Trevor Lawrence is certain the Jacksonville Jaguars are at the beginning of their journey rather than the end after their 27-20 Divisional Round defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Jaguars put up a fight at Arrowhead Stadium, pulling the deficit back to just three points at 20-17 in the fourth quarter before Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs added another touchdown and closed out the win.

Lawrence completed 24 of his 39 pass attempts for a total of 217 yards, with one touchdown to show for it, as well as rushing three times for 26 yards.

"We worked so hard to get here," the quarterback said following Saturday's loss. "Nobody thought we were going to be here and we had our shot and that's what hurts.

"We'll be back. I'm confident in that. This is more the beginning than it is the end of something.

"This is just getting started for us. We got a taste of it and guys are already hungry to get this opportunity again."

Jacksonville reached the playoffs for the first time since 2017, and did so by securing just the second AFC South title in franchise history.

"I think this year obviously was huge for this organisation, for our city, for just our franchise moving forward," Lawrence added. "That kind of sets the bar of who we're going to be and what we're going to do moving forward and that's the mindset and we won't settle for less than that. We got a taste of it being here but there's more left and we all feel that.

"It's going to make us better. This won't be the last you guys hear of us. We'll be back."

Head coach Doug Pederson echoed his quarterback's words, and credited the Jaguars for making Lawrence the number one pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

"I think it's everything," Pederson said about having a franchise QB. "I've said this before that the success of your football team lies with your quarterback and you've got to get that piece and that player right and I feel that Jacksonville got that person right. And he's just going to get better.

"We're all hurting because of the loss, but we're all hurting too because this is the final game of this year and that's the hard thing. But, like I told the guys, these are the games we're going to learn from and we're going to be better because of.

"I told them, 'Just plan on every year of us being in these meaningful games at the end of the season.' We want to be one of the four, five, six teams in the AFC every year."

Patrick Mahomes vowed he will fit to play in the Kansas City Chiefs' AFC Championship Game despite picking up an ankle injury in Saturday's 27-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Mahomes sat out the second quarter when he headed down into the locker room and was listed as questionable due to an injury suffered at the end of the first, but returned heavily strapped up as the Chiefs claimed a place in the AFC Championship Game for the fifth straight season.

The MVP candidate revealed after the game that he had undergone X-rays in the locker room in the second quarter that cleared him to return, offering him confidence he will be available next weekend too.

"The X-rays were negative," Mahomes told NBC. "They haven’t diagnosed anything yet. But I'll be good to go [for the AFC Championship Game]."

"I did not want to go [to the locker room]. They gave me the ultimatum that I wasn’t going back in, unless I went in there. They were trying to take care of me, we've got a lot of great people over here. But it will take a lot to keep me out of the football game."

The Chiefs will face either the Buffalo Bills or the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game, with those two sides to do battle on Sunday. If the Bills win, the game will be played in neutral Atlanta, while a Bengals victory will make the host Kansas City.

Mahomes soldiered on in the second half against the Jags, improving his Divisional Round record to 5-0, finishing the game with 22-of-30 passing for 195 yards with two touchdowns.

The quarterback threw a jump TD pass for Marquez Valdes-Scantling to open up a 10-point fourth-quarter lead after the Jags had rallied back to 20-17.

"It's a credit to the guys around me," Mahomes said. "The offensive line kept me clean in the pocket knowing I couldn’t move. The guys made plays around me.

"That's what a great team does, when somebody gets a little banged up, everybody else steps up."

Chiefs wide receiver Travis Kelce, who had 14 catches for 98 yards with two touchdowns, said he feared the worst when Mahomes went down.

"You don’t want to go down the train of thinking the worst but you automatically do," he said. "He's our fearless leader, we goes, he goes. Even when he had to step out, he was still on that sideline making sure we're still good."

Mahomes and Andy Reid are now joint second for most consecutive Conference Championship Game appearances by a quarterback-head coach duo with five, alongside Ken Stabler and John Madden. New England's Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have the most with eight from 2011 to 2018.

Patrick Mahomes battled through an ankle injury to help the Kansas City Chiefs overcome the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Round.

Mahomes sat out the second quarter due to an injury suffered at the end of the first, but returned heavily strapped up as the Chiefs claimed a place in the AFC Championship Game with a 27-20 victory at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday.

