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NFL Playoff Field Is Set, and the Coaching Axe Swings

“You recognize the historical past,” Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley advised me, a half hour after the ultimate gun at M&T Financial institution Stadium. “The previous few years, the protection has been on the sphere.”

Mosley isn’t mendacity. And whereas that truth—{that a} proud Baltimore protection failed the workforce in December the final two seasons—didn’t get a variety of play throughout the lead-up to Week 17, it gnawed on the veterans of that proud unit.

In 2016 it was a 10-play, 75-yard drive yielded to the Steelers in Week 16, capped with by Antonio Brown landing scored with 13 seconds left to offer Pittsburgh a 31-27 win and put the Ravens behind the 8-ball. Final 12 months it was an 11-play, 80-yard drive from the Bengals, capped by a 49-yard scoring connection between Andy Dalton and Tyler Boyd with 53 seconds left, dealing the Ravens one other 31-27 loss.

And with all the things to play for on the ultimate Sunday of 2018, it seemed prefer it was occurring once more.

In any case, destiny appeared like the one rationalization for circus catches Breshad Perriman (sure, that Breshad Perriman, the Ravens’ previous first-round-bust Breshad Perriman) and Jarvis Landry made inside two snaps of one another to cowl 35 yards and push the Browns from their very own 26 to the Ravens 39 with 78 seconds left. Cleveland nonetheless trailed 26-24, however it was Baltimore that gave the impression to be the workforce going through the uphill battle.

“We’re on the sphere, and I used to be like, ‘Oh, right here we go once more,’” Mosley stated. “However we advised ourselves, Simply keep resilient, man. We bought 4 extra downs. That’s all we wanted.”

Resilient, they had been. And the idea didn’t waver—as a result of in a really particular manner, it’s been there all 12 months.

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Upon taking his new publish within the offseason, Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale pledged aggression and entrusted Mosley and security Eric Weddle with wide-ranging latitude to examine out and in of calls, each individually and for the group, primarily based on what every of the veterans sees out on the sphere. On a very powerful collection of the 12 months, after which a very powerful play of the 12 months, that confirmed up big-time.

Right here’s the actually fascinating factor—again in September, all anybody might discuss was the explosion of the passing recreation in professional soccer. But there all of us had been on the apex of Week 17 motion, and it was a protection making the distinction—and one paired with an offense that appears a complete lot extra like Navy than it does Texas Tech.


Heaps to get to in Week 17. And we’re going to toggle between groups that fought for a spot on the playoff desk, and those who will likely be jockeying for coaches within the coming days. So right here’s what you’re taking a look at:

The Eagles lurking as a harmful workforce within the NFC bracket, and why this isn’t so totally different from final 12 months was, even when their highway is that a lot harder.

The Colts surging behind a quarterback who doesn’t have to be as dominant as he as soon as wanted to be.

• A fast run by means of the teaching openings, or potential openings, as Black Monday dawns.

• An replace on Ohio State DE Nick Bosa’s well being, plus tidbits on Kyler Murray and extra draft information.

• Ideas on the under-the-radar Texans, Patrick Mahomes’s loopy brilliance, Kyle Williams’ farewell, the Seahawks’ rebuild and extra 2018 reflections.

And, after all, we’ll bump across the playoff image and have a look at what’s in retailer over a fairly intriguing Wild-Card Weekend slate. However we’re beginning in Baltimore.


After Baker Mayfield’s rope to Landry for 16 yards within the recreation’s 58th minute, the Browns had been arrange with first-and-10 on the Baltimore 39, a timeout and that 1:18 displaying on the clock. They wanted lower than 10 yards to get in kicker Greg Joseph’s vary—he was 6-for-Eight on kicks of 40-plus yards this 12 months.

That is precisely the form of state of affairs, it’d been stated in September, sure to generate offensive fireworks in 2018. After which, the alternative occurred.

Martindale dialed up max stress—six rushers coming—on every of the 4 snaps to comply with. On first down, Mayfield threw a fade to tight finish David Njoku up the fitting sideline that cornerback Anthony Levine batted away. On second down, the push pressured an off-target throw to the sideline to Landry. On third down, Mayfield unloaded the ball so quick that Djoku wasn’t prepared when it hit him within the fingers.

