By Sam Morris
Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sports Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he volunteers in the strategic communications department at BGSU at various sporting events and he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.
January 20th, 2023
Divisional Round Overview
The wild card round is over, and what a crazy one it was! The round included the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history and three backup quarterbacks starting playoff games. Now, there are only 8 teams left in what has been a very interesting season. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and the defending Super Bowl Champions are all out of contention, leaving the Chiefs, 3 teams from last season’s worst division (the NFC East), a team led by the 2022 ‘Mr. Irrelevant,’ a team that had the worst record in the NFL last season, and two teams who played each other just over 2 weeks ago in one of the scariest games in NFL history. The schedule has been set for the divisional round and just like last week, below I attempt to predict the outcomes of each of the 4 games. Speaking of last week, I went a perfect 6-0 in predictions, and will attempt to carry that undefeated streak into the divisional round.
- Kansas City Chiefs (14-3) VS. 4. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-8) (Saturday, January 21st, 4:30)
Breakdown: The opening divisional round playoff game between the Chiefs and Jaguars should be an exciting way to kick off this weekend of football. The Jaguars beat the Chargers 31-30 in last week’s wild card matchup after coming back from being down 27-0 at halftime. I picked the Jaguars last week and was amazed to see them pull off the comeback after Trevor Lawrence played horribly in the first half by throwing 4 interceptions. As I predicted, the Chargers’ rushing defense imploded last week against the Jaguars offense, but their secondary played so well that they ended up leading for the majority of the game. The Jaguars are dangerous in this game because they are playing with nothing to lose as barely anyone expected them to make it to the playoffs, let alone to the final 8.
However, The top-seeded Chiefs will be a different team than the Chargers as they play with a lot more poise and are much more experienced in the playoffs. Mahomes, despite being just 27 years old, is the oldest and most experienced quarterback left in the AFC and his top-tier talent combined with the rest of their offensive skill players should be a problem for the surging Jaguars. Kelce has statistically been the best receiving tight end in the league this season and the WR core of JuJu Smith-Schuster, MVS (Marquez Valdes-Scantling), Mecole Hardman, and Kadarius Toney has also been one of the best in the league because they can catch deep ball passes and run clean routes. The running back duo of 7th round rookie Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon is also a dangerous part of the Chiefs offense because their speed, power running ability, and ability to pass catch all complement the receiving offense very well. Because the Chiefs’ offense is so much more experienced and talented than the Chargers, it makes sense that the Jaguars defense won’t be able to stop them since they could only hold the Chargers to 27 points in the first half; because of this, I think the Chiefs will win this game.
Prediction: Chiefs (34) Jaguars (24)
- Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) VS. 6. New York Giants (10-7-1) (Saturday, January 21st, 8:15)
Breakdown: This Saturday Night game featuring two NFC East rivals will feature two young quarterbacks in Jalen Hurts (one of the most improved and valuable players in the NFC) and Daniel Jones. While Hurts is coming off a much-deserved bye week to rest his injured right shoulder, Jones is coming off an impressive win against the Vikings where he threw for 301 passing yards, had a 68.6% completion percentage, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions, and 78 rushing yards. The Giants victory was the one upset I picked last week, and it proved to be the poor defense of the Vikings that was Minnesota’s downfall. However, against any defense, Saquon Barkley’s performance and Daniel Jones’ performance last week would have been very effective.
Philadelphia’s defense is much better than the Vikings as they led the league in sacks this year. In fact, they had 70 sacks as a defense which was 15 more than the Chiefs, who had the second most, and a whopping 26 more than the number one overall defense, the 49’ers. This will be an obvious problem for the Giants as their relatively weak wide receiver core of Slayton, Hodgins, and James will now have less time to get open for Daniel Jones. However, this could actually be a blessing in disguise for New York as their top 5 rushing offense goes up against the Eagles who blitz so heavily to get sacks that they often leave gaping holes in their secondary and linebacker levels of the defense. Therefore, the Eagles’ rushing defense is ranked 17th in yards per game. The ability to get big gains on the ground with Saquon coupled with the fact that the Eagles don’t overcompensate their blitz packages with secondary help make it so that Barkley has a big day with one or more huge gains down the field. In the regular season, the Eagles trounced the Giants 48-22 in their first matchup but only won 22-16 when they faced them in week 18.
