Team Notes week 18 2022

By Bob Harris
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Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...

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Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

According to Darren Urban of the team's official website, what happens at quarterback for the Cardinals next season, at least early on, is murky.

Kyler Murray had his ACL surgery this week. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters on Wednesday that Murray's surgery was successful and the two had texted Tuesday night.

Murray needed an ACL reconstruction and a meniscus repair, and eventually, a timetable will emerge.

But in the meantime -- and if the Cardinals have to have a QB not named Murray to begin the season -- there are decisions to be made. Colt McCoy is a possibility.

Beyond him? David Blough would like to remain in the room if he can. The way he played Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium apparently helped his cause.

The Cardinals (4-12) still lost the game to the Falcons, 20-19, when Younghoe Koo booted a 21-yard field goal on the game's final play. It offset a good defensive day despite a shorthanded roster, and offset an impressive 57-yard Matt Prater field goal with less than three minutes left to earn a lead.

"It frustrating to lose," said Blough, who last started in 2019 with the Lions. "My job is to help us win the football game. We had to settle for too many field goals."

But, Blough added, "I started five games in Detroit and that didn't end like I wanted them to, and I knew then my best football was in front of me."

There was some good. Aside from Blough, rookie tight end Trey McBride had the best game of his young career, making seven receptions for 78 yards and his first NFL touchdown.

"I am obviously building confidence out there," McBride said. "I feel comfortable out there."

Running back James Conner had 79 yards rushing on 16 carries and another 31 yards on three catches, despite leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a shin injury.

Conner said he thought he'd be OK but didn't commit to being able to play in the finale in San Francisco next week. Losing Conner from the offense -- which didn't have DeAndre Hopkins (knee) and had fellow receivers Marquise Brown leave in the fourth quarter with a potentially problematic arm injury and Robbie Anderson with a back issue -- will make things that much harder.

Kingsbury said after Sunday's game that he planned to decide this coming week if it was Blough or Trace McSorley who would get the start against the 49ers to finish things up.

On Wednesday, Kingsbury made it official: Blough will indeed get the call.

"He battled," Kingsbury said of the quarterback who completed 24-of-40 passes for 222 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers. "He's only been here two weeks, he didn't have a chance to practice much last week -- he got reps Friday -- and I thought he handled himself well.

"I was impressed."

The Falcons (6-10) did just enough to undercut Blough's story from having a happy ending.

Still, players like Blough, McBride and Conner give us something to pay attention to as the season winds down. The 49ers potentially will be playing for a high playoff seed. The Cardinals, who have lost six straight, for the future.

"(Today) doesn't sink us," Conner said. "You can't win them all. ..."

Kingsbury told reporters he sees Hopkins as part of the roster in 2023, as the speculation starts to stir about the 30-year-old wideout (who does not have guaranteed money in his contract going forward). Hopkins missed the game Sunday with a knee issue that kept him out of practice Friday, and Kingsbury said he did not know if Hopkins was going to be available to play against the 49ers in the finale.

"His knee was acting up, the one he had surgery on," Kingsbury said. "We just need to be cautious.

"We haven't been able to utilize as much as we would've liked but he's a guy who has been a big part of this offense. He's missed some games the last two years but we know what he looks like when he's healthy and rolling."

Hopkins will miss another game this week; Kingsbury ruled the veteran receiver out for Sunday's game on Wednesday.

Kingsbury added that Hollywood Brown's arm injury shouldn't keep him from playing against the Niners. Brown played well Sunday, with six catches for 61 yards and drew a 40-yard pass interference.

I'll have more on Conner, Brown and Anderson via Late-Breaking Update as the team prepares for Sunday's finale in San Francisco in coming days. ...

A few final notes. ... Conner went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage for the second time in two seasons for the Cardinals. He had reached that mark only once in four years with the Steelers.

Prater has been excellent, and his four field goals were crucial again Sunday. The aforementioned 57-yarder to take the final Cardinals lead was clutch again, even if the defense couldn't hold. But Prater was thinking about the four. He was thinking about the one.

"I'm pretty confident right now," Prater said. "But the one I'm thinking about is the one I missed. That's more what I am thinking about.

That was 43-yarder late in the third quarter that would've extended the Cardinals' lead to five. Prater did extend his NFL record of field goals of at least 50 yards to 71.

According to Elias, there has been only one other time in NFL history since 1950 -- excluding the 1987 strike season -- where a team used four different starting quarterbacks in four straight games. In 2018, the Bills used Derek Anderson, Nathan Peterman, Matt Barkley and Josh Allen in consecutive games. Now the Cardinals join the club. ...

A few final items. ... The Cardinals will have one more chance to send longtime defensive stalwart Watt out with a win in the season finale at San Francisco.

The three-time NFL defensive player of the year surprised nearly everyone by announcing his upcoming retirement after Arizona's final home game.

Watt had a sack against the Falcons, pushing him to 10 1/2 for the year -- his first double-figure sacks season since 2018. He also had a couple of hits on Falcons rookie QB Desmond Ridder.

Watt knows he's done after next week.

Kingsbury could be facing the same prospect after a miserable season.

The coach is 28-36-1 in four seasons as the Cardinals coach, with only a single one-and-done playoff appearance.

"You want to win," Kingsbury said. "As a staff, you can't say enough about guys playing their tails off trying to win. Keeping us in games. It's kind of been the story of the season, not being able to finish at the end."

Could this be his last game with the club?

According to’s Josh Weinfuss, it's looking that way, whether it's his decision or the team's.

"Kingsbury could very well walk away on his own or," Weinfuss wrote, "if he decides to stick around and try to coach in 2023, it's not unthinkable that team owner Michael Bidwill would fire him and start from scratch."

You can access complete stats for the Cardinals Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Josh Dobbs, Clayton Tune, Kyler Murray
RBs: James Conner, Keaontay Ingram, Emari Demercado
WRs: Marquise Brown, Zach Pascal, Rondale Moore, Michael Wilson, Greg Dortch
TEs: Zach Ertz, Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

According to Scott Bair of the team's official website, Desmond Ridder took the field with five minutes remaining and one thought in mind.

Go down and score.

Bair went on to note that's the objective every time, but the edict was mandatory in that situation, with the Falcons down and running out of opportunities to get back up.

Nerves didn't factor into his feelings despite such high stakes. Even if they did, Ridder would never show it. The offense feeds off the quarterback, and he was set on projecting confidence.

"You want to let them see that you're calm and composed and ready to execute," Ridder said. "That's going to filter off to the other guys and they're going to want to execute better. Sometimes it's about being poised. I think guys feel that."

Ridder was calm, cool and collected. He was also clutch.

The rookie quarterback led the Falcons over 67 yards to set up Younghoe Koo's game-winning walkoff field goal as time expired. He completed all three of his pass attempts on that drive, including a gotta-have-it completion to MyCole Pruitt on 3rd-and-7.

He was instrumental in a 20-19 win on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the first positive result in more than a month. When the Falcons needed it, Ridder came through. That was the biggest among several encouraging signs in Ridder's third NFL start.

"You can make a lot of stats in quarters 1-3 but, if you want to be a big-time quarterback," head coach Arthur Smith said, "you need to win on critical third downs in two-minute situations and go win the game like he did right there."

This game didn't mean much in the big picture. It was a clash of teams already eliminated from playoff contention, playing out the string.

This experience, however, was invaluable for a young quarterback and the franchise's confidence in him.

Ridder's reputation as a gamer preceded his time here. He regularly performed well under pressure in college, taking the Cincinnati football program to great heights. That's why it's hard to consider his fourth-quarter comeback a revelation.

While comeback attempts didn't work out in previous weeks, Ridder was on point in those scenarios. That was the case in New Orleans, where a Drake London fumble got in the way. They were too far back for a real push in Baltimore, but he seemed to get better as that game progressed.

Smith and GM Terry Fontenot are looking at every piece of evidence these four Ridder starts provide, trying to decide where quarterback fits on the offseason priority list. Moments like Sunday's finale will be viewed as a positive point on his ledger, even while conceding the Cardinals aren't a good football team.

Ridder is developing before our very eyes, with improvements big and small clear from one game to the next. While he's super far from perfect and hasn't single-handedly created an explosive passing attack, there's so much that has improved under his brief tenure.

"I thought his pocket awareness was really good," Smith said. "He extended some plays and got us out of some things. That's what you want to see. If you want to be a real starting quarterback in this league, you have to be able to do that."

As's Michael Rothstein noted, Ridder's decision-making continues to look solid, and he threw some nice passes, including a deep ball to Damiere Byrd that fell incomplete but could have been called for pass interference. Ridder completed 19 of 26 passes for 170 yards in a win over Arizona, and while it's way too early to truly know if Ridder is the long-term answer, Smith said it was important for Ridder to win a game.

Ridder did that on Sunday.

"It's just about finishing, doing whatever you can to win," Ridder said. "I'll go back and look at the game this week and see what I could've done better and keep continuing to try to get better."

Next up, the Falcons host the Buccaneers in a game without any post-season implications for either team. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Falcons have been able to lean all season on a rushing attack that ranks third in the NFL at 159 yards per game. They ran for 132 yards, getting a touchdown each from Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson, and had a 3.9-yard average against Arizona.

Which brings up an obvious point. ... The Falcons made a good selection when they were landed Allgeier in the fifth round. The youngster out of BYU has developed into a quality runner right before our eyes.

This was a guy who was a healthy scratch in Week 1, and now he's an indispensable part of the Falcons attack.

While he's a tough, physical runner, Allgeier has shown an ability to be nimble and patient eluding tacklers, running around them over through them when it's required.

Allgeier has really turned it on over the past month and has the stat to show for it. He exceeded 1,000 yards from scrimmage in this contest, making him the third rookie to accomplish that feat. He's also the fourth Falcons to do that in his rookie season.

Allgeier has all the makings of a feature back and works well combining forces with Patterson. While we've seen a bunch of rookies contribute this season, Allgeier might be having the best season of them all to this point.

Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer George Henry notes, London, the eighth overall draft pick and the first receiver chosen, managed to avoid fumbling as he did the previous two weeks, so that's a plus. But whether it's the overall scheme or limits at quarterback, London has yet to deliver a signature moment in his first season.

He leads the team with 66 catches for 746 yards and four TDs, but fans were expecting something more dynamic from London. ...

On the injury front. ... Fullback Keith Smith (concussion symptoms) left late in the second quarter but returned in the second half. Allgeier walked off the field with an undisclosed injury early in the fourth but returned. Running back Avery Williams was ruled out in the fourth with a foot injury.

I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Finally. ... The Falcons released receiver Cameron Batson from the practice squad on Monday, two days after an altercation with police led to his arrest.

Batson had been on the Falcons' practice squad all season but didn't play in a game. He spent the previous four seasons with the Tennessee Titans.

According to a statement from Atlanta police, an officer observed a pickup truck speeding and failing to maintain its lane at about 2 a.m. Saturday. The officer stopped the vehicle and observed that the driver appeared to be intoxicated. The statement said Batson resisted the efforts of the officer "and violently fought with the officer." The officer discharged his firearm, but no one was struck, the statement said. Batson returned to his vehicle, fled the scene, crashed a short distance away and was arrested while trying to hide.

The officer and Batson were taken to a hospital for injuries they received during the altercation.

Batson faces multiple charges, but the statement did not give additional details.

