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Saints superfan expresses ire on Atlanta billboards

Saints superfan expresses ire on Atlanta billboards

Saints superfan expresses ire on Atlanta billboards

One Saints’ superfan is so angered by the referees’ missed call in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, which likely cost New Orleans a trip to the Super Bowl, that he bought billboards all over downtown Atlanta to tell everyone how he really feels.

Matt Bowers, who owns several car dealerships in the New Orleans area, had some choice words for the league, including “SAINTS GOT ROBBED” and “NFL BLEAUX IT!” plastered on billboards along I-85 in Atlanta, the site of the 2019 Super Bowl. Another one of the billboards is located right outside of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Los Angeles Rams — not the Saints — and the New England Patriots will square off in two weeks.

Bowers wrote several social media posts on Monday hinting that he would take action in the wake of his ire, writing in one Twitter post, “I’m going to do something about this. #Saints #NFLBLEAUXIT,” and in another, “I won’t ever get over it but, I am going to make the NFL miserable. Watch me.”

The wave of billboards, reported to be seven in all with 16 placements, went live across downtown Atlanta on Monday evening, and fans and news outlets were quick to take notice. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that Bowers stated, “I’m not done yet.”

Bowers, whose most recent billboard message targets the NFL commissioner (“Roger Goodell knew dat!”), has also made sure that folks will see the billboards for weeks to come: He announced on Twitter they will remain “All over … Downtown Atlanta through the Fake Super Bowl.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: NFL head of officiating could lose job

Report: NFL head of officiating could lose job

Report: NFL head of officiating could lose job

The job status of the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, Alberto Riveron, could be in question after a blown call Sunday in the NFC Championship Game likely cost the New Orleans Saints a Super Bowl appearance.

NBC’s Peter King quoted a source Monday who said, “Al Riveron (EVP of Officiating) is gone. He can’t survive this.”

King added that another source said the league would have to pay a lot of money to get Dean Blandino or Mike Pereira (the latter “a less likely candidate,” per King) to return to the position. Both men once held the VP of officiating title before moving into television as rules analysts.

Riveron was promoted to the position before the 2017 season to fill the vacancy created by Blandino’s departure for Fox Sports. Last January, multiple outlets reported Riveron would remain in the position for the 2018 season despite several high-profile officiating controversies, including one that led to the competition committee overhauling the catch rule last offseason.

Riveron was senior director of officiating before being promoted to replace Blandino. He became the first Hispanic NFL referee in 2008.

Blandino suggested in December 2017, not long after leaving the league, that he could be persuaded to return to his old post if the position were valued more within the league office.

On Sunday, Saints head coach Sean Payton said he spoke with Riveron via phone shortly after New Orleans’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams, saying Riveron admitted to a blown non-call on a play that should have been ruled pass interference in the final two minutes of regulation.

“The explanation … it was simple,” Payton said of his discussion with Riveron. “They blew the call. Not only was it (pass) interference, but it was helmet-to-helmet (contact). That was the first thing Al said. …

“I don’t know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call. That’s a tough one to swallow.”

Had the call been made, with the score 20-20, the Saints would have been able to run the clock down and attempt a short field goal as time expired. Instead, they were forced to kick with 1:41 remaining, leaving time for the Rams to tie the game and force overtime, where the Saints went on to lose 26-23.

Referee Bill Vinovich briefly addressed the play during a postgame interview with a pool reporter.

“It was a judgment call by the covering official,” Vinovich said. “I personally have not seen the play. … It is not a reviewable play.”

Multiple outlets reported Monday that the league will look closely this offseason at potentially changing that matter, perhaps making pass interference reviewable along with other “judgment” calls that have not been reviewable previously.

Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement Monday saying she was “thoroughly disappointed” with the lack of “fair and equitable” decision-making from the referees, adding she has been in touch with the league and will “aggressively pursue changes” to prevent future errors from happening.

The officials on the field closest to the play in question were side judge Gary Cavaletto and down judge Patrick Turner. It’s unclear whether either will face discipline, although the league let go of down judge Hugo Cruz in October, less than two weeks after he missed a false start on a play that resulted in a Los Angeles Chargers touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.

–Field Level Media

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Saints’ owner issues statement on controversial loss

Saints' owner issues statement on controversial loss

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Saints’ owner issues statement on controversial loss

A day after her New Orleans Saints lost the NFC Championship Game due, in part, to a missed call by the officials, team owner Gayle Benson issued a strong statement of disapproval on Monday.

“I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday’s game,” the statement said, in part. “Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans. No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field. As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday.

“I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again. It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations — fairness and integrity.”

Officials declined to throw a flag after Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly hit Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived on a third-and-10 pass. Had a penalty been called, the Saints would have been able to run the clock down before kicking a 31-yard field goal as time expired, which would have won the game and sent them to the Super Bowl.

Instead, they were forced to kick a field goal with 1:41 remaining, leaving time for the Rams to tie and force overtime, where the Saints went on to lose.

Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters after the game he spoke with Alberto Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, who confirmed the incorrect non-call.

Robey-Coleman admitted afterward he made contact before Lewis had a chance to catch the pass.

“Yes, I got there too early,” he said. “I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown.”

Referee Bill Vinovich briefly addressed the play during a postgame interview with a pool reporter.

“It was a judgment call by the covering official,” Vinovich said. “I personally have not seen the play. … It is not a reviewable play.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that the NFL will consider making pass interference a reviewable play this offseason.

“It will be discussed at length along with additional fouls that coaches feel should be subject to review,” a person familiar with the NFL’s inner workings told the Post.

Replay is not an option for pass interference and other “judgment calls” but was discussed as recently as March.

To implement a rule allowing for pass interference to be validated by replay or expose this and other judgment calls to a coach’s challenge, at least three-quarters of the 32 owners must vote to approve it.

–Field Level Media

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NFL Conference Championship Weekend: Over and Under Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we're making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we're offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Take the

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Take the over: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

Total: 56.5

The Chiefs remain vulnerable against the run. The Colts averaged 6.2 yards per rush against them but weren’t able to establish the run consistently due to the score.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have really discovered a strong running game thanks to the emergence of Sony Michel. Look for them to keep it on the ground and set things up for the passing game to take advantage of a secondary that is also beatable. 

You know Tom Brady will get some shots in, and there’s little doubt Patrick Mahomes will do the same. New England’s run defense is also vulnerable — only the Rams surrendered more yards per carry than the Pats and Chiefs this season — and Damien Williams and Spencer Ware should have plenty of success setting up the passing game. Kansas City could also get a shot in the arm from the return of injured guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. 

These teams combined for 83 points in their first meeting, and this should be another track meet. After initial weather concerns, the latest forecast indicates this game won’t be played in sub-zero temperatures after all, and I think both teams will have just enough in them on offense to push this one into the 60s. 

Predicted score: Chiefs 34, Patriots 28

Take the under: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

Total: 56

Dating back to Week 13, the Saints have averaged fewer than 20 points per game. And while they scored 45 points the last time they faced Los Angeles, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is too smart to let that happen again. Look for Aqib Talib — who didn’t play in that first meeting — to do a better job against productive star Saints receiver Michael Thomas, and don’t be surprised if underrated Rams linebacker Cory Littleton limits Alvin Kamara’s damage. 

That could make life real tough against a defensive front featuring defensive player of the year shoo-in Aaron Donald as well as Ndamukong Suh, who looks inspired thus far in January. 

And while the Rams also scored 35 points in that Week 9 meeting, that offense has also been less stable and consistent without Cooper Kupp down the stretch. 

The Saints defense is certainly beatable, but keep in mind that New Orleans completely shut down the Eagles for three and a half quarters on Sunday and has surrendered 17 or fewer points in seven of its last nine games.

Not even sure this one will hit 50. 

Predicted score: Rams 24, Saints 23

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 2-0
2018 season: 23-14-1

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

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NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry and running back Spencer Ware are trending toward taking the field Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.

Berry was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and repeated the session Thursday. He’s been bothered by a heel injury.

“He looked good out there,” head coach Andy Reid said Thursday when asked about the risk of Berry being rusty after playing in just two games this season. “I see him out there looking like Eric Berry.”

Berry has played just 99 snaps across the two games while battling the lingering heel issue, while Ware missed the final three games of the regular season after injuring his hamstring Week 14 in a win over the Ravens.

–Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a “minor knee cleanup” after the season, reported NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“Sounds like he’s fine now,” Rapoport tweeted. “Just some maintenance on an injury that bothered him during the season.”

Watt had appeared on Houston’s injury report multiple times during the second half of the season with a knee issue, but he started all 16 regular-season games plus the Texans’ wild-card playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts this season.

–Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has filed an official challenge over the team’s decision to take away the guarantees in the final two years of his contract, according to multiple reports, and an arbitrator will determine if Jacksonville is within its rights to do so.

Fournette was scheduled to earn $2.93 million in 2019 and $4.17 million in 2020, but the Jaguars voided the guarantees after he was suspended by the NFL for one game for coming off the bench to fight with Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars’ loss at Buffalo on Nov. 25.

After the game, Fournette apologized, but the Jaguars still took away the remaining guaranteed money in his rookie contract citing a contract clause that allowed them to do so if he missed a game for anything other than a football-related injury.

–The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a deal with quarterback Paxton Lynch, a first-round draft pick by Denver in 2016, KJR Radio reported.

Lynch, who turns 25 next month, was released by the Broncos before the 2018 season.

He wasn’t able to take hold of the starting job in Denver, appearing in just five games (four starts) and passing for 792 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Broncos’ signing of Case Keenum last March made Lynch expendable.

–The Chicago Bears’ impressive 2018 turnaround earned Matt Nagy the NFL Coach of the Year and former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard, whose moves helped the Colts reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014, was voted NFL Executive of the Year by PFWA members.

Nagy inherited a 5-11 team and compiled a 12-4 record in his first season with the Bears, who won the NFC North and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

–Legendary singer Gladys Knight will perform the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, the NFL and CBS announced.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” the 74-year-old Knight said.

Knight is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won seven Grammy awards. She also has had two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles during her career: “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

–Former NFL quarterback Turk Schonert has died, according to Fox 19 News in Cincinnati. He was 62. His cause of death was not announced.

Schonert spent eight seasons in Cincinnati (1981-85, 1987-89) and one in Atlanta (1986), largely as a backup quarterback. He compiled a 7-5 record as a starter.

He later served as quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. He also was the Bills’ offensive coordinator for one season in 2008. More recently, he was an assistant coach with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.

–Field Level Media

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Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Legendary singer Gladys Knight will perform the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, the NFL and CBS announced Thursday.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” the 74-year-old Knight said.

Knight is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won seven Grammy awards. She also has had two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles during her career: “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

Deaf activist Aarron Loggins will sign both the anthem and “America The Beautiful.”

–Field Level Media

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Potent offenses collide as Saints, Rams meet for NFC title

Potent offenses collide as Saints, Rams meet for NFC title

Potent offenses collide as Saints, Rams meet for NFC title

Drew Brees turned 40 on Tuesday, and the New Orleans Saints quarterback will cap off his birthday week matching throws and wits on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game with Jared Goff, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback who is 16 years younger.

Brees is in no mood for nostalgia, but he knows better than anyone else that chances to win a Super Bowl don’t come around often.

“I think that’s been well communicated, really, as we’ve journeyed through the season and as we’ve hit every benchmark,” Brees said of being one victory away from his second Super Bowl appearance, the other when he won a title after the 2009 season. “Don’t take it for granted. Appreciate it. We are still a young team in a lot of areas, but we also have a lot of great veteran leadership.”

Goff said he appreciated Brees’ willingness to share some insights into the art of quarterbacking when they played together in the Pro Bowl last year.

Brees said he was simply “paying forward” what other veteran quarterbacks did for him, guys like Doug Flutie, Trent Dilfer and Kurt Warner.

“I told myself at that time that hopefully I can play long enough where guys start asking advice from me,” Brees said, smiling.

In their 45-35 regular-season victory over the Rams in November, the Saints held a 35-14 lead late in the second quarter — scoring touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions. Their only miscue came when Mark Ingram fumbled at the New Orleans 22 with the game tied at 14, but the Rams wasted that scoring opportunity when they passed up a go-ahead, 34-yard field goal on fourth-and-4 and failed to convert on holder Johnny Hekker’s run around right end.

The Rams rallied starting late in the second quarter and put up 21 consecutive points to the tie the game at 35, only to have Brees connect with Michael Thomas on a 72-yard touchdown with 3:53 left to seal the victory.

When Saints coach Sean Payton remarked after the game that he liked the matchup of Thomas going against Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, the defensive back fired back and said he was relishing a rematch.

Asked Wednesday about the verbal dustup, Payton discounted any bad blood, saying the Saints had come close to drafting Peters in 2015.

In the November matchup, Brees completed 25 of 36 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns, and Thomas caught 12 passes for a career-high 211 yards to hand the Rams their first loss of the season.

In the rematch, the Saints will be playing without one of their best run-stoppers, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who sustained a torn Achilles tendon in New Orleans’ 20-14 divisional playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

The Rams also will be without one of their best performers, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in Week 10. Kupp had 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games this season.

“That game was a while ago,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of New Orleans’ head-to-head win. “It was a great reference point for us to work from and try to learn from some of the mistakes everybody made, and we’re looking forward to the challenge again on Sunday.”

The Rams, playing in their first NFC Championship Game since 2001-02, are coming off an impressive 30-22 victory over Dallas in which they produced 273 rushing yards, the most ever surrendered by the Cowboys in the playoffs. Running backs Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson combined for 238 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries (6.1-yard average).

“I thought those guys did a great job complementing each other,” McVay said. “Certainly, Todd’s our guy, but I thought C.J. was a great change of pace to come in there and be able to do some really good things.”

The rematch should have plenty of offensive fireworks. The Rams finished No. 2 in the NFL in scoring (32.9 points per game), but the Saints were right behind them at No. 3 (31.5). Both defenses finished in the middle of the pack in total yardage allowed and points allowed.

While Gurley and Anderson proved they could pound the ball against the Cowboys, the Saints’ Alvin Kamara and Ingram provide the sixth-best rushing attack in the league. Kamara had three first-half touchdowns in the November meeting.

“We need to keep our gap integrity and tackle well,” McVay said.

–Field Level Media

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Patriots dialed in for Chiefs, championship game

Patriots dialed in for Chiefs, championship game

Patriots dialed in for Chiefs, championship game

in 2014, the last time the Patriots traveled to Kansas City, apoplectic reaction went to parts unknown: speculation whether Tom Brady was finished and if his Lombardi-hoarding coach had lost his touch.

Two Super Bowl victories later, New England is again on rarely traveled ground, packing for another AFC Championship game as the underdog at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

“They’re a well balanced, disciplined team. We’ll need our best game,” Belichick said Wednesday in Foxborough, Mass.

The Patriots need one win for their ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2000. Sunday will mark the eighth consecutive year New England has reached the conference title game. No other team has appeared in more than five in a row.

“I love to play in a championship game,” Belichick said, shrugging off a question about preparing for gametime temperatures forecast to be at or below freezing. “Schedule it wherever you want. We’ll be there.”

The most recent forecast calls for a daytime temperature of 19 degrees.

Belichick has won a championship at the expense of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. New England won Super Bowl XXXIX over the Eagles, with Reid as Philadelphia’s coach, following the 2004 season. The Patriots have 18 takeaways in eight games and a 6-2 record when Belichick opposes Reid.

Overall, Reid is 1-4 in championship games. Kansas City hasn’t won the Super Bowl since 1970.

For all the playoff experience Brady and Belichick boast, not often has New England been asked to go on the road to earn a Super Bowl ticket. New England is 3-4 in postseason road games featuring Brady behind center.

“We’re going to have to stop the whole offense, not just one player,” Belichick said. “We’re going to have to play good team defense.”

Belichick is 8-4 in championship games and has 29 postseason wins as a head coach.

Kansas City was first in the NFL at 35.3 points per game in 2018. New England was fourth at 27.2.

Recent games have been shootouts. The Chiefs beat the Patriots 42-27 to open the 2017 season, and New England knocked off K.C. in October of the just-completed season, 43-40.

“They have a great offense, they have a great set of players,” Belichick said. “Andy does a great job of forcing you to make choices, and spreading the ball around based on those choices. … They lead the league in everything.”

As for any lasting memories of the bloody Monday night in 2014 – a 41-14 loss in which New England trailed 27-0 and 41-7 – the Patriots are employing their usual short-term memory.

This week, they’re on to Kansas City.

–Field Level Media

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Arians: Steelers WR Brown has become ‘diva’

Arians: Steelers WR Brown has become 'diva'

New Tampa

Arians: Steelers WR Brown has become ‘diva’

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians used to have a close-up view of Pittsburgh star wide receiver Antonio Brown when he served as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator.

Now his view is from afar, and he isn’t so impressed with Brown’s actions or behavior.

“There’s too much miscommunication, too much … diva,” Arians said Tuesday on The Adam Schefter Podcast. “I’ve heard so many stories — I like Antonio — he plays as hard as anybody on Sunday and he practices hard.

“He’s just gotta make better decisions off the field, be on time, do some of those little things.”

Arians was around for Brown’s first two seasons in Pittsburgh. The Steelers drafted Brown in the sixth round out of Central Michigan in 2010 and Arians was impressed with his hunger to become good.

“He was the hardest working,” Arians said. “He and Emmanuel Sanders. Boy, they went after it because (coach) Mike Tomlin used to tell them, ‘two dogs, one bone.’ And at that time we had Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, I mean we had a pretty good run for one of them to get on the field. By the end of the season, they were both winning for us to go to the Super Bowl.”

Arians left the Steelers following the 2011 campaign to become offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts. He served as interim head coach for most of 2012 while Chuck Pagano was battling cancer, was the Arizona Cardinals head man from 2013-17 and sat out the 2018 season before becoming head coach of the Buccaneers.

Meanwhile, Brown’s future in Pittsburgh is uncertain after his Week 17 antics infuriated the organization. Brown reportedly skipped meetings and practices and didn’t return Tomlin’s calls.

When Brown showed up for the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, Tomlin informed him that he wouldn’t be playing.

Last week, team president Art Rooney II said it would be “hard to envision” Brown being part of the team when it opens training camp in July.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Eagles still committed to Wentz

NFL notebook: Eagles still committed to Wentz

Philadelphia

NFL notebook: Eagles still committed to Wentz

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson didn’t waste any time putting an end to speculation about the team’s quarterback situation next year.

“Carson Wentz is the quarterback going forward,” Pederson said at a press conference Tuesday. “And in Nick (Foles’) case, listen, we’d love to have everybody back throughout the roster, but as I’ve said many times, it’s not about one guy, it’s about the team, and we’re going to do what’s best for the team.”

Foles, 29, led the team in the postseason each of the past two years with Wentz out injured. The Eagles hold a $20 million option on Foles for 2019, but the quarterback can buy it out for $2 million to become a free agent, barring a franchise tag.

–The New York Jets will hire former Cleveland Browns interim coach Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator, ESPN reported.

ESPN adds the Washington Redskins — whose defense Williams coordinated from 2004-07 — also pursued Williams, but the Jets had more interest. Washington still has Greg Manusky under contract as defensive coordinator, but reports have connected the team to various other options.

–The Denver Broncos agreed to hire former Chicago Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports.

Donatell has worked under Vic Fangio since 2011, when they were both in San Francisco. He also had two previous tenures in Denver as the secondary coach. Fangio is still expected to call plays on Sundays.

–The Arizona Cardinals are interviewing former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter for the same position, ESPN reported.

According to multiple reports, the Cardinals also interviewed John DeFilippo — who has also interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ opening — on Sunday.

–The Jaguars are interviewing former Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy for the same position, ESPN reported.

McCoy, 46, was fired by the Cardinals in October, marking the second consecutive season in which he was fired midseason. The Broncos let him go midway through 2017.

–The Indianapolis Colts parted ways with offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, while assistant offensive line coach Bobby Johnson is leaving to take the lead job for the Buffalo Bills.

The Colts allowed an NFL-low 18 sacks in 2018, but DeGuglielmo is out after just one year because head coach Frank Reich wants to hire his own guy, NFL Network reported. DeGuglielmo was hired by Josh McDaniels last year before the latter backed out of the Colts’ head job.

–The Dallas Cowboys will keep Marc Colombo as their offensive line coach full-time.

Colombo took over for Paul Alexander — who was fired just seven games into his first year with the Cowboys — at the end of October.

–The Browns are hiring Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Chris Jones, per multiple reports. TSN reports Jones will serve as senior defensive specialist.

Jones and new head coach Freddie Kitchens have a relationship dating back to 1997, when Jones was a graduate assistant at Alabama in Kitchens’ final season at quarterback for the Crimson Tide.

–The Kansas City Chiefs activated right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from injured reserve and waived safety Ron Parker.

Duvernay-Tardif landed on IR after sustaining a spiral fracture in his fibula in Week 5, an injury that required surgery.

–The New Orleans Saints signed free agent defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker, per multiple reports.

Walker, 28, began his career in New Orleans as an undrafted free agent and played 23 games with the Saints from 2013-14. He’ll help replace Sheldon Rankins (IR, Achilles).

–Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley was undergoing a mental evaluation after being detained by police in Los Angeles, according to TMZ Sports.

He reportedly was involved in an undisclosed incident at a hotel, and a friend who was with McKinley became worried and called the police. TMZ reported McKinley was not arrested. Instead, police encouraged him to seek help, and he agreed and went with police.

–The NFL announced the Los Angeles Chargers’ and Dallas Cowboys’ staffs will coach the Pro Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 27.

–Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will replace injured Chargers QB Philip Rivers in the Pro Bowl.

Other Pro Bowl replacements announced Tuesday included Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams (for Geno Atkins), 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (Fletcher Cox), Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (Luke Kuechly) and Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins (Landon Collins).

–John Parry will be the referee for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, his second Super Bowl as referee and third as an official.

–Longtime NFL coach Mike Smith announced on Sirius XM radio he is retiring to spend more time with his family.

–The San Francisco 49ers are hiring former Broncos defensive coordinator Joe Woods as their passing-game coordinator, per multiple reports.

–New York Giants rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta pleaded guilty to a disorderly persons offense stemming from an October incident, ESPN reported.

–Field Level Media

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Bears won’t shut door on signing RB Hunt

Bears won't shut door on signing RB Hunt

Bears won’t shut door on signing RB Hunt

At the Chicago Bears’ end-of-the-season news conference Monday, head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace covered a variety of topics, including new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, expected personnel moves this offseason and kicker Cody Parkey’s appearance on the “Today” show last week.

However, perhaps no comments raised more eyebrows than those about former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who was cut and placed on the commissioner’s exempt list in late November after a video surfaced showing Hunt shoving and kicking a woman at a Cleveland apartment building in February.

It is not clear when — or if — Hunt will be reinstated by the league. However, neither Nagy nor Pace closed the door on potentially bringing in Hunt should the opportunity present itself. Nagy spent two seasons as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator prior to this season, including coaching Hunt for his rookie season in 2017.

“I’m a guy that, I don’t care who you are. … Here is what I’m going to say to this,” Nagy said. “Everybody has, when you talk about second chances, well, what’s the second chance? Is it, what’s your situation? And so, with him, that’s not for me to decide. … I’m a guy that has always been, now I was raised that way to give guys second chances, not third chances, now I’ve learned that from (Chiefs head coach Andy) Reid, he’s done that several times with some people, but I will say that every situation is different. That’s his situation, and I wanted to talk to him as on the true, personal side.”

As for Pace, the team’s general manager since 2015, he would say only that he takes each player and each decision on its own individual merits, and that the two sides are not close to the point of entertaining the possibility of Hunt joining the Bears.

“I think every one of those is unique. Each one is different,” Pace said. “The circumstances are always different. We’re not even there yet. I mean, I know what he is as a player obviously from watching. Matt knows more about him as a person. We’re not even close to that point.”

The Bears won the NFC North with a 12-4 record but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 16-15 in the wild-card round when Parkey’s would-be game-winning field goal was deflected at the line of scrimmage, then bounced off an upright and the crossbar before falling short.

Hunt, 23, burst onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2017. Hunt rushed for a league-high 1,327 yards as a rookie and had 824 yards through 11 games this season before his release.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs-Patriots in for frigid AFC title game

Chiefs-Patriots in for frigid AFC title game

Chiefs-Patriots in for frigid AFC title game

Chiefs coach Andy Reid wore cargo shorts to his Monday press conference at Arrowhead Stadium, but he might be sporting pants and a parka this weekend.

When the Chiefs host the AFC Championship game in Kansas City on Sunday against the New England Patriots, temperatures could be downright frigid. Weather.com has a forecast range for 6:40 p.m. ET (scheduled kickoff time) in the 5-below zero to 10 degrees above zero range as of Monday afternoon.

Last week, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick prepared his team for all types of weather before New England beat up on the Chargers. Before the game, he said, “We’re not playing the weather. Whatever it is, it is.”

Accuweather projects temperatures Sunday night between 2 and 14 degrees.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been in big games with low temps before. In 2004, the Patriots beat the Steelers in the AFC title game with a starting temperature of 11 degrees.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who went to Texas Tech, has not played in temperatures below 27 degrees at kickoff in the NFL.

Mahomes said after Saturday’s win over the Colts, when temps were at 30 degrees for most of the game, that weather “wasn’t really a factor.” Most of Missouri had been blanketed in snow a day before the divisional playoff game.

According to the Patriots’ media guide, the third-coldest game in franchise history was played in Kansas City (9 degrees, 1963).

–Field Level Media

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Jerry Rice: WR Brown wants to play for 49ers

Jerry Rice: WR Brown wants to play for 49ers

Jerry Rice: WR Brown wants to play for 49ers

Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice says disgruntled Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown wants to play for the San Francisco 49ers “really bad.”

Rice, who made the comments Monday during a radio interview, reportedly had a FaceTime conversation with Brown on Sunday.

“He wants to come here really bad,” Rice told 95.7 The Game.

“He’s talking about running the hill with me — doing all that and just working out and just picking my brain. I don’t know if it’s going to happen because it’s going to be up to [coach] Kyle Shanahan and also [general manager] John Lynch, but I’m all for it if they want him to come on board.”

Rice, the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, starred for the 49ers from 1985-2000 before finishing his legendary career with the Oakland Raiders (2001-04) and Seattle Seahawks (2004).

Rice said he would definitely trade for Brown if it were his decision.

“If it was left up to me, he’d be here in a heartbeat,” Rice said.

Brown, who turns 31 in July, is coming off his sixth straight Pro Bowl appearance after totaling 104 catches for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was named first-team All-Pro four years in a row from 2014 to 2017.

He has fallen out of favor in Pittsburgh after skipping practices and team meetings and not returning phone calls from team president Art Rooney II, head coach Mike Tomlin or teammates leading up to the regular-season finale.

He showed up to play against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the team held Brown out. He was listed on the injury report with knee soreness, but many have questioned his injury. Reports said teammates felt he quit on them.

Last week, Rooney said “it’s hard to envision” Brown returning to the Steelers, while Tomlin acknowledged that the receiver may have become more of a distraction than he’s worth.

The Steelers gave Brown a four-year, $68 million extension last February.

Brown can’t be dealt until the 2019 NFL calendar officially begins on March 13. The Steelers would likely make a decision on his status before March 17, when he is due a $2.5 million roster bonus.

–Field Level Media

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Browns introduce Kitchens as head coach

Browns introduce Kitchens as head coach

Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said fans can get

Browns introduce Kitchens as head coach

Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said fans can get on board or get out of the way as he takes the reins in Cleveland.

Kitchens was formally introduced as coach on Monday, ending a nine-week search that began when Hue Jackson was fired.

“It takes some guts to do what they did — I know I’m not a popular choice. And I don’t care,” Kitchens said. “You’ve got to block out the noise in this business. The noise gets you in trouble. … They didn’t care. They were doing what they thought was best for the organization.”

Kitchens will remain the primary play-caller in Cleveland despite the addition of Todd Monken as offensive coordinator.

Kitchens said Monday that Monken opted for Cleveland because of the quality of the people on the staff, despite the perceived step down from his previous role as play-caller and offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Browns also filled their defensive coordinator vacancy, officially naming former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks to that position.

“When everyone’s willing to check their ego at the door, that’s when you’re in position to be successful. We’re going to be successful,” Kitchens said. “The offense is whatever they wanted it to be. I was just the guy directing the choir. … I just get people going and they decided what they wanted to be.”

General manager John Dorsey said Kitchens’ vision for the team and his ability to collaborate — a noted shortcoming for previous head coach Jackson — and coordinate set the first-time head coach apart from other candidates.

“Honestly, I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself,” he said. “When I knew it was possible was whenever John (Dorsey) told me I was interviewing for the job. I try not to lie too much. I meant it when I said, ‘I’m one day at a time.’ You have to have a vision for the future, eliminate some road blocks along the way. … This is the most important time for me as a head coach, is the staff I’ve built.”

Kitchens will report directly to Dorsey. The structure change shifted from the existing protocol, which called for Jackson to report to owner Jimmy Haslam.

Monken, who turns 53 in February, was a candidate for head-coaching openings with the Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets and also drew interest as a coordinator from several other teams, including Jacksonville and Detroit.

He took over playcalling from Dirk Koetter in Tampa Bay this season, his third as offensive coordinator, and helped the Bucs’ offense finish third in yards and 12th in points. The Bucs did not bring Monken back after hiring new head coach Bruce Arians, whose offensive coordinator will be Byron Leftwich.

Wilks, 49, was fired less than a calendar year after taking over the Cardinals, who finished with the NFL’s worst record this season at 3-13, a job he got after shining as a coordinator with the Carolina Panthers.

Arizona’s defense ranked 20th in yards and 26th in scoring, but Wilks helped Carolina finish seventh and 11th, respectively, in 2017, his only previous experience as an NFL coordinator. Wilks was a defensive backs coach for four teams from 2005 through 2016 before taking over as coordinator in Carolina.

He is replacing Gregg Williams, who served as interim head coach for the second half of 2018 but was let go when Kitchens was promoted to head coach last week.

“I’m probably going to offend some people saying this, but if you don’t self-promote sometimes you can get overlooked,” Kitchens said. “I’m just going to do my job. I was always under the assumption, if you do your job well enough, you’ll get recognized.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: NFL owners prepare for work stoppage in 2021

Report: NFL owners prepare for work stoppage in 2021

Lost in the headlines

Report: NFL owners prepare for work stoppage in 2021

Lost in the headlines of the names and ages of the people NFL teams are hiring to fill head-coaching vacancies is some of the language common in the contracts they sign.

Specifically, language reportedly foreshadowing a possible work stoppage in 2021.

According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Sunday, the head-coaching contracts negotiated in the last week contain wording that show “teams are addressing how much each coach would make — or lose — in the event of a work stoppage.”

Teams are using different percentages based on the amount of game time that could be missed in 2021 to determine how much money they would save in coaching salary should there be a work stoppage, according to the report.

Schefter added that “both teams and coaches are confident that there will be some type of disruption,” and that similar language is expected to appear in contracts for upcoming free agents.

The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in what would be the third year of those new contracts.

Shortly after Schefter tweeted the news on Sunday, the official Twitter feed of the NFL Players’ Association tweeted back, “These contract provisions were also seen in the lead up to the 2011 lockout. Take note.”

After the owners and players were unable to come to an agreement before the last CBA expired in March 2011, the owners locked the players out as negotiations continued. That impasse lasted 132 days, coming to an end on July 25 with the Hall of Fame Game being the only on-field cancellation caused by the lockout.

–Field Level Media

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Patriots hammer Chargers, make 8th straight AFC title game

Patriots hammer Chargers, make 8th straight AFC title game

Patriots hammer Chargers, make 8th straight AFC title game

Scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions Sunday, the New England Patriots established a 35-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 41-28 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC divisional round game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

The result sends New England (12-5) to Kansas City next Sunday to play for the conference title and a trip to the Super Bowl on Feb. 3. The game is scheduled to kick off at 6:40 p.m. ET. The win also gives the Patriots a perfect 9-0 home record this season and puts them in the conference championship game for eighth consecutive season, an NFL record.

Los Angeles finished its season with a 13-5 record and its first playoff win since January 2014.

But on this day, the Chargers couldn’t come close to replicating last week’s wild-card round victory in Baltimore. The Patriots carved up Los Angeles’ defense for drives of 83, 67, 58 and 87 yards to start their day, then cashed in a fumbled punt return for a fifth touchdown just before halftime.

Every aspect of New England’s offense did its job. Tom Brady completed 34 of 44 passes for 343 yards and a 15-yard scoring strike to Phillip Dorsett with 12:17 left in the second quarter. Rookie running back Sony Michel pounded out 129 yards on 24 carries, reaching the end zone on runs of 1, 14 and 5 yards.

Brady made liberal use of running back James White and wide receiver Julian Edelman — White caught 15 passes for 97 yards and Edelman added nine catches for 151 yards, a franchise-record fifth 100-yard game in the playoffs.

Defensively, the Patriots made the Chargers one-dimensional with their first half explosion. Running back Melvin Gordon managed only nine carries for 15 yards and a third-quarter touchdown, forcing Philip Rivers to carry the load.

Operating under duress all day, Rivers completed only 25 of 51 passes for 331 yards and three scores with an interception. New England recorded only two sacks, but hurried and harassed the quarterback all day.

The AFC title game will be a rematch of a wild Week 6 game in Foxboro that the Patriots won 43-40 on a 28-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski as time expired.

–Field Level Media

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Anderson, Gurley run Rams past Cowboys, into NFC title game

Anderson, Gurley run Rams past Cowboys, into NFC title game

Anderson, Gurley run Rams past Cowboys, into NFC title game

C.J. Anderson rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley added 115 yards and a score as the Los Angeles Rams ran their way into the NFC Championship game with a 30-22 victory Saturday over the visiting Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterback Jared Goff was 15-of-28 passing for 186 yards as the Rams moved one victory from the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since 2001, when they lost to the New England Patriots.

The Rams will face the winner of Sunday’s Philadelphia Eagles-New Orleans Saints matchup in next weekend’s NFC title game.

“It was incredible what they did today,” Goff said of the Rams’ running backs. “We know this (Cowboys) defense, and we prepared for it well all week. What Todd and C.J. did … Todd started it and C.J. finished it off.”

Dak Prescott was 20 of 32 for 266 yards and one touchdown passing while also rushing for a score as the Cowboys lost their eighth consecutive road playoff game.

The Rams totaled 273 yards on the ground, a franchise record for a playoff game. It was the most rushing yards the Cowboys’ defense has given up in a game this season. Dallas entered with the fifth-best rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 94.6 yards per game.

“We just didn’t do a good enough job of controlling the line of scrimmage, winning our gaps and tackling,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “They were able to run consistently throughout the game. They controlled the pace and tempo of the game really because of that.”

Anderson, who was signed late in the season and played in just two regular-season games, scored on a 1-yard TD run to give the Rams a 13-7 lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

Gurley, who was playing in his first game since Dec. 16 against Philadelphia because of knee soreness, added a 35-yard TD run with 3:27 remaining in the opening half to give the Rams a 20-7 lead.

After a third-quarter field goal from the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein, the Cowboys cut the deficit to 23-15 on a 1-yard TD run from Ezekiel Elliott and a 2-point conversion catch from Amari Cooper.

The Cowboys started a potential game-tying drive late in the third quarter, but Elliott was stopped on fourth down from the Rams’ 35-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Rams promptly went on a 12-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard TD run from Anderson to take a 30-15 lead with 7:16 remaining. Prescott added the Cowboys’ final TD on a 1-yard run with 2:11 remaining.

Elliott was held to 47 yards on 20 rushes for the Cowboys.

“Even when we were in three-receiver sets they were in base, so they were committed to stopping our running game,” Garrett said. “If they’re committed to taking one thing away you have to be able to beat them in the other area, and at times we did a good job of that tonight.”

At 32, the Rams’ Sean McVay became the youngest head coach to win a playoff game, ahead of John Madden, who was 33 when he won his first playoff game with the Oakland Raiders.

–Field Level Media

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Report: NFL could move AFC title game from Chargers’ stadium

Report: NFL could move AFC title game from Chargers' stadium

Report: NFL could move AFC title game from Chargers’ stadium

If the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, and the Indianapolis Colts top the New England Patriots, the NFL will have a decision to make.

Will the Chargers be allowed to host the AFC championship game at their temporary home, the 30,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park in suburban Carson, Calif., or will it be played elsewhere in a stadium with larger capacity?

CBS Sports reported Friday that the NFL league office will be discussing contingency plans should the fifth-seeded Chargers and sixth-seeded Colts advance. That would give the Chargers home-field advantage in the championship game.

The league discussed the possibility of where the Chargers would host a potential title game when they were vying with the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed, but that talk died down when the Chargers landed as a wild-card team, CBS’ Jason LaCanfora reported.

He said that last month, officials had discussed the potential of moving the game to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the Rams. That could still be a Plan B, LaCanfora said, but if the Rams host the championship game, both games could not be played on Sunday. Instead, one of the conference championship games could be played on Monday night under that scenario, he said.

–Field Level Media

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What To Look For – Divisional Playoffs

PRESS RELEASE

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

LOWER SEED SUCCESS: The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-6) and PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-7) both earned victories on Wild Card Weekend as the No. 6 seed in their respective conferences.​

The Colts, who travel to Kansas City on Saturday (4:35 PM ET, NBC), and the Eagles, who

PRESS RELEASE

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

LOWER SEED SUCCESS: The INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-6) and PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-7) both earned victories on Wild Card Weekend as the No. 6 seed in their respective conferences.​

The Colts, who travel to Kansas City on Saturday (4:35 PM ET, NBC), and the Eagles, who play at New Orleans on Sunday (4:40 PM ET, FOX), look to become the first No. 6 seeds to reach the Conference Championship since 2010, when both the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets accomplished the feat.​​​​

The No. 6 seeds to reach the Conference Championship since the 12-team playoff format began in 1990:

SEASON

TEAM

CONFERENCE

ADVANCED TO

2010

Green Bay

NFC

Won Super Bowl XLV

2010

New York Jets

AFC

Conference Championship

2008

Baltimore

AFC

Conference Championship

2008

Philadelphia

NFC

Conference Championship

2005

Pittsburgh

AFC

Won Super Bowl XL

 

 

 

 

2018

Indianapolis

AFC

???

2018

Philadelphia

NFC

???

 

In the AFC, the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (13-4, No. 5 seed), who face New England on Sunday (1:05 PM ET, CBS), and the sixth-seeded Colts are both still alive. With victories by both teams in the Divisional Playoffs, it would mark the first Conference Championship game featuring a No. 5 and No. 6 seed since the 12-team playoff format began in 1990.

 

WINNING WAYS: The DALLAS COWBOYS, who defeated Seattle 24-22 on Wild Card Weekend, and the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, who had a bye last week, will each be playing in the Divisional Playoffs.

Dallas, who plays at the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, FOX), has 35 playoff wins and can tie the PITTSBURGH STEELERS (36) for the most postseason victories all-time. New England, who hosts the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday (1:05 PM ET, CBS), has 34 postseason victories and can surpass the GREEN BAY PACKERS (34) for the third-most playoff wins all-time.

The teams with the most postseason wins in NFL history:

TEAM

WINS

LOSSES

WIN PCT.

SUPER BOWL WINS

Pittsburgh

36

25

.590

6

Dallas

35

27

.565

5

Green Bay

34

22

.607

4

New England

34

20

.630

5

San Francisco

30

20

.600

5​

 

TOUCHDOWN LEADERS: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES and the Chiefs are s​et to face off against Indianapolis quarterback ANDREW LUCK and the Colts in the Divisional Playoffs on Saturday (4:35 PM ET, NBC).

Mahomes, who led the NFL with 50 touchdown passes, and Luck, who ranked second with 39 touchdown passes in 2018, have the most combined regular-season passing touchdowns (89) among any opposing quarterbacks in a playoff game in the Super Bowl era.

With Mahomes and Luck ranking first and second in regular-season touchdown passes, Saturday will mark the fifth time since 2002 that the top two passing touchdown leaders from the regular season will face off in the postseason.

The postseason games between the top two regular-season passing touchdown leaders since 2002:

SEASON

PLAYER (TEAM)

TD PASSES

PLAYER (TEAM)

TD PASSES

PLAYOFF ROUND

2016

Aaron Rodgers (GB)

40

Matt Ryan (Atl.)

38

NFC Championship

2014

Andrew Luck (Ind.)

40

Peyton Manning (Den.)

39

AFC Divisional

2009

Drew Brees (NO)

34

Peyton Manning (Ind.)

33*

Super Bowl XLIV

2009

Drew Brees (NO)

34

Brett Favre^ (Min.)

33*

NFC Championship

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018

Patrick Mahomes (KC)

50

Andrew Luck (Ind.)

39

AFC Divisional

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Tied for 2nd

 

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER: New England quarterback TOM BRADY and the Patriots welcome quarterback PHILIP RIVERS and the Los Angeles Chargers to Gillette Stadium on Sunday (1:05 PM ET, CBS).

Brady, who will be 41 years and 163 days old on Sunday, and Rivers, at 37 years and 36 days old, combine for a total of 28,688 days old, the oldest combined age by opposing starting quarterbacks in a postseason game in NFL history.

The oldest combined age by opposing starting quarterbacks in a postseason game in NFL history:

DATE

QUARTERBACK

TEAM

QUARTERBACK

TEAM

COMBINED DAYS OLD

1/13/19

Tom Brady

New England

Philip Rivers

Los Angeles Chargers

28,688*

1/24/16

Peyton Manning

Denver

Tom Brady

New England

28,603

1/9/99

John Elway^

Denver

Dan Marino^

Miami

27,704

1/16/94

Warren Moon^

Houston Oilers

Joe Montana^

Kansas City

27,306

1/22/17

Tom Brady

New England

Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh

27,162

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Total days as of Sunday, January 13

 

 

RATED WELL: Philadelphia quarterback NICK FOLES and the Eagles head to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday (4:40 PM ET, FOX) to face New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES and the Saints.

Foles, who has the highest postseason passer rating (105.2) in NFL history, and Brees, who ranks fifth with a 100.7 passer rating, are two of five quarterbacks to have a passer rating of 100 or higher in the postseason (minimum 150 attempts).

The quarterbacks with the highest career postseason passer rating (minimum 150 attempts):

QUARTERBACK

COMP.

ATT.

YARDS

TDS

INTS

RATING

Nick Foles

125

179

1,432

10

3

105.2

Bart Starr^

130

213

1,753

15

3

104.8

Kurt Warner^

307

462

3,952

31

14

102.8

Matt Ryan

237

351

2,672

20

7

100.8

Drew Brees

354

537

4,209

29

9

100.7

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Foles (69.8 percent) has the highest postseason completion percentage in league annals (minimum 150 attempts) and Brees (65.9 percent) ranks fifth.

The quarterbacks with the highest career postseason completion percentage (minimum 150 attempts):

QUARTERBACK

COMP.

ATT.

PCT.

Nick Foles

125

179

69.8

Matt Ryan

237

351

67.5

Kurt Warner^

307

462

66.5

Ken Anderson

110

166

66.3

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

 

SHOWDOWN IN SO CAL: Dallas running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT and the Cowboys head to Southern California to take on defensive tackle AARON DONALD and the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night (8:15 PM ET, FOX).

Elliott, who led the NFL with 1,434 rushing yards in 2018, rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown in Dallas’ Wild Card Weekend victory over Seattle. Elliott has recorded at least 125 rushing yards in each of his first two playoff appearances and can become the fourth player in NFL history to record three consecutive postseason games with at least 125 rushing yards.

The players with the most consecutive postseason games with at least 125 rushing yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

DATES

CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 125+ RUSH YARDS

Terrell Davis^

Denver

1/11/98-1/17/99

4

Arian Foster

Houston

1/7/12-1/5/13

3

John Riggins^

Washington

1/15/83-1/30/83

3

 

 

 

 

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas

1/15/17-1/5/19

2*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Active Streak

 

 

Donald, who led the league with 20.5 sacks and earned the 2018 Deacon Jones Award as the NFL’s sack leader, became the 11th different player since 1982 to record at least 20 sacks in a single season.

With a Rams win on Saturday, Donald would join Pro Football Hall of Famer LAWRENCE TAYLOR (1986) as the only players to record at least 20 sacks and advance to the Conference Championship in the same season since 1982.

The players to record at least 20 sacks and advance to the Conference Championship in the same season since 1982:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

SACKS

ADVANCED TO

Lawrence Taylor^

New York Giants

1986

20.5

Won Super Bowl XXI

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron Donald

Los Angeles Rams

2018

20.5

???

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

Courtesy of NFL Communications

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Reports: Bengals hope to hire Rams QB coach Taylor

Reports: Bengals hope to hire Rams QB coach Taylor

The Cincinnati Bengals would like to

Reports: Bengals hope to hire Rams QB coach Taylor

The Cincinnati Bengals would like to hire Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor to be their next head coach, multiple media outlets reported Thursday.

No team can hire Taylor until the Rams’ season is over, but Taylor reportedly is the Bengals’ top choice. ESPN reported that Taylor also wants to be in Cincinnati, where he coached as the Cincinnati Bearcats’ offensive coordinator in 2016.

Taylor, 35, would become the second-youngest active head coach in the NFL, behind only his current boss, Rams head coach Sean McVay, who turns 33 on Jan. 24. He interviewed for the Denver Broncos’ and Arizona Cardinals’ head-coaching vacancies before those teams hired Vic Fangio and Kliff Kingsbury, respectively.

A former Nebraska quarterback, Taylor is in his first year as QBs coach with the Rams after spending 2017 as assistant wide receivers coach. He also coached for the Miami Dolphins, one year as assistant quarterbacks coach (2012), three as quarterbacks coach (2013-15) and part of the 2015 season as interim offensive coordinator.

NFL Network earlier Thursday that the Bengals told several assistant coaches they would not be returning, as the team’s next head coach has other assistants in mind to replace them. That indicated the hire would come from outside the organization.

Other candidates for Cincinnati job include Hue Jackson — who joined the Bengals midseason after being fired as the Cleveland Browns’ head coach — former Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

Taylor would be the third head coach hired during this cycle who has ties to McVay.

New Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur spent 2017 as the Rams’ offensive coordinator under McVay.

Meanwhile, McVay offered Kingsbury a job on L.A.’s staff for the remainder of the 2018 season after the latter was fired by Texas Tech. Kingsbury instead joined the University of Southern California as offensive coordinator before getting the Cardinals’ job a month later.

Taylor’s brother, Press Taylor, is in his first season as the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.

–Field Level Media

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Jets QB Darnold strongly supports hiring of Gase

Jets QB Darnold strongly supports hiring of Gase

Jets QB Darnold strongly supports hiring of Gase

The New York Jets’ hiring of Adam Gase as head coach has received a major vote of approval from at least one important voice on the team — starting quarterback Sam Darnold.

“It was a tough decision, but I think Gase and the things he’s able to do, the way he’s able to lead, I think is the best thing for our team,” Darnold told ESPN during a phone interview on Thursday.

Darnold had an up-and-down 2018 rookie season (17 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions) with the Jets, who finished 4-12 and ranked 29th in total offense. He also supported former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken, but said he thought the team made the right choice with Gase, the former Miami Dolphins head coach who was fired on Dec. 31 after they finished 7-9 and ranked 31st in total offense.

“I’m really, really excited about this opportunity and all the things Adam can bring this team,” said Darnold, who spoke with Gase on FaceTime for 10 minutes on Monday. “For us, it’s about winning. How do you do that? You score more points than the other team. I’m really excited about the opportunity to get to work with him, and score a load of points. I think it’s going to be really fun.”

If there was a backlash by fans about the Jets’ decision to hire Gase, Darnold expects it to subside, saying, “I don’t think they’ll be upset when we start winning games.”

Eight known candidates interviewed for the position, including former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy. It came down to a final four: Gase, Monken, McCarthy and Baylor coach Matt Rhule.

