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Monday, February 6, 2023

Overreactions, reality checks for NFL divisional round: Cowboys move on from Dak Prescott? Bengals save NFL?

An exciting weekend of divisional playoff football has come to a close, with the Philadelphia Eagles squaring off against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game. 

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The NFL has the two best teams in the NFC all season long for the right to go to the Super Bowl and a rematch of last year’s AFC title game between two of the conference’s best quarterbacks as a nightcap. Next Sunday will be the NFL at its finest. 

Before we look too far ahead to the matchups, the divisional round provided plenty of overreactions that need to be addressed this week. Which ones are overreactions and which are reality checks? 

The Bengals saved conference championship weekend

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Let’s be honest. The NFL was salivating at the prospect of a neutral-site championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Having 50,000 sold tickets for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta full of Chiefs and Bills fans could have set the stage for future neutral-site conference championship games, which would have happened if the Bills beat the Bengals.

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The NFL will never get the beta test they wanted, thanks to Cincinnati trouncing Buffalo in Orchard Park. If the NFL ever goes to neutral-site conference championship games, the league will have no visual evidence of an actual game to make it happen.

Thank the Bengals for making that a reality. The world will never know what a neutral-site championship game will look like. 

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

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Prescott wasn’t good in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, completing 23 of 37 passes for 206 yards with one touchdown to two interceptions (63.6 rating). This was just another poor divisional round performance from Prescott, who still has yet to lead the Cowboys to a conference championship game.

This performance can’t be all on Prescott, as the Cowboys had just 76 rushing yards and 3.5 yards per carry. Once Dallas lost Tony Pollard with a high ankle sprain, the offense scored just six points on six second half possessions along with 146 yards on 33 plays (4.4 yards per play). 

Prescott wasn’t great in the second half either, going 11 of 21 for 125 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions (70.5 rating). He didn’t do anything to will the Cowboys to victory in the playoffs, not what Dallas is paying him $40 million a year for.

At the end of the day, the Cowboys will be stuck with Prescott’s contract. Prescott still gives them their best chance to win, as owner/general manager Jerry Jones will try to tinker the salary-inflated roster or find a new coach to get the most out of Prescott (although Jones says McCarthy’s job is safe). 

The end result may just be the same anyway. 

Brock Purdy will struggle against Eagles pass rush 

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Purdy was not great when facing pressure in Sunday’s win, going just 3 of 11 for 24 yards with a 39.6 passer rating. When Purdy was blitzed, he finished 3 of 6 for 38 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions and a 70.1 passer rating. 

The Cowboys were able to get pressure on Purdy throughout the game, despite only having two sacks and four quarterback hits. That was enough to rattle Purdy and get him off his spot, limiting the 49ers offense to just 19 points (averaged 34.8 points per game in the six prior games with Purdy).

Purdy deserves a lot of credit for not making the crucial mistake Prescott made, which is why the 49ers are advancing. He’ll be facing the Eagles pass rush next week, the one with 75 sacks this season (including postseason). If Purdy continues the turnover-free football, his numbers against pressure won’t matter as much. 

Regardless, the Eagles pass rush will be the best pass rush Purdy has faced all year — and he faced a good one Sunday. 

Joe Burrow is the best quarterback in the AFC

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

This could easily be a reality, especially since Burrow continues to demonstrate his mastery of the Chiefs and Bills. Burrow led the Bengals into Buffalo — in the snow — and dominated the Bills, completing 23 of 36 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions (101.9 rating). Burrow has more playoff wins (five) than any other quarterback in the NFL over the last two years, and he’s only in his third season in the league. 

So why isn’t Burrow the best quarterback? He’s 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes in his career and has never lost to the Chiefs, beating them in the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City last year. Burrow has beaten Josh Allen on the road in the playoffs along with Mahomes. He’s never lost an AFC playoff game.

Mahomes is set to win his second league MVP, has a Super Bowl title, and has led Kansas City to the conference championship game in five consecutive seasons — all at home. He’ll be the first quarterback to win two MVPs and win a Super Bowl title before turning 30.

