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32 things we learned in NFL Week 14: Cowboys’ NFC shake-up caps wild weekend

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The 32 things we learned from Week 14 of the 2023 NFL season:

1. The NFC was thrown into delightful upheaval Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys spanking the reigning conference champion Philadelphia Eagles 33-13. The victory moved America’s team into first place in the NFC East and dropped Philly to the fifth seed. However, if the Eagles win out, they’ll still claim the division throne – and become the NFC East’s first repeat winner in nearly two decades.

2. However the Eagles are no longer assured of securing home-field advantage and a first-round bye for the second consecutive season, the San Francisco 49ers – they’ve beaten both Dallas and Philadelphia already – now in control of the No. 1 seed following Philly’s loss.

3. The Cowboys have won a league-best 15 in a row at home and have beaten the Eagles six consecutive times in North Texas. A playoff game (or two) at AT&T Stadium would seemingly give Dallas and its blitzkrieg offense quite an advantage.

3a. Dallas’ record streak of four games scoring 40+ points in “Jerry World” came to an end Sunday, but the Cowboys did finally notch a win against a team with a winning record.

4. If you consider Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and the 49ers’ Brock Purdy the MVP front-runners, Sunday didn’t hurt either of them. Prescott passed for 271 yards and two TDs, giving him 22 over the past seven games.

4a. Purdy passed for two TDs and a career-best 368 yards in Sunday’s 28-16 defeat of the Seattle Seahawks. He became the fourth player to connect on at least 70% of his passes in seven consecutive games and can match Niners legend Joe Montana’s record if he does it again in Week 15.

5. And let’s not forget the NFC South, which has a trio of 6-7 teams. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, by virtue of the common-games tiebreaker, technically hold first place – and could win a third consecutive division crown – after beating the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday, courtesy of QB Baker Mayfield’s TD pass with 31 seconds to go.

6. It certainly helped that Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo, who entered Sunday as the most accurate kicker in NFL history (90.1% on field goals), missed two of three against Tampa Bay.

7. As for the AFC, what a glorious … mess? The Buffalo Bills have won two of three since dismissing offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, improving to 7-6 after beating the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. But, amazingly, the Bills are in 11th place in the conference despite being one game behind reigning Super Bowl champion K.C. … which is in third place overall.

8. But talk about tight. Good luck finding anyone who remembers seeing Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes as upset as he was following the loss to Buffalo, the reigning MVP steamed at the offsides call officials made against WR Kadarius Toney – he scored what appeared to be the go-ahead TD on the play following a lateral from TE Travis Kelce … but was clearly in the neutral zone at the snap.

9. Aside from three neutral-site Super Bowl starts, Mahomes is facing the prospect of having to play his first playoff road game this postseason – and maybe even especially soon if Kansas City fumbles its division lead to fast-closing Denver.

10. Bills QB Josh Allen passed for one TD in the win and ran for another. It was the ninth time he’s done that in a game this year, tying Kyler Murray’s single-season record.

11. Buffalo HC Sean McDermott, who had an eventful week (to say the least), is now 7-0 following a bye week.

12. A half-dozen AFC teams – Bills, Steelers, Browns, Colts, Texans and Broncos – are currently 7-6, making the tiebreaker application … something else. For now, it favors Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, who currently hold the conference’s final two wild-card spots – though those teams will play Saturday afternoon.

13. You’ve doubtless heard that old trope about the backup quarterback being the second-most important player on any team’s roster. Well, it’s as true as ever this season. Entering Monday night’s doubleheader, 10 of the 26 teams in action in Week 14 ended their game with a passer who was not their starter in Week 1. Half of them were part of a winning effort.

14. Two more will be in action Monday, rookie Will Levis expected to start for the Tennessee Titans, and fellow frosh Tommy DeVito set to go as the New York Giants host the Green Bay Packers.

15. One of those backups was the Cincinnati Bengals’ Jake Browning (275 yards and 2 TDs passing plus a rushing TD), who had his second scintillating start in six days as his team ended the Indianapolis Colts’ AFC-best four-game winning streak.

