Saturday, July 2, 2022

How Jaguars’ three wins drastically changed the AFC playoff picture, including epic Bills-Chiefs matchup

After finishing the year with a league-worst 3-14 record, the Jacksonville Jaguars were literally the furthest team away from the NFL playoffs. While that may have been the case, the Jags have indirectly had their fingers all over how this postseason has ultimately looked. Not only did their three wins impact who was in and who was out of the playoffs, but they also had serious ramifications in the epic matchup between the Chiefs and Bills on Sunday night. 

Of course, the most obvious of those three wins to change the playoff picture came back in Week 18 when the Jaguars were able to upset the Colts. All Indianapolis needed to do was leave Jacksonville with a win and they would have punched their postseason ticket. However, a meltdown from Carson Wentz and strong play from Trevor Lawrence helped the Jags pull out the 26-11 win to keep Indy on the outside looking in of the playoffs. 

Jacksonville’s win over the Dolphins back in Week 6 in London also helped keep Miami from entering the playoffs. Had they won that game, the Dolphins would have been 10-7 and jumped above the New England Patriots (the No. 6 seed in the playoffs) thanks to sweeping the season series. 

Arguably the most monumental piece to this puzzle, however, comes with the Jaguars’ stunning win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 9. It was an uncharacteristically sluggish performance by the Bills as they managed just six points and were shut out for the entire second half en route to the 9-6 loss. 

That defeat contributed to the Bills’ 11-6 record during the regular season, which was one game behind both the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs. That game wouldn’t have helped Buffalo ascend to the No. 1 seed as they fell to the Titans earlier in the year, but it would have given them the No. 2 seed thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker they owned over Kansas City thanks to their win in Week 5. 

That means had the Bills taken care of business against the Jaguars — the worst team in the NFL — in the regular season, they could have been playing that game for the ages against the Chiefs on Sunday AT HOME rather than at Arrowhead Stadium. 

Would this have ultimately made a difference and kept Buffalo’s season alive? That’s impossible to say. That said, Arrowhead Stadium has the reputation of being one of the toughest places in the NFL to play and the Chiefs were 8-2 at home this year (including playoffs) entering Sunday. 

So, the moral to this story seems to be that every game — even ones in the middle of the season against inferior opponents — carries weight that sometimes can’t even be seen until later in the year. Meanwhile, the Jags can hang their hat on the fact that they were able to play spoiler a bit this season. 

(h/t Ben Volin of The Boston Globe)

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