Wow. That was certainly an entertaining round of football we had last weekend. From historical comebacks to memorable upsets to dominant performances, the wild card round surely delivered. Now, let’s hope the divisional round can follow that up. There is a decent chance that it does. Not only are the best teams from last week advancing, but the Eagles and Chiefs are now thrown into the mix and coming off a week of rest. Each of the four games this week has several interesting storylines and should make for a great few hours of television. The only thing that can make it even better is if I go four-for-four with my picks as well. Speaking of my picks, here they are.
Kansas City Chiefs over Jacksonville Jaguars (+8.5)
The Jaguars proved last week that they can handle the adversity that comes with being in the playoffs. They completed a miraculous comeback win over the Chargers with a game-winning field goal, erasing a deficit that was built up due to a horrible first half of play. Unfortunately for the, it isn’t going to get any easier this week going up against the favorite in the AFC. The Chiefs have the best offense in the league led by the best player in the league, and that is very hard to stop. I don’t expect the Jaguars to have much success on defense unless guys such as Josh Allen, Travon Walker, Tyson Campbell, or Foyesade Oluokun can produce a momentum-swinging play. Kansas City is just too good on that side of the ball and too experienced in the postseason to lay an egg at home. So, the game will come down to how well the Jaguars’ offense plays. Trevor Lawrence showed a bunch of poise and maturity last week by bouncing back from a horrific start to the game. He looked much improved this season but last week may have been his most impressive showing yet. He has some great weapons in Travis Etienne, Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, and more, and the offense as a whole seems to be functioning well. In the end, I don’t think they can outscore the Chiefs because Patrick Mahomes is made for games like this but I do see the Jaguars scoring enough points to cover the spread and lay a good foundation to build off of for next year.
Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5) over New York Giants
It pains me to go against the Giants because their upset over the Vikings was so fun to watch last week (and one of the games I got right), but the thing about Cinderella stories is that the clock always strikes midnight at some point. Earlier in the week I probably would have picked the Giants to cover but that narrative has been gaining too much steam lately. I’m incredibly impressed by what the Giants have accomplished this year, but it stops on Saturday. I just don’t think that they’re this team capable of pulling off another upset and really making a run this year. Don’t get me wrong, Daniel Jones is playing fantastic and Saquon Barkley and Dexter Lawrence are incredible players, but the Eagles are still a very good team. I think the bye week kind of hurt the Eagles from a narrative perspective. There isn’t much focus being paid to them right now, especially compared to the Giants. But Philly was downright dominant for most of the year and Jalen Hurts, when healthy, is one of the best offensive players in the game. Throw in an elite wide receiver duo in A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith with an elite offensive line and a smothering defense, and you’ve got yourself a Super Bowl contender. That’s exactly what the Eagles are and will show it in this round when they emphatically send the Giants home packing.
Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5) over Buffalo Bills
I absolutely like the Bengals to cover in this game. No matter who ends up winning, it’s going to be close. These teams are both very good and will be incredibly motivated with a spot in the AFC Championship Game on the line. But, there’s just something about the Bengals right now that I think gives them the edge. Joe Burrow just has that edge that leads to playoff success, which we already knew about from last year. The Cincy defense is also legit and capable of holding its own in these playoff games. Obviously they aren’t going to get 98-yard fumble-return touchdowns every week, but they are going to manufacture big plays. Josh Allen has been turnover prone this year, despite having an all-around good season. The Bills also seem to be stumbling a bit, given that they played a too-close-for-comfort game against the Dolphins last week with Skylar Thompson at quarterback. There are plenty of great players in this game outside of the quarterbacks, but I like the Bengals’ offensive weapons more at the moment. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Joe Mixon are just more intimidating than Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis, and Dawson Knox. I’m very excited for this game because it should be the best of the weekend if both teams play up to their potential. And if that’s the case, then we will all be winners for getting to watch an entertaining football game. But I’ll be an extra-winner if the Bengals win or keep it within five points and lose.
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) over Dallas Cowboys
Just a quick disclaimer, if the Cowboys play like they did last week then they’re probably going to win this game. Dak Prescott looked absolutely surgical and the entire team (except for Brett Maher) was firing on all cylinders. But, one thing that might stop them from repeating that performance is the fact that their opponent is going to be much better. The 49ers’ defense is the best in the league and is a very daunting foe. Not just because Nick Bosa is probably going to win Defensive Player of the Year and Fred Warner patrols the middle better than any other linebacker in the game. Yes, those two certainly help, but the defense as a whole just works extremely well. From breakout players such as Talanoa Hufanga to surprise contributors such as Tashaun Gipson to rookies such as Drake Jackson, the parts on that defense are meshing together perfectly. It will be up to Prescott to try to break that defense enough to lead his team to victory. He’s coming off arguably the most impressive game of his career so he’s got the momentum. He’s also got the weapons with a Cowboys’ offense stocked with CeeDee Lamb, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz, and Michael Gallup. The Cowboys could also use a bad game from the Niners’ offense, particularly Brock Purdy who has yet to really have an off-game. Things looked easy for Purdy and the San Francisco offense against the Seahawks last week, probably because they were, which is a perk of having a genius offensive mind like Kyle Shanahan as your coach. It just doesn’t seem like the 49ers have a weak spot, but if there’s one area to attack, it’s the offensive line. If Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence can get pressure on Purdy and throw him off his game, then maybe guys in the secondary such as Trevon Diggs and Jayron Kearse can capitalize on a mistake and swing the momentum. This is a classic matchup between two of the most storied franchises in league history and if both squads play like they did last week, we may witness another all-timer on Sunday.