The NFC goes through Philadelphia. The top three challengers showed where they stand on Thanksgiving Day.
Detroit took a step backward. Dallas feasted on another losing team. San Francisco was impressive again. The Eagles have a firm grip on the No. 1 seed but the race could tighten down the stretch.
The 49ers (8-3) geared up for an NFC championship rematch against Philadelphia (9-1) on Dec. 3 with a convincing 31-13 win at Seattle on Thursday night.
Brock Purdy, Christian McCaffrey and the rest of San Francisco’s dynamic offence racked up 377 yards and the defence was dominant.
The 49ers have now won three in a row since losing three straight. They blew out Dallas 42-10 before injuries to star wide receiver Deebo Samuel and All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams contributed to the losing skid. They routed Jacksonville 34-3 to kick off their latest winning streak.
The Seahawks (6-5) had a chance to regain the lead in the NFC West but were no match for the 49ers after falling behind 24-3 in the first half. They got within 24-13, but San Francisco’s defence stiffened.
If the Eagles lose at home to Buffalo (6-5) on Sunday, their matchup against the 49ers next week would be for the top spot in the conference.
The 49ers are Philadelphia’s main competition because they’re the most complete team. They lost Purdy to an elbow injury last year in the first quarter of a 31-7 loss in the NFC title game. They’ll need him at his best to have a shot this time around. Purdy has thrown 18 touchdown passes and only six interceptions, but he’s prone to making dangerous throws, including one that was returned for a TD by Seattle.
After the Eagles, the 49ers face Seattle again, Arizona (2-9), Baltimore (8-3) and Washington (4-7).
The Cowboys (8-3) rocked the Commanders 45-10 for their seventh win by at least 23 points. Dak Prescott had another outstanding game, tossing four TD passes. DaRon Bland set an NFL record with his fifth pick-6 of the season and Micah Parsons added 1½ sacks to his total.
“Obviously, we feel good about what we’ve got,” Prescott said. “We feel good about the players that we have, the plays that we’re gonna call, the matchup, the film study we’ve had, the preparation, the game plan. Credit these coaches week in and week out. They’re dialling up things and putting playmakers in their best position, and, yeah, it’s confidence. Simple as that.”
But the knock against Dallas is strength of schedule. The Cowboys haven’t beaten a team that currently has a winning record. They were blown out by San Francisco, beat themselves in a 28-23 loss to Philadelphia in Week 9 and lost to the pitiful Cardinals in September.
Dallas will have a tough road to overtake Philadelphia. The Cowboys’ next five games are against teams that currently are 36-17.
The Lions (8-3) began the day one game behind Philadelphia and finished it looking like a team that could lose a home playoff game to extend the NFL’s longest postseason win drought.
They were outplayed from start to finish in a 29-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers. After needing to rally to beat the lowly Bears four days earlier, Detroit played even worse. Jared Goff followed up a three-pick game against Chicago with three fumbles, including one returned for a score.
The Lions’ biggest issue is a defence that couldn’t stop Jordan Love, who tied a career high with three TD passes.
The schedule helps Detroit, however. The Lions face New Orleans (5-5), Chicago (3-8) and Denver (5-5) over the next three games.
“We just have to get back to what we do, play with a little rhythm,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “This isn’t something to where I want to get in a panic mode.”
Since 1990, 34 of 66 No. 1 seeds have reached the Super Bowl, with 15 winning it. The top seed is even more important now that only one team in each conference gets a bye since the playoff format was expanded to 14 teams in 2020.
The Eagles enter the weekend in a comfortable spot, but the 49ers and Cowboys showed they’re not far behind.