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“That’s him trusting us,” Mosley stated on Martindale’s calls. “It’s the D-line trusting the linebackers. The linebackers trusting the DBs, to be the place they’re purported to be. Levine made a giant play on the sidelines on Njoku. [Brandon] Carr, he nearly had an interception on third down. We fought.”

After which got here the final name—Cable zero practice. Yup, Martindale was dialing up one other max stress, however it was on Mosley to make the vital adjustment base on what the Browns did.

Because it was drawn up, Mosley was purported to shoot the B-gap, between the guard and the sort out, on the entrance aspect of the play. However on the snap, he noticed the middle and guard slide to him, killing his possibilities of attending to the quarterback. So at that time, he fell off to the spot the place he thought Mayfield’s sizzling learn could be. Positive sufficient, Mosley dropped proper into Mayfield’s throwing lane, just a few yards in entrance of Duke Johnson.

To the remainder of us, all of it occurred fairly quick. To Mosley, it was sluggish movement.

“That ball was within the air for 10 seconds. That was the longest two-yard cross ever,” he stated. “It felt nice, man, to have my teammates have a good time with me, the town have a good time with me. We deserved it. It simply felt good that you would be able to accomplish one thing so massive and have your loved ones behind you to share with.”

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And now these different-but-familiar Ravens head for January, with that 26-24 win, and a house recreation towards the Chargers on Sunday.

The Ravens are totally different now, in that Lamar Jackson is the quarterback, and the teaching employees’s plan to innovate with him, hatched earlier than the draft, has seen the sunshine of day—Baltimore is principally an choice workforce, one which’s gashed opponents for five.1 yards per carry in Jackson’ seven begins. And the deeper you dig into the numbers, the extra proof you get of how far John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg are taking this method.

Since Jackson grew to become the starter in Week 11, the Ravens have run the ball 316 occasions for 1,607 yards. They’ve solely dropped again to cross 180 occasions (together with sacks), giving Baltimore a 64/36 run/cross ratio—which is just about exceptional at the present time, and speaks to a employees keen to make it work.

“[Jackson] did an incredible job stepping up the center of the season, popping out of the bye week, staying resilient,” Mosley stated. “The offensive line, everybody on the offensive aspect, put him in an incredible place. And him simply being the playmaker he’s, he made a variety of massive performs. He made this workforce, this offense, fast. He helps [the defense] too, conserving us off the sphere.”

And that’s the place these Ravens look acquainted. They’re again to the highest of the league’s defensive rankings—ending the season No. 1 in whole protection, fifth in passing protection, fourth in run protection and second in scoring protection—and enjoying a method that gums up the sport and performs it on phrases than a variety of groups in as we speak’s NFL should not snug with.

“We’d not be the flashiest, however on the finish of the day, we wish to impose our will,” Mosley stated. “For essentially the most a part of the season, that’s what we did. Particularly the second half, when the offense turned it round, began operating the ball. If you’re within the playoffs, you bought to pack your run recreation, pack your protection. That’s what we did the previous few weeks.”

Consequently, they had been in a position to exorcise some ghosts of the current previous, and turn into the kind of workforce that nobody’s going to wish to play—one which performs a special recreation from most everybody else.


UNDERDOGS AGAIN? THE EAGLES WILL TAKE IT

The Tremendous Bowl champs had been 2-Three at one level this season, and 4-6 at one other, and left for useless by nearly everybody after an additional time loss to the Cowboys three weeks in the past. And right here we’re, with the common season accomplished, and the NFL nonetheless can’t kill off Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Then, simply think about the place they had been on Dec. 11—caught in a visitors jam of seven-loss groups (Packers, Panthers, Redskins), trying up on the Vikings within the sixth seed, with video games towards two eventual division champs (Rams, Texans) on faucet. Oh, and Carson Wentz had simply gone down.

Then the Eagles beat the Rams. And the Texans. And on Sunday they wiped the ground with the playing-out-the-string Redskins, 24-Zero on Washington’s house turf, and bought the assistance they wanted from the Bears, who breezily ousted Minnesota from the playoff image. And instantly it’s all beginning to really feel loads like final 12 months, in how Philly is stiff-arming its circumstances.

“We’re a authentic workforce,” security and captain Malcolm Jenkins stated from the victorious locker room late Sunday. “This isn’t contingent on one participant, or our star gamers. As a result of final 12 months and this 12 months, we’ve been plagued with accidents, and at some key positions. However we actually satisfaction ourselves on profitable as a workforce, and everyone bears the burden and contributes.

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“The subsequent man up is predicted to carry out and put together. And we do a great job of, clearly, adjusting to do this. We don’t make excuses—we simply work out a manner.”

Perhaps the largest problem this week was simply specializing in what was at hand. The Eagles didn’t management their future, and in order their recreation kicked off, they knew that what was taking place in Minneapolis might make no matter occurred in suburban DC moot.

Jenkins isn’t going to lie, both. He couldn’t ignore what was occurring in Minnesota, particularly after he realized that that the out-of-town scoreboard was located proper subsequent to the play clock. However, he says, “We knew one state of affairs was assured: If we didn’t win, we wouldn’t be in.”

The Redskins did make Philly work for it, conserving the rating inside 10 factors deep into the fourth quarter. However in the long run the old-reliable method the Eagles rode to a Tremendous Bowl final 12 months, and the one which’s been repurposed since Nick Foles returned to the lineup, proved to be loads ok for the third straight week: Philly leaned on its run recreation (34 carries, 129 yards) and line of defense, and ultimately wore Washington down.

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Foles did get knocked out of the sport late (Nate Sudfeld truly seemed sharp in his place), and his sore ribs will benefit monitoring this week, because the Eagles put together to go to Chicago for Sunday’s wild-card recreation. Foles did, although, sound OK afterward. And at this level even when Sudfeld needed to go towards the Bears, it’s exhausting to think about the Eagles crumbling due to it.

“We positively have that feeling,” Jenkins stated. “Like, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of the adversity is, no matter we face, it doesn’t matter. As a result of we all know as a gaggle, we belief each particular person we put on the market. We belief the coaches to provide you with a plan, we belief that everyone’s making ready, we belief that the leaders will step up and prepared the ground. We’ve accomplished that, and it’s confirmed. I don’t see this being any totally different.”

Over the previous few weeks, it certain hasn’t seemed totally different.


IT’S MORE THAN LUCK BEHIND THE COLTS

The perfect information for the Colts going into the playoffs is that Andrew Luck is again to the purpose the place he can carry a workforce. The second finest information, to me, could be that it doesn’t appear like Indianapolis wants him to do this anymore.

Yup, Luck was superb within the Colts’ 33-17 win over the Titans on Sunday night time, one which put Indy again within the playoffs for the primary time for the reason that Deflategate AFC title recreation 4 years in the past. Luck threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns with one choose on 24-of-35 passing. However Indy did extra to manage the sport than simply dangle it on No. 12.

The operating recreation, fueled by Marlon Mack, rolled up 158 yards on 36 carries. The protection, in case you take away a 33-yard rumble by Derrick Henry, held the Titans’ red-hot floor recreation to simply 60 yards on 15 carries, and Blaine Gabbert to a ghastly 60.Three score. And yeah, perhaps the truth that Gabbert was in there adjusted the diploma of a troublesome a bit (or loads) from the place it might have been with a wholesome Marcus Mariota.

Nonetheless, this looks like a really totally different form of Colts workforce.

GRAMLING: Week 17 Takeaways—Foles and the Eagles Return, the Ravens Maintain On This Time, Vikings Have Some Soul-Looking to Do 

“All of us belief in one another,” Mack stated, over the cell from the locker room postgame. “We attempt to go on the market and work—12 places a variety of stress on himself, and so we’ve to place a variety of stress on ourselves to do our jobs on the similar stage.”

So right here’s what caught out about Luck’s effort—how a handful of his largest performs associated to favorable down-and-distance.

Luck hit three pictures of greater than 20 yards in first-and-10 conditions, going through a protection that needed to respect the Colts’ run recreation. And his largest play of the day, a 43-yarder to T.Y. Hilton, got here on a second-and-6, following a four-yard Mack run. Equally, a 17-yard toss to Nyheim Hines got here on a second-and-4, following a six-yard Mack run. All of which is proof that defenses must play Luck straight up greater than ever earlier than.

