For Week 18’s final regular-season matchup, all but one member of the Arrowhead Pride staff picked the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the Las Vegas Raiders. Beyond that, we weren't sure what to think. Our picks were almost evenly divided between a blowout, an easy win and a close game — so our aggregate call for an easy 33-24 Kansas City victory was 22 points away from the 31-13 final. Our readers were more than a bit off the mark, too. Only about one in 10 saw a blowout coming — while almost half thought the game would be close.
Let’s see what the staff — and our readers — think about the matchup.
Price Carter (@priceacarter)
The Jaguars have now been playing playoff football for about six weeks; they’ve needed every win just to get to this point. Saturday feels like the day the tank will run empty. Jacksonville is a great young team that can be dangerous, but its weaknesses make it too vulnerable. Patrick Mahomes is going to have his way with the Jaguars’ secondary — and their inconsistent pass rush will give him plenty of time to execute plays. The Jaguars gave up five sacks in Arrowhead the last time — and that was with a healthier line than they have now. Still, the Jacksonville offense has some talent. It relies on short passes and running the ball to keep the defense honest. As long as the Kansas City defense isn’t allowing big chunk plays, I just don’t see how the Jaguars can keep pace with the Chiefs’ offense. Playoff football in Arrowhead is just different — even on a Saturday.
Chiefs 30, Jaguars 20
Tom Childs (@tomchilds56)
The Jaguars will walk into the game with house money — so expect them to throw the kitchen sink. But given what has happened in recent history, it’s hard to doubt the Chiefs in this round. Jacksonville will score points, but an offensive onslaught from the Kansas City offense — and timely takeaways by the Chiefs' defense — will rule the day.
Chiefs 41, Jaguars 24
Nate Christensen (@natech32)
The last time we saw Patrick Mahomes in a playoff game, he played — by far — the worst half of his career. For the first time, there was real doubt about his ability to win in the playoffs. But since then, Mahomes has played MVP-level football for 18 weeks. Now he has an opportunity to prove that one game was a fluke. I expect him to go ballistic. The Chiefs are going to move the ball with almost unparalleled efficiency. Jacksonville’s offense has improved — but with two weeks to prepare, I think the Chiefs will have plenty of answers for its offense.
Chiefs 44, Jaguars 23
John Dixon (@Arrowheadphones)
We’d be fools to believe Jacksonville is incapable of putting up a fight, but there’s also no real reason to think Kansas City won’t take care of its business. While a close game must be considered a possibility, I think it ends up being an even more comfortable Chiefs victory than it was in Week 10.
Chiefs 31, Jaguars 17
Maurice Elston (@recenickelz)
Jacksonville is coming off one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history — and in Trevor Lawrence, they have a quarterback who has never lost on a Saturday during his college and NFL career. I fully expect the Jaguars to put up a fight, but their great story will end at Arrowhead. The Chiefs are simply the better team. If Kansas City doesn’t turn the ball over, this game shouldn’t be close.
Chiefs 35, Jaguars 24
Mark Gunnels (@MarkAGunnels)
The Jaguars come into this game hot. But the Chiefs match up nicely against the things Jacksonville does well. Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson wants Lawrence to get the ball out quickly to his playmakers in space — and Kansas City’s defensive backs are physical and good in the open field. On the flip side, the Jacksonville defensive line can get pressure — but I foresee Mahomes making tons of off-script plays that break the Jaguars’ back. Chiefs roll.
Chiefs 38, Jaguars 23
Zach Gunter (@ZachGunter08)
While I very much believe that the Jaguars are a capable team, I also think they’re not equipped for cold weather and snow. That is what they will be up against on Saturday. Running back Travis Etienne will likely have a big game, but that’s about all I see from Jacksonville.
Chiefs 28, Jaguars 17
Conner Helm (@ArrowheadConner)
The Chiefs are back in a familiar position: a home playoff game. In the Patrick Mahomes era, Kansas City has yet to play a postseason game on the road. Mahomes will have to be efficient against the Jaguars’ 17th-ranked pass defense — per Next Gen Stats — and the Kansas City defense will have to put pressure on Trevor Lawrence. Per NGS, he is the league’s second-best passer against the blitz, but the 14th-best passer when facing pressure without a blitz. If Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, Frank Clark and Mike Danna can get home on their own, the Chiefs will win big.
Chiefs 35, Jaguars 17
Caleb James (@CJScoobs)
The Jaguars are white hot, taking a win-or-go-home AFC South Championship game against the Tennessee Titans and then pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history against the Los Angeles Chargers. While they have quickly become the NFL’s darlings, they come to Kansas City to face a Chiefs team with much to prove. After last January’s AFC Championship game, the Chiefs have been on a mission — starting with Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones. Offensively, Mahomes can put a cherry on top of an MVP season by taking some deep shots early and often. Meanwhile, the defensive line has been firing on all cylinders in the last six weeks. It will be up to Jones, George Karlaftis, Carlos Dunlap, Frank Clark, Derrick Nnadi and Khalen Saunders to win up front.