The MVP favourite was ultimately crucial – his pass through to Marquez Valdes-Scantling restoring Kansas City's 10-point lead after Travis Etienne Jr had hauled the Jaguars to within touching distance in the final quarter.

Mahomes' speed and agility was too good for the Jacksonville defense early on, allowing Travis Kelce to go through.

Trevor Lawrence had his say with a 10-yard pass for Christian Kirk to level the scores at 7-7, when Mahomes suffered an apparent twist to his right ankle.

After attempting to return only to throw the ball to the ground for a field goal that was converted by Harrison Butker, Mahomes begrudgingly headed to the locker room and was listed as questionable.

He returned to the sideline to watch backup Chad Henne, a former Jaguars QB, send the brilliant Kelce over for his second touchdown.

Andy Reid gambled on Mahomes' fitness for the second half, and even though he was not moving freely, the 27-year-old soon scrambled for a first down.

A simple Mahomes pass to the open Kelce paved the way for Butker to drill over his second 50-yard field goal and nose the Chiefs further ahead, though Eitenne Jr's four-yard rush teed up a grandstand finale.

This was Mahomes' day, though, and he became the 11th player in NFL history with 30 or more passing TDs in the playoffs when he picked out Valdes-Scantling, with some superb defense, including a stunning interception from Jaylen Watson, getting the Super Bowl LIV champions into a fifth successive Conference Championship game, where they will meet the Cincinnati Bengals or the Buffalo Bills.

Riley Patterson's late punt made little difference as Chiefs coach Andy Reid reached 20 career postseason wins, moving level with Tom Landry. Only Bill Belichick has more (31).

Patrick Mahomes suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter of the Divisional Round clash between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

MVP-favourite Mahomes suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury during the first quarter of Saturday's game, in a potentially huge blow to Kansas City.

The quarterback returned to the field with heavy strapping around his ankle, though it was clear he was struggling as he hobbled forward before throwing the ball to the ground, paving the way for Harrison Butker to kick a 50-yard field goal to edge the Chiefs into a three-point lead.

Mahomes seemed to be debating whether he could continue with head coach Andy Reid, before he eventually headed down to the locker room.

The 27-year-old did not look happy with the decision, as veteran back-up Chad Henne, a former Jaguars QB, came on in his place.

Henne's first task was to get the ball out of the Chiefs' own end zone, though he managed to do so as Mahomes returned to watch on from the sideline with his status uncertain.

Mahomes was able to watch his team extend their lead after Isiah Pacheco's brilliant drive set the stage for Henne to find Travis Kelce, who went over for his second touchdown of the game.

The New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs are the among the five teams set to host matches in London and Germany as part of the NFL's 2023 International Games.

The Buffalo Bills, the Tennessee Titans, and the Jacksonville Jaguars complete the quintet heading to Europe as designated home teams during the 2023 season.

London's Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will welcome the Bills and the Titans, while the Jaguars return to their home away from home at Wembley Stadium as part of their multi-year commitment to playing in the UK.

The 2023 season will mark a landmark 10th appearance for Jacksonville in London, while the Bills (2015) and Titans (2018) will make their second appearance in the city.

Two games will also take place in Germany, with the Chiefs and the Patriots set to feature, though venues are yet to be confirmed.

The NFL previously announced that Munich, which hosted the clash between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks in 2022, and Frankfurt will stage games in Germany over the next four years.

Details on the dates, opponents and kick-off times will be announced later in the year when the full schedule for the 2023 NFL season is announced.

The NFL announced that Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host a potential AFC Championship Game between the number two seed Buffalo Bills and the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs.

In a statement released on Thursday, the NFL confirmed that the game would be played on Sunday January 29, with Atlanta only used as the venue if those two sides are matched up.

That came following the cancellation of the Week 17 game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals after Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in the first quarter and went into cardiac arrest.

The NFL had already confirmed that in the event of a Bills-Chiefs' AFC Championship Game matchup that the contest would be played at a neutral site, given both sides played an unequal number of regular season games due to the Bills-Bengals' cancellation.

The Bills are due to host the seventh-seed Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Highmark Stadium in the Wild Card round, while the Chiefs have a bye and will face the lowest AFC seed remaining in the Divisional round.

