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Neil Reynolds' Divisional Weekend Wrap Up

It was not quite the classic round of divisional games that we saw last year but there were still plenty of intriguing storylines over the weekend with two close contests sandwiching a couple of more one-sided games. And we are now left with four teams on the road to Super Bowl 57 in Arizona as the Cincinnati Bengals will visit the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game and the Philadelphia Eagles will host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC.

Mahomes watch begins

Get ready for a whole bunch of conversations this week about the state of Patrick Mahomes' ankle. The superstar quarterback of the Chiefs was injured during his team's 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Mahomes missed 13 plays – during which time backup Chad Henne led a 98-yard touchdown drive – and limped around for the rest of the contest. But his teammates had his back. This was a total team win for a Chiefs club that has now reached the AFC Championship Game for the fifth year in a row – every year that Mahomes has been their starter. Kansas City rushed for 144 yards, Travis Kelce caught 14 passes for 98 yards and two scores and the defense flew to the football all day long. The Chiefs forced two Jacksonville turnovers in three plays late on to decide this contest. And now we turn our attention to the health of Mahomes because a high ankle sprain can linger and so much of his magic comes off his movement. His impact on this team cannot be overstated… prior to his arrival, the Chiefs had never hosted an AFC title game and now they are preparing for their fifth at home in as many seasons.

Eagles deliver a message

The Philadelphia Eagles made an emphatic statement on Saturday night as they recorded a 38-7 victory over the New York Giants. Going into the game, the Eagles had worked through a few weeks where they were not quite hitting their mid-season heights which had resulted in them being the NFC's number one seed. Quarterback Jalen Hurts missed two games towards the end of the year, but he looked efficient in this one-sided clash and he didn't need to be more than that. This game screamed of a number one seed against a number six seed. Philadelphia bullied the Giants, rushing 44 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns. That allowed Hurts to continue his road back to full health without risking his body too much, although he did add his 14th rushing touchdown in 16 games this season. Defensively, the Eagles also flexed their muscle. Hasaan Reddick, Josh Sweat, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham each had at least 10 sacks in the regular season and they all took a turn to get to Daniel Jones at the weekend. The Eagles served a timely reminder that they are a powerhouse.

Dominant Bengals march on

Throughout Sunday's snow globe game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, I kept expecting a fightback from the home side; mainly because I'm a big believer in Josh Allen. But it should be said that I'm also a big fan of Joe Burrow so maybe I should not have been that surprised that Cincinnati delivered a 27-10 win on the road. I expected Burrow to get his points, but I thought Allen would have also enjoyed a successful day. But Cincinnati imposed their physical will on the Bills on both sides of the ball and were worthy winners. By the end of the contest, the Bengals had produced a dominant display to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the second year in a row. Burrow played mistake-free football as he threw for 242 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. But it was the balance of the Bengals that struck me – they ran the football 34 times for 172 yards and a score. Defensively, they had Buffalo's number all night long. They held the Bills to 63 rushing yards and had a late interception of Allen to end the contest. In leading the Bengals to within 60 minutes of a second straight Super Bowl appearance, head coach Zac Taylor deserves a great deal of credit and much more than he normally seems to receive.

Niners win on points

The final game of the Divisional Round felt like a heavyweight boxing match and it was the San Francisco 49ers who were forced to go the distance by the Dallas Cowboys before emerging as 19-12 winners. The hitting in this showdown between fierce NFC rivals was befitting of a playoff game in which both sides were playing to stay alive. San Francisco's defense made Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott look shaky all night, pressuring him into two and interceptions. And if truth be told, the Cowboys passer could have been picked off another couple of times at least. But this game stayed close because Dallas were also dominant on defense. They flew to the ball and made life very difficult indeed for a Niners team that has now won 12 games in a row. In the end, the 49ers got just enough big plays from their offensive stars in Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk. And when your defense keeps giving you chance after chance, you've always got an opportunity to come alive on offense. Next up for the Niners is what promises to be another very physical encounter against the Eagles.

isco a good game.