AFC Divisional Round preview: Jaguars vs Chiefs, and Benglas vs Bills
We are set for the Divisional Round of the playoffs and there are some juicy matchups that will decide the AFC Championship. Who will survive the weekend?
We are all set for the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs and there are two mouth watering matchups that will decide who is moving on to the conference championship. The Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to Arrownhead to play the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnati Bengals will travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills.
Jaguars vs. Chiefs, Saturday January 21st, 4:30 p.m. ET at Aarowhead Stadium
The Chiefs will suit up for the first time this postseason, after clinching the top seed and first round bye in the AFC, and the Jags will look to keep the train rolling after a historic comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers on Super Wild Weekend.
Andy Reid’s team earned the top spot in the AFC after a 14-3 season in which their franchise quarterback had yet another MVP caliber year. Patrick Mahomes led an offense that saw one of it’s top weapons, Tyreek Hill, ship south to Miami in the offseason. Questions that now seem silly, surrounded the Kansas City passing attack after one of the most dynamic wide receivers in the NFL was traded to a potential threat in the AFC.
Hill departing did one thing to the Chiefs offense. It made it more balanced. Instead of having one deep threat, they had multiple deep threats which made the offense more unpredictable than ever. Mahomes and KC ended the regular season with the most yards per game (413.6) and the most points per game (29.1 ppg).
Offense vs. offense in a chilly Orchard Park
The Chiefs defense sat just outside the Top 10 which is a considerable jump up from last season where they were KC’s biggest liability and it showed against the Bills and the Benglas in the playoffs. Kansas City’s defense is never going to return them to Super Bowl glory, but if they can hold strong, their offense is more than capable of carrying the load on their way to lifting the Lombardi Trophy.
The Jaguars are this year’s team of destiny. They had no business making the playoffs after a starting the season 3-7, but a historic collapse by the Titans saw them win the AFC South and squeak into the playoffs on the final week of the regular season.
Trevor Lawrence and the Jags won five straight and six of their last, as the second year quarterback played the best football of his young career over the last month and a half of the season. It was destiny that gave Josh Allen the chance to scoop and score in the final minutes of the all or nothing Week 18 game against the Titans for the AFC title game, and you can’t tell me it wasn’t destiny that led the Jags to their unfathomable 27 point comeback over the Chargers after Lawrence threw four first half interceptions.
On paper this seems like a game the Chiefs should win on cruise control. Mahomes, and the gang have been here before. They know what to expect. They are back at home and they are on a weeks rest. All signs point to the Chiefs returning to the AFC Championship, but something about this Jags team is unsettling and if they don’t come to play, Jacksonville will jump all over the Chiefs and give the nation the shock of this postseason.
Bengals vs. Bills, Sunday January 22, 3:00 p.m. ET from Highmark Stadium
It’s a rematch of the Week 17 game that was called after Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field on three Monday nights ago. The cancellation of the game left a lot of things unsettled, like playoff seeding and how the home field advantage would play out in the postseason. This weekend the two teams will settle scores on the field as the 2 seed Bills take on the 3 seed Bengals from Orchard Park.
Each of the teams are coming off of narrow victories after suffering scares in their Wild Card matchups. It just so happened that the Bills and the Bengals were playing their division rivals and both the Dolphins and the Ravens complicated their opening round match ups. With Miami and Baltimore both having to rely on their back up quarterbacks you would have thought that Cincy and Buffalo would have cruised into the Divisional round, but that wasn’t the case.
The Bills were considered the favorites to get to the Super Bowl since the moment they had their hearts broken in the playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in last year’s Divisional matchup. They revamped their defense with some key offseason signings, including Von Miller who suffered a season ending injury earlier this season.
It looked like Buffalo was going to run away with a big victory against the Dolphins until late in the first half. The defense was suspect against their arch enemies on Sunday, giving up three early field goals and then they were really called into question once Josh Allen started making some mistakes that reminded us all too much of the mistakes he was making during the Bills midseason slump. Two second half interceptions allowed the Dolphins to tie the game up before halftime and a strip sack taken back for a fumble gave Miami their first lead of the game early in the third quarter.
Allen made amends for his mistakes by throwing two of his three TD passes in the second half to push the Bills to the next round in a game that was much tighter than many expected.
Hubbard saves the day in Cincy
The Bengals had similar issues against the Ravens, who started Tyler Huntley in place of Lamar Jackson who was not just out for the game but suspiciously absent at Paycor Stadium on Sunday Night.
Like the Bills, Cincy jumped out to an early lead after opening the game with a field goal, then picked up Huntley on the next possession and Joe Burrow put the Benglas up 9-0 with a 12 yard TD pass to Ja’Marr Chase on the first play of the second quarter. The lead didn’t last long, in fact a 10 minute TD drive and a field goal after Hayden Hurst fumbled gave the Ravens the lead at halftime.
Both teams scored third quarter touchdowns to head into the final 15 minutes tied at 17-17, and the Ravens were on the verge of taking a shocking late lead on the one yard line. Everything changed on 3rd and Goal when Huntley tried a QB sneak, but had it swiped out of his hands and Sam Hubbard scooped and scored it on a 98 yard fumble return.
This Sunday, you would expect a shootout between two high powered offenses led by two MVP candidate quarterbacks. This game could be determined by the weather in Buffalo. Forecasts for Sunday predict chilly temperatures and snow, which is nothing new for either of these teams but the run game might be relied on in Orchard Park this weekend. The Bills run game is ranked seventh in the league with 139.5 a game while the Bengals are 29th in the league averaging just under 90 yards a game.