“Adam is an awesome dude. First of all, a really trustworthy guy,” Darnold said of Gase, who previously worked with Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill. “He just knows ball. He knows football. He’s very, very passionate about it. I think that’s what’s going to be awesome about this whole thing.”

Manning reached out to Jets CEO Christopher Johnson on Tuesday night to throw his support Gase’s way.

“His passion is going to be super, super contagious,” Darnold added about his new coach. “Guys are going to want to go out there and play the game all the time. I think that’s kind of his leadership style, and I think that’s really where he’s going to thrive. I think our guys are going to take on that kind of attitude.”

–Field Level Media

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NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend: Over and Under Best Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we're making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we're offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of the week: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams

Total: 49

The Cowboys offense has come alive. Dak Prescott is playing well, Ezekiel Elliott has picked up steam and the offensive line is healthier than it was during much of the regular season. As a result, Dallas has averaged 32.3 points per game the last three weeks.

Meanwhile, the Rams might not be projected to load up on points considering the way they finished the regular season — they averaged “just” 27.0 points per game during the final four weeks of the year — but they still averaged a league-high 37.1 points per game at home this season, and star running back Todd Gurley is now healthier than he’s been in weeks.

Both defenses have stellar playmakers, but the Rams have the league’s worst run D in terms of rushing yards allowed per attempt. That bodes well for Elliott. The Dallas D is excellent against the run but remains vulnerable through the air and struggled when defending running backs in the passing game. And that, of course, bodes well for Gurley and the rest of L.A.’s high-powered, innovative offense.

It’d be a huge surprise if the Cowboys and Rams didn’t combine for 50-plus points Saturday night in front of a split crowd at the L.A. Coliseum.

Predicted score: Cowboys 30, Rams 27

Under of the week: Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs

Total: 57.5

Whaaaat?

OK, the Chiefs have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and that unit was at its worst when it gave up 35.6 points per game between Week 11 and Week 16 before recovering in finale against Raiders. But let’s not forget that Indy’s shockingly strong defense has surrendered a league-low 15.5 points per game dating back to Week 7.

Both offenses will undoubtedly move the ball and find the end zone, but I get the feeling oddsmakers have given too much credit to NFL touchdown pass leaders Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck and not enough credit to Indy’s all-around stellar D and Kansas City’s under-the-radar pass-rush.

The Chiefs can be had on the ground and in the secondary, but don’t be surprised if Bob Sutton dials up some stops with his sneaky-good pass-rush, and be less surprised if the still-mistake-prone Mahomes experiences some growing pains in his first career playoff start.

After all, the same thing happened to Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky last week, as well as Jared Goff in his maiden playoff voyage last January.

This game won’t be low-scoring by any stretch, but I doubt these teams combine for more than 50 points.

Predicted score: Colts 27, Chiefs 24

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 2-0
2018 season: 21-14-1

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

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Super Bowl 53 Future Book Odds: Start To Finish

Wildcard weekend is out of the way and Super Bowl 53 coming up fast.  Here are the current odds for teams in the playoffs. We've also put together a visualization of the odds for teams throughout the season below. The Saints have been the consistent favorite throughout 2018, with the Chiefs following close behind.

Wildcard weekend is out of the way and Super Bowl 53 coming up fast.  Here are the current odds for teams in the playoffs. We’ve also put together a visualization of the odds for teams throughout the season below. The Saints have been the consistent favorite throughout 2018, with the Chiefs following close behind.

NFL Odds

Super Bowl LIII Line

AFC                  +3

NFC                  -3

 

Who will win Super Bowl LIII?

AFC Team         +130     (13/10)

NFC Team         -150     (2/3)

 

Odds to Win Super Bowl 53       

New Orleans Saints                                      5/2

Kansas City Chiefs                                        4/1

Los Angeles Rams                                        9/2

New England Patriots                                   6/1                   

Los Angeles Chargers                                  9/1

Indianapolis Colts                                        10/1

Dallas Cowboys                                           12/1

Philadelphia Eagles                                     12/1

 

Exact Super Bowl Matchups (Most likely to least likely)

New Orleans Saints vs. Kansas City Chiefs                    4/1

New Orleans Saints vs. New England Patriots                 5/1

Los Angeles Rams vs. Kansas City Chiefs                      6/1

Los Angeles Rams vs. New England Patriots                  8/1

New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Chargers                8/1

New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts                      10/1

Los Angeles Rams vs. Los Angeles Chargers                  12/1

Los Angeles Rams vs. Indianapolis Colts                        14/1

Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs                          16/1

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs                     16/1

Dallas Cowboys vs. New England Patriots                       20/1

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots                 20/1

Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Chargers                      28/1

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Los Angeles Chargers                28/1

Dallas Cowboys vs. Indianapolis Colts                            33/1     

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Indianapolis Colts                      33/1

 

Here you can select a team and see what the probability of them winning the Super Bowl was throughout each week of the season.



Martin is a data analyst that has been applauded for his ability to make the complex simple. He grew up on a farm in northern Vermont and spent his summers helping his mom lead llama treks at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

Martin graduated from University of Vermont with a degree in Mathematics. After graduation he left Vermont to work for an educational nonprofit called City Year for two years, and followed that up by attending the data science immersive program at Galvanize in Denver. He is an avid Green Bay Packer fan, and spends his free time playing football and soccer.

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Chargers RB Gordon sits out, TE Henry practices

Chargers RB Gordon sits out, TE Henry practices

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon sat

Chargers RB Gordon sits out, TE Henry practices

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon sat out practice Wednesday due to a knee injury, giving him extra rest as he hopes to play Sunday against the New England Patriots.

NFL Network reported Tuesday that Gordon is expected to play through a mild left knee sprain, which is similar to the injury on his right knee that kept him out of three games in the regular season.

“There’s not a lot of backs in the league right now that are 100 percent, to be honest with you,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn told reporters before practice Wednesday. “He’s one of those guys that he’s not 100 percent, but sometimes you don’t feel like it because of the way he competes.”

Meanwhile, tight end Hunter Henry was a full participant in his first practice since being activated off the reserve/physically unable to perform list on Monday.

Henry has practiced with the team for three weeks, but the Chargers were not obligated to list him on an injury report until he was placed on the 53-man roster. The designation suggests Henry is on track to play against the Patriots, just 7 1/2 months since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament during organized team activities.

Joining Gordon on the sideline Wednesday was center Mike Pouncey, who is battling a thumb issue. Fullback Derek Watt (shoulder) was limited, as were linebacker Kyle Wilson (concussion) and cornerback Brandon Facyson (concussion).

Lynn was not available for comment after the injury report was issued.

–Field Level Media

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Arians: Leftwich will call Bucs’ plays

Arians: Leftwich will call Bucs' plays

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians will not

Arians: Leftwich will call Bucs’ plays

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians will not call offensive plays for the team, instead handing that responsibility to offensive coordinator/pass-game coordinator Byron Leftwich.

“Obviously I’ll have a big hand in it,” Arians added Wednesday on the Rich Eisen Show, in his first public appearance since being named the Bucs’ head coach on Tuesday. He said he feels “very, very comfortable” with Leftwich calling plays.

Arians has called plays in 14 NFL seasons, including all five years of his tenure as the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach, but he clearly has faith in Leftwich, who turns 39 on Monday. In June 2017 — just a few months after Arians made Leftwich the Cardinals’ quarterbacks coach — Arians said Leftwich will be a head coach “early and fast.”

A former top-10 pick as a quarterback, Leftwich was promoted to interim offensive coordinator in Arizona midway through this season after the firing of Mike McCoy, but the Cardinals released him after the season. This year will be his third as an NFL coach, in addition to one year as a coaching intern.

Meanwhile, Arians also sounded sure that former New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles will be his defensive coordinator, despite reports Wednesday saying the addition is not a done deal yet, with the Chicago Bears also seeking Bowles’ services to run their defense after Vic Fangio’s departure to join the Denver Broncos.

“He’s like a son to me,” Arians said of Bowles. “He thought hard about [being the Bucs’ defensive coordinator]. I was doing my best sell job and this happened. We’re really excited to be back together.”

Bowles was Arizona’s defensive coordinator under Arians from 2013-14 before landing the Jets’ lead job. The Cardinals finished those years ranked seventh and fifth, respectively, in points allowed.

Arians also voiced full support in quarterback Jameis Winston, saying, “this thing will be built around him.”

“I think he can win it all,” Arians continued of Winston. “He has the intelligence, the toughness and obviously the arm ability to lead a team. Now we’ve gotta put the right pieces around him, we’ve gotta do some things defensively, but if anybody can do things defensively, Todd Bowles can do it.”

The Buccaneers officially will introduce Arians on Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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Report: AAF to follow NFL eligibility rules

 

After Clemson's dominant

 

After Clemson’s dominant victory over Alabama on Monday night in the College Football Playoff championship game, social media was flooded with fans wishing Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence could play pro football right away.

 

They’ll need to wait until 2021. Probably.

 

NBC Sports reported Tuesday that a spokesman for the upstart Alliance of American Football said the league will use the same eligibility rules as the NFL. That means a player can’t join the league until at least three years have passed since his high school class graduated.

 

So under that scenario, Lawrence and other players who were true freshmen in the 2018 season can’t be selected by the NFL until the 2021 draft, or join the AAF until then.

 

The AAF opens play in its inaugural season on Feb. 9.

 

The XFL, however, hasn’t committed to such a timeline. The eight-team XFL is scheduled to begin in 2020.

 

In an interview with podcast host Brian Berger of the Sports Business Radio Road Show in December, XFL commissioner Oliver Luck said, “We’re not subject to that.”

 

“Theoretically we could take a player right out of high school. I doubt we’ll do that,” Luck said, taking note of the physical differences between teenagers and players in their mid-20s.

 

“But I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said. “Nor would I rule out taking a player who played a year of college football and let’s say isn’t eligible academically, which happens. Or a player who is two years out of college, and is transferring, and would have to sit out a year. A lot of guys don’t want to.”

 

–Field Level Media

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Report: ‘Good chance’ Kitchens will be Browns’ head coach

Report: 'Good chance' Kitchens will be Browns' head coach

Report: ‘Good chance’ Kitchens will be Browns’ head coach

Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens may be looking at his second promotion in less than three months, according to a report Tuesday by Cleveland.com, which says Kitchens has “a good chance” of being named head coach of the Browns.

The report adds that several assistant coaches already have been asked to stay aboard, a sign that the Browns will stay inside the organization for the hire. NFL Network reports it doesn’t appear Cleveland has made a decision yet, but Kitchens is getting “strong consideration.”

Kitchens, 44, interviewed with the Browns on Monday, and interim head coach Gregg Williams also interviewed for the job last week.

Last week, multiple outlets reported that the Browns blocked several NFL teams from interviewing Kitchens for their offensive coordinator positions so they could keep him, either as head coach or offensive coordinator.

Kitchens was promoted from Cleveland’s running backs coach to offensive coordinator — his first time holding a coordinator position — in Week 9 of the regular season, and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield thrived after the change. In eight games with Kitchens as OC, Mayfield threw for 2,254 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions and was sacked just five times.

–Field Level Media

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McDaniels: ‘Book is closed’ on interviews, staying with Patriots

McDaniels: ‘Book is closed’ on interviews, staying with Patriots

New England Patriots

McDaniels: ‘Book is closed’ on interviews, staying with Patriots

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that the “book is closed” on doing any more head coaching interviews, adding, “I’ll be here moving forward.”

McDaniels made the comments during a conference call with reporters, multiple outlets reported.

It comes a day after the Green Bay Packers reached a deal with Matt LaFleur to be their next head coach, replacing Mike McCarthy. McDaniels was among several candidates interviewed by the Packers, and it was the one job McDaniels was reportedly very interested in during the current coaching cycle.

“It’s always a humbling experience,” McDaniels said Tuesday. “I’ve said before, I think I have one of the best jobs in the world.”

McDaniels previously turned down an invitation to interview with the Cincinnati Bengals, and said Tuesday that he has had “no contact” with the Cleveland Browns, contradicting reports that he had shown interest in their vacancy.

McDaniels told reporters he’s “completely focused” on the Patriots’ game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Patriots play host to the Chargers in a divisional round playoff game Sunday at 1 p.m.

McDaniels, 42, was 11-17 as the head coach of the Denver Broncos from 2009-10, and he spurned the Indianapolis Colts at the 11th hour last year after reaching an agreement with the team to replace Chuck Pagano.

McDaniels returned to the Patriots after getting fired by the Broncos. He first joined the Patriots in 2001.

–Field Level Media

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Ballin’ on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Results, Super Bowl Value Picks

We didn't exactly go out with a bang. If we were an NFL team, we would have been eliminated from the playoffs this weekend. It turns out as the games get tougher for the players, they get tougher for bettors too. We went 1-4 this week, our worst week of the season, but

We didn’t exactly go out with a bang. If we were an NFL team, we would have been eliminated from the playoffs this weekend. It turns out as the games get tougher for the players, they get tougher for bettors too. We went 1-4 this week, our worst week of the season, but let’s not let that distract us from the fact we picked at a 58 percent clip during the rest of the year. We’re going to recap what went wrong this week and as we put a bow on the 2018 season of this column, we’ll look at who presents the best Super Bowl value.

LOSS: Texans -1.5 vs. Colts (-105): Colts 21, Texans 7.

This was a true beatdown. I’ll be the first to admit that we underestimated just how hot the Colts were. Their offensive line looks impenetrable and Andrew Luck, as a result, looks like an elite quarterback once again. They took Houston out of the game from the jump by rushing out to a big lead. Deshaun Watson and Co. were simply never able to recover.

Watch out for Indy against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round, they match up really well against Kansas City. If K.C. isn’t able to generate a pass rush on that tough offensive line, they could be in for a long day, whether they have the league MVP playing at his best or not. Teams surprise us in the playoffs and our first surprise came thanks to Indy.

LOSS: Seahawks to beat Cowboys (-105): Cowboys 24, Seahawks 22.

If only we would have taken the spread, which was Seahawks +2.5, we would’ve had the greatest backdoor cover of all time. Boy, kicker Sebastian Janikowski getting injured in the first half really threw this game through a loop with Seattle having to go for two and having to go for it on fourth down deep inside Dallas territory. Of course, having to go for two (and succeeding) at the end of the game, pushed the final score to a two-point margin instead of four.

However, we took Seattle to win straight up, because that was the better value and Pete Carroll’s unwillingness to pass the ball in the first half bit us right where it hurts. It really doesn’t make sense to be running the ball so much when you have one of the most clutch quarterbacks in the league, but what do I know? This was a tough game to watch and an even tougher game to lose a bet on.

WIN: Chargers-Ravens UNDER 41.5 points: Chargers 23, Ravens 17.

For a while there, it seemed like we were solidly in the clear, but scoring picked up in the fourth quarter. Had Lamar Jackson led an improbable comeback drive in the final minute, it would have pushed the over. Let’s be honest, though, that would’ve been pretty cool regardless. Los Angeles held on as they continue to look like a team of destiny and they saved the over by a couple points.

This is the only game we picked correctly this week, which makes it our last correct game pick of the season on this column. Don’t be surprised if the Chargers end up knocking off the Patriots on the road next week. L.A. is now 8-1 on the road this season and is coming for a New England team, which was the only team in the league to go a perfect 8-0 at home in the regular season.

LOSS: Bears -5.5 vs. Eagles (-110): Eagles 16, Bears 15.

Writing this recap makes me physically ill, because I’m a Bears fan. I was in a fit of blind rage for about an hour after Cody Parkey’s game-winning 43-yard field goal attempt clanked off two different posts. While that field goal wouldn’t have won us this bet anyway, it doesn’t make it any easier a pill to swallow.

What we should blame this on is Matt Nagy’s vanilla play calling in the first half. It seemed like he was playing not to lose and didn’t let QB Mitch Trubisky push the ball down the field. That may have been a mistake given the fact he torched the Eagles in the second half, giving him the most overall passing yards of any QB playing on wild card weekend. It still should have been enough as he led the team down for a very makeable game-winning field goal, but a fingertip re-directed Parkey’s attempt and the play that will forever live in Chicago sports infamy was born.

LOSS: Texans-Colts OVER 48.5 (-110): Colts 21, Texans 7.

