NFL stars looking to rebound from a rough 2018

Whether it was due to injury, age or just subpar play, many NFL players are looking to rebound after disappointing 2018 seasons. Here’s a look at 25 players hoping to bounce back.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, free agent

Ansah had an injury-plagued year in 2018, likely his last in Detroit. He played only seven games, recording four sacks, and he struggled to find a market as a free agent this offseason due to a shoulder injury.

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons

Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016, but that production looks more like a fluke after his last two seasons. He had only five sacks in each of the last two seasons and also had just 20 tackles last year as a situational pass rusher. Atlanta desperately needs a rebound from him this year.

Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys

At one time Cobb was Aaron Rodgers’ top receiver, but he’s struggled in Green Bay over the last three years. After playing only nine games due to injuries last season, he signed with the Cowboys to replace Cole Beasley as the team’s slot receiver.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals

Dalton’s last winning season as a starter was 2015. Last year he went 5-6 in 11 starts before a season-ending thumb injury. He also threw 11 interceptions during his time on the field. Bengals fans hope new head coach Zac Taylor can help Dalton take a step forward.

Joe Flacco, QB, Broncos

The writing was on the wall for Flacco in Baltimore after the team drafted Lamar Jackson. Despite adding several new receivers, Flacco went 4-5 as a starter with just 12 touchdown passes before giving way to Jackson due to a hip injury. Denver traded for Flacco in the offseason, but he’s in a similar situation after the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

Jacksonville’s return for selecting Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 draft hasn’t been great thus far. He had more than 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season but averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Last season was worse, as he played only eight games mostly due to injuries and had a terrible 3.3 yards per rush attempt. Fournette also had minor legal issues during the offseason.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

Freeman has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons and played only two games last year due to foot and groin injuries. He’s still young enough to rebound going into his age 27 season, and the Falcons need him to be healthy after Tevin Coleman left in free agency.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers

Green Bay expected big things from Graham after signing him last offseason, but he was a relative disappointment with only 636 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Graham deserves credit for gutting out a thumb injury late in the year, but the expectation that he’d replace Jordy Nelson’s production didn’t come to fruition.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

Green has missed significant time in two of the last three seasons, sitting out seven games last year due to a toe injury. For the second straight year, Green’s production when he did play was also down significantly with only 77 receiving yards per game after averaging at least 80 yards from 2012-2016.

Full 25

By: Seth Trachtman

 

The All-Time Super Bowl Greats Lineup

In 1967, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to become the NFL’s first ever Super Bowl Champion. Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, and Max McGee combined to form one of the deadliest trio in Super Bowl history as they beat up the Chiefs, along with a dominate Packers defense, to win 35-10.

That was just the beginning.

Since the Packers victory in 1967, 20 teams have won the Lombardi. Only four teams have never even been to the big show. (Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions)

Can you imagine what the lineup would look like if you examined every team from every Super Bowl and built the perfect team? Who would make the cut?

We are going to start with the Head Coach because what good is a lineup if you have no one calling the plays and managing the sidelines? We’re also going to do our best to avoid naming Patriots to the team because screw those guys.

Head Coach – Vince Lombardi, Packers

Super Bowls – 2 (I, II)

NFL Championships – 4 (1956, 1961, 1962, 1965)

We could spit out facts and stats to prove the point we want to make. But that is just plain easy.

Ask yourself this question instead, who is the Super Bowl trophy named after?

QB – Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers

Championships – 4 (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV)

MVPs – 3 (XVI, XIX, XXIV)

Passer Rating – 127.83 (SB Record)

Passing Yards – 1,142

Passing TDs – 11 (SB Record)

INTs – 0 (SB Record)

Rushing TDs – 2

There has never been a more efficient player in Super Bowl history than Joe Montana. He is the definition of winning. He led the 49ers to the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons from 1982 to 1991. During those ten years, he won 4 Super Bowl’s, 3 Super Bowl MVPs (Record), and led the 49ers to a come from behind win over the Bengals with a 10 yard TD pass to John Taylor, otherwise known as “The Catch”. Selecting Montana gives us the added bonus of pissing off Tom Brady fans.

RB – Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

Championships – 4 (IX, X, XIII, XIV)

MVPs – 1 (IX)

Rushing Attempts – 101 (SB Record)

Rushing Yards – 354 (SB Record)

Rushing TDs – 4

He was a bruising back standing over six feet tall and weighing north of 225 pounds. He was the reason Pittsburgh won their first ever playoff game thanks to one of the most amazing plays of all time, “The Immaculate Reception”. It was not only his catch and score that led Pittsburgh to the victory, he had 160 total yards including the only Steeler touchdown of the day. He would later be a part of a Pittsburgh team that won four Super Bowls in six seasons, an NFL record.

RB – Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys

Championships – 3 (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)

MVPs – 1 (XXVIII)

Rushing Yards – 289

Rushing TDs – 5 (SB Record)

We have a chance to build the perfect roster of Super Bowl champions and Emmitt Smith falls into our laps? The greatest NFL RB of all time owns the NFL record for most career rushing yards, rushing TDs, and most 100 yard rushing games. He played in 3 Super Bowls and ran for over 100 yards twice. The argument shouldn’t be whether or not he makes the team, it should be whether or not we need a second RB.

WR – Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers

By Thomas Delatte

Complete Line Up

All-time Super Bowl QB rankings: Tom Brady tops 61-man list

Five Super Bowls ago, the dominant pregame storyline centered around whether Peyton Manning was poised to become the greatest quarterback of all time.
Tom Brady’s preposterous stretch since then, including four more Super Bowl bids, two huge fourth-quarter comebacks and one MVP award all but settled that particular debate. Returning to the big game with this particular Patriots team almost feels like running up the score.

Brady’s place atop the quarterback mountain stands in stark contrast to the stature of his Super Bowl LIII counterpart, Jared Goff, who will be a few months younger than Brady was back in February of 2002, when the Patriots dynasty was born against the Rams. But where does Goff stack up against other Super Bowl starters overall?

To figure that out, I combed through the resumes of all 61 Super Bowl starting quarterbacks, including Goff. It’s important to note that for players like Johnny Unitas and Bart Starr, who started Super Bowls but whose peak years came before the Super Bowl era, I considered their entire careers, not just what they did from 1966 onward. I ranked all quarterbacks based on career achievements, with regular-season excellence, All-Pro/Pro Bowl appearances and seasons as top-five and top-10 players at the position carrying more weight than just Super Bowl success. (Spoiler: Jim Plunkett did not have a better career than Dan Marino. Sorry.)

The good news for Goff: He’s already ahead of a few Super Bowl starters. At 24 years old with the biggest game of his life ahead, he has a long runway to improve his resume.

To the rankings!

G.O.A.T. pasture

1) Tom Brady (Super Bowl record: 5-3 with Patriots)

2) Johnny Unitas (1-0 with Colts)

3) Joe Montana (4-0 with 49ers)

4) Peyton Manning (1-1 with Colts; 1-1 with Broncos)

5) Dan Marino (0-1 with Dolphins)

6) Brett Favre (1-1 with Packers)

These are the six men who could conceivably have an argument as being the greatest ever, although the breadth of Brady’s career now makes it difficult for the rest of the group. The first nine seasons of Brady’s career — which included three titles and an undefeated regular season — now look like an appetizer to Brady’s dominant Gronk-era peak.

It’s impossible to truly compare across eras because the game has changed so much, but Unitas (who played from 1956 to 1973) edges out Montana (1979-1994) and Manning (1998-2015) for the No. 2 spot because Johnny U was so clearly the best of his era and a transformative figure for the sport. Unitas collected three MVPs and five first-team All-Pro nods, and he displayed a sneaky statistical dominance compared to his competition.

Manning ultimately overwhelms Marino and Favre with individual honors and consistency. He was so rarely outside the league’s top-three quarterbacks during a career that included five MVPs. Marino is probably the best pure passer of this group. He was never supported with a top-10 running game, and he rarely played with a good defense. He shouldn’t suffer too much, historically speaking, just because of Don Shula’s personnel decisions. Favre has perhaps the strangest resume. He combines a brilliant peak with three consecutive MVPs and a career famous for its durability with some lesser efficiency stats than the rest of the tier. Still, there’s not that much separating any of these guys.

The best second tier ever

7) Steve Young (1-0 with 49ers)

8) Aaron Rodgers (1-0 with Packers)

9) John Elway (2-3 with Broncos)

10) Roger Staubach (2-2 with Cowboys)

11) Drew Brees (1-0 with Saints)

12) Bart Starr (2-0 with Packers)

It’s wild how similar the resumes of Young and Rodgers look. They both had to wait before taking over for all-time greats who just happen to be in the tier above. They each have two MVPs. They were both as athletic as any top quarterback who has ever played. Young’s teams went 94-49 in his starts, from 1985 to 1999. Rodgers’ teams have gone 100-57-1. Young gets the slight edge for now because his seven-year peak ranks with that of any quarterback who has ever played, but it’s only a matter of time before Rodgers moves up.

Elway was a physical marvel, won an MVP and earned three second-team All-Pro nods in his career (1983-1998), but his passing numbers (3,217 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 picks per year), when adjusted for his era, don’t stack up with the rest of the top 10. Staubach is a great “What if?” because he didn’t become a full-time starter until he was 29 years old. He’s still the consensus best quarterback of the 1970s and led the league in passer rating four times. He probably gets downgraded too much for the era he played in. Starr, who has a reputation for being a “winner” of the ’60s and early Super Bowl era without generating great stats actually has … pretty great stats. So does Brees, who just turned 40 — and just completed one of his best NFL seasons.

In (or should be in) the Hall of Fame

13) Fran Tarkenton (0-3 with Vikings)

14) Ben Roethlisberger (2-1 with Steelers)

15) Troy Aikman (3-0 with Cowboys)

16) Terry Bradshaw (4-0 with Steelers)

17) Joe Namath (1-0 with Jets)

18) Bob Griese (2-1 with Dolphins)

19) Len Dawson (1-1 with Chiefs)

20) Jim Kelly (0-4 with Bills)

21) Kurt Warner (1-1 with Rams; 0-1 with Cardinals)

22) Ken Anderson (0-1 with Bengals)

23) Ken Stabler (1-0 with Raiders)

Like Brees, Tarkenton was an undersized, undervalued but consistent star with an incredibly long run of statistical dominance. Roethlisberger has been a top-five quarterback for the better part of his career, especially after his second Super Bowl triumph (following the 2008 season). Aikman’s peak (1991-96) was impressive, but unfortunately too short. Bradshaw wasn’t great in the seasons preceding his first two Super Bowl triumphs (1975 and ’76), but he wound up being a league MVP and finishing in the top five in yards per attempt five times. Namath gets extra credit for his impact on the game, although it’s worth noting Griese had three more Pro Bowl appearances (eight to Namath’s five), one more All-Pro nod (two to one) and far more seasons in the top five in yards per attempt. The offensive line and running game help, but Griese deserves some legacy love!

Dawson was the best passer in a pass-happy league, leading the AFL in passer rating for five straight years (1964-68). Kelly, like Aikman, had a brilliant peak that wasn’t quite as long as that of some others listed here. Warner had a singular career, starting late before winning two MVPs and leading two different teams to the Super Bowl. Anderson still should be considered for the Hall of Fame, as he was the rare player to win MVP, Comeback Player of the Year and the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. He led the league in passer rating four times and earned a first-team All-Pro selection and two second-team nods, which is more than plenty of the names above him. Stabler finally got into the Hall in 2016, unfortunately after his passing.

Fun to watch

24) Donovan McNabb (0-1 with Eagles)

25) Boomer Esiason (0-1 with Bengals)

26) Daryle Lamonica (0-1 with Raiders)

27) Matt Ryan (0-1 with Falcons)

28) Earl Morrall (0-1 with Colts)

29) Eli Manning (2-0 with Giants)

30) Steve McNair (0-1 with Titans)

31) Russell Wilson (1-1 with Seahawks)

32) Rich Gannon (0-1 with Raiders)

McNabb was a top-10 quarterback for nearly all of his career, very often in the top five. I’m surprised he doesn’t get more Hall of Fame consideration. Esiason won an MVP (1988) and led the league in yards per attempt in that season and 1986. Lamonica was someone I didn’t fully appreciate until this exercise. While he was fattening up on a soft AFL, he made five Pro Bowls and nabbed two AFL Player of the Year awards. He finished his career 66-16-6 as a starter! Ryan has a number of seasons as a top-10 quarterback, although his MVP campaign of 2016 stands out as an anomaly.

Full List

By: Gregg Rosenthal

Winners and losers from the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL playoffs

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs got underway Saturday night with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Indianapolis Colts. A week off did nothing to slow the Chiefs’ offensive momentum.

Led by Patrick Mahomes, who did not find his first career playoff start nearly as intimidating as the pundits thought he would, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and never looked back. The Colts hardly looked ready to play, nothing like the team that rode a 10-1 streak into the weekend. The Chiefs went on to win by a final score of 31-13.

The Cowboys and Rams met in LA for the late game on Saturday night to decide the first of the NFC Championship entrants. The Rams’ running game had no troubles against a usually stout Cowboys defense, and the home team rolled on for a 30-22 win.

On Sunday, the Patriots had no problems running around and through the Chargers, winning 41-28 to lock down their eighth consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship game.

The Saints turned aside the Eagles, sinking their hope of a Super Bowl repeat with a 20-14 win in New Orleans. The Saints will host the Rams there next weekend.

Winner: Michael Thomas

The postseason hasn’t been filled with inspiring performances from offensive skill players. But the Saints wide receiver changed that. He and Drew Brees single-handedly got the Saints offense rolling again after a slow start. His best catch of the day — and there were A LOT of them — was on the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Just watch it.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1084599206159908864

He finished the game with 171 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches.

Loser: Nick Foles’ magic

You can’t impugn what the guy did prior to this game. The Eagles wouldn’t have been playing this weekend, or last, if Foles hadn’t stepped up as the team’s “closer” again this season with Carson Wentz hurt. But he turned into a pumpkin again, underthrowing his receivers and just unable to get the ball to his receivers when the Eagles needed it the most.

With free agency looming this spring, Foles may have cost himself some money with his performance this week, maybe not much, but enough to notice.

Winner: Time of possession

It feels like we haven’t had a good conversation about time of possession since the early days of the Chip Kelly experience in Philly. This time it was the Saints putting on the clock clinic.

It happened in the third quarter. Trailing 10-14, the Saints got the ball at their own 8-yard line. From there they put together a grinding 92-yard touchdown drive over 18 plays and 11:29 minutes, essentially monopolizing the entire third quarter.

Winner: The Patriots defense

Absent most of the season, the Patriots defense looked like one of the NFL’s most fearsome in the first half of the game. Philip Rivers never had a chance against a pass rush that was previously dormant.

Loser: Philip Rivers’ legacy

He’s got more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions over the course of his career than either Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, but unlike those other two first-round picks from the 2004 draft, he does not have a Super Bowl ring. Instead, he and J.P. Losman have something in common.

Winner: Patriots running backs

The Chargers defense put on a clinic for how to stop a creative running game in last week’s win against the Ravens. Apparently, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels was able to find some holes in their game plan.

Sony Michel rolled up nearly 100 yards and scored three touchdowns … in the first half. He’s the first rookie running back in franchise history to rush for more than 100 yards in a playoff game. He finished the day with 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

James White, who led the team in receptions during the regular season with 87, was Tom Brady’s favorite receiver on the day, catching 15 of 17 passes for 97 yards.

The Patriots chewed up the clock with their running backs, leaving little time for Rivers and Co. to put points on the board. It also helped keep the workload light for their defense, and teased out what their game plan might be next week against Kansas City.

Winner: C.J. Anderson

The Rams signed C.J. Anderson in mid-December, when Todd Gurley was dealing with a knee injury. Anderson had been released by both the Panthers and Raiders earlier in the season and was really just supposed to be a warm body while Gurley could heal up.

Instead, Anderson has bulldozed every defense he faced. In two games to end the season, he carried the ball 43 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns — that averaged out to 7 yards per carry. But that was against two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and 49ers. Next up was the playoffs — and a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run during the regular season. Last week, they held the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards on the ground.

Anderson had more than that in the first half alone: 12 carries for 78 yards. Even with a healthy Gurley back in the lineup, Anderson was a force in the Rams’ first playoff win in 14 years. He used his, uh, rotund frame to help the Rams dominate the time of possession and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Anderson was the leading rusher with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he did this:

All the Winners and Losers here

 

 

Which top NFL playoff team is at biggest risk of divisional-round upset?

An upset alert shouldn’t be necessary to make the top-seeded teams in the NFL playoffs aware of the imminent threat facing them this weekend.

Three of the four outfits that advanced from last week’s wild-card round, after all, did so on the road. And only once this decade (in 2015) have the top two seeds on each side advanced to the conference championship games.

But while this weekend’s traveling teams collectively posted a 18-14 mark as visitors this season, the foursome of teams hosting after a first-round bye (the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams) combined for a 28-4 record at home.

In light of that, we asked our NFL experts: Which team coming off a first-round bye is at the biggest risk of falling in a divisional-round upset?

Nancy Armour

I love Patrick Mahomes and everything he’s done for the Chiefs this season, and would like to think he’s going to be the one to end Kansas City’s long, long, long history of playoff heartbreak. Especially against the Indianapolis Colts. But until it actually happens, I can’t ignore the karma. Kansas City has lost 10 of its last 11 playoff games – that one victory came against Brian Hoyer and the Houston Texans – and is 0-4 against Indianapolis in the postseason. That includes the most crushing loss of all, the 2013 wild-card game in which Kansas City blew a 28-point lead and lost 45-44. Mahomes and Andy Reid have said all the right things this week, but I’m going to have to see it to believe it.

Jarrett Bell

The Chiefs. After watching all three quarterbacks who made their playoff debuts last weekend lose, that’s not a good omen for projected MVP Patrick Mahomes. No, the NFL-record 6 consecutive playoff home losses by KC isn’t on Mahomes…who wasn’t even born the last time the home team won in the playoffs at Arrowhead. But there’s just something spooky about that. Add Capt. Andrew Luck maybe carving up a suspect Chiefs defense, and I think we might see this No. 1 seed bite the dust. Of course, Mr. 50 Touchdowns has spent an entire season proving doubters wrong. And on a personal note, Andy Reid has made me look foolish multiple times when picking against him. But to borrow phrasing from my former colleague, Gordon Forbes, I just can’t shake the feeling KC’s season is about to be BBQ’d.

Nate Davis

Maybe the question for the bye week playoff teams should be, “Who’s not at risk?” All of them feel fairly vulnerable to me with the exception of New Orleans. But maybe the Rams are in the most jeopardy. Their “home” game threatens to be overrun by Cowboys fans and a team that seems well-equipped to pull off the upset at the L.A. Coliseum, where the Rams lost their wild-card contest to the Falcons a year ago. Dallas just locked down Seattle’s top-ranked ground game and will next face Todd Gurley, who’s probably going to be less than 100% after a knee issue forced him to miss two games. More worrisome, as much talent as the Rams defense has, it surrendered a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry … and is now tasked with slowing league rushing champ Zeke Elliott and highly mobile QB Dak Prescott? Gulp.

Jori Epstein

The Rams. The Cowboys’ top-5 run D is riding momentum after holding the Seahawks – 160 yards per game in the regular season – to 73 in a wildcard win. Rams all-pro running back Todd Gurley, on the other hand, is returning from nearly a month on the sideline with knee inflammation and soreness. Dallas will have its hand full containing an offense that’s averaged 37.1 points at their home Coliseum. Dak Prescott, too, must take care not to turn over the ball. But if the team follows the blueprint it used to hold the ball 9:40 more than the Seahawks last week, Ezekiel Elliott can capitalize on a Rams defense allowing a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry. Add in the star-studded Cowboys fans expected to line the Coliseum? Dallas upsets a young L.A. offense to reach its first NFC Championship Game in 23 years.

Full List

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.

Full List Here

By: Nate Davis

 

Bing Predicts: NFL Wild Card

Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 14 NFL action

Sunday’s Week 14 NFL action was about as crazy as it gets. From the Miracle in Miami to Amari Cooper’s brilliant performance in Big D, we were treated to a whole heck of a lot of drama.

The early-afternoon slate included Baker Mayfield and the Browns making a major statement in a win over the reeling Panthers. Meanwhile, the Cowboys pretty much ended the NFC East race with a win over the defending champions later in the afternoon.

These are among the top takeaways from one of the most eventful Sunday’s of NFL football we’ve seen in some time.

