All it takes is one play, one yard or even one good or bad decision to change the course of a football game. Along with those outliers are key matchups that determine when they happen and the effect they have when they do happen. These matchups are the ones that teams plan for. Play-calling is adjusted for certain defensive or offensive schemes, and individual players are targeted on both sides of the ball and given the tasked label of "shut down" or "slow down." And with just two wins away from making the Super Bowl, the final eight teams in the NFL Divisional round know what they need to do on both sides of the ball to get just one game closer to Arizona.
From Patrick Mahomes to Micah Parsons, all cards are on the table, and everyone knows their job. With that being said, here are five key matchups to watch in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs this weekend.
Eagles' Run Game vs. Giants' Front Seven
For the third time this season, the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New York Giants, with the Eagles taking the season series. In their two meetings, the Eagles ran for 382 yards, averaging over 7 yards per carry and scoring five touchdowns. And to add even more to this, Eagles running back Boston Scott — nicknamed "The Giant Killer" — has scored 10 of his 17 career touchdowns in eight career games versus New York. If the Giants are going to slow down this Eagles offense, they will have to eliminate the run game in its entirety. Whether it be Scott, Miles Sanders or Jalen Hurts, if the run game is not slowed down, it will be a long day for this Giants defense.
Micah Parsons vs. 49ers' Offensive Line
Micah Parsons is without a question one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, if not THE best pass rusher in the NFL. And with the weapons the San Francisco 49ers have, getting pressure on rookie quarterback Brock Purdy will be crucial to the Dallas Cowboys' success in this game. Now, Purdy has shown his ability to make good throws when being pressured, but he has not had someone like Parsons coming at him on almost every drop-back. The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the league and will need that talent to be on full display Sunday night.
Daniel Jones vs. Eagles' Secondary
It is without question that this is New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones' best season of his career thus far; and because of his play in 2022, he could find himself back under center for New York in 2023. And Jones has been hot as of late, completing over 70% of his passes and throwing five touchdowns to just one interception in his last three games. Jones sat out in the Giants' second game versus the Eagles but performed well in their first meeting, finishing with a 96.1 rating and zero interceptions. But this Eagles defense was tied for third in the league with 17 interceptions that were spread out from their corners to their safeties. For this Giants offense to be successful, Jones will have to avoid making any mistakes.
Chiefs' Potent Offense vs. Jaguars' Underdog Defense
It is unlikely that the Jacksonville Jaguars will have five turnovers — as they did against the Chargers — but it is just as unlikely that the Kansas City Chiefs' offense will play just as poorly as the Chargers' offense did. Regardless of turnovers, the Chiefs' offense — which led the league in touchdowns scored and points scored in 2022 (and, yes, there is a difference) — will be tough to slow down all game. However, the Chiefs do a -3 turnover differential; and in their three losses, the Chiefs turned the ball over five times. If the Jaguars can get a turnover or two, things could get really interesting at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday afternoon in their NFL divisional round matchup.
Joe Burrow vs. Josh Allen
While it is not a one-on-one matchup, the best quarterback game will be between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow and Josh Allen both have had MVP-like seasons and are the X-factor to their offenses' success. Expect Burrow to take advantage of the play action and standing in the pocket to deliver downfield throws. Allen will look to get the ball out quickly and extend plays with his legs, whether it be rolling out or tucking the ball and running. The best preview in terms of comparison to this game is last year's AFC divisional round classic between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs, in which both quarterbacks were locked in from start to finish.
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