Previewing the NFL Division Round

The dynamic of the divisional games on Saturday and Sunday will be very different.

On Saturday, the two bye teams, Kansas City and Philadelphia, host Jacksonville and the Giants will be heavily favored to advance to the conference title games.

The question is whether the Chiefs and Eagles will be overconfident or whether the Jaguars and Giants will already consider their season a success.

Jaguars coach Doug Pederson was asked if his team is playing with house money and he said, among other things, that since the Jaguars are in the final four, “Whether we win or lose, our season was a success from that standpoint.”

That is true. Even if the Jaguars lose their season is a success. But Kansas City has already been in the last four AFC title games and two Super Bowls the last four years. Their mindset is Super Bowl or bust.

On the other hand, since week 11, Trevor Lawrence and Mahomes have had virtually identical stats.  Both are 7-1, Lawrence has completed 66 per cent of his passes and has 16 touchdown passes and six picks. He was 4 and 4 in both categories last week as the Jaguars overcame a 27-0 deficit against the Chargers. Mahomes has completed 67 per cent of his passes and is 16-5 in TD passes and picks. 

It will not be a surprise if both the Jaguars and Giants cover the spread. The question is whether either can pull off a big upset.

On Sunday, it is a different story with both the Bills and 49ers favored by less than a touchdown against the Bengals and Cowboys.

The Bills and Bengals, of course, had their last game called because of the Damar Hamlin injury. The Bengals, meanwhile, scored a touchdown on their first drive in the Hamlin game but now have issues on their offensive line.

The Cowboys haven’t been in conference title game since winning their last Super Bowl in 1995. Meanwhile, the 49ers are trying to make it with rookie Brock Purdy, who is 7-0 but has faced only one top ten defense.

Nobody will be surprised if both games Sunday are close.

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