Patriots, Seahawks reportedly among teams interested in Jordy Nelson

Jordy Nelson has looked like nowhere near the player he used to be over the past two seasons, but the veteran wide receiver is still drawing plenty of interest in the wake of the Oakland Raiders releasing him.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Nelson is scheduled to visit with the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday. Two of the AFC’s best teams — the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs — are also expected to give Nelson a look.

Nelson had three consecutive seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards for the Green Bay Packers from 2013-2015, but he fell off in 2017 and struggled to produce when Aaron Rodgers got hurt. He came on strong with the Raiders late last season after a slow start, finishing with 63 catches, 739 yards and three touchdowns.

The Patriots would be a good landing spot for Nelson, as they are extremely thin at the receiver position and were reportedly interested in another former Packers wide receiver at one point. Nelson will turn 34 in May and isn’t nearly as explosive as he once was, but he can still be a solid possession receiver.

By: Steve DelVecchio

Original Article

Could Rob Gronkowski skip most of 2019 and play late in season?

Rob Gronkowski still has yet to publicly reveal whether or not he intends to play in 2019, but one former player who is well connected within the New England Patriots organization has an interesting theory about what the star tight end may do.

Willie McGinest, an NFL Network analyst who won three Super Bowls with the Patriots from 1994-2005, predicted on Tuesday that Gronkowski will begin the season retired and end up returning late in the year.

“I think he’s gonna to start out the season being retired,” McGinest said. “I think he’s gonna get the itch. I think he’s gonna be in great shape and he’s probably gonna have that feeling that, ‘Hey, I want to come back.’”

McGinest stressed that he did not have inside information, but it’s worth noting that the former linebacker is the one who introduced Tom Brady to his personal trainer and business partner, Alex Guerrero. Gronkowski also trains with Guerrero, so McGinest may have more knowledge of the situation than he is letting on.

“This is just my own assessment. Later on, deep in the season, he could possibly come back and play,” he added.

This is the second consecutive offseason that Gronkowski has openly contemplated retirement, so the Patriots would be right to question his level of motivation if he did decide to return. While Gronk may have dropped a hint immediately after the Super Bowl that he plans to play in 2019, giving him a special set of circumstances where he can skip training camp and miss the majority of the season might not play well in the locker room. That would be for Bill Belichick to decide.

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By: Steve DelVecchio

Robert Kraft vehemently denies wrongdoing in sex trafficking sting

Robert Kraft had a warrant for his arrest issued this week for his alleged involvement in a sex trafficking sting, but the New England Patriots owner is denying engaging in any illegal activity.

Police in Jupiter, Fla., said Friday that Kraft is among several men who were seen on video engaging in illegal sexual activity at a spa that was under investigation for sex trafficking. Through a spokesperson, Kraft denied the allegations against him.

“We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity,” Kraft’s spokesperson said in a statement. “Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”

Kraft has been charged with soliciting another to commit prostitution. Investigators said he was driven to the massage parlor on more than one occasion to receive sex acts.

While there have been plenty of scandals within the Patriots organization over the years, Kraft is one of the most respected team owners in sports. He is largely credited for turning the Patriots into arguably the most successful franchise in NFL history.

By Steve DelVecchio

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Top takeaways from Super Bowl LIII

It’s all over and done with. The 2018-19 NFL season came to a ho-hum conclusion with the New England Patriots defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday evening in Atlanta.

All of the excitement that came with a two-week wait for the big game culminated in one of the lowest-scoring first halves in Super Bowl history. Struggles by both Tom Brady and Jared Goff gave way to a 3-0 halftime score.

When all was said and done in Atlanta on Sunday evening, New England came out on top by the score of 13-3. It’s a game that saw Sean McVay struggle big time calling plays against Bill Belichick and Co. And on the other side of the ball, the Patriots struggled to score until the final quarter of action.

Here are your biggest takeaways from New England’s sixth Super Bowl championship under the wizardry of Brady and Belichick.

Patriots dynasty continues 

It wasn’t pretty at times. Tom Brady struggled to get things going before helping his team to 10 fourth quarter points. The likes of Rob Gronkowski, James White and Sony Michel were largely held in check. But when all was said and done Sunday night in Atlanta, Mr. Brady earned a record sixth Super Bowl title.

More than anything, it was the performance we saw from Bill Belichick, Brian Flores and the Patriots’ defense that made the difference here. But we still can’t take away just how dominant this team has been under the leadership of Tom Brady. He just continues to win at a clip we’ve never seen in the modern history of the NFL.

Stage was too big for Jared Goff

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It’s something we focused on a ton in the lead up to Sunday’s big game. Was the stage in Atlanta going to be too big for this third-year quarterback? That question was answered early with the Rams putting up 57 total yards, two first downs and exactly zero points prior to halftime. For his part, Goff completed just 5-of-12 passes with 32 net passing yards in the first two quarters.

Goff did have his Rams driving late in the fourth quarter to potentially tie the game up. That’s when the young quarterback made a rookie mistake. He floated the ball up to Brandin Cooks in double coverage. All-Pro Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore intercepted it — pretty much ending the game in the process. Just a horrible all-around performance from Goff in the biggest game of his career.

