Only four teams remain in the hunt this NFL season. There was plenty of action over the weekend but not an abundance of drama. Despite this lack of drama, there are still plenty of storylines going into next weekend. Before looking ahead at the conference championship matchups, let’s look back at the divisional round.
Kansas City Chiefs 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 20
Jacksonville had all the momentum in the world coming off their comeback against the Chargers, and they’d need every bit of it to overcome the Chiefs. After an opening drive punt by Jacksonville, the teams exchanged touchdowns from Travis Kelce and Christian Kirk. On the Chiefs’ second drive, disaster struck. Jaguars defensive end Arden Key fell on Patrick Mahomes’ leg while making a tackle, injuring the star quarterback. Mahomes would finish the drive, leading to a Kansas City field goal, and then head to the locker room. Backup Chad Henne entered the game and immediately made an impact, leading Kansas City down the field on a 98-yard drive, putting Kansas City up 17-7. The Jags added a field goal before the half to make it a one-score game entering halftime.
Mahomes would return to the game in the second half, but Kansas City started slow on offense, with two punts on their first two drives. Travis Etienne scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter for Jacksonville, making it a 20-17 game. Patrick Mahomes would strike back on this drive, finding Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a touchdown to make it 27-17. Jacksonville looked to be driving again, but a Jamal Agnew fumble would give the ball back to the Chiefs. On their next drive, Trevor Lawrence threw an interception to Jaylen Watson, allowing the Chiefs to take even more time off the clock. The Jags added a field goal before failing an onside kick attempt, allowing Kansas City to burn the rest of the remaining clock to advance to the AFC championship game.
Philadelphia Eagles 38, New York Giants 7
The Eagles ran straight through the Giants in this game. The Eagles only punted once in the first half while scoring touchdowns on drives of 75, 52, and 72 yards. Hurts threw two touchdowns in the first half, one to Dallas Goedert and one to DeVonta Smith. Hurts would run for the third. The second half was full of the Eagles forcing the Giants to punt or turn it over on downs outside of one drive where Matt Breida ran for a touchdown. The Giants posed no threat to Philly, and the Eagles look like the best team in football again with a healthy Jalen Hurts.
Cincinnati Bengals 27, Buffalo Bills 10
After their previous encounter got stopped due to Damar Hamlin’s injury, this was the most anticipated game of the week. The Bengals came out hot in this one, as Ja’Marr Chase scored the opening touchdown. On their next drive, Joe Burrow connected with Hayden Hurst to go up 14-0. Josh Allen would score a rushing touchdown to make it a seven-point game. The Bengals added a field goal to make it 17-7 going into the half.
To start the second half, Buffalo scored a field goal to make it a one-point game. From there, it was all Bengals. Joe Mixon scored a one-yard touchdown to put the Bengals up by 14. Buffalo then added a field goal to go up by three possessions with 11:22 left in the game. The Bills’ last two drives ended in a turnover on downs and an interception before the Bengals ran out the clock to advance to the AFC title game.
San Francisco 49ers 19, Dallas Cowboys 12
A showdown between two of the best defenses in the league turned into a low-scoring affair. Dalton Schultz scored the first half’s only touchdown, but the entertainment came on the extra-point try. Brett Maher, who had become infamous after his performance last week, had his attempt blocked, though it looked like it was going to miss. San Francisco netted three field goals to make it a 9-6 game at the half.
Dallas would tie the game in the second half after they forced a fumble on the punt return, leading to a Brett Maher field goal. San Francisco would finally get in the endzone on a Christian McCaffrey two-yard touchdown run. The teams would trade field goals to make it a 19-12 game in the fourth quarter. Dallas would mismanage their final drive, including a poorly executed final play, to bring their season to an end.
NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers vs Philadelphia Eagles
There were plenty of great teams in the NFC this year, but it always felt like this was where it would go. The two best teams in the conference will collide with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The two teams have been the most consistent in the NFC this year.
Several factors will decide this game. The first is how Brock Purdy fares against the Eagles pass rush. Philly ravaged the Giants’ offensive line to the tune of five sacks. Philadelphia’s defense will be one of the better defenses Purdy has faced this year. As for the Eagles, they will need to figure out a way to run against the 49ers’ lightning-quick defense. They’ve saved their best football for the playoffs and are one of the few who can keep up with Philly’s offense.
AFC Championship: Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs
The more things change, the more they stay the same. This matchup is a replica of last year’s AFC Championship, with the same two teams playing in the same stadium as last year. The only change is that Kansas City won’t have Tyreek Hill. The Bengals have a chip on their shoulder once again after the NFL boasted about ticket sales for a potential neutral site matchup between the Bills and Chiefs. To this point, Joe Burrow is undefeated against the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. If Mahomes wants another chance at the Super Bowl, he’ll have to slay the one team that has had his number to this point in his career.