After an exciting Super Wildcard Weekend, we are down to the final eight as we enter the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. It’s time to preview the 2022 Divisional Round, starting with the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City won the regular season matchup, is a repeat in the cards?
Saturday, January 21, 2023
4:30 pm Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)
Three Key Matchups:
1. Chris Jones vs Jacksonville Jaguars Interior Offensive Line
Chris Jones has been a top-three interior defensive lineman for the past handful of years, and this year he has a great case to be the best in the NFL. This season, the Chiefs defender had a career-high 77 pressures. He lined up on the interior for the majority of his snaps, with 558 out of his 915 snaps being lined up as a defensive tackle or a nose tackle. He also brings a great amount of versatility to the Kansas City front with his ability to line up over and outside offensive tackles, with 268 snaps lined up over tackles and 89 lined up outside tackles. Asking rookie center Luke Fortner and guard Tyler Shatley to stop Jones from single-handedly wrecking every play is a tough ask, but if they can slow Jones down the Jaguars can do some damage with Trevor Lawrence under center.
2. Kansas City Offensive Tackles vs Jacksonville Edge Defenders
This seems to be one of the more under-the-radar matchups for this weekend. Josh Allen is in the top ten of total pressures among all edge rushers this season and is coming off a career-season high in pressures. When looking at it on the Kansas City side, Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie are both in the top five of total pressures given up among offensive tackles. During this season, Mahomes has been significantly better at setting his tackles up for success and not drifting backward in the pocket. This, combined with a very strong interior offensive line for Kansas City can help limit the impact of Josh Allen coming off the edge, but at some point, Allen will be too good for either Kansas City tackle. Similarly to Chris Jones having the potential to ruin things for Jacksonville’s offense, Josh Allen can do the same to Kansas City’s offensive line.
3. Travis Kelce vs Jacksonville’s Defense
Look, we can go around and talk about how the matchup between Doug Pederson’s offense and Steve Spagnulo’s defense, will play a key factor in this game, but Jacksonville trying to stop Kelce will be significantly more important. With the departure of Tyreek Hill, Kelce has seen a career-high in targets, receptions, and receiving touchdowns with 150, 110, and 12 respectively. Kelce led the team in targets by a wide margin, the next closest player in targets was former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, who had 97 targets on the season. Stopping Kelce has to be plans one two and three for Jacksonville, he is Kansas City’s number one option and it’s not even close.
I got five out of the six Wildcard games right for a playoff brack pool, including the entire AFC side of the playoffs. For that reason, and the who I believe wins the matchups I listed earlier, I’m riding with Kansas City.
Score: 34-28 Kansas City Chiefs.