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Home / Sports / The Saints rise to the top as the season nears its end: NFL week 16

The Saints rise to the top as the season nears its end: NFL week 16

Back on September 23, the recipient of Saints described Michael Thomas coming to New Orleans in 2016 as a sort of appeal, and he told me he had the purpose of injuring a very best quarterback with just a Super Bowl ring to correct . Thomas explained that night, "I was brought here to send him in the right direction."

Three months later, this mission is on track and the finish line in sight.

And again it was a critical game From the best receiver Drew Brees has ever played, the saints have come closer to this goal. This came on the second and second goal with 1

: 28 left, New Orleans lost 28-24 and the ball on the Steelers 2-yard line. Brees took the shotgun and sprinted to the right. Thomas, split right, was isolated at the Steelers corner Joe Haden. What happened next is what becomes predictable.

Thomas shook the line on the line, broke outside toward the corner, and then came back to the pylon. Even near the Red Zone, the 6 & 3/3 "212 Pounder was able to make enough room for Brees to grab the ball. The only question? Whether Thomas, when he came back, overran the goal line and left the end zone before putting the ball away. In the beginning, the officer decided (and we'll do something later): "I definitely knew my feet were in, but the referee played right there [on the line]," Thomas said over the phone from the Saints dressing room last night. He did not immediately raise his hands. This species threw me off a bit. But when it came to the review, I knew it was a touchdown.

All the others did that too. Therefore, the Saints 2018 play no further outdoor game – the advance into the NFC playoffs is held exclusively in the Superdome. Should she arrive there, the Super Bowl LIII is destined for the Atlanta Mercedes-Benz Stadium – and enters the postseason as an unaffordable favorite to win everything.

There is still much to do, but what Thomas sees now is much of this promise that September will become production, both on a personal and team level. What only he and the saints have doubled their efforts to give their QB what they think they deserve so richly.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Who is there, who is still there, who is still in dispute

One hundred percent, "said Thomas. "That's why I turn up every week. That's why I was here. When he shows up at quarterback and he's out there, I come to him, no matter how my body feels, no matter what I'm going through, it does not matter. I have to be out there with my husband. I had to be the security blanket for him. Ted [Ginn] was down, younger players had to kick and I had to answer.

"I got it 100 percent back. He is committed. I am involved with him.

This commitment has been tested in recent weeks. But the saints believe that they are beyond this "burglary", better because they have gone through it.

Another wild Sunday of football to be recapitulated and much more to look forward to. We've Got The Right One To Understand It All:

Nick Foles' Sense for the Dramatic and Doug Pederson's Stomach for the Fourth Place Philly gathers like 2017 . We talk to Fletcher Cox and Zach Ertz about whether it's enough.

• The team that stands in the way of the Eagles as the only remaining playoff spot in the NFC is, by chance, the one they played for the conference title last year and the Vikings rescued their season by reinventing themselves on the plane in December. We'll explain how it happened (with a nod to Pat Shurmur).

• Speaking of Shurmur: His Giants played their tails in Indy, but encountered on a buzz saw of a Colts team . Indy coach Frank Reich explains to us how Andrew Luck, who became an extension of his staff on the field, played his turn and was important if it was most important on Sunday.

• A look at the coaching carousel with some quick hits from the rumor mill as the Black Monday looms come to the fore.

• To explain this, we will guide you through the Ravens (smart) decision to continue with their reigning coach, John Harbaugh.

And we have all the elements you are used to every Monday.

But we start at the Superdome, since we know that the road to Atlanta at the NFC teams run through New Orleans.

These are not the saints of mid-November. Since then there have been bumps.

The Cowboys effectively took them out into their dark alley on Nov. 29 and won a fight between the ages of 13 and 10, in which the saints could only muster 176 yards of total offense. In the next week, in Tampa, Brees and his company sank at half time with 14: 3 against the Bucs. And last Monday, the saints were kept out of the end zone until the second half before they won the Panthers 12: 9.

The good news? The Saints participated in two of these three games, and these were won in a way that would not bring any Payton / Brees team to victory. They dropped to over 100 yards and kept the opponent under 300 yards in both wins, which was more than enough against the Bucs, and just in Charlotte enough.