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“It all the time makes a distinction when an offensive coordinator and a QB are going for a third-and-2, as an alternative of a third-and-10,” Mack stated. “As a operating again, you all the time attempt to attempt to get 4 or 5 yards a carry, and assist the offensive coordinator or the quarterback, give them a straightforward name on third-and-2 or third-and-1. The O-linemen, how they’re enjoying, it’s making it simpler to get third-and-1 or third-and-2.”

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And this, by the way in which, is all funding. The identical manner the Colts have began to restock the D, they’ve loaded up the offensive line with 4 former top-40 draft picks. The distinction from final 12 months to this 12 months, and it’s monumental, is de facto rookies Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith becoming a member of Anthony Costanzo and Ryan Kelly.

The end result has been a Luck who’s step by step gotten higher and higher, and is working in a special surroundings than he has been at any earlier level in his NFL profession—which makes Indy harmful now, and fairly scary going ahead.


BLACK MONDAY: AS THE COACHING CAROUSEL SPINS

At the moment is Black Monday, and we have already got 4 modifications within the books—the Browns and Packers have lengthy been on the board, and had been joined by the Buccaneers and Jets on Sunday night time. There’ll in all probability be three or 4 extra teaching modifications, so I figured it’d be most effective right here to simply offer you a fast thought on every of the spots we’re maintaining a tally of:

Packers: We’ve talked about Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Patriots OC Josh McDaniels right here over the previous few week—one secret is having the ability to coach Aaron Rodgers, and each Fitzgerald and McDaniels, for various causes, seem to have the chops to do it. This one is president Mark Murphy’s present, although GM Brian Gutekunst could have loads of enter, as will a handful of different VP sorts.

Browns: This one stays broad open. I’d count on Dolphins coach Adam Gase’s identify to floor right here if he turns into accessible, and also you’ve already heard McDaniels’s. Each have had their tires kicked by Cleveland within the current previous, and the Haslams are believed to love each guys. Darkhorse: Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. And there’s additionally the plain connection between GM John Dorsey and ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

Jets: Phrase is the Jets are taking a look at guys with head teaching expertise, with ex-Packers coach Mike McCarthy one which they’ve accomplished a variety of background work on. And so they had been going to be sizzling after Ravens coach John Harbaugh, had he turn into accessible. Campbell bears watching right here, too.

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Buccaneers: The thrill is that the Bucs are in search of a reputation, and could possibly be making ready to make a run at prying Harbaugh out of Baltimore. McCarthy would match the profile, too, of an skilled and completed coach who’ll create some buzz.

Broncos: GM John Elway will meet with Vance Joseph in mid-morning. And barring the form of change of coronary heart he had final 12 months, Joseph will likely be gone. These in Denver stated there was a finality in the way in which Joseph addressed his gamers post-game on Sunday—he advised them he believed a lot of them could be a part of the answer when the workforce did flip it round. It’d be fairly powerful for the workforce to push Joseph to the ledge in consecutive years, then pull him again, and Elway’s been annoyed along with his offensive staffing. That is one other workforce with affection for John Harbaugh, probably to pair with Gary Kubiak, had been he to turn into accessible.

Cardinals: The issue with Steve Wilks isn’t simply how ugly issues seemed on the sphere, at 3-13. It’s the problems he had assembling a employees. And that’s why it’s an excellent wager he’s gone—as a result of the brass doesn’t belief that he’ll be capable of repair these issues on the fly, and the event of their 2018 first-round quarterback is at stake. It’s simple to see why, then, that phrase is their first seems to be will probably be to skilled fingers like Jim Caldwell and McCarthy.

ORR: New Coaches Make the Playoffs Extra Usually Than You Suppose

Dolphins: The dismissal of EVP Mike Tannenbaum has been rumored for days. And proprietor Steve Ross’s dissatisfaction with the local weather within the constructing actually places larger-scale modifications on the desk, and makes the concept that he’ll go ahead with Gase and GM Chris Grier operating the present appear rather less probably. If he hires a soccer czar to switch Tannenbaum, which might set off modifications elsewhere, New England exec Nick Caserio and Minnesota exec George Paton are two names which have been bandied about.

Bengals: The coaches went to mattress on Sunday night time with no assurances about their futures, however when Marvin Lewis agreed to return again this 12 months, the idea was he and proprietor Mike Brown resolved to go two extra years. Lewis will meet with Brown on Tuesday, as he does on the finish of yearly.

