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  • Writer's pictureJoshua U.

NFL Synopsis, 4 Weeks Left in the Regular Season!

How quickly things can change.


Especially in the NFL.


"Here we gooooooooooooo!"


So in the last piece I penned, the Dallas Cowboys were in my personal "If Everything Breaks Right" tier. They were sitting at 5-2 at the time, just coming off a close win vs the Chargers on the road, and before that, a debilitating beatdown at the hands of the 49ers in San Francisco. At that time, the Cowboys appeared, at least to me, despite the immense talent they carry on both sides of the ball, that they still weren’t there yet. In Dak Prescott’s now-8th year as a starter, they still didn’t appear ready to make the leap up to the truly elite in the NFC, where their divisional rival Philadelphia Eagles sit, with a Super Bowl appearance last season and a sterling start to this season.


Fast-forward to present-day, and I certainly get the feeling that Dallas has closed that gap.


An incredible shake-up has occurred at the top of the NFC in just the last two weeks. The aforementioned 49ers & Eagles met up in Philly two Sundays ago for what was supposed to be a battle-royale – a bloodshed, grunge-fest type of game that was supposed to represent all of the emotions spilling over from these two teams’ NFC Title Game matchup a year ago – a game that saw the Eagles prevail, and a game that saw the Niners literally run out of available QBs.


Those emotions certainly played out on the field, but really only on one sideline.

The 49ers trashed Philly 42-19. Kyle Shanahan’s high-powered offense, commandeered by Brock Purdy -- who's been on a tear since the Niners' Week 9 bye week -- ripped off a run of SIX consecutive touchdown drives, which included 3 by one Deebo Samuel, who carried a personal chip on his shoulder following his comments months earlier towards Eagles CB James Bradberry after last year's NFC Championship.



3 TDs after those comments is what I believe the kids call "standing on business."



The Niners moved to 9-3, the Eagles fell to 10-2 – with the latter left lifeless and limping into Dallas for a monumental matchup on ‘Sunday Night Football’. The Eagles’ offense was shut down vs SF enough to the point that Niners’ edge rusher Nick Bosa took to the media to talk about it.



Vet move from Bosa – another Eagles loss to level out the NFC even more would go a long way towards the 49ers’ #1 seed dreams. And, at least for right now, they’ve been realized.


Cowboys 33, Eagles 13.


Another 20+ point loss for the Eagles, and another lifeless showing from Jalen Hurts and his offense.


Another big showing from not only Dak Prescott, who is gaining serious steam in the MVP race, but ALSO from the ultra-opportunistic Dallas defense -- Dan Quinn’s unit forced three more turnovers in the win.


Cowboys' CB Stephon Gilmore forces a fumble vs the Eagles' A.J. Brown in the 3rd quarter of Dallas' 33-13 win over Philadelphia. Dallas' defense forced 3 fumbles in the game.


Dallas dominated in all three phases, and that includes special teams as well. Kicker Brandon Aubrey has gone from random soccer guy to NFL special-teams superstar, as he remarkably bombed three field-goals from 50+, including his very first attempt from SIXTY yards out. He was 4-4 in the game on FG kicks and now a remarkable 30-for-30 on the season.


The 49ers, Cowboys, and Eagles all now sit in a 10-3 deadlock at the NFC's apex, after the Niners took care of business at home on Sunday vs Seattle. However, due to the Cowboys and Eagles competing in the same division, and by virtue of tiebreakers, the Cowboys have advanced themselves up to the #2 seed behind San Francisco, and the Eagles have fallen all the way down to the 5th seed amidst the Wild Cards.


I often say that winning in ALL three phases of the game (offense, defense, special teams) is the true benchmark for a contender that separates them from the pretenders. The Niners and Cowboys check off each of those boxes.


I can’t say the same for Philly at this juncture.


Philadelphia’s offense remains top-10 in PPG and YPG (6th and 8th respectively), although they’ve tailed off a bit in both categories in the last two weeks. Their defense is & has been the alarming concern this season, though. The Eagles defensively are down to 22nd in yards allowed per game, as well as an abhorrent 28th in pass yards per game given up – and that’s WITH their stellar defensive line being top-12 in sacks! The Eagles were making history with their sack rate last season, finishing 1st in the NFL in that category by a huge margin -- they’ve even taken a step back in that, their specialty. Their secondary has been a major concern all season long, and even more so now with the other two NFC superpowers ripping the band-aids all the way off in the last two games. Philadelphia does have a patty-cake schedule down the stretch, though (6-7 SEA, 5-8 NYG, 3-10 AZ, NYG again), so they’ll look to beat up on some bad teams, get right, and recalibrate for the postseason, attempting to get back to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year.


Eagles QB Jalen Hurts and TE Dallas Goedert look on from the sideline in despondence as Philadelphia fell flat on their faces in Dallas. Despite two straight crucial losses to NFC contenders, the Eagles still control their own destiny for the NFC East crown and a top-2 seed.


As for the Cowboys – as great as they look right now, they adversely have a very difficult stretch of games to close out the year. They’ll travel to Buffalo this coming Sunday, then host the Lions and Dolphins. If they can continue this recent dominant run through these next three games, though? Dallas might finally be for real.


