NFL Playoff Bracket 2023: Picture, Schedule After Saturday's Divisional Round
The NFL's divisional round got off to a rather interesting start on Saturday. The Kansas Chiefs outlasted the Jacksonville Jaguars, which is what many might have expected. However, the Jags made things uncomfortable for the top seed in the AFC.
The Chiefs were forced to play much of the first half without star quarterback Patrick Mahomes because of an ankle injury. While he did return in the second half, his mobility was limited.
Thanks to some big plays from the Kansas City defense and a strong assist from backup Chad Henne, though, the Chiefs advanced.
Things were much less competitive in the nightcap, as the Philadelphia Eagles blew out the rival New York Giants 38-7. Philly jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead and never looked back.
This, of course, means that the top seed in each conference will advance to the next round. The unknown is who will meet them on championship weekend.
Below, you'll find a quick recap of Saturday's action and a look ahead at Sunday's games and the remaining postseason schedule.
Chiefs 27, Jaguars 20
The Chiefs have been a model of consistency in the AFC ever since Mahomes became the full-time starter in 2018, Kansas City has not missed an appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
That streak will continue this year, though for a time, it seemed that the Jags might play spoiler.
Mahomes suffered an ankle injury late in the first quarter. While he finished the drive, Henne was under center to start the ensuing series. This was not a sight that Chiefs fans had hoped to see, but they loved what came next.
Henne capped a 98-yard drive with a one-yard strike to tight end Travis Kelce. That score proved to be the difference in the game. The value of having an experienced backup who knows the system was on full display.
Mahomes returned in the second half and finished the game 22-of-30 for 195 yards and two touchdowns. He and Henne deserve plenty of credit, but the Chiefs probably wouldn't have won the game without strong performances from running back Isiah Pacheco and the defense.
Pacheco rushed for 95 yards and 7.9 yards per carry. The defense limited Trevor Lawrence to a modest 24-of-39, 217-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception performance. Jaylon Watson's interception of Lawrence with less than four minutes remaining effectively ended the game.
Jacksonville engineered one last field-goal drive following the turnover, but the onside attempt was unsuccessful.
This was a complete performance by a Kansas City team headed to its fifth-straight AFC title game. Of course, a lot of eyes will be on Mahomes and his ankle heading into next Sunday.
"Let's just see how it goes here the next couple days. It's going to be sore, I know, but let's see where he is at," head coach Andy Reid said, per ESPN's Adam Teicher. "He's had this before, and he was able to keep pushing through."
The Chiefs are one game away from pushing through to another Super Bowl.
Eagles 38, Giants 7
While Mahomes' injury will be a storyline heading into next weekend, Jalen Hurts' shoulder injury has been a point of intrigue since he suffered it back in December. The Eagles' Pro Bowl quarterback missed two games but returned for the season finale against the Giants.
However, Hurts didn't appear anywhere close to 100 percent in that game, and his usual dual-threat highlights were nowhere to be found. Philly's week off for claiming the No. 1 seed undoubtedly helped, but Hurts told Fox Sports' Pam Oliver (h/t Alexis Chassen of SBNation) before Saturday's game that he was still "nowhere near 100 percent."
While Hurts may not have been fully healthy on Sunday, he was spectacular. He finished 16-of-24 for 154 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 34 rushing yards and another touchdown.
The designed runs for Hurts that weren't present in Week 18 were there in the divisional round.
Philadelphia Eagles @Eagles
Hurts so good<a href="https://twitter.com/JalenHurts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JalenHurts</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NYGvsPHI?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NYGvsPHI</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FlyEaglesFly?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FlyEaglesFly</a> <a href="https://t.co/YLr0CuunKL">pic.twitter.com/YLr0CuunKL</a>
The Giants defense had no answer for Hurts and the Eagles ground game—Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell each topped 90 rushing yards—and their offense couldn't dig itself out of the early hole.
Things couldn't have started better for Philadelphia, which scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and forced two turnovers (one interception, one on downs) in the first quarter.
With Philadelphia going up big early, its defense was able to tee off on Daniel Jones and New York's passing attack. The Eagles' inconsistent run defense—which ranked 24th in yards per carry allowed in the regular season—essentially became a non-factor.
That run defense could be more of an issue next week against either the Dallas Cowboys or San Francisco 49ers—two teams that run the ball well. With Hurts getting closer to 100 percent, though, the Eagles will stand a good chance against whichever team they face.
Updated Playoff Picture
We're now down to a six-team race for the Lombardi Trophy, and things are fairly straightforward in the NFC.
With Philadelphia winning, it will either host the Cowboys or the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Sunday's divisional matchup between those two will be an interesting one, as both squads are coming off of decisive wild-card winds.
The Cowboys flustered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense while moving the ball seemingly at will for stretches. The 49ers' first-ranked defense came together in the second half of their win over the Seattle Seahawks. San Francisco's rookie quarterback, Brock Purdy, led yet another strong offensive performance.
Things are a little less clear in the AFC because a neutral-site conference championship is in play.
The NFL settled on the neutral-site possibility after it chose not to resume the Week 17 game between Buffalo and the Cincinnati Bengals—a game that was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field and needed to be resuscitated.
If the Buffalo Bills win on Sunday, they'll play the Chiefs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. According to the NFL, more than 50,000 tickets have already been sold for the venue.
If the Cincinnati Bengals defeat Buffalo, Kansas City will host Cincinnati with a true home-field advantage.
The Bengals will play without three of their starting offensive linemen—right tackle La'el Collins, left tackle Jonah Williams and right guard Alex Cappa. That could give the Bills a distinct advantage, but it would be foolish to write off either team.
Buffalo has now won eight straight games, while the Bengals have won nine in a row. Both have regular-season wins over the Chiefs this year.
Remaining Playoff Schedule
Divisional Round, Day 2
Sunday, Jan. 22
3. Cincinnati Bengals at 2. Buffalo Bills on CBS
5. Dallas Cowboys at 2. San Francisco 49ers on Fox
Conference Championship Round
Sunday, Jan. 29
NFC Championship: 3:05 p.m. ET on Fox
AFC Championship: 6:40 p.m. ET on CBS
Super Bowl LVII
Sunday, Feb. 12
AFC vs. NFC: 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox