32 things we learned heading into divisional round of 2018 NFL playoffs

The 32 things we learned heading into the 2018 NFL playoff divisional round:

1. If it seemed the wild-card round was chock full of fresh faces and teams, well, it was. None of the eight clubs competing in the opening round was in action for last season’s wild-card games, and only the Eagles (a No. 1 seed with a bye in 2017) even reached the playoff field a year ago.

1a. But you’ll see largely familiar characters in the divisional round with Philadelphia returning along with the four teams on bye — the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Saints, all postseason entries last year, too.

1b. The last team to advance to the Super Bowl after playing on wild-card weekend was the 2012 Ravens, who won Super Bowl XLVII. The next 10 conference champs have all had first-round byes.

2. Gen X-er Philip Rivers, 37, has to be the sentimental favorite to win it all, right? No quarterback in league history has thrown for more yards (54,656) or more touchdowns (374) yet never played on Super Sunday.

2a. And how great (and entertaining) would it be to see Rivers’ Chargers take on the Saints … and former Bolts QB Drew Brees, who kept Philly Riv on the bench for two years?

3. But if you’re into unminted Millennial passers, Patrick Mahomes (23), Jared Goff (24), Dak Prescott (25) and, most certainly, Andrew Luck (29) could ride great story lines all the way to Atlanta, site of Super Bowl LIII.

4. Three quarterbacks made their playoff debuts during wild-card weekend. Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and Mitchell Trubisky all lost.

5. Welp, Matt Nagy, guess you shoulda laid down for the Vikings in Week 17 rather than invite a matchup with the Iggles and your old buddy Doug Pederson.

6. Did anyone else want Eagles-Bears go into overtime (maybe double OT) just to see how NBC would handle its Golden Globes coverage, which began minutes after Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth wrapped?

7. Rough night for Chicago’s Cody Parkey, whose would-be, game-winning field goal attempt from 43 yards hit the upright then the crossbar before caroming into the end zone. No good. Parkey drilled the Soldier Field uprights four times Nov. 1. Uncanny.

8. But if I’ve learned anything this season, it’s that Parkey is about to get a flood of support from kickers throughout the league as he copes with this unfortunate bounce. Bounces.

9. Nick Foles was picked off twice in Sunday’s win over the Bears. The last time he threw multiple INTs in an Eagles uniform, Oct. 26, 2014, Chip Kelly was their coach and Foles had yet to play for the Rams or Chiefs.

9a. The last time Philadelphia played the Saints in postseason, the 2013 wild-card round, Foles was also the quarterback (in a losing effort) — Kelly’s only NFL playoff appearance.

10. Congrats to Eagles WR Golden Tate, who scored the game-winning TD at Chicago, instantly justifying the scrutinized trade deadline deal for him — which cost Philly a third-round pick that appeared awfully expensive given the struggles to integrate Tate into the offense.

10a. Congrats to Eagles LT Jason Peters, RB/KR Darren Sproles and LB Jordan Hicks, who all missed the 2017 Super Bowl run with injuries but tasted a playoff victory Sunday.

10b. Feel for you, Wentz.

11. Was wild-card weekend’s MVP Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley? His unit was on the short end of a 22-10 loss to Baltimore two weeks ago. Sunday, it showed the rest of the league how to contain Jackson — essentially deploying a defense comprised of linemen and defensive backs to shadow, flummox and confuse the rookie.

12. Jackson, who turns 22 on Monday, became the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. He looked like it. Make no mistake, the Ravens don’t win the AFC North without Jackson’s heroics in the second half of the season, when he went 6-1 as the starter. But Bradley and the Bolts provided a blueprint to stopping him and a fresh reminder that, though Jackson remains an elite athlete and highly effective with the ball in open space, he’s got a long, long way to go to be a fully-formed pro quarterback. He was sacked seven times, picked off once and fumbled thrice, losing the ball on his team’s final possession.

13. Who figured on Chargers rookie K Mike Badgley outperforming Ravens all-pro Justin Tucker? Badgley set a Bolts’ postseason record with five made field goals, while Tucker was 1-for-2 on three-point tries. Tucker missed five FGs this season, three against L.A.

14. Who figured on Chargers FB Derek Watt making a longer playoff run this season than brothers J.J. and T.J.?

15. The Chargers haven’t beaten Tom Brady since 2005. Rivers is 0-7 head-to-head against TB12, including two losses in postseason.

15a. But Sunday, the Chargers became the only team in the league to win eight times on the road this season. A visit to Foxborough, daunting as it is, won’t phase them.

16. The last time Rivers appeared in a playoff game at Gillette Stadium, the 2007 AFC Championship Game, he played on a torn ACL.

17. Baltimore’s second-ranked run game, which had averaged nearly 230 yards in Jackson’s seven regular-season starts, was limited to 90.

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By: Nate Davis


Bing Predicts: NFL Wild Card

Winners and losers from NFL Week 15

There was a ton of really weird stuff going on around the league during NFL Week 15, both positive and negative, as teams battled for a playoff berth.

One of the hottest teams in the NFL was shut out in stunning style. With a convincing win over the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Bears won the NFC North. The Cleveland Browns — of all teams — are still alive for postseason play, for crying out loud.

Heck, one player forgot which team he played for and facilitated a touchdown for the opposing team.

These are the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 15.

Winner: Philip Rivers has ice water running through his veins

Dec 13, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night’s game in Kansas City seemed to portend doom for Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers. He threw an interception on his first pass attempt of the game, severely under throwing Tyrell Williams.

It didn’t take long for the Chiefs to build up a 14-0 lead. Then in the second half, they went up by two touchdowns once more midway through the fourth quarter. It appeared Patrick Mahomes and Co. were on their way to an easy win. Then, Rivers woke up.

The veteran quarterback led two consecutive touchdown-scoring drives in the final eight minutes of the game, capping it all off with a gutty two-point conversion to Mike Williams (watch here), who had a monster game while Keenan Allen watched due to an injury.

Now at 11-3, the Chargers have a chance to claim the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the final weeks.

Loser: Vance Joseph has got to go

Situational awareness is a critical element to being a good head coach in the NFL — or really any level of play. Vance Joseph does not have a healthy dose of that. He proved it once more on Saturday at home against the Cleveland Browns.

Down by four points, with just over four minutes left in the game, his offense on Cleveland’s six-yard line on a 4th-and-1, Joseph called for a field goal. He was booed heartily by the home crowd in Denver, and social media was brutal in its assessment of his awful decision.

Not surprisingly, the move backfired. Cleveland won the game by one point. In a must-win situation, Joseph retreated into his shell and cost his team the victory. There’s no way John Elway can keep him now. He’s got to go.

Winner: Josh Allen came up big 

The Buffalo Bills were down their two top running backs before Sunday’s game against Detroit even began. Both LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory were ruled out, leading many to wonder just where any offense was going to come from.

Rookie quarterback Josh Allen — whose play is always an adventure — answered the call. His shockingly nifty touchdown run in the first half (watch here) put the Bills up by a point. Then, in the fourth quarter, his 42-yard laser strike to Robert Foster proved to be the game-winner.

Loser: Oakland managed to make Cincinnati look good

We’ve been harping on how bad the Oakland Raiders are all year. One lucky win against an unmotivated Pittsburgh Steelers team in Week 14 did nothing to change that, as everyone found out just one week later in Cincinnati.

The Bengals dominated Sunday’s game. Oakland’s defense had no answer for Joe Mixon, and, despite a poor outing from backup Jeff Driskel, the Raiders just couldn’t make key stops when they needed it.

Derek Carr had a rough outing throwing the ball, and both he and Jalen Richard lost fumbles — the second of which led to the first score of the game for Cincinnati.

The bottom line is this: When you’re making the Bengals look good, you’ve hit rock bottom.

Winner: Tremendous team effort nets Pittsburgh a huge win

Dec 16, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) meet at mid-field after playing at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

From the moment Tom Brady stepped onto the field for warm-ups in Pittsburgh, he faced adversity. When the game tipped off, it was clear that the Steelers were not going to let him connect with Rob Gronkowski or Josh Gordon. They did just that, as the two top New England playmakers combined for just three catches for 40 yards.

