Posted on January 20, 2023
And then there have been two. I’m speaking, after all, about west groups.
With the playoff exits of the Seahawks and Chargers final weekend, the Chiefs and 49ers are the one groups left representing the west.
They’re two excellent representatives contemplating each groups are within the prime three in present odds to win the Tremendous Bowl.
However to get there they’ll need to deal with enterprise this week.
For the Chiefs, which means holding off a surging Jaguars group that’s seeking to play spoiler as soon as once more. For the 49ers it means taking down a Cowboys group that’s nonetheless using excessive after final week’s massive win over the Buccaneers.
Now let’s get into these video games with a fast preview of every one.
Chiefs vs Jaguars
Saturday, January 21
1:30 pm PT, NBC
This just isn’t the matchup that many individuals had been anticipating to see this week. The Jaguars accomplished a miraculous comeback final week to ship the Chargers packing and earn themselves a date with the Chiefs within the course of.
It’s a frightening activity for certain. The Chiefs have the very best offense within the league and will likely be well-rested after having a first-round bye.
It’s additionally fairly clear how the Chiefs are going to assault the Jaguars. They’re clearly a really pass-happy group, which is sensible with a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes.
They’d the fifth-most go makes an attempt this season and with the Jaguars giving up the fifth-most passing yards it’s honest to say the Chiefs are going to assault them by the air.
Kansas Metropolis additionally has the very best tight finish within the league in Travis Kelce. Jacksonville gave up 12 catches for 148 yards and a landing to tight ends towards Los Angeles, and defending Kelce isn’t going to be any simpler.
The Jaguars’ linebackers are going to be essential to their capability to remain within the sport. Not solely as a result of they’ll need to defend Kelce however as a result of they’ll additionally need to chip in to assist towards a strong run sport that includes operating backs Isaiah Pacheco and Jerrick McKinnon.
How linebackers Foyesade Oluokun, Devin Lloyd, and Chad Muma play in the midst of the protection might find yourself deciding the sport.
The Chiefs could also be an offense-first group however they aren’t too shabby on protection, particularly towards the go, the place they allowed the sixth-fewest yards per try.
One of many causes they had been so good at limiting opponents by the air was the go rush. Kansas Metropolis racked up 55 sacks this yr, greater than each group besides the Eagles.
Defensive sort out Chris Jones is the chief up entrance and can also be top-of-the-line defensive gamers within the sport with 15.5 sacks, probably the most of any defensive sort out.
This sport will likely be a best-on-best kind matchup, although, with the Jaguars having an offensive line that’s formidable sufficient to hold with the Chiefs’ line of defense.
Jacksonville gave up the fifth-fewest sacks this yr, which was one of many key causes for the event of quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The younger signal-caller seemed significantly better in his second season, trying like a future star within the league. He additionally dealt with his first style of playoff motion effectively final week, no less than within the second half.
Lawrence shook off a traditionally dangerous first half to complete the sport with 288 yards and 4 touchdowns and lead a drive for a game-winning subject aim.
However now he’ll face a protection that’s significantly better towards the go within the Chiefs, so how he’ll deal with that adversity will likely be one of many keys to the sport.
It can assist out Lawrence if the Jaguars can have success on the bottom, the place the Chiefs are worse on protection.
Jacksonville was a borderline top-10 dashing assault this season however younger operating again Travis Etienne had success final week, 109 yards on 20 carries.
The Chiefs have top-of-the-line younger linebackers within the league in Nick Bolton, so how he matches up with Etienne and the run sport will likely be value watching.
Backside line, if the Jaguars need an opportunity to win this sport they should play extra like they performed within the second half final week. The one technique to beat the Chiefs is to make constructive performs on offense, which Lawrence ought to be capable of do with weapons equivalent to broad receiver Christian Kirk, tight finish Evan Engram, and broad receiver Zay Jones.
However, if the Chiefs can have their standard success on offense, it might not be a lot of a sport. they’re the most important betting favourite of the week, favored by eight-and-a-half factors, so it’s honest to imagine that in the event that they play like they’re speculated to, a win ought to be inside attain.
