We're down to the NFL's elite 8, and who would've ever guessed back in September that the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Football Giants would still be alive at this point? That's the great thing about football; as much as some people and underrated niche bloggers might think they know, anything can happen in this great game. The Divisional Round has given us some incredible games and upsets throughout NFL history. '96 Jags over the Broncos is hot in the streets with the Swaguars revival. There's the Sea of Hands, Immaculate Reception, and Ghost to the Post. Man, the '70s were full of great nicknames for playoff games. More recently, we've had the Minneapolis Miracle, which is cool on the count of alliteration, but it's tough to beat the Sea of Hands.
The Pats' double-comeback, double-pass game against the Ravens in the 2014 playoffs is my favorite Divisional Round game in NFL history, but the unofficial best week of the season is upon us. Let's fullback dive into the picks (would you guess I spent a brief eight hours on this blog's collage?).
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (-9), 4:30/3:30c, NBC & Peacock
The Jags and Chiefs met at Arrowhead back in week 10, where KC won by 10. Believe it or not, both teams have only lost once since.
Of all the games this weekend, this one feels the least likely for an upset. Usually, I'm pretty anti-Mahomes era Chiefs, but he and Kelce helped me take home my first fantasy title, so they're low-key on my good side. This core has destroyed the narratives of KC's home playoff woes. Sure, they've lost two AFCCGs at home, but before Pat Mahomes, the Chiefs had only one AFCCG appearance from 1970-2016.
The Jaguars have been an incredible story (I did say they'd be good in my season preview blog...but I also picked the Colts to win the Super Bowl...), and I think this organization has a bright future; Trevor Lawrence is the guy. However, they don't compare to Kansas City from a talent standpoint. Pederson is a solid coach, but Andy Reid is 4-0 in the playoffs vs. former assistants.
I'd love to see the Swaguars pull off the upset, but last week took a lot out of them. Even with no Tyreek, or Honey Badger anymore, this Kansas City team is experienced and has the best QB in the NFL. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Jags cover since KC seems to never cover big spreads, but this Jags team just isn't ready to take that next step. Sure, you can beat the Chargers with five turnovers, but you can't give the Chiefs extra possessions.
Kansas City is gonna move the ball at ease against the Jags D. Jacksonville's struggled to cover tight ends all year, and the Chiefs have the best TE not named Rob Gronkowski over the last 15 years. There's a massive gap between the two, but I'll give Kelce his respect since he won me a ring on NYD.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5), 8:15/7:15c, Fox
The NFC Beast makes up 3/8 of the weekend and this matchup guarantees the division some representation in the NFCCG. This is a tough pick for me, because I still don't believe in the Giants and said they wouldn't go on a run, but I also have been banging the Eagles are overrated drum all season.
This matchup is all about Jalen Hurts. How effective will he be dealing with his shoulder injury?
It's sorta unfair to use this stat because their week 18 matchup wasn't a real game, but teams that went 2-0 vs. a divisional opponent are 15-9 straight up in the playoffs. Now you can look at that in multiple ways, 37.5% of the time, the team that got swept in the regular season finds playoff revenge or 62.5% of the time, the dominate teams continues its domination.
Last week, the Giants were the "upset" pick that everybody had, and it feels like that narrative is repeating itself this week. Last time I didn't believe in the Eagles with QB question marks, they ended up winning the Super Bowl. As much as I want to discredit this organization, they've been one of, if not the best team all season long. I cannot commend the Giants and Daboll enough for getting to this point. I'm happy for Daniel Jones, it looks like he's salvaged his career, but the Giants ride ends this weekend. This isn't the Vikings swiss-cheese defense. The Eagles have like four guys who ended up with double-digit sacks and gave up the 2nd fewest yards in the league.
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills (-5.5), 3/2c, CBS & Paramount+
This is the game I'm looking forward to most. I was pumped for their regular season matchup, which we all know was canceled due to the Damar Hamlin injury. One bet you can count on is the Bills bringing him out or showing him on their pathetic jumbotrons.
It is easy to make the team of destiny claims with this Bills squad; they've been a contender since 2019 and are amidst their best stretch since the K-Gun. You know Buffalo is gonna be rocking for this one.
Whoever wins this game beats Kansas City next week, and that team will be the Cincinnati Bengals. There's no denying the Bills' offensive firepower, but as we saw vs. Miami, all too often, that firepower can self-destruct. If a healthy Tua played, they would probably lose that game, but vs. Skylar Thompson, Buffalo was able to survive all of Josh Allen's miscues (barely).
Even though the Bengals' offensive line is in disarray yet again, with those weapons, IMO the 2nd best QB in the league, AND the experience of already getting to a Super Bowl, the Bengals get back to the AFCCG for consecutive years for the first time in franchise history.
Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (-4), 6:30/5:30c, Fox
I don't know what to think of the 49ers. Brock Purdy was not good in the first half vs. Seattle, but he and the 49ers rebounded in the second half and blew out Geno and the Hawks from the Pacific Northwest. If Geno didn't fumble, it's an entirely different game, but I gotta give the 49ers their due. They blew the fucking doors off late.
Dallas had a convincing win over the Bucs, which looking back, I should've known. I mean, I'm a Brady guy, but the Bucs were shitty all year long; even the Goat couldn't save them. Mike Evans loves to drop passes. Maybe Parcells was right about you being what your record says you are.
Of course, one of the biggest stories going into this matchup is Brett Maher. The usually reliable kicker missed four straight extra points in the Wild Card game. It didn't come back to haunt the Cowboys vs. Tampa, but they're gonna need every point they can get against San Fran. Will his yips make the trip west?
McCarthy is not that good of a coach, but he did win a Super Bowl way back in early 2011. It's crazy that the Cowboys haven't been to a conference championship game since 1996. I want them to win just so I can write a blog about everything that's happened since then, and even though gun to my head, I'd probably rather see the 49ers pull this one off; I have this weird feeling the Cowboys are the ones that move on (even though they got screwed by the schedule). I've been fading Purdy since he took over, and this is the week he turns back into a pumpkin.
Last weekend I had Jaguars ML, Giants ML, Engram anytime TD, Dawson Knox anytime TD, and Saquon at least 2 TD and still managed to win $0!!!!!