2023 NFL Playoffs: The biggest questions facing each of the eight remaining postseason contenders

Super Wild Card Weekend is in the books yet Cowboysdominant win over hacker Monday night. That means we’re officially down to eight teams in the 2023 AFL playoffs. Every single one of them showed championship-level poise at some point this year – and some clubs are getting particularly hot now, just in time. But this does not mean that there are also no pressing questions facing the remaining contenders. With the division round, here’s a look at some of the biggest ones:

Can Josh Allen protect football?

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Buffalo wouldn’t be where it is today without Allen shooting. But more so than Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Cincinnati’s Joe Borough, Allen’s physical gifts and style of play invite risk. While Mahomes’ fluidity makes off-the-cuff plays appear determined and Burrow’s vision makes crunch time productions credible, Buffalo’s No. 17 is more likely to put his body — and the ball — on the line by trusting his imposing arm and framing what the defense has to offer. Since his start in 2020, he has racked up 40 turnovers (31 interceptions, 9 fumbles thrown) in 36 games, including the playoffs.

Can the offensive line survive another loss?

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Joe Burrow advanced to the Super Bowl last season despite a shoddy lead, and now he may have to do it again. Cincinnati handled well without a string of injured starters, including right tackle Lyle Collins and right guard Alex Capa. But now, Jonah Williams is “week after week” with a dislocated knee, and Borough may be without three of his usual blockers. Deep in the playoffs, against penetrating fronts, that spells potential trouble for a powerhouse champ who thrives not on ducking pressure but hitting hard with quick decisions. the crows Catch him up at Super Wild Card Weekend, and more heat could come.

Will the defense provide enough support?

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No one should be betting on Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes at this point: In the four seasons Reed’s 15th starting quarterback, KC has never failed to reach at least the AFC Championship. But when Chris Jones doesn’t control the offensive line to establish long touchdown runs, their “D” back end has proven vulnerable, particularly stumbling in close games with lesser opponents like Bronco And Texas. Handling was an issue there, as was inexperience, with rookies Trent McDuffie, Gaylen Watson and Joshua Williams all seeing important corner shots. We know they can score in penalties, but can they cover?

Dallas Cowboys

Can they still be hot when the spotlight gets brighter?

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Jerry Jones was so full of energy after they bombarded the smug and bumbling Buccaneers – that he actually “I went up a degreeAs for Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. But that almost speaks to the angst here: For too long, their playoff bar has been set low for actual talent, because Dak Prescott & Co., like the franchise as a whole, is still looking for their first appearance in The NFC has been playing since 1995. In other words, the pressure is still high, and will only increase as the stretch extends to three straight road games and counting, with trips to San Francisco and possibly Philadelphia on the docket.

What exactly is the case of Galen Hurts?

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Of course the quarterback will fit in as they look to prove they’re still NFC class. But we haven’t seen a breakout at the MVP level in full force since mid-December, when Hurts injured his shoulder. For most of 2022 the Eagles’ powerhouse has been winning in various ways behind a solid front and an opportunistic “D”, but Hurts has been the catalyst when he’s healthy, threatening opponents as a punishing runner and hugely advanced passer. The weapons are in AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, as is the aggressiveness of Nick Sirianni. But how much can Hurts, the heart of the team, reasonably offer, and for how long?

Is Brock Purdy finally destined to hit a wall?

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No matter how their season ends, the 49ers will be just as grateful for Purdy’s emergency balance; The rookie has made a consistent presence at the veteran level in his 6-0 effective career with Jimmy Garoppolo filling in. Kyle Shanahan’s setup, which prioritizes quick hitting, the dynamic ground game and the physical “D” of DeMeco Ryans, might be enough to offset any of the QB’s hiccups. However, we’ve seen small glimpses of Purdy groveling on field goals to open the playoffs against a misfit Seahawks Team. If the push comes against superior foes who are capable of penalty shootouts, its novelty may eventually show.

Can Wink Martindale match Brian Dabul and Mike Kafka?

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In other words, with the New York offense going full steam ahead, with Daniel Jones Emerging as a franchise QB author Under the creative direction of Dabol and Kafka, can the Big Blue defense find a way to make a planning leap of its own? Martindale took a decidedly more conservative approach against Minnesota, and it paid off late as the G-Men stopped Kirk Cousins ​​and Co. to shut down the road, but only after Vikings He spent most of the day moving the ball up and down the field. Azeez Ojulari’s recent off-rim injury adds another potential wrinkle, even as Dexter Lawrence still owns the inside.

Have they really reached their emotional peak?

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It would be hard not to, right, after coming back from down 27 for an upset chargers Into the wildest ending to Super Wild Card Weekend? Doug Pederson loves himself a good playoff run, so Jacksonville clearly won’t take his next stint seriously. But the reality is, at 9-8, with an improbable division crown and the franchise’s first win in five years, Pederson’s Jags have already scored as a success story. Already redirected to a better path, Trevor Lawrence may never have a more memorable finish from his four-way rebound against Los Angeles. Never say never, but if one of the playoff teams is earlier off the schedule, further fanning the prospect of 2023 more than immediate title chances, it’s probably Jacksonville.

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