Coordinator motion: As we famous the Sport Plan on Thursday, Lions OC Jim Bob Cooter and Bucs OC Todd Monken are on expiring offers, and each ought to garner loads of curiosity available on the market. As for Minnesota interim coordinator Kevin Stefanski, coach Mike Zimmer would’ve been superb elevating him final 12 months after Pat Shurmur left, so it stands to purpose that he’ll maintain on the job there, barring larger organizational modifications. And count on to listen to Joseph’s identify linked to the DC opening in Cincinnati.


… OF THE WEEK

QUOTE

“I’m dissatisfied within the conduct as we speak from T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette. They had been disrespectful, egocentric and their conduct was unbecoming that of knowledgeable soccer participant.” —Jaguars EVP of soccer operations Tom Coughlin.

The Jacksonville boss didn’t mince phrases after the workforce’s 12th loss, throughout which TV cameras discovered the 2 Jags operating backs a bit, uh, lower than engaged within the recreation towards the Texans. Then got here phrase that the workforce had voided the ensures in Fournette’s contract, after he was suspended for combating Payments DE Shaq Lawson in late November. And it certain seems to be like Coughlin and Doug Marrone have a superb mess on their fingers to wash up.

TWEET

That’s Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb hugging it out, and Cobb tearing up, earlier than what might need been the ultimate recreation the 2 ever play collectively. That’s the fact of the NFL, and of Week 17. Numerous damaged goals resulting in pending breakups—Cobb’s four-year, $39.9 million deal is up after this, his eighth season as a Packer. Over that point, he’s caught 470 passes for five,524 yards and 41 touchdowns, the good majority being delivered to him by No. 12.

CLIP

A particular tribute this week to our buddies at #BillsMafia—we’ll give them a video and a meme right here—and we’ll have a particular tribute to one in every of their very own developing within the takeaways.

MEME

Giants RB Saquon Barkley is a completely unimaginable athlete. He could be a little boom-or-bust on the sphere—each at Penn State and as an NFL rookie, he’s proven a propensity to alternate big and really quiet video games—however there’s no doubting his freakish expertise. And now he has a 2,000-scrimmage-yard season in his first 12 months as a professional.

S/O to …

Browns QB Drew Stanton for bringing 50 children from Cleveland space rec facilities out purchasing for Christmas—and together with his teammates within the occasion. The opposite guys on the depth chart at his place, Baker Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor, each joined in, as did a variety of different Browns. And the cool factor is how Stanton initially bought the concept for a practice that he’s carried from workforce to workforce since coming into the league in 2007. It was truly from an ex-teammate of his, former lineman Ephraim Salaam, who invited him to a “Store with a Jock” occasion in 2009. The hope could be that, from right here, the custom is handed on down the road by guys Mayfield and Taylor.


SIX FROM SATURDAY

The faculty soccer information from the attitude of the NFL.

1. Ohio State DE Nick Bosa popped up on the general public radar this week for the primary time in a pair months, showing at Buckeyes’ bowl apply. And so I touched base along with his dad, former Dolphins first-round choose John Bosa, over the weekend to replace his standing. John stated his son is simply now transitioning from rehabbing his surgically repaired core muscle harm to beginning coaching for the mix. “The factor for Nick, after all the things is claimed and accomplished, after the second session after the surgical procedure, the fact sunk in for him that this actually is a 12 to 14 week course of,” John Bosa advised me. “Even after that, he’s good to go, however he’s not good to cross rush, he’s simply good to start out again.” And that was one thing, the elder Bosa stated, that Nick was feeling on a week-to-week foundation. “He’d name me throughout recreation weeks, throughout the week of the ‘Group Up North’ recreation, and he’d say, ‘I had an incredible exercise on the sphere, however there’s no manner I might come near enjoying soccer as we speak.’ ”