Batson played a combined 27 games, including three starts, for Tennessee from 2018-21. He has 22 career receptions for 197 yards and three touchdowns.

You can access complete stats for the Falcons Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Ogbonnaya
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

The Ravens fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-13, in Baltimore on "Sunday Night Football."

The Steelers' win keeps them alive in the playoff chase. With the Ravens' playoff ticket already punched, the loss doesn't change a whole lot for them, except they no longer control their own fate in the race for the AFC North title.

There is an issue.

The Ravens-Bengals Week 18 matchup will be played as scheduled this Sunday at 1 pm ET.

But the "Monday Night Football" game between the Buffalo Bills and Bengals will not be resumed this week after it was suspended and postponed following Damar Hamlin's horrible cardiac arrest.

The league announced that it has made no decision regarding the possible resumption of that game at a later date, but it definitely won't be this week.

That means if the Ravens beat the Bengals in Cincinnati, Baltimore will not be crowned the AFC North champion that day. The Ravens would have an 11-6 record while the Bengals would be 11-5.

Only if the Bengals-Bills game were to be resumed, and the Bengals lose (they were winning 7-3 with 6:12 left in the first quarter at the time), would the Ravens be AFC North champions.

Whatever the case, when these two teams met just three weeks ago, Baltimore mauled the Steelers on the ground to the tune of 215 rushing yards. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin probably seared that game tape into his players' heads, challenging them to punch back.

This time, the Steelers piled up 198 rushing yards and held Baltimore to 120. As Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said afterwards, "they flipped the script."

The Ravens were no slouches running the ball either.

J.K. Dobbins nearly hit 100 yards again. But the Ravens never got their 1-2 punch going with him and Gus Edwards, and the most frustrating part was they didn't run it effectively when it mattered most.

With a 13-9 lead, the Ravens went three-and-out on back-to-back fourth-quarter drives. Following a 56-yard Justice Hill kickoff return, they just needed a few yards to probably get points. Instead, Dobbins was hit for a 2-yard loss and the drive finished in the negative. On the second three-and-out Dobbins and the line was stuffed on third-and-2.

The way the Ravens have been running the ball recently, it seemed like they could run against anyone, anytime. The Steelers, who entered the game with one of the best run defenses, showed they were up to the task. They put an extra defensive lineman in the game and crashed their outside linebackers off the edges -- seemingly unafraid of much else beating them.

"We should have done a better job of attacking that for sure," Harbaugh said. "We let them do what they want; it wasn't good."

Considering the state of the Ravens' passing attack right now, Baltimore cannot afford to stub its toe -- even if only in some key situations -- and expect to win. The defense can't keep the opponent out of the end zone every week.

Mark Andrews isn't a different player this year than last, and his competitiveness seems to be at an all-time high.

But there's no denying that part of the Ravens' offensive troubles has been missed connections with its Pro Bowl tight end. Andrews is such a major part of the offense, and he hadn't topped 63 receiving yards in any of his past eight games.

That changed Sunday night, as Andrews logged 100 receiving yards on nine catches. He caught every pass that came his way, as the Ravens leaned on him in critical situations.

A monster wide receiver isn't walking through the doors for the playoff run. If the Ravens' passing attack is going to heat up, it's going to need more games like this from Andrews.

The Ravens are also going to need more from the existing wide receivers. Baltimore's wideouts (Demarcus Robinson and DeSean Jackson) totaled just two catches for 18 yards on five targets.

Asked who he was looking for on the game-ending interception, Tyler Huntley said, "Just somebody. [I was] looking for somebody to try and just make a play."

Meanwhile, the Ravens' red-zone woes continued on offense.

They could have gone 0-for-2 had Cam Heyward not bailed them out with a foolish unnecessary roughness penalty that gave Baltimore new life. Credit Huntley and rookie tight end Isaiah Likely for capitalizing with a pretty touchdown pass with seven seconds left, but it still has to be better overall.

For a second-straight week, the Ravens did not hand the ball off to a running back while in the red zone.

This despite the fact Dobbins continues to look better with each game.

He's averaging 99.3 yards per game in the four games since returning from his midseason surgery. Dobbins has faced the Steelers three times in his young career.

He's run for 113 yards, 120 yards, and 93 yards.

After rushing for 99 yards against the Falcons last week, the "Gus Bus" took a back seat versus the Steelers. Edwards had just nine snaps to Dobbins' 26, and Edwards ran just three times (for two yards) compared to 17 carries for 93 yards by Dobbins. The Ravens' two-headed running back monster shrunk to one with Dobbins running well.

Likely saw 17 snaps and was targeted by a pass on five of them. He had a pretty route to haul in the aforementioned touchdown at the end of the first half. ...

So is this the week Lamar Jackson returns to action?

Harbaugh said in his Monday press conference that he doesn't know if Jackson will return to practice this week.

"I don't have an expectation until I hear more," Harbaugh said.

On Wednesday, he heard more. Jackson was not on the practice field to start the week.

Jackson has been out since suffering a knee injury in Baltimore's Week 13 victory over Denver. Huntley has started the last four games, leading the Ravens to a 2-2 record.

Harbaugh said he'd "absolutely" like to see Jackson practice for a week before the postseason. But that doesn't mean Jackson wouldn't be available for the Wild Card round if he doesn't get on the field in Week 18.

Harbaugh also said he can't think about whether or not Jackson will have enough ramp-up time for the playoffs if he doesn't practice this week.

"I'm just going to listen to the doctors and to Lamar and we're prepared," Harbaugh said. "The offense is not going to change dramatically between Lamar and Tyler. … But we're going to take the game plan and prepare for Cincinnati, prepare for their defense and what they do. Make sure our run game is set up to attack their defense and what they can do with their players and the same thing with our pass game.

