Another weekend of playoff football is in the books, and we're left with four teams remaining heading into their conference championships on Sunday. I'm going to break down what we saw from all four games this weekend, which featured two late pushes from the underdogs that came up short, and two unexpected blowouts in what turned out to be a less than stellar slate of games than most people were expecting.
We'll start with the early game Saturday and advance chronologically.
Jacksonville Jaguars 20
Kansas City Chiefs 27
The Chiefs were in control for pretty much the entire game, though the score doesn't really indicate that. Kansas City's defense played tremendously and made the big plays when they needed them. And I think the biggest moment of the game was when Chad Henne came in while Patrick Mahomes was in the locker room with an ankle injury to lead his team on a 98-yard touchdown drive to extend their lead to 10 points. If the Jaguars had forced a turnover or a quick three and out there with the Chiefs backed up on their own goal line, momentum could have turned in a way that could have changed the outcome of the game.
My biggest concern if I were a Chiefs fan is how bad is Mahomes' ankle injury? Reports say it's nothing more than a sprain and that he plans on suiting up next Sunday, but the guy could barely walk on Saturday while delivering crazy jump passes off one foot. I'm sure he'll be pumped with some kind of pain killers and look more natural than he did after the injury took place, but you now have to worry about his mobility and the risk of re-injury.
The good news is that since Cincinnati beat Buffalo, the Chiefs will get to host the AFC Championship. Everyone in Kansas City was rooting for the Bengals yesterday, and now they'll get their shot at revenge against the team that unexpectedly took them out of the postseason a year ago.
New York Giants 7
Philadelphia Eagles 38
This was the least entertaining game of the weekend by far. The Eagles flat out dominated for 60 minutes, and the Giants never really had a chance. As an impartial spectator, I was disappointed in how lopsided this game became, mostly because I just wanted to see a good game. But I also expected more out of the Giants, who looked like were turning a corner with Daniel Jones and the rest of the young offense. Credit to Philadelphia's defense, who was completely stifling all game.
We also saw how effective the Eagles are when they have a sizable lead. This is the danger in falling behind a team like Philadelphia. They can absolutely milk the clock better than just about anyone, and they put that on display in their 15-play, 8 minute drive in the middle of the fourth quarter to put the game on ice. I thought Brian Daboll should have been more aggressive in the second half since possessions would be limited, but it really wouldn't have mattered that night.
I was conflicted before this weekend, but I now think the Eagles are definitely the best team in the NFC due mainly to quarterback play. They'll get one more home playoff game before a possible Super Bowl appearance if they can defeat the mighty 49ers in the NFC Championship game next Sunday afternoon.
Cincinnati Bengals 27
Buffalo Bills 10
This was the most surprising game of the weekend for me. I knew the Bengals could beat the Bills, and I bet on them to cover the 5.5 points, which I thought was way too high of a number. But I didn't expect this game to turn into a rout. Much like Philadelphia, Cincinnati pretty much dominated from the opening drive, and they got out to a quick 14-0 lead after back-to-back 70-plus yard drives. Josh Allen missed an open Stefon Diggs on Buffalo's first drive that could have possibly gone for a touchdown, and that turned out to be somewhat of an omen for how the rest of the contest would play out. The Bills cut the deficit to 7 after a long drive to open the second half, but those were the final points they could muster and the closest they came to reaching Cincinnati.
The Bengals have definitely established themselves as one of the elite teams in the AFC, and they have a chance now to knock off the Chiefs in back-to-back seasons in the AFC Championship game, which would allow them to advance to their second straight Super Bowl. It's been an incredible year for the Bengals regardless of how their next game plays out, especially considering last season's Super Bowl champion went 5-12 this year. But I think the Bengals have as good of a shot as anyone to hoist the Lombardi Trophy next month.
Dallas Cowboys 12
San Francisco 49ers 19
I can't get over how bad Dallas' final play of this game was. I can just imagine Mike McCarthy and the offense running through the play multiple times in practice envisioning how successful it could be in a game scenario, just for Ekeziel Elliott to get manhandled at the line of scrimmage and the receiver to not even get one lateral off. I was legitimately laughing out loud as I watched that disastrous play unfold.
To bring it back to the game as a whole, I thought both defenses played really well, as evidenced by how low-scoring the contest was. The difference, as a lot of people were thinking would be the case, came in the turnover margin, as Dak Prescott threw two bad interceptions which both led to field goals for San Francisco. Dak had struggled with turnover for most of the year and many experts believed that his untimely interceptions would be the death of the Cowboys, and that turned out to be the case. He had a couple more bad throws that could have easily gone the other way too.
Props to the 49ers for escaping with a win against one of the two toughest underdogs that the higher seeds played in the Divisional round. It wasn't pretty, but the Niners typically bode well in games that aren't pretty. They'll travel to Philadelphia to take on the red hot Eagles next week for a chance for Brock Purdy to make history and put San Francisco's front office in a tricky position.
It's clear to me that the four best teams in the NFL have rightly advanced the Conference Championship Weekend, and I think both games will be epic and tightly contested. I'm not even sure who I think will win either of those games, but I'm very excited to see how they play out.
I'll give my predictions on Thursday for the two championship games, and on Friday, I'll hand out my favorite betting plays of the weekend.
Written by Nick Swatson
Expert Nick Swatson discusses all the news, predictions, and outcomes surrounding the NFL.