Super Wild Card Weekend is in the books after the Cowboys‘dominant victory over the buccaneers on Monday night. That means we officially have eight teams in the 2023 NFL playoffs. Every single one of them has shown championship-level poise at some point this year, and some clubs are getting especially hot right now, in the right moment. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any pressing questions facing the remaining contenders. With the divisional round set, here’s a look at some of the biggest:

Will Josh Allen be able to protect the ball?

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Buffalo wouldn’t be where it is today without the Allen shooting. But more than Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and Joe Burrow in Cincinnati, Allen’s physical gifts and style of play invite risk. While Mahomes’ fluidity makes off-script plays seem engineered and Burrow’s vision makes for reliable production at crucial moments, the No. 17 in Buffalo is more apt to put his body — and the ball — on the line. by relying on his towering arm and frame over what the defense is giving up. Since his breakout in 2020, he’s had 40 turnovers (31 INTs, nine fumbles lost) in 36 games, including the playoffs.

Can the offensive line survive another loss?

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Joe Burrow advanced to the Super Bowl last season despite a shoddy front, and now he might have to do it again. Cincinnati has done just fine without a number of injured starters, including right tackle La’el Collins and right guard Alex Cappa. But now left tackle Jonah Williams is “week to week” with a dislocated kneecap, and Burrow could be without three of his regular blockers. Deep in the playoffs, against penetrating fronts, that means potential trouble for a quarterback who thrives not on ducking pressure but on hitting with quick decisions. Tea ravens chased him down at Super Wild Card Weekend, and more heat could be coming.

Will the defense provide enough support?

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No one should bet against Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes at this stage: In the four seasons the No. 15 has been Reid’s starting quarterback, KC has never failed to reach at least the AFC Championship. But when Chris Jones isn’t dominating up front to set up long chances, the “D” back of him has proven vulnerable, missing noticeably in close games with lesser opponents like the broncos Y Texas. Tackling has been an issue there, as has inexperience, with rookies Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams all seeing significant plays at the corner. We know they can score in a shootout, but can they cover?

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Can they stay warm as the bulb gets brighter?

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Jerry Jones was elated after his beating of the Buccaneers aged and effervescent, so much so that he already is.”leveled upwith respect to Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy. But that almost speaks to the concern here: His playoff bar has long been set low relative to his actual talent, because Dak Prescott and Co., like the franchise as a whole, they are still seeking their first NFC title game appearance since 1995. In other words, the pressure remains high and will only increase as they extend a streak of three consecutive road games and counting. , with trips to San Francisco and potentially Philadelphia on the docket

What exactly is the status of Jalen Hurts?

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Of course, the quarterback will suit up as they look to show they’re still NFC class. But we haven’t seen the full-force MVP level break from him since mid-December, when Hurts hurt his shoulder. The Eagles’ strength for much of 2022 has been winning in different ways behind a strong front and an opportunistic “D,” but Hurts was the catalyst when healthy, threatening opponents as a punishing running back and outfield passer. much improved. The weapons are there in AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, as is the aggression in Nick Sirianni. But how much can Hurts, the team’s heartbeat, reasonably give, and for how long?

Will Brock Purdy finally hit a wall?

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No matter how his season ends, the 49ers will be utterly grateful for Purdy’s poise in an emergency situation; the rookie has provided a steady veteran-level presence in his efficient 6-0 run as the backup to Jimmy Garoppolo. Kyle Shanahan’s setup, which prioritizes fast hitting, a dynamic ground game and the physical “D” of the DeMeco Ryans, may well be enough to offset any of the quarterback’s hiccups. And yet we saw little glimpses of Purdy unsettled by field goals to open the playoffs against a dubious Seahawks team. If it comes to pushing against superior enemies capable of playing firefight, its novelty can finally show itself.

Can Wink Martindale match Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka?

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In other words, as New York’s offense goes full steam ahead, with Daniel Jones emerging as a composite QB franchise Under the creative direction of Daboll and Kafka, can Big Blue’s defense find a way to make its own schematic leap? Martindale took a decidedly more conservative approach against Minnesota, and it paid off late as the G-Men stopped Kirk Cousins ​​​​and Co. to seal an upset on the road, but only after the vikings he spent much of the day moving the ball up and down the field. Azeez Ojulari’s latest injury from the rim adds another potentially worrisome wrinkle, even with Dexter Lawrence still in charge of the inside.

Have you reached your emotional peak yet?

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It would be hard not to, right, after coming back from 27 below to upset the chargers in the wildest ending of Super Wild Card Weekend? Doug Pederson loves himself as a good playoff underdog, so obviously Jacksonville won’t be taking their upcoming assignments lightly. But the reality is that, at 9-8, with an improbable division crown and the franchise’s first postseason win in five years, Pederson’s Jags have already registered as a success story. Trevor Lawrence is already well on his way to a better run, and he may never have a more memorable finish than his four-touchdown rebound against Los Angeles. Never say never, but if a playoff team is ahead of schedule, teasing its 2023 potential more than its immediate title chances, it’s probably Jacksonville.

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