Week 14 overreactions and reality checks: Dak Prescott costing Cowboys playoff glory? Lions postseason bound?

Week 14 in the NFL certainly provided some surprises with the league’s top teams — particularly in the NFC. The Dallas Cowboys needed to rally to beat the Houston Texans while the Minnesota Vikings were defeated by the Detroit Lions, giving the Philadelphia Eagles a stranglehold of the conference lead. The race for the final playoff spots in the NFC are also getting interesting.

The AFC had the Kansas City Chiefs keep pace with the Buffalo Bills in the race for home-field advantage in the conference, while the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens continue their battle to win the AFC North.

Plenty of playoff talk to go around as the season is starting to hit the home stretch, with overreactions galore. With the Sunday afternoon games finalized, which overreactions are just that — and which are reality.

The Eagles are going to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC

Overreaction or reality: Reality

At this rate, the Eagles would have to have a major implosion to lose the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Thanks to the Vikings’ loss to the Lions Sunday, the Eagles only have to finish the season 3-1 to clinch the top seed in the conference. Even if the Eagles go just 2-2, the Cowboys would have to go 4-0 to pass them.

Philadelphia is up two games on Minnesota and two games on Dallas with the tiebreaker in hand. The Eagles finish with the Bears, Cowboys, Saints and Giants. To lose home field — and the division — would require a major collapse.

Dak Prescott will cost the Cowboys a deep playoff run

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Quarterbacks are allowed to have bad games in this league, but there should be some concern over how Prescott played against the worst team in the NFL. Prescott was just 24 of 39 for 284 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Texans, including a 54.5 passer rating in the fourth quarter with one interception.

This should have been an easy victory for the Cowboys, but the team is still averaging 35.7 points since his return to the lineup with a 6-1 record. Regardless, there should be some concern on Prescott throwing the ball deep as he has five touchdowns to eight interceptions on passes that have traveled for 10+ air yards this year.

Prescott has to be better to close out the year. The Cowboys may be playing all their playoff games on the road if the Eagles take care of business.

The Lions will make the playoffs

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Detroit continues to be one of the hottest teams in the NFC, winning five of its last six games since its 1-6 start — beating two teams with a winning record and averaging 29.3 points per game in the process. All of a sudden Detroit is 6-7 and sits two games in the loss column behind the Giants (7-5-1) and Commanders (7-5-1) for the final playoff spot. The Lions also have the tiebreaker over the Commanders as well.

Detroit has little room for error, needing to upset the New York Jets to make this closer to a reality. The Lions then close with the Panthers, Bears and Packers — all teams with losing records.

This team needs some help to get in, but nine wins may be enough to make the playoffs. A 4-0 finish and Detroit has an excellent shot thanks to the free fall by the Giants and Seahawks.

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Another poor game for Watson as the Browns have basically eliminated themselves from playoff contention in the AFC. Watson finished 26 of 42 for 276 yards with a touchdown and an interception as the Browns offense could only muster 10 points in a loss to the Bengals.

In the two games Watson has played, he’s completed 59.4% of his passes for 407 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions (70.3 rating). The Browns have scored just one touchdown on 23 possessions since he’s returned to the lineup.

Sure Watson has to shake the rust off, but this team isn’t better with him in the lineup. Unfortunately, it won’t matter for the rest of the year so Cleveland should just let Watson figure things out for 2023.

JK Dobbins makes the Ravens’ running game dangerous again

Overreaction or reality: Reality

It’s easy to forget how good Dobbins is as a running back and what he means to Baltimore’s rushing attack. Dobbins ran for 120 yards and a touchdown while averaging 8.0 yards per carry in the Ravens’ win over the Steelers. Baltimore put up 215 yards on the ground as Gus Edwards averaged 5.1 yards per carry — significantly higher than his 2.9 yards per carry average coming into the game.

Baltimore did all this with Lamar Jackson out and Tyler Huntley leaving early with a concussion. The Ravens can continue to wear down defenses with a healthy Dobbins and Edwards until Jackson returns, making them a threat in the AFC with both on the field.

Having Dobbins back is huge for Baltimore going forward.

The Titans will win the AFC South … with a losing record

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

Tennessee has fired general manager Jon Robinson after a blowout loss in Philadelphia last week, but actions in the front office shouldn’t affect performance on the field. The Titans were blown out by the Jaguars on Sunday, trailing by 22 points in the fourth quarter in dropping their second straight game.

The Titans are 7-6 on the year and should win the division (even though they have to play the Jaguars again). Will they do it with a losing record? Tennessee ends the season against the Los Angeles Chargers, Texans, Cowboys and Jaguars and would have to finish 1-3 to seal a losing season.

Possible, but still hard to fathom at this point.

The Buccaneers will win the NFC South … with a losing record

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Tampa Bay was blown out by Brock Purdy and San Francisco, giving up 35 points to a third-string quarterback making his first career start — after entering the game with the fifth-ranked scoring defense and the eighth-ranked defense in yards allowed.

This loss was embarrassing for a Tom Brady-led team that can’t get anything consistently going on offense — and they got the Bengals next week. Tampa Bay needs to finish 3-1 to get a winning record, and the only reason the Buccaneers may get it is because they close against the Cardinals, Panthers and Falcons.

This team isn’t a Super Bowl contender through 14 weeks. They’re lucky to play in the NFC South.

The Seahawks will miss the playoffs

Overreaction or reality: Reality

Giving up 223 rushing yards and 30 points to a Panthers team with Sam Darnold at quarterback isn’t ideal. The Seahawks defense continues to disappoint, giving up 410.5 yards per game and 28.5 points per game over the last four weeks — going 1-3 in the process and falling out of an NFC playoff spot.

Washington is the No. 6 seed in the NFC and New York is No. 7 at 7-5-1. The Seahawks need one of them to collapse down the stretch in order to get in the playoffs, but they have to play the 49ers, Chiefs and Jets in their next three games.

Someone has to make it in the NFC and the Lions are coming. Too soon to pronounce them in the playoffs, but the Seahawks appear to continue their free fall unless the defense clamps up. Hard to see that happening with the 49ers and Chiefs on the horizon.

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