The NFL Playoffs are moving along this weekend as the Divisional Round will get underway starting Saturday night. In the AFC, Super Wild Card Weekend provided fans with some very close games, more competitive than people imagined they would be.
The Jacksonville Jaguars pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in NFL Playoffs history. They spotted the Los Angeles Chargers a 27-0 lead before storming all the way back and winning 31-30. The Buffalo Bills also blew a big lead, as they jumped out to a 17-0 lead over the Miami Dolphins before the Dolphins went on a 24-3 stretch.
The Bills won the game 34-31, receiving all they could handle from the Dolphins. In the Sunday Night Football matchup between AFC North rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals came away victorious 24-17 over the Baltimore Ravens. A 98-yard fumble recovery by Sam Hubbard proved to be the difference in the game.
Who will advance beyond the Divisional Round into the AFC Championship Game? Here is one key for each of the Bills, Bengals, Chiefs and Jaguars to win and keep their season alive.
Buffalo Bills: Limiting Turnovers
A big reason that the Bills were unable to put the Dolphins away last weekend was turnovers. Josh Allen now leads the NFL with interceptions and giveaways this season and that contributed to Buffalo blowing their big lead.
Buffalo was able to escape Super Wild Card Weekend despite that, but if they want to win in the Divisional Round, Allen will have to clean things up. The Bengals are a dangerous offense that will take full advantage of miscues by the opposing team. Just look at what they did to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15 when they erased a 17-0 lead at the snap of a finger.
The Dolphins scored 18 points off of Allen’s turnovers last week, as the offense kicked one field and scored one touchdown, while the defense returned a fumble for a touchdown. If he turns the ball over three times against Cincinnati in the Divisional Round, the Bills will get sent home early.
Cincinnati Bengals: Protecting Joe Burrow
The biggest issue that the Cincinnati Bengals have faced during Joe Burrow’s career is being able to protect him. They have had some major offensive line issues as Burrow has been sacked a ton throughout his career. In 42 regular season games, he has been sacked 124 times and during last season’s playoff run, he was sacked 19 times in four games.
That brutal trend continued during the game against the Ravens when Burrow was sacked four times. The Bills have a great pass rush and if the Bengals don’t protect him this week, things could get ugly quickly.
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they suffered a major loss along the offensive line last week with Jonah Williams suffering a knee injury. The team already lost La’El Collins in Week 16 and Alex Cappa has not yet practiced because of an ankle injury. Down possibly three starters in the Divisional Round, the coaching staff is going to have to find a way to keep Burrow protected with potentially more backups than starters in the lineup.
Kansas City Chiefs: Limit Big Plays
On paper, the matchup between the Jaguars and Chiefs seems to be the most lopsided of the weekend. The teams faced off in the regular season with the Chiefs coming away with a 27-17 victory. When taking a deep dive, the game could have easily been a bigger blowout as Kansas City had 171 more total yards but turned the ball over three times.
However, this is a different Jaguars team they are playing against. The Chiefs cannot take them lightly and need to focus on stopping what is an explosive offense. Jacksonville has some big play ability and Kansas City has been susceptible to giving them up.
The Chiefs surrendered the second-highest passer rating in the NFL on deep passes in 2022. That is the area that the Jaguars can exploit with Chrisitan Kirk and Zay Jones. If Kansas City cannot contain the big plays, this will shape up to be a shootout that either team can win.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Establish The Run Game
The Jaguars are playing with house money as they enter the Divisional Round. No one expected them to make the postseason, let alone advance from Super Wild Card Weekend. But, here they are and ready to face off with a team that they gave a good game to in Week 10 as they started their run.
If they want to keep pace with the Chiefs, they are going to have to establish the run and maintain the tempo of the game. Getting Travis Etienne involved early and often is the best way to do that.
Etienne had a great game against the Los Angeles Chargers, rushing 20 times for 109 yards. Replicating that success would be huge for the Jaguars as it would mean that Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying Chiefs offense are kept on the sidelines.
That will be key for Jacksonville if they want to pull off the upset. Getting into an up-and-down game against the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium would be a recipe for disaster for the Jaguars.