Pats struggle to get James White involved

The AFC Championship Game saw this veteran running back come up with third-down conversation after third-down conversion on the ground. He also dominated to the tune of 15 catches for 97 yards in the AFC Divisional Playoffs win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Whether it was the Rams’ solid defensive scheme or something completely different, this didn’t take hold in the Super Bowl.

White caught just one pass out of the backfield and added four rushing yards in a surprisingly ineffective performance for the birthday boy. New England focused more on Julian Edelman creating mismatches underneath against the Rams’ defense. Even then, it was pretty surprising to see how little White was involved in this one.

Wade Phillips dials up amazing scheme

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips before Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most underrated stories heading into Super Bowl LIII was the brilliance of Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. His scheme worked perfectly against Dak Prescott in the divisional round, forcing the quarterback to beat his defense. Then, in the NFC Championship Game, Los Angeles’ defense pretty much shut down the Drew Brees and Michael Thomas connection.

What was apparent Sunday in Atlanta was that Phillips would force Tom Brady to dink-and-dunk his way down the field. Whether it was bracket coverage or taking away the boundary, Brady had a heck of a time driving the ball down the field. Los Angeles also dialed up a ton of pressure against a quarterback that had not been sacked in the postseason heading into Sunday’s game. Despite the loss, Phillips’ scheme proved extremely effective in this one.

It was just a bad football game

After two weeks of anticipation and story after story about the game, both the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots disappointed us at every turn. As noted above, Jared Goff was downright horrible for the Rams. Equally as shocking, Tom Brady might have put up the worst performance of his playoff career. Dropped passes, penalties and missed opportunities defined the majority of the game.

When all was said and done, New England came out on top in one of the most brutal offensive showings in Super Bowl history. Sure we can say the defenses played well. They did. Both coordinators did their thing. Even then, the game itself might have been the most disappointing in NFL Playoff history. Can fans inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium get a refund? We’re asking for tens of thousands of fans.

Todd Gurley was a complete non-factor

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) warms up before Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A lot was made of Sean McVay’s lack of usage of the All-Pro running back in the conference championship game. Was Gurley still battling a knee injury that cost him the final two regular season games? If not, was something else going on? We still don’t have a complete answer to these two questions. What we do know is that Gurley was a non-factor in Super Bowl LIII.

After seeing one touch in the Rams’ first possession, Gurley didn’t see the ball until late in the second quarter. All said, the dynamic back put up 10 yards on three attempts in the first three quarters. He didn’t see a whole lot more action as the game progressed — tallying 35 yards on 10 attempts. We’re sure to find out here soon exactly what was going on behind the scenes with Gurley. But one thing is clear. His inability to make any real impact cost the Rams big time.

Where was Brandin Cooks?

It goes without saying that Cooks wanted to exact revenge against the team that traded him to the Rams less than a calendar year ago. That just didn’t come to fruition. Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore played like the All-Pro that he is — holding Cooks to all of two catches in the first half alone.

It goes without saying that Cooks wanted to exact revenge against the team that traded him to the Rams less than a calendar year ago. That just didn’t come to fruition. Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore played like the All-Pro that he is — holding Cooks to all of two catches in the first half alone.

One of the Rams’ most expensive players came up absolutely small in the game’s grandest of stages. Two weeks after tallying 107 yards on seven catches against another former team, Cooks caught just 8-of-13 targets for 120 yards in the Rams’ loss. Most of that came with the game decided late in the final stanza. Prior to that, Cooks dropped what would have been a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Just brutal.

Tom Brady did not play well, period!

When it counted the most Sunday night, Mr. Brady came up big time en route to earning his record sixth Lombardi Trophy. But prior to the game-winning 60-yard touchdown drive in the four quarter, the future Hall of Famer struggled big time. It will be lost in the narrative because the Patriots came out on top. In no way does this mean it should be ignored.

Brady had issues getting the ball downfield to his receivers on a consistent basis. He struggled with the interior pressure Los Angeles was providing. In the end, the game’s best quarterback completed 21-of-35 passes for 262 yards without a touchdown in a ho-hum overall performance. Sure the Pats came out on top, but that had more to do with the team’s performance on defense.

By: Vincent Frank

Full list of Takeaways

Tom Brady on the chance Super Bowl LIII will be his last game: ‘Zero’

Tom Brady is one week away from appearing in a record ninth Super Bowl and one victory away from capturing his sixth championship ring, and people have been wondering for years what he has left to accomplish.

The New England Patriots quarterback clearly feels there is still plenty.

With Brady set to turn 42 in August, there has once again been talk that he could potentially ride off into the sunset if the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

Today, Brady emphatically put that talk to rest.

Brady already said last month that he wants to continue playing beyond this season, and seems genuine when he says he will keep going as long as he is competing at a high level. At this point, it is obvious there is no amount of Super Bowl appearances that would make him think “enough is enough.”

If you want to know how determined Brady still is, even after winning five titles, look no further than some of his quotes from this year’s postseason run. The future Hall of Famer is still plenty hungry, and he doesn’t plan on that hunger being satisfied any time soon.

By Steve DelVecchio

Original Article

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

Top takeaways from NFL Championship Sunday

The drama and intrigue we were missing from the divisional round showed up in a big way during NFL Championship Sunday.

It started with the Los Angeles Rams winning in controversial fashion against the Saints in New Orleans. Jared Goff and the Rams might have come back from a two-score deficit, but it’s the officials who became the story in the Bayou.

Once the Rams punched their ticket to Atlanta, the New England Patriots did battle with the Chiefs in Kansas City. In a game that saw Tom Brady’s squad dominate early, the Chiefs came out like gangbusters in the second half. In the end, New England won by the score of 37-31 in another overtime affair and will now match wits with the Rams in next month’s Super Bowl.

Here are the top takeaways from NFL Championship Sunday.

Jared Goff proves skeptics wrong at every turn

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter in the NFC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Taking on a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, he had to go tit-for-tat with one of the game’s best on the road in the biggest moment of his life.

Goff came up absolutely huge at the end — leading the Rams on three consecutive scoring drives to help the team to an overtime win. That span saw him complete 8-of-13 passes for 135 yards. New Orleans gained a total of 63 yards during this stretch of action.

It wasn’t just that Goff put up the numbers. He made crucial throw after crucial throw, including a bomb to tight end Gerald Everett with pretty much everything on the line.

Sunday represented a coming-out party for this former No. 1 pick, and many were left eating crow

Josh McDaniels’ game plan was perfection defined

Jan 13, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels watches warmups before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers
in an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

McDaniels and the Patriots knew that going into Arrowhead in January would be a tough task for their offense. This unit is limited by a lack of elite play makers on the outside. Whether it’s statistically or on tape, Tom Brady has regressed to an extent this season. New England needed to change things up on offense after showing tremendous balance last week against the Chargers.

That’s exactly what we saw early and often Sunday against the Chiefs. We saw New England run multiple times on 3rd-and-3-plus — picking up a first down with James White on a consistent basis. New England also utilized the passing game as an extension of the run throughout this game. That is to say, relatively easy throws from Brady out on the flat.

The end result was a workmanlike performance from an offense that converted on 13-of-19 third-down opportunities in New England’s narrow overtime win over the Chiefs. Despite the perception some might have of of McDaniels, there’s a reason he continues to be a hot head-coaching commodity.

Officials created a mess in New Orleans

It was pretty apparent throughout the NFC Championship Game that officials were going to let the defenses body their counterparts. We saw this come to fruition multiple times in the first half alone, but it was this non-call on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman that left everyone in New Orleans stunned.

It was third down with New Orleans driving for a potential go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter. If this had been called, the Saints would’ve been able to run down the clock and kick said field goal with no time left. Instead, this gave the ball back to Los Angeles for an opportunity to tie the game. Once that happened, the Rams came out on top in overtime.

We’re not going to sit back here and say that officiating cost the home-standing Saints a shot at the Super Bowl, but they certainly did not help. That was about the most blatant pass interference we’ve seen go uncalled in a long time.

Patrick Mahomes is now a steady veteran?

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws the ball during the first quarter of the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

One of the major stories heading into the AFC Championship Game was Mahomes taking on the GOAT Tom Brady. Would experience win out in this one or was it time for this second-year signal caller to announce his presence on the larger NFL stage?

It didn’t go too swimmingly for the Chiefs early on. They put up less than 50 total yards of offense in the first half alone. This is when Mahomes proved he’s not a wide-eyed young quarterback that crumbles under the pressure.

Instead, Mahomes went tit-for-tat with Brady in the second half — tallying 250-plus passing yards in leading Kansas City into a close game after falling down 14-0 at the half. Unfortunately, he didn’t get an opportunity to touch the ball in overtime. That doesn’t take away from what he did as a sophomore this season.

Saints run game nonexistent

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams during the third quarter in the NFC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

By: Vincent Frank

Full Article

 

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

 

 

Bill Belichick opens up about ‘unfortunate’ Josh Gordon situation

At the start of Friday’s press conference, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addressed the big news from Thursday, which of course was that Josh Gordon has once again been suspended by the NFL — indefinitely.

Belichick didn’t have a ton to say — he rarely does about these types of situations — but did lament the “unfortunate” turn of events. He said he’s had a lot of conversations with Gordon over the past three months and that he and the entire Patriots organization wishes Gordon the best as he deals with his “personal matter.”

Here’s Belichick’s entire statement, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss:

For his part, Gordon issued a statement Thursday in which he said he’s stepping away from football again to focus on his mental health. He also thanked Belichick, owner Robert Kraft and the rest of the organization for “their continued support.”

Gordon, of course, missed two full seasons on the suspended list, and from 2014-18 appeared in just 11 games as a member of the Cleveland Browns.

When healthy and able to contribute on the gridiron, he’s shown himself to be among the league’s best. Unfortunately, the young man has struggled in this regard as mental health issues have been the overriding force throughout his NFL career.

By: Jesse Reed

Full Article

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