Overreactions, reality checks for NFL divisional round: Cowboys move on from Dak Prescott? Bengals save NFL?
Which takeaways from the divisional round are overreactions and which are reality?
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?
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.
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.
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.