over the Chiefs in week 11 in which he threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns.

However, he is susceptible to the kind of pressure which the Cowboys defence will bring while their excellent corps of linebackers is better set up than anyone to take out Gurley and the running game.

The Rams might struggle but there's no guarantee that the Cowboys offence can take advantage.

Their simple tactic will be to give Ezikiel Elliott as much ball to ram down the Rams' throats and hope that the Rams will crumble.

There's arguably no better team set up to beat the Rams, the Cowboys might just pull it off.

LA Chargers @ New England Patriots, tomorrow, 6.05 (Sky Sports)

The Chargers were the most impressive team in last week's wild-card games in eliminating the Ravens.

By all accounts, the Chargers are a better team than the Patriots. Philip Rivers has been better than Tom Brady this season, they have better running backs, a more talented receiving corps and every level of their defense is streets ahead of what's going on in New England.

Is that enough to make them favourites? Not in the bookies' eyes, and that's because Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. He's won the Super Bowl with inferior teams before, and he can do it again.

If the Chargers can use Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler to chew up yardage and dominate time of possession that would be a good start, and on defense Ingram and Joey Bosa need to get in Brady's face fast and often as he's really struggled under pressure this season.

Rarely, however, do the Patriots come into the play-offs without some new tricks, even though they have two of the wiliest old dogs around. In theory, the Chargers are better; in reality, that means nothing against the Patriots.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints, tomorrow, 9.40 (Sky Sports)

All the talk will be around Nick Foles - this is his story, after all - but Philadelphia's success starts with its front seven, which is the only part of this team which has lived up to last season's incredibly high standards.

The Saints have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and Drew Brees has just recorded the highest completion percentage over a single season of any quarterback in NFL history - it's imperative the Eagles do not give Brees the time and space to pick them apart. Put him under pressure and they have a chance.

Foles has had one of the strangest careers of any NFL player ever. Historically inconsistent, he becomes Mr Reliable as soon as he can't afford to lose. Foles is 8-0 for the Eagles in must-win games and tomorrow has Alshon Jeffery, Golden Tate and Nelson Ahgolor against a suspect pass defense.

It was less than two months ago that the Saints blew out the Eagles 48-7 in the heaviest defeat for a Super Bowl champion of all time.

The score might be different tomorrow night, but it's hard to see the outcome changing.

Irish Independent

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