"And then whichever quarterback plays, that's the quarterback that's going to play and we'll expect them to play great football. As a coach, that's really what you do."

Since coming in to replace Jackson in the Denver game, Huntley has completed 67 percent of his passes for 658 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

This is the second consecutive year that Jackson's suffered an injury that's kept him from playing late in the season. In 12 games, he's completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 2,242 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Jackson has also rushed for 764 yards with three TDs.

We'll see if Jackson can make it onto the field before the week is over. I'll have more on that -- and on his progress (or lack thereof) -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

If Jackson isn't back this week, he would enter the playoffs having missed the last five games of the regular season. That's not ideal for a team looking to make a championship run.

Also worth noting: With Huntley as its quarterback, Baltimore has scored four touchdowns in 19 quarters.

You can access complete stats for the Ravens Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

The NFL pushed ahead Tuesday with a difficult balancing act, navigating players' emotions after Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin's shocking cardiac arrest with a tight playoff schedule and emphasizing Hamlin's health was its main focus.

The league informed the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals that their game, suspended Monday night, would not be resumed this week while the Week 18 schedule remained unchanged, for now.

No decision regarding the possible resumption of the pivotal Bills-Bengals game has been made. The game was suspended in the first quarter when Hamlin suffered the cardiac arrest after making a tackle.

The 24-year-old Hamlin remained in critical condition a day after the Bills said his heart stopped following the seemingly routine play. Hamlin tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, who led with his shoulder, then briefly got up before collapsing.

Medical staff restored his heartbeat during frantic moments on the field before he was loaded into an ambulance. Players from both teams were crying and praying during an emotional scene in front of a national television audience.

"Damar experienced cardiac arrest and was promptly resuscitated by on-site club physicians and independent medical personnel, all of whom are highly trained in implementing the plans for medical emergencies," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter sent to all teams, and obtained by The Associated Press. "Damar was stabilized and transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, a Level One trauma center, where he remains in the ICU."

Goodell informed the clubs that Dr. Nyaka NiiLampti had sent each team's clinician and head of player engagement information about mental health and support resources available to players and staff.

"Additional resources including on-site services can be available for any club that wishes this assistance," Goodell said.

Goodell told teams they would be promptly advised of any changes to this weekend's schedule.

The outcome of the Bills-Bengals game has major playoff implications. The Bills entered the game in the top spot while the Bengals had a chance to clinch the AFC North with a victory and also were in the mix for the No. 1 seed along with Kansas City.

The Bengals led 7-3 in the first quarter when the game was stopped. The NFL is scheduled to begin playoffs on Jan. 14. The No. 1 seed in each conference gets a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

It's uncertain how the league will handle seedings if the Bills-Bengals game isn't concluded. The NFL could push the start of the playoffs back one week and eliminate the extra week in between the conference championship games and Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl Games are scheduled for Feb. in the top spot while the Bengals had a chance to clinch the AFC North with a victory and also were in the mix for the No. 1 seed along with Kansas City.

The Bengals led 7-3 in the first quarter when the game was stopped. The NFL is scheduled to begin playoffs on Jan. 14. The No. 1 seed in each conference gets a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

It's uncertain how the league will handle seedings if the Bills-Bengals game isn't concluded. The NFL could push the start of the playoffs back one week and eliminate the extra week in between the conference championship games and Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl Games are scheduled for Feb. 5.

The Bills are next scheduled to host the New England Patriots on Sunday.

I'll have more on the Bills and their plans heading into Sunday's game -- and any news on the postponed Week 17 game -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

For the record. ... Doctors saw promising signs of progress overnight from Hamlin, who remained hospitalized in critical condition as of Wednesday morning, according to a friend and business partner.

Jordon Rooney told ESPN's Coley Harvey that Hamlin is still in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, less than two days after he went into cardiac arrest on the field during the Bills' game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Rooney told ESPN that Hamlin is still sedated, but doctors saw promising readings overnight from him that they had hoped to see by Wednesday morning. Hamlin's agent, Ron Butler, told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on Tuesday night that Hamlin's oxygen levels had improved.

The Bills announced they would hold meetings and a walk-through Wednesday but will not have any media availability.

The team also issued an initial injury report.

Josh Allen again was on the practice report as a full participant, but the Bills added an ankle injury to go along with his right elbow injury.

The Bills initially listed their quarterback on the practice report in Week 10 with his elbow injury, and he has remained on it with the injury since. But Dec. 20 was the last time he didn’t have a full practice.

Allen has started every game this season.

Cornerback Taron Johnson is the only player who didn’t have a full practice. He was limited Wednesday with a concussion.

Linebacker Tyrel Dodson (knee), tight end Dawson Knox (hip), cornerback Cam Lewis (forearm), linebacker Matt Milano (knee), defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (shoulder) and safety Jordan Poyer (knee) were full participants.

QBs: Josh Allen, Kyle Allen
RBs: James Cook, Damien Harris, Latavius Murray, Reggie Gilliam
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Trent Sherfield, Khalil Shakir, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dawson Knox, Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

According to's David Newton, the Panthers' locker room was somber late Sunday afternoon. Players sat in their uniforms longer than normal, some staring into space and shaking their heads in disbelief that their postseason hopes were over. It was the type of emotion one would expect from a team that had just been eliminated from a playoff game, not playoff contention.

That's significant.

The 30-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday was as much about how far the Panthers had come under interim coach Steve Wilks after a 1-4 start under Matt Rhule, who was fired, as it was about how they blew their chance to win the division.

And make no mistake, they blew their chance.

They had the Bucs down 14-0 in the second quarter and led 21-10 going into the fourth quarter before quarterback Tom Brady began playing like the seven-time Super Bowl champion he is, rather than the aging 45-year-old he has looked like of late.