2. In a sure manner, that gave Bosa some peace of thoughts. He made the choice to go to California in October, largely as a result of his surgeon, Philadelphia-based Dr. Nick Meyers, works intently with a facility 5 minutes from Nick’s brother Joey’s place in Tustin, Calif., the place Nick might even have entry to Joey’s coach, chef and nutritionist. That, after all, didn’t make it simple on Nick, even when it was the fitting factor to do. “From him to depart the workforce, depart all his buddies, was very, very troublesome,” John stated. “I used to be heartbroken for him. He was on tempo perhaps to be sitting in New York for that [Heisman] trophy presentation.” Bosa bought a hero’s welcome when he confirmed up at that apply the opposite day, and the 2 brothers plan to be on the sideline Tuesday on the Rose Bowl with their alma mater. “He advised me he loved the dialog he had with coach [Urban] Meyer and coach Mike [Marotti] greater than any dialog he’s had with them,” John stated. “It wasn’t a dialog as a participant anymore—they had been extra speaking as buddies.” As for what’s forward, John Bosa stated he’s “95 % certain” his son will do all the things workout-wise on the mix.

3. Choice time is coming for Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray, along with his faculty profession now (presumably) over. And so that is price passing alongside—a pair scouts I do know effectively consider strongly that Murray prefers enjoying soccer, and particularly enjoying quarterback, to baseball. That doesn’t imply he’s going to decide on soccer. However it does colour his resolution to place his identify in with the NFL’s draft board to get a grade, regardless of taking a $4.66 million signing bonus from the Oakland A’s because the ninth total choose within the baseball draft.

KAHLER: Kyler Murray and the Draft Prospects the NFL Is Watching This Bowl Season

4. The Clemson line of defense acquitted itself as you’d count on it to within the nationwide semifinal. And Clelin Ferrell, who scored a sack and 4 tackles, continued to indicate a refined recreation and a extremely good motor, which ought to assist mitigate the truth that he’s bought good however not nice athletic capability when groups are contemplating him within the prime half of the primary spherical.

5. Tigers freshman Trevor Lawrence is gonna be fairly good, huh?

6. This isn’t precisely new, however Alabama confirmed itself on Saturday night time to have (at the least) three tailbacks with potential to be NFL starters—senior Damien Harris, junior Josh Jacobs, and sophomore Najee Harris. The elder Harris and Jacobs have a great shot to go within the first three rounds in April. The youthful Harris might be a 2020 first-rounder.


TEN TAKEAWAYS

1. I don’t wish to play the “nobody’s speaking about …” recreation, however it actually does really feel like nobody’s speaking in regards to the Texans. Y’know, the workforce that began 0-Three and has one way or the other muscled its solution to an 11-5 season? They’re getting the Colts on Saturday, with a shot to return to New England for a divisional-round playoff recreation for the third time in seven seasons. And I caught coach Invoice O’Brien’s discuss along with his workforce postgame, the place he referred to as what they’d accomplished, getting back from 0-3, a “monumental achievement.” So I figured I’d hit him up and ask him what he’s most pleased with. He texted again: “Nice management by the captains—[Deshaun] Watson, [J.J.] Watt, [DeAndre] Hopkins, [Tyrann] Mathieu, [Johnathan] Joseph and Brian Peters. Group of powerful guys who like to apply and work exhausting. Particular groups is way improved, and we’ve been strong in all three phases.”

2. Whereas we’re reflecting on issues, I additionally hit up Kyle Williams, the retiring Payments defensive sort out, to ask what he was most pleased with as he wrapped up a stellar 13-year profession in Buffalo. “I believe I’m most pleased with the bond with the town,” Williams stated. “Simply love the folks and the way they’ve responded to me, and me to them.” You’ll have a tough time discovering many who don’t actually, actually like and respect Williams. He’ll retire a five-time Professional Bowler, and with a enjoyable second as a capper, with the Payments sending Williams out to catch a nine-yard swing cross from Josh Allen on the finish of Sunday’s rout of the Dolphins.

3. In midseason, I used to be texting with Chiefs sort out Mitchell Schwartz about Patrick Mahomes’ loopy season, and his perspective on it, and he stated, “It’s humorous, folks all the time ask how enjoyable it’s. And I’ve by no means gotten to essentially take a step again and watch it as pure leisure. One among nowadays I’ll fireplace up the TV copy and revel in.” That kind of sums up how I really feel about what we’ve seen from Mahomes throughout this superb second season—one which he capped on Sunday along with his 50th landing cross, and the mind-bending indisputable fact that he simply joined a membership that solely Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had been beforehand in. I’ve caught to my weapons on Drew Brees as MVP, due to how he’s performed within the largest spots. However Mahomes has made it very, very troublesome, and I’m nonetheless vulnerable to probably flipping.

