Cowboys’ statement win; Packers’ playoff hopes still alive; Lions fall flat: 3 up, 3 down


A weekend full of football scheduled for the holidays, what could be better! Which teams saw Santa this weekend and which teams came to visit the Grinch?

Check out my week 16 stock highs and lows report.

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Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are the best team in the AFC heading into the final two weeks of the season. They have won seven games in a row, including a win against the Chiefs. The Bengals offense looks unstoppable with Joe Burrow darting down the field. What has improved their offense this season is that they have relied much less on the 50/50 pass at the rim for their explosive passing options. Instead, Burrow is leading a passing attack that is more methodical with his playmakers’ ability to create once the ball is in their hands. The Bengals pair their offense with a stout defense that ranks just outside the top 10 in efficiency. However, they are excellent in the second half of games and are able to stifle the opposing attack when it matters most. The best “thing” the Bengals do is make no mistakes. They don’t turn the ball over much. They don’t make mental mistakes. They have no cover in defense. There is quality in not losing games and letting your opponent make those mistakes.

Green Bay Packers

It’s a Christmas miracle. The Green Bay Packers, dead just three weeks ago after their eighth loss of the season, are currently within striking distance of a wild-card spot. The Packers have won three in a row, beating the Dolphins in Miami on Sunday for an impressive sixth win of the season. With the Lions, Giants and Seahawks coming off losses, this win on Sunday puts the Packers just one game out of the final wild-card spot with two games at home to finish the season.

The Packers have gotten to this point with ease on the schedule before the Miami game, including beating the Rams with Baker Mayfield. However, Sunday’s win is one that propels the teams into the postseason. The Packers seemed destined for a loss late in the second quarter. They were down 10. Their offense was so disjointed. Aaron Rodgers didn’t find open receivers, and when he did, someone dropped him. The running game was hit or miss. The defense was bursting at the hands of the Dolphins offense and had not been stopped all game. However, the Packers forced a turnover near halftime, turned it into three points and never looked back. They scored to open the second half, forced three interceptions from Tua Tagovailoa and won the game by six points. The Packers need help up front, but they’re back in the hunt.

‘That was special’ – Aaron Rodgers on Packers’ win

Aaron Rodgers talks to Pam Oliver about the Green Bay Packers’ win that keeps his team in the playoff hunt.

Dallas Cowboys

In what seems like a rare occurrence, the Cowboys won a game they were supposed to win. Dallas hosted the Eagles’ missing star quarterback, Jalen Hurts, and Dallas needed this game to prove they are a contender in the NFC. Dak Prescott threw an early interception, then settled for an outstanding performance against a strong Eagles defense, finishing 27-of-35 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys’ running game also added over 100 yards.

The Cowboys defense has regressed a bit and didn’t play particularly well against Philadelphia. I would worry in the playoffs. What the Cowboys did do was quite a few turnovers, three of which were fumbles by the Eagles. The biggest part of this win was the confidence it will give the Cowboys heading into the postseason. They’re all but locked into the five seed and will travel to the winner of the NFC South on wild card weekend knowing they’ve already clinched the NFC’s only seed. This is powerful.

Dak Prescott throws three TDs as Cowboys beat Eagles in thriller

Dak Prescott throws three TDs as Cowboys beat Eagles in thriller

Dak Prescott brought his A game as he threw for 347 yards and three scores in the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

DOWN

The Wilson quarterbacks

Zach Wilson of the Jets and Russell Wilson of the Broncos are the two worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Both were benched this weekend and both shouldn’t play another layoff this season. Zach Wilson has clearly regressed in this second season, which is hard to do considering he wasn’t that good as a rookie. Russell Wilson has been completely burned out this season, and the Broncos’ trade for him looks like one of the worst in league history. What they both have in common is that they don’t seem to be popular in the locker room, which makes their situation that much worse.

Players understand that some of their teammates are not good. But if you’re mean, you’d better be nice or everyone will tune you out. And if you’re mean, you better answer. Players can live with poor players who take responsibility and work to improve. Will we see it with Wilson? Both of these quarterbacks must sit out the remainder of the 2022 season, rest mentally and prepare for 2023.

Detroit Lions

Just when America starts heaping deserved praise on the Lions, they become the Lions. The Lions entered their game in Carolina against the Panthers with six wins in seven games. They beat the Packers, Giants, Jaguars, Vikings and Jets. Quality opponents and quality wins. Then came Sunday, when the Panthers got kicked 37-23, and the game didn’t feel close to the 14-point difference. The Panthers, led by Sam Darnold, had 570 yards on offense. The Panthers gained two rushers over 100 yards. The Panthers defense didn’t allow the Lions to run the ball effectively and made it difficult for Jared Goff to get comfortable in the pocket. This loss hurts the Lions’ playoff chances because their competition for a wild card spot also lost. If the Lions had won, they would be in control of their destiny. Now they have to win and get help, not the best place to be.

The Panthers pile up 320 rushing yards in the win over the Lions

The Panthers pile up 320 rushing yards in the win over the Lions

The Carolina Panthers made a statement, rushing for 320 yards and three TDs in a 37-23 win over the Detroit Lions.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins were 8-3 and the darlings of the NFL after eleven weeks. There was talk that the Dolphins were winning the division and could challenge for the AFC title. Tua was having a discussion about MVP. Tyreek Hill was on his way to winning Offensive Player of the Year. A month later and the Dolphins are fighting for the playoffs after four straight losses. It’s not the losses that worry me. They’re 8-7 and probably about where you’d expect them to be after 15 games with a new coach, new, untested quarterback roster pieces. It is how they are losing that is the concern.

Tua is back to the quarterback most of us thought he was. He’s very good inside the structure of the attack, but outside of that, he’ll struggle. He hasn’t been seeing the defense that well in the last month and his three interceptions in the second half against the Packers cost his team the game. There is no solution either. These are basic things. Knockdowns and not reading covers. He needs to get better at those things quickly or the team doesn’t make the playoffs.

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Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his freshman year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.

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