"We are heartened by the continued improvement and progress of Damar Hamlin in his recovery, and Damar and his family remain top of mind for the entire NFL community," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in the statement.

"We are also grateful to Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons for agreeing to host the AFC Championship Game in Atlanta should the Bills and Chiefs advance. We thank both of those clubs for their assistance in the planning process."

Mercedes-Benz Stadium was opened in 2017 and has an American Football capacity of 71,000.

Head coach Andy Reid says the Kansas City Chiefs will enjoy a much-needed break after clinching the AFC's No.1 seed with their 31-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Reid secured the top seed for the sixth time as an NFL head coach, with the Chiefs beginning their postseason campaign with a divisional round game in a fortnight at Arrowhead Stadium.

There is uncertainty after that should the Chiefs progress to the AFC Championship Game which may be played at a neutral venue following the NFL's decision on the cancelled Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game.

For now, Reid was delighted for his side to earn a break for the first time since their Week 8 bye as they aim for a second Super Bowl title in four seasons.

"I think it's a good thing," Reid told reporters about earning the top seed. "You've still got to take care of business. Our guys understand that.

"We'll give them a few days off next week and get them back in towards the end of the week and get some practice in there and start the regular week after that.

"Just take a step back and get yourself where you feel stronger and healthier, mentally and physically it's a good thing."

Reid was delighted with a strong display against the Raiders in a game where they were always in control, as Patrick Mahomes set the tone on the second play from scrimmage, a 67-yard completion to Justin Watson.

"We needed that," Reid said. "We really hadn't put it all together. I thought this was a good time - if I had to pick a time to do it, this was a good time to do it.

"We strive for it every week, but it seemed like it all kind of came together today, which is a plus."

MVP candidate Mahomes ended his regular-season with 5,614 total yards when he was removed in the final minutes, with 41 passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns.

"It's important," Mahomes said about earning the top seed. "Getting that bye, it's like winning a playoff game.

"Now we need to focus on watching tomorrow and this next week and seeing who we play and come up with our best football."

The Kansas City Chiefs clinched the number one seed in the AFC playoffs as Patrick Mahomes made history in an easy 31-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.

With Monday's game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals cancelled following the cardiac arrest suffered by Bills safety Damar Hamlin, the Chiefs knew they could clinch the top seed with a victory in Las Vegas.

Mahomes set the tone on the second play from scrimmage, a 67-yard completion to Justin Watson, which was soon followed by a two-yard toss to Jerick McKinnon after some vintage play outside the pocket from the Chiefs quarterback.

The Chiefs were ruthless in taking advantage of a Jarrett Stidham interception as Mahomes led a three-play drive capped by a two-yard touchdown plunge from Ronald Jones III.

A second-quarter red-zone stand from the Kansas City defense seemed to sap the energy out of home crowd that struggled to outnumber the Chiefs fans in attendance at Allegiant Stadium.

The Chiefs' superiority was summed up on the subsequent 12-play drive from Kansas City when the visitors scored a touchdown on a trick play to Kadarius Toney after they broke the huddle bouncing around in a circle in unison. That score was called back by penalty, only for the Chiefs to hand the ball to Toney for an 11-yard touchdown on the next play.

From there, it was over as a contest, with Isiah Pacheco's fourth-quarter rushing touchdown adding gloss to the scoreline and Mahomes ending his regular-season with 5,614 total yards when he was removed in the final minutes.

Kansas City will get the week off while the rest of the AFC playoff teams contest the Wild Card round and will have home advantage throughout the road to the Super Bowl unless the Bills beat the New England Patriots on Sunday and go on to face the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

In that scenario, the game that will decide the AFC representative in the Super Bowl will be played at a neutral site as part of changes approved by NFL owners following the cancellation of the Bills-Bengals game.

The NFL's one-season rule change could have complicating factors for the Kansas City Chiefs further down the line, but their task for Week 18 is simple: beat the Las Vegas Raiders and earn a bye to the divisional round.

With the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals – both rivals for the first seed in the AFC – to finish the year having played only 16 games, neither will be able to catch the Chiefs should they defeat the Raiders.

