Who’ll amaze or shock in the Divisional Round?
With NFL Wild Card Weekend in the books, the focus shifts to the Divisional Round taking place this Saturday and Sunday.
In the AFC, the Chiefs will host a red-hot Andrew Luck, whose offense is playing lights-out. Meanwhile, veteran quarterback greats Tom Brady and Philip Rivers square off in Foxborough.
Over in the NFC the Eagles are taking on Drew Brees in the Dome while the Cowboys hit the road and will attempt to put the Rams to rest for the year.
With some NFL players destined to shine and others slated to disappoint, we present our stud and dud predictions for the Divisional Round.
Stud: Michael Thomas, wide receiver, New Orleans Saints
In his Week 17 game prior to the first-round bye, Thomas delivered rubbish with a five-catch, 29-yard performance. Forget about this and relish the fact Thomas will face a depleted Eagles secondary at home as the Saints attempt to advance in the playoffs. Thomas should thrive against an Eagles defense that just surrendered 18 receptions, 248 yards and one touchdown last weekend. Pencil in Thomas for an elite performance this game around.
Dud: Melvin Gordon, running back, Los Angeles Chargers
Gordon did not have a lot of luck running against a staunch Ravens defense. He tallied a mere 40 yards on 17 attempts. Though, a rushing touchdown helped to save his game. But a touchdown might not come so easily for Gordon facing the Patriots. In 2018, the Patriots gave up only six running back rushing scores all year. For the Chargers to potentially have to keep pace with a nicely rested Patriots offense, a heavy passing game — limiting Gordon’s attempts — might be on tap.
Stud: Eric Ebron, tight end, Indianapolis Colts
Ebron and quarterback Andrew Luck have meshed together this season as well as peanut butter and jelly. Counting the postseason, Ebron has racked up 14 touchdowns over 17 games. And the chances of him finding the end zone in the divisional round is highly likely. Ebron faces the Kansas City Chiefs, who gave up the most tight end fantasy football points in 2018. They allowed 10 touchdowns and an average of 67 yards per game to Ebron’s position. In what would project to be a high-scoring affair, look for Ebron to heavily contribute.
Dud: Jared Goff, quarterback, Los Angeles Rams
When Goff last suited up, he threw four touchdowns. But, that was against the San Francisco 49ers. Goff and the Rams will now face a much more formidable defense when the Cowboys arrive to Los Angeles. During 2018, the Cowboys allowed the 13th-fewest passing yards and just 22 passing touchdowns, which marked the fourth-least in the league. Plus, the Cowboys last held Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to only 233 yards and one passing touchdown. Goff in prime time against a difficult defense might just stumble up.
Stud: Cameron Jordan, defensive end, New Orleans Saints
This All-Pro pass rusher finished up the 2018 season with a team-high 12 sacks and 21 quarterback hits. Now that Jordan has had some time off rest, we can be sure that pressuring Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is next on Jordan’s agenda. Foles has taken 10 sacks in his six starts. Jordan should find a way to get into Foles’ business more often than not, which would certainly rattle the Eagles best offensive efforts.
Dud: Rob Gronkowski, tight end, New England Patriots
Gronkowski has looked like a flat tire as of late. As such, he managed a lowly total of four catches for 45 yards over his last three games of 2018. Now, Gronk will square off against the Los Angeles Chargers, and there looks to be more gloom and doom. Over 16 games in 2018, the Chargers gave up only five tight end touchdowns and an average of just 46.5 yards per game. Just when the Patriots need Gronkowski the most, he might be on course for another dismal showing.
Stud: Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys
The good version of Cooper surfaced in the wild-card game against Seattle when he tallied 106 yards on seven catches. Now, Cooper has another inviting matchup on tap when the Cowboys face the Rams on Saturday. The Rams secondary often sputtered in 2018 when it gave up 31 passing touchdowns, marking the sixth-most in the league. Plus, opposing wide receivers scored the 11th-most fantasy points playing against the Rams.
Dud: Darren Sproles, running back, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles last favored Sproles as their main running back after giving him 13 carries in their wild-card victory against the Chicago Bears. Now, Sproles will be up against his former Saints team that yielded the second-fewest rushing yards in 2018. The Saints also allowed only seven running back rushing touchdowns. This does not bode well for Sproles, or whoever else the Eagles might feel the need to mix in at running back this upcoming Sunday.
Stud: Keenan Allen, wide receiver, Los Angeles Chargers
In order to possibly keep up with the Patriots in this important playoff game, Allen should be plenty involved. Allen last caught only 4-of-6 of his targets for a mere 37 yards. But, he was also facing Baltimore’s top-five passing defense. The Patriots finished 2018 giving up the 11th-most passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns. This primes Allen for an improved performance when Rivers should also see an uptick in production.
Dud: Damien Williams, running back, Kansas City Chiefs
Williams and the Chiefs welcome the Colts, who have been pretty spectacular as of late. In particular, the Colts defense has been tough against the run in recent games. Williams could face a bit of a setback considering the Colts gave up a total of only 148 rushing yards and one touchdown to opposing running backs in their last two regular season games. Lastly, the Colts held the Houston Texans running backs to just 29 rushing yards combined in the wild-card-round. We will see if Williams can defy these odds.