Chiefs 31, Jaguars 17
Ashley Justice (@Justice_Paur88)
It’s hard not to root for Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson — but it’s easier when their success means the Chiefs have been eliminated from the playoffs. I have no doubt that we will see some trickery from the team that opened its last game in Kansas City with an onside kick, but I don’t think there will be anything the Chiefs can’t handle — or at least overcome. The team has said all the right things about not overlooking the Jaguars. It would be silly to ignore their charisma — and maybe more importantly, their momentum. But Kansas City’s playoff experience can overcome all of that.
Chiefs 33, Jaguars 21
Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp)
The more I think about this game, the more I believe the Chiefs have far too many advantages to let this one get away. The Jaguars have been valiant, but they will be playing their third-consecutive do-or-die game. It’s also the first of them on the road — away from Jacksonville’s warmer climate — in playoff football weather at Arrowhead Stadium. Those are just the intangible factors. There are a lot of ways the Chiefs’ offense has an advantage over the Jaguars’ defense — and I think that’s what will show on the scoreboard.
Chiefs 41, Jaguars 24
Aaron Ladd (aaronladd0)
Take a breath to stop and smell the roses. Divisional Round weekend might be the best one on the NFL calendar — and once again, Mahomes and the Chiefs are sitting in a prime position to advance. Yes... coming off a historic comeback in the Wild Card round, the Jaguars are a confident bunch. But to me, that game said more about the Chargers than it did about Jacksonville. The Chiefs are rested — and are surely motivated by having another Lombardi Trophy close enough to touch. Like in Week 10, I expect Doug Pederson to be aggressive, trying to steal possessions from Kansas City. But if the Chiefs maximize each opportunity, they should win comfortably.
Chiefs 34, Jaguars 24
Rocky Magaña (@RockyMagana)
If you were looking for the playoff gods to shine brightly upon the Chiefs this postseason, then your prayers have been answered. Not only did Kansas City get the bye week to rest up and get healthy, but they also managed to draw the AFC’s best possible opponent. Over the last decade, the Duval County Kittens have proved that they simply don’t have the firepower to hang with the Chiefs' offense. Even worse for them, the warm-weather Jaguars are heading directly into the frozen hell that is Arrowhead Stadium in January; the forecast is calling for freezing rain. Never mind that the game is on a Saturday. Goldilocks (aka Trevor Lawrence) has never won an NFL game in sub-40-degree temperatures. Lawrence threw four picks in the Wild Card round against zone coverage — and three of them came on third down or later. I predict the Chiefs will jump to an early lead, forcing the Jaguars into bad down-and-distances situations that force Lawrence to get risky with the ball — and the Chiefs then make him pay with a couple of turnovers.
Chiefs 31, Jaguars 13
Ricko Mendoza (@ricko_mendoza_)
Although Jacksonville’s 27-point comeback victory in last week’s Wild Card game against the Chargers was impressive (as well as hilarious for those of us who enjoy seeing Los Angeles find new ways to “charger” themselves), the Jaguars also revealed their weaknesses. Trevor Lawrence threw three interceptions in the first quarter as he struggled to deal with the pressure of the Chargers’ pass rush. This bodes well for a Chiefs’ defense that has five interceptions in its last five games — along with the fourth-most sacks of any team this season. Five of those came against Jacksonville in Week 10. With the way Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are nearly unbeatable coming off a bye, I expect the Chiefs’ offense to put up points early — and Kansas City’s defense to finish the job.
Chiefs 30, Jaguars 21
Stan Nelson (@chiefsfanstan)
Every year, it seems that the Wild Card weekend produces one or two teams that look like they can very easily beat the odds to go on a magical run all the way to the Super Bowl. Although this has actually happened a few times, what usually happens is that these Wild Card winners are greeted with harsh reality in the Divisional Round. Jacksonville is not to be taken lightly. There is a reason they made the playoffs and got this far. But if — and this is a huge if — the Chiefs play a clean game with no turnovers, few penalties and no special teams errors, Kansas City should win this one going away.
Chiefs 38, Jaguars 27
Tom Ruprecht (@truprecht)
A lot has been made of the fact that Trevor Lawrence has never lost on a Saturday. That’s very, very impressive — but he’s also never played a Saturday playoff game in the cold... in the rain... in Arrowhead Stadium. He ain’t gonna go up against Georgia Tech this Saturday. Still, I expect Lawrence will play great — but Patrick Mahomes will play better. I think Travis Kelce will find his way back into the end zone and Jerick McKinnon to add to his stellar season. And oh, yeah... and I think Chiefs fans will show Trevor just low loud a stadium can get.
Chiefs 35, Jaguars 27
Kramer Sansone (@KramerTalks)
In all the times this game has played out in my head, I haven’t seen see the Chiefs lose. Andy Reid is incredible when coming off a bye week — and the Chiefs’ potent offense should stay consistent against the Jaguars’ defense. This won’t be a blowout by any means — but it will be a game where the Chiefs have total control.