Rams offense exposed in a big way

The Chicago Bears’ recipe for success Sunday night against a one-loss Los Angeles Rams team was pretty obvious. Their Vic Fangio-led defense focused primarily on stopping Todd Gurley, forcing Jared Goff to pretty much go it alone. The end result was an offensive performance from the Rams that we have not seen since the Jeff Fisher days.

Goff competed 20-of-44 passes for 180 yards with four interceptions in the 15-6 loss. Meanwhile, Gurley went for just 28 yards on 11 attempts. Making the Rams’ offense one dimensional proved to be successful for Chicago. And we can expect other teams to follow suit as the season comes to a conclusion.

Mark Sanchez makes Colin Kaepernick’s case for him

The Washington Redskins’ decision to avoid Colin Kaepernick in free agency has come under fire recently. Once Alex Smith was lost for the season to a potentially career-ending leg injury, the Redskins decided to bring in Mark Sanchez off the streets. When Colt McCoy also suffered a serious lower-body injury, Washington added a quarterback in Josh Johnson who has not attempted a regular season pass since 2011.

All the while, Kaepernick remains unsigned as he continues with a collusion case against the NFL. If Sanchez’s performed during Sunday’s 40-16 loss to the Giants is any indication, Kaepernick is smiling ear to ear. Sanchez completed just 5-of-13 passes for net 16 passing yards with two interceptions in the first half alone. That included an absolutely brutal pick-six. All said, Sanchez finished the game with nine net passing yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions before getting benched in the blowout loss. Gross.

Dallas avoids meltdown, takes control of NFC East

There’s a reason the Cowboys exhausted a first-round pick in a trade for Amari Cooper back in October. The former Oakland Raiders Pro Bowler has been absolutely dynamite since joining the Cowboys, catching 30 passes for 425 yards in five games. Cooper was back at it Sunday against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. He nabbed 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. That included this long score to put Dallas up late in the third quarter.

Even then, the Cowboys couldn’t separate themselves from Philadelphia. Instead, the Eagles forced overtime despite having yielded nearly 600 total yards of offense. That’s when Cooper came up big time. On third down and long from the Eagles’ 15, Cooper caught his third score of the game in walk-off fashion. By virtue of the 32-26 win, Dallas now boasts an almost insurmountable two-game lead in the NFC East.

Panthers are now completely toast

Losers of four consecutive heading into Sunday’s game against the Browns, Carolina needed to get off the schneid in order to remain in the NFC Playoff race. Whether it was the team’s inability to stop Baker Mayfield or Cam Newton’s struggles in the red zone, it just didn’t happen. In the end, these Panthers lost by the score of 26-20 to fall to 6-7 on the season.

For his part, Newton completed 26-of-42 passes for 265 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. Four of the Panthers’ drives in Cleveland’s end of the field resulted in a grand total of three points. That included a turnover on downs inside the 10 with the game on the line. Yeah, these Panthers are now officially declawed.

Broncos drop the ball big time

There wasn’t really any reason to believe that the Broncos would go to Santa Clara and come away with a loss against the two-win San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. San Francisco had lost three consecutive games by a combined 49 points. The Broncos were in the midst of a three-game winning streak with victories over the Chargers and Steelers during that span.

Unfortunately for head coach Vance Joseph and Co., the team simply didn’t come to play in the first half. Denver trailed 20-0 at halftime with 49ers tight end George Kittle putting up north of 200 yards in the first two quarters. A valiant second half comeback attempt fell short. Now at 6-7 on the season, one can reasonably conclude the Broncos won’t be playing playoff football. If so, this one loss will be a primary reason why.

Patrick Mahomes is the NFL MVP

All the Takeaways

By Vincent Frank

 

Winners and losers from NFL Week 11

From thrilling last-second wins by teams that are fighting to stay in contention to a horrifying injury that could shape the NFC playoff race, NFL Week 11 had it all.

A six-game winning streak was snapped in agonizing fashion. A team many thought would contend for the title suffered a sixth-straight loss. A team many thought was out of contention is right back in it thanks to a second-straight road win.

Those are among the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 11.

