On to another weekend of playoff football! I’m game!
A great debate has been on for years now about which is better — the NFL Super Wild Card Weekend or the NFL Divisional Playoffs. And from the looks of it, this year is going to bring that debate to a boiling point.
It’s going to be hard for this weekend’s divisional round to top what was truly a “super” wild card weekend, which saw an insane 27-point comeback win for the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Los Angeles Chargers, a near catastrophe for the Buffalo Bills against a Miami Dolphins team led by a third-string quarterback, and a pair of real nailbiters between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. We even got to see deflated Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher missing a record four PATs.
It was utter chaos, and luckily for me when the smoke cleared, I came out with a flashy 5-1 record with my predictions.
You can see that piece here.
And now we move on to the NFL Divisional Round, where the intensity gets cranked up a little bit, giving us four sexy games: Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers.
Absolutely fascinating storylines in all four matchups, and here’s who your favorite hot take artist is picking:
2023 NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND PREDICTIONS
SATURDAY, JAN. 21
(betting odds via Barstool Sportsbook)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (-9), 4:30 PM (TV: NBC) (AFC Divisional Playoffs)
After my Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got eliminated, that means the Sunshine State only has one team left — the Jacksonville Jaguars (fresh off of their incredible 27-0 comeback victory against the Los Angeles Chargers). So, you better believe I’ll be rooting for the Jags hardcore in this one, and journalistically, I actually have them hanging in this game to give us a bit of a thriller.
But let’s be honest: The Kansas City Chiefs are just too good. Trevor Lawrence is turning into a great quarterback, but he’s no Patrick Mahomes, who’s creeping into his prime. And that’s what this game will boil down to in the end — Mahomes & Co. will just be too much for the Jags to handle, but I expect both quarterbacks to give us high-quality performances and flashy numbers. Shout out to Duval! DUUUVAL! Go Jags!
P.S. As I stated in my NFL Super Wild Card Weekend piece, it’s hard to bet against a team who pulls off the “ring-around-the-rosie” and then afterwards lands the easiest touchdown off of a trick play. I can’t pick against that.
— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) January 7, 2023
But like I said … Go Jags!
PREDICTION: Kansas City Chiefs 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 27
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5), 8:15 PM (TV: FOX) (NFC Divisional Playoffs)
Two things became clear in the NFL Super Wild Card Weekend game between the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings:
1. The Vikings are frauds like I thought they were, and 2. Despite the fraudulent behavior from Minnesota, the New York Giants still played impressive football and are riding a wave of momentum heading into the Philadelphia Eagles game.
The storyline is set perfectly: The underdog New York Giants are hitting peak play at the best time that you can in the NFL Playoffs, and there’s a few reasons for that: 1. Their defense has gotten healthy, 2. Their underrated receivers are producing, 3. The coaching staff is on point right now with their play-calling, and 4. (the biggest reason for me) Daniel Jones is killin’ it through the air while pulling out his inner-Michael Vick on the ground.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have stumbled into the postseason and gotten banged-up in the process. Sure, they have Jalen Hurts and Lane Johnson back, but how effective will they be?
The Eagles’ saving grace, though, is that they have the ability to win any type of game that’s thrown their way, which they’ve proven this year. But still … you can’t help but to wonder … how far can an injured Philly go?
I have Philadelphia scrapping out a win, but I have my doubts with them heading into the NFC Championship.
PREDICTION: Philadelphia Eagles 26, New York Giants 21
SUNDAY, JAN. 22
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills (-5.5), 3:00 PM (TV: CBS) (AFC Divisional Playoffs)
Like I said, all of these games have interesting storylines, and this one between the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills is no different. Both teams come into the matchup with not the best health. With Cincinnati, they’ve lost 60% of their offensive line in the last month, and for Buffalo, their pass rush has been struggling ever since the loss of Von Miller.
With both teams banged up and having star quarterbacks (Joe Burrow for the Bengals, Josh Allen for the Bills), we have a scenario where outright chaos could break out — you know, that beautiful crash content that we all love so much. In other words, this game should be incredibly entertaining.
But shit, who do you pick?
I’m going to base my pick on two factors: 1. In the past two months, the Cincinnati Bengals have been playing better football — flat out. I don’t think there’s really a debate about that (and quite frankly, they’re the better team overall), and 2. The Bills looked absolutely horrific against a Miami Dolphins team led by a third-string quarterback.
Also, here’s another factor to consider: When the Buffalo Bills’ backs are against the wall, they point to Josh Allen (and Josh Allen only) to get them the dub.
Against Cincinnati, I don’t see that working out well for them — not against that defense, which is exceptional at every level. If the Bills are forced to put all of their eggs in the basket of Josh Allen, they’ll fall.
And that’s exactly what I see happening. Give me Joe Burrow and the Bengals for the upset.
PREDICTION: Cincinnati Bengals 32, Buffalo Bills 29
Dallas Cowboys vs. San Francisco 49ers (-4), 6:30 PM (TV: FOX) (NFC Divisional Playoffs)
I understand it came against a lackluster Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, but I couldn’t help but to be impressed with the cooking skills of Dak Prescott, who racked up five touchdowns (four in the air and one on the ground). In passing yards, Prescott tallied 305 for the milestone 300-yard game, and added 24 yards on the ground along with the TD. With how he rolled against Tampa, it’s gotta make you think about what he can do against the San Francisco 49ers.
Dak Prescott gives Dallas a strong advantage at the quarterback position, and with the Cowboys matching up the 49ers player-for-player talent-wise, you’ve got to give the leverage to Dallas in this contest — at least in terms of the starting rosters. However, San Francisco is much better when it comes to depth, which balances things out a little bit for the Niners.
I think I’m going to go out on another limb here. San Francisco is the clear favorite in the betting odds and with most of the experts out there (hell, I picked them to go in the NFC Championship originally), and yes, I’m very aware (and mentioned in my NFL Super Wild Card Weekend piece) how the Cowboys choke in the playoffs historically — but something feels different here. (RELATED: Oddspedia Looking To Pay NFL Fan $200 Per Hour To Watch Super Bowl LVII In Ultimate Dream Job)
One thing I feel like has held Dallas back for so long (since the Troy Aikman days to be exact) is the fact that they haven’t had a true elite quarterback. Yeah, they’ve had good quarterbacks, and they’ve even had good quarterbacks with flashes of greatness, but none of them have actually been great. After a five touchdown performance, Dak Prescott has the potential to transition from good to great, to become an elite quarterback in the NFL (and it feels like he already has — this isn’t the same Dak that we’ve seen over the years).
We certainly saw that against Tampa Bay with the five touchdown performance, and if he delivers that kind of elite play again, I’m seeing the Cowboys getting the upset to move on to the NFC Championship.
I’ll take that bet — give me the Cowboys for the win to square off against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles.
PREDICTION: Dallas Cowboys 34, San Francisco 49ers 28
NFL PLAYOFFS PREDICTIONS RECORD: 5-1