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Coming off an exciting super wildcard weekend, we enter the divisional round. The AFC games take the early time slots Saturday and Sunday, while the NFC carries the later matchups. The winners will determine the conference championship matchups.
The first round of the playoffs started with the 49ers hosting the Seattle Seahawks. After a shaky first half, 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy settled in, and the 49ers trounced Seattle 25-6 in the second half to win 41-23.
In one of the most stunning comebacks in NFL playoff history, the Jaguars overcame a 27-0 deficit to win 31-30 on a field goal as time expired. The Jaguars quarterback overcame a historically awful start and threw three touchdown passes in the second half.
Miami gave Buffalo a real scare when they took a 24-20 lead early in the third quarter. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen doing what he does, rebounded by throwing two touchdown passes to take a 34-24 lead. Miami cut it 34-31 with 11 minutes left, but those were the only points of the final quarter. A great effort by Miami in a game many thought they'd get blown out.
Saquon Barkleys two touchdowns propelled the Giants to a 31-24 win over the Vikings in Minnesota, the first Giants playoff win in 11 years.
The Bengals were staring at a seven-point deficit with 11 minutes left before they got a lifeline. Sam Hubbard ran back a goal-line fumble 98 yards to score what would be the last points of the game. The Bengals won 24-17.
Monday Night Football saw the Cowboys go into Tampa and stomp Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. After the 31-14 loss, Brady's future in Tampa and around the NFL remains uncertain.
In this preview, we will be highlighting the Chiefs-Jaguars, Bills-Bengals, and 49ers-Cowboys games.
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Jacksonville Jaguars (#4) @ Kansas City Chiefs (#1)
Time: 4:30 EST. Saturday, January 21st
- Spread: Jacksonville Jaguars +8.5, Kansas City Chiefs -8.5
- Total: Over/Under 53
- Money line: Jacksonville Jaguars +350, Kansas City Chiefs -435
On the heels of their incredible comeback victory against the Los Angeles Chargers, the Jaguars get rewarded by having to go into Arrowhead to play the Chiefs.
Down 27-0 with 4:25 left in the second quarter, all hope looked lost for the Jaguars. Hosting their first playoff game since 2017, it was a huge surprise they were even in this position. Sitting at a 4-8 record entering week 13, Jacksonville found a way to turn their season around, winning four straight and entering a week 18 clash against the Tennessee Titans for the rights to the AFC South crown. Winning 20-16, Jacksonville went from having the first pick two years in a row to winning their division with a 9-8 record. The dream season somehow continued with a Riley Patterson field goal as time expired to win 31-30. Duval erupted; it was a great moment and making it this far was beyond what anyone expected going into the season.
On the other side, the Kansas City Chiefs are the definition of having been there before. This will be Patrick Mahomes's ninth playoff game at Arrowhead since becoming the full-time starter in 2018. Mahomes has never played a true road playoff game, and that trend continues in this one. The likely MVP had another superb season, and his Chiefs offense was the number-one scoring team in the NFL at 29.2 points per game.
Mahomes is a nightmare matchup for the Jaguars. Jacksonville's secondary gave up the 28th most passing yards this season, and Mahomes completed 26/35 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns in a 27-17 Chiefs week ten victory in Kansas City. Averaging 307.4 passing yards in 11 career playoff games, Mahomes plays his best ball in the games that matter.
With a high over/under, points, and a lot of them are expected in this game.
Leaving this game up to the offenses, Patrick Mahomes vs. Trevor Lawrence should be an entertaining matchup. Both teams have good running backs and wide receivers; most would say it is very even between them.
Where Kansas City could have a significant mismatch is at the tight end. Much like Mahomes is a brutal matchup for the Jaguars, Travis Kelce is even worse. Kelce led all tight ends in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, and it wasn't particularly close. The Jaguars gave up the most tight-end yards per game and the fourth most total.
In a game that could feature a lot of scoring and fast-moving plays, backing Mahomes and Kelce is never a bad option.
The pick- Chiefs win
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Cincinnati Bengals (#3) @ Buffalo Bills (#2)
Time: 3 PM EST. Sunday, January 22nd
- Spread: Cincinnati Bengals +5, Buffalo Bills -5
- Total: Over/Under 49
- Money line: Cincinnati Bengals +190, Buffalo Bills -225
Wildcard weekend was weird for both of these AFC heavyweights.
The Bengals found themselves in a tie game in the fourth quarter with the Baltimore Ravens driving. On the ninth play of an 80-yard drive on the Bengals' one-yard line, Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley leaped. Attempting to stretch the ball into the end zone, the Bengals knocked the ball loose. Cincinnati defender Sam Hubbard picked up the ball and continued 98 yards in a truly stunning momentum swing. The defense was able to hold on for the final 11:39 and secure a 24-17 victory.
