The next wave of NFL playoff football is well underway. The divisional round kicked off on Saturday with a pair of regular-season rematches, and, boy, did we have a lot of ground to cover behind all that action. The Leaders Going back to the AFC Championship, thank you Won 27-20 At the top start Jaguars. And this Eagles It will host the NFC Championship for the second time in five years after beating the Giants 38-7.
Here are some quick and big shots from the opening day of the divisional round:
Wounds and the Eagles are coming back
We say “again” because, frankly, they felt like they had “left out” in the past month. Jalen Hurts, once a virtual lock to go head-to-head with Patrick Mahomes for MVP honors this year, has gone down with a shoulder injury and is on his way to the postseason if Philly doesn’t regress. But since Minnesota’s impressive upset against the Giants on Saturday night, they’re back on top. Hurts, with seemingly no limitations, excelled early as a passer and, more specifically, on the ground. A defense led by Hassan Reddick held off Daniel Jones and Co. all night, then handed New York what Brian Dabold called a “crash landing.” It’s time for the Birds to consider real title contenders again.
Giants need more help than we thought
This year was even more successful for New York. Brian Dabold inherited a torn roster and the G-Men didn’t even have to make the playoffs. Daniel Jones certainly registers as a different prospect than he did months ago. But unlike Jacksonville, which took Kansas City to the wire under the first-year coach (more on that below), the Giants have no fight or urgency in Philadelphia. This isn’t primarily the fault of Jones or Dabold, but rather a lineup that is still severely depleted in premium spots. General manager Joe Schoen should prioritize upgrades on the offensive line at outside wideout and linebacker, among other positions.
Mahomes’ ankle is a legitimate concern
The Chiefs’ fifth straight AFC title-game appearance was the big story, the actual win or the highlights leading up to it — Isiah Pacheco’s open lanes, Kadarius Toney’s high involvement, some big D-line moments. With star quarterback Patrick Mahomes out briefly with an ankle injury in the second quarter, his health became paramount. The MVP candidate was able to resist medical attention and battled through a significant slump to put Kansas City ahead and secure the win.
Doug Clawson of CBS Sports Also indicates Mahomes, accustomed to relying on his mobility, has been 41% successful outside the league’s touchdown pocket (15 of 36) over the past five postseasons.
He’ll certainly do his best to stay under center moving forward, but that doesn’t mean his movement and/or Andy Reid’s play-calling won’t be affected at all. Thank you, Principals…
It doesn’t matter who is under center; Some players produce more consistently when it matters most. No. 87 was everywhere, with 14 catches for 98 yards and two scores against Jacksonville. Not much to say other than this: Kelce’s presence, with or without a No. 1 receiver drawing attention on the outside, is enough to keep KC moving up and down the field. At 33, he is still at the top of his game.
The jaguar is here to stay
For a while it looked like Jacksonville made the right call by hiring former Eagles coach Doug Pederson, but this team’s performance — the Jaguars’ second playoff bid in the last 15 years — justifies the optimism building in the Northeast. Florida comes back from down 27 to score chargers Trevor Lawrence and co. But the Arrowheads were arguably keeping the Chiefs on their toes, even if Mahomes limped all day. Pederson called the game with his trademark aggression. Lawrence exuded senior-level confidence. After all, reinforcements should come as Calvin Ridley and others join playmakers like Travis Etienne Jr., Christian Kirk and Jamaal Agnew; Both of the latter have shown mistakes at the right time, and they could shine in secondary roles.