This weekend, the 2023 NFL divisional round commences. In the first game of the AFC bracket, it’s the Kansas City Chiefs, fresh off a 1st round bye, vs. the momentum-gaining Jacksonville Jaguars, who upset the Chargers last week at the buzzer. Who wins in this Week 10 rematch in a battle between AFC West and AFC South?
Kansas City (14-3) vs. Jacksonville (9-8): Saturday, Jan. 21, 4:30 pm on NBC
Why Jacksonville Upsets the Chiefs in the 2023 NFL Divisional Round
First, the big question for the Jaguars here: Will they avoid another slow start?
Jacksonville has made a habit of having bad first halves all year, posting a minus-11 first-half point differential this season, one of the worst marks in the league. They overcame that with a plus-65 mark in the second half of games, which was the fourth-best mark in the league, per ESPN.com. The Jags also had at least a two-score deficit in five of their 10 wins this season, including last week’s playoff game.
After losing 27-17 during Week 10 of the regular season, you can expect the Jags to be back with a vengeance. And who could blame them? With the momentum they gained from the last-second upset of the LA Chargers in the Wild Card at home, Jacksonville could theoretically have a shot at pulling their 2nd upset in as many playoff weeks. They pull that off through their firey offense, led by QB Trevor Lawrence. Despite 3 INTs early on against the Chargers, he still led his team to victory.
The Jags’ offensive line is also notable, especially on 3rd downs, and they already have several playmakers in Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, and Travis Etienne.
However, this may be the only thing Jacksonville has going for them against an always dangerous Kansas City offense. Their defense is scary, too. Lawrence could be targeted big-time by rookie sensation George Karlaftis. They will also have to find an answer for Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, which might be the matchup Kansas City looks to exploit. The Jaguars were one of the NFL’s worst teams at defending tight ends during the regular season, while Kelce caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown in their regular season meeting.
Why Kansas City Marches On to the Championship from the 2023 NFL Divisional Round
Not only does Kansas City have a home-field advantage, but Trevor Lawrence has a problem- consistent gameplay. He hasn’t been on that bandwagon lately, and Mahomes, on the other hand, couldn’t be the further opposite. The guy has a couple of shovel-pass TDs this season, and no average QB can pull that off the way Mahomes does.
Additionally, the five sacks of Lawrence in the first meeting were the most all year. Philadelphia got to him four times, and so did Indianapolis. There’s a correlation here – Jacksonville is 2-6 when he gets sacked multiple times. Then there’s the Jags’ inability to get the defense off the field – the third-down stops aren’t there. That’s sort of a problem against #15 for Kansas City. Especially if he finds #87 on a sling pass. You know who I’m talking about.
Put simply, Patrick Mahomes will be too good. Yes, the Chiefs need to run effectively enough as a base to keep the Jaguar linebackers from hanging back to deal with Travis Kelce, but Mahomes will find his passing yards. Kansas City is 8-0 when the main man throws for 320 yards or more and 10-1 when he gets to 260. Meanwhile, Jacksonville hasn’t been gouged too often, but it’s 0-4 when giving up 300 passing yards.
Prediction: Kansas City 31, Jacksonville 17
Jacksonville will see their dream season come to an end in the 2023 NFL Divisional Round, while Kansas City marches on to yet another AFC Championship Game. Look for this game in the 2023 NFL Divisional round to be somewhat of a snoozefest.