This game is really the gift that keeps on giving, huh? When one team scores just seven points, you can be pretty certain you aren’t hitting the over. I expected this to be a much closer game in the mid-20’s hence the pick. I couldn’t have anticipated Houston’s offense stalling out for most of the game. Credit to Indy for jumping out to an early lead and not giving it up, but that game flow really put us in a bind.

Since Indy went up so big so soon, Houston had to go into predictable play calls and that hindered them on offense. Up big, Indy just ran the ball and continued running out the clock. It was the perfect storm to lose us the over pretty quickly.

Okay, this bad betting week behind us, let’s jump to some Super Bowl picks. I’ll give you two Super Bowl values I really like and two I don’t like so much as you look to make a longer term bet in the coming weeks. These are all based on teams’ odds of winning the Super Bowl going into the Divisional Round.

Like: Chargers +1000. Yes, I get that the Chargers now have to take on the Patriots on the road to even advance to the AFC Championship, but this is really good value. A 10-to-1 that I really could see going all the way. Since they were a wild card team, it’s easy to forget they were tied for the best record in the AFC this season.

Saints +250. It’s weird to call the Saints a “value” pick, because they are the favorites to win it all. However, even a 2.5-to-1 payout is great for them and here’s why: they have the path of least resistance to get there. With the Bears eliminated, the NFC is now theirs for the taking and that alone, makes them a good value.

Dislike: Chiefs +400. The Chiefs are the most overrated team in football and it’s because they have the league MVP and the league’s most dynamic offense. However, in the playoffs, when games get tighter, you need a defense to win you games and K.C. has the worst defense remaining in the playoffs. They simply can’t slow down opponents in the passing game and they have a less-than-stellar match up this week with the Colts coming to town. They’re tied for the second-best odds to win it all and that’s just bad value.

Rams +400. I dislike this for many of the same reasons I dislike the value of taking the Chiefs. First of all, the team hit a rough patch in the final quarter of the season. They should beat the Cowboys at home, but that’s not a given. One thing they have over the Chiefs is a game wrecker like Aaron Donald. Even with a subpar overall defense, Donald can change a game with a big strip sack at any time. Overall, though, you just can’t convince me they’re going to march into New Orleans and beat the Saints. They, along with Kansas City, are the second-best odds behind the Saints and I just don’t see value in that.

Jacob Kornhauser is a sports reporter in Southern Oregon covering all sports, including Oregon and Oregon State athletics. He has been a national baseball writer for Bleacher Report and Rant Sports and has written two baseball books. He also specializes in sports betting analysis. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School.

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New Raiders GM Mayock: Gruden has ‘final say’ on personnel

New Raiders GM Mayock: Gruden has 'final say' on personnel

For anyone who

New Raiders GM Mayock: Gruden has ‘final say’ on personnel

For anyone who feared the Oakland Raiders’ hiring of Mike Mayock to be the general manager would create some sort of power struggle between the new guy and head coach Jon Gruden, Mayock is doing his best to alleviate that fear.

When push comes to shove, the GM is deferring to the coach.

“In all honesty, Jon’s got final say, if it ever comes to that, and I’ve got zero problems with that,” Mayock told ESPN’s Steve Levy on Monday afternoon at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Mayock was attending the College Football Playoff championship game, scouting perennial NFL pipelines Alabama and Clemson.

“Now, having said that, I think we’re going to come to a consensus and I like a little yelling, a little screaming, a little fighting for what players you believe in,” Mayock continued. “But at the end of the day, I guarantee you, Jon Gruden and I are going to know what a Raider looks like and smells like. I don’t think we’re going to have any issues.”

After a brief playing career in the early 1980s, Mayock shifted his focus to the media. He has never held any sort of NFL management or coaching position, and he has worked as an analyst and draft expert for the NFL Network since 2004.

After shadowing Gruden for parts of the offseason, Mayock was named the replacement for the fired Reggie McKenzie on New Year’s Eve.

The Raiders finished the 2018 season with a 4-12 record, collecting a cadre of draft picks along the way.

Oakland had a 39-70 record, including a playoff loss, under McKenzie. He helped orchestrate trades that shipped out former first-round picks and Pro Bowl performers Khalil Mack (Bears) and Amari Cooper (Cowboys) during Gruden’s first season back on the sidelines since his “Monday Night Football” run.

In addition to the franchise’s own first-round pick, the Raiders will have first-round picks from Chicago and Dallas. The order of those selections will be determined by playoff results.

The Raiders are slated to begin playing in Las Vegas in 2020, but with their lease at the Oakland Coliseum up following the 2018 season and their new stadium in Sin City not ready until 2020, their home for the 2019 season remains uncertain.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers’ Smith-Schuster replacing Brown as Pro Bowl WR

Steelers’ Smith-Schuster replacing Brown as Pro Bowl WR

Steelers’ Smith-Schuster replacing Brown as Pro Bowl WR

Now the Pro Bowl knows what the Pittsburgh Steelers feel like.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown, who missed Pittsburgh’s regular-season finale for what was listed as a knee injury, is also out of the postseason all-star contest for apparently the same reason. The Steelers announced Monday that teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster will replace Brown on the roster for the game, set for Jan. 27 in Orlando, Fla.

Smith-Schuster was voted as the Steelers’ Most Valuable Player by his teammates after making 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He ranked fifth in the AFC and 12th in the NFL with 1,439 yards from scrimmage.

Brown was out with a knee injury for the Steelers’ Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, per the injury report. However, it was later revealed that Brown missed the final walkthrough and was benched by head coach Mike Tomlin for missing other meetings and practices leading up to the game.

While the Steelers beat the Bengals 16-13 to finish 9-6-1, they were knocked out of playoff contention when the Baltimore Ravens held off the Cleveland Browns. Last week, NFL Network reported teammates doubted Brown’s knee injury claims.

Tomlin, who admitted there was no MRI or X-ray on the knee, said he had no reason to doubt the wide receiver was hurt. He followed that up with a completely different feeling, saying at an end-of-year news conference, “We’re talking about our darkest hour. The guy not communicating is a very real element of discussion.”

Tomlin denied Brown requested a trade, as CBS Sports reported last week.

“I talked to him prior to the game on Sunday,” Tomlin said. “I have not talked to him since then. … I’m not going to frame any expectation or conversation. I’m having conversations with a lot of people in terms of assessing what transpired. I will certainly talk to him.”

Brown led the NFL with 15 touchdown catches this season, and had 104 receptions for 1,297 yards.

Other Steelers scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl are running back James Conner, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva.

–Field Level Media

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Bears K Parkey: ‘Thought I hit a good ball’

Bears K Parkey: 'Thought I hit a good ball'

Bears K Parkey: ‘Thought I hit a good ball’

A distraught Cody Parkey was at a loss to explain his miss of a potential game-winning field goal at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, which knocked the Chicago Bears from the playoffs.

“I feel terrible,” Parkey told reporters after the 16-15 loss. “There’s really no answer to it. I thought I hit a good ball.”

Parkey’s 43-yard attempt hit the left upright, caromed down, went off the crossbar and then back into the end zone, preventing Chicago from reaching the divisional playoffs. Slow-motion replays appeared to show Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester getting a finger on the ball with his left hand, and Eagles teammates confirmed afterward that Hester tipped it.

It was Parkey’s sixth kick this season that hit an upright and missed.

Fans booed the kicker heavily as he left the field.

“It’s one of the worst feelings in the world to let your team down,” Parkey said. “I feel terrible. Continue to put things into perspective, continue to just put my best foot forward and just sleep at night knowing that I did everything in my power this week to make that kick, and for whatever reason it hit the crossbar and the upright.”

Moments before the miss, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson had used a timeout to ice Parkey just before the Bears snapped the ball, and Parkey made the meaningless attempt as whistles blew. He had also hit each of his first three field-goal attempts of the game, though none was from further than 36 yards.

Parkey, who turns 26 in February, spent the first two years of his career with the Eagles, reaching the Pro Bowl in 2014 as a rookie.

Former teammate and Eagles left tackle Jason Peters told NFL Network after the game he knew Parkey’s second attempt — after Pederson called a timeout — would miss.

“I told him thank you after the game,” Peters said.

Parkey joined the Bears on a four-year, $15 million deal in free agency in March, but he made just 23 of 30 field-goal attempts (76.7 percent) and missed three extra points in the regular season.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles survive Bears on bizarre missed FG

Eagles survive Bears on bizarre missed FG

Eagles survive Bears on bizarre missed FG

Nick Foles found Golden Tate for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 56 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Philadelphia Eagles held on for a 16-15 win over the host Chicago Bears on Sunday in the NFC divisional playoffs.

The Eagles were stuffed on three plays from the 2-yard line before Tate hauled in the pass just beyond the goal line with the season at stake. The defending Super Bowl champions will travel south to face the top-seeded New Orleans Saints next week.

Bears kicker Cody Parkey missed a 43-yard field goal in the final seconds for Chicago as teammates watched in disbelief from the sideline. Parkey’s kick hit the left upright and then hit the crossbar before bouncing back into the end zone. It was the sixth time he hit the upright this season.

Foles completed 25 of 40 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Tate and Dallas Goedert each had a touchdown catch.

Mitchell Trubisky completed 26 of 43 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown in his playoff debut. His top target was Allen Robinson, who finished with 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.

Robinson hauled in a 22-yard score along the right sideline to give Chicago a 15-10 lead with 9:04 remaining in the fourth quarter. Taylor Gabriel was stuffed in front of the goal line on a rushing attempt for a failed two-point conversion.

The Eagles grabbed a 10-6 lead with 5:20 to go in the third quarter. Foles looked to his left and connected with Goedert on a slant route toward the end zone for a 10-yard score. The completion — which came with only 10 Bears on the field — capped a seven-play, 83-yard scoring drive.

Chicago pulled within 10-9 with 14:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. Parkey made a 34-yard field goal for his third strike of the game.

Philadelphia opened the scoring on the first possession of the game with a 43-yard field goal from Jake Elliott.

The Bears’ offense had back-to-back punts before Parkey evened the score at 3 with a 36-yard field goal with 9:38 to play in the second quarter. An interception by Bears linebacker Roquan Smith on the previous drive helped to set up the score.

Chicago took a 6-3 lead as time expired in the half on Parkey’s 29-yarder.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Steelers want to trade Brown despite cap hit

Report: Steelers want to trade Brown despite cap hit

Report: Steelers want to trade Brown despite cap hit

The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to trade Antonio Brown in the next several weeks, despite the salary cap hit the team would take, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning.

That comes after Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged Wednesday that a time could be near when Brown is more of a distraction than he’s worth in Pittsburgh after a week of discord in advance of their regular-season finale.

“The reason why it’s a high — I call it a high probability, and we have until March 13 new league year to see this come to fruition, he’s due a $2.5 million roster bonus five days after that date,” Mortensen said. “The Steelers, certainly because of what happened this week but what’s been festering behind the scenes even a couple of years beyond that, they will move him in a trade.”

If they deal Brown, the Steelers will face $21 million in dead salary cap space — about 8 to 10 percent of their total cap space. Mortensen said the Steelers expect to have $14 million in salary credit from running back Le’Veon Bell and plan to restructure quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s contract to clear cap space.

NFL Network reported the asking price for Brown likely would be a first-round draft pick or multiple high picks.

Brown had 104 receptions for 1,297 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in 2018. The 30-year-old is a four-time, First Team All-Pro.

–Field Level Media

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49ers S Exum fined $53K for hit on Robert Woods

49ers S Exum fined $53K for hit on Robert Woods

49ers S Exum fined $53K for hit on Robert Woods

The NFL on Saturday fined San Francisco 49ers safety Antone Exum Jr. $53,482 for a hit he put on Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods last Sunday.

This fine marks the third time Exum has been penalized this season for a hit.

Exum was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play against Woods, which took place in the third quarter of the Rams’ 48-32 victory over the 49ers. Exum hit Woods in the midsection after breaking up a long pass attempt.

Exum was also fined $53,472 for a hit on Denver WR DaeSean Hamilton in Week 14 and $26,739 for one on Kansas City WR Sammy Watkins in Week 3, though that one was reduced to $5,000 after an appeal.

Other players who were hit with fines from Week 17 games:

The Rams’ Samson Ebukam $26,739 for unnecessary roughness.

Miami’s Kiko Alonso and Robert Quinn $10,026 for unnecessary roughness.

Buffalo’s Jordan Mills $13,369 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick $10,026 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Chicago punter Pat O’Donnell $15,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct after the side judge tripped over him.

Bears safety Deon Bush $10,026 for a face mask penalty against Minnesota.

Cincinnati’s Alex Redmond $26,739 for unnecessary roughness.

Indianapolis’ George Odum $20,054 for unnecessary roughness.

Pittsburgh’s Ramon Foster $10,026 for unnecessary roughness.

Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson $10,026 for taunting.

Dallas’ Antwaun Woods $10,026 for taunting.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs QB Mahomes, four rookies named All-Pro

Chiefs QB Mahomes, four rookies named All-Pro

Chiefs QB Mahomes, four rookies named All-Pro

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald headline the 2018 NFL All-Pro team announced Friday.

Mahomes entered the season as a first-time starter and helped Kansas City secure the No. 1 spot in the AFC playoffs with 5,097 yards and 50 touchdown passses.

Donald was the only unanimous selection by the 50-member Associated Press panel. The fifth-year pro had 20.5 sacks after signing the largest contract in NFL history for a defensive player.

Four rookies — including Colts teammates in guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard — were first-team All-Pro picks. Chargers safety Derwin James and Seahawks punter Michael Dickson are the others.

Kansas City, with wide receiver Tyreek Hill, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz and tight end Travis Kelce — whose brother, Eagles center Jason Kelce, was also picked — joining Mahomes, and the Chicago Bears had four players named All-Pro. The picks for the Bears are linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller, safety Eddie Jackson and punt returner Tarik Cohen.

Donald was joined by running back Todd Gurley in representing the Rams.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was second-team All-Pro and received just five first-team votes while his top target, wide receiver Michael Thomas, was a first-team pick along with DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans.

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Running Back: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Flex: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Tight End: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Wide Receivers: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers

Right Tackle: Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs

Left Guard: Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts

Right Guard: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

Center: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles

DEFENSE

Edge Rushers: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans; Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Interior Linemen: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams; Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles

Linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers; Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks; Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts

Cornerbacks: Kyle Fuller, Chicago Bears; Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots

Safeties: Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears; Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

Defensive Back: Desmond King, Los Angeles Chargers

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

Punter: Michael Dickson, Seattle Seahawks

Kick Returner: Andre Roberts, New York Jets

Punt Returner: Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears

Special Teamer: Adrian Phillips, Los Angeles Chargers

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Flex: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

Tight End: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

Wide Receivers: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons; Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

Left Tackle: Duane Brown, Seattle Seahawks, and Terron Armstead, New Orleans Saints

Right Tackle: Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans Saints

Left Guard: Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns

Right Guard: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens

Center: Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh Steelers

DEFENSE

Edge Rushers: Von Miller, Denver Broncos; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints; Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

Interior Linemen: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs; J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Linebackers: Von Miller, Denver Broncos; C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens; Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys

Cornerbacks: Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys; Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins

Safeties: Jamal Adams, New York Jets; Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Back: Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

SPECIAL TEAMS

Placekicker: Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants

Punter: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams

Kick Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, New England Patriots

Punt Returner: Desmond King, Los Angeles Chargers

Special Teamer: Cory Littlejohn, Los Angeles Rams

–Field Level Media

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NFL Wild Card Weekend: Over and Under Best Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we're making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we're offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Over of the week: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys

Total: 42.5

Just 34 percent of games involving the Seahawks or Cowboys fell short of the total this season, and Saturday’s over/under of 42.5 indicates we’re still under-estimating both teams’ ability to score points.

The Cowboys put up 63 points in their final two games of the regular season and averaged 25.0 points per game at home this season, while Seattle scored 65 points in its last two games and averaged 26.8 points per game overall.

That made the Seahawks offense the sixth-highest-scoring unit in football, thanks partly to the league’s highest-ranked running game and a suddenly-respectable offensive line. Plus, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett have been crushing it in that receiving corps,

Meanwhile Amari Cooper has teamed up with Ezekiel Elliott to give Dallas one of the most dangerous offenses in the game. The Cowboys scored at least 27 points in five of their last eight games with Cooper, and Elliott once again gained steam during the second half of the season.