49ers vs Cowboys
Sunday, January 22
3:30 pm PT, FOX
This matchup looks like one straight out of the eighties and with the best way each defenses are enjoying, it could find yourself trying like one too.
Each of those groups subject a top-tier protection. the 49ers allowed the fewest factors and the second-fewest yards whereas the Cowboys weren’t far behind and in addition led the league in turnovers.
Each groups are additionally coming off massive wins within the opening spherical of the playoffs so ought to have loads of momentum on their aspect.
Essentially the most fascinating a part of this sport will likely be how effectively quarterback Dak Prescott does towards the 49ers’ protection. He had arguably the sport of his life final week towards the Buccaneers and now has to go up a stage or two in problem.
There isn’t a lot that the Cowboys can take from the Seahawks’ efficiency towards the 49ers final week, however there could also be one factor. Seattle broad receiver D.Okay. Metcalf had a whole lot of success towards San Francisco’s primary cornerback, Charvarius Ward.
Dallas might also be capable of benefit from that matchup by utilizing broad receiver CeeDee Lamb, top-of-the-line within the sport, in the same method. Prescott and Lamb could be the key to Dallas hanging on this one, particularly as a result of it could let Prescott keep away from among the elite playmakers on that protection in protection equivalent to linebacker Fred Warner and security Talanoa Hufanga.
However the Cowboys normally wish to run their offense by the dashing assault, which is sensible given the elite operating again duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The 5 video games Dallas rushed for probably the most yards on this yr had been all wins.
Sadly for them, the 49ers allowed the second-fewest yards per rush this yr and have a stacked entrance seven led by defensive finish Nick Bosa. However they did permit 181 dashing yards final week to the Seahawks so it’s doable for the Cowboys to have some success with their elite offensive line.
As laborious as it could be for the Cowboys to attain on the 49ers, it could be even tougher for them on the opposite aspect of the ball.
Recently, the 49ers have seemed downright dominant on offense, scoring 37 or extra factors in every of their final 4 video games.
They’re led by rookie quarterback Brock Purdy, who seemed nice in his playoff debut. However he isn’t excellent. He made a number of throws into tight home windows and towards a protection just like the Cowboys’ that’s constructed on getting turnovers, these choices might find yourself hurting them.
However, the one factor the 49ers excel at is making performs round their quarterback. And towards an aggressive protection, alternatives for giant performs will likely be there.
With broad receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and tight finish George Kittle, San Francisco definitely has the weapons to get open, it’s only a matter of whether or not Purdy can capitalize on them or not.
Dallas additionally has playmakers on their very own on protection. Clearly, linebacker Micah Parsons will get all of the credit score for being some of the disruptive defensive gamers within the league however he’s not alone.
Defensive finish DeMarcus Lawrence has had one other nice season and cornerback Trevon Diggs is without doubt one of the greatest ball-hawking defensive backs within the league. After which there are some under-the-radar gamers which have performed effectively equivalent to rookie cornerback Daron Bland, security Jayron Kearse, and defensive finish Dorance Armstrong.
Lawrence and Armstrong will likely be notably vital as a result of one technique to make life laborious on Purdy is by getting strain on him, though the 49ers did permit the sixth-fewest sacks this yr.
San Francisco might also attempt to use the bottom sport to its benefit contemplating Dallas is extra weak in that space than the go.
And by chance for the 49ers, they’ve operating again Christian McCaffrey, some of the dynamic operating backs within the league, who ought to be capable of have loads of success.
A variety of consideration will likely be paid to the defenses on this sport, and rightfully so, but it surely’s the offenses that will find yourself deciding it. How 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan and Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore scheme for these elite defenses will likely be essential.
After which it is going to all come right down to execution. Each groups confirmed final week what they will do when working on the prime of their video games, so whichever group can extra intently repeat that this week will probably be the one advancing to the convention championship sport.