Welcome to NFL Divisional Weekend! The first five games in last week’s playoff weekend were exciting, and now we’re down to the final eight games for the divisional round. Our staff picks are at the bottom of this post, but let’s go game-by-game to assess who I think will emerge victorious, and also don’t forget to check out all the latest odds according to DraftKings Sportsbook:
Saturday - January 21, 2023
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Kansas City Chiefs - 4:30 PM (NBC)
The Jaguars’ comeback last week was quite remarkable, after Trevor Lawrence had thrown four interceptions. Combined with their winning streak to end the season, Jacksonville is a dangerous team right now because not only are they rolling in unconventional ways, they have the fearless factor going for them too.
The Chiefs won the regular season match-up 27-17 against the Jaguars. First round byes are less important these days it seems, and even if Kansas City wins this week, they aren’t guaranteed a home game next week. The Chiefs only lost three games this year, two of which came against Buffalo and Cincinnati, which is problematic since they face off in the next round. I’ll still take Patrick Mahomes to have his way with the Jaguars’ defense, though — and even though Jacksonville has been rolling, it’ll be hard for them to shoot out a team back-to-back. Chiefs 28, Jaguars 20.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles - 8:15 PM (FOX)
On one hand, I want to say that the Giants’ performance last week surprised me. However, if there was one team that they were going to do that against, it was going to be against the Vikings’ awful defense. The Eagles played them twice in the final month of the season, beating them 48-22 in December, and then 22-16 in January (although the backups were playing in that second game, so you can toss it out for the Giants; not the Eagles). Getting Jalen Hurts back into a groove since his injury is the only question here, but this is a case where the first-round bye was monumentally helpful. I’ll take the Eagles to advance. Eagles 27, Giants 17.
Sunday - January 22, 2023
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills - 3:00 PM (CBS)
Here we go again — these two teams will forever be linked by the scary situation that cancelled the late-season regular season match-up between these two teams. Thankfully, the situation seems to be turning into more of a feel-good story (knock on wood), and these two teams can focus on football again.
I think it’s fair to say that the Bills and Bengals both underachieved last week, as they should’ve been able to put away teams with backup quarterbacks far sooner than they did. There is less margin for error against teams at full strength, so maybe they’ll be focused on their A-games. I haven’t picked an upset in these playoffs yet, and I was really wanting to pick Cincinnati here to re-live their magical run from a year ago. However, I just can’t overlook the fact that they’ve lost three starting offensive linemen in recent weeks. If Buffalo plays it right, that should prevent Cincinnati from being able to go toe-to-toe in a shootout. Bills 24, Bengals 20.
Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers - 6:30 PM (FOX)
The 49ers are my favorite team in the league right now, and Kyle Shanahan has that group clicking on all cylinders again. The lack of scoring that the 49ers allow in general, especially in the second half of games, is awe-inspiring. I wish I’d be able to see a Browns defense like that in my lifetime. The only thing that can hold San Francisco back, in my opinion, is if Brock Purdy has a dud of a performance. That could happen — he’s a rookie who is flying high, so adversity could strike hard at any moment. Their whole gameplan isn’t dictated on quarterplay play, though — the 49ers could win a 14-10 type of game if they had to with their defense. I’ll pick a little more scoring, but the defense gets it done. 49ers 20, Cowboys 13.
Below are our Divisional Weekend NFL staff picks: