Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Total Talk - DP Sunday

Total Talk – DP Saturday

Three of the four teams in action on Sunday will be making a return trip to the Divisional Playoff round this postseason with the Chargers being the outlier. While L.A. will be making its first appearance in this round since the 2013-14 playoffs, its opponent in New England will be playing in its eighth straight playoff game in the Divisional round.

Similar to my first three playoff pieces, I’m going to break down every game and offer up my quick handicap and prediction for all the matchups. For those keeping track, my leans went 3-3 in the Wild Card round. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!

Sunday, Jan. 13

L.A. Chargers at New England (CBS, 1:05 p.m. ET)

This total is hovering between 47 and 48 as of Thursday evening and our Matchup Betting Index is showing an early ‘over’ lean. Bettors are also showing a lean to the Chargers and I believe a case can be made for both sides in this game.

The Chargers haven’t lost outside of Los Angeles this season, going 8-1 on the road and the lone loss came to their crosstown rival Rams in Week 3. Including last Sunday’s ‘under’ result versus Baltimore in the Wild Card round, the ‘over’ has gone 5-4 on the road for Los Angeles.

Travelling to the East Coast in back-to-back weeks is a rarity in the NFL playoffs. However, Los Angeles has had success in the Eastern Time Zone this season, going 5-0 and the offense has averaged 29.6 points per game. That production has helped the ‘over’ go 4-1, with the lone ‘under’ coming last week at Baltimore.

Not only is the second straight trip to the East Coast but it’s also the third straight road game for the Chargers. Those following “Total Talk” this season are aware that the “Road Total System” took a dive (0-3) but perhaps it comes through this Sunday. Either way, refresh your memory of the angle here and make a note that the ‘over’ is 44-26 (63%) over the last 12 seasons with this situation.

Playing on the road anywhere in the NFL is never easy, but Foxboro is another animal altogether. New England went 8-0 at home this season and the ‘under’ went 6-2 in those games, largely due to its defense. The unit only surrendered 16.6 PPG at Foxboro, ranked second-best in the league. 

Be aware that the Patriots only faced three playoff teams at home this season and those clubs (Texans, Colts, Chiefs) averaged 28 PPG compared to 9.8 PPG versus clubs not in the postseason. 

The one constant at Foxboro has been New England’s offense, no matter the opponent. Quarterback Tom Brady and company averaged 32.9 PPG and the future Hall of Famer has thrived in the Divisional Playoffs recently.

In the last seven appearances in this round, New England is averaging 37.1 PPG and not surprisingly the 'over' has gone 7-0 plus they covered six of those seven games.

2018 - New England 35 vs. Tennessee 14 (Over 48)
2017 - New England 34 vs. Houston 16 (Over 44 ½)
2016 - New England 27 vs. Kansas City 20 (Over 44 ½)
2015 – New England 35 vs. Baltimore 31 (Over 47 ½)
2014 – New England 43 vs. Indianapolis 22 (Over 51 ½)
2013 - New England 41 vs. Houston 28 (Over 50)
2012 – New England 45 vs. Denver 10 (Over 50 ½)

Including a couple of the above results, the ‘over’ has gone 6-2 in New England’s last eight playoffs games and during its eight-game playoff winning streak at home, the high side is also 6-2 in those games.

While the Patriots have been on a great postseason run to the high side, the Chargers have been the opposite with QB Philip Rivers under center. Rivers has led the Bolts to a 5-5 career record in the playoffs, which includes a 4-0 record in the Wild Card round. Doing the math, you can figure out easily that he’s just 1-5 in Divisional and Championship contests. The Chargers have seen the ‘under’ go 8-2 during with Rivers under center and the offense is only averaging 20.6 PPG.

Do you believe Rivers can do enough to get Los Angeles to the AFC Championship? I’m a big fan of the former N.C. State standout but he’s not exactly in great form the last four weeks (3 TDs, 6 INTs) and his 0-7 all-time record against Brady can’t be overlooked or the offensive production (18.1 PPG) either.