"We went to Dallas, this was our third game in eleven days," Thomas said. "And then we made our way to two games against division opponents, who know us very well, against whom we play a lot. It's a tough game. It's just how you react.

The Saints' violations of the Steelers eventually responded to the Steelers when the team needed it most. Indeed, New Orleans saw a 24:14 lead fade quickly into a 28-24 deficit in the third quarter. After three consecutive rock battles, they had to be in more than one survival mode on Sunday. The defendants knew they had to be the attackers.

GRAMLING: Week 16 takeaway – Dreadful Pass Interference Call, The Home of the Saints Clinch, Nick Foles Saves Christmas and More

In the event that Thomas needed it, he got a memory from Ted Ginn, who came back from the IR after his knee scopes. "He said," It's about us, man, "Thomas said." Now we're off. "The two former US stars from the state of Ohio certainly took it on themselves.

After Pittsburgh Unfortunate fake punt attempt, the Saints got the ball at 4:06 at the Steelers 46. Ginn took a first behind a second and a fifth from the 41's, and Thomas made a (questionable) interference call in the fourth and second four Ginn came back in third and twentieth, and then it was Thomas's turn to hit the 2-yard touchdown.

For the first time in a month, the Saints' offense was again the Crime of the Saints.

"They knew it would happen sometime," Thomas said. "We do not play this game, we do not prepare it so we do not get better, we strive to get better would say it would happen someday and i w You might also add that Ted Ginn is making a spark again. It gives us the opportunity to do different things. And we just play against each other.

"The coach told us it's going to be a playoff atmosphere game and we responded."

Even if they do not necessarily re-register for what they've just fought, The Saints Believe that they are better for that. The defense has not allowed a fourth quarter in a month, mainly because this has been the case in the last four games. They are also physically attacking because they had to rely more on the run game.

All this should serve the saints well. As at least on paper, the fact that New Orleans can play its 17th week game against the Panthers, however, wants it treated, and prevailed in all NFC playoffs with its own field.

JONES: The Steelers Look Like Pretenders

"We held number one a few times this year," Thomas said. "We knew the teams would give us our best. We played desperate teams who came here and tried to beat us. We just could not work out, and now we actually have the opportunity to take a deep breath and now have some time to rest. It was a competitive season, and now is the time to improve it. "

I asked Thomas if he would like to play next week, and said that he would like to break Joe Horn's franchise record One-year reception yards – is 23 yards from the mark of 1,399. But if he does not get there, that's not the end of the world.

Everyone in New Orleans has something bigger in mind.

THE MMQB-MONDAY-PODCAST: The Seahawks prove that everyone is wrong, Folesmania in Philly and the rest of Week 16 with Gary Gramling and Andy Benoit. Download and subscribe to iTunes.


Five of the NFC's six playoff spots are occupied. This means that two teams have to fight for a single piece of real estate – and these two happen to be the two who competed in the NFC title game eleven months ago.

And if I'm Philly this morning, two things make me feel it's 2017 again. The first and most obvious is how the team has teamed up with Nick Foles over the past two weeks. Foles was pretty good at beating the Rams eight days ago (24-31, 270 yards, one INT), and it was pretty good at it, a furious Texan comeback on Sunday (35-49, 471 yards, four TDs, one INT) with a win of 32 to 30.

"Nick has shown over the last two years that he is not a substitute quarterback," said Zach Ertz on Sunday night. "He is not a quarterback for backups. If he's in the game because he's led us quarterback, it will not change that much. We have two extremely talented signal callers there, and it's Nick's turn to somehow commit our offense. "

Carry the Eagles did Foles. On the crucial ride of the game, he made two big throws to turn a pair of thirds and 10's. The first of his eleven years, he came in and took a shot from Houston Jadeveon Clowney when he met Alshon Jeffery with 19 meters. On the second leg, Ertz slipped on the defense of a "scissors" concept, and Foles found him 20 yards away to build Jake Elliott's game winner.

"Nick fought off his butt tonight," said Ertz. [19659044] And that brings us to the other element of 2017 that you saw on Sunday. The first two touchdowns of the Eagles took place – you guessed it – in fourth place.