That will not necessarily mean an AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium, with a neutral venue potentially coming into play, but it does assure them of a week off and a favourable route through the postseason.

Fans in Buffalo and Cincinnati could reasonably be frustrated, and their hopes of the Chiefs being halted rest with an unlikely Raiders victory.

The Chiefs are 9-1 in their past 10 games against the Raiders, and their most recent nine meetings – including a high-scoring defeat in 2020 – have seen Kansas City score at least 28 points.

Only the Los Angeles Rams against the Green Bay Packers, between 1949 and 1953, have ever scored 28 or more points in 10 straight encounters.

Even in Las Vegas, there is little reason to believe that sequence will end this week, given the Chiefs' dominant road form this year.

They have scored 264 points across eight games away from Arrowhead, meaning the Chiefs will have scored the third-most road points in a season in NFL history if they hit their average of 33.0 again.

MVP frontrunner Patrick Mahomes loves playing the Raiders, too, having thrown more touchdowns in this matchup (26) than in any other.

In 2022, he has passed 5,000 passing yards (5,048) and 250 rushing yards (329) in a season for the second time in his career; only two other quarterbacks in NFL history have ever enjoyed one such campaign (Jameis Winston in 2019 and Justin Herbert in 2021).

Yet the Raiders improbably have their own in-form QB, with former New England Patriots backup Jarrett Stidham last week impressing in his first career start.

Stidham threw for 365 yards and three TDs against the San Francisco 49ers, joining Mike White last season as the second QB in the Super Bowl era to mark his first start with 350 passing yards and three passing TDs.

Repeating that performance against the highly motivated Chiefs is a tough ask, though.

NFL owners voted on Friday to approve a possible change to this year’s playoff format, allowing for a neutral-site AFC championship game if the participants were affected by Monday's cancelled game betweeen the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.

The ruling comes a day after the proposed changes were approved by the league's competition committee.

Monday's game between the Bills and Bengals was suspended after Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field and needed to be resuscitated, shocking the sporting world and leaving the NFL with questions about how to proceed.

On Thursday, the NFL said it would not finish the game and officially ruled it as a no contest, leaving the Bills and Bengals – both AFC contenders – with one fewer game played than the rest of the league.

If Cincinnati or Buffalo qualify for the AFC Championship game as the road team and could have been the home team with one more win, this new provision would move the game to a neutral site.

The rule also allows for a coin flip to decide the host of a potential Wild Card round game between the Bengals (11-4) and Baltimore Ravens (10-6) if the Ravens win the matchup between the teams in the regular-season finale on Sunday.

The new procedures are not without controversy and have already received some criticism from fans of the Kansas City Chiefs (13-3), who can secure the AFC's top seed and first-round bye with a Week 18 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. There are scenarios, however, in which the Chiefs would lose the right to host an AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium against the Bills (12-3).

The league's policy manual says that "a team's standing in its division or in its conference” is to be decided by winning percentage in the case of a disparity in games played, but the league deemed Monday's cancellation extraordinary enough to warrant a new ruling.

It is the first time since 1935 that NFL teams will have played different numbers of games in a season, leaving no modern precedent on which the league could lean.

While the NFL has been tweaking its playoff format, Hamlin has gradually made progress during his four days at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Hamlin, whose heart was re-started twice Monday, is now able to breathe on his own and had his breathing tube removed overnight. The 24-year-old even joined his team-mates briefly on a video call Friday with a simple message: “Love you boys.”

In a Friday statement, the Bills said Hamlin's "neurologic function remains intact and he has been able to talk to his family and care team."

The NFL has confirmed the suspended Cincinnati Bengals-Buffalo Bills' Week 17 game will not resume, with teams to consider a neutral side for the AFC Championship game.

The Bengals-Bills game was suspended after Damar Hamlin collapsed during the first quarter due to a cardiac arrest. Hamlin was resuscitated on the field, then rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he has remained in intensive care, but encouragingly has made "substantial progress" in the past 24 hours.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell explained the decision had "no perfect solution", which comes ahead of the final regular season round of fixtures with significant playoff implications, and was based on three key factors.

Goodell stressed that the game's cancellation would not impact any team's qualification or elimination from the postseason, while he was eager to have the playoff scenario clarified for all sides ahead of Week 18. He added that delaying the playoffs one week to play the game was unfair on all other clubs, which guided their decision-making.

