Texans look to bounce back vs. Jets, Darnold

Texans look to bounce back vs. Jets, Darnold

The Houston Texans went from 0-3 to first place in the AFC South Division, a nine-game winning streak making them one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

 

That streak came to a crashing halt in a three-point loss at home to the Indianapolis Colts last weekend.

 

Now Houston gets a chance to rebound from its first loss in two-and-a-half months Saturday afternoon when it visits the New York Jets.

 

The Texans head to East Rutherford still holding a two-game division lead over the Colts and Tennessee Titans with three weeks remaining. While Houston visits the 4-9 Jets, the Colts host the Dallas Cowboys — owners of the NFL’s longest current winning streak at five games — while the Titans visit the New York Giants.

 

During their winning streak, the Texans won five games by a touchdown or less and led at halftime of each game. On Sunday, they spent much of the game trying to rally only to come up short.

 

DeShaun Watson finished 27 of 38 for 267 yards with a touchdown pass, his 7-yard strike to DeAndre Hopkins with 2:37 left moving the Texans to within 24-21. But an offside penalty against Jadeveon Clowney on third-and-1 with two minutes remaining gave the Colts a first down and killed the Texans’ chances at completing the comeback.

 

In reality, the Texans’ inability to protect Watson (five sacks) did them in. Pass protection has been one of Houston’s biggest issues of late with opponents sacking Watson 20 times in his last five games.

 

“We didn’t play well as an offense, it is always going to be the quarterback, the head coach,” Houston coach Bill O’Brien told the media after his team’s first loss since a 27-22 setback against the Giants on Sept. 23. “I totally understand that but it just wasn’t very good as an offense. We were not able to get into a rhythm; our first-down offense was terrible. It was awful.”

 

Now the Texans will hope to correct everything against a team coming off a rare win thanks to some late-game clutch plays by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.

 

“You let him escape, you let him start making plays, you’re going to be in a bind,” O’Brien said of the Jets’ first-round pick. “You got to stop the run. So, it’s a big challenge, but I know our guys are excited for it and we’ve got to have a good week here.”

 

The Jets were eliminated from the playoffs before taking the field in Buffalo last week but halted a six-game losing streak with a thrilling 27-23 victory thanks to Darnold’s first game-winning, fourth-quarter drive.

 

Darnold missed the previous three games because of foot sprain sustained Nov. 4 in Miami — a 13-6 loss in which he was intercepted four times. He briefly left the game against the Bills in the first half but returned and capped the comeback with a nine-play, 61-yard drive culminating in Elijah McGuire’s 1-yard run on fourth down with 1:17 remaining.

 

“It’s great for his first game back,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said on a conference call Monday. “Obviously, he was confident before the fourth-quarter comeback. But it just helps him, it just helps him be himself a little more, which he’s comfortable with being anyway, but that’s really all it does for him.”

 

Darnold finished 16 of 24 for 170 yards and highlighted by his first game-winning drive with a 37-yard pass to Robby Anderson that put the ball on the Buffalo 5-yard line.

 

“As a kid, you dream of converting two-minute drives and going down there and scoring,” Darnold told the media after the game. “To be able to score a touchdown and put the ball in their hands at the end of the game was awesome.”

 

Darnold actually nicked up his foot again at Buffalo and was limping on the game-winning drive. Bowles said he expects Darnold to play Sunday.

 

The Jets are 5-2 in seven all-time meetings with the Texans.

 

–Field Level Media

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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