With the two Conference Championship games now set, the Divisional round left many teams with more questions than answers
1. Could Cincinnati be the AFC favourites?
The odds were stacked against Zac Taylor’s Cincinnati Bengals heading into Sunday’s early game, but those in the tiger-striped helmets prevailed as a postseason underdog once again.
Much was made about the loss of three key starters on the offensive line for Cinci, but that makeshift unit performed admirably on Sunday. The Bengals controlled the line of scrimmage and kept their quarterback upright.
Lou Anarumo delivered yet another outstanding playoff gameplan, holding Josh Allen and the Bills to ten points. Even the home-field advantage (of snow) couldn’t get them going in a game that seemed so one-sided from the start.
2. Buffalo’s Super Bowl window is closing
Was this the Buffalo Bills’ year? After another heartbreaking loss in the divisional round, it appears that Sean McDermott’s Bills’ Super Bowl window is closing.
We know Josh Allen is locked in after his recent contract extension, but some key pieces are impeding free agents, with little cap room to manoeuvre. As with all teams who are good enough to enter themselves into a Super Bowl window, you can’t afford to pay everyone.
Tremaine Edmonds and Jordan Poyer look set to test the market, with the likes of Von Miller, Matt Milano, Tre’davious White and Micah Hyde all on decent money on defense.
3. The Jacksonville Jaguars are about to pounce
Despite losing to the Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes on one ankle, the future is certainly bright in Jacksonville. A young Jags team hung in there with the conference’s number-one seed, despite having far inferior talent.
Trevor Lawrence was without the early playoff nerves displayed in the Chargers game but sadly doesn’t possess the supporting cast required to compete against a team that will play in a fifth straight AFC championship game.
Coach Doug Pederson and general manager Trent Baalke will be encouraged by what they’ve seen from their young quarterback this season. Lawrence’s development will enable them to build around him in the coming off-season.
4. Serious eyes are on Dak Prescott
Are the Dallas Cowboys sure that Prescott is the guy? After the league’s turnover leader threw three more interceptions in a game he should have won on Sunday night, serious questions are being raised about the man they are paying $40 million per year.
Being a game manager can get you wins in the NFC, but it will never win you a Super Bowl against the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow.
On that kind of money, you’d think Prescott would be a top-five quarterback, but he’d barely crack the top half of the league’s best quarterbacks.
5. San Fransisco can be slowed down
In their loss at Levi’s Stadium, Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn laid out a blueprint for slowing down the San Francisco 49ers offense.
Kyle Shanahan’s offense has been on fire lately, especially since the Christian McCaffrey trade, winning 12 straight games and scoring less than 30 points only four times in that span.
McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell combined for 3.55 yards per carry on Sunday night, a significant decrease from their season average of 5.4. The Philadelphia Eagles, their opponent on Sunday, have the second-best defense in terms of yards per game during the regular season.