The first was on the 4th and 2nd positions of the Philly 37. Darren Sproles took a swing pass and dropped two defenders on the way to the end of the missing zone. The second was on the fourth and goal of the 1st, Ertz slipped from a group of groupings for the score.

"Doug [Pederson] if he's so aggressive and gives us confidence as a player It's like, man, this guy really thinks we'll be executed time and time again," said Ertz. "And I think that just allows us to play with such a sense of self-esteem, almost a dizziness, because we have a coach who is ready to bet on us. So we should play with the same self-confidence, if not more.

And the defenders also agree – namely, that their coach is prepared to take the risk in such situations, knowing that he will stop him with a unit he trusts.

"If we do not get [the first down]then we have to fight for that field position and try to get a sack or TFL. Just try to make a profit based on where the ball is, "Fletcher Cox said shortly after the match," so we just stay calm and if we do not make it, we'll go out and try to close the ball quickly

ORR: More Foles Magic, but Will He Flies the Coop in 2019? QB Stock Watch

Similarly, the offense has resumed the defense after Deshaun Watson the Texans And this gave Elliott the chance to make up for the missed extra point that put Philly at that precarious point – down about 30-29 – initially.

The downside for the Eagles? still no control over their fate, if the Vikings win against the Bears on Sunday, Philly will not play the playoffs, and maybe that would be a shame – but right now they can not settle for that.

"We cont do not roll our own destiny and that is unfortunate, "said Ertz. "This is the bed we lay down in. But we were 4-6 when we asked the saints a bad defeat, and many men were somehow thrown in the towel, and the opposite was the case. Boys gathered. Boys got back to work. We have been practicing extremely hard all year and after this game against the saints, we have just started working again.

"Nobody panicked. No one pointed with his fingers. We just said, "Hey, we have to change the switch, we have to play our best football late in the year."

They are now. We'll see if it's too late.

The Complete Series is Now Available: An exclusive SI True Crime podcast re-examining the murder of the great titan Steve McNair. Subscribe to iTunes or wherever you download your podcasts. Visit the podcast homepage for more materials and updates.


It has been well established in Indy for some time now that Andrew Luck is again Andrew Luck, but there are still beautiful characters behind the way. And on Sunday, the Colts brass gave one of those insights in the biggest moments.

At the shot-shot with 59 seconds to go and the Colts with a deficit of 27-21 Reich sent a runplay. The luck arrived. He quickly diagnosed the giants' defense – a strict man-to-man coverage that allowed additional defenders in the box. Immediately he mentally turned to Indy's "attacker" family of games tailored to their situation. Then he checked a piece intended for Chester Rogers.

The call had T.Y. Hilton far left, with Rogers in the slot. Shortly thereafter, Hilton broke into Giants corner of Grant Haley, which freed Rogers into the apartment. And from there it was sweets from a baby. The luck let Rogers fall into the hands, and the Colts were ahead. A selection from Eli Manning on the Giants' final drive sealed the victory.

Equally important? How luck has really become an extension of empire. Now that he's physically fit, the Colts quarterback keeps progressing.

"He's like a coach out there," Reich told me a few hours after the game. "We have such good communication and believe in what we do. When we have time to talk about things in between, we can talk to him about two or three plays. Get your preferences, discuss things, if we want to take a closer look. "

And just as Luck comes along, so do the Colts. They started 1-5. They have been going 8-1 (8-1).

BENOIT: How the Colts became the biggest breakout team of 2018

But this is not just about the quarterback, great as it was. We've talked a lot in recent weeks about the recapturing of the offensive and the rich harvest of 2018 picks and the money the Colts must spend in 2019. In short, they are just as well positioned for the future as everyone in the league.

What they are now is a team that can win in various ways. Against Dallas in the 15th week there was an overwhelming running play and defense, with Luck acting as caretaker. The quarterback threw 357 yards this week, throwing Indy back from a 10-point deficit in the second half.

"Looking at good football teams over the years, they can win various types of games. Said Reich. "Low score games, high score games, games you have to leave behind, games that need to hold the ball. In this area, where we are, we achieve different types of profits. And I think [winning those is] a good sign. "

Alls is having a great Week 17 at AFC South. The Texans, who are already in the playoffs, win the division if they can beat Jacksonville. If not, the winner of the Colts-Titans wins the South.