If Burrow beats Mahomes next week, he’ll have the title of the AFC’s best quarterback for a long time. He’s already on his way to legendary status regardless. 

Losing Von Miller was the death blow for the Bills season

Overreaction or reality: Reality

The Bills brought in Miller for those key postseason moments, getting the crucial pressure on a Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow that could send Buffalo to the Super Bowl. Miller never got an opportunity to play in the postseason (torn ACL), and the Bills’ pass rush suffered. 

Buffalo wasn’t good at getting to the quarterback down the stretch and that showed in Sunday’s divisional round loss to Cincinnati. The Bills had just 12 pressures and a sack on Burrow, which isn’t good considering the Bengals started two backup tackles and a backup right guard (3/5 of their offensive line were reserves).

Burrow was barely hit in the game (just three times) and had a relatively easy day in the pocket. The Bills weren’t even getting to Burrow most of the afternoon, allowing him to dictate the game and connect on several big plays. Even worse, the Bills were dominated in run defense by that makeshift line as Cincinnati rushed for 172 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry.

There are many concerns with this Bills team, but this group needed Miller to make a deep postseason run. The pass rush was virtually nonexistent since Miller was lost for the year. 

Lane Johnson is the real key to the Eagles Super Bowl hopes

Overreaction or reality: Reality

This isn’t close to a slight on Jalen Hurts, who is 15-1 in his last 16 games and a top-five quarterback in the league. Hurts shoulder was “good enough” that it wasn’t even a concern heading into the Eagles’ first playoff game as the No.1 seed. The Eagles are an excellent team with a healthy Hurts. 

Johnson is the key toward the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. Electing not to have surgery and playing through the postseason with a torn adductor in his groin, Johnson faced 26 pass-rushing snaps in Saturday’s win over the Giants. Johnson allowed no pressures, no sacks, no quarterback hits, and a pressure rate of 0.0%. Kayvon Thibodeaux didn’t have a single pressure facing Johnson. 

When Johnson doesn’t play, the right side of the Eagles offensive line is exposed. Jack Driscoll does a solid job, but he’s not a future Hall of Fame right tackle. Johnson has been the best right tackle in football for several years now — and his impact is felt on the field.

The Eagles can win games without Johnson, but they need him on the field to win the Super Bowl. They are dominant when Johnson and Hurts are both on the field. 

The Giants offensive line is what needs rebuilding on the roster

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Daniel Jones wasn’t good in Saturday’s loss to the Eagles (15 of 27 for 135 yards with no touchdowns and an interception for a 53.8 rating), but the Giants quarterback was significantly let down by his offensive line. The Eagles had 26 pressures and five sacks against the Giants in the divisional round victory, five hurries were allowed by Evan Neal (who had an 8.6% pressure rate).

Jon Feliciano also allowed an 8.6% pressure rate while Nick Gates was at 7.7%, less than ideal marks against a defensive line that had 70 sacks in the regular season. The offensive line forced Jones to move off his spots and make mistakes throughout the night, as Jones had little time to make plays with an already limited offense. 

If the Giants want to compete for Super Bowls, the offensive line needs to develop Neal and rebuild the interior. That should be priority No. 1 this offseason. 

Chiefs can win AFC as long as Patrick Mahomes is on the field 

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction 

This is all going to depend how serious Mahomes and his ankle injury is, especially against a Bengals pass rush that knows how to get to the quarterback and force him out of the pocket. Mahomes will have eight days to rest his high ankle sprain, yet it’s a concern how Mahomes will be if he doesn’t have that improvisation to extend the play and get the ball to his receivers. 

Then there’s facing a Joe Burrow-led Bengals team the Chiefs have never beaten under Mahomes, losing all three matchups over the last two years. Mahomes has played well against the Bengals in those matchups, yet the questions will remain how healthy he’ll be all week. 

As long as Mahomes is on the field and Andy Reid is the head coach, the Chiefs will always have a chance at a Super Bowl. Can Mahomes pull off another gutsy performance and add to his legacy? Hard to doubt Mahomes based on his resume, but the AFC Championship Game will have plenty of drama in the days leading up to the showdown. 





