The Divisional Round is upon us. To put it in March Madness terms, we’re down to the NFL’s Elite Eight. While the Seattle Seahawks won’t be competing this weekend, there is still plenty to get excited for with a whole slate of action. Without further ado, here are the previews for each Divisional Round game.
Jaguars @ Chiefs
The Jaguars were easily the biggest story of Wild Card weekend, as they completed one of the largest comebacks in league history. Jacksonville found themselves down 27-0 after turning the ball over five times – four of which were interceptions thrown by quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Despite such a deep hole, the Jags dug themselves out and prevailed 31-30. Now they face a much stiffer challenge in Kansas City against the Chiefs.
In the Patrick Mahomes era, the Chiefs are 4-0 in the Divisional Round, with each victory coming at Arrowhead Stadium. The Jags are a great story, and it should be a good game, but I can’t pick against the Chiefs here. However, I will say this: in the Jaguars history, they are often one of the worst teams, but they have moments where they do go on deep playoff runs… such as in 2017. I’m picking Kansas City, but I won’t be shocked if Jacksonville pulls off an upset. Chiefs over Jaguars 31-23
Giants @ Eagles
This is a matchup of two of the bigger surprises in the NFL this season. The Eagles limped along to 9-8 last year, only to be blown out. Now, they are the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Giants have been absolutely dreadful and quarterback Daniel Jones looked like a bust. Under first year head coach Brian Daboll, they have turned it around in a big way, and I don’t think their ride is quite over.
Here is a fun fact: in the 21st century, each year the Giants have won a playoff game they eventually advanced to the Super Bowl. They lost to the Ravens in 2000, but beat the Patriots in 2007 and 2011. Every other year was a one-and-done. While I don’t expect the Giants to have another magical run, given Philadelphia’s slew of injuries and their struggles at stopping the run, a trip to the NFC Championship isn’t out of the question. Giants upset Eagles 23-20.
Bengals @ Bills
Easily the marquee matchup of the weekend, the Bengals and Bills are finally facing off. Originally slated for a Monday Night Football showdown that was rightfully cut short due to the frightening injury of safety Damar Hamlin, the NFL world is finally getting to see these AFC heavyweights duke it out. Buffalo has been the presumptive Super Bowl favorite for most of the year, but they are a rollercoaster at the mercy of their supremely talented quarterback Josh Allen. When Buffalo is rolling, they are nigh-impossible to stop. But when Allen is off, the wheels fall with him. Buffalo is entirely Josh Allen dependent. He can be their savior, or their Achilles Heel. As he goes, so do the Bills.
Meanwhile, the Bengals have quietly become perhaps the most complete team in the conference. The reigning AFC Champions have at times been an afterthought to Buffalo and Kansas City, but they shouldn’t be slept on. Quarterback Joe Burrow and his trio of receivers are the headliners, but the real act may be an unheralded defense that has routinely shut opponents down in the second half of games. This may not bode well for Josh Allen, who has 32 turnovers this year. Bengals over Bills 28-24
Cowboys @ 49ers
The Dallas Cowboys won their first road playoff game since January 1993. I do not expect them to have their second road playoff win since before the Clinton Administration. This is a rematch from last season when the 49ers easily handled the Cowboys in Dallas. Now, the 49ers are a far more complete team. Despite playing rookie Brock Purdy, they have arguably upgraded from Jimmy Garoppolo and the addition of Christian McCaffrey has been a revelation.
I believe the Cowboys will put up a better fight this year, but I have felt the 49ers will eventually be the NFC’s representatives in the Super Bowl for months now. 49ers over Cowboys 35-28