That doesn’t bode well for a Seahawks run defense that surrendered 4.9 yards per carry during the regular season, especially as the Dallas offensive line gets healthier.

Predicted score: Cowboys 26, Seahawks 23

Under of the week: Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens

Total: 42

I can’t comprehend why this total is above 40. After all, the Los Angeles Chargers offense has gone a little cold, scoring just 33 points in their last two regular-season games. Just 10 of those points came in Week 16 against these Ravens, who scored just 16 offensive points of their own in that prime-time matchup.

Baltimore’s top-rated defense surrendered just 17.9 points per game during the regular season, while the Chargers ranked in the top 10 with just 20.6 points per game allowed.

Look for Baltimore’s D — which has been known to rise to occasions in the playoffs — to be just as strong at home as it was in that road victory over the Chargers. And look for L.A. to do an even better job at limiting the Ravens’ unique rushing attack, now that it has more tape and experience to work from.

It’s a lot easier to trust these defenses than these offenses, especially considering the Chargers’ history with big-game duds and L.A.’s turnover-filled final few games of the 2018 regular season.

Predicted score: Ravens 20, Chargers 17

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 0-2
2018 season: 19-14-1

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

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Take 5: Wild-card playoff keys

Take 5: Wild-card playoff keys

The playoffs have

Take 5: Wild-card playoff keys

The playoffs have arrived, and the wild-card slate is one of the more intriguing in recent memory.

Three of the four games are regular-season rematches, and none looks particularly one-sided. You could make an argument for almost any of the eight teams to make a Super Bowl run.

We’ll start by looking at both sides of the ball in a rematch from just two weeks ago.

1. Rivers gets a redo vs. Ravens

Philip Rivers almost never loses a mental battle, but that’s exactly what happened to the Los Angeles Chargers quarterback against Baltimore in Week 16.

The Ravens’ fire-zone blitzes created confusion and pressure, forcing Rivers off the spot and into inaccurate throws. Rivers even failed to see open targets downfield, most notably just before halftime.

Rivers quietly threw six interceptions in his final three games after totaling six through the first 13, and he’s looked skittish at times, struggling to see the field with clarity.

Interior pressure has been the biggest culprit. Steady for much of the season, guards Dan Feeney and Michael Schofield have imploded in pass protection, especially struggling against quickness. Baltimore’s Za’Darius Smith hounded both men in Week 16, and the Ravens’ litany of blitzes, stunts and twists also stressed them mentally.

Those issues could be exacerbated in noisy Baltimore, so Rivers must be sharper at handling them. The Chargers’ vertical routes take time to develop, requiring precise movement from Rivers to stay alive against pressure. If he can stay clean, there will be opportunities: The Ravens’ zone blitzes can leave receivers free, especially up the seams.

A low-scoring game plays right into Baltimore’s hands, allowing the Ravens to lean on the run game and take fewer risks. Rivers & Co. must rebound to get them out of their comfort zone.

2. Will Baltimore’s offense change up?

The Ravens’ offensive approach will remain run-heavy, but it’s worth wondering how much Baltimore will change given the Chargers have faced quarterback Lamar Jackson before.

Despite the 22-10 win, Baltimore’s offense struggled in L.A., scoring just 16 points (the Ravens’ defense scored six) and getting 68 of 363 total yards from just one play. That play — detailed in our Week 16 film study — was excellent, but no offense can count on a long touchdown every week.

Preparing for Jackson and Greg Roman’s complex run designs is difficult, but the Chargers allowed just 116 yards on 34 carries (3.4 average) after giving up 43 yards on the first snap. Los Angeles will be more prepared this time around, too.

Perhaps Baltimore will consider more early-down throws, giving Jackson several chances at explosive plays. L.A.’s Cover-3 tendencies would provide more predictable coverages.

If the defense dominates again, it won’t matter, but it’s hard to pin Rivers down forever. Baltimore must have alternatives if the bread and butter isn’t working.

3. Can Chicago handle Philly’s D-line?

The Eagles’ defensive resurgence is all about their front four, as the group has regained its 2017 form.

Reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week Fletcher Cox (10.5 sacks, 34 QB hits) remains dominant, and only Aaron Donald (41) hit QBs more this year. Michael Bennett has been a terror both inside and outside, and Chris Long continues to stave off Father Time.

The Bears’ offensive line has been steady all season, even with Long’s brother, Kyle, missing extended action. Matt Nagy’s scheme helps by using concepts that slow the pass rush — including screens, play-action, run-pass options and misdirection at the line of scrimmage — and many reads are designed to get the ball out immediately.

Using quick throws, regular double-teams and occasional triple-teams, Chicago quieted Donald in Week 14, but it won’t be that simple against Philadelphia. Devoting that much attention to Cox risks letting Bennett run wild. Likewise, Long and Brandon Graham will exploit single-blocking if given enough opportunities.

Game flow will be critical. The Bears’ offense has scored a disproportionate number of points early in games on scripted plays before bogging down late. If the Eagles can weather the early storm, Mitchell Trubisky eventually will be forced into more obvious passing situations, giving Philly’s D-line a chance to tee off.

4. Seahawks’ front must bounce back vs. Zeke

In a battle of two very similar, run-based teams, the Cowboys’ ground game carries the greatest burden.

That’s because Dallas’ passing game remains a week-to-week proposition. Despite big games, receiver Amari Cooper still disappears for stretches, and the Cowboys rarely scheme to get him involved. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott remains inconsistent at hitting his downfield opportunities, an issue Seattle QB Russell Wilson hasn’t had much this season.

Thus, the Cowboys’ best avenue to success remains running back Ezekiel Elliott, who hounded the Seahawks for 7.9 yards per carry — despite a long run of just 26 yards — in Week 3 but had only three carries in the final 20 minutes as Dallas fought a deficit. After averaging 29 touches per game from Week 10 to Week 16, Elliott got the regular-season finale off to get fresh, as did Pro Bowl linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin.

Despite the Week 3 issues, Seattle’s front can match Dallas’ run game. The Seahawks’ scheme helps, with an extra safety usually in the box and one heavy defensive end (291-pound Quinton Jefferson) alongside two defensive tackles. Jefferson has been steady, while the tackles have really impressed.

Jarran Reed garnered attention with 10.5 sacks, but he entered the NFL as a run-stuffer first and foremost, which shows in his discipline and ability to anchor. Shamar Stephen is rarely moved out of his gap easily, and Seattle also found a gem in Poona Ford. The undrafted rookie has more than earned his recent boost in snaps, showing tremendous effort and using his limited stature (5-foot-11, 310 pounds) as an advantage by playing low.

Ford didn’t play in the teams’ Week 3 meeting, but the former Longhorn could be critical in the rematch in Dallas.

5. Can Houston contain Hines?

Behind Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Eric Ebron, fourth-round rookie back Nyheim Hines has become a quiet weapon in the passing game, especially late in the season (30 targets, 23 catches for 177 yards since Week 13).

With a rare combination of short-area quickness and long speed (he was a track star at North Carolina State), Hines has drawn comparisons to Darren Sproles. His inside running is far from Sproles’ level, but he has shown early refinement as a receiver.

Hines is comfortable splitting out and running a broader route tree, and the Colts often deploy him on the weak side to create more room. His hands are reliable amid tight coverage and heavy hits, and he also is a vertical threat. In Week 4 against Houston, he beat Tyrann Mathieu on an out-and-up from the slot in the red zone, and in Week 16, he caught a 28-yard, back-shoulder fade. Both were extremely uncommon routes for a back, but Hines looked comfortable winning the ball in the air.

Hines had just three catches for 16 yards in Week 14 at Houston, but he hit career highs with nine grabs for 63 yards and two scores in the teams’ first meeting.

The Colts will try to get Hines on Benardrick McKinney, a hulking ‘backer with good speed but questionable lateral agility. Against Houston’s preferred Cover-4, two-man-route combinations could isolate McKinney on Hines in de facto man coverage. Two years ago, the Patriots did exactly that with Dion Lewis and James White for two touchdowns in a divisional playoff win.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

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Ballin’ on a Budget Wild Card Weekend Picks

We made it through 17 weeks of the NFL season and as an added bonus, we're going to give you one more week of picks. Wild Card weekend tends to provide the most interesting matchups of any playoff round, because it often matches up a really hot team with a team that is

We made it through 17 weeks of the NFL season and as an added bonus, we’re going to give you one more week of picks. Wild Card weekend tends to provide the most interesting matchups of any playoff round, because it often matches up a really hot team with a team that is better on paper. The reason for that is simple. Think about it. Whoever gets the No. 6 seed in either conference had to beat out a handful of other teams and has been in playoff mode for weeks. That’s why the Bears and Texans could have their hands full with the Eagles and Colts respectively. Anyway, let’s get to our picks.

Texans -1.5 vs. Colts (-105)

Bettors are loving the Colts, who snuck into the playoffs by beating the Titans in Week 17. There’s plenty of reason to believe in this team, whose offense looks to finally be humming entering the playoffs. I alluded to the fact that a hot No. 6 seed often can go on a deep playoff run, but there are a few reasons I don’t think this is happening this week. First of all, the Texans offense has plenty of weapons (ones the Titans didn’t have in Week 17) to outscore the Colts.

Second of all, the Texans have a very stout defense, which should give Indy some trouble. The same could have been said about the Titans, but their defensive efforts week to week were much less consistent than Houston’s. Let’s not forget the Texans were a win against the Eagles away from having home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They’ve been one of the best teams in the AFC all season long and this one just doesn’t scream upset to me. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.80.

Seahawks to beat the Cowboys (-105)

This game is essentially a pick ’em as the line is only one point and there are negative odds for picking each to win (Seattle at -105, Dallas at -110). I get that this game is on the road and the Seahawks play differently away from home, but they also have a ton of playoff experience. The x-factor here is really Russell Wilson. In what should be a close game, I trust him 10 times more than I trust Dak Prescott in a pressure situation.

Sometimes, in these games, you have to trust the players who have been there, done that and are better equipped to handle the pressure. This is a dangerous game as each team has shown some flaws in recent weeks, but between these two imperfect teams, there is still a ton of talent. Expect a lot of big plays and an exciting finish. If it comes down to the fourth quarter, as playoff games usually do, the edge has to be given to Russ and Co. who have proven they can get it done in crunch time before. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.80.

Chargers-Ravens UNDER 41.5 (-110)

I just can’t bring myself to pick this game against the spread. The Chargers and Ravens are such different teams and this is a toss up for me. Los Angeles is 7-1 on the road this season, but Baltimore runs the exact type of offense that bleeds the clock and keeps opposing teams off the field that the Chargers hate. It gets them out of their rhythm and that could put them in some real trouble if they don’t stop Lamar Jackson.

Again, I can’t for the life of me decide who I think is going to win this game, but I do think we’re going to see a low-scoring game that comes down to the wire. 21-17 or something along those lines certainly isn’t out of the question and that would get us the under. There isn’t a ton of confidence in any bet involved in this game, but to make sure this one was covered, we’ll take the under as the most confident bet associated with it. $3 for total payout of $5.70.

Bears -5.5 vs. Eagles (-110)

This game scares me a lot. Full disclosure: I’m a Bears fan. I very rarely like to pick a team I root for, especially under these circumstances, so I’ll tell you why I’m doing so this week. On paper, the Bears are a much better team than the Eagles, much better. Of course, games aren’t played on paper, but we need to remember the Bears have a lot more talent and if we’re defaulting to something, it has to be that. Let’s not forget, the Bears are the first 12-win NFC team since 2014 to not get a first-round bye. Second of all, for as scared as myself and all Bears fans are for playoff Nick Foles, there is reason to believe he won’t duplicate last year’s success.

Chicago allows the lowest opponent’s quarterback rating in the entire league. Essentially, QB’s have their worst performances when they play against the pass rush and secondary of the Bears. With Pro Bowl safety, Eddie Jackson, set to return to the fold, that Bears defense looks even stronger. For the Bears to win, they need to take care of the football. If they don’t turn it over, Philly stands very little chance. Whether or not they cover comes down to Mitchell Trubisky’s performance in his first career playoff game. All they need is a touchdown margin of victory to cover and we’ll trust the Bears enough to do that. The bet: $5 for total payout of $9.50.

Texans-Colts OVER 48.5 (-110)

For as much as I talked about how Houston’s defense is going to slow the Colts down, this game could still become somewhat of a shootout. 31-24, or something along those lines isn’t out of the question. In my opinion, holding the Colts to 24 would be a victory for the Texans and would also hit the over as long as Houston won the game. Picking over/unders in the playoffs is tricky, because they’re often dictated by the pace set at the very beginning of the game. If one of these teams scores early, players and coaches start to loosen up and the field opens up. In that case, I love the over.

One thing that could hurt us here is if a few defensive stops are made early on and it becomes a field position battle. That’s entirely possible, but I think that’s the less likely of the two scenarios. Each team has offensive playmakers capable of picking up chunks of yards at a time, so as long as both team converts its red zone trips into touchdowns instead of field goals, I feel good about the over in this one. The bet: $4 for total payout of $7.60.

These are the last picks of the year, so let’s hope they’re fruitful like the entire regular season has been for us. One final time, we’ll cross our fingers and hope that we can hit on that elusive five-team parlay we’ve been so close to all year long. Based on the picks above, a $20 five-team parlay would pay out $530.16. For the final time this season, good luck, and we’ll have one more recap column to look at how our Wild Card Weekend picks panned out.

Jacob Kornhauser is a sports reporter in Southern Oregon covering all sports, including Oregon and Oregon State athletics. He has been a national baseball writer for Bleacher Report and Rant Sports and has written two baseball books. He also specializes in sports betting analysis. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School.

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NFL makes Caesars official casino sponsor

NFL makes Caesars official casino sponsor

The

NFL makes Caesars official casino sponsor

The NFL on Thursday announced that it had reached a deal with Caesars Entertainment to be its first-ever official casino sponsor, a move that inches the league toward betting deals.

The union, worth $30 million per year according to Bloomberg, is a multi-year sponsorship and coincides with the NFL playoffs, which begin this weekend. The NFL made it clear the partnership does not include sports betting at this time.

Caesars will have exclusive rights to NFL trademarks both in the U.S. and U.K., and the casino will be an active participant at the Super Bowl and NFL Draft, the league said. Caesars will host elements of the 2020 draft in Las Vegas, the league said.

“Combining the NFL with Caesars’ expertise in world class entertainment will provide our fans unique experiences both here in the United States and abroad,” NFL Senior Vice President Renie Anderson said in a statement.

Seven NFL clubs – Falcons, Ravens, Bears, Colts, Saints, Raiders, and Eagles – already had partnerships with Caesars, also a partner on the new Raiders stadium being built in Vegas. Other NFL teams have inked official advertising deals with myriad other casinos, too.

–Field Level Media

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Seahawks counting on run game against Cowboys

Seahawks counting on run game against Cowboys

When the

Seahawks counting on run game against Cowboys

When the Seattle Seahawks were preparing to play in their home opener against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, they were on their way to meeting the expectations of most preseason prognosticators.

The Seahawks had dropped their first two games on the road at Denver and Chicago, with quarterback Russell Wilson sacked 12 times in the process.

Those picks of a 4-12 or 5-11 season for the Seahawks seemed increasingly likely.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer met and decided change was in order.

“He and I sat down and kind of had a little heart-to-heart,” Schottenheimer said. “There were things that he and I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page about. It wasn’t just the running game, it was he and I continuing to build our relationship and it was an awesome meeting. It probably lasted about an hour and we talked about a ton of different stuff. I know I came out of that meeting feeling really good just about the direction where we wanted to go.”

With a renewed commitment to the running game, the Seahawks defeated the Cowboys 24-13 at CenturyLink Field, sparking them as they became just the 29th team since the current NFL playoff format started in 1990 to make the playoffs after an 0-2 start.

The fifth-seeded Seahawks (10-6) earned the NFC’s top wild-card berth and will travel to Dallas to play the fourth-seeded Cowboys (10-6), the NFC East champion, on Saturday night.