The coup de grace for Pittsburgh’s defense came in the fourth quarter when Joe Haden made a tremendous leaping interception with two Patriots draped over him for what proved to be the win-sealing play (watch here).

Big Ben Roethlisberger had a rough night with two bad interceptions but was buoyed by the rest of his offense. Jaylen Samuels did his best Le’Veon Bell and James Conner impersonation by racking up 172 yards on 21 touches, and the Steelers walked out with a 17-10 win over the mighty Patriots to remain atop the AFC North.

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By: Jesse Reed

Winners and losers from NFL Week 4

The one thing NFL fans can always expect is that the unexpected is bound to happen. This certainly was the case in NFL Week 4, as some stunning events unfolded around the league.

An undefeated team was absolutely throttled and looked completely inept in the process. A quarterback who’s generally been unimpressive early in his career busted out with a performance that any legend would be proud to claim.

We’ll focus on both of those situations and plenty more looking at the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 4.

Projecting the first loss of every NFL team

Roquan Smith not at start of camp with Bears rookies

Chicago Bears rookies report to training camp today. Their highest-profile first-year player won’t be in attendance.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that first-round linebacker Roquan Smith is not with the team as rookies report, per sources informed of the situation.

Smith currently hasn’t signed his rookie contract and is staying away until a deal is done, per Rapoport.

With Chicago playing in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2, Bears rookies report to training camp today. Veterans are set to report Thursday.

A speedy sideline-to-sideline playmaker, Smith is expected to step in immediately in the middle of Vic Fangio’s defense, alongside veteran Danny Trevathan. The rookie’s acumen against the run and ability to defend the pass boost a sneaky underrated Chicago defense.

First, the Bears must get their first-round pick signed and in camp.

By Kevin Patra Full article

Seven Teams That Could Sign Mike Glennon

Posted on Walter Football.com

Bears inform QB Mike Glennon of his impending release 
Mike Glennon had a career completion percentage of 59.4 and a YPA of 6.5 entering the 2017 season, so it seems so asinine that the Bears signed him to a big contract. Glennon predictably flopped as a starter, but should be a solid backup.

Here are some teams that could sign Glennon once he’s released:

New York Jets: If the Jets can’t retain Josh McCown, perhaps they’d sign Glennon to start while their first-round rookie gets ready, much like Mitchell Trubisky last year.

Buffalo Bills: I suppose the Bills could be desperate enough to give Glennon a starting job if they can’t do anything else at quarterback, but they should have better options.

Green Bay Packers: It would be difficult to imagine the Packers going into 2018 with Brett Hundley as the No. 2 quarterback again. They could stand to have a solid backup like Glennon.
Arizona Cardinals: I think the Cardinals will pursue A.J. McCarron or Case Keenum this offseason, but if they fail to get either one of them, they could target Glennon instead.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It’s possible that Glennon could go back home to be Jameis Winston’s backup again, as Ryan Fitzpatrick is an impending free agent.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens need a better backup quarterback than the incompetent Ryan Mallett.
Philadelphia Eagles: If the Eagles trade Nick Foles, perhaps they’d bring in Glennon to take the snaps and start until Carson Wentz is ready to play, but my money would be on Sam Bradford in this scenario.

Read more: http://walterfootball.com/nflpossibilities.php#ixzz58Scu9MnN

Bears Hire Former Oregon HC As Offensive Coordinator

Written by Daniel Rapaport at SI.com

The Bears have hired former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich as offensive coordinator, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Helfrich, 44, will join the staff of new head coach Matt Nagy, the former Chiefs offensive coordinator who was hired to replace John Fox. Fox went 14-34 in three disappointing seasons in Chicago.

Helfrich was the offensive coordinator at Oregon under Chip Kelly from 2009-12 then became head coach when Kelly departed to coach the Eagles. In his first season at Oregon, Helfrich guided the Ducks to the national championship in the first-ever College Football Playoff, where they were defeated 42-20 by Ohio State.

Under Helfrich’s up-tempo offense at Oregon during that national runner-up season, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for 4454 yards and 42 touchdowns as well as rushing for 770 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to the Heisman Trophy.

