Judging NFL playoff overreactions – Dallas to Super Bowl LVII?


Overreactions? In the playoffs? Isn’t all of this settled by now? The consequences in the playoffs are stark. They’re all laid out for us. You win, you keep playing. You lose, you go home. What else needs to be said?

Well, plenty.

There are plenty of bigger-picture consequences to these playoff games — for the losers as well as the winners. Those who advance have issues to confront that arise from the games they won. Those who are eliminated have to deal with offseason issues, questions about their future.

So no, the overreactions don’t stop just because the regular season did. A whole lot happened on wild-card weekend, and it’s worth taking a look at some of the more interesting fallout.

The Cowboys are going to the Super Bowl

What better way to start a playoff overreactions column than with the strongest possible assertion about the most overreaction-oriented team? People are always going to the extremes when they talk Cowboys, so why shouldn’t we? Dallas looked absolutely awesome in the first half (other than their kicker) and built an 18-0 halftime lead over a hapless Tom Brady-led Buccaneers offense. Dak Prescott looked as good in the first half as he has in any game in nearly two months, in total command as a thrower, a runner and a decision-maker. The first half was the perfect example of the Cowboys being as good a team as any in the league as long as the quarterback isn’t turning it over.

The second half wasn’t as comprehensive but there was little doubt that Dallas was the better team in the 31-14 win. The Cowboys buried the memory of their Week 18 dud and now roll into a divisional-round matchup against the 49ers looking and feeling their strongest. Except for their kicker.

Verdict: OVERREACTION

Where to begin? Well, first of all, next week’s Cowboys opponent is considerably better than this week’s was. If the 49ers’ offense is a fighter jet, the Buccaneers’ offense was a paper airplane. And not a new paper airplane — more like one that’s already crashed into a wall and has a scrunched-up nose. San Francisco has won 11 games in a row and is an absolute machine on both sides of the ball. Add in the fact that it’s another game on grass (and the Cowboys are much better on turf) and that the Niners will have had two extra days of rest, and it will be much more difficult for the Cowboys to win next week than it was Monday Night.

All of that said, I do believe the Cowboys can beat anyone as long as Dak is protecting the ball. But San Francisco’s defense is going to make it tougher to do that, and San Francisco’s offense is good enough to put points on the board in bunches. If Dallas does manage to get through San Francisco, its NFC Championship Game opponent would be an overachieving Giants team they beat twice or an Eagles team with a banged-up quarterback, but it would still be a division game, and Ravens-Bengals showed us those are never easy even when they should be. Dallas looked fantastic Monday Night, but its road to Glendale remains fraught with challenges. Too soon to put them in the Super Bowl.


The Giants need to re-sign Daniel Jones

Jones already had shown the Giants everything they needed to see from him this season, helping lift a terribly undermanned team into the playoffs in spite of a constantly deteriorating receiving corps. He showed toughness. He stayed healthy. He threw a career-low five interceptions in a career-high 472 pass attempts, which gave him a league-best interception percentage of 1.1. Then on Sunday, in the wild-card game against the Vikings, Jones turned in the performance of a lifetime, throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for a team-high 78 yards on 17 carries as the Giants advanced into the divisional round.

Verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION

Look, this is their guy. While I recognize he’s on his third head coach and third offensive system in four years, the organization has committed a lot of time and effort to him, and this year it has paid off. Is he the perfect franchise quarterback? Maybe not, but he might be exactly what the Giants need. There’s surely a price beyond which it won’t make sense for them to re-sign him, but assuming they can come to an agreement on something sensible, it makes a lot more sense for the Giants to keep Jones and build around him than try to replace him and start over with someone new. The key will be getting his signature on a new contract before the franchise tag deadline, because it would make a lot more sense for them to franchise Saquon Barkley than it would to franchise Jones and potentially lose Barkley in free agency.


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Clark: Daniel Jones played more like Josh Allen than Josh Allen

Ryan Clark raves about Daniel Jones’ impressive performance in the Giants’ playoff win against the Vikings.

Josh Allen’s turnover problems will keep the Bills out of the Super Bowl

Buffalo struggled to beat a Miami Dolphins team that was starting third-string rookie Skylar Thompson in the wild-card round, and part of the reason was that Allen threw two interceptions and lost one of his three fumbles. Allen has turned the ball over 22 times this year, and he has had a particular issue with throwing interceptions in the red zone. Buffalo has won 14 of its 17 games, and its three losses were by two, three and three points, so it’s not as if this issue has been a devastating one. But Sunday’s game was one the Bills probably should have won easily, and the margin for error only gets smaller as you move deeper into the playoffs.

Verdict: OVERREACTION

I’ll buy that the Cincinnati Bengals are good enough to keep the Bills out of the Super Bowl. I’ll buy that the Kansas City Chiefs are good enough to keep the Bills out of the Super Bowl. But Allen’s turnover issues are not something I expect to continue in a damaging way. Maybe I’m being naive, but Allen has been a spectacular postseason quarterback in his career. Sunday was his seventh playoff game, and the interceptions were his second and third playoff interceptions. I’m of the opinion that Sunday will be the exception, not the rule. Allen could get outplayed by Joe Burrow or Patrick Mahomes and lose the game, but I don’t see this Bills season ending because Josh Allen gave it away.


Brock Purdy will be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2023

Purdy was one of the top performers at the quarterback position on wild-card weekend, and the group the Niners have assembled around him position him to contend for and maybe win the Super Bowl as a seventh-round rookie. Jimmy Garoppolo is a free agent and almost certain to leave, which leaves rehabbing 2021 first-rounder Trey Lance as the only other real candidate on the roster. The Niners have yet to lose with Purdy as their starter.

Verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION

The 49ers are thrilled with what Purdy has given them so far. He has exceeded expectations and performed at a high level for a team that could well be the best in the league. It might be hard, considering all they gave up to move up in the draft to take Lance, to move away from him. But if Purdy gets them to and/or wins the Super Bowl … man, it’d be hard to imagine them moving away from him. With two years and $9 million total left on his contract (plus a fifth-year option for 2025), the 22-year-old Lance would be an interesting entry on the offseason quarterback trade market.


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Why Lamar Jackson is finished with the Ravens

Rex Ryan explains how previous decisions by the Ravens suggest they will move Lamar Jackson for draft picks.

The season couldn’t have ended worse for Jackson and the Ravens, who failed to come to agreement on a contract last offseason. Jackson missed the Ravens’ final six games, including Sunday’s playoff loss in Cincinnati, because of a knee injury and has been making weird social media posts that at least hint at friction between him and the team. The Ravens head into another too-early offseason with Jackson’s contract situation still unresolved and the very real chance that they have to franchise him and see how he reacts to that.

Verdict: OVERREACTION

Oh, it could absolutely happen. They could franchise him, he could demand a trade and they could end up in a divorce. But I still think, given the character of the player and the solidity of the organization, that there’s a better chance than not that they cool off a bit, get back to the bargaining table and figure something out. There’s a lot to figure out, given the way this year has gone. But Jackson and the Ravens have had a lot more good times together than bad. And once the sting of the playoff loss fades, I think they get back together to try to work this out.


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