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What we learned in the divisional round: Little Dak Prescott is coming; The Bengals O-line sets up the run game

What we learned in the divisional round: Little Dak Prescott is coming; The Bengals O-line sets up the run game

The divisional playoff round certainly disproved some of the narratives that had persisted throughout the NFL all year. Maybe the Dallas Cowboys weren’t the Super Bowl contender they initially thought they were in recent months or the Cincinnati Bengals really are the best team in the AFC (despite a 2-3 start to the season).

Where do the Buffalo Bills go after their loss to the Bengals? What’s next for the Cowboys? Those two teams can’t see their seasons the same way as the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, two teams that surprisingly made the division after being two of the worst teams in football for several seasons. There is reason to be optimistic in Jacksonville and New York.

As for the teams that participated in the conference championship weekend? possible Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs finally defeat their kryptonite Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals? Can the San Francisco 49ers and No. 1 defense continue their “defense wins the championship” mantra and overcome the NFC’s No. 1 offense in the Philadelphia Eagles?

Division weekend certainly provided a lot of answers, especially with next week’s conference championship games. Here’s what we learned from each team in the knockout stages.

The defense stepped up with Patrick Mahomes injured: The Chiefs are 54-3 when holding their opponent to less than 27 points, including postseason play. The defense took that stat to heart, doing a very good job of limiting Jacksonville to 20 points in a 27-20 victory.

Was it a perfect performance? No, but it was good enough. The Jaguars had 144 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per carry on third down 7 of 13, but the Chiefs forced a punt. Trevor Lawrence led 27-20 at the end of the fourth quarter and scored seven times.

The defense stepped up in the second quarter when Mahomes was in the locker room, holding Jacksonville to three points in the second quarter and holding the lead at halftime before Mahomes returned.

Is the Chiefs defense great? No, but this is Steve Spagnuolo’s best unit since arriving in Kansas City. Under 27 points seems like the magic number for a win, whether Mahomes is healthy or not.

Drops cost the team in grief: The Jaguars were able to hang with the Chiefs throughout the game, but Jacksonville might have gone to the AFC Championship Game if not for some key drops. He found Trevor Lawrence Christian Kirk he would go 55 yards on a deep pass in the second quarter, but Kirk dropped the pass and the Jaguars went for a field goal.

Down 17-7, Kirk needed that reception to get Jacksonville into the red zone and put some pressure on Kansas City. The Jaguars had another down in the second quarter JaMycal Hasty had a third-and-19 down that forced the Jaguars to punt.

The drops took their toll on Lawrence in the third quarter, as he went 5 of 8 for 10 yards on two possessions as Jacksonville couldn’t gain any ground. The Jaguars offense seemed out of sync after Kirk went down, and never recovered.

Jacksonville returns next year with a franchise quarterback in Lawrence and a roster that should improve. The Jaguars will learn from those mistakes as the young team continues to develop.

Lane Johnson came back in a big way: Johnson spent the past three weeks rehabbing and preparing for a possible postseason appearance after postponing surgery on a torn adductor back. It was anyone’s guess how effective the top right tackle would be.

Turns out, Johnson was his typical bossy self. He allowed no sacks, pressures, quarterback hits, and had a 0.0% pressure rate on 26 pass blocks. His impact was felt against the Giants pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, Johnson was under no pressure in the divisional round. The Eagles also rushed for 268 yards, the second most in a postseason game in franchise history.

The Eagles offensive line is the best in football. With Johnson on the field, they dominate.

The offensive line needs improvements this offseason: In the Giants’ three meetings with the Eagles, the offensive line was no match for a front that had 70 sacks this season. The Giants gave up 60 pressures and 14 sacks in three games against the Eagles, with 16 pressures and five sacks coming in Saturday’s loss.

New York allowed 49 sacks on the year, tied for fifth NFL. The 272 pressures allowed was second and the highest pressure rate at 43.4%. This is simply not good enough.