The statement revealed that NFL team owners will attend a Special League Meeting on Friday to consider a resolution recommended by the Competition Committee to have the AFC Championship game played at a neutral site if the participating teams could both have mathematically been the No.1 seed if they had played an equal number of games.

That decision affects the Bills (12-3) and Bengals (11-4) along with the Kansas City Chiefs (13-3). The NFL stated three scenarios whereby the AFC Championship game being played on a neutral site would come into effect.

- If Buffalo and Kansas City both win or tie, a Bills-Chiefs championship game will be at a neutral site.

- If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Baltimore wins or ties, a Bills-Chiefs championship game will be at a neutral site.

- If Buffalo and Kansas City both lose and Cincinnati wins, a Bills or Bengals v Chiefs championship game will be at a neutral site.

The Baltimore Ravens (10-6) may also be impacted if they win against the Bengals in Week 18, leading to a match-up in an AFC Wild Card game, with the site to be determined by coin flip.

"As we considered the football schedule, our principles have been to limit disruption across the league and minimise competitive inequities," Goodell said in the statement.

He added: "This has been a very difficult week. We continue to focus on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family from across the country.

"We are also incredibly appreciative of the amazing work of the medical personnel and commend each and every one of them."

The NFL has been in shock this week, following the terrible scenes in Monday's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills.

Damar Hamlin's cardiac arrest on the field has sent shockwaves through the sport, though it appears the 24-year-old is making progress in his recovery.

While Hamlin's health remains the league's priority over the rescheduling of that game from Week 17, there is also focus on the final round of fixtures.

There's plenty still be decided in Week 18, and Stats Perform has used Opta data to preview some of the key matchups.

SATURDAY (all times EST)

Chiefs (13-3) at Raiders (6-10) - 4:30pm

With the Bills and the Bengals having yet to finish the game that was rightly suspended on Monday, the AFC picture is not entirely clear. As things stand, a Kansas City Chiefs win in Las Vegas would mean they remain in with a chance of claiming the top seed, pending a decision on the Bengals-Bills game and the outcome of Buffalo's Week 18 clash against the New England Patriots.

The Chiefs have scored 28 or more points in nine consecutive games against the Raiders. The only longer streak of such games against a single opponent in NFL history is 10 by the Los Angeles Rams against the Green Bay Packers, and that came way back in 1949 to 1953. 

Jerick McKinnon caught two touchdowns in Kansas City's 27-24 win over the Denver Broncos and has seven touchdown catches in the Chiefs' last five games. That is the most receiving touchdowns by a running back over a span of five team games in the Super Bowl era. 

The Chiefs have scored 264 points on the road this season, averaging 33.0 points per game. If they hit their average on Saturday, they will finish with the third-most road points in a single season in NFL history, behind only the 2007 New England Patriots (314) and their own effort in 2018 (306).

Patrick Mahomes has 5,000 passing yards (5,048) and 250 rushing yards (329) in a single season for the second time in his career, also doing so in 2018.

Titans (7-9) at Jaguars (8-8) - 8:15pm

It will be winner-take-all in the AFC South when the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans face off. The victor will clinch the division and become the fourth seed in the playoffs. While Jacksonville would still be able to make the postseason via a wild card should they lose, Tennessee must win if they are to avoid elimination.

The Jaguars are looking to sweep the season series with the Titans for the first time since 2005. The only other NFL teams that have gone that long since they last swept a current divisional opponent are the Cleveland Browns, who last swept the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1988, and New York Jets, who last swept the Patriots in 2000 (the Browns also have a chance to end their drought this week).

Jacksonville could become the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs immediately following back-to-back 14-loss seasons.

Meanwhile, the Titans are looking to avoid joining the 1994 Eagles as the only teams in league history to have at least seven wins before ending the season on a seven-game game losing streak.

SUNDAY

Giants (9-6-1) at Eagles (13-3) - 4:25pm

The Philadelphia Eagles have been the team to beat in the NFC all season, yet after successive defeats in the absence of Jalen Hurts, they now need a win to clinch the top seed.