This second matchup concerns me for the Eagles as they played Jalen Hurts and he did not perform well, really for the first time all season, as he threw for 1 interception and had no touchdowns. On the other hand, the Giants rested most of their starters in week 18 as they had already clinched the 6 seed. This meant that backup Davis Webb would play in his first career NFL game, despite it being his 6th season in the league, and he posted a better overall stat line than Hurts, throwing for a touchdown, and having zero turnovers. I think this will be the closest game of the weekend, but for the reasons I have presented I think the Giants once again pull off the upset and Barkley and Jones will have huge games.
Prediction: Eagles (24) Giants (27)
2. Buffalo Bills (14-3) VS. 3. Cincinnati Bengals (13-4) (Sunday, January 22nd, 3:00)
Breakdown: This, in my opinion, is the most intriguing game this weekend for a few reasons. First, this is a rematch of the game when Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and was carted off the field. That game eventually got cancelled, and now that these two teams face each other again there will be much more at stake in terms of how they end their seasons. Because of the Damar Hamlin injury the Bills will be very motivated in this game. Secondly, these two teams have the best combined record out of all the games that are happening this weekend at 27-7. The Bills were many people’s Super Bowl favorites in the preseason after how last season ended so abruptly to the Chiefs in the divisional round. This pick made sense as Josh Allen is incredibly talented and the Bills offense and secondary is loaded with stars such as Stefon Diggs, Tre’Davious White, and Jordan Poyer. As the season has progressed, Allen has improved but the Bills themselves have had to rely on him too much as their defense has struggled in recent weeks, especially last week against Skylar Thompson and the Miami Dolphins. As well as the Dolphins started this season, they have imploded over the last half of the season and the fact that the Bills’ defense could only beat the Dolphins by 3 when the Dolphins had a third string quarterback playing is very concerning. Allen also struggled last week himself as he threw 2 interceptions. Overall, the immense pressure on Allen and Diggs could prove to be a lot for this team to overcome.
As for the Bengals, their defense played very well against the Ravens, holding them to just 17 points and forcing a fumble recovery for a touchdown as well as an interception. What this game will really come down to is the matchup between the Bengals receiving core and the Bills’ secondary, as a great performance by one of these units could prove vital in the game’s outcome. I believe that the Bengals’ receiving core and Joe Burrow will be able to overcome the Bills’ home field advantage and that Josh Allen’s relatively recent struggles won’t get better against a much better overall defense in Cincinnati compared to Miami. While this game will be close, I predict the Bengals will get a hard-fought win.
Prediction: Bills (28) Bengals (34)
2. San Francisco 49’ers (14-4) VS. 6. Dallas Cowboys (13-5) (Sunday, January 22nd, 6:00)
Breakdown: The Sunday Night Football Matchup features a rematch of last season’s wild card game between the Niners and Cowboys. Although I predicted the Cowboys game correctly last week against the Bucs, I stated that I thought it would be the closest game of the weekend because of Dallas’ inconsistent defense. However, this was not the case as Dallas crushed Tampa Bay and sent Tom Brady packing. Dallas was one of the more impressive teams last week as Prescott played about as well as he has all season, and the Parsons-led defense got heavy pressure against Tampa Bay. Dallas will attempt to get revenge against San Francisco as last season the Niners eliminated Dallas in the infamous game that ended with Dak Prescott running the ball for a 20-yard gain despite the Cowboys only having 14 seconds on the clock and no timeouts left. This led to Dallas not being able to snap the ball in time before the play clock expired. This season, Tony Pollard has emerged as a true number one running back and their dominance against Tampa should be concerning for the Niners.
However, despite Dallas’ great performance last week, it was against a team with a losing record. The Niners will be a much tougher test and if they play like they did in the final quarter against the Seahawks, it will be very tough for Dallas to win. Ultimately, I think San Francisco’s multitude of skill players on offense and amazing defense will be too much for Dak Prescott to handle and the Niners will move on to the NFC Championship game against the Giants for the second straight year.
Prediction: 49’ers (30) Cowboys (22)