At this point you can safely say that the arrow points to three of the four South AFC teams. The jags are the exception that few had seen a few months ago.


The Ravens' decision to stay with coach John Harbaugh A wise decision can give everyone an insight into the internal debate that some teams have, as it's time to fight franchise companies to talk about their future.

There was a time when most of the league was adopted a few months ago. Harbaugh and the Ravens were pushing for a break, but they wanted to call that eleven season a coach in Baltimore. But when the team got hot, senior management asked a very simple, sensual question: Why in a year when the pool of candidates is flat, why will we move away from the man who will be No. 1? ? Candidate on the lists of most teams?

There was no shortage of teams interested in Harbaugh. The jets were one. The Broncos were different. And it was never hard to understand why. Harbaugh made the playoff six times in his first decade with the Ravens. This season he won at least once in the postseason, while in 2012 he won a Super Bowl title.

So Baltimore decided last week, as at least they will not just let it go. That's smart of them, just as it is wise for other teams to make sure that they are satisfied with the market in the market before deciding to disconnect from the coach they now have.

And there's the same way Harbaugh handled the situation with his players when the rumbling started right. Eric Weddle explained that the coach had told them that he had always had contact with owner Steve Bisciotti, and although he was unsure of his own future, they did not have to worry about him. Then he said to the players, "I am with you and I am for you."

VRENTAS: Chargers DB Desmond King and his brother Bond Through Art

"It's nice to say it to rest, "Weddle said by late Saturday text after the Ravens had defeated the Chargers in Los Angeles. "He was very honest and honest with us and has done amazing work to keep us together so that we are in the position we are in right now. It's how honest he was and how he believed from day one. His love and faith have really permeated the entire team.

Perhaps the biggest compliment players could give to Harbaugh, however, was how they played against the Chargers – because it fully reflected their coach's vision for a program and team. Against another rather physical group, Baltimore controlled the line at Scrimmage, almost doubling the Chargers in Scrimmage Yards (361-198) and tripling them on the ground (159-51).

It also showed how Baltimore ended They broke out their hosts and knocked the ball out late. In addition, the Ravens negotiated the fact that they had flown across the country in a week to play a really good team that could rest for nine days.

Afterwards, Harbaugh told the players that the Ravens are a strong, kick-ass outfit and gave the ball to strength coach Steve Saunders. But the boys in the locker room know that accomplishing that point – defeating Cleveland this Sunday and they're division champions, something that did not seem to be in the middle of the season – had to do with the guy who Of course she has stopped.

"One hundred percent," said Weddle. "We want to hit people in the mouth – physically in all three phases, let them give up in the fourth."

That's how it went, and the Ravens organization volunteered.


So with this theme as background and seven days before Black Monday, some Nuggets from the rumor mill:

Panthers GM Marty Hurney has Having built a good relationship with the new owner David Tepper, I was told, and he and his coach Ron Rivera will likely get at least another year. I do not think it's out of the realm of possibility that someone could be added to the football operations. Tepper showed a strong awareness in the field of football analytics, so maybe this is an attitude.

• At least with the offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who was not quite ready for his role in October The Cardinals will make significant changes to their attack staff. And there's a pretty good chance that owner Michael Bidwill goes beyond that. Coach in the first year Steve Wilks is in danger. It remains to be seen whether GM Steve Keim or not.

• If germ is in Arizona, it is said that will be a top candidate for the GM job. the Raiders who would prefer to hire an experienced HR man.

ROSENBERG: Nobody seems to care that the Raiders leave Oakland

. The Buccaneers A bit like Arizona in this word is that the coach, Dirk Koettter has probably gone, especially with a staff full of assistants on expiring deals, but the situation of GM Jason Light seems to be darker. This job is one with which former Packers coach Mike McCarthy was most associated.

The Dolphins will most likely change at a certain level. I would be surprised if both EPP Mike Tannenbaum and Coach Adam Gase are back and a total deflagration is out of the question. If Gases survives, it's a decent bet that GM would also be using Chris Grier with potentially additional authority.

