AFC Postseason Primer Heading Into Wild Card Weekend
Wild Card weekend is two days away, with three AFC games. On Saturday, the Los Angeles Chargers visit theJacksonville Jaguars before a pair of divisional matchups. The Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins, and the Baltimore Ravens are at the Cincinnati Bengals to close out the weekend.
Here’s a look at the seven AFC seeds:
(1) Kansas City Chiefs: The AFC West champs won their seventh-straight division title on their way to the No. 1 seed. They will have home-field advantage unless they face the Bills in the AFC Championship Game, in which case it would be played in a neutral site, yet to be determined.
Player to Watch: Arguably, the most exciting quarterback of my lifetime, Patrick Mahomes, closed as a -600 favorite to win NFL MVP with an impressive 26.4% of the handle. He also is the favorite to win Super Bowl MVP (+410). Bettors and books will be paying close attention.
(2) Buffalo Bills: After a 25-year drought without a division title, the Bills have won the AFC East for the third-straight season.
Player to Watch: It’s gotta be Josh Allen, one of the most exciting athletes in the NFL. Not only did he put himself in an elite class as a passer with his third 4,000-yard/35-touchdown season, but by rushing for five-plus TDs (7) in 2022, Allen created his own club with a membership of one.
(3) Cincinnati Bengals: The defending AFC Champs won their second-straight AFC North title. The last time the franchise won back-to-back division titles Ken Anderson with his fabulous mustache, was throwing passes to a young Cris Collinsworth.
Player to Watch: What young receiver would you rather have than Ja’Marr Chase? Maybe his former college teammate Justin Jefferson who he joined among the four players with 80-plus receptions and at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first two seasons in the league.
(4) Jacksonville Jaguars: You know how much the NFL loves to trot out their worst-to-first streak, which the Jags accomplished with their turnaround to earn themselves a home playoff game. They are the only new division winner in the AFC, with their last postseason appearance in 2017.
Player to Watch: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft shows why many had him labeled as a can’t-miss prospect. Trevor Lawrence threw for 4,113 yards and 25 TDs in 2022. More importantly, he improved as the season went on, posting an AFC-best 104.6 rating from Weeks 9-18.
(5) Los Angeles Chargers: A year after coming within a tie game against the Las Vegas Raiders of making the postseason, the Chargers are going to the tournament for the first time since 2018.
Player to Watch: Count me among the Justin Herbert supporters. He’s the first player to pass for 4,500-plus yards in two of his first three seasons and joins Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks with at least 25 TD passes in each of their first three years. The kid can absolutely sling it.
(6) Baltimore Ravens: Without Lamar Jackson for five games, the Ravens could not pull off a worst-to-first turnaround but are back in the postseason for the fourth time in five years.
Player to Watch: I’d be disappointed in myself if I didn’t include at least one defender. Linebacker Roquan Smith posted a whopping 169 tackles with three INTs and had a tackle for loss in five of his past six games. Just in case you weren’t sure why the Ravens signed him to a five-year extension.
(7) Miami Dolphins: At 9-8, this was Miami’s third-straight winning campaign; however, it’s the Phins’ first postseason birth since 2016 when Adam Gase was the HC and Ryan Tannehill was the QB.
Player to Watch: Is there a better receiving duo than Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle? They combined for 3,066 receiving yards, the third most in NFL history behind the Greatest Show on Turf and Detroit’s Run N’ Shoot.
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