No Brady or Rodgers, no problem for NFL in divisional round
For the first time in 13 years, neither Tom Brady nor Aaron Rodgers reached the divisional round of the playoffs.
No problem. The NFL still has plenty of exciting football this weekend featuring Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott and many other stars.
The action kicks off Saturday with the Jacksonville Jaguars visiting the Kansas City Chiefs. Jaguars coach Doug Pederson faces his mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Pederson played for Reid and coached under him in Philadelphia and Kansas City. He also beat him to a Lombardi Trophy.
The No. 1 seed Chiefs (14-3) are coming off a bye and aiming for their fifth straight trip to the AFC championship game.
The Jaguars (10-8) weren’t supposed to be here. They won five straight games to capture the AFC South and then had to rally from a 27-0 deficit against the Los Angeles Chargers in a wild-card game. Trevor Lawrence followed up four interceptions in the first half with four touchdown passes to lead Jacksonville to a 31-30 comeback win.
“Whether it’s our money or house money, we’re here,” Pederson said. “It’s a credit to those players in the locker room and the coaching staff for believing in each other and working hard. What we’ve done down the stretch regardless of mishaps, we’re here. I try to block out the best I can with the team, you just block out the noise, you block out the negativity, you block out whether it’s lack of respect or whatever. We have a young quarterback, whatever it might be. We’re one of four in the AFC left and that says a lot. That says a lot about these guys, and we’re excited for the opportunity.”
The Jaguars are the biggest underdog on the schedule this weekend. The Chiefs are favored by 8 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
BEST BET: CHIEFS 31-20
New York Giants (plus 7 1/2) at Philadelphia
The No. 1 seed Eagles are looking for a three-game sweep over the Giants, who knocked off 13-win Minnesota on the road last week.
With Jalen Hurts healthy, the Eagles routed the Giants 48-22 on the road in Week 14. Hurts, back after missing two games with a shoulder injury, and the Eagles struggled in a 22-16 win over the Giants in the regular-season finale. New York (10-7-1) rested many of its starters in that game and stayed close.
Daniel Jones played one of the best games of his career in the 31-24 win over the Vikings. He’ll face a ferocious pass rush on Saturday night. The Eagles (14-3) led the NFL with 70 sacks and had four players with at least 10.
Since the NFL-AFL merger, teams that swept an opponent in the regular season are 15-10 against them in the third meeting in the playoffs, 14-6 when that game is at home.
“They know us well, and we know them well,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “You know the personnel really well. You know the schemes really well. So, there are advantages and disadvantages to both ends of that.”
Cincinnati (plus 5) at Buffalo
The Bengals and Bills meet in a rematch of the Monday night game that was suspended when Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the field. The game was later canceled despite major playoff ramifications. The Bengals (13-4) led that one 7-3 at the time of Hamlin’s collapse, and a victory would’ve meant they’d be hosting the Bills (14-3) on Sunday.
Both teams struggled in the wild-card round. The Bills blew a 17-0 lead against Miami and rallied for a 34-31 win. The Bengals were on the verge of going down by a score against the Ravens when Tyler Huntley fumbled at the 1 and Sam Hubbard returned it 98 yards for the decisive touchdown in a 24-17 win.
Cincinnati’s revamped offensive line has been retooled because of injuries over the past month. Left tackle Jonah Williams injured his left knee against Baltimore, so the Bengals might be without three-fifths of their starting offensive line.
Josh Allen had three turnovers in Buffalo’s win against the Dolphins. Joe Burrow couldn’t get Cincinnati’s offense going in the second half against the Ravens. The Bengals finished with three straight punts and only one first down on a roughing-the-punter penalty.
The Bengals have won nine in a row while the Bills have an eight-game winning streak. One streak will end Sunday.
UPSET SPECIAL: BENGALS, 30-29
Dallas (plus 3) at San Francisco
Brock Purdy and the 49ers (14-4) have won 11 straight games. Dak Prescott was outstanding in leading the Cowboys to a 31-14 victory over Tampa Bay.
Purdy, the rookie third-string quarterback, faces his toughest test when he faces Micah Parsons and a relentless defense. The Cowboys (13-5) dominated Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. But the 49ers have far more options on offense, including Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle.
Dallas is at a disadvantage after playing on the road Monday night. Meanwhile, the 49ers played last Saturday, so they have two extra days of rest.
Last Week: Straight up: 4-2. Against spread: 2-4.
Season: Straight up: 175-101. Against spread: 138-133-5.
Best Bet: Straight up: 11-8. Against spread: 9-10.
Upset Special: Straight up: 6-11. Against spread: 8-8-1.
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