That added to the frustration because players could almost taste their chance to make the playoffs with a win Sunday followed by another victory next week at the New Orleans Saints.

Now the division title is Tampa Bay's.

But underneath the frustration is the pride of knowing they didn't give up when their season looked lost in October.

"You think back to what 2022 was, the chaos that was going on early," guard Austin Corbett said. "We had every excuse in the world to shut it down. Everybody had written us off, and for guys to continue to rally, and for Coach Wilks to do his job and rally us, and keep us fighting day in and day out to have us a chance. ... What more can you ask for?"

What the Panthers could have asked for on Sunday was a healthy Jaycee Horn, but their shutdown corner was out with a broken wrist suffered a week ago. Brady and wide receiver Mike Evans made the young replacements pay dearly. They combined for touchdowns of 63, 57 and 30 yards, and 150 of Brady's season-high 432 passing yards.

So now the Panthers (6-10) are left to play out the season in New Orleans and then enter the period of uncertainty that comes with a coaching search. While the locker room is almost 100 percent behind Wilks, nobody knows what owner David Tepper is thinking.

That added to the disappointment of Sunday. Players felt the loss may have hurt Wilks' chances of winning the full-time job. But they want Tepper to remember that they wouldn't have been in the position they were Sunday without Wilks.

"You've seen throughout the history of the NFL when coaches leave early, teams just get shut down," Corbett said. "Fans are immediately moving on to the next year.

"That's absolutely what we did not do. That was Coach Wilks' ability to keep us together and keep us fighting. Men really stepped up. So I love this team. I love where we're at. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... The physicality that had led the Panthers to wins like last week's over Detroit, kept Sam Darnold from being touched by the Lions, and set the tone for a franchise-best rushing day on Christmas Eve, didn't manifest against the Bucs.

Darnold threw for three TDs and 341 yards, new highs in his Panthers career. We also got the most out of D.J. Moore, who amassed 117 receiving yards (his second-highest mark of the year) and a touchdown off six grabs.

Darnold, however, lost two fumbles, had an interception and was sacked twice for a loss of 15 yards.

Still, Moore has excelled since Darnold took over for Baker Mayfield, with TD receptions in four of the last five games along with two 100-yard receiving games. When asked if he'd like to see Carolina re-sign Darnold, Moore smiled and said, "That's my guy."

Moore needs 122 yards receiving Sunday against New Orleans for his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season. ...

In addition, the Panthers found their identity on offense the past few weeks through a dominant force of a run game led by D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard. Since Wilks took over in Week 6, they had averaged 151.6 rush yards per game.

But much like in a Week 15 loss to the Steelers, the Panthers were often faced with a loaded box, a strategic call by the Bucs to make Carolina win through the air.

As a result, the rushing attack was held to 74 yards on 22 attempts, one week after a 320-yard performance against the Lions. The Panthers' longest run Sunday was an 11-yard Darnold scramble.

Foreman put up just 35 yards on 13 carries, one week removed from a career-best 165 yards.

"It's very frustrating," Foreman said. "We worked hard to get to this position. Nobody was going to hand us anything, give us anything. So a lot of credit to (Tampa Bay), man; they went out there and made more plays than we did today. Proud of every guy in this locker room.

"I know we fought hard. Nobody gave up. Everybody knew what the task was. Unfortunately, that's part of the NFL. You prepare well, go out there and give it your all, and sometimes (it) just doesn't work out for you. So (we've) just got to find a way to get better. ..."

Carolina is 0-8 this season when rushing for less than 100 yards as a team. ...

Finally. ... Since the Panthers don't have the playoffs to play for this weekend, they're not going to risk one of their building blocks for the future against the Saints.

The Panthers placed Horn on injured reserve Monday, ending his season.

Horn had wrist surgery last Tuesday to repair the damage from an injury sustained against the Lions, and there was at least a small chance he could have played this week. They weren't committed to playing him and only would have if the doctors cleared him. But with a postseason possibility off the table, there was no point in risking it.

You can access complete stats for the Panthers Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Miles Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark, Jonathan Mingo, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Giovanni Ricci

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

Head coach Matt Eberflus cited in-game experience as the reason he kept quarterback Justin Fields under center throughout the entirety of Chicago's 41-10 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Fields rushed for 105 yards in the first quarter, the most by a quarterback in a quarter since play-by-play tracking began in 1978. He finished the game with 132 rushing yards, which accounted for more than half of Chicago's total yards.

But outside of Fields' 10 rushes, the Bears struggled to move the ball. Chicago averaged 2.5 yards on 40 additional plays totaling 98 yards.

Fields completed 7 of 21 passes for 75 yards with one TD, one interception and a 40.8 rating while being sacked a season-high seven times. Bears wide receivers combined for just three receptions for 36 yards, with Equanimeous St. Brown catching two passes for 20 yards and N'Keal Harry having one reception for 16 yards.

The Bears were outgained 504-230 in net yards and did not score on their final 10 drives.

Despite the matchup devolving into a blowout, Eberflus maintained that the only way for Fields and the offense to get Chicago's passing attack on track comes from playing in games.

"It's important for us to be able to do that going forward this last game," Eberflus said. "That's why late into the game we kept Justin in there because we want to get that live experience. You can't really get that anywhere else, so that's why we decided as a staff and we decided as working with Justin, he said, 'I want to be in there.' Credit to him, he was, 'Coach, man, I'm still going out there. I want to be able to operate.' With his toughness and grit, he wants to go out there and compete, and that's what he did."

But that won't be the case this week.

Eberflus told reporters in his Wednesday press conference that Fields came out of Sunday’s loss to the Lions with a sore hip and is out for Week 18. Eberflus noted that Fields had an MRI, which revealed a hip strain.

