I thought about going into the history of why we call this the Divisional Round, but it’s the most boring history in the history of history. Here’s a link if you’re determined, but you’ve been warned. A league driven by narrative should be dropping the boring parts with no historical impact, like this name no one will miss, instead of worrying about adding Super to Wildcard Weekend.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve earned this palate cleanser: Jeff Bridges has a band called The Abiders, which he originally wanted to call The Royal We. You’re welcome.
Dude, it’s playoff football weekend!
Saturday, January 21
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Kansas City Chiefs, 3:30 pm
Prediction: 27-21 (OT) Chiefs
The parity of this league makes it difficult to call anything an upset, but in this case, a Jags win would absolutely be an upset. And while I won’t count them out and always enjoy a good underdog story, Andy Reid is too good of a coach to go in unprepared and allow his team to think too far ahead.
Pederson is a pretty great coach in his own right, which I’m sure Reid knows well as Pederson’s old QB coach with the Packers. There’s a ton of respect between these two coaches and friends, and somehow that always makes for a more enjoyable game.
As for the players, I’ll be mostly interested in how Trevor Lawrence responds in these conditions, literal and figurative. “Wintry mix” talk is now getting thrown at a game where Lawrence will want to impress his head coach in front of his head coach’s old boss, all coming after a game where he played both his best and worst halves in football in his career. Security blankets are helpful in these moments, so look for a lot of Evan Engram in this one.
As for the Chiefs, it looks like they finally pulled Pacheco of kick return duties because why did you ever have him there anyway. He gives their offense a running game they’ve struggled to develop since cutting Kareem Hunt 5 years ago. So maybe don’t run him out there and give him the ball on a play so violent that most teams fill it with the bottom of the depth chart.
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles, 7:15 pm
Prediction: 34-13 Eagles
Come on, Philly. I’ve already admitted I was somewhat or maybe completely wrong about the Giants. Don’t make me more wrong.
The Giants are looking at one hell of an offseason mess, so winning and putting off that offseason as long as possible would be best. Because once it starts, Circle Button Saquon hits the open market alongside potential market setters like Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard. Then they have to decide whether to give Daniel Jones a new contract since the previous front office declined his 5th year option, a move that would’ve cost them half of the franchise tag they may now have to use to keep him. So that’s 90% of their offense, which is a stat I made up but feels right, and the deeper this playoff run goes, the higher the prices gets. Keep mashing that spin move, Saquon. Get that bag.
Eagles are really good. Go take care of business.
Sunday, January 22
Cincinnati Bengals @ Buffalo Bills, 2:00 pm
Prediction: 41-35 (OT) Bengals
The NFL IS FAKE crowd is having a field day with this one. Just the fact that these teams are meeting somehow means it’s all scripted. Because how could it be possible that 2 really good teams who just happened to be part of a season-altering experience would meet again in the playoffs?!
It’s because they’re 2 really good teams. Sit down, freaks.
These are 2 powerhouse offenses and middling defenses with exploitable weaknesses. For Cincinnati, Chase and Higgins would both be a 1 on any team, and Boyd at least a 2, so Burrow isn’t exactly starving for targets. Mixon is a good receiver and decent runner, even better now that Perine has shown he can give him an occasional breather, and Hayden Hurst emerged seemingly out of nowhere as another solid receiving option. The offense still struggles at protecting Burrow, but Burrow doesn’t exactly make it easy. He’s still developing that Brady slight shift move that will help eventually, but for now it’s enough that he keeps bouncing back up unfazed. Also helps that he won’t have to face Von Miller.
I feel like I’ve talked so much about my Bills concerns this year and don’t wanna keep beating down on the same things. So here’s the cliff notes: Allen is overly important to their offense, even for a QB, and he knows it so he pushes it too much, which either leads to a ridiculously amazing play we talk about for weeks or a turnover. And Gabe Davis is a 3rd receiver on most teams and a 4th on the Bengals. I said what I said.
