NEW YORK– And then, there were only eight teams remaining. The NFL Playoffs resume this weekend with the Divisional Round set to kick off a splendid four-game slate, featuring generational quarterbacks, elite defenses, and heated rivalries, all at the mercy of win-or-go-home.
To begin the football frenzy this Saturday afternoon, January 21st, Patrick Mahomes and the AFC No. 1 seed, Kansas City Chiefs host Trevor Lawrences’ led Jacksonville Jaguars at Arrowhead Stadium.
Then, headlining the nightcap, fans are catered with one of the most intense rivalries across the NFL going down at Lincoln Financial Stadium as the New York Giants drive south on I-95 to take on the NFC No. 1 seed, Philadelphia Eagles.
So, here we go… who will punch their ticket to Championship Weekend?
4:30PM ET on NBC: #4 Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8) @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)
Kansas City currently lines up as nine-point favorites over Jacksonville, with the total projected at O/U 52.5. This marks just the second matchup between Mahomes and Lawrence in their respective careers, with the first occurring in Week 10 of this regular season as the Chiefs prevailed 27-17.
“People know what’s on the line,” Lawrence said leading up to Divisional Weekend. “Guys are just willing to do whatever it takes to win, so there’s that level of intensity. You know you’re going to get everyone’s best shot, so you gotta be prepared.”
Though the Jaguars are coming off a 31-30 Wild Card thriller over the LA Chargers, completing the third largest comeback victory in NFL Playoff history (27-point deficit), and looking to carry the momentum; Kansas City is a much more complex, complete opponent.
Led by Mahomes, the 2018 Regular Season MVP, and Super Bowl LIV MVP, the Chiefs are seeking their fifth consecutive AFC Championship appearance. Additionally, Mahomes holds an 8-3 playoff career record, 7-4 ATS (Against The Spread). His only three postseason losses have come from Tom Brady twice and Joe Burrow last year in the AFC Championship.
“You built up for this all season long,” Mahomes elaborated. “In the regular season, you take it week by week, but you want to be here in the playoffs and you know, you’re going to play the best football teams in the league.”
“That’s always what you want to do as a competitor, so I’m excited to get to go up against a good football team at Arrowhead. That’s always a good time,” he added.
Jaguars Side: Currently on a six game winning streak (5-1 ATS), guided by head coach Doug Pederson, Jacksonvilles’ prospered immensely on offense, compiling over 336 total yards in five of their last six games, and averaging 29.5 points per game in that span.
To caveat in, Lawrence stands undefeated in games played on a Saturday throughout his high school, collegiate, and NFL career combined (37-0).
Who’s punching their ticket to the AFC Championship? #NFLPlayoffs
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2023
Chiefs Aspect: With the talent of Mahomes paired to the leadership of head coach Andy Reid, Kansas City led the NFL in scoring this year (29.3 points per game) as well as in yards per game (413.6).
On an impressive and shocking note, can you guess the last playoff game when Kansas City was listed as an underdog? The 2016 Divisional Round at New England with Alex Smith starting at quarterback.
PICK: Jaguars +9 Over 52.5
8:15PM ET on FOX: #6 New York Giants (9-7-1) @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles (14-3)
Jalen Hurts and the Eagles are listed as 7.5-point favorites over the Giants, with the total currently slated at O/U 48.5. To begin with the NFC East bitter rivalry, Philadelphia swept the regular season matchup over the G-Men by a combined total of 70-38. But perhaps, the third time’s a charm?
Teams that completed the regular season sweep, then faced off again in the playoffs are 13-7 in the Wild Card era, 10-9-1 ATS.
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2023
“Two months playing them three times, so it will be fun,” Hurts said about the matchup. “We gotta go out there and compete, gotta go out there and execute and play with the right fundamentals.”
“We’re excited to be here, certainly, but we’re not surprised ourselves and we’ve got a lot left to do,” Giants QB Daniel Jones explained. “We’re in a good spot… but we’re also still hungry and still looking forward to the next game, the next opportunity and continuing to prepare and play as well as we can.”
Continuing to prepare indeed, as Giants head coach Brian Daboll raised the sentiment, prior to New York’s 31-24 Wild Card weekend victory over the Minnesota Vikings: “Experience is overrated, it’s how you prepare.”
Similarly enough, what caught the attention of many postgame, was how laser-focused Jones, running back Saquon Barkley and others were with studying, watching film on their plane ride back to New York instead of celebrating the win.
Giants Side: In his playoff debut last Sunday, ‘Danny Dimes’ was 24/35, passing for 301 yards with two TDs paired to 78 yards on the ground. If Jones continues to utilize his skills as a dual threat and protect the football from turnovers, Giants have a good shot at pulling off the upset.
The 25-year-old Duke product has one interception and three fumbles in his last seven games played with the Giants, 5-2 in that span, 6-1 ATS.
Who you got?
— NFL (@NFL) January 18, 2023
Eagles Aspect: Philadelphia, under second-year head coach Nick Sirianni, finished the regular season as one of the pure elites, cultivating 32 rushing TDs (1st) and 59 total TDs (2nd).
Nonetheless, the key indicator will be on the health status of Hurts, who suffered a shoulder injury in Week 15 and returned in Week 18. With Hurts behind center, the Eagles are 14-1 this season, 8-7 ATS.
PICK: Eagles -7.5, Under 48.5
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Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports.
Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994
Watch Sports with Rich live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with host Rich Mancuso and cohost Robert Rizzo.
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