AFC Divisional Round Weekend: AFI’s Analysis and Predictions

Fourteen teams entered the NFL playoffs this time last week, and now only eight remain.  After a wild card weekend with a mix of thrilling matchups and blowouts, we are onto the divisional round.  Let’s take a look at the games in the AFC.

January 21

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Kansas City Chiefs

The Jaguars advanced to the divisional round by pulling off the third-biggest comeback in NFL postseason history.  After going falling behind 27-0 in the second quarter, largely due to four first half interceptions by Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville slowly but steadily rallied back to knock off the Chargers on a last-second field goal from Riley Patterson for a 31-30 victory.  Their reward is a date with the top-seeded Chiefs, who earned a first round bye and got to rest over this past weekend.  Led by the likely MVP in star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs led the league in both offensive yards per game and points per game, despite losing Tyreek Hill in the offseason.  With such an elite offense and a respectable defense, the Chiefs have been able to rack up impressive wins all year. 

While it is tempting to pick the Jaguars because of their thrilling victory, along with the fact that it is unlikely that Lawrence will ever have a worse half, ultimately, it’s impossible to pick against Patrick Mahomes and company this early.  Jacksonville will put up a fight, but Kansas City will move onto the AFC Championship.

Prediction: Kansas City 31 – Jacksonville 26

January 22

Cincinnati Bengals @ Buffalo Bills 

These teams faced off only a few weeks ago in Cincinnati, but the game came to an early and abrupt end after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a life-threatening injury.  Thankfully, Hamlin has since been released from the hospital in Cincinnati and continues to improve.  Though many expected Buffalo to dominate the Dolphins, who started third-string rookie Skylar Thompson, the Bills played sloppily and edged out a 34-31 victory.  Similarly, Cincinnati was not very impressive in their win over Baltimore, who played without star quarterback Lamar Jackson.  They won the game 24-17, but easily could have lost had it not been for Sam Hubbard returning a Ravens fumble 98 yards for a touchdown in the 4th quarter.  Nevertheless, these teams were among the league’s elite throughout the regular season, so we should be in store for a great game. 

It’s tough not to side with Buffalo, whose home field advantage and motivation to play for Hamlin could be the deciding factor.

Prediction: Buffalo 27 – Cincinnati 20

A current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carter played football in high school and has been a lifelong avid football fan.