What we learned from the 2023 NFL playoffs, Day 2: Cowboys fold again, Bengals dangerous

The next wave of the NFL playoffs has swept us. The divisional round kicked off Saturday with a pair of regular season games – the heads edging on Jaguar With the troubled Patrick Mahomes, and the Eagles scroll on giants to sweep their series in 2022. On Sunday, the AFC and NFC championship games were decided thanks to the weekend’s slate final matches, with Bengals Guidance Invoicesand the 49ers edging on Cowboys.

Here are some immediate, big takeaways from day two of the Divisional Round:

The 49ers need their defense to hold them

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San Francisco got the job done to secure a trip to the NFC title game, but not primarily because Kyle Shanahan’s offense was firing on all cylinders. George Keitel certainly excelled, just as Travis Kelsey did for the Chiefs on Saturday. And Brock Purdy at least didn’t turn the ball around. But the rookie quarterback was more distracting than usual, pocketed in the face of a good pass rush, and arguably a better unit awaited in Philadelphia. Shanahan’s situational decision-making also left a lot to be desired, as he played it safe on multiple occasions. All that said, stingy “D” DeMeco Ryans certainly seems like the catalyst who’s on the road for a chance at the Super Bowl. He would have the front seven to dunk Jalen Hurts and get a “W.”

Prescott, McCarthy is not built for the big stage

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Mike McCarthy owns a Super Bowl ring from his time in Green Bay, and it will never be stripped away. But as head coach of Dallas, he has now overseen two consecutive 12-to-5 teams that failed to advance past the divisional round. Not only that, but after having one game against San Francisco in 2021, he became more conservative on the key points on Sunday, opting for a late field goal rather than attempting fourth down while trailing by seven, and kicking the ball wide. with minutes remaining. His design for the final play was also thematically funny, asking Ezekiel Elliott to serve as Duck Prescott’s only blocker instead of ordering the traditional Hail Mary. Prescott, meanwhile, could be more outrageous, throwing a couple of ugly catches, nearly taking the safety on the final drive and generally looking at the mark. Seven years later, it’s now 2-4 in playoff games.

The Bengals, not the Bills, are the Chiefs’ biggest threat

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Who Dey Nation has probably told you this before, but Sunday’s game confirmed it: Joe Burrow is the biggest thing standing in Patrick Mahomes’ way in the AFC. That’s true not only because Burrow is 3-0 by killer numbers in his career against Kansas City, but because in three seasons, he’s already surpassed Bills star Josh Allen on the big stage, improving his playoff record to 5-1 and securing a second appearance in the title game. Asian for several years. Allen is the closest thing to Mahomes in terms of off-script playmaking, but Burrow’s vision, along with Sensei’s deep receiver team and physical defense, prevails. With Mahomes banged in KCChiefs can’t rest easy.

Buffalo needs help in the back end, on the back end

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The Bills must remain in the primary round conversation as long as Josh Allen is at center. But the MVP candidate still puts a lot of balls in harm’s way while drawing on his natural talents. More than that, it was evident in Sunday’s heavy loss to the Bengals that Buffalo requires renewed weapons and/or strategy on the ground and in the secondary. Allen had no help in the running game against Cincy, Devin Singletary and James Cook were no-factors, and players like Tre’Davious White and Jordan Poyer were hit deep before walking out with injuries. After two years of flirting with the Super Bowl show, perhaps it’s time for a deeper talent shake-up.

Sean McDermott is still looking

There’s no doubt the coach helped turn Buffalo into a perennial contender: They’ve gone from 47 to 18, with four consecutive playoff appearances, since 2019. But even with the rise of Josh Allen and plenty of investment in defense, his Bills have now fallen short. in progress. Divisional round playoffs in five of McDermott’s six seasons at the helm. It didn’t help that Buffalo was completely outplayed and passed at home in Sunday’s loss, when the Bills were strangely conservative on several fourth-downer decisions and got a little creativity from coordinators Ken Dorsey and Leslie Frazier.

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