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NFL Divisional Round: Strengths and weaknesses for every team

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) in action against the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

• Chiefs' strength lies in Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce: The veteran tight end generated a 118.7 passer rating over the regular season, fifth among the 36 players who saw at least 100 targets.

• The Eagles struggle against the run: The Philadelphia defense ranked just 23rd in the league in preventing runs of 10 or more yards during the regular season.

• It's déjà vu for the Cincinnati Bengals: Entering the divisional round, the highest-graded Bengals offensive lineman is center Ted Karras at 63.6. None of the other four expected starters has a PFF grade over 52.0.

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

The divisional round of the 2022 NFL playoffs is finally upon us, and while every team will want to be crowned champions, only one will be able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

Each squad has its own strengths and weaknesses. In a year with upsets aplenty and unexpected storylines throughout, there is no guarantee that any of the top teams will make it to the end. The Chiefs and Bills have weaknesses in the same way the Giants and Jaguars do. And if an opponent can find ways to exploit those weaknesses, we could find ourselves with a bevy of improbable upsets.

Here are the strengths and weaknesses of every team in the divisional round.

Kansas City Chiefs

Strength: Patrick Mahomes-Travis Kelce connection

There is no need to overcomplicate this one: the Chiefs will always have a chance to hoist the Lombardi as long as quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce are there.

Even though Mahomes lost multiple weapons last offseason — most notably wide receiver Tyreek Hill — Kelce's continued presence led to a season that will most likely end with Mahomes taking home the MVP Award for the second time.

The veteran tight end generated a 118.7 passer rating over the regular season, fifth among the 36 players who saw at least 100 targets. And after a down year in 2021, he was back to being the highest-graded tight end in the NFL at 91.1.

Highest passer ratings when targeted: All players with at least 100 targets over the 2022 regular season
Name TGT REC REC YDS REC TD Passer rating
Stefon Diggs 149 108 1,429 11 124.3
Jaylen Waddle 114 75 1,356 8 122.6
Tee Higgins 104 74 1,029 7 121.0
A.J. Brown 137 88 1,496 11 118.8
Travis Kelce 150 110 1,338 12 118.7
Weakness: Pressure off the edge

Chris Jones‘ dominance has been well documented — he tied with Dexter Lawrence for the highest PFF grade at his position, and his 92.2 pass-rush grade ranked third among all defenders.

However, Jones' outstanding performance covered up Kansas City’s inability to rush the passer from the edge. No Chiefs edge defender ranked in the top 50 in pass-rushing grade — Michael Danna actually led the group with a 67.5 pass-rush grade, 53rd among edge defenders — and Kansas City edge defenders combined to pick up pressure on just 19.7% of plays, 21st in the NFL and seventh among the eight teams playing in the divisional round.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Strength: Short passes

The Jaguars have utilized the short, quick passing game with great efficiency this season, finishing second in the NFL in expected points added (EPA) per pass play on throws that traveled between 1 and 9 yards down the field.

On these passes, quarterback Trevor Lawrence posted an 86.6% adjusted completion rate, second in the NFL. He threw just one interception on these throws for a 109.5 passer rating. These throws are also more a result of quick decisions than late checkdown passes, as Lawrence’s average time to throw of 2.51 seconds was the third-quickest mark among starters over the regular season.

Weakness: Reliability at the receiver position

The wide receivers played a key role in Jacksonville’s historic comeback win against the Los Angeles Chargers in the wild-card round, as they caught all 20 of their catchable targets during the contest.

However, they haven't always been that reliable. Wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones dropped eight passes each over the regular season, which tied for the third-most in the NFL. On top of that, Marvin Jones Jr. dropped six of his 52 catchable targets, resulting in a drop percentage of 11.5%, the worst rate among the 124 wide receivers who saw at least 50 targets over the season.

The Jaguars are just one of two teams with three wide receivers in the bottom 30 in drop percentage. Overall, Jacksonville’s wide receivers dropped 9.5% of catchable targets, by far the worst rate in the NFL.

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Philadelphia Eagles

Strength: Offensive line

This Eagles team has many strengths, but no unit is more dominant than this offensive line. With the return of right tackle Lane Johnson, there are no real weak links, and they rightfully finished the 2022 regular season as the No. 1 team on PFF's final 2022 offensive line rankings.

Second-year left guard Landon Dickerson has the lowest grade among this group at 67.3, but even that ranks 23rd out of 78 qualifying guards in the NFL.

The unit allowed pressure on 18.9% of pass-blocking snaps over the regular season, second in the NFL, while they gave up just 11 sacks, the fewest in the league.

In addition, the Eagles' average of 1.8 yards before contact per rush attempt ranked fifth in the NFL, partially due to the quarterback-run-heavy scheme, but the offensive line should also get credit.

Weakness: Run defense

It is not easy to find a weakness in this Philadelphia Eagles team. However, one thing that has been highlighted — but not necessarily tested, given that the team often leads — is their run defense.

The Eagles have generally struggled to stop big runs up the middle, which is why they acquired veteran interior defenders Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph during the season. But even with those additions and the return of rookie interior defender Jordan Davis, the Eagles ranked just 23rd in the league in preventing runs of 10 or more yards during the regular season.

New York Giants

Strength: Interior defensive line

Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence form arguably the best interior pass-rushing duo in the NFL. The two have been unstoppable this year.

Lawrence has garnered most of the spotlight, and rightly so. While he failed to record a sack against the Minnesota Vikings in the wild-card round, he got close on multiple occasions, and his five quarterback hits were the most by an interior defender in a playoff game over the last seven seasons.

And that performance wasn't an anomaly, as he led all interior defenders in PFF grade during the regular season. Only Kansas City's Chris Jones produced more quarterback pressures than Lawrence's 63.

And then there's Williams, whose 77.0 grade ranked 14th at the position, making the Giants the only team to feature two top-15 interior defenders.

A lot has been made of Lawrence’s eight total pressures against the Vikings, but Williams also picked up seven pressures, tied for the fifth most by an interior defender in a playoff game over the last seven seasons.

Weakness: Linebackers

It is telling that neither of New York’s starting linebackers was on the team at the start of the season. Jaylon Smith was signed off the street in late September, while Jarrad Davis was signed less than a month ago from the Detroit Lions practice squad and got the start over rookie Micah McFadden against the Vikings last weekend.

Over the regular season, McFadden ranked 79th out of 84 qualifying linebackers in PFF grade, while Smith ranked 62nd. Davis’ grade would be good for 50th had he played enough snaps.

The lack of quality depth at the position has contributed to the Giants' struggles against explosive runs — New York allowed a run of more than 10 yards on 18.2% of the run plays it faced during the regular season, the worst mark in the NFL.

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