But Helfrich could not sustain the success of his first season and was fired by Oregon after a 4-8 2016 season, finishing with a 36-17 record in four seasons at the helm. He spent the 2017 season as a college football analyst for Fox Sports.

In Chicago, Helfrich will be tasked with mentoring young quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who showed flashes of the arm talent that led to him being selected second overall but struggled behind a poor offensive line. The Bears averaged just 287.4 yards of total offense per game this season, the third-worst mark in the league and scored just 16.5 points per contest, the league’s fourth-worst average.

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Bears Lose to Lions as Detroit Stays In Playoff Race

Written by Ryan Wilson at CBS Sports.com

The Lions needed a win on Saturday, and while it was far from exciting, that’s exactly what they did against an overmatched Bears outfit, 20-10. Matthew Stafford was an efficient 25-of-33 passing for 237 yards and two touchdowns and no turnovers, and Marvin Jones led all receivers with 85 yards on three catches. In case you’re wondering, Theo Riddick led the Lions with 49 rushing yards, which keeps the team’s streak of games without a 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving Day 2013, when Reggie Bush (who appears ready to retire) ran for 117 yards against the Packers.

But there was no need for a running game against the Bears, whose offense sputtered early and never really was a threat to mount a comeback after trailing 20-3 early in the third quarter. As has been the case all season, Detroit’s offense goes through Stafford, who passed Tony Romo in all-time passing yards in the win. Needing 197 yards coming into the game, he bested that by 40 and now has 34,223 yards for his career. Next up: 30th on the list, Steve DeBerg, who has 34,241. Stafford’s two passing touchdowns also tied him with Matt Hasselbeck and Terry Bradshaw for No. 33 on the all-time list.

Bears rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky showed glimpses of why he could be a special player — he was 31 of 46, and many of those 31 completions were thrown accurately into tight windows, and on time. Unfortunately, he also had three interceptions, including one that came in the red zone and another that killed Chicago’s final drive.

Detroit moves to 8-6 on the season and will need to keep winning to have a chance to pass the Seahawks and Falcons for the final wild-card spot. The Bears, meanwhile, fall to 4-10. It’s the third straight season they’ll lose at least 10 games — all during the John Fox era (though it’s worth noting that the team went 5-11 under Marc Trestman in 2014).

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Saints Hold Off Bears To Move to 5-2

Written by Rich Campbell at Chicago Tribune.com

If there were categories on the Superdome scoreboard for resolve and grit, perhaps the Bears would have upset the Saints on Sunday.

Playing from behind almost all game against one of the NFL’s hottest teams in one of the loudest stadiums, the Bears clawed to keep pace.

Injuries mounted. Mistakes tripped them up. A pivotal official’s decision went against them. Still, quarterback Mitch Trubisky had the ball in Saints territory in the final two minutes with a chance to win and ignite a turbo-booster under this season.

Alas, all that counted were the points: Saints 20, Bears 12.

Their inability to generate and sustain the offense outweighed their collective determination and a second-half defensive surge.

“We just need to become more consistent,” Trubisky said.

The bad news: Trubisky missed his chance to prove he could spark the passing attack while playing from behind. Yes, he was more proficient downfield in infrequent flashes. But when they needed only 43 yards for a touchdown on the final possession, the winning moment escaped him.

On second-and-15 from the Saints’ 48, he threw high and behind Tre McBride on an in-cutting route. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore easily intercepted it.

“I had to get it over the linebacker, and I just left it a little too high,” Trubisky said. “We had what we wanted. It was a good call. I missed a little bit. I’ve made that throw hundreds of times. So, just learn from it, get better, and (I’ve) just got to bring it down a little bit to give your receiver a better chance.”

Trubisky completed only 14 of 32 passes for 164 yards and was sacked twice. The Saints tested him on third downs by being creative with their pressures, sending rushers from different sides of the formation.

His performance would have been viewed differently if officials upheld a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Miller on third-and-10 in the third quarter. He perfectly placed a throw on a corner route to cut into the Saints’ 14-3 lead.

But it was overturned by video review, a decision most Bears disputed amid renewed criticism of the NFL’s overcooked rules about what constitutes a catch. Even worse, Miller dislocated his left knee on the play, an injury as deflating as it was gruesome.

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