Should they lose to the New York Giants, both the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers will have to suffer defeats in order for the Eagles to be guaranteed home advantage in the playoffs.

The omens are good for the Eagles, who have won eight straight home games against the Giants, tied for the second-longest home win streak against a single opponent in team history. It trails only their active 10-game home win streak against the Steelers that started in 1966. 

A win against the Eagles would give the Giants 10 wins after having just four last season. It would be the first time New York earned double-digit wins in a season after having four or fewer wins since doing so in 1933 (11 wins after a 4-6 record in 1932).

Lions (8-8) @ Packers (8-8) - 8.20pm

Given the NFC East will get two of the conference's three wild cards, matters are relatively simple for the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. A Packers victory sends them through to the playoffs, while Detroit need to win and hope the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Seattle Seahawks.

The Packers are coming off a 41-17 win over the Vikings in which they had four takeaways and no giveaways. Green Bay are now 50-0-1 in the Super Bowl era (including playoffs) with a turnover margin of +4 or better in a game.

Green Bay's record at home against the Lions is 61-27-4, the most home wins by any team against a single opponent.

With another win, Aaron Rodgers would be the first QB in NFL history to have two seasons where his team was multiple games under .500 immediately before going on a five-or-greater game winning streak to end the regular season. 

But the Lions have scored at least 20 points while throwing no interceptions in eight straight games, tied for the longest streak in NFL history (regular season) with the 2005 Broncos, 2010 Patriots and 2018-19 Ravens.

Elsewhere...

New England will clinch a playoff spot should they defeat the Bills, who are of course recovering from that incident involving Hamlin. The Bills have won their last two games against the Patriots and are looking for three straight wins in the series for the first time since 1999-2000.

The Miami Dolphins have lost five in a row but can make the playoffs should they beat the Jets. The matchup is perfectly balanced all-time at 56 wins apiece with one tie entering this game. 

A run of five wins from six games has put the Steelers in playoff contention. They will have to beat the Browns and need results elsewhere go their way. Cleveland won against the Steelers in Week 3 this season. The Browns have not won multiple games against Pittsburgh in a season since the 1988 season.

The 49ers can still claim the top seed in the NFC by beating the Arizona Cardinals. San Francisco beat Las Vegas in Week 17, 37-34, despite trailing by 10 points in the third quarter. It was the Niners' second-largest comeback victory in the second half under Kyle Shanahan.

It has been a terrible season for the Rams (5-11), but they are 7-3 in their last 10 games against Seattle. The Seahawks got a 27-23 win in Inglewood in Week 13, the closest game between these teams since a 30-29 Seahawks win in Week 5, 2019. 

Patrick Mahomes added yet more achievements to his sparkling resume in the Kansas City Chiefs' narrow Week 17 win over the Denver Broncos.

The Chiefs were made to work much harder than expected for their 27-24 victory against a Broncos team playing their first game since firing head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

Mahomes threw for 328 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in helping the Chiefs come through a surprisingly tough test and improve to 13-3.

Those numbers took him to 5,000 passing yards and 40 passing touchdowns for the 2022 season, marking the second time he has surpassed those milestones in a single campaign.

He joined Tom Brady and Drew Brees as the third quarterback with multiple seasons with 5,000 or more passing yards, while only he and Brees have more than one season with 5,000 yards and 40-plus touchdowns.

Now on 5,048 passing yards, he will likely surpass the career-high total of 5,097 he set in 2018 when he won the MVP award in the regular-season finale against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, in which the Chiefs could secure the number one seed for the AFC playoffs.

It would take a remarkable game, though, for Mahomes to better his career-high mark of 50 passing touchdowns, also set in 2018.

While the focus is on the Chiefs regaining a Lombardi Trophy they last won in the 2019 season, Mahomes understands the magnitude of his individual records.

"I mean, obviously it's really cool if you look at the names that are on that list," Mahomes said. 

"You're talking about the all-time greats with Drew Brees and Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, so just to be a part of the list that has those names on there, it's a special accomplishment.

"And I'm glad I have the people around me and the coaches around me to be able to do it."

A host of teams can start 2023 on a high note by clinching an NFL playoff place in an eagerly awaited Week 17.

