The two games in the AFC Divisional round are set up to be just as entertaining as the two over on the NFC side. The Wild Card round wasn’t an ideal weekend of football all around but both of these games in the AFC feature the top-four seeds in the conference. It’s going to be an exciting round of football and it all starts Saturday afternoon.
2022 AFC Divisional Round Preview
(3) Bills vs (2) Chiefs
Date: Sunday, January 23rd
Time: 6:30 ET
These two teams met up in the AFC Championship Game last year when the Kansas City Chiefs won 38-24. The Buffalo Bills are hoping this game looks a little more like last week when they dominated the Patriots from the beginning. Although nobody expects that, the Bills are looking to make a statement that they’re a Super Bowl team.
Josh Allen had one of the best games of his career under center as he threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns to go along with 66 rushing yards. Tight end Dawson Knox was instrumental for Allen when he caught five passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Spreading the ball around was an understatement as even tackle Tommy Doyle caught a one-yard touchdown pass. The run game contributed to the slaughter as Devin Singletary ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
As important as the offense is, the defense needs to be even better against these tough opponents. Coming into the playoffs, the defense was ranked 1st in points scored and total yards per game. They held the Patriots to 17 points and at least seven of those were given up in garbage time. The Bills’ run defense was middle of the pack in yards per game this season but they stepped up and held a highly dependable Damien Harris to only 30 yards on the ground. If the run defense can keep on a great path to mix with the pass defense, the Bills have a great chance to win this game.
Some people started to be concerned about the Chiefs again after they ended the regular season with a loss against the Bengals and a close victory against the Broncos. But once the playoffs started, the Chiefs came to form in dominating fashion. The offense got off to a slow start against the Steelers but they hit the gas in the second quarter with 21 points in a 42-21 victory. Patrick Mahomes was his typical self with throwing for a whopping 404 yards and five touchdowns. The highly dependable Travis Kelce had 108 yards and a touchdown through the air.
The Chiefs’ rushing attack needed to show something positive in the playoffs without Clyde Edwards-Helaire and they did. Jerick McKinnon ran away with the assignment as he had 61 yards on the ground and 81 yards through the air with a touchdown. More than anything, the defense needed to prove they can be relied on when they needed it, and at least for this game, they did. Now, Edwards-Helaire is off the injury report for Sunday and should be ready to go for the AFC Divisional round.
Both of these offenses are tops in the league and they showed why this past weekend. The Bills and Chiefs carry a lot of momentum into the AFC Divisional round, something both teams needed coming into a huge game like this one. Nobody has questions about these offenses but on defense, the Bills have the edge. It’s expected to be a shootout so the game might come down to which defense can make the critical play in this game.
(4) Bengals vs (1) Titans
Date: Saturday, January 22nd
Time: 4:30 ET
The Cincinnati Bengals come into this game coming off of a close win against the Raiders. Joe Burrow walked into his first playoff game unfazed as he threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns. He has an unbelievable connection with Ja’Marr Chase as it might already be one of the best duos in the league. Chase didn’t catch a touchdown but he was quite effective as he caught nine passes for 116 yards. Tight end C.J. Uzomah will be important in the Bengals success moving forward and he gave a glimpse of what that might look like as he had 64 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Joe Mixon didn’t rush for 50 yards in the game but he set up some key drives when the Bengals needed it. Burrow has a nice receiving core to throw too and they’ll need to be even better as they face the number one seed heading into the AFC Divisional round.
As the number one seed, the Tennesse Titans are coming off of a much-needed bye as it gave this team even more time to rest up and get healthy. That’s especially the case for running back Derrick Henry. The Titans activated Henry off of IR on Friday from his foot injury that sidelined him for nine games. He is the last person the Bengals or any team want to see in the playoffs.
Cincinnati came into the Wild Card Weekend ranking 5th on defense in rushing yards per game. In the game against the Raiders, they didn’t give up any touchdowns on the ground but Josh Jacobs ran for 85 yards on 6.4 yards per carry. He also had 44 yards through the air. If the Bengals let Jacobs go for over 120 yards from scrimmage, imagine what a returning Henry can do if they don’t keep him in check.
The Titans have shown that they can expand past Henry with Ryan Tannehill passing to A.J. Brown and a healthy Julio Jones. This offense is first in time of possession, something that is key in the playoffs. The defense will benefit greatly if that trend continues. Their strong points on defense are points allowed and rushing yards per game. The one thing that needs to improve on the Titans defense is the passing yards allowed, which not only something the Bengals’ offense can exploit, but all of the other offenses remaining.
All signs point to this game being close if both teams can stick to what they’ve been doing up to this point. The Titans have the advantage in the run game with Henry, which can open up the passing game but the Bengals’ offense can be more explosive, causing the Titans’ defense to be on their heels. Tennessee having a home-field advantage is what might swing this game in their favor in this AFC Divisional round.