With most of the Wild Card round now in the books, I’m going to update each remaining team’s Super Bowl odds along with their path to the big game. In the case of the Cowboys and the Buccaneers, I will make an update to this article Tuesday morning to discuss the winner of that contest.
>> Read: Full Divisional Round Schedule
Kansas City had +330 Super Bowl odds at this time last week. Not much has changed since then, as the winner of Jaguars vs. Chargers was Kansas City’s most likely Divisional Round adversary the moment Lamar Jackson was ruled out. The Chiefs have been the measuring stick in the AFC for several seasons now, and it would be no surprise if they represented the conference in the Super Bowl.
Nothing was encouraging about Buffalo’s victory against Skylar Thompson’s Dolphins. If Buffalo plays like that again — turning the ball over and no running game — during their next matchups they will not escape with a win. Keep in mind if the Bills beat the Bengals and the Chiefs beat the Jaguars, Buffalo and Kansas City will meet in Atlanta for the AFC Championship.
You could argue the 49ers have the best roster in the league, which has been on full display during San Francisco’s now 11-game win streak. The 49ers lost to the eventual champion Rams by three points in last year’s NFC Championship, so their success this season isn’t much of a surprise. What is surprising is San Francisco has now scored at least 30 points in six of the seven games Brock Purdy has either started or taken the majority of the quarterback reps.
Football enthusiasts seem to either love Purdy or have absolutely no faith in him. Here’s my broad evaluation of Purdy for sports betting purposes. Purdy is not an elite quarterback. He’s a distributor who benefits from an exceptional supporting cast and one of the league’s best play callers. That said, Purdy makes a few plays a game, and he plays with confidence few rookies bring to the table. To this point, the 49ers’ offense has lost little to nothing since Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury. The idea anyone could walk right in and duplicate what Purdy is doing is preposterous.
I say that because Kyle Shanahan constructed radically different game plans in Trey Lance’s four starts as a pro, and Lance had significantly less success in those outings. Shanahan may be showing more faith in Purdy as a passer than he did with Lance out of necessity, but any current evaluation of Purdy should fall somewhere between the two extremes.
San Francisco will host the winner of Buccaneers vs. Cowboys in the Divisional Round. Among remaining NFC teams, the Eagles and Cowboys’ defenses would be the biggest challenge for Purdy and the 49ers.
I’ve been saying since August the Eagles have the best roster in football, though the 49ers are right there with them at the top. Unlike San Francisco, Philadelphia limped into the postseason. If Jalen Hurts is close to 100%, and the Eagles get Lane Johnson back at right tackle, they can win in a variety of ways.
If Hurts is still off like he was against the Giants reserves in Week 18, the Eagles become a more vulnerable team with a considerable amount of pressure on them. Those factors will be a major focus in my betting preview later this week. The Eagles will host the rival Giants in the Divisional Round.
With Tom Brady’s Buccaneers out of the way, Dallas now heads to San Francisco for the Divisional Round. The Cowboys lost their Wild Card game last season to the 49ers, 23-17, in Dallas. This time they’ll get rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, who has only faced one top-10 pass rush (Commanders) in his young NFL career. The Cowboys’ pass rush, led by Micah Parsons, represents Purdy’s biggest challenge to date.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys offensive line is more well-equipped than most to mitigate San Francisco’s own ferocious defensive front. Dallas will be a tough out for the 49ers, which is why San Francisco is the smallest favorite (-3.5) of the Divisional Round.
If Dallas gets past San Francisco, we’ve already seen them beat the Giants twice and the Eagles once. The Cowboys’ two games with the Eagles come with a bit of an asterisk, as Cooper Rush started for Dallas in the first matchup while Gardner Minshew started for Philadelphia in the second.
If both NFC East rivals advance, it would be the first time this season that Dak Prescott faces Jalen Hurts. If Dallas gets to the Super Bowl, I’d expect them to be a 4- to 5-point underdog against the Chiefs, Bills or Bengals. Dallas might be a slight favorite against Jacksonville, who beat the Cowboys in Week 15.
I expected Tyler Huntley’s Ravens to give the Bengals a game primarily because Baltimore’s defense has done an excellent job against Joe Burrow’s offense to this point. The outcome of that game gives me no real concern. The Bengals’ injuries on the right side of their offensive line, however, are a concern against any opponent they’ll face the rest of the way.
That said, Burrow took Cincinnati to the Super Bowl behind an unreliable offensive line last season. Burrow’s path is difficult with a road game in Buffalo this week and a potential date in Kansas City for the AFC Championship. If the Bengals and Chiefs win this week, they will face each other in the AFC Championship for the second year in a row.
It’s important to properly frame the Giants’ win against the Vikings. Daniel Jones couldn’t have played much better than he did on the way to hanging 31 points on Minnesota. However, the Giants’ pass catchers were abnormally wide-open all game, and Jones faced little pressure against one of the league’s worst pass defenses.
Jones made the most of those opportunities in the air while he extended a number of drives with his legs. Philadelphia has a better defensive front than the Vikings and a much better secondary. Expect Jones to have far fewer layups against the Eagles this week.
Going forward, the Giants are playing with house money, which makes them dangerous against a Philadelphia squad that underwhelmed throughout the final month. In mid-December, I would have given the Giants little to no chance to come away with a win against the Eagles in a playoff game. Now, the Giants have a shot if their defense plays their best game.
Trevor Lawrence couldn’t have played worse in the first half of his first NFL playoff game as the Jaguars fell behind 27-0. He then went on an absolute rampage in the second half to spearhead the third-largest comeback in postseason history. He did all of this against a supremely talented Chargers roster.
Dueling Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, with Andy Reid coming off a bye, is a big ask for anyone. Then, having to go into Buffalo to face Allen or Cincinnati to face Burrow is no walk in the park, either.
That said, these four quarterbacks could be consistently facing each other to decide the fate of the AFC for the next decade. Lawrence is only in his second season, but we should already be treating him and his Jaguars as a team that can knock off anyone.