NFL Reactions: Divisional Round Playoffs

NFL Reactions: Divisional Round Playoffs

This article is part of our NFL Reactions series.

In most years, there's nothing like the divisional round of the playoffs. The competition is usually between the best of the best. And often we're treated to some legendary battles. With so few games left in the season, it's frustrating to have games that aren't competitive. In both the Eagles' and the Bengals' victories, neither was much fun to watch, especially during the second half of those contests. It was also anti-climactic to watch the Chiefs play with a limited Patrick Mahomes, though it provided some excellent story lines. At least we finished the weekend with a fun game between the Cowboys and 49ers. Let's take a look back at this weekend's action.


Weekend Takeaways
 

  • Patrick Mahomes! Tom Brady is the GOAT. But Mahomes gave us the stuff that legends are made of on Saturday. He couldn't navigate the pocket. He barely was able to hand the ball off effectively. He was unable to use his plant foot effectively. Yet, he led the Chiefs to a big playoff win. The level of courage it took for him to play with a significant ankle injury was incredible. There's nothing I can add that speaks more loudly than his performance. But of course we have to think about next week. Swelling is certain to settle into his ankle. The opposing defense will have all week to plan on how to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. I would never bet against Patrick Mahomes, but if he can generate

In most years, there's nothing like the divisional round of the playoffs. The competition is usually between the best of the best. And often we're treated to some legendary battles. With so few games left in the season, it's frustrating to have games that aren't competitive. In both the Eagles' and the Bengals' victories, neither was much fun to watch, especially during the second half of those contests. It was also anti-climactic to watch the Chiefs play with a limited Patrick Mahomes, though it provided some excellent story lines. At least we finished the weekend with a fun game between the Cowboys and 49ers. Let's take a look back at this weekend's action.