New York needs to develop more Evan Neal give Andre Thomas a battery mate on the attack. The inside of the line needs to be reworked Jon Feliciano, Mark Glowinskiand Nick Gates he fought against the passing elite teams. Ben Bredeson it wasn’t much better either.

The Giants have cap space to improve their offensive line. If New York keeps it daniel jonesThe Giants need to protect him and allow him to throw the ball down the field.

So much for having three offensive lines out: The Bengals left no record Jonah Williamsdirect advance La’El Collinsand right guard Alex Capp against Bill Three-fifths of the offensive line out? It didn’t matter.

Jackson Carman made his first start at left tackle, Hakeem Adeniji he made the third exit on the right, and Max Scharping he made his second start at right guard. The inexperience didn’t matter as the three were part of the dismantling of Buffalo’s defensive front, holding Cincinnati to 172 yards rushing and 5.1 yards per carry. This is an offense against Cincinnati that was 29th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry during the regular season.

The trio of Carman, Adeniji and Scharping did not allow a sack in the game. They allowed just two quarterback hits, but allowed 11 pressures. Despite the high pressure rate, they protected Joe Burrow and set up the running game for arguably their best performance of the year.

The Bengals offensive line answered all the questions it needed to.

The running game was a farce: No team had more deceptive numbers than the Bills this season, yet the yards per game and carries didn’t rear their ugly heads until Sunday. Buffalo had just 63 rushing yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry against Cincinnati, its lowest average per carry all season.

Devin Singletary His six carries for 24 yards were a non-factor. The Bills didn’t trust the rookie James Cook enough to pass the ball even at the end of the year (he finished with five carries for 13 yards). Josh Allen He was the leading rusher with 26 yards and just 3.3 yards per carry (6.1 average on the season).

Neither Singletary nor Cook showed up late, as the Bills averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in the fourth quarter of the year. Singletary averaged just 4.0 yards per carry with defenses in Allen (3.2 yards per carry).

Buffalo needs to move back in 2023 if the Bills want to go Super Bowl. Of course, having a better offensive line won’t hurt either. They can’t get as much from Allen to run the running game.

Brock Purdy He struggled against pressure from the Cowboys: Purdy made his seventh straight start – leading the 49ers to a victory. He didn’t turn the football over in a game where the defense played a big role and took him out of position, which was crucial to the 49ers’ progress.

There is cause for concern, especially with who the 49ers will face next week. Purdy was just 3 of 11 for 24 yards and no interceptions while being sacked twice (39.6 rating). The Cowboys couldn’t make life easy for Purdy, something other defenses couldn’t do in the previous six starts.

Purdy completed 51.1% of his passes for 264 yards with three touchdowns and an interception under pressure during the regular season (82.1 rating). In the playoffs, completed 36.8% of his passes (7-of-19) for 157 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions (102.3 rating).

Are the numbers better? The Seattle game highlighted how Purdy has performed when a defense approaches him, but the Dallas game could be an indicator of how things could go next week. Of course, the Eagles and their 75 sacks (regular season and playoffs) have to get to Purdy as well.

Dak Prescott it should have been good, but it wasn’t: Dak Prescott, who showed up most of the season, showed up again in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. Prescott was 23 of 37 for 206 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, his sixth interception of the year.

Prescott missed several open receivers and made some questionable decisions, making him a liability to the offense instead of a strength. When pressured, Prescott was a rotten 4-of-11 for 14 yards and an interception for a 7.0 rating. In the second half (without a half Tony Pollard), Prescott was 11 of 21 for 125 yards without a touchdown and a 70.5 rating.

Those numbers aren’t good enough for a $40 million quarterback who was supposed to lead the offense to scoring drives. Prescott has looked like the player he’s taken to the NFL since returning in Week 7 with his questionable decision-making, replacing a quarterback who had big games against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay last month.

Prescott is too inconsistent to help the Cowboys make a Super Bowl run. It’s everything at this point, and it’s up to Dallas to try to fix his issues as he turns 30.





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