Seattle ended up with league’s top ground game on the season. Chris Carson rushed for 102 yards in Week 3 and went on to become the first Seahawks player with a 1,000-yard rushing season since Marshawn Lynch in 2014.

“They were talking about it the whole (preseason) of running the ball more and being a run team,” Carson said. “They finally started getting it going against the Cowboys and it’s taken off ever since.”

The Cowboys alternated losses and wins until a 27-20 victory at the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in Week 9 sparked a last-season run. The Cowboys won six of their final seven regular-season games after that.

That meant that unlike in 2016, when rookie quarterback Dak Prescott barely played in a three-week span before losing his postseason debut, he kept firing until the end.

Even though the Cowboys already had locked up the division title, Prescott played the entire game last week in a 36-35 victory against the New York Giants. He completed 27 of 44 passes for 387 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to lead a comeback.

“We can definitely build on this,” Prescott said. “That was not meaningless to me. It wasn’t meaningless to any of the guys that played or even to the guys that didn’t play.”

The Seahawks expect to have guard D.J. Fluker (hamstring) and safety Tedric Thompson (ankle) back after they missed the regular-season finale. Guard J.R. Sweezy (foot) and cornerback Shaquill Griffin (ankle) likely will be game-time decisions. Safety Delano Hill, who started for Thompson the past two weeks, was placed on injured reserve with a non-displaced fracture in his hip.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott sat out the regular-season finale for precautionary measures, but he has been a full participant in practice this week. Pro Bowl linemen Tyron Smith (neck) and Zack Martin (knee) also missed the finale but are expected back, as well as defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (neck). Defensive end David Irving (ankle) remains out.

–Field Level Media

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Bengals to interview Jackson, Joseph

Bengals to interview Jackson, Joseph

Endorsed by outgoing

Bengals to interview Jackson, Joseph

Endorsed by outgoing coach Marvin Lewis, fired Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson will interview with the Cincinnati Bengals to become head coach.

Another former Cincinnati assistant, Vance Joseph, is a candidate for the open head coach gig.

NFL Network reported Joseph heard from the Bengals, with whom he worked as a defensive assistant under Lewis, almost immediately after he was fired on Monday by the Denver Broncos. Joseph will be one of the first candidates to speak with the team brass, which is looking for a new coach for the first time in more than 13 years after Lewis was let go on Monday.

Jackson was endorsed publicly by Lewis in his press conference this week.

“I think he’s more than qualified,” Lewis said of Jackson, who was head coach of the Oakland Raiders before his chance with the Browns. “I think he deserves an opportunity, if not here, somewhere else.”

Joseph spent two seasons as head coach of the Broncos, which was his first head-coaching position.

He is scheduled to spend Wednesday night and Thursday with Bengals owner Mike Brown. Joseph knows Brown from his time in Cincinnati (2014-15).

Another in-house candidate, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, was already interviewed, per ESPN.

The Bengals are also set for a formal interview with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, per reports.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Bucs consider Notre Dame’s Kelly as coach

Report: Bucs consider Notre Dame's Kelly as coach

Report: Bucs consider Notre Dame’s Kelly as coach

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could try to lure Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly to be their next coach, according to a report from Chicago’s 670 The Score.

Former Bucs coach Dirk Koetter was fired after Sunday’s season-ending loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

According to the report, a search firm enlisted to help the Bucs find a new coach suggested Kelly as a potential hire.

Kelly has reportedly been apprised of Tampa Bay’s interest, but has not indicated whether he is interested.

Kelly, who has gone 81-35 since replacing Charlie Weis at Notre Dame in 2010, is coming off a season-ending blowout loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The Fighting Irish went 12-0 during the regular season.

After Kelly took Notre Dame to the national championship game in his third season, he interviewed to be head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Shortly thereafter, he said he was committed to Notre Dame.

“For me to say I’ll never coach in the NFL — I have no idea. I’m not trying to be evasive. It’s the truth of the matter. It’s all about timing,” Kelly said in 2013.

Koetter went 19-29 in three seasons as coach of the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay finished 5-11 this season after Sunday’s 34-32 loss.

Koetter went 9-7 in 2016 in his first season at the helm. But back-to-back 5-11 seasons doomed him.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Steelers WR Brown asks for trade

Report: Steelers WR Brown asks for trade

The

Report: Steelers WR Brown asks for trade

The season is over for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the drama might be just getting started.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has asked to be traded, according to a report Tuesday from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. But Pittsburgh is unlikely to grant the request, which would include a $21.12 million salary-cap hit if the deal happened before June 1, according to reports.

“(I’m) told it was not a demand but he has asked to be dealt,” La Canfora wrote on his Twitter account. “Very unlikely (Steelers owner Dan) Rooney would capitulate. Brown has issues with Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger. Feels like the coach is too aligned with the QB.”

Meanwhile, Roethlisberger insists that all is well between himself and Brown. And if the outspoken wide receiver “went off” on a teammate, as published reports indicated earlier this week, that is news to the veteran quarterback.

“If there was a blowout, I certainly didn’t see it,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday during a radio appearance with 93.7 “The Fan” in Pittsburgh.

It has been a controversial week for Brown, who sat out the Steelers’ regular-season finale against the Cleveland Bengals. The Steelers listed Brown as out with a knee injury, but a source told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was not injured. The newspaper also reported that Brown missed multiple practices and meetings before and after the contest.

Brown has three years remaining on a five-year, $72.7 million contract extension that he signed before the 2017 campaign. He has surpassed 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons, and this year he caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a career-high 15 touchdowns.

“I hope he’s back here with me because he makes me better,” Roethlisberger said.

More questions will arrive Wednesday when Tomlin addresses reporters.

“I’m blessed to play with him,” Roethlisberger said. “I consider him one of my closer friends. … Each guy has to answer that question (about welcoming him back to the locker room). I know guys are frustrated, some of the guys I talked to, that they tried to reach out to him and didn’t hear back.”

–Field Level Media

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Steelers QB Roethlisberger defends WR Brown

 

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger insists that all

 

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger insists that all is well between himself and teammate Antonio Brown.

 

And if Brown “went off” on a teammate, as published reports indicated earlier this week, that is news to the veteran quarterback.

 

“If there was a blowout, I certainly didn’t see it,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday during a radio appearance with 93.7 “The Fan” in Pittsburgh.

 

It has been a controversial week for Brown, who sat out the Steelers’ regular-season finale against the Cleveland Bengals. The Steelers listed Brown as out with a knee injury, but a source told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was not injured. The newspaper also reported that Brown missed multiple practices and meetings before and after the contest.

 

Brown has three years remaining on a five-year, $72.7 million contract extension that he signed before the 2017 campaign. He has surpassed 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past six seasons, and this year he caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a career-high 15 touchdowns.

 

“I hope he’s back here with me because he makes me better,” Roethlisberger said.

 

More questions will arrive Wednesday when Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addresses reporters.

 

“I’m blessed to play with him,” Roethlisberger said. “I consider him one of my closer friends. … Each guy has to answer that question (about welcoming him back to the locker room). I know guys are frustrated, some of the guys I talked to, that they tried to reach out to him and didn’t hear back.”

 

–Field Level Media

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Ravens’ Weddle set to share $1M bonus with team

 

Safety Eric Weddle has plenty of reason to celebrate after

 

Safety Eric Weddle has plenty of reason to celebrate after the Baltimore Ravens qualified for the NFL postseason on Sunday. One million bucks worth of reasons in fact. And he wants to share those dollars with his teammates and coaches.

 

For making the Pro Bowl and playoffs in the same season, Weddle has finally earned the seven-figure incentive that has been part of his contract for three seasons in Baltimore.

 

The 12-year veteran, who earlier found more value in making the playoffs than earning the extra cash, said after Sunday’s 26-24 nail-biting victory over the Cleveland Browns: “I’ve been thinking about it all week that if it happened, I’m going to do something nice for all my teammates and my coaches because I’m nothing without my team. As much as it’s for me and my play, my defense helped me get to where I’m at.”

 

How he’ll divvy up the bonus is still unknown as Weddle offered, “I’ve got something brewing, but I am not going to tell. You’ll find out when I make it happen.”

 

But fellow Ravens safety Tony Jefferson is already in line, saying that he needs $75,000, while adding with a smile, “Now, we’re going to be in his pockets.”

 

Weddle, who was selected to his sixth Pro Bowl earlier this month, missed out on the $1 million incentive in 2017 when Tyler Boyd’s game-winning touchdown catch and run on 4th-and-12 for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 ended the Ravens’ playoff hopes.

 

“I would trade one million bucks for a chance at the playoffs any second,” ESPN reported Weddle saying before Sunday’s season finale. “That’s just where I’m at. It’s not that I don’t appreciate money or how much money it is, but that’s not my incentive to try to go to win.”

 

The AFC North champion Ravens will meet the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC wild-card matchup in Baltimore on Sunday.

 

Weddle has made the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons with Baltimore and also made it in 2011, 2013 and 2014 with the San Diego Chargers. In 16 games this season, he has recorded one sack, three passes defensed and 68 tackles (54 solo).

 

–Field Level Media

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NFL coaching tracker: Every head coach fired in 2018

 

With the regular season complete, the NFL's

 

With the regular season complete, the NFL’s annual Black Monday purge of head coaches is well underway. In fact, some teams got a head start and handed out pink slips by Sunday’s end.

 

Add Cleveland and Green Bay, which fired their coaches during the season, and eight NFL franchises — 25 percent of the 32 teams — are in the market for a new head coach. Here’s a look at each coach let go since the start of the 2018 season, with their season and career records.

 

Source: Pro Football Reference

 

* — Fired during the regular season

 

Steve Wilks, Arizona

Age: 49

Seasons with team: 1

Record with team: 3-13

Playoff appearances with team: 0

2018 record: 3-13

Career NFL head coaching record: 3-13 (all with Arizona)

 

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati

Age: 60

Seasons with team: 16

Record with team: 131-122-3

Playoff appearances with team: 7 (0-7 record)

2018 record: 6-10

Career NFL head coaching record: 131-122-3 (all with Cincinnati)

 

*Hue Jackson, Cleveland

Age: 53

Seasons with team: 3

Record with team: 3-36-1

Playoff appearances with team: 0

2018 record: 2-5-1

Career NFL head coaching record: 11-44-1 (3 seasons with Cleveland, 1 season with Oakland)

 

Vance Joseph, Denver

Age: 46

Seasons with team: 2

Record with team: 11-21

Playoff appearances with team: 0

2018 record: 6-10

Career NFL head coaching record: 11-21 (all with Denver)

 

*Mike McCarthy, Green Bay

Age: 55

Seasons with team: 13

Record with team: 125-77-2

Playoff appearances with team: 9 (10-8 record; won Super Bowl in 2010 season)

2018 record: 4-7-1

Career NFL head coaching record: 125-77-2 (all with Green Bay)

 

Adam Gase, Miami

Age: 40

Seasons with team: 3

Record with team: 23-25

Playoff appearances with team: 1 (0-1 record)

2018 record: 7-9

Career NFL head coaching record: 23-25 (all with Miami)

 

Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Age: 55

Seasons with team: 4

Record with team: 24-40

Playoff appearances with team: 0

2018 record: 4-12

Career NFL head coaching record: 26-41 (4 seasons with New York, coached 3 games with Miami in 2011)

 

Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay

Age: 59

Seasons with team: 3

Record with team: 19-29

Playoff appearances with team: 0

2018 record: 5-11

Career NFL head coaching record: 19-29 (all with Tampa Bay)

 

–Field Level Media

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Seven From Sunday – Week 17

PRESS RELEASE

 

SEVEN FROM SUNDAY – WEEK 17

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. and 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 30, the 17th week of the 2018 season.

  • NEW PLAYOFF TEAMS: Six of the 11 teams to have qualified for the playoffs are new

PRESS RELEASE

 

SEVEN FROM SUNDAY – WEEK 17

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. and 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 30, the 17th week of the 2018 season.

  • NEW PLAYOFF TEAMS: Six of the 11 teams to have qualified for the playoffs are new to the postseason in 2018: Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, the Los Angeles Chargers and Seattle. Should Indianapolis defeat Tennessee on Sunday Night Football, that number would increase to seven.

    Since 1990 – a streak of 29 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

    WORST-TO-FIRST: Both the Chicago Bears (NFC North) and Houston Texans (AFC South) completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 15 of the past 16 seasons.

    PLAYOFF SEEDING: The NEW ORLEANS SAINTS won the NFC South and finished as the NFC’s No. 1 seed. The Saints will have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

    The LOS ANGELES RAMS, who defeated San Francisco 48-32 and won the NFC West, are the No. 2 seed and clinched a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.

    The CHICAGO BEARS, who defeated Minnesota 24-10 and won the NFC North, are the No. 3 seed and will host Philadelphia in the Wild Card round. The PHILADELPHIA EAGLES defeated Washington, 24-0, and combined with Minnesota’s loss to Chicago, clinched a playoff berth for the second consecutive season.

    The DALLAS COWBOYS, who defeated the New York Giants 36-35 and won the NFC East, are the No. 4 seed and will host Seattle in the Wild Card round.

    In the AFC, the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS defeated Oakland, 35-3, and clinched the AFC West division title and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

    The NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, who defeated the New York Jets, 38-3, are the AFC’s No. 2 seed and clinched a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

    The HOUSTON TEXANS, who defeated Jacksonville 20-3 and are the No. 3 seed, clinched the AFC South division title and will host a game on Wild Card weekend.

    The Texans completed a “worst-to-first” turnaround after finishing tied for last place in the division in 2017. Houston is the sixth team in NFL history to make the postseason after beginning the season 0-3 and joined the 1992 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS as the only teams in league annals to win their division following an 0-3 start to a season.

    The BALTIMORE RAVENS defeated Cleveland, 26-24, and clinched the AFC North division title for the first time since 2012. Baltimore, the AFC’s No. 4 seed, will host the Los Angeles Chargers in the Wild Card round.

  • Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES passed for 281 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for a 109.9 rating in the Chiefs’ Week 17 win over Oakland.

    Mahomes has 50 touchdown passes this season and joined PEYTON MANNING (55 touchdown passes in 2013) and TOM BRADY (50 in 2007) as the only quarterbacks with at least 50 touchdown passes in a single season in NFL history. ​​

    Chiefs wide receiver TYREEK HILL had five receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns, including a 67-yard touchdown reception, against Oakland and had a 15-yard touchdown run.

    Hill has 16 career touchdowns of at least 50 yards and tied Pro Football Hall of Famer GALE SAYERS (16) for the most touchdowns of at least 50 yards by a player in his first three seasons.

    Hill has 1,479 receiving yards in 2018 and surpassed DERRICK ALEXANDER (1,391 receiving yards in 2000) for the most receiving yards in a single season in franchise history.

  • New England quarterback TOM BRADY completed 24 of 33 attempts (72.7 percent) for 250 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions for a 133.8 passer rating in the Patriots’ Week 17 win against the New York Jets.

    Brady has 6,004 career regular-season completions and is the fourth player in NFL history with at least 6,000 career regular-season completions, joining DREW BREES (6,586), Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (6,300) and PEYTON MANNING (6,125).

  • Cleveland rookie quarterback BAKER MAYFIELD passed for 376 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in the Browns’ Week 17 loss at Baltimore.

    Mayfield has 27 touchdown passes this season, surpassing PEYTON MANNING (26 touchdown passes in 1998) and RUSSELL WILSON (26 in 2012) for the most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback in the common draft era.

  • San Francisco tight end GEORGE KITTLE had nine receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown in the 49ers’ Week 17 loss.

    Kittle, who has 1,377 receiving yards this season, and Kansas City tight end TRAVIS KELCE (1,336 receiving yards in 2018) both surpassed ROB GRONKOWSKI (1,327 in 2011) for the most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season in NFL history.

  • Houston defensive end J.J. WATT had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the Texans’ Week 17 win over Jacksonville.

    Watt has 16 sacks in 2018 and joins Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE (five seasons) as the only players since 1982 with four seasons of at least 15 sacks.

  • Three non-quarterbacks – Atlanta wide receiver MOHAMED SANU, Detroit kicker MATT PRATER and Miami wide receiver KENNY STILLS – threw touchdown passes in Week 17.