In Buffalo, things started exactly how everyone expected. A Tyler Bass field goal with 12:46 left in the second quarter extended the Bills lead 17-0. After that, Buffalo went into a lull and took a disappointing 20-17 lead into halftime. Things took an even stranger turn after Miami recovered a Josh Allen fumble for a touchdown to take a 24-20 lead with 14 minutes left in the third quarter. Showing resilience, the Bills punched back. Throwing two touchdown passes in the final five minutes of the third, the once four-point deficit was now a ten-point lead entering the fourth quarter. The advantage was cut to three after a Jeff Wilson touchdown with 10:53 left, but the Bills never surrendered the lead.
This is an incredible second-round matchup and probably the most anticipated of the weekend.
The last time we saw these two teams play, the game ended in the first quarter after Damar Hamlin's injury. Before the injury, the Bengals had a brief 7-3 lead and were driving down the field with momentum. We'll never know what could've happened if that game had resumed, but Cincinnati was playing well.
It is a hard matchup to evaluate due to both teams being similar.
Led by star quarterbacks, the Bills' Josh Allen and Bengals' Joe Burrow are highly touted as the two best quarterbacks behind Patrick Mahomes. The Bills can throw out wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, but the Bengals counter with Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Cincinnati also has Tyler Boyd as their third receiver, arguably a more advantageous option than what the Bills currently field. Along with tight ends Hayden Hurst and Dawson Knox, Joe Mixon and Devin Singletary even themselves out at running back. It's a lot of the same players going against each other on opposite sides of the ball. Neither team has a real edge on offense.
On the defensive side, the Bills can exploit a Bengals offensive line that is in shambles. Buffalo will be without defensive end Von Miller who was placed on IR after the Bills' Thanksgiving win over the Lions. Miller was having a great year and still led the team in sacks (8.0) despite only playing 11 games. Bills safety Micah Hyde continues to be out with a neck injury since week two. The Bills losing Damar Hamlin for the season is a big loss for the defense on the field. Hamlin was fourth on the team in solo and total tackles. A truly impactful and important player for the Bills; others will have to pick up the slack.
Buffalo held up well last week against Miami when it mattered but playing Joe Burrow is exponentially different from Skylar Thompson.
Cincinnati's defense comes into this game having given up 364 total yards to the Ravens in a game they very well could've lost without the crazy fumble return for a touchdown.
A game that truly feels like a complete tossup; take the Bills at home in what should be a shootout.
The pick- Bills win
© Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys (#5) @ San Francisco 49ers (#2)
Time: 6:30 EST. Sunday, January 17th
- Spread: Dallas Cowboys +3.5, San Francisco 49ers -3.5
- Total: Over/Under 46
- Money line: Dallas Cowboys +160, San Francisco 49ers -190
In the primetime Sunday night slot, the Dallas Cowboys will go on the road to face the San Francisco 49ers.
Unlike the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, these two teams performed convincingly in the wildcard round.
49ers rookie quarterback sensation Brock Purdy looked every bit like a rookie in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks. Jittery as expected, he completed 9 of 19 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown in the first half. San Francisco only saw their lead at one with a 17-16 score through 30 minutes. The second half was a different story, and the 49ers showed everyone why they are a strong Super Bowl contender. San Francisco's defense came alive, and Purdy went from a jittery rookie to a chiseled veteran. Outscoring Seattle 25-6 in the second half, the 49ers were never in serious doubt of ever losing this game.
The Dallas Cowboys impressively went into Tampa Bay and throttled the Buccaneers. Dak Prescott may have played the best game of his career, completing 25 of 33 passes for 305 yards and four touchdown passes. He also rushed seven times for 24 yards and an additional score. Getting Dak going was necessary, and Prescott is going to face his toughest test against the NFL's best defense.
Something to look for in this game is both offenses trying to exploit each defense's biggest weakness. The superb 49ers' defense was below average against the pass this season. Ranking 20th in most passing yards allowed and second in fewest rushing yards, Dak will need to have his arm ready for likely 40+ passing attempts. One area the Cowboys' defense struggles against is defending the run. Surrendering the 22nd most rushing yards per game, do it all 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey should be in for a big game and many opportunities on the ground.
Both teams feature game wreckers on defense, with 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.
Heading into San Francisco with confidence after dominating Brady and the Bucs, Dallas rolls into San Francisco and wins a tight game.
The pick- Cowboys win
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