Chiefs 28, Jaguars 24
Jared Sapp (@TrumanChief)
As a streaky team, the Jaguars might be getting too much credit. After all, except for a late defensive touchdown against the Titans, they wouldn’t be in the playoffs. Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence may be getting too much credit for overcoming a 27-point deficit — and not enough questions about the team’s sloppy first-half performance that created the opportunity. This game will show a Kansas City team coming off of a bye versus an opponent that has spent two months emptying its playbook to get this far. Like in the first matchup, the Chiefs might not blow Jacksonville away — but I expect them to look in control for the entire game.
Chiefs 34, Jaguars 20
Nick Schwerdt (@nick_schwerdt)
The Jaguars deserve a ton of credit for how they’ve been playing the last two months. Lawrence has had his moments, the pass rush has ascended and the defense as a whole has had a knack for forcing timely turnovers. But it still feels like they’re still a year (or two) away from hanging with the AFC’s big dogs. I think their lack of consistency — the ability to tap into their A-game — will be what ends their season. The Chiefs are coming off a bye week. They’ve already seen first-hand what happens when you don’t put your foot on this team’s throat. Jacksonville is talented enough to keep this from getting out of hand, but the team just doesn’t have enough advantages over Kansas City to win.
Chiefs 30, Jaguars 21
Stephen Serda (@StephenSerda)
The Jaguars are one of the NFL’s most exciting young teams — and since the bye week, they’ve been playing lights out. I think the Chiefs are well aware of how Doug Pederson’s team is playing — so unlike Week 10, they won’t take it lightly. While Kansas City has a well-known track record of playing down to its competition, Jacksonville did more than enough to get the team’s attention the last time. I think the Chiefs' playoff experience — and their ability to “flip the switch” when they have to show up big will make the difference. But I still think Trevor and Doug will manage to keep it fairly close.
Chiefs 31, Jaguars 24
Matt Stagner (@stagdsp)
Let’s keep this simple. If the Chiefs don’t turn the ball over excessively — and if the defense tackles competently — they’ll win. The other cliché is that the best coach and quarterback combination will win. While the Jaguars have a good duo in Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are just better. Given that the Jaguars’ pass defense is one of their weaknesses — and Kansas City has the league’s No. 1 passing offense — this matchup is favorable in other ways, too. The Chiefs and Mahomes have the most experience, having seen and done everything in the postseason. The real season starts Saturday — and the Chiefs should take care of business.
Chiefs 35, Jaguars 24
Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_)
When it comes to Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs teams, I’m trusting the data. They have dominated Divisional Round games — especially on offense. Jacksonville deserves much respect — and the team is capable of winning — but it’s not ready for this stage just yet. The Chiefs will play some close, tight games this postseason. I just don’t expect this to be one of them. Chris Jones and George Karlaftis will each get their first career playoff sacks.
Chiefs 34, Jaguars 19
Pete Sweeney (@pgsween)
The Chiefs are at the part of their franchise’s timeline in which this piece of the year is the only one that matters. After 18 weeks, it’s finally do-or-die in Kansas City, and I would expect the Chiefs to come out of their bye week firing. More than gaining the ultimate advantage that is Andy Reid after the break, the Chiefs were able to use the time for players with bumps and bruises such as left guard Joe Thuney, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and wide receiver Skyy Moore to get closer to 100%. Meanwhile — for really, the sixth week in a row — the Jaguars were fighting for their lives. Their historic comeback against the rival Los Angeles Chargers should serve Reid and the Chiefs a necessary reminder to play all 60: pour it on and don’t blink. Playing free, with house money, Trevor Lawrence and Doug Pederson will push these Chiefs but the Cinderella story ends in KC... for now. I sense this is the very beginning of Jacksonville being a nuisance for the top teams of the AFC.
Chiefs 28, Jaguars 20
Dakota Watson (@dwatson_56)
I expect this to be the first of several postseason matchups between Mahomes and Lawrence. I think this is a well-coached Jaguars team that is on the rise — and could be another rival for the Chiefs over the next 5-10 years. (But Lawrence is going to have to learn not to say dumb things to the media about Arrowhead Stadium. That’s one sure way to fire up Kansas City fans). While Jacksonville is ascending, I think this is the end of the line for its season; the team just doesn’t have the firepower to keep up. Mahomes has been a man on a mission in 2022; I expect him to be surgically efficient. He remains undefeated in the Divisional Round while Lawrence picks up his first Saturday loss. This will also be the week in which the New York Giants regret they ever even thought about trading Kadarius Toney.
Chiefs 38, Jaguars 17
Which team wins Jaguars (10-8) at Chiefs (14-3)?
This poll is closed
Chiefs in a blowout (14 or more points)
Chiefs in an easy win (8-13 points)
Chiefs in a close game (7 or fewer points)
Jaguars in a close game
Jaguars in an easy win
Jaguars in a blowout
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Ties in the standings are broken with prediction points error — how much each prediction misses the actual point spread and the number of points scored by each team.
For the Chiefs-Raiders game, Caleb James and Stephen Serda led the AP staff with 35-17 and 34-17 predictions that each carried only eight points of error. Pete Sweeney’s call for a 37-17 final — just 12 points off — was right behind them.