16. The man whom Browning replaced, injured Bengals QB1 Joe Burrow, provided his suite at Paycor Stadium so Browning’s family could watch him play.

17. Across the state, another quarterback – a Super Bowl MVP once upon a time – has also returned to prominence, Joe Flacco now anointed as the Cleveland Browns’ starter the rest of the way after another sterling performance (311 yards, 3 TDs passing) in Sunday’s defeat of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

18. The win was the 100th in the regular season over the course of Flacco’s 16-year NFL career.

19. The loss was the Jags’ first on the road this season.

20. The Baltimore Ravens beat the Los Angeles Rams 37-31 courtesy of Tylan Wallace’s 76-yard punt return for a TD in overtime. The 2023 season became the first in league history with multiple games decided in OT by a punt return TD, the New York Jets beating Buffalo in Week 1 the same way.

20a. With the win, the Ravens also took over first place in the overall AFC standings – though the Miami Dolphins will reclaim it by beating the Titans on Monday night.

21. The last time WR Odell Beckham Jr. and the Rams were on the same field was Super Bowl 56, when he tore is ACL after an impactful first half for LA. OBJ had a 46-yard TD catch Sunday against his former team but expressed nothing but love for the Rams and HC Sean McVay before the game, crediting them for rekindling his love of football. Prior to kickoff, Beckham wore a “Frenemies” sweatshirt depicting his ex-mates.

22. Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson is now 19-1 against NFC teams.

23. And how about a nod to a Ravens player you may not be familiar with. DT Justin Madubuike has at least a half-sack in 10 straight games, an impressive club record given this franchise’s defensive pedigree.

24. Jets QB Zach Wilson, reinserted into the starting lineup Sunday, appeared rather enthused by his restored role. He threw for 301 yards and a pair of TDs – the first time he’d exceeded 300 yards in a win during his three-year career – while outplaying counterpart C.J. Stroud in the NYJ’s 30-6 upset of Houston.

25. Stroud’s 91 passing yards were the lowest output of his rookie season. He was unable to finish the game after a fourth-quarter sack landed him in the concussion protocol.

25a. The Jets have not allowed a 300-yard passer in their past 31 games.

26. Somebody had to cash in amid the Minnesota Vikings’ visit to Las Vegas to face the Raiders. Turned out it was the Vikes, who benched QB Joshua Dobbs but got a 36-yard field goal from Greg Joseph to win 3-0. It was the lowest-scoring game in 16 years.

27. No NFL game has ended in a scoreless tie since 1943, and none has ever gone to overtime without any points scored.

28. No NFL game had had a scoreless first half since 2019. Sunday, both Jets-Texans and Vikings-Raiders ended that streak – while marking the first time since Oct. 30, 1988, that two games were scoreless at intermission on the same day.

29. Good day for the Los Angeles Chargers, who lost QB1 Justin Herbert to a fractured finger and went 0-for-12 on third down in a 24-7 loss to the Broncos … though at least that allowed analytically devoted HC Brandon Staley to go for it six time on fourth down (the Bolts converted once).

30. The New England Patriots got back into the win column Thursday night, upsetting the playoff hopeful Pittsburgh Steelers … though maybe ultimately at the expense of the Pats’ 2024 draft position.

30a. Sunday, by virtue of Cincinnati’s win, the Patriots became the first AFC team eliminated from playoff contention – their earliest departure since HC Bill Belichick’s first season with them in 2000.

31. You also wonder if – in his heart of Annapolis hearts – Belichick would have traded that victory in order to see Navy beat Army on Saturday, the first time that historic college football rivalry was staged in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Unfortunately for BB, his beloved Midshipmen lost to the West Pointers for the sixth time in the past eight meetings.

31a. But maybe Belichick – wherever he’s coaching in 2024 – saw enough to draft Army LB Kalib Fortner following his very clutch performance for the Black Knight on Saturday.

32. RIP to former Titans TE Frank Wycheck, a three-time Pro Bowler most famous for sparking the “Music City Miracle” against the Bills during the 1999 playoffs. Wycheck died after a fall at his home in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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