The search for the Packers is under way, and the name that names several people Growing up in the last week was Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald of Green Bay's President / Ex-NU AD Mark Murphy was hired in this job. Murphy directs the show here with half a dozen employees, including GM Brian Gutekunst, who works with him.

• I was told that Brown's process will be absolutely open.

Vance Joseph is almost completed in Denver . As we have mentioned in some places in recent months, Broncos GM John Elway has been busy with the offensive trends in college this fall. An outside lease would not be excluded if one assumes that John Harbaugh passes with Gary Kubiak as OC and is now dead.

• As for the Bengals There are discussions that owner Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis (19459012), who assumed responsibility in 2019, could make another attempt before Brown joined his team after the next season leaves more control than he already has. Brown is 83. Joseph has emerged as a potential heir to Lewis over the last few weeks as the Brown family desired to become more familiar with their associates (Joseph served as DB trainer in Cincinnati in 2014-15).

Of course we will have a lot more coaching messages on the website in the next few days.


The college football image from an NFL perspective.

1. There was plenty of buzz on Georgia QB Justin Fields, who may be moving to Ohio – and that the big allure would be the presence of new Buckeyes coach Ryan Day as a sort of quarterback whisper, given the development of Dwayne Haskins under the direction of the day as an offensive coordinator. What does that have to do with the NFL? Day last year was Mike Vrabel's first choice for Titans' offensive coordinator. The rest of the day in Columbus worked well, but there are two things to take with you: First, it highlights the importance of a trainer who knows which assistants to employ. And secondly, it shows that the NFL would likely benefit from stealing from college players (Bucs OC Todd Monken is different).

. 2 Since many high school students signed National Declarations of Intent this week, I thought it would be cool to look back five years and see how forward-looking the high school ranking is for the success of the NFL. What I found? They are not bad. 2014 Top 12 Classes: Myles Garrett (Browns), Leonard Fournette (Jaguars), Cam Robinson (Jaguars), Jabrill Peppers (Browns), Kyle Allen (Panthers), Speedy Noil (n / a), Da & # 39; Shawn Hand (lions), Quin Blanding (n / a), Andrew Brown (Bengals), Marlon Humphrey (Ravens), Rashaan Evans (Titans) and Dalvin Cook (Vikings). There are 10 pros, including five picks in the first round and two picks in the second round.

. 3 Last week I wrote that Nick Bosa is really considered to be perspiring from the other margins. And after a little more phone on the phone this week, I would say that Alabama's Quinnes Williams is also considered among the defensive duels, even in a bumper harvest at the position. That's also quite surprising, considering the amount of attention that Houston's Ed Oliver drew before the season, a point where Williams was still working on finding a startup job for the first time. If you want to take a look at it, see it on Saturday against Oklahoma.

2019 MOCK DRAFT 3.0: Two QBs slip into the top 10 and a third in the first round. 19659002] 4. Speaking of which, the Orange Bowl also gives anyone who had no chance to see Oklahoma's coach a Lincoln Riley name a game.

. 5 And the cool thing about the other semi-final? In the Cotton Bowl it will be D-Line U (Clemson) vs. O-Line U testing the promising Tigers ahead of Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence. Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant.

. 6 About my buddy Bruce Feldman of The Athletic: In addition to Nick Saban's own Recruitment Class # 1, the classes currently set to # 2, # 3 and # 6 have been put together by former Saban Assistants . I'm not sure if I can remember a coach who has dominated a sport, both in terms of profits and influence, as Saban is now. We're really watching college football's answer to UCLA legend John Wooden.



It's good to see that someone is still interested in the Pro Bowl, but that seems to be a drastic measure to nobody wants to play against the exclusion from a game. Und Johnson muss wahrscheinlich sowieso nur ein oder zwei Wochen warten. Bis dahin wird es genügend phantomverstauchte Knöchel und verdrehte Knie geben, um ihn einzubringen.


