Bold NFL Predictions for the Divisional Round
Well, wild-card weekend did not disappoint. I was assuming at least half of the games would end in blowouts, but luckily I was wrong. However, this did mean that most of my bold predictions were wrong as well. For the misses, Justin Herbert was so close to his first playoff victory but folded in the second half, Seattle gave San Francisco a scare in the first half but failed to carry that through the rest of the game, Miami played Buffalo well enough for the Bills to keep Josh Allen in the game, and Joe Burrow was unable to put together a masterful performance against Baltimore. As for the hits, New York did in fact take down Minnesota and Dallas finally beat Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to secure its first road playoff victory since 1992. All in all, I was thoroughly entertained by the first round of the playoffs, but I’m expecting even bigger things in the divisional round. I’m really loving these matchups and I’m sure they won’t let me down. Let’s dive into the bold predictions for the divisional round of the playoffs.
Jacksonville gets blown out in Kansas City
The Jacksonville Jaguars are riding high right now. They’re fresh off of a 27-point miracle comeback, Trevor Lawrence has thrown four straight touchdowns without an interception, and the defense is feeling good after holding a red-hot Chargers team to three points in the second half after giving up 27 in the first. Nonetheless, they are still the 9-8 Jacksonville squad that snuck into the playoffs and Kansas City is still the best team in football. Don’t get me wrong, momentum is a real thing and I’m sure the Jaguars are super confident right now, I just don’t expect that to continue once they step onto the field at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs are a different beast than the Chargers, especially when they’re at home. They won seven of their eight home games this season, including a 10-point victory over the Jaguars. With a week of rest, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will be primed and ready to dominate. They’ve won four straight divisional-round games with an average margin of victory of 12.25. The Jaguars won’t be able to recover if they turn the ball over a couple of times in this one, let alone four times in one half like they did last week. As we saw in the wild-card round, blowouts are few and far between in the playoffs, but I’m confident in this one. Look for this game to be over after the first half. The Kansas City crowd won’t let Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars claw their way back into this game.
Philadelphia dominates New York after a week off
New York pulled off an upset against Minnesota last week and it was cool to see. It was the Giant’s first playoff win since the 2011 postseason and they should be feeling good heading into the divisional round. However, Philadelphia is not Minnesota. Similar to the Jaguars-Chiefs matchup, the Giants are about to run into a juggernaut that they aren’t ready for. New York has not been great against the run this season and Philadelphia is one of the best running teams in football. The Vikings were forced to abandon the run after getting down early, but I don’t see that happening for Philadelphia in this one. The Eagles were good at building early leads this season which helped the run game tremendously. It gave them a chance to slow the game down and play at their pace. That’s exactly how I see this game playing out. Look no further than the Week 14 matchup between these two teams this season. Philadelphia built a 24-7 lead in the first half and never looked back. With a strong rushing attack, an MVP candidate at quarterback, and a surplus of playmakers on both sides of the football, the Eagles should be able to make quick work of the Giants before advancing to the conference championship.
Buffalo beats Cincinnati by 10 points or more
This game is going to mean a lot for Buffalo. Not only will this be a rematch from the Damar Hamlin game just a few weeks ago, but it will also be in front of the Bills home crowd in Orchard Park. Emotions will be high and the Bills will want to get up early in this one. The fans in Buffalo are already some of the best in the NFL, but I can’t even begin to imagine how loud they’ll be this weekend. After every momentous play, the stadium is just going to get louder and louder which will just make it harder and harder for Joe Burrow and the Bengals to get much going. Cincinnati has been struggling to start with anyway. They snuck by the Ravens in the wild-card round, saved by a 98-yard fumble-return touchdown in the fourth quarter. They were a Tyler Huntley goal-line touchdown away from a possible first-round exit. Granted, the Bills didn’t necessarily bring their A-game against the Dolphins last week, but at least they showed signs of dominance early on. The Bengals’ largest lead was nine points which was quickly erased in the same quarter. I’m expecting the Bills to come storming out of the gates and not let up against a Bengals team that doesn’t look right to begin with. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills will make their second conference championship appearance since 2020 behind a convincing and emotional victory over Cincinnati.
