With only one recreation left within the wild-card spherical for the 2022 season, we’ve got seven of eight NFL playoff divisional-round groups locked in. And we all know three of the 4 matchups on deck subsequent weekend, with the final one nonetheless ready on the winner of Monday night time’s Cowboys-Buccaneers recreation.
Let’s stay up for a stacked divisional-round schedule, which incorporates the primary postseason contests of the season for the Chiefs and Eagles, who every had a bye after 14-win campaigns. To get you prepared for subsequent week’s slate, Brooke Pryor picked out the most important factor to look at for in every recreation, and Seth Walder explored how every crew can win to advance to the convention championship video games.
Observe: Odds and recreation strains are through Caesars Sportsbook.
JAX-KC | CIN-BUF
NYG-PHI | TBD-SF
Saturday, Jan. 21, at 4:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Opening line: KC -9 (52)
What to look at for: After a season of MVP-like performances, Patrick Mahomes comes into this one well-rested. However the Jaguars enter the sport using a wave of momentum — and a curler coaster of feelings — after getting back from a 27-point gap and 4 Trevor Lawrence first-half interceptions to beat the Chargers on a walk-off subject objective within the wild-card spherical.
In these groups’ regular-season assembly, Mahomes lit up the Jaguars for 4 passing touchdowns and 331 yards with one interception. The Chiefs jumped out to a 20-0 lead within the second quarter, however the upset-minded Jaguars did what they’ve finished all season and tried to mount a comeback. Lawrence threw for 259 yards and two landing passes, however the Jaguars did not get any nearer than a 10-point deficit late within the fourth. The Jags are a much-improved crew from a season in the past, however on this battle of former Philadelphia head coaches, Andy Reid’s group is just taking part in at one other degree.
Why the Chiefs will win: Patrick Mahomes. Andy Reid. Travis Kelce. There are different individuals concerned right here, and we will say much more, however these three are the most important causes the Chiefs might be deserved robust favorites. Over the course of the common season, the Chiefs had essentially the most environment friendly offense in soccer, and it wasn’t even shut (0.17 anticipated factors added per play, with the Payments subsequent at 0.12). The offensive line deserves credit score for that quantity too.
Chris Jones has had a powerful season. His 79 cross rush wins have been 26 greater than another defensive sort out. However this protection total is just common. And that is all it must be most weeks. Offense is essential to championships, and the Chiefs have the higher one on this recreation. Sure, Lawrence has had a pleasant season, and he was sensational within the second half of Saturday’s comeback in opposition to the Chargers. However let’s be actual: Lawrence is not on Mahomes’ degree, not less than not proper now.
Why the Jaguars will win: An incredible outing from Lawrence, performances of the 12 months from a few of his teammates and slightly luck may get it finished. That is all it is going to take.
The Jaguars confirmed how good they are often within the second half in opposition to the Chargers. Not solely was Lawrence elite in that contest, however he additionally received strong safety, and teammates Christian Kirk and Evan Engram stepped up within the receiving recreation. Towards the Chiefs, although, they’ll want much more. However with Lawrence, there’s at all times an opportunity. He proved that on Saturday.
Sunday, Jan. 22, at 3 p.m. ET (CBS)
Opening line: BUF -4 (50)
What to look at for: This one goes to be emotional for all the apparent causes. Payments security Damar Hamlin and the abrupt, traumatic and emotionally abbreviated recreation between these squads earlier this month will clearly be on the forefront of every participant’s thoughts. However Hamlin, who collapsed on the sphere after struggling cardiac arrest on a routine play within the first quarter of that Jan. 2 tilt, is out of the hospital and recovering at his residence in Buffalo. Earlier than Hamlin’s medical emergency, the Week 17 recreation had been billed as one of the crucial necessary of the season, as two AFC juggernauts squared off with playoff seeding on the road.
The circumstances and stakes are completely different this time round, however the storylines stay the identical. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase in opposition to Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, plus Cincinnati’s entrance vs. a Payments offensive line that gave up seven sacks within the wild-card spherical. The regular-season contest had all of the makings of a basic when it first appeared on the schedule, and this go-round guarantees to be an thrilling showdown.
Why the Payments will win: The Payments’ distinctive play over the course of the season is a way more necessary indicator for his or her subsequent recreation than their struggles in opposition to the Dolphins within the wild-card spherical. And the Payments have been awfully good within the common season. Each of those offenses are led by distinctive quarterbacks, and every has an elite-tier huge receiver.
