After a thrilling initial weekend of action in the AFC playoffs, four teams are ready to fight it out for a shot at the conference title. Drama was the main ingredient in each of the wild-card round matchups, with all games being decided in breathtaking fashion.
Now, the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, and Jacksonville Jaguars join the AFC’s top-seeded squad, the Kansas City Chiefs, as the teams alive in the race for a chance to represent their conference in Super Bowl LVII.
In what promises to be an epic weekend with shootouts in both Arrowhead and Highmark Stadium, which teams will live to play another week?
Chiefs Are Favorites, But Don’t Doubt the Jaguars
The Jaguars went through heaven and hell in their wild-card round win against the LA Chargers. After finishing the first half trailing 27-7, the panorama for the Jaguars looked bleak. After passing for four INTS in that horrific first half, Trevor Lawrence took over the game and led the Jaguars on an epic comeback.
But, can they do it again?
Even if most signs points toward no, there’s no denying that if Lawrence gets going early, and gets help once again from Evan Engram and Christian Kirk downfield, the Jags could stir things up in KC.
Of course, on top of that, the rest of the Jaguars will need to play their best football of the season, if not their careers if they wish to beat the Chiefs. But hey, if you look at how the Jaguars have changed from one year to the next, why not think of them shocking the league and kicking the Chiefs to the curb?
For Kansas City on the other hand, facing the Jaguars doesn’t necessarily feel like something to worry about much. On offense, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and the rest of KC’s weapons are elite, the best in the league when they are all syncing. And defensively, yes, they could be better, but with Chris Jones leading the pressure, the Chiefs should be good to go.
Andy Reid, KC’s coach is an offensive mastermind, and in games like these, having a strong offense will usually do the trick. If Kansas City’s defense can pressure Lawrence into mistakes and turnovers, there’s almost nothing that Jacksonville’s defense can do to stop Mahomes.
Stage Set Once Again for Allen vs Burrow
While we all thought we’d be getting this game in Week 17, Damar Hamlin’s frightening medical emergency brought the game, the league, and the sports world in general to a standstill. Pitted to be one of the most important matchups of the season, especially because of both teams’ playoff intentions, it’s now in the divisional round where we finally get to see two of the finest offenses fight it out.
Josh Allen vs Joe Burrow, Stefon Diggs vs Ja’Marr Chase, Buffalo’s defense vs Cincinnati’s O-line. Wherever you look at this game, there are enough matchups to make every football fan excited.
So who holds the edge, the Bills or Bengals?
All signs point toward Buffalo, especially if you consider how well the Bills performed all season. Their wild-card game against Miami was a bit of a mess, to not say a big mess, but still, Allen, Diggs, and the rest of Buffalo’s offense might be too much for Cincinnati’s defense to handle.
If you compare them on all sides of the ball, it’s in the details where you find Buffalo’s edge. The most obvious example being the lack of protection Burrow continues to get from his offensive line.
Imagine for a second what kind of team the Bengals would be if they had a proper O-line. Burrow needs to feel protected to get the ball to his receivers, it’s as simple as that.
If Buffalo had a hard time beating a Miami team that had its third-string QB starting, imagine what Burrow and the Bengals could do with proper protection at the line of scrimmage. It doesn’t take a genius to see that, so why can’t Cincinnati see it?
Buffalo’s defense, led by star linebackers Tremaine Edwards and Matt Milano could end up becoming the heroes of a Bills win. Between a strong performance from the defense, and Allen leading his offense, Cincinnati will have to bring something more than its “A” game to stop the Bills from advancing to the AFC title game.
Which Teams Will Headline the AFC Championship Game?
In the Chiefs vs Jaguars matchup, it’s easy to see why Kansas City is the overwhelming favorite. Having Mahomes automatically gives the Chiefs an edge over any opposing team. But, after what the Jaguars showed in their game against the Chargers, sleeping on Jacksonville could end up being KC’s biggest mistake.
Kansas City is on a whole other level in comparison to Jacksonville. While Lawrence and the Jaguars will surely put up an immense effort to try and topple the Chiefs, Kansas City should still be able to prevail, score the win, and advance.
Moving over to Orchard Park, this is the game I’ll be paying the most attention to for sure. After the tragic events that went down the last time these teams met, you know that the level of emotions and will to win will be all over the place.
While both teams showed a sloppier version of themselves in the wild-card round, Cincinnati’s porous O-line might end up being the key to a Bills win. Unless the Bengals can offer Burrow protection, there will be no stopping Buffalo’s defense from punishing him time and time again.
It’s a given that both Buffalo and Cincinnati will come out swinging, but in the long run, and considering the home-field advantage, roll with Buffalo.
The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.