Ed Zurga/AP/REX/Shutterstock

4. This was get-right Sunday for the Rams after a foul couple weeks, and that’s why I took notice of receiver Josh Reynolds’ evaluation of the 48-32 win over the Niners: “We’re going into [the bye] with a variety of confidence after this.” Jared Goff’s first half stat line: 12-of-23, 132 yards, 2 TDs. Jared Goff’s second-half stat line: 3-of-3, 67 yards, 2 TDs. So it’s fairly simple to see why Sean McVay felt OK giving Goff the second-half hook, The issue? It’s on the opposite aspect of the ball, the place the Rams yielded 6.7 yards per play to Nick Mullens and the 49ers offense.

5. Talking of getting proper, Mitch Trubisky wasn’t statistically excellent, however he drove the practice on a game-altering 16-play, 75-yard landing drive that put the Bears up 21-10, and went his third straight week with out an interception. Bear in mind, Trubisky has Matt Nagy calling video games for him, and Vic Fangio’s nasty, Khalil Mack-led protection to lean on, so he doesn’t have to maneuver mountains. The environment friendly Trubisky of the previous few weeks is likely to be loads.

6. The Titans are going through an fascinating offseason with their franchise QB Marcus Mariota, who’s due a $20.9 million fifth-year choice in 2019, which turns into absolutely assured on the outset of the league 12 months in March. I’d count on he’ll be again in Nashville subsequent 12 months, however it’d be powerful to go all-in on a market-rate deal for him at this level, given the harm historical past (which, to be truthful, has solely value him eight video games as a professional) and the place he’s in his improvement (89.Four profession score, 92.Three score in ’18). Coach Mike Vrabel bought loads accomplished in 12 months 1 in Tennessee, and you might see an identification kind behind Derrick Henry, the offensive line and the protection, however the state of affairs at quarterback offers the workforce an fascinating problem to work by means of.

7. Panthers QB Cam Newton made a ton a of progress earlier than his shoulder went rotten on him in midseason, and so it was good to see the work of Carolina offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner present up in one other place this week—with rookie backup Kyle Allen. Allen, a former five-star highschool recruit who had a tumultuous faculty profession, threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-27 passing within the (meaningless) win over the Saints.

8. I don’t suppose it’s the worst factor on the earth that Dak Prescott bought a bit further work in earlier than the playoffs—and constructed some optimistic momentum. Sure, there’s some harm threat. However this isn’t a 40-year-old quarterback. Prescott is 25, and he’s been up and down, and so I can perceive the benefit in what Jason Garrett did on Sunday. There’s no have to bubblewrap everybody.

9. Loopy that Pete Carroll bought the Seahawks to 10 win this 12 months, and ultimately we’ll cease itemizing all the blokes who left earlier than that to make the feat so spectacular.

10. I don’t know what to make of the Lions’ 31-Zero stomping of the Packers. However I do suppose that we want greater than a 12 months to evaluate Matt Patricia. And regardless that he nearly actually gained’t get it, I really feel the identical manner about Steve Wilks in Arizona.


FIVE-DAY FORECAST

It’s 4:44 a.m. as I write this and I’m considering I’ll be awake round 7 a.m. for Black Monday. So I’m fairly certain I do know what all of you’ll want to examine this week. The motion ought to actually get going mid-morning, and I belief you’ll lock in right here on the website on our tracker, and with the response we’ll have coming.

After which … the playoffs!

Saturday, we get the Colts and Texans (ESPN, 4:35 p.m. ET), and the Seahawks and Cowboys (FOX, 8:15 p.m. ET); and Sunday, it’s Chargers-Ravens (CBS, 1 p.m. ET) and Eagles-Bears (NBC, 4:40 p.m. ET). My prime 5 storylines for the week? Actual fast, so I can go to mattress …

1. Andrew Luck again within the playoffs!

2. The inflow of younger QBs (Watson, Trubisky, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott).

3. The Eagles’ quarterback well being.

4. The Bears’ bad-ass protection vs. Doug Pederson.

5. The Ravens turning again the clock on the NFL.

And naturally, don’t neglect to be looking out for the Monday Afternoon Quarterback in only a matter of hours. See you all then.

Query or remark? Electronic mail us at [email protected]

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