However there’s one key distinction right here, and that is the offensive line. Whereas Allen may have time to throw — and is the higher rusher if he chooses to scramble — the Bengals’ O-line is banged up. Left sort out Jonah Williams left Sunday’s wild-card recreation in opposition to the Ravens and did not return. And albeit, Cincinnati’s line wasn’t significantly good when wholesome. Which means Buffalo’s Greg Rousseau & Co. will doubtless be within the backfield disrupting Burrow and the Bengals’ cross recreation.
Diggs 52-yard catch units up unimaginable Knox TD
Stefon Diggs reels within the 52-yard catch, adopted by Josh Allen discovering Dawson Knox for a implausible landing catch because the Payments lead 7-0.
And simply generally, the Payments have the defensive edge right here thanks partially to robust linebacker play from Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds. With a slight benefit on either side of the ball and the sport being performed on their residence turf, the Payments are massive favorites.
Why the Bengals will win: The Payments might need been the higher crew within the common season. However may the Bengals be the higher squad proper now? Cincinnati did not have Chase for a part of the season, and star pass-rusher Trey Hendrickson missed a number of video games. The Payments, in the meantime, have been bolstered by a celebrity pass-rusher they not have in injured Von Miller. And for nearly as good as Allen was within the common season, he did lead all quarterbacks in turnovers.
Add in Buffalo struggling to tug away from a Miami crew that was beginning its third-string quarterback and the Bengals may simply have the sting.
Saturday, Jan. 21, at 8:15 p.m. ET (FOX)
Opening line: PHI -7.5 (47)
What to look at for: Solely one of many two matchups between these groups this season featured each groups’ beginning quarterbacks, and the Eagles throttled the Giants (Week 14), greater than doubling New York’s factors complete with a balanced offensive assault that scored 4 instances on the bottom and twice by way of the air. The Giants gave up 437 yards of offense to Philadelphia. However within the final three regular-season video games, coordinator Wink Martindale’s protection allowed solely a median of 315 yards, and it gave up 332 to Minnesota within the wild-card spherical. And with the offense capitalizing on his mobility, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has additionally performed higher as of late, and he led the Giants with 78 speeding yards in opposition to the Vikings — together with seven first-down runs.
However make no mistake: Even with the Giants’ late-season surge and Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts nonetheless recovering from a shoulder sprain suffered in Week 15, the Eagles have the sting coming off the bye week. One different factor to remember: In that Week 14 recreation, the Eagles held New York operating again Saquon Barkley to only 28 speeding yards, his second-lowest output of the season.
Why the Eagles will win: Merely put, Philadelphia is healthier in nearly each side of the sport. Quarterback? Verify. Offensive line? Verify. Receivers? Verify. Defensive position? Verify. Linebackers? Verify. Defensive backs? Verify.
I will give the Giants the operating again place, and possibly kicker, within the head-to-head comparability. However that is about it. The Eagles can beat you in numerous methods. Offensively, Hurts can run on the Giants — who allowed 5.2 yards per carry to opposing quarterbacks this season, second worst within the NFL — or hit receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith by way of the air. Defensively, the cross rush can wreck a cross play earlier than the ball is out of the quarterback’s hand. And if not, one of the best secondary within the recreation is there to smother receivers.
Why the Giants will win: The Giants are outmatched however do have a number of components going for them. First, Jones’ speeding means affords a wanted out when cross performs go awry, as we noticed in opposition to the Vikings. And Barkley appeared just like the early-season model of himself in opposition to Minnesota, with plus-22 rush yards over expectation within the contest. Between him and Jones, the Giants should generate manufacturing on the bottom as a result of the Eagles’ cross protection is vicious. On the opposite facet of the ball, defensive sort out Dexter Lawrence is on a tear proper now and may blow up opposing offenses from the within of the road.
There’s additionally Hurts’ well being. If the Eagles quarterback is restricted, something is feasible.
Sunday, Jan. 22, at 6:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
The winner of Monday night time’s recreation between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play on the 49ers within the divisional spherical.
Why 49ers will win: Irrespective of the way you wish to divide the credit score between quarterback Brock Purdy, the unimaginable supporting forged and coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers’ offense has been outrageous for the reason that seventh-round rookie took over because the starter. With Purdy on the sphere, San Francisco averages 0.19 anticipated factors added (EPA) per play. For context, the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes common 0.18.
Oh, and it is fairly attainable that the offense is the 49ers’ worse facet of the ball. No crew recorded a greater EPA per play on protection this season than San Francisco, which excelled in opposition to each the run and the cross. From Nick Bosa to Fred Warner to Dre Greenlaw to Talanoa Hufanga, this protection can get the 49ers a win even when the offense has an off day. Now we wait on the Niners’ opponent …