Winner: Captain Andrew Luck has Colts on a roll

© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts lost five of their first six games this season. It looked like Andrew Luck’s redemption tour was going to be delayed by a year, at least, despite some solid play from him early. But since that awful start, both Luck and the Colts have started playing some outstanding ball.

With 297 yards and three passing touchdowns Sunday in a 38-10 blowout win over the Tennessee Titans, Luck extended his streak of at least three passing touchdowns to seven consecutive games.

His Colts have now rattled off four wins in a row and are in second place in the AFC South, knocking at the door to get into the playoffs. Should they complete the comeback and make the postseason, then Luck deserves to be included in the MVP conversation, along with Comeback Player of the Year.

Loser: Washington suffers déjà vu in worst possible way

© Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) reacts after breaking his leg in the second half against the Houston Texans during the second half at FedEx Field. 

Thirty-three years ago to the day, the Washington Redskins were issued a staggering gut punch. Joe Theismann suffered a horrifying broken leg that is still to this day considered among the most gruesome in professional sports.

On Sunday, Washington lost Alex Smith in the same exact manner. He broke his right tibia and fibula while being dragged to the ground on a sack. He was carted off, taken to the hospital in an ambulance and required immediate surgery. To nobody’s surprise, he will miss the rest of the season, head coach Jay Gruden announced after the game.

Washington also lost Sunday’s game in heartbreaking fashion — falling to 6-4 on the season. The team will be bringing in a bunch of veterans on Monday to see who might back up Colt McCoy.

Barring some crazy developments, it’s hard to see this team finishing off the season strong without Smith. Though it still leads the NFC East, Washington will be hard pressed to hold that lead. On the season, it is minus-one in point differential and closes out the campaign with four of its last six games on the road.

Winner: Cowboys rising 

© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown run against the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

Dallas couldn’t win on the road earlier this year and entered Week 9 with a 3-5 record. It looked like the ‘Boys were headed for another disappointing season. But the past two weeks have seen this team come together for two straight road wins, and Sunday’s victory in Atlanta was very impressive.

Ezekiel Elliott and the big guys up front are getting back to dominating folks at the line of scrimmage. The dynamic dual-threat running back followed up Week 10’s 187-yard game with an incredible 201-yard showing against the Falcons.

Now just one game behind Washington in the NFC East, featuring an offense that’s starting to click and a defense that can really get after folks — and with four of their final six games at home — Dallas is in great shape to win the division.

Loser: Jags are toast

© Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Jon Bostic (51) brings down Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) during the second half at TIAA Bank Field.

The Jacksonville Jaguars gave it their all on Sunday. For a while it appeared they had Big Ben Roethlisberger and Co. in the palm of their hands, as the Pittsburgh Steelers could do next to nothing in the first half.

Despite a monster game from Leonard Fournette. Despite two Jalen Ramsey interceptions against Big Ben, and three interceptions overall. Despite the best showing Jacksonville has put up in weeks. The Jags lost. They lost their sixth game in a row. They’re now 3-7 on the season. Oh, by the way, Blake Bortles is still not the guy.

This team is done. A franchise many pegged to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII is unofficially out of the playoff chase, and it is officially the biggest disappointment of the 2018 season.

All the Winner and Losers

By: Jesse Reed

Dez Bryant opens up about facing the Cowboys later this season

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Dez Bryant had his first Q&A with reporters in the Bayou after taking part in his initial practice with the team on Thursday.

The recently-signed former Cowboys wide receiver is excited about this new chapter in his life. But he’s also well aware that the football gods were working their trickery.

Not only will Bryant face his former team later this month, on Nov. 29, he’ll do so in Dallas. To say that things were contentious after the Cowboys released one of the greatest receivers in franchise history back in March would be an understatement.

Though, Bryant seems to be downplaying it a bit now.

“I am excited to see all the Cowboys fans. I still love those guys,” Bryant told reporters. “And I love my ex-teammates, they’re forever my family. But I’m here on a new chapter. It’s going to be fun, but I’m the opponent now.”

Words are one thing. Action speaks louder. It will certainly be interesting to see how the game goes in Dallas. The Cowboys themselves are 3-5 on the season.

Meanwhile, Bryant’s new Saints team has won seven consecutive after losing its opener. If things continue to trend in this direction, said game will be relatively meaningless for the home team.

Full article

By: Vincent Frank