Will we get some sweet, sweet touchdowns in the Divisional Round?
We didn’t get high-scoring games on Wild Card Weekend. The second week of the playoffs should be different, though. We got used to explosive scoring during the 2018 NFL regular season. The league set a record with 1,371 total touchdowns scored, the most ever in a season. Then the first weekend of the playoffs rolled around and it was defense that dominated. The average team scored 23.3 points per game during the regular season, but only one team reached that mark in the Wild Card Round — the Dallas Cowboys in their 24-22 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Fear not, though. Now that we’ve reached the Divisional Round, we should get back to those sweet, sweet touchdowns that we missed last weekend. Patrick Mahomes vs. Andrew Luck. Tom Brady vs. Philip Rivers. Jared Goff vs. Dak Prescott. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles vs. Drew Brees. Points, they are coming. Here are the four Divisional Round games ranked by how many touchdowns we should expect. 1. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Indianapolis Colts The first game of the Divisional Round should feature the most offensive fireworks as the Indianapolis Colts travel to Kansas City to take on Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Chiefs finished the regular season averaging 35.3 points per game — good for first in the league. Mahomes and Luck also finished first and second, respectively, in the league this season in touchdown passes: Maybe next week we’ll get some touchdowns pic.twitter.com/qKqQKa8kY4— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) January 6, 2019 Mahomes has a unique matchup with the Colts defense, which is no slouch. The Colts finished the season ranking 10th in defensive DVOA, running a ton of looks with two safeties playing deep. According to Sports Info Solutions, the Colts had more catchable passes thrown against Cover 2, Cover 2 Man, Tampa 2, and Cover 4 — the primary coverages with two-high safeties — than any other team in the league. Indianapolis gave up a passer rating of 87.3, which ranks ninth in the league among all teams using those coverages. Mahomes is, well, uncommonly good against those two-high looks. Among all quarterbacks with at least 100 throws against the same coverage sample, Mahomes leads the league in yards per attempt (10.6), touchdown percentage (11.8%), and has the lowest interception percentage (0.7%). Mahomes also leads the league in Estimated Points Added in these scenarios with 83.8 EPA — Matt Ryan was in second place with 47.6 EPA. The Colts have a clear advantage over the Chiefs defense, though — and it’s not just Luck. The Colts’ run game thrives when they pull one or more offensive linemen, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and 47.4 yards per game. Kansas City’s defense struggles in these scenarios, giving up 5.5 yards per carry against run plays with pulling blockers. The avenue for a Colts’ victory is to straight up steamroll the Chiefs’ defense on the ground — which is entirely possible. Leaning on a running game to outpace the Kansas City Chiefs might not lead the Colts to victory, but it should provide the viewers with a few touchdowns. 2. Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys The Cowboys might have the best defense left in the playoffs. Their NFC showdown with the Rams has the potential to be a high-scoring affair, though. Dallas has one of the strongest running games in the league, led by Ezekiel Elliot and his league-leading 1,434 rushing yards. One of the core principles of Dallas’ run game is its use of zone-blocking schemes — according to Sports Info Solutions, 320 of the Cowboys’ 439 rushing attempts were utilizing some type of zone-blocking scheme. Those runs went for 4.3 yards per carry, good for 11th in the league among all zone teams. Los Angeles really struggled against zone runs this season, giving up a league-worst 4.85 yards per attempt. Luckily for the Rams, they also have a huge advantage over the Cowboys defense in one area. The Rams love to use play action as part of their passing game — especially out of formations with three receivers. Los Angeles had a league-leading 183 passing attempts on play-action passes out of three-receiver sets, averaging 9.7 yards per attempt (fourth in the NFL). The Cowboys are a below average team when it comes to defending three-wide receiver sets. Dallas gives up 7.63 yards per attempt in this scenario, or just 20th in the NFL. 3. New Orleans Saints vs. Philadelphia Eagles The last time the Saints and the Eagles met, the Saints beat them the hell down by a score of 48-7 in Week 11. The Eagles had a healthy Carson Wentz in the lineup over Nick Foles at the point, but outside of that not much has changed. Philadelphia loves running Cover 1 and Cover 3, while the Saints absolutely shredded those coverages throughout the regular season. Against Cover 1 and Cover 3, the Saints had a passer rating of 111.5, which was second in the league behind the Seahawks. They also had a league-leading 89.5 EPA, according to Sports Info Solution. While the Eagles love running Cover 1 and Cover 3 (295 catchable passes thrown against, second in the league), they aren’t particularly adept at covering these plays. When the Eagles ran Cover 1 and Cover 3, they gave up a passer rating of 98.01 — 20th in the league. Here comes Drew Brees. Again. The Saints don’t exactly have a stellar defense of their own. According to Bill Connelly’s advanced statistics, the Saints ranked 25th in open-play success rate. It’ll take a major upset for the Eagles to beat the Saints on the road, but they definitely have a chance to at least put points on the board. The Saints defense isn’t nearly as tough as the Bears defense they squeaked by in the Wild Card Round. 4. New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Chargers Tom Brady and Philip Rivers usually aren’t associated with low-scoring football games, but they just might be this weekend. The Patriots offense in its current phase isn’t overly terrifying. Josh Gordon was indefinitely suspended by the NFL after catching 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns. In the three games that the Patriots didn’t have Gordon to start the season, Brady threw for 6.4 yards per attempt, which is in line with what Josh Allen and Joe Flacco produced for the season. Rob Gronkowski didn’t look like himself during the season either. Gronkowski averaged 52.5 yards per game, the fewest since his rookie season in 2010. Los Angeles’ defense will be a tough test for the diminished Patriots offense. The Chargers defense ranks 10th in open-play success rate. But the Patriots also play solid defense and they’ll be at home, where they haven’t lost in over a year. The Patriots ranked sixth in opposing adjusted yards per attempt for the 2018 season. They don’t have the dominating pass defense that Baltimore Ravens do (who just held the Chargers to five field goals and one rushing touchdown), but they have enough pieces in the secondary to slow down the Chargers offense. That means touchdowns — and points in general — might be tough to come by for both teams on a cold Sunday in New England.