Overreactions, reality checks for NFL division round: Bengals save NFL? Cowboys leave Dak Prescott?

An exciting weekend of divisional playoff football has come to an end, with the Philadelphia Eagles taking on 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 top two teams in the NFC for the right to go to the Super Bowl all season and a rematch of last year’s AFC title game between two of the conference’s top quarterbacks as a nightcap. This Sunday is the NFL at its best.

Before we look too far ahead at the matchups, the division round generated a lot of overreactions that need to be addressed this week. Which are exaggerated reactions and which are reality checks?

The Bengals saved the conference championship weekend

Overreaction or Reality: Reality

Let’s be honest. The NFL salivated at the prospect of a championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Having 50,000 tickets sold to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium packed with Chiefs and Bills fans could have set the stage for future championship games at neutral venues, which would have happened had the Bills beat the Bengals.

The NFL will never get the beta test they wanted thanks to Cincinnati beating Buffalo at Orchard Park. If the NFL ever goes to championship games at neutral venues, the league won’t have visual evidence of a real game to make it happen.

Thank the Bengals for making that happen. The world will never know what a championship match at neutral venues will look like.

Overreaction or Reality: Overreaction

Prescott was no 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 has yet to lead the Cowboys to a conference championship game.

This feat can’t be on Prescott alone, as the Cowboys only had 76 rushing yards and 12 yards per carry. Once Dallas lost Tony Pollard to a high ankle sprain, the offense scored only six points on six possessions in the second half, 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 hasn’t done anything to help the Cowboys win the playoffs, not for which Dallas pays him $40 million a year.

At the end of the day, the Cowboys are locked into Prescott’s contract. Prescott still gives them the best chance of winning, as owner/general manager Jerry Jones will try to tinker with the overinflated pay roster or find a new coach to get the most out of Prescott (although Jones says McCarthy’s job is safe). is).

The end result may be the same anyway.

Brock Purdy will struggle against the Eagles pass rush

Overreaction or Reality: Reality

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

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

Purdy deserves a lot of credit for not making the crucial mistake Prescott made, which is why the 49ers are moving forward. He faces the Eagles Pass Rush next week, who has 75 sacks this season (including postseason). If Purdy continues the turnoverless football, his numbers against pressure won’t matter all that much.

Either way, the Eagles’ pass rush will be the best pass rush Purdy has had all year – and he got a good one on Sunday.

Joe Burrow is the best quarterback in the AFC

Overreaction or Reality: Overreaction

This could easily be a reality, especially as Burrow continues to demonstrate his mastery of the Chiefs and Bills. Burrow led the Bengals to 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 in the last two years, and he’s only in his third season in the league.

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

Mahomes is on the cusp of winning his second league MVP, holds a Super Bowl title and has led Kansas City to the Conference Championship game in five consecutive seasons – all at home. He will be the first quarterback to win two MVPs and win a Super Bowl title before turning 30.

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

Von Miller’s loss was the death knell for the Bills season

Overreaction or Reality: Reality

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

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

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

There are a lot of concerns with this Bills team, but this group needed Miller to go on a deep postseason run. The passing rush was virtually non-existent since Miller lost for the year.

Lane Johnson is the real key to Eagles Super Bowl hopes

Overreaction or Reality: Reality

This doesn’t come close to being a bummer for Jalen Hurts, who is 15-1 in his last 16 games and a top-five quarterback in the league. The shoulder pain was “good enough” that going into the Eagles’ first playoff game as the No. 1 seed was not even a concern. The Eagles are an excellent team with a healthy Hurts.

Johnson is key to the Eagles winning the Super Bowl. Johnson opted not to have surgery and played through the postseason with a torn adductor muscle in his groin. Johnson put up with 26 pass-rushing snaps in Saturday’s victory over the Giants. Johnson allowed no pressure, no sacks, no quarterback hits, and a 0.0% pressure percentage. Kayvon Thibodeaux had no pressure against Johnson.

When Johnson is not playing, the right side of the Eagles offensive line is exposed. Jack Driscoll is doing well, but he’s not a future Hall of Fame straight tackle. Johnson has been the best right tackle in football for several years — and his impact is felt on the pitch.

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 needs rebuilding on the roster

Overreaction or Reality: Reality

Daniel Jones was no 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 let down significantly by his offensive line. The Eagles had 26 pressings and five sacks against the Giants in the division round victory, five rushes allowed by Evan Neal (who had an 8.6% pressing percentage).

Jon Feliciano also allowed an 8.6% pressing percentage, while Nick Gates had 7.7%, less than ideal numbers against a 70-sack regular-season defensive line. The offensive line forced Jones to move off his spot and foul all night, as Jones had little time to play 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 the #1 priority this low season.

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

Overreaction or Reality: Overreaction

This will all depend on how serious Mahomes and his ankle injury are, especially against a pass rush from Bengal who knows how to get to the quarterback and force him out of the pocket. Mahomes has eight days to rest his high ankle sprain, but it’s worrying how Mahomes will be if he doesn’t have the improv to extend play and get the ball to his receivers.

Dan faces a Joe Burrow-led Bengals team that the Chiefs have never beaten under Mahomes, losing all three matchups in the last two years. Mahomes has played well against the Bengals in those games, but the question remains how healthy he will be all week.

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

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