Going back to the 2008 playoffs, the ‘under’ has cashed in five of the last six encounters between the Chargers and Patriots and five of the outcomes saw a combined score of 43 points or less.

Fearless Prediction: It’s hard to go against the Patriots at Foxboro but my confidence isn’t that high on this year’s squad, especially on defense. They’ve only managed 30 sacks this season, tied for 2nd worst in the league. We’ve seen other quality QBs go into Foxboro this season and have success, plus if you exclude the 10 points put up by Broncos QB Tim Tebow in the 2012 DP matchup, the previous six have combined to average 21.8 PPG. I’m expecting a tight game but my top lean is to Chargers Team Total Over (22).

Philadelphia at New Orleans (FOX, 4:40 p.m. ET)

The Divisional Playoff finale on Sunday between the Saints and Eagles is expected to see some points but not as many as their first encounter. In Week 11, New Orleans blasted Philadelphia 48-7 at home in Week 11 and the ‘under’ (57) connected because the Eagles couldn’t do anything offensively.

Philadelphia was outgained by 350 yards (546 to 196) and it finished the game 3-of-10 on third down plus it committed three turnovers. The New Orleans offense was very sharp, posting 373 yards through the air and 173 on the ground. They could’ve easily hung 56 on the board but they settled for a pair of short field goals.

For Sunday’s rematch, the total opened much lower at 51 ½ and the number has dropped to 51 as of Thursday evening.

The Eagles will have a different QB for the second encounter, this time Nick Foles instead of Carson Wentz. Foles was the catalyst for Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run last season and he’s got them moving again this January. If the Eagles expect to have any chance in this game, they’ll need improvement from that position. In the mid-November loss, Wentz was 19-of-33 for 156 yards with three interceptions against the Saints.

Foles wasn’t spectacular in last week’s 16-15 win at Chicago in the Wild Card round and he was picked off twice in Bears territory. In last year’s playoff run, Foles and the Birds won an ugly opener at home over Atlanta before the offense scored 38 and 41 against the Vikings and Patriots respectively.

Déjà vu in the Big Easy come Sunday?

Including Sunday’s result from the Wild Card round, the Eagles have watched the ‘under’ go 10-7 this season. The ‘under’ went 9-7 for the Saints this season but the ‘over’ produced a 5-3 mark at the Superdome behind an offensive unit that posted 34.1 PPG.

Defensively, New Orleans was better on the road (18.5 PPG) than at home (25.6 PPG) but the form of the unit down the stretch was very solid. If you toss out the meaningless Week 17 loss (33-14) to Carolina at home when it rested its starters, New Orleans only allowed 14.6 PPG in their previous six games and that production helped the ‘under’ go 5-1.

Putting up points in the Merecedes-Benz Superdome during the playoffs has become a common theme. Dating back to 1998, New Orleans has watched the ‘over’ cash in 10 straight postseason games at home. That streak includes a 5-0 ‘over’ mark under quarterback Drew Brees, who has led the Saints to 35.8 PPG in those contests. In 12 career playoff games with Brees, the ‘over’ is 9-3 for the Saints.

Fearless Prediction: Since Doug Pederson became coach of the Eagles, the club has watched the ‘over’ go 18-7-1 and that’s been attributed tom weak defensive numbers (24.5 PPG). The Birds have only allowed 15 points in their last two road games but I still don’t have much confidence in the unit. Having an extra week to prepare is huge in the playoffs and Saints head coach Sean Payton has improved drastically in this spot. After starting 0-3 in his first three years, New Orleans has gone 8-2 off the bye and the average score is 34.5 to 25.6. The ‘over’ has gone 8-2 during this span and could easily be 9-1 if Ravens kicker Justin Tucker makes an extra point in Week 7 this season. I’m going to ride that trend and play the Over (51) in the game and the Saints Team Total Over (29 ½) as well.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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