Overreaction: Adding Deshaun Watson saves the Browns’ season.
After serving his 11-game suspension without pay and being fined five million dollars for his two dozen sexual misconduct claims Deshaun Watson played his first NFL game in exactly 700 days. There was clearly some rust for Watson as he tallied just 131 yards on 12 of 22 passing and threw one interception against his former team. This was nowhere near the standard of the ludicrous five-year 230 million dollar contract, he signed in the offseason.
The Browns won 27-14 but the story of the game was the Browns’ defense and special teams, not Watson. Donovan Peoples-Jones scored the first points for the Browns in the second quarter with a punt return for a touchdown. Corner Denzel Ward would score next for the Browns on a four-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Then linebacker Tony Fields II took an interception to the house for the final scoring play for the defense.
The Browns’ offense only mustered 6 points with Watson under center and had the defense not carried them in his Browns debut, the Browns would have lost 6-14. Having not played in 700 days and dealing with constant backlash from the NFL community, one could ask “Did the Browns make a mistake in signing Watson?” The Browns are 5-7 and would need to win out to make a push for the playoffs with no guarantee of getting in. The first year of Watson’s tenure in Cleveland may be a bust.
Not an Overreaction: The 49ers Superbowl window is closed for the time being.
Another 49ers season is lost due to season-ending injuries once again. Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is out for the season with a broken foot. He is the second 49ers quarterback to go down with a season-ending injury this year. San Francisco lost, then starter, Trey Lance had a fibula fracture and a ligament disruption that has sidelined him since week 2. This has left Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy to lead the Super Bowl-hopeful 49ers squad that has sole possession of first place in their division.
Purdy had a rocky first outing in week 11 against the Cardinals in the 49ers blowout win 38-10. Purdy missed a handoff to his running back by a mile and became infamous for it on the internet. Since his mishap, Purdy filled in for Garoppolo against the surging Dolphins on Sunday and finished 25/37 for 210 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the 49ers route of Miami 33-17.
San Francisco has a Super Bowl-caliber defense, but limitations on the other side of the ball may keep them from getting there. The 49er’s defense is number one in Opponent Yards and Points per game in the NFL. The offense is ranked in the top 15 for every major offensive category in the NFL, but with Purdy, under center, the future is not certain for San Fran.
Overreaction: The Cowboys are a real contender.
The legacy of the Dallas Cowboys is “this is our year” only that’s every year until the Cowboys crash and burn into mediocrity, again and again, time after time. The fan base has been meme’d to death and can never be taken seriously for an actual contender. This season “Dem Boys” are 9-3 and are coming off a monster 54-19 win over the Colts on Monday Night Football. Dallas scored 33 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to more than seal the win and it was the third time this year the Cowboys scored 40+ in a win.
The Cowboys’ defense has been incredible this year. They are top 5 in every major defensive category and are allowing less than 2 touchdowns per game. Dallas has even found a one-two punch at running back with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliot that has provided much-needed balance for the Cowboys’ offense this year. That being said the Cowboys are no stranger to amazing regular seasons, they just crumble in the playoffs and when the pressure is on.
Dallas has the 10th easiest schedule for 2022 and is poised to make the playoffs and possibly win the division if the Eagles have any more hiccups in the final stretch of the season. However, until they make that next step and make it past the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since 1995 they cannot be taken seriously. Dallas has to prove they belong in the conversation of top teams to be taken seriously again.
Not an overreaction: The Chiefs could be a first-game exit in the playoffs.
Though it may seem unlikely, Kansas City has its Kryptonite in the form of an AFC North quarterback who cannot beat the Browns. Joe Burrow and the Bengals have beaten the Chiefs three straight times and barring a rematch in the playoffs it could be a 4th. If the playoff started today the Chiefs would host the 7th seat in the AFC. That spot is currently filled by the New York Jets.
That being said with five games left in the regular season the bottom half of the AFC can shift quite a bit. If the Bengals win only two of their next five they would end up 10-7 on the season and while several teams could finish 10-7 the likelihood is that only the Los Angeles Chargers would sneak into the playoff picture sitting at 6-6. The Bengals, Dolphins, and Ravens all sit at 8-4 and the Titans are 7-5 leaving the playoff seating wide open in the final weeks.
The Chiefs will lock up the division and secure home-field advantage, but any of the teams they would face would be a tough draw for the Chiefs. Kansas City has one of, if not the best offenses in the NFL, but when they struggle to get going things get ugly for KC fast. Patrick Mahomes is still the most hurried quarterback in the NFL, even after the team overhauled its offensive line. The Chiefs have the 3rd highest sack percentage in the NFL for quarterbacks and still cannot successfully protect Mahomes.
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