NFL Playoff Bracket 2023: Updated Postseason Picture, Divisional-Round Scenarios

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 17, 2023

NFL Playoff Bracket 2023: Updated Postseason Picture, Divisional-Round Scenarios

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 07: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs signals at the line of scrimmage against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of the game at Allegiant Stadium on January 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)
    Chris Unger/Getty Images

    The 2022-23 NFL playoffs opened with a bang.

    Wild Card Weekend lived up to its moniker. At least, the four games sandwiched between the San Francisco 49ers' runaway victory over the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys' dismantling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did.

    Starting with the Jacksonville Jaguars' improbable comeback over the Los Angeles Chargers and carrying through the Cincinnati Bengals' triumph over the Baltimore Ravens keyed by a 98-yard fumble return for a score, the football gods granted us four consecutive postseason games decided by a single score.

    Is there any chance the divisional round can be just as thrilling? In a word: absolutely.

    Let's take an advanced look at the upcoming playoff slate by updating the postseason bracket and then making a round of predictions for each conference.

Updated Postseason Picture

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 16: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws a pass during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 16, 2023 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    American Football Conference

    No. 4 Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs | Saturday Jan. 21 at 4:30 p.m. ET

    No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals at No. 2 Buffalo Bills | Sunday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. ET

    National Football Conference

    No. 6 New York Giants at No. 1 Philadelphia Eagles | Saturday, Jan. 21 at 8:15 p.m. ET

    No. 5 Dallas Cowboys at No. 2 San Francisco 49ers | Sunday, Jan. 22 at 6:30 p.m. ET

AFC Predictions

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    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the second half of the game in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
    Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

    Jaguars at Chiefs

    Despite four first-half interceptions by Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars rebounded just in time for Riley Patterson's walk-off 36-yard field goal to give the franchise its first playoff victory since the 2017 season.

    Unfortunately, Jacksonville's wild ride will come to an end in GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

    The Jags just don't have the offensive weaponry to hang with Patrick Mahomes and Co. When these two teams locked horns in Week 10, the Chiefs sprinted out to a 20-0 lead before coasting to a 27-17 win. This contest might not be any closer, as the Mahomes-Travis Kelce connection is far more potent than anything Jacksonville's offense can muster.

    Prediction: Chiefs 30, Jaguars 21

    Bengals at Bills

    While Cincinnati and Buffalo both escaped the wild-card round, neither looked particularly impressive in the process. First, the Bills had to sweat out a three-point win over the Miami Dolphins despite carrying a 17-0 lead into midway through the second quarter. Then, the Bengals needed Sam Hubbard's 98-yard, game-saving scoop-and-score to put away a Ravens team playing without Lamar Jackson.

    This one should be just as dramatic as both offenses are capable of holding their own in a shootout.

    Josh Allen ranks favorably among the league's most dynamic signal-callers, but Joe Burrow isn't far behind, particularly with Ja'Marr Chase being in a good groove of late. If each teams' playmakers effectively cancel each other out, this could be decided in the trenches, which is good news for the Bills, who boast a superior (and healthier) offensive line.

    Prediction: Bills 35, Bengals 31

NFC Predictions

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    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14: Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers throws a pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Levi's Stadium on January 14, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Giants at Eagles

    Philly wobbled a bit down the stretch—not coincidentally, quarterback Jalen Hurts was missing in action after suffering a shoulder sprain in Week 15—and New York may have played its best game of the season on Sunday. If you want to call for a shocking upset here, that's your motivation.

    This prediction, however, backs a top-seeded Philadelphia squad that had a week to rest up and fine-tune its execution.

    If Hurts doesn't look rusty—he was fine, but certainly not great in the Eagles' Week 18 win over the Giants—then Philly might have advantages at every spot other than running back. When these teams tussled at full-strength in Week 14, the Eagles rolled to a 48-22 win, getting three touchdowns from Hurts (two passing, one rushing) and two more scores from Miles Sanders.

    Prediction: Eagles 28, Giants 20

    Cowboys at 49ers

    Longtime football fans will feel all types of nostalgia from this historic rivalry. Younger football fanatics, meanwhile, won't miss out, because the current matchup looks great even without the history between these teams.

    This is all assuming, of course, that the Dallas team that travels to Northern California isn't the same one that was flattened by Sam Howell and the undermanned Washington Commanders in Week 18. It also assumes that San Francisco signal-caller Brock Purdy doesn't suddenly remember he was this year's Mr. Irrelevant, as the final pick of the 2022 draft.

    The good versions of these teams are elite. The 49ers and Cowboys ranked first and fifth, respectively, in point differential, making this the weekend's only matchup of top-five teams by that metric. Dallas has enough playmakers to pull an upset here, but it's hard to question a San Francisco squad that has won 11 consecutive contests, a stretch that began with Christian McCaffrey's first game as the 49ers' starting running back.

    Prediction: 49ers 24, Cowboys 21