    In total, there have been 13 touchdown passes thrown by non-quarterbacks in 2018, the most in a single-season since 1983 (15 touchdowns).

    Quarterbacks RYAN TANNEHILL of the Dolphins and MATT RYAN of the Falcons both had touchdown catches in Week 17, marking the first week in the Super Bowl era in which multiple quarterbacks recorded a touchdown reception.

  • Other notable performances from Sunday include:
     

    • Eagles quarterback NICK FOLES recorded 25 consecutive completions against Washington, tied with Chargers quarterback PHILIP RIVERS (Week 12 vs. Arizona) for the most by a quarterback in a single game in NFL history.
    • New York Giants rookie running back SAQUON BARKLEY had 142 scrimmage yards (109 rushing, 33 receiving) and one rushing touchdown in the Giants’ Week 17 loss.

      Barkley has 2,028 scrimmage yards and joins Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (2,212 scrimmage yards in 1983) and EDGERRIN JAMES (2,139 in 1999) as the only rookies with at least 2,000 scrimmage yards in NFL history.

​​Barkley, who had four catches against the Cowboys, has 91 receptions this season and surpassed REGGIE BUSH (88 catches in 2006) for the most receptions by a rookie running back in league annals.

    • Buffalo rookie quarterback JOSH ALLEN passed for 224 yards with three touchdowns and rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns in the Bills’ 42-17 win against Miami.

      Allen is the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to record three touchdowns passes and two rushing touchdowns in the same game, joining Miami’s DAVID WOODLEY, who had three touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns against the Los Angeles Rams on November 9, 1980.

      Allen has eight rushing touchdowns this season and joins CAM NEWTON, who had 14 rushing touchdowns in 2011, as the only rookie quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with at least eight rushing touchdowns.

 

 

Courtesy of NFL Communications

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Ballin’ on a Budget Week 17 Results

We did it, guys. We bet five games in Week 17 and won more than we lost. That's hard to do. On the season, we only had a couple losing weeks all year long. It was a good run, with us going 3-2 this Sunday. With the playoffs looming, we will have one

We did it, guys. We bet five games in Week 17 and won more than we lost. That’s hard to do. On the season, we only had a couple losing weeks all year long. It was a good run, with us going 3-2 this Sunday. With the playoffs looming, we will have one Wild Card Round column to round out the year, but this is just about it. Let’s dive into what went right and what went wrong in Week 17.

LOSS: Redskins +7 vs. Eagles (-115): Eagles 24, Redskins 0.

Washington finally ran out of gas. They’d been playing inspired football while being the most banged up team in the league, but without a sense of direction or identity, they fell apart in Week 17. Philly, with some help from the Bears, somehow sneaks into the playoffs, even though starter Nick Foles hurt his chest and had to leave this game.

This is why picking Week 17 games is so hard: you just never know when one of the teams is going to lose their fight. The Redskins lost theirs sooner than we would’ve hoped, so we have to put this one in the L column. Total payout: $0.

WIN: Texans -6.5 vs. Jaguars (-110): Texans 20, Jaguars 3.

Houston still had to win in order to take care of the division, so you felt like they’d come up with a more inspired effort than the Jaguars, who would probably prefer a higher draft pick. For the first two and a half quarters, that didn’t seem to be the case, but then the Texans turned things on. They started to roll and with Jacksonville looking anemic on offense, we had a good feeling that would be all we needed.

With a stout defense, Houston didn’t let the Jaguars sniff the end zone and dominated the second half. In the final week of the season, you usually go with the team which has more to play for. We didn’t follow that line of thinking in the Redskins pick and it came back to bite us. Total payout: $5.70.

WIN: Chargers -6.5 at Broncos (-110): Chargers 23, Broncos 9.

Just like with the Texans, the Chargers had more to play for (a first-round bye if Kansas City slipped up against the Raiders) Sunday afternoon. They started slow like Houston, but picked up steam in the second half as well. With Denver’s offense looking absolutely atrocious over the past few weeks, we knew we probably only needed a couple scores from L.A. to cover this spread.

The Chargers are going to have a tough match up with the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs, but we of course, don’t care about that. They won us our bet this week and that’s all that matters. Total payout: $7.60.

LOSS: Browns-Ravens UNDER 41 points: Ravens 26, Browns 24.

This turned out to be one of the most exciting games of the day, but it didn’t go in our favor. Both teams started off hot on offense, which was unexpected. Each play good defense and the last time they met, they combined for just 21 points in a 12-9 affair. That didn’t happen this time around. The offenses stalled for most of the third quarter, which left us with a glimmer of hope for an under hit. However, as soon as the Browns showed they were staying in the game, we knew our hopes would be dashed.

Cleveland, even in a loss, ends the season as one of the hottest teams in the league and have some really positive momentum heading into 2019. We sure would’ve liked if they could’ve built some momentum while scoring fewer points, but you can’t win them all. Total payout: $0.

WIN: Colts -3.5 at Titans (-115): Colts 33, Titans 17.

We ended the regular season on a high note. Really, we should never feel nervous about betting against Blaine Gabbert, but things were interesting for a while in Nashville. In the end, though, Indy looked like the much superior team as we figured they might. Needing to win by just four points, I felt pretty confident coming in they had the offensive firepower to do some damage.

Whether or not they stand any chance against the Texans next week remains to be seen, but tonight, they did us a solid and won us our final bet of the season, giving us yet another winning week of picks here in the Ballin’ on a Budget column. Total payout: $9.35

PIGGY BANK: $368.20 (8.3% return on investment)

PICK PERCENTAGE: 58% (47-34-4)

Jacob Kornhauser is a sports reporter in Southern Oregon covering all sports, including Oregon and Oregon State athletics. He has been a national baseball writer for Bleacher Report and Rant Sports and has written two baseball books. He also specializes in sports betting analysis. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School.

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NFL roundup: Colts top Titans, lock down playoff spot

NFL roundup: Colts top Titans, lock down playoff spot

Andrew Luck threw

NFL roundup: Colts top Titans, lock down playoff spot

Andrew Luck threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns Sunday night as the Indianapolis Colts claimed the AFC’s final playoff spot with a 33-17 win over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

Luck, who completed 24 of 35 passes, finished the regular season with 39 touchdown passes, the most for a player who missed the previous season. He also enabled Indianapolis (10-6) to cap a comeback from a 1-5 start and earn a trip to AFC South champion and divisional foe Houston for a wild-card round game on Saturday.

Tennessee (9-7) snapped a nine-year playoff drought last year with a home win over Jacksonville in Week 17, but wasn’t able to repeat the feat this time. The short-handed Titans played without quarterback Marcus Mariota (stinger, plantar fascia) and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (knee), and their absences were clearly felt.

Casey’s injury left a massive gap in the interior defense that Indianapolis exploited with consistency. Besides Luck’s passing, the Colts also pounded out 158 yards on 36 carries, enabling them to possess the ball for more than 40 minutes.

Patriots 38, Jets 3

Tom Brady tossed a season-high four touchdowns and became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to complete 6,000 career passes as New England clinched the No. 2 seed in the AFC by cruising past visiting New York.

New England (11-5) clinched a bye for the 13th time in the Bill Belichick-Brady era since 2001 and the ninth straight season. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Oakland Raiders later Sunday to clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs and lock the Patriots in to the No. 2 seed.

The Jets (4-12) finished the season by losing nine of their last 10 games and fired coach Todd Bowles with two years remaining on his contract. The Jets were 24-40 under Bowles, who took over in 2015 following Rex Ryan.

Eagles 24, Redskins 0

Nick Foles tied an NFL single-game record with 25 straight pass completions and visiting Philadelphia found a way into the NFC playoffs with a blowout win at Washington.

The Eagles (9-7) clinched the second wild card spot when the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears 24-10. Philadelphia will visit Chicago, the NFC’s third seed, Saturday afternoon.

After throwing an interception on the opening drive, Foles recovered to finish 28 of 33 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and the pick before leaving with a chest injury in the fourth quarter. He was perfect in a stretch that began in the first quarter and ended late in the third. Washington (7-9) lost six of its final seven games as it was forced to use four different starting quarterbacks.

Bears 24, Vikings 10

Jordan Howard had 21 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns and Chicago held on to eliminate host Minnesota from playoff contention.

Tarik Cohen also had a rushing touchdown for Chicago (12-4), which finished with its best regular-season record since 2006. The Bears locked up the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs and will host the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday afternoon.

Stefon Diggs scored the lone touchdown for Minnesota (8-7-1). The Vikings could have earned a wild-card playoff berth with a victory — which would have created a rematch in Chicago next week — but instead will go home early for the third time in five seasons under head coach Mike Zimmer.

Ravens 26, Browns 24

Lamar Jackson rushed for two touchdowns and accounted for 269 all-purpose yards as Baltimore clinched the AFC North title with a narrow win over visiting Cleveland.

The Ravens (10-6), who went 6-1 with Jackson at quarterback after veteran Joe Flacco was injured midseason, will host the Los Angeles Chargers next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET in the wild-card round. Baltimore dumped Los Angeles 22-10 on Dec. 22 in Carson, Calif.

Jackson completed 14 of 24 passes for 179 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions while rushing 20 times for 90 yards. Kenneth Dixon piled up 117 yards on 12 carries and Gus Edwards chipped in 76 yards on 12 attempts as the Ravens finished with 296 yards on the ground against the Browns (7-8-1). Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield set a new NFL record for rookie touchdown passes with his 27th.

Steelers 16, Bengals 13

Rookie kicker Matt McCrane’s third field goal, from 35 yards with 1:56 left, gave Pittsburgh a win over visiting Cincinnati, but it was not enough to ensure the Steelers’ season would continue.

With Baltimore beating Cleveland, the only way Pittsburgh (9-6-1) could make the playoffs was if the Tennessee-Indianapolis game Sunday night ended in a tie. The Colts won 33-17.

The Steelers played without receiver Antonio Brown, who has a knee injury. Without a double threat, JuJu Smith-Schuster faced stiff coverage, with five catches for 37 yards and a tying touchdown against the Bengals (6-10).

Chiefs 35, Raiders 3

Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes became the second quarterback in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season as the Chiefs bashed visiting Oakland to lock up the top seed in the AFC playoffs.

An 89-yard scoring bomb to Demarcus Robinson with 8:33 left in the third quarter was Mahomes’ 50th TD strike of the season and pushed the first-year starter past the 5,000-yard plateau. The only other quarterback to reach both milestones in the same season was Denver’s Peyton Manning in 2013, when he set records for touchdown passes (55) and passing yardage (5,477) in a season.

Mahomes punctuated his MVP candidacy with 281 yards against the Raiders (4-12), going 14 of 24 with two touchdowns and one interception. Tyreek Hill led the Chiefs (12-4) with five receptions for 101 yards and scored touchdowns on a 67-yard reception and 15-yard rush.

Chargers 23, Broncos 9

Philip Rivers passed for 176 yards and a touchdown, linebacker Kyle Emanuel returned a fumble for another score and Los Angeles beat host Denver Broncos to end the regular season.

With Kansas City’s win over Oakland on Sunday, the Chargers (12-4) are locked into the No. 5 seed and will play at Baltimore next Sunday at 1:05 ET on CBS.

Mike Williams had 65 yards receiving and a score and Austin Ekeler ran for 58 yards and a touchdown for Los Angeles, while Case Keenum was 31-for-48 passing for 292 yards, a touchdown and an interception for Denver (6-10).

Rams 48, 49ers 32

The Los Angeles defense set the tone with four first-half turnovers and a touchdown on the way to a victory over visiting San Francisco that earned L.A. a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The Rams (13-3) clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC with the victory over their longtime rival and finished undefeated against the NFC West in the process. The opening-round bye is the first for the Rams since the 2003 season when the team was in St. Louis.

Jarred Goff passed for 199 yards and four touchdowns and C.J. Anderson rushed for 132 yards and a score against the 49ers (4-12) as the Rams were without starting running back Todd Gurley for a second consecutive week as he works his way through knee inflammation.

Seahawks 27, Cardinals 24

Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give Seattle a win against visiting Arizona.

Chris Carson rushed 19 times for 122 yards and a touchdown for the Seahawks (10-6), who had already clinched an NFC wild-card berth but cemented the No. 5 seed. Seattle will play at Dallas on Saturday night.

Arizona (3-13) clinched the league’s worst record and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

Texans 20, Jaguars 3

Deshaun Watson capped his second season with a unique statistical accomplishment and host Houston claimed its third AFC South title in four seasons with a victory over woeful Jacksonville, becoming the second team to earn a division title after starting a season 0-3.

With 234 passing yards plus another 66 yards on the ground with a touchdown, Watson is the first quarterback in NFL history to total 4,000 yards (4,165) and at least 25 touchdowns (26) passing while rushing for 500 yards (551) with another five touchdowns on the ground.

Led by defensive end J.J. Watt, the Texans (11-5) harassed Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles throughout what likely was his last appearance with the Jaguars (5-11). Watt recorded 1 1/2 of the three sacks of Bortles, closing his season with 16. Watt and Hall of Fame member Reggie White are the only players in NFL history with four 15-plus sack seasons.

Cowboys 36, Giants 35

Dak Prescott threw four touchdowns passes and completed a two-point conversion to Michael Gallup with 1:12 left to lift Dallas Cowboys past host New York.

Prescott, who threw for 387 yards, completed a 32-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to Cole Beasley on fourth-and-15 to set up the two-point conversion. Originally, Beasley was called out of bounds on the field, but after review was ruled to have gotten his knee down before his elbows landed out of bounds.

Though running back Ezekiel Elliott sat out the game, Dallas played most of its starters and heads into the postseason having won seven of eight games. The Cowboys (10-6) earned the fourth seed in the playoffs and will host Seattle at AT&T Stadium next weekend. The Giants finish the season 5-11.

Lions 31, Packers 0

Detroit blasted listless Green Bay, ending the season on a positive note and earning back-to-back victories at Lambeau Field for the first time since the 1990-91 seasons.

Matthew Stafford, throwing passes to the likes of Brandon Powell, Andy Jones and T.J. Jones instead of Kenny Golladay (inactive), Marvin Jones (injured reserve) and Golden Tate (traded), threw for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns to T.J. Jones for the Lions (6-10).

His counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, exited following the third series with a concussion. A week after rallying three times from two-touchdown deficits to beat the New York Jets, interim coach Joe Philbin’s Packers (6-9-1) showed no fight against the Lions.

Bills 42, Dolphins 17

Josh Allen passed for three touchdowns and ran for two more as Buffalo defeated Miami in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Zay Jones caught two touchdowns from Allen, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 224 yards with an interception. Allen also ran nine times for 95 yards. Buffalo forced four turnovers and enjoyed its highest-scoring game of the season.

The game was the season finale for two teams out of playoff contention. Buffalo (6-10) finished 4-3 in its final seven games. Miami (7-9) concluded its season on a three-game losing streak, dropping nine of its final 13.

Panthers 33, Saints 14

Undrafted rookie quarterback Kyle Allen threw two touchdowns passes before leaving the game with a fourth-quarter shoulder injury as visiting Carolina won in New Orleans.

With the Saints (13-3) secure in their No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, they rested several starters. Drew Brees missed only his third start since coming to the Saints in 2006. He finished the season with an NFL-record 74.4 completion percentage (364 of 489) with 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Carolina (7-9) scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, with Allen driving the Panthers 75, 89 and 90 yards — mostly against the Saints’ starting defense — to forge a 20-0 lead, and it climbed to 30-0 late in the third quarter.

Falcons 34, Buccaneers 32

Matt Bryant made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give visiting Atlanta a victory in what turned out to be Dirk Koetter’s final game as Tampa Bay’s head coach.

The field goal was Bryant’s second of the game after a 49-yarder in the third quarter and gave the Falcons (7-9) a three-game winning streak to end the season despite trailing 17-0 late in the first half.

The Bucs (5-11) lost eight of their last 10 games, including the final four, and fell to 19-29 under Koetter, whom the team fired shortly after the game. Jameis Winston had four touchdown passes for the Bucs, including a score with five minutes remaining, and was 22 of 35 for 345 yards and an interception.

–Field Level Media

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