There are also divisional titles to be won on New Year's Day, with Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers within touching distance of winning the NFC South ahead of a clash against the Carolina Panthers.

The Seattle Seahawks and the New York Jets lock horns scenting a spot in the postseason, while the Miami Dolphins could seal a playoff berth when they do battle with the New England Patriots.

Here Stats Perform used its data to preview the biggest games with plenty at stake at the beginning of a new year.


SUNDAY (all times EST)

Panthers (6-9) at Buccaneers (7-8) 1pm

The Buccaneers can clinch the NFC South title for a second straight season if they beat the Panthers, a feat they have never previously achieved.

After a 21-3 win in Week 7, the Panthers are going for the season sweep of the Buccaneers for the first time since 2017. That was also the last season they made the playoffs.

Tampa Bay beat the Arizona Cardinals 19-16 in their final game of 2022. The Buccaneers have scored 21 or fewer points in all seven of their wins this season. 

Carolina overcame the Detroit Lions 37-23 in Week 16 behind 320 yards rushing and 250 yards passing. They were the first NFL team with 300 rush yards and 250 pass yards in a game since the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12, 2012.

Jets (7-8) at Seahawks (7-8) 4.05pm

The Seahawks have dominated the Jets in recent years, winning all four games against them since 2005 and conceding only 30 points in the process. That is just 7.5 points per game, which is the fewest allowed by any NFL team against a single opponent over that time.

Pete Carroll is in his 17th season as an NFL head coach and has never missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The Seattle boss is the only head coach in NFL history to coach at least 15 seasons in the league and never have consecutive seasons in which he did not lead his team to the playoffs.

DK Metcalf has had at least five receptions in eight straight games, tied with John L. Williams (1989-90) and Brian Blades (1995) for the longest streak in Seahawks franchise history.

The Jets are allowing 10.8 fewer points per game than they did last season (29.6 to 18.8), on pace to be the second-largest season-to-season improvement in the NFL in the past 40 years behind the 2000-01 Rams (29.4 to 17.1, -12.3). 

Dolphins (8-7) @ Patriots (7-8) - 1pm

New England are due a win over the Dolphins, who have beaten them in four consecutive games - the last of which was a 20-7 success in Week 1.

Miami are the only team to beat the Patriots four times in a row since Bill Belichick took over as head coach of the Patriots in 2000. With a loss this week, Miami would join Tennessee as the only teams this season with a winning streak of at least five games and a losing streak of at least five games.

Tua Tagovailoa posted a career-high 12.4 yards per pass attempt in last week's loss to the Green Bay Packers. It was the highest yards-per-attempt in a loss by a starting Dolphins quarterback in team history. He misses out this week due to concussion, though, so Teddy Bridgewater steps in.

New England’s comeback bid fell short in a 22-18 loss to the Bengals last week. The Patriots have lost nine straight games when trailing after three quarters, with only the Panthers (41 straight losses) and Seahawks (13 straight) having longer active streaks.

MONDAY

Bills (12-3) @ Bengals (11-4) - 8.30pm

The Bills know they will get a first-round bye in the playoffs if they see off the Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Denver Broncos. Following Cincinnati's win over the Bills in the 1988 AFC Championship Game, the Bills won 10 straight in this series. Since then, Cincinnati are 4-2 against Buffalo, with the most recent meeting resulting in a 21-17 Buffalo win in Week 3, 2019.

The Bills beat the Bears 35-13 in Chicago last week, extending their winning run to six games. Buffalo have scored at least 20 points in each of those wins – they have just two longer streaks of wins with 20+ points – a nine-game streak in 1964 and a seven-game streak in 1990.

The Bengals' road win over the Patriots extended their winning streak to seven games, one shy of tying the franchise record of eight – achieved in the first eight games of the 2015 season (also an eight-game streak spanning the 1970 and 1971 seasons).

Joe Burrow had 375 passing yards last week, his second-highest total of the season. It was his seventh career game with at least 350 passing yards, fourth most in the NFL since 2020 behind Tom Brady (13), Patrick Mahomes (12) and Josh Allen (9). 

Elsewhere...

The Denver Broncos start life after Nathaniel Hackett with a tough trip to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in their first game since the head coach's firing. The Chiefs have won 14 straight games against the Broncos dating back to the 2015 season. Just five teams in NFL history have beaten another team 15 times in a row, with the last team to do so being the Patriots against the Bills from 2003 to 2010.  