Weekend Takeaways
 

  • Patrick Mahomes! Tom Brady is the GOAT. But Mahomes gave us the stuff that legends are made of on Saturday. He couldn't navigate the pocket. He barely was able to hand the ball off effectively. He was unable to use his plant foot effectively. Yet, he led the Chiefs to a big playoff win. The level of courage it took for him to play with a significant ankle injury was incredible. There's nothing I can add that speaks more loudly than his performance. But of course we have to think about next week. Swelling is certain to settle into his ankle. The opposing defense will have all week to plan on how to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. I would never bet against Patrick Mahomes, but if he can generate another victory with this injury,  this will be a playoff run that we're talking about decades in the future. 
  • Seven yards per reception. That's a dismal number. But given the circumstances, Travis Kelce had an amazing performance despite being unable to turn 14 catches into 100 yards. With Mahomes playing hurt, and even the one drive when Chad Henne was on the field, Kelce  was the chain mover.  He had to get open almost immediately because his quarterback didn't have the luxury of buying time in the pocket. It certainly helped that he played a defense that's been terrible against tight ends. But Jacksonville obviously knew that he was the only chance the passing attack had to move the ball consistently. No other Chiefs receiver had more than 36 yards. Kelce deserves every bit of credit as being one of the game's great superstars. It'll be interesting to see how he does in the AFC Championship game, especially when facing a defense that's fully equipped to give him much more resistance than he faced against Jacksonville. It's likely the week of practice will be heavily weighted toward creating ways to keep Mahomes out of harm's way while maximizing offensive production.
  • Other than Kelce, the only Kansas City player to see more than two targets was Kadarius Toney.  He ended up with seven targets and a rushing attempt, resulting In 50 scrimmage yards. It seemed that he was a clear part of the offensive game plan. But I feel that had Mahomes been healthy, Toney  would have had many more opportunities that would have led him to significant yardage after the catch. I'd be surprised if he wasn't a focal point in next week's game. I could see him being heavily used in the screen game and as a runner. with Mahomes likely to be very limited, they may desperately need his explosiveness. 
  • Recency bias and early success in the playoffs had many people believing the Giants would be able to pull the upset against the Eagles. Ultimately, Philadelphia had a massive talent advantage over the Giants. And having played them in a meaningful game back in Week 14, there was little chance the Giants were going to be able to scheme their way to a win in a game they had very few advantages in personnel. Philadelphia smothered the New York receivers while putting excessive pressure on Daniel Jones. It also helped that the Eagles rolled out to an early lead. This was simply a divisional-round playoff game where the better team dominated a lesser opponent. 
  • Running behind their amazing offensive line against one of the worst run defenses in the league, the Eagles ran the ball an amazing 44 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns. They got out to a quick lead and were able to lean on their running attack the entire game. The beauty of this offense is that they can beat you in any way. Whatever the weakness of the defense is, the Eagles have an answer, whether they lean on the passing game, the rushing attack or even Jalen Hurts taking over the game with his running ability. This team is deservedly playing at home for the NFC championship. 
  • It seems that Jalen Hurts is still working his way back to full health. Regardless, he did exactly what was needed against the Giants. He did miss A.J. Brown for a long touchdown late in the game, but that probably had nothing to do with his recovery from injury. Hurts targeted DeVonta Smith 10 times. Smith has been seeing at least eight targets a game every week during the second half of the season. Between Smith and Brown, defenses are often forced to pick their poison. and if defenses ever decided to put too much attention on both of them. Dallas Goedert is an elite tight end who helps make this passing game extremely difficult to defend. Goedert was facing a defense that's been terrible against tight ends all season, and he caught all five of his targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. The main thing that keeps him from being an elite fantasy producer is that the team has so many other weapons, and they rarely need to make him the focal point of the offense. 
  • Credit must be given to the Bengals' offensive coaching staff. Knowing they entered this game with a decimated offensive line and facing a defense that was able to consistently pressure without blitzing, this looked like a bad matchup. However, Joe Burrow has been excellent at getting the ball out quickly. As a result, he had no issue moving the ball through the air, and he rarely got hit. But what I never saw coming was that Cincinnati would consistently pick up chunks of yardage on the ground. I wasn't expecting the Bengals to attempt many running plays. And although they were very pass heavy until the game was out of hand in the fourth quarter, their success on the ground helped to keep Buffalo completely off balance. After having this level of success, Burrow appears to be set up well for the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs. Even though they have great ability to rush the passer, Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins should give them significant mismatches against the defense when Burrow needs to get the ball out quickly.
  • The Bills may have been 13-3 this year, but they frequently didn't look like the dominant team they were when Brian Daboll was their coach.  When defenses made it a point to pay extra attention to Stefon Diggs,  the other weapons weren't able to consistently step up. Aside from this game, Josh Allen was often too careless with the football. And he often turned over the ball at inopportune times. Facing an extremely well coached defense in the Bengals, the Bills were unable to get much rhythm on offense. After being a team that was unstoppable on offense in 2021,  it was a very disappointing end to a season that Buffalo entered as the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
  • Much to my surprise, the 49ers rushing attack had very little success against the Dallas defense until late in the game. It seems that Dallas took the approach that Brock Purdy was the player they would let beat them. It almost worked. George Kittle came up big on multiple occasions, and his circus catch on a late drive was pivotal in their victory. This was the first game in Purdy's career that he failed to throw multiple touchdown passes. And the only touchdown that San Francisco scored in the game was a short run by Christian McCaffrey. I'd be surprised if the Eagles didn't take a  few pages out of Dallas's playbook when preparing for the NFC Championship game. With Philadelphia boasting an elite defense, the 49ers may be best served if they can avoid a shootout.  Their best path to victory may be winning another low-scoring game.
  • For the Cowboys, CeeDee Lamb looked great. As usual, he showed great ability to run after the catch. Over the season, he became a receiver who was able to win in any area of the field. Those talents were at in full display against the Ferocious San Francisco defense. As good as his season was, I think there's room for further growth in his development. It was unfortunate that Dallas lost Tony Pollard to a high-ankle sprain. Ultimately, the injury left Dallas with just a single explosive playmaker against a high-end defense. Despite losing, the Cowboys played well during the playoffs.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Coventry
Coventry covers football for RotoWire. He started playing fantasy football in 1994 and won a national contest in 1996. He also nabbed five top-50 finishes in national contests from 2008 to 2012 before turning his attention to DFS. A published author, Coventry wrote a book about relationships, "The Secret of Life", in 2013.
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