NFL playoffs: Top-seeded Chiefs, Eagles handle business

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) passes against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Even on one ankle, Patrick Mahomes remains good at football.

Mahomes — with an assist from backup quarterback Chad Henne — helped the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-20 on Saturday in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

A few hours later, the Philadelphia Eagles cruised past the New York Giants 38-7.

There will be two more games Sunday with Buffalo hosting Cincinnati and San Francisco hosting Dallas.

The Chiefs and Eagles didn’t have to play during last weekend’s wild-card round because the top-seeded team in each conference received a bye to the divisional round.

Neither team looked rusty.

The Chiefs did have some nervous moments against the Jags, particularly after Mahomes limped off the field with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Henne, a 37-year-old backup, filled in admirably while the former MVP was out and threw a touchdown pass to push the Chiefs ahead 17-7.

Mahomes returned in the second half and did enough to lead the Chiefs to the win. He completed 22 of 30 passes for 195 yard and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

The Eagles had no problem rolling over the Giants, jumping to a 28-0 lead by halftime. Philadelphia had more touchdowns (four) in the first half than New York had first downs (three).

Saturday’s relatively drama-free day of football was much different than last weekend’s wild-card round, when no lead was safe.

The Bills blew a 17-point advantage before recovering to beat Miami. That narrow escape came less than 24 hours after the Jaguars overcame a 27-point deficit against the Los Angeles Chargers in one of the most stunning rallies in playoff history.

Multiple games were decided in the final minutes. The Bengals beat the Ravens 24-17 after Sam Hubbard returned Baltimore quarterback Tyler Huntley’s fumble 98 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown in the fourth quarter, a surprising turn of events after the Ravens were poised to take the lead.

Here are some other things to know during the postseason:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

SUNDAY

Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills, 3 p.m. EST, CBS/Paramount+

Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox, Fox Deportes

WHAT’S THE FORMAT FOR THE PLAYOFFS?

This is the third straight year of the current playoff format, which includes the top seven teams from both the AFC and the NFC.

The four division winners in both conferences automatically get the top four seeds, regardless of record, and then the top three teams with the best record that didn’t win their division are the wild-card selections. That’s why it’s fairly common for a wild-card selection to have a better record — but worse playoff seeding — than a team that finished as a division winner.

The No. 1-seeded team in each conference gets a bye into the second round — that’s the Chiefs and Eagles — while No. 2 hosts No. 7, No. 3 hosts No. 6 and No. 4 hosts No. 5 during the wild-card weekend.

The NFL re-seeds teams after each playoff round. That means no matter how the bracket started, the lowest-seeded team always travels to the highest-seeded team.

There are four rounds to the playoffs: The wild-card round finished last weekend, the divisional round is this weekend, the conference championship games are on Jan. 29 and the Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

WHAT CHANGED WITH BILLS-BENGALS CANCELLATION?

Players and fans watched in horror on Jan. 2 as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field at Cincinnati when his heart stopped and he received CPR before leaving the field in an ambulance. Over the next week, those same players and fans reacted with joy at news of Hamlin’s recovery.

Even better news came last weekend: Hamlin visited with teammates at the Bills’ facility for the first time since being discharged from a Buffalo hospital.

The cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game because of Hamlin’s medical scare could lead to one big change to the AFC playoff format.

The AFC championship game will be played at a neutral site if Bills beat the Bengals on Sunday, under a rule adjustment approved by NFL owners. That’s because Buffalo (13-3) played one fewer game than Kansas City (14-3) and missed out on a chance to earn the top seed. The Bills beat the Chiefs 24-20 on Oct. 16 and would have held the tiebreaker had the teams finished with the same record. Buffalo lost 42-36 at Kansas City in a divisional-round classic last season.

The Chiefs would host the AFC title game against any other team, including the third-seeded Bengals (12-4).

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