The Philadelphia Eagles host the New Orleans Saints knowing they can clinch the NFC East and the number one seed in their conference with a win.

The Eagles are 11-3 (.786) all-time at home against the Saints, which includes an active three-game winning streak. That is the Eagles' third-best home record against any opponent all-time (3-0 versus the Texans and 6-1 versus the Broncos). 

A playoff place is in the New York Giants' sights as they prepare to take on the Indianapolis Colts. 

The Colts have won four straight games against the Giants, with the most recent win coming in Week 16 of 2018 with a 28-27 home victory.

There appears to be no stopping the San Francisco 49ers, who can win a ninth game in a row when they take on the Las Vegas Raiders. The 49ers are the only NFL team in the Super Bowl era to win eight straight games in a single season while holding their opponents to fewer than 80 rushing yards in each victory.

For most fantasy leagues, Week 17 brings the end of the campaign.

The number of players traditionally held out of action to protect against injury in the raft of games with no playoff implications in Week 18 means it is too risky to hold fantasy championships on the final week of the regular season.

Hence, most fantasy title games will take place this week, and those involved may spend the days prior to the upcoming kick-offs agonising over which players to put in their line-up.

Often players who appeared unlikely fantasy stars at the start of the year emerge as league winners, and here Stats Perform picks out four such players and a defense whose contributions could decide the destination of fantasy titles. 

Quarterback: Justin Fields, Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions

The dynamism Fields brings as a runner always gave him potential fantasy upside and he has harnessed that spectacularly in 2022. Fields had been a top-10 fantasy quarterback every week since Week 6 before he was held in check by the Buffalo Bills last Saturday.

While the Lions are in the mix for a playoff spot, their defense, which gave up an astonishing 320 rushing yards to the Carolina Panthers last week, is not well-equipped to slow down Fields, who should be expected to bounce back and deliver a championship-game tilting display.

Running Back: Brian Robinson Jr, Washington Commanders vs. Cleveland Browns

Robinson was frustrated by the San Francisco 49ers' outstanding defense last time out, but he is unlikely to meet much resistance from a Cleveland defense that is allowing the seventh-most yards per rush (4.87) in the NFL.

Between Weeks 12 and 15, only Miles Sanders (5.98) averaged more yards per carry than Robinson (5.69) among running backs. He hit a large speed bump in the Bay Area but, back in the friendly confines of FedEx Field against an opponent already eliminated from playoff contention, Robinson is in a good position to get back on track in a must-win game for the Commanders.

Wide Receiver: Garrett Wilson, New York Jets @ Seattle Seahawks

Wilson's production was submarined by the struggles of namesake Zach Wilson against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.

In a game the Jets cannot afford to lose, they will have Mike White back at quarterback in Seattle, setting Wilson up for a bounce-back game against an opposing defense that is very amenable to passing attacks.

Since Week 12, Wilson has racked up 24 receptions for a first down, tied for the third-most in the NFL. The Seahawks have allowed the seventh-most passing plays of at least 20 yards (49) and, despite possessing some talented rookie cornerbacks, do not have the means to stop White and Wilson rekindling their rapport.

Tight End: Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans

Engram received one of the more modest deals during the Jaguars' free agency splurge, but his signing has paid dividends over the last three games, in which only two players – Justin Jefferson and A.J. Brown – can claim to have tallied more receiving yards than his 337.

The Texans are playing hard down the stretch and claimed only their second win of the season in Tennessee last weekend, but their defense is still the 10th-worst by yards per pass play allowed. Look for Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence to take advantage with an aerial attack that will heavily involve Engram.

Defense/Special Teams: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

Despite being very inexperienced in the secondary, the Chiefs' defense sits an impressive 11th in the NFL by yards per play and, as Kansas City look to keep pace with the Buffalo Bills in the race for the one seed in the AFC, gets a favourable matchup with Denver's dismal offense.

The Broncos' 33.9 per cent Success Rate on offensive plays is the worst in the NFL and a Chiefs defense that has forced the third-most negative plays (103) in the league should relish going against Denver's beleaguered attack.

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