Travis Kelce torches Jacksonville
Circling back to the Chiefs-Jaguars game, I really like this spot for Travis Kelce. He’s been in kind of a rut lately, totaling just 81 yards on 13 catches over his last two games. Even so, he should be in for a dominant performance against Jacksonville. During the regular season, the Jaguars gave up the fifth-most receiving yards to tight ends and the third-most yards per catch to the position. They allowed tight ends to make big plays and that plays right into Kelce’s hands. Last week, they gave up 109 yards and a touchdown to Chargers tight end Gerald Everett, including four receptions of 21-plus yards. With that kind of defense against one of Herbert’s favorite targets, can you imagine the numbers Kelce could put up? In the Week 10 matchup with Jacksonville, Travis Kelce had a modest game of six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. In this matchup, he should be able to really bring it. Mahomes is going to lean heavily on his favorite weapon in this win-or-go-home contest. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes beyond this, but I predict that Kelce hauls in five or more receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown in a blowout victory over the Jaguars. If Mahomes is going to cook, the ball is probably going to be in Kelce’s hands a lot.
Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders combine for over 200 rushing yards
I touched on this earlier, but I’m expecting the Giants to be down early in this game. This means that the Eagles will depend on their rushing attack to carry them home, so to speak. New York gave up the sixth-most rushing yards this season and the third-most yards per attempt. Simply put, the Giants can be had on the ground and there aren’t many teams better at running the football than the Eagles. What may be more important, however, is their willingness to run. They ranked third in the NFL in rushing attempts per game, while quarterback Jalen Hurts led his position in carries. The third-year QB ran the ball a lot and was great when he did, ranking first in rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks, first in rushing first downs, and fourth in rushing yards. Meanwhile, Miles Sanders had a nice season as well. He rushed for the fifth-most yards, seventh-most first downs, eighth-most touchdowns, and 12th-most yards per attempt. In the Week 14 matchup with the Giants, he rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns on an incredible 8.47 yards per attempt. In the same game, Jalen Hurts carried the ball seven times for 77 yards and a touchdown. In the last meeting between the two teams, Hurts was coming off an injury and the offense struggled a bit because of that, leading to a lackluster game on the ground for the pair. I think they both turn things around in this matchup and make a statement with the run game. I’m predicting that Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders have a field day against the Giants and combine for 200-plus rushing yards and a couple of touchdowns in a big win over their NFC East rival.
Dallas advances to the conference championship for the first time since 1995
This might be the boldest prediction of them all. Not only because the Cowboys are facing off against a widely regarded Super Bowl favorite, but also because they haven’t advanced to the conference championship game since the 1995 playoffs. However, they’re coming off their first road playoff win since 1992 and their first-ever victory over Tom Brady, so there could be a mold-breaking theme for the Dallas Cowboys during this postseason run. This is a rematch from last season’s wild-card round that ended with San Francisco defeating Dallas by a score of 23-17. Now, on the road and with a new-look offense, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys could be in for an upset. Prescott is coming off the game of his life, throwing for 305 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 24 yards and a score against the Buccaneers. He’s about to face off against a really, really good defense in San Francisco, but Tampa Bay was good too and he picked them apart. I think he’s going to carry this confidence into this NFC rivalry game. Meanwhile, Brock Purdy is about to face off against his toughest matchup yet. He might be on a hot streak, but that’s easy to do when you play against Seattle and Arizona in three of your last five games. I’m not saying he’s not cut out for this by any means, I’m just saying that I don’t think he’s going to be able to throw for 332 yards and three touchdowns as he did last week. I think Micah Parsons and the Cowboy’s defense will bully Brock Purdy and the 49ers while Dak Prescott will do enough on offense to lead Dallas to the conference championship for the first time in 28 years.