Week 16 Overreactions and Reality Checks: Can Cowboys Beat Eagles in Playoffs? Vikings become one and be done?

Christmas Eve in the NFL didn’t deliver the pre-holiday fireworks we’d all hoped for, but the league did have some exciting games and results that affected the playoff race. The Dallas Cowboys kept their small NFC East hopes alive by beating the Philadelphia Eagles in a thrilling late afternoon game, while the Jacksonville Jaguars took first place in the AFC South thanks to the Tennessee Titans’ stunning loss to the Houston Texans .

The race for home field advantage in the AFC is set for a Week 17 showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills, while the Kansas City Chiefs hope the Bills slip in one of their last two games. The wildcard races in both conferences also appear to be going to the end.

Let’s not start with the MVP race and the record chasers. To wrap up the Saturday afternoon list of Christmas Eve games (yes, most games this week were on Saturday), let’s overreact on a few issues – or determine if those statements reflect reality.

The Cowboys can beat the Eagles in Philadelphia

Overreaction or reality: overreaction

Credit to the Cowboys for beating the Eagles at home and keeping their slim chances alive for another week in NFC East, but Dallas didn’t have a convincing win against the team with the best record in the NFL. Sure, the defense forced four turnovers from the Eagles — they also gave up 34 points on a Gardner Minshew-led offense and allowed 442 yards.

The Dallas defense has had takeaways in the last two games but has allowed 37 points per game and 472.5 yards per game at the same stretch. If it weren’t for the four takeaways, the defense might have given up 50 points to Minshew and the Eagles offense.

A third matchup in Philadelphia seems likely, but the Cowboys haven’t convinced enough on the defensive side of the ball to show they can beat a Jalen Hurts-led offense in Philadelphia next January. Will the Eagles make four turnovers with hurts as quarterback?

Jalen Hurts is the league MVP as he does not play on Saturday

Overreaction or reality: reality

The Eagles had 27 points on offense and rushed for 442 yards without Jalen hurting on the field. Offensive performance notwithstanding, Hurts didn’t lose ground in the MVP race by missing Saturday’s game.

The Eagles had an atypical four turnovers with no hurts, including two interceptions and a Minshew fumble. While the interceptions weren’t entirely on Minshew, there were a few shots he missed that could have resulted in big wins for the Eagles.

The Eagles only went 87 yards in the game. They’ve averaged 187.2 rushing yards in their last five games — a lot of that has to do with hurts.

Hurts is still in the MVP race — and didn’t lose ground to Patrick Mahomes either. Both are worthy contenders, but Hurts can’t miss another week.

The Browns will regret giving Deshaun Watson a guaranteed $230 million

Overreaction or reality: reality

Replacement-level quarterbacks are playing better than Watson in his four starts for the Browns. Cleveland is only 2-2 with Watson at quarterback, with Watson completing 57.7% of his passes for 703 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Watson was poor in Saturday’s loss to the Saints, completing 15 of 31 passes for 135 yards with a quick touchdown and one interception (his third in four games with the team). There have been four games this season in which a quarterback had 20 attempts, completed under 55% of his passes, failed to throw a touchdown pass, and threw an interception — Watson accounts for two of those.

The Browns just aren’t any better with Watson on the field in 2022. Let’s see if it stays that way in 2023.

The Vikings are a one-and-done team in the playoffs

Overreaction or reality: overreaction

The Vikings have a plus-5 (yes, +5) point difference in 15 games, the worst by a 12-win team in NFL history. Minnesota has been beaten by Philadelphia and Dallas but is 11-0 in one-score games this season. The Vikings’ 11 wins in one-score games are the most in a season in league history.

While this team is screaming all clear in the playoffs, chances are the Vikings will finish No. 2 in the playoffs. Who will be No. 7 in the NFC – and can this team of Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, TJ Hockenson and Dalvin Cook beat an offense?

Say what you will about the Vikings, but they find a way to win. Why can’t they do that in the playoffs – for at least a week?

The Lions missed their playoff chance

Overreaction or reality: overreaction

Getting blown out by the Panthers doesn’t scream a playoff team, but Detroit didn’t lose ground in the playoff race. The Giants, Commanders and Seahawks all lost on Saturday – so the Lions missed an opportunity to grab the No. 7 two weeks before the game started.

Detroit still has a shot at capturing that No. 7 seed. The Commanders end the season with the Browns and Cowboys while the Seahawks end with the Jets and Rams. Winning is Detroit’s only option, but can Washington and Seattle both win and eliminate the Lions?

The only way for Detroit now is to win (against the Bears and at Packers) and hope that both the Commanders and Seahawks lose a game on their remaining schedule. Detroit wasn’t eliminated from the playoff race, but getting there is more difficult now.

The Titans and Jaguars should rest their starters next week

Overreaction or reality: reality

AFC South will be determined in Week 18 independently of Week 17 results. The Jaguars lead the AFC South thanks to their win over the Jets and the Titans’ loss to the Texans – both teams are 7-8.

If the Titans beat the Cowboys and the Jaguars lose to the Texans next Thursday night, the Titans will be 8-8 and the Jaguars 7-9. A Jaguars win in Week 18 gives Jacksonville the division as Jacksonville swept Tennessee. If the Jaguars win and the Titans lose, Jacksonville will be 8-8 and Tennessee 7-9. That doesn’t decide the division for the Jaguars either as they go head to head in week 18 and a Titans win gives them the tiebreaker with a better divisional record (the Titans would finish 4-2 and the Jaguars 3-3 assuming the Jaguars beat the Texans).

Both teams fail to improve their playoff standings as the AFC South champions are seeded 4th. The wildcard race is technically still in play, but the Dolphins and Chargers go into their Sunday and Monday games 8-6.

The Titans and Jaguars won’t be resting their starters, but it should be considered how the division has developed.

The 49ers can win the Super Bowl with Brock Purdy

Overreaction or reality: reality

This conversation seems to keep coming up on a weekly basis, but Brock Purdy finally faced a defense that can consistently pursue him with his front four. All Purdy did was complete 15 of 22 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns to an interception for a 114.6 passer rating as the 49ers’ offense scored 37 points in a convincing win over Washington.

Purdy and Dan Marino are the only quarterbacks with at least two touchdown passes and a 100+ passer rating in each of their first three career starts. He has played four games this year – throwing multiple touchdowns in every game and improving his passing yards in every competition.

The 49ers offense is getting better every week with Purdy at the helm and his confidence is growing. With their defense and ability position players surrounding Purdy, who says they can’t win the Super Bowl with Purdy on top?

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