Given the atmosphere and because of how terrible my predictions were last week, I’ll concede that at any time, Allen could put together a string of those incredible plays and light up the scoreboard. My prediction is based on my belief that Burrow will remain consistent all game and outlast the Allen surge.
Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers, 5:30 pm
Prediction: 28-27 Cowboys
What a storied playoff battle. Joe Montana and The Catch by Dwight Clark, Troy Aikman and Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin, Deion and Charles Haley and Ken Norton playing both sides. There was a time when it felt like the NFC Championship was the Super Bowl, and these teams met there several times for the honor of beating up whoever scrapped their way out of the AFC.
Postseason history has the Cowboys clinging to a 5-3 lead, but the Niners have taken the last 2, including last year’s rivalry rejuvenation and epic ending now known as The Slide. For the record, it was a good play call that wasn’t executed well and required to refs to be right on top of spotting it… problem being that the refs were as surprised by the play call as the defense and couldn’t get there in time to spot it.
If there was one thing I got right in last week’s predictions, and that I’m carrying over to this week, it’s that Dak is sick of hearing it and he’s on a mission. Last week was a defining game, throwing for 300 and 4 tuds against the GOAT and mercifully shutting up his detractors. Much tougher defense this week, but I still think he’ll put together a solid game, especially if he works Pollard into the passing game more. Last week got out of hand so quickly it wasn’t necessary.
49ers are so stacked on both sides. They have the talent and coaching to win it all. As much as everyone wants to act like he’s under no pressure, it all really comes down to Brock Purdy. He still hasn’t had a bad game, and we don’t know how he’ll respond or how Shanahan will respond when that happens. His success is different than QBs like Allen who have to carry their teams… Purdy has to constantly remind himself not to do that. He hasn’t yet played a defense this good and this freakishly fast. I’ll be a much bigger believer if he pulls this off. I promise.
The Divisional Playoffs almost always deliver classics, so maybe fold in some of that history and come up with a better name for it? I’m happy to take suggestions and pass them along to my contacts, which is basically my brother and my dozens of loyal readers.
As always, may all your teams win or your coaches be fired.
5 thoughts on “NFL 2023 Divisional Playoff Previews & Predictions”
I hope your Sunday predictions are as spot on as your two scores yesterday. I had it backwards in yesterday’s games. I thought the Giants would keep it close if not win outright and I thought KC would roll.
Is it wrong that I’m kinda, sorta, almost rooting for the Cowboys?
I needed some predictions to go well after last weekend. I actually found a typo in this piece and I refuse to fix it and jinx myself.
In fairness, KC might have rolled much more with Mahomes on two legs. That injury could change so much of this landscape… playing last night with adrenaline flowing probably seemed great until he woke up this morning.
As for the Cowboys, I’m really just so tired of the fan hatred for Dak and McCarthy. But I also think Dak is at the point in his career and overcome so much that he’s using it as fuel now.
You make a good point about Mahomes. Hopefully he’s good to go next week. Ankles are a cranky injury to deal with.
There IS a lot of hate for Dak and McCarthy now that you mention it. I don’t see Dak as top level, but he’s definitely a leader. And McCarthy has led the club to a couple 12 win seasons, so yeah, let it go people.
Wow, you pretty much nailed both scores from yesterday’s games. I expected more from the Giants, but the Eagles were just too good. I hope Daniel Jones gets his money and laughs all the way to the bank. I understand why they didn’t pick up his option, but at the same time they brought in Daboll to help elevate Jones. They should’ve bet on that happening. Besides, it’s not like there are better options out there at QB.
Enjoy the games today, should be fun!
To all you Packer co-owners on here. Why were you guys holding Mike McCarthy’s brilliant offensive mind back? Could you imagine all the Super Bowls you could have won if you had let Mike run his 9 receiver set while he had Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings?!?!?!