Now to the top of the AFC. The Ravens and Dolphins entered the weekend tied at mirroring 9-3 records atop the conference. The Ravens would play host to the red-hot Rams, winners of three straight, while Miami would welcome in the 4-8 Titans on MNF. Given this, Miami seemed extremely likely to either remain tied for the 1st seed or even own it outright, dependent on if the Rams could pull off an upset in Baltimore.


Surprise!


Titans' RB Derrick Henry lunges for what would become the deciding, game-winning touchdown vs Miami with 1:53 remaining, with rookie QB Will Levis rejoicing in the background.


Will Levis, Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans walked right into Miami, kept it close for much of the game, then stared down a 14-pt deficit with under 5 mins left. Then, Mike Vrabel and co. pulled off some ‘Monday Night Magic’, stunning the Dolphins in a 28-27 win. Not quite “Music City Miracle”, pt 2 – but a shocker nonetheless. Miami was seeking to make a primetime statement against their doubters. Instead, they suffer a near-death blow to their #1 seed dreams. It's especially disappointing given that they might just need home-field advantage throughout the playoffs a little more than their fellow AFC contestants.


Meanwhile, in Baltimore: Lamar Jackson moved to an incredible 19-1 vs NFC opponents, as he put up over 300 yds passing and 3 TDs in a QB duel with LAR’s Matthew Stafford that led to OT. Then, an unsung hero struck for the Ravens.



The Ravens look like the most complete AFC squad as we sit today and have looked that way for the vast majority of the season. The Dolphins, Chiefs, and Jaguars follow behind them, with each team suffering Ls on Sunday, with the most notable of them coming in Kansas City, where the Chiefs inexplicably had an incredible lateral TD play from Taylor Swift’s boyfriend wiped off the board due to an inexcusable offensive offsides penalty committed by the precarious Kadarius Toney.



This led to Patrick Mahomes throwing tantrum after tantrum on the sideline, and at midfield after the game while shaking hands with his counterpart Josh Allen, and then some more during the podium postgame presser. Mahomes does bring up a valid point as it pertains to the refs and how fans perceive them -- fans would definitely like to see less flags being thrown throughout games to let the action primarily be decided between the grown men in-between the white lines -- but Mahomes grossly misguided his anger and discontent towards the refs and the call, when it should've gone towards Toney and the Chiefs' team discipline as a whole, just as HC Andy Reid acknowledged the next day.



By the way, huge win for the Bills as they look to recover from a brutal mid-season slide and make it back to the postseason. Let's just hope that Sean McDermott is all out of 9/11-centric locker room speeches.



Carrying on: the real fight in the AFC is occurring more towards the Wild Card side of things.


Following behind the 8-5, 5th seeded Cleveland Browns, who have apparently put Joe Flacco in the Wayback Machine – there are SIX 7-6 teams at the floor of the AFC Playoff Picture: the 6th-seeded Steelers, the 7th seeded Colts, and the Texans. Broncos, Bengals, and Bills are all currently just a tick above mid, record-wise.


And, a similar phenomenon is taking place in the NFC as well: there are FIVE 6-7 teams in a virtual tie for the final playoff spot with four weeks left – the Packers, Rams, Seahawks, Falcons, and Saints all 6-7. And, we can’t forget the SURGING… New York Giants? That’s right. Brian Daboll and an Italian kid from Jersey by the name of Tommy Devito at QB have the Giants hilariously just ONE game out of playoff position after their third straight win last night vs Jordan Love & the Packers.


Could former 3rd-string QB, New Jersey native Tommy Devito and a young, budding group of receivers pull off the impossible for the 5-8 New York Giants? They incredibly sit just 1 game out of a playoff seed with 4 to play.


So, once again – with ALL THAT being said – it’s time to place all 32 NFL teams in tiers. Check back with the previous All-22 synopsis for perspective on the shifts you’re about to see, and let’s go:


Contenders:

·      49ers (10-3)

·      Cowboys (10-3)

·      Ravens (10-3)

·      Eagles (10-3)


Pretenders:

·      Dolphins (9-4)

·      Lions (9-4)

·      Jaguars (8-5)


If Everything Breaks Right:

·      Browns (8-5)

·      Chiefs (8-5)

·      Broncos (7-6)

·      Bills (7-6)


Could Make The Playoffs and Make It Fun, Too:

·      Colts (7-6)

·      Texans (7-6)

·      Bengals (7-6)

·      Vikings (7-6)

·      Rams (6-7)

·      Packers (6-7)

·      Seahawks (6-7)


They’re Not For Real:

·      PIT (7-6)

·      TB, ATL, NO (6-7) *relegate the NFC South


Thanks For Trying:

·      NYG (5-8) *apologies to the Devito family

·      NYJ (5-8)

·      TEN (5-8)

·      CHI (5-8)

·      LV (5-8)

·      LAC (5-8)


Get The Tank Revved Up, Buddy:

·      WSH (4-9)

·      AZ (3-10)

·      NE (3-10)

·      CAR (1-12)

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