The following wave of NFL playoff soccer is effectively underway. The divisional spherical kicked off Saturday with a pair of regular-season rematches, and, boy, do now we have a whole lot of floor to cowl simply within the wake of that motion. The Chiefs are headed again to the AFC Championship, due to a 27-20 victory over the upstart Jaguars. And the Eagles will host the NFC Championship for the second time in 5 years after routing the Giants, 38-7.
Listed below are some speedy and big-picture takeaways from the opening day of the divisional spherical:
Hurts and the Eagles are again
We are saying “again” as a result of, frankly, it felt so much like they “left” during the last month. Ever since Jalen Hurts, as soon as a digital lock to go face to face with Patrick Mahomes for this 12 months’s MVP honors, went down with a shoulder harm, Philly sort of plateaued, if not regressed, on the best way into the postseason. However on Saturday evening towards a Giants crew recent off a powerful upset of Minnesota, they regarded again to peak kind. Hurts, for one, had seemingly no limitations, excelling early as a passer and, maybe extra notably, on the bottom. And the Haason Reddick-led protection received after Daniel Jones and Co. all evening, handing New York what Brian Daboll later known as a “crash touchdown.” It is time to take into account the Birds true title contenders as soon as once more.
The Giants want extra assist than we thought
This 12 months was nonetheless successful for New York. The G-Males weren’t even speculated to make the playoffs, contemplating the torn-down roster Brian Daboll inherited. Daniel Jones actually registers as a special prospect than he did even months in the past. However in contrast to even Jacksonville, which took Kansas Metropolis to the wire below a first-year coach (extra on that beneath), the Giants had hardly any battle or urgency in Philadelphia. That is not primarily the fault of both Jones or Daboll, however slightly a lineup nonetheless severely undermanned at premium spots. Common supervisor Joe Schoen badly must prioritize upgrades alongside the offensive line, out broad and at linebacker, amongst different positions.
Mahomes’ ankle is a reliable concern
The large story of the Chiefs incomes a fifth straight AFC title-game look had nothing to do with the precise win, or the highlights that led to it — Isiah Pacheco’s open lanes, Kadarius Toney’s heavy involvement, some large D-line moments. As quickly as star quarterback Patrick Mahomes briefly exited with an ankle harm within the second quarter, his well being turned paramount. The MVP candidate was visibly immune to medical consideration and fought via a noticeable limp to maintain Kansas Metropolis in entrance and seal the win.
CBS Sports activities’ Doug Clawson additionally factors out that Mahomes, who’s used to counting on his mobility, has accounted for 41% of the league’s landing passes exterior the pocket (15 of 36) within the final 5 postseasons.
He’ll absolutely do the whole lot in his energy to stay below heart shifting ahead, however that does not imply it will not have an effect on his mobility and/or Andy Reid’s play-calling, even when simply to a slight diploma. Fortunately, for the Chiefs …
It does not actually matter who’s below heart; few gamers produce so constantly when it issues most. No. 87 was all over, working the center towards Jacksonville to the tune of 14 catches for 98 yards and two scores. There’s actually not a lot else to be stated apart from: Kelce’s presence, with or with out an imposing No. 1 receiver drawing consideration on the skin, is usually sufficient to maintain Okay.C. shifting up and down the sphere. At 33, he is nonetheless on the prime of his recreation.
The Jaguars are right here to remain
It has been obvious for some time that Jacksonville made the suitable name by hiring ex-Eagles coach Doug Pederson, however this crew’s efficiency within the postseason — simply the second Jaguars’ playoff bid within the final 15 years — justifies the brewing optimism in Northeast Florida. Getting back from down 27 to beat the Chargers was a miraculous affirmation that Trevor Lawrence and Co. are on the rise. However maintaining the Chiefs on their toes at Arrowhead was arguably simply as spectacular, even with Mahomes limping round for a lot of the day. Pederson known as the sport together with his trademark aggressiveness. Lawrence flashed veteran-level confidence. Better of all, reinforcements ought to be coming as Calvin Ridley and others be part of play-makers like Travis Etienne Jr., Christian Kirk and Jamal Agnew; the latter two confirmed with premature miscues they may shine in additional secondary roles.