Nathan Peterman will start instead for Chicago.

Even if it were a game of significance for the 3-13 Bears, Fields would not play.

“It’s not long-term, but he just wouldn’t be able to go full speed,” Eberflus said, via Larry Mayer of the team’s website.

Peterman has not started a game since 2018, when he started two for Buffalo. He’s completed 52.5 percent of his career passes for 598 yards with three touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Fields will end his 2022 season having completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 2,242 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 1,143 yards with eight touchdowns, averaging a league-leading 7.1 yards per carry. He has also fumbled a league-high 16 times, losing eight, and has been sacked a league-high 55 times.

Bigger picture, after scoring at least 24 points in five straight games, the Bears have now failed to top 20 points in their last five contests.

"That's our charge as coaches to figure it out," Eberflus said. "That's our charge to move the ball down the field and score points, and we did that the first couple drives. We've got to continue doing that in the course of the game. We've got to continue doing what we're doing at the beginning of the game and just extending that."

Chicago's losing streak extended to nine games. The Bears host division rival Minnesota in the season finale in Week 18.

Beyond Fields, Eberflus said receiver Dante Pettis flew home separately after being released from the hospital. He was cleared from the concussion protocol after getting shaken up in Sunday's game and will continue to be monitored. Pettis experienced blurry vision, and Eberflus said that was the only symptom as far as he knew. ...

A few final items. ... Velus Jones Jr. The third-round pick from Tennessee had a big return for the second straight week when he ran a kickoff back from deep in the end zone 63 yards to the Detroit 45 on the second-to-last play of the first half. Fields then got intercepted by Aidan Hutchinson at the 35.

Against Buffalo a week earlier, Jones returned four kickoffs for 113 yards, including a 40-yarder in the first quarter. He lost his punt return duties early in the season when he muffed two in a three-game span, contributing to losses against the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders.

Learning a new system in November is tough, and missing back-to-back games because of a knee injury before returning Sunday didn't make things any easier. But the Bears expected more when they sent a second-round pick in the 2023 draft to Pittsburgh to get Chase Claypool.

Claypool has just 111 yards on 12 catches and no touchdowns in six games for Chicago.

Against Detroit, the only pass thrown his way went off his hands as he tried to make a lunging catch at the two-minute warning. ...

Last. ... According to Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic, the Bears agreed to a one-year contract extension with St. Brown. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media adds the deal is worth $1.25 million.

St. Brown has started 15 games for the Bears this season, recording 20 catches for 320 yards with one touchdown. He’s also rushed six times for 54 yards. St. Brown is third on the team in receiving yards. Originally a sixth-round pick of the Packers in 2018, St. Brown has 57 receptions for 863 yards with two TDs in 52 games with 25 starts. ...

You can access complete stats for the Bears Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, D'Onta Foreman, Travis Homer
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor
TEs: Cole Kmet, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

The game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals that was suspended Monday night after safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest will not be resumed this week, the NFL announced Tuesday.

The NFL said in a statement that commissioner Roger Goodell informed the teams that the game would not be resumed this week after consulting with both teams and NFL Players Association leadership. The league, however, has made no decision on resuming the game at a later date.

The league said in the statement that it has not made any changes to the Week 18 regular-season schedule.

"The NFL continues to be in regular contact with the medical team caring for Damar Hamlin, and also the Bills and Bengals organizations and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement.

The outcome of the Bills-Bengals game has major playoff implications. The Bills entered the game in the top spot while the Bengals had a chance to clinch the AFC North with a victory and also were in the mix for the No. 1 seed along with Kansas City.

The Bengals led 7-3 in the first quarter when the game was stopped. The NFL is scheduled to begin playoffs on Jan. 14. The No. 1 seed in each conference gets a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

It's uncertain how the league will handle seedings if the Bills-Bengals game isn't concluded. The NFL could push the start of the playoffs back one week and eliminate the extra week in between the conference championship games and Super Bowl. The Pro Bowl Games are scheduled for Feb. 5.

Meanwhile, the Bengals are scheduled to host the Ravens at 1 pm ET on Sunday. I'll follow up with more information on that, the playoff implications and anything else that arises via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

QBs: Joe Burrow, Jake Browning
RBs: Joe Mixon, Chase Brown, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Andrei Iosivas, Trenton Irwin, Kwamie Lassiter II, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

Deshaun Watson had his best game with Cleveland since returning from his 11-game suspension, leading the Browns on three straight touchdown drives in the second half to get a 24-10 over the Commanders on Sunday at FedEx Field. It was their third win in their last five games and advancing their record to 7-9.

Watson and the Browns struggled in the first half and trailed 7-3 at halftime after registering just 23 passing yards.

But the Browns finally saw what they've been looking for from Watson and the offense in a crucial, game-winning three-drive sequence to start the second half.

For the first time since Watson became the starting QB in Week 13, the Browns strung together consecutive touchdown drives that were built by his ability to make sound decisions with the ball, extend plays and operate the offense to perfection.

Watson finished the game with just nine completions on 18 pass attempts for 169 yards, but he looked like the QB the Browns envisioned when they traded for him in March once the touchdown drives began.

Watson's second-half was a major rebound from a lackluster first half where he completed just three of eight passes for 23 yards. The Browns struggled to find any offensive momentum and faced plenty of big questions about how they'd respond.

Watson answered them all -- and showed how potent the Browns can be now that he's rediscovered his footing in the NFL.

"That was the potential of what the future can hold," he said again.

Meanwhile, just because Amari Cooper is no longer in the NFC East does not mean he's done tormenting the Commanders.

Cooper had two touchdowns among his three catches and 105 yards receiving in the Cleveland Browns' 24-10 victory Sunday in a spoiler role against a team fighting to make the playoffs. Watson completed TD passes of 46 and 33 yards to Cooper, who showed his value to the Browns and perhaps a glimpse of what's to come after not making the playoffs this season.

