NFL divisional round predictions: farewell to the Bengals and Cowboys | NFL
There was a lot of excitement during the Wildcard weekend, but not many surprises. In fact, we picked all six winners correctly this time around last week. Will this mojo continue in the divisional round? We will find out in the next few days.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. EST/9:30 p.m. GMT)
What the Jaguars need to do to win: Trevor Lawrence needs to have a brilliant first half – or at least not terrible. The Jaguars gave the Los Angeles Chargers a 27-0 lead before coming back strong for a comeback win last weekend. Lawrence needs to prove his four-steal first half was nerve-wracking for his playoff debut.
What the Chiefs need to do to win: Act like they’ve been here before, which they have. Last week the Jaguars proved they could be their worst enemy, so the more talented Chiefs could benefit from a conservative approach that emphasizes avoiding turnovers and prioritizing at the time of possession.
Key player: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs. The last time these teams met, Kelce rushed for 81 yards and scored a touchdown. Jacksonville’s defense has struggled to contain tight ends in general during the regular season and Kelce is significantly better than “general.”
Prediction: Chiefs over Jaguars. The Jaguars deserve credit for reaching this stage of the playoffs, but this looks like the game that reveals the gap between Lawrence and Patrick Mahomes.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Saturday, 8:15 p.m. EST/Sunday, 1:15 a.m. GMT)
What the Giants must do to win: Run the ball. The Giants have the NFC’s best running back in Saquon Barkley, and QB Daniel Jones is a threat to take the ball and run himself, having picked up 78 rushing yards against the Minnesota Vikings last week.
What the Eagles need to do to win: If Philadelphia can stop Jones and Barkley from creating mayhem on the field — they gave up 121.6 rushing yards per game in the regular season, compared to New York’s 144.2 — the Giants will have to ventilate it. more, which is not their strength.
Key player: Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles. How healthy is Hurts shoulder? Maybe that’s what this game boils down to. Hurts went 20-for-35, throwing for 229 yards with a pick and no touchdowns when forced into action late in the regular season. Philadelphia hopes the bye week has helped it regain its form.
Prediction: Eagles over Giants. The Eagles have struggled without Hurts, but assuming he’s at least 80 percent, the NFL’s best regular-season team will advance to the NFC Championship Game.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills (Sunday, 3:00 p.m. EST / 8:00 p.m. GMT) Josh Allen must cut his mistakes after an uneven game against the Dolphins. Photograph: Gregory Fisher/USA Today Sports
What the Bengals must do to win: Welcome to the Ball Security Bowl! Whichever team limits their turnovers will most likely win the game. For the Bengals, that means forcing Josh Allen to make the bad calls that nearly doomed the Bills against the Miami Dolphins (he had two interceptions and was “credited” for three fumbles).
What the Bills must do to win: Meanwhile, the Bills’ job will be to fire Joe Burrow. One of the league’s worst-kept secrets is that the Bengals QB has a propensity to hold on to football for too long. It’s something he’s worked to improve on but, especially with a battered offensive line, the Bills’ passing throwers could end up feasting on the opposing quarterback.
Key player: Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals. If Cincinnati’s passing game starts to falter, they have a high-quality running back in Mixon who could step in as Plan B.
Prediction: Bills over Bengals. Neither team really proved themselves in their first-round game, so it could end up being a high score, free-for-all with a wild finish. If you only want to discover one game, this is it.
Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. EST/11:30 p.m. GMT)
What the Cowboys must do to win: Can the Cowboys offensive line withstand the Niners’ league-best defense? It’s not the sexiest question, but it may answer the question of whether or not Dallas can pull off a road win on Sunday.
What the 49ers need to do to win: One way or another, this San Francisco 49ers season, and possibly the entire NFL season, could come down to Brock Purdy’s ability to postpone his back to the proverbial pumpkin. The final pick from last year’s draft will sort of make his second playoff start on Sunday.
Key player: Micah Parsons, linebacker, Cowboys. Parsons’ defensive effort against Tom Brady on Monday was a big reason the quarterback is already considering plans for next season. Much like San Francisco’s defense is centered around Nick Bosa, Parsons is key to the Niners’ D.
Prediction: 49ers vs. Cowboys. At that time, Brock Purdy will officially be nicknamed Mr Extremely Relevant.