Von meiner alten NFL-Netzwerkkollegin Kara Henderson – und sie hat übrigens recht. Zu vielen Kindern wird zu früh gesagt, dass sie alles andere fallen lassen müssen, um ein Stipendium in einer einzigen Sportart zu verfolgen. Und das ist auch, obwohl fast jeder High-School-Trainer, dem ich je begegnet bin, der Meinung ist, dass es für jeden Athleten am besten ist, mehrere Sportarten im Alter von zehn Jahren zu betreiben, und zwar aus Gründen, die sowohl mit den Fähigkeiten (Entwicklung vielfältiger sportlicher Merkmale) als auch mit der Gesundheit zusammenhängen (Überlastung bestimmter Muskeln vermeiden). Man kann argumentieren, dass Spezialisierung danach sinnvoll ist. Ex-College-QBs Drew Henson (Michigan) und Ronald Curry (North Carolina) sind Beispiele für Leute, die zu lange jongliert haben. Aber ich würde es wagen, einen Athleten zu finden, der ein Stipendium verloren hat, weil er in der Highschool jongliert hat, weil ich kein solches finde. OK, singen Sie vorbei.

Die 2018-Patrioten dürfen nicht einmal in den Top-10-Teams der Brady / Belichick-Ära untergehen, aber die Bar, die die Patrioten für sich selbst und alle anderen gesetzt haben, ist absurd. Bedenken Sie Folgendes: Als Brady 2008 seinen ACL ausblies, hatten sie ihren fünften AFC East-Titel in Folge. In den zehn Saisons, seit er von der Verletzung zurückgekehrt war, haben sie nur das Doppelte dieser Serie getan.


Ist das unbedeutend? Wahrscheinlich. Aber niemand würde die Identität eines Teams wie der Cleveland Browns ändern, indem er subtil war. Und Baker Mayfield versucht nicht, subtil zu sein.


Tut mir leid, Roosevelt Nix. Dieser wird für eine Weile nicht alt.

S / O bis…

Jeder, der sich meiner spontanen Fahrt zur Einnahme einiger Dollars für das Boston Children´s Hospital verschrieben hat. Die Hintergrundgeschichte ist ziemlich einfach. Die Leute von BRANDed PR und FOCO schickten mir vor ein paar Wochen einen Patriots Christmas Sweater, und ich ließ ihn auf meinem Schreibtisch liegen (aus offensichtlichen Gründen trage ich keine NFL-Teamkleidung oder ich bin kein Team). Dann sah ich letzte Woche die Reaktion, die Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky bekam, als er die Chicago-Version des Pullovers als Pressekonferenz trug. Ich dachte mir, ich könnte damit etwas Geld für BCH sammeln (wo meine Frau war) Ist eine Krankenschwester). Also legte ich den Vorschlag vor, und als letztes Mal am Freitagabend eines Ferienwochenendes angefangen wurde, haben Sie $ 1,317 gesammelt. Ich habe die Seite offen gelassen, wenn jemand geben möchte, und ich werde am Heiligabend einen Gewinner ziehen. Eines kann ich versprechen: Das Geld geht an einen unglaublichen Ort. Die Angestellten dort sind Engel, die daran arbeiten, Wunder zu schaffen. Also danke an alle, die mitgeholfen haben.


1. Der Pass-Interferenz-Aufruf von auf Joe Haden in der Endzone, wo die Steelers-Ecke mit Alvin Kamara kaum die Ellbogen rieb, war einer der schlimmsten, den wir das ganze Jahr über gesehen hatten, ohne den Kontext hinzuzufügen. Wenn Sie in die Tatsache werfen, dass es ein Viertel-und-1 von den Steelers 34 war, gab die Saints 33 Yards und das Spiel wurde durch drei Punkte entschieden? A total abomination, and one made worse by the fact that Craig Wroldstad’s crew threw another shaky PI flag on Haden on a fourth down during New Orleans’ game-winning drive. And here’s where I’d advocate, again, for making the big-box penalties—personal fouls, pass interference, etc.—reviewable. They have too big an impact on the game not to give yourself the chance to clean up mistakes.

2. Yes, new Vikings coordinator Kevin Stefanski has cut down the volume in the offense, and that’s helped guys play faster. But more than that, as the Vikings players have seen it, he’s leaned on elements he knew made the offense successful under Pat Shurmur in 2017. Two pieces of evidence? One, Stefanski will repeat run calls that are working more often. And two, he’s weaponizing tempo by mixing the pace of the offense in-game.