"Today was a good day, especially the start of 2023 and what the future is going to hold for the Cleveland Browns," said Watson, who also threw a TD pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones. "It was good to be able to see that happen."

Cooper's three catches gave him 45 in seven career games against Washington. The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver came in averaging six catches and 92 yards receiving against his old division rivals.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski said there's great trust in Cooper that carries over from practices into the game. He chalked up Cooper's big day more to chemistry with Watson than a game plan to get him the ball often.

"You see those two are very much on the same page," Stefanski said. "The conversation wasn't, 'We have to get the ball to Amari.' He's a great player for us. When you call those players, you are thinking about him. And he came through with three really big ones. I mean two touchdowns and then the third-down play was huge as well."

Watson marveled at Cooper's ability to be a difference-maker while playing through a hip injury, which the 28-year-old refuses to let sideline him.

"He's super good," Watson said. "He's still trying to get healthy. The plays that he made today while not being healthy, the sky's the limit for him. There's really no limit for him. He can be as good as he wants to be, so I'm excited about that."

The Browns knew before facing the Commanders they're out of the playoff race. Now they're excited to potentially spoil any chance the Pittsburgh Steelers have of making it in Week 18.

"We'd love to do that," defensive end Myles Garrett said. "We consider them our rivals, and especially if we can't make it, we're definitely going to make sure those guys can't. We'll do everything in our power."

You can access complete stats for the Browns Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Deshaun Watson, Dorian Thompson-Robinson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell, Michael Woods II, Anthony Schwartz, Jakeem Grant
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As's Todd Archer noted, the Cowboys don't care much about style points at this point in the season, particularly during a stretch that coach Mike McCarthy has called the most difficult of the year. Playing their third game in 12 days and coming off an emotional win against Philadelphia, the Cowboys were sloppy in their 27-13 win over Tennessee last Thursday.

They turned the ball over three times, including two interceptions from Dak Prescott.

But it was a win, their 12th of the season. For the first time since 1994-95, the Cowboys have posted consecutive 12-win seasons.

Prescott has played in just 11 games, missing five following surgery to repair a fractured thumb. His 14 interceptions have come in 357 pass attempts. His previous career high was 13 in 2017 on 490 pass attempts in 16 starts.

He has thrown at least one interception in six straight games, the longest such streak of his career. He has an interception percentage of 3.9 percent. Entering this season, his interception percentage was 1.7 percent for his career.

"They're all frustrating," Prescott said. "Somehow or another, I got to stop."

The Cowboys are averaging 34.6 offensive points per game since Prescott's return from injury. His 25 touchdown passes since Week 7 are the most in the NFL. He has completed 71 percent of his passes. Top wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is on a tear. Recent addition T.Y. Hilton is looking like he will be a receiving threat when the playoffs start.

The run game has slowed down some in recent weeks but overall has been effective.

But the interceptions cannot be overlooked.

Not all have been his fault, like the game-ending interception in overtime against the Jacksonville Jaguars off the hands of receiver Noah Brown. He and Lamb had a couple of miscommunications, too.

"I think it becomes in the category of 'snake bit,' if we keep making it more than it is," McCarthy said.

But there has been faulty decision-making, like an anticipation throw in the end zone at Green Bay, when a field goal would have given the Cowboys a 10-0 lead, and a pass Indianapolis Colts corner Stephon Gilmore intercepted when he had outside leverage on Michael Gallup.

"To be able to play this position, you got to have a short-term memory," Prescott said. "Whether the interception you threw is your fault, not your fault, whether you throw it to the guy and lose out on points before the half or not, you've got to be able to turn the page and just move on. That's something that honestly I take pride in."

Despite the high rate of interceptions, the Cowboys have continued to win. They are 5-1 in the past six games in which Prescott has thrown a pick. They are 8-2 since his return from the thumb injury. They have beaten three playoff teams (Minnesota, Philadelphia, New York Giants) and two other potential playoff teams (Detroit Lions, Titans) despite the interceptions.

But as's Todd Archer notes, the postseason heightens everything.

Fortunately, as noted above, there are positives.

In the second half of the season, Lamb has looked a lot like the No. 1 receiver needed by the Dallas Cowboys.

According to Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon, Lamb's fifth 100-yard game in eight weeks against shorthanded Tennessee leaves little question where the playoff-bound Cowboys will turn in the passing game as they try to advance deep in the postseason for the first time in 27 years.

"I've seen a lot of things as far as mentally just throughout a game, just understanding that if I'm going to make a play happen, I'm going to have to make that play," Lamb said. "I know my guys are going to make the play. ... But when it comes to my opportunity, I have to step up."

Lamb tied his career high with 11 catches and had 100 yards against the Titans. The 2020 first-round pick is the third Dallas receiver to reach 100 receptions in a season with 102.

With a career-high 1,307 yards receiving, Lamb is all but certain to finish in the top 10 in the NFL.

And to think in his debut as Dak Prescott's top target, Lamb had just two catches with 11 passes thrown his way in a 19-3 loss to Tampa Bay. It was by far the NFL's biggest discrepancy between targets and receptions in Week 1.

"It's just been an awesome, steady climb," offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. "He's made some big plays and I think he's just become so steady and consistent the back part of the season as we build this thing."

Lamb had Dallas' first 100-yard receiving game of the season with a career-high 150 yards and two touchdowns in the ninth game against Green Bay, a 31-28 loss in overtime.

Starting with that performance, Lamb has averaged 7 1/2 catches and 94 yards with five touchdowns over the past eight games.

Lamb absorbs hard hits on tough catches, and his sense of the surroundings helps with yards after the catch.