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An exciting weekend of divisional playoff football has come to a close, with the Philadelphia Eagles squaring off against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game. 

The NFL has the two best teams in the NFC all season long for the right to go to the Super Bowl and a rematch of last year’s AFC title game between two of the conference’s best quarterbacks as a nightcap. Next Sunday will be the NFL at its finest. 

Before we look too far ahead to the matchups, the divisional round provided plenty of overreactions that need to be addressed this week. Which ones are overreactions and which are reality checks? 

The Bengals saved conference championship weekend

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Let’s be honest. The NFL was salivating at the prospect of a neutral-site championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Having 50,000 sold tickets for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta full of Chiefs and Bills fans could have set the stage for future neutral-site conference championship games, which would have happened if the Bills beat the Bengals.

The NFL will never get the beta test they wanted, thanks to Cincinnati trouncing Buffalo in Orchard Park. If the NFL ever goes to neutral-site conference championship games, the league will have no visual evidence of an actual game to make it happen.

Thank the Bengals for making that a reality. The world will never know what a neutral-site championship game will look like. 

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Prescott wasn’t good in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, completing 23 of 37 passes for 206 yards with one touchdown to two interceptions (63.6 rating). This was just another poor divisional round performance from Prescott, who still has yet to lead the Cowboys to a conference championship game.

This performance can’t be all on Prescott, as the Cowboys had just 76 rushing yards and 3.5 yards per carry. Once Dallas lost Tony Pollard with a high ankle sprain, the offense scored just six points on six second half possessions along with 146 yards on 33 plays (4.4 yards per play). 

Prescott wasn’t great in the second half either, going 11 of 21 for 125 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions (70.5 rating). He didn’t do anything to will the Cowboys to victory in the playoffs, not what Dallas is paying him $40 million a year for.

At the end of the day, the Cowboys will be stuck with Prescott’s contract. Prescott still gives them their best chance to win, as owner/general manager Jerry Jones will try to tinker the salary-inflated roster or find a new coach to get the most out of Prescott (although Jones says McCarthy’s job is safe). 

The end result may just be the same anyway. 

Brock Purdy will struggle against Eagles pass rush 

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Purdy was not great when facing pressure in Sunday’s win, going just 3 of 11 for 24 yards with a 39.6 passer rating. When Purdy was blitzed, he finished 3 of 6 for 38 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions and a 70.1 passer rating. 

The Cowboys were able to get pressure on Purdy throughout the game, despite only having two sacks and four quarterback hits. That was enough to rattle Purdy and get him off his spot, limiting the 49ers offense to just 19 points (averaged 34.8 points per game in the six prior games with Purdy).

Purdy deserves a lot of credit for not making the crucial mistake Prescott made, which is why the 49ers are advancing. He’ll be facing the Eagles pass rush next week, the one with 75 sacks this season (including postseason). If Purdy continues the turnover-free football, his numbers against pressure won’t matter as much. 

Regardless, the Eagles pass rush will be the best pass rush Purdy has faced all year — and he faced a good one Sunday. 

Joe Burrow is the best quarterback in the AFC

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

This could easily be a reality, especially since Burrow continues to demonstrate his mastery of the Chiefs and Bills. Burrow led the Bengals into Buffalo — in the snow — and dominated the Bills, completing 23 of 36 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions (101.9 rating). Burrow has more playoff wins (five) than any other quarterback in the NFL over the last two years, and he’s only in his third season in the league. 

So why isn’t Burrow the best quarterback? He’s 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes in his career and has never lost to the Chiefs, beating them in the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City last year. Burrow has beaten Josh Allen on the road in the playoffs along with Mahomes. He’s never lost an AFC playoff game.

Mahomes is set to win his second league MVP, has a Super Bowl title, and has led Kansas City to the conference championship game in five consecutive seasons — all at home. He’ll be the first quarterback to win two MVPs and win a Super Bowl title before turning 30.

If Burrow beats Mahomes next week, he’ll have the title of the AFC’s best quarterback for a long time. He’s already on his way to legendary status regardless. 

Losing Von Miller was the death blow for the Bills season

Overreaction or reality: Reality

The Bills brought in Miller for those key postseason moments, getting the crucial pressure on a Patrick Mahomes and Joe Burrow that could send Buffalo to the Super Bowl. Miller never got an opportunity to play in the postseason (torn ACL), and the Bills’ pass rush suffered. 

Buffalo wasn’t good at getting to the quarterback down the stretch and that showed in Sunday’s divisional round loss to Cincinnati. The Bills had just 12 pressures and a sack on Burrow, which isn’t good considering the Bengals started two backup tackles and a backup right guard (3/5 of their offensive line were reserves).

Burrow was barely hit in the game (just three times) and had a relatively easy day in the pocket. The Bills weren’t even getting to Burrow most of the afternoon, allowing him to dictate the game and connect on several big plays. Even worse, the Bills were dominated in run defense by that makeshift line as Cincinnati rushed for 172 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry.

There are many concerns with this Bills team, but this group needed Miller to make a deep postseason run. The pass rush was virtually nonexistent since Miller was lost for the year. 

Lane Johnson is the real key to the Eagles Super Bowl hopes

Overreaction or reality: Reality

This isn’t close to a slight on Jalen Hurts, who is 15-1 in his last 16 games and a top-five quarterback in the league. Hurts shoulder was “good enough” that it wasn’t even a concern heading into the Eagles’ first playoff game as the No.1 seed. The Eagles are an excellent team with a healthy Hurts. 

Johnson is the key toward the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. Electing not to have surgery and playing through the postseason with a torn adductor in his groin, Johnson faced 26 pass-rushing snaps in Saturday’s win over the Giants. Johnson allowed no pressures, no sacks, no quarterback hits, and a pressure rate of 0.0%. Kayvon Thibodeaux didn’t have a single pressure facing Johnson. 

When Johnson doesn’t play, the right side of the Eagles offensive line is exposed. Jack Driscoll does a solid job, but he’s not a future Hall of Fame right tackle. Johnson has been the best right tackle in football for several years now — and his impact is felt on the field.

The Eagles can win games without Johnson, but they need him on the field to win the Super Bowl. They are dominant when Johnson and Hurts are both on the field. 

The Giants offensive line is what needs rebuilding on the roster

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Daniel Jones wasn’t good in Saturday’s loss to the Eagles (15 of 27 for 135 yards with no touchdowns and an interception for a 53.8 rating), but the Giants quarterback was significantly let down by his offensive line. The Eagles had 26 pressures and five sacks against the Giants in the divisional round victory, five hurries were allowed by Evan Neal (who had an 8.6% pressure rate).

Jon Feliciano also allowed an 8.6% pressure rate while Nick Gates was at 7.7%, less than ideal marks against a defensive line that had 70 sacks in the regular season. The offensive line forced Jones to move off his spots and make mistakes throughout the night, as Jones had little time to make plays with an already limited offense. 

If the Giants want to compete for Super Bowls, the offensive line needs to develop Neal and rebuild the interior. That should be priority No. 1 this offseason. 

Chiefs can win AFC as long as Patrick Mahomes is on the field 

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction 

This is all going to depend how serious Mahomes and his ankle injury is, especially against a Bengals pass rush that knows how to get to the quarterback and force him out of the pocket. Mahomes will have eight days to rest his high ankle sprain, yet it’s a concern how Mahomes will be if he doesn’t have that improvisation to extend the play and get the ball to his receivers. 

Then there’s facing a Joe Burrow-led Bengals team the Chiefs have never beaten under Mahomes, losing all three matchups over the last two years. Mahomes has played well against the Bengals in those matchups, yet the questions will remain how healthy he’ll be all week. 

As long as Mahomes is on the field and Andy Reid is the head coach, the Chiefs will always have a chance at a Super Bowl. Can Mahomes pull off another gutsy performance and add to his legacy? Hard to doubt Mahomes based on his resume, but the AFC Championship Game will have plenty of drama in the days leading up to the showdown. 





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