3. The Seahawks’ win over the Chiefs on Sunday was pretty fitting, in that it exemplified what Seattle’s program is all about, on a night when the franchise clinched its return to the postseason. On offense, Seattle ran for 210 yards. On defense, the Seahawks only sacked Patrick Mahomes once but registered 11 additional hits on the K.C. quarterback. The old formula is back, and that brings me to a bunch of conversations I’ve had with Pete Carroll about his team’s 2018 retooling. This offseason, to him, was about the Seahawks again being true to who they’ve been over the last eight years, which meant a lot of competition in camp for open spots—“It feels like four or five years ago,” he told me. “It feels fresh and wide open.” And with a very different cast of characters, the results on the field, stylistically, have looked similar too.

4. The Chiefs’ points allowed since Week 11: 54, 33, 24, 29, 38. And of the offenses they’ve played in that five-game stretch, only one (the Rams) ranks in the top quarter of the league. At this point, particularly with Sammy Watkins down, Kareem Hunt gone and Tyreek Hill nicked up, Kansas City is going to need Patrick Mahomes to walk on water in the playoffs.

BASKIN: The Chiefs D Must Improve—Dramatically, Immediatel—to Keep Their Super Bowl Hopes Alive

5. Good news and bad news for the Patriots offense in its first game ost-Josh Gordon. Good news: New England rang up a whopping 273 yards on 47 carries, and Sony Michel (18 carries, 116 yards) looked every bit the bell cow in how he ran through contact in the 24-12 win over the Bills. Bad news: Tom Brady’s 48.3 passer rating was the worst he’s ever posted in a win, and potential Gordon replacements Corddarelle Patterson, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett combined for one catch for three yards. The Patriots have work to do.

6. Browns QB Baker Mayfield finished up another win with another spectacular stat line—he was 27 of 37 for 284 yards and three touchdowns against the Bengals. But what the coaches liked most about this one was how unspectacular the performance really was. As one Cleveland staffer explained to me, Mayfield is going from playing football to playing quarterbackwhich is a process for most young guys coming into the league in this day and age.

VRENTAS: Baker Mayfield and the New Quarterback Model

7. Two things I love about the Bears. First, the ClubDub celebrations postgame are awesome, and a part of coach Matt Nagy’s ongoing commitment to make players excited to come to work on a day-to-day basis. And I know the players are seeing that not just on Sunday, but Monday through Saturday as well. Second, Nagy is showing faith in those guys in his aggressiveness—and in particular on the fourth-and-1 he went for from his own 35, up 14-9 with 4:10 left. The Bears picked up the first down with a Mitch Trubsiky sneak. Allen Robinson fumbled the ball away six plays later, but that doesn’t change my outlook on these kinds of calls. As Zach Ertz said earlier in the column, those kinds of decisions can be massive for a players’ confidence.

8. Hats off to C.J. Andersonwho stayed ready and prepared like a pro after joining the Rams this week, showing up early to the facility and working with his new coaches to get up to speed. It paid off for Anderson in a 20-carry, 167-yard effort, and for the Rams in the chance they took on him.

9. As I said earlier, I don’t know if Mike Tannenbaum will be making the decisions in Miami next year, but the Dolphins have certainly been acting as if they’ll be looking at replacing Ryan Tannehill in 2019, in live-scouting the top college quarterbacks. Tannehill turns 31 this summer and doesn’t have a dime guaranteed left on his contract.

ORR: Five Storylines That Will Dominate the 2019 Offseason

10. It’ll be interesting to see the staff changes Matt Patricia makes after a rough first year in Detroit. I think offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s a good coach, but his name is the first you hear out there when this subject comes up. And Patricia has quarterbacks coach/ex-Patriots assistant George Godsey on staff, as a potential replacement.


We get our final weekday NFL game of the season tonight, and it’s a doozy—the 6-8 Broncos travel to face the 3-11 Raiders.

The intrigue here? This is potentially the final NFL game Oakland will ever host, so the fourth quarter could be quite a scene. Other than that  …

PICK: Denver 26, Oakland 20.

Merry Christmas everyone, and we’ll see you in a few for an abbreviated Monday Afternoon Quarterback.

Question or comment? Email us at [email protected]

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