On the first of two touchdowns last weekend against Philadelphia, Lamb caught a pass from Prescott in stride around the 5-yard line but knew Eagles safety Reed Blankenship was closing even though Lamb's back was turned to him. Lamb stopped, let Blankenship slide by, and trotted into the end zone.

"CeeDee Lamb has always had such expectations from everyone, the fans, most of all, himself," owner Jerry Jones said on his radio show Friday. "It's great to see that come to fruition. He is an extremely hard worker. He's highly intelligent. And he does have unique after-catch skills."

But again, the rushing attack is a bit of a concern.

Tony Pollard did not play against Tennessee because of a thigh bruise (Pollard practiced fully Wednesday to open this week), but even his presence might not have meant much. The Cowboys had 87 yards on 32 carries. Ezekiel Elliott averaged 1.9 yards per carry (19 carries, 37 yards), but he did have a rushing touchdown in his ninth straight game.

The attempts might mean more than the yards, but this was the third straight game the Cowboys have averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry. Center Tyler Biadasz went down with an ankle injury in the second half, which required three moves on the line with Connor McGovern moving to center, Tyler Smith to left guard and Jason Peters to left tackle.

This week, Dallas' hopes of repeating as NFC East champ rest with Philadelphia.

The Cowboys will win the NFC East if they win their finale and the Eagles lose. Dallas will be the No. 1 seed if they win and both the Eagles and 49ers lose.

One last note here. ... Receiver James Washington has been a disappointment in his first season in Dallas, and now his tenure with the team is over.

Washington is being released Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

A 2018 second-round draft pick of the Steelers, Washington became a free agent in the offseason and signed a one-year contract with the Cowboys. But pretty much nothing has gone right for him since then: He suffered a foot injury in training camp, has appeared in only two games, and has yet to catch a pass.

When the Cowboys signed Hilton last month, that made clear that they were going in another direction at the position. Hilton has already made a much bigger impact in Dallas than Washington has.

Now Washington will go on waivers.

You can access complete stats for the Cowboys Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Tolbert, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

When the Denver Broncos named Jerry Rosburg as their interim coach, he promised he would try to make the most of the final two weeks of one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.

In the end, he didn't get a win Sunday -- the Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) hung on for a 27-24 victory -- but Rosburg kept his word about some things he had promised, even if he had only a few days to do them.

As's Jeff Legwold noted, Rosburg declined to say this past week who would be the offensive playcaller, but Sunday he had quarterback coach Klint Kubiak on the sideline with quarterback Russell Wilson, and offensive coordinator Justin Outten up in the box calling plays.

"I wanted Klint on the sideline with Wilson; that is a relationship, a quarterbacks coach and a quarterback," Rosburg said. "It's different, it's not anything that's bad, it's different, they see the game differently, [so] I wanted Klint with Russell, and I didn't want the plays called from the sideline."

One of the most noticeable differences was the Broncos were far more inclined to use two tight ends and two-back looks instead of the three-wide-receiver sets they had struggled with this season.

The Broncos came into Sunday as the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. But using a different approach, Wilson was far more willing to get the ball in the short and intermediate areas.

Even with rookie tight end Greg Dulcich on injured reserve, three different tight ends and two different running backs caught passes as the Broncos controlled the tempo for much of the day and held on to the ball for 33:06 to keep it out of Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes' hands.

"I thought it was a good way of getting us first downs, to control the ball, control the clock and play with our defense, play with our special teams and give us an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter," Rosburg said.

In the first half, the Broncos used multiple tight ends or multiple running backs on all but five snaps. And on a third-quarter touchdown drive that gave them a 17-13 lead, they didn't use a three-wide-receiver set at all. Albert Okwuegbunam also played in his first game since Week 5 -- Rosburg called him "a big, talented guy who needs to play" -- and after two early drops, Okwuegbunam had three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.

Outten and Kubiak also put Wilson on the move plenty, with rollouts in the passing game to go with a few designed runs.

"It brings a lot to the offense," wide receiver Jerry Jeudy said. " ... When you have a quarterback who can do that like he can, it brings a lot to the offense; [the defense] has to respect that."

Wilson rushed for 27 yards on his four carries, with two of those being touchdown runs.

It was the third time in Wilson's career he's run for a pair of touchdowns. He also did it against Buffalo in 2012 and New Orleans in 2019 while with the Seahawks.

Wilson, after putting the ball in harm's way plenty this season while trying to push the ball downfield, was far more diligent about hitting the open receiver.

The Broncos used running backs Latavius Murray and Chase Edmonds together in the backfield and also lined up in an empty set at least once with two tight ends, two wide receivers and a running back out wide. All told, the Broncos scored 23 points for just the fourth time this season, and their 21 first downs tied their second-highest total in any game this season.

"I know what I'm capable of with my legs, my arm," Wilson said. "I thought Justin Outten did a great job stepping up, called a great game."

Despite not closing the deal in Kansas City, Rosburg promised a Week 18 finale in pursuit of a win over the Los Angeles Chargers that "these guys deserve."

"There's a number of guys in that room that unequivocally bought in and sold out with the vision that I had of how we play," Rosburg said. " ... I made a commitment to the men in that room to be a better coach this week; I've got one week."

The Broncos will try to avoid becoming the first team in franchise history to lose 13 games in a season when they host the playoff-bound Chargers on Sunday. ...

Also of interest. ... Rosburg doesn't want to get fined during his two-game stint as the Broncos' interim coach.

So he declined to criticize the officials for not flagging Chris Jones after he hit Wilson in the head and then body-slammed him on a game-sealing fourth-down sack Sunday.

According to Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton, it was a textbook example of the type of hit on quarterbacks the NFL has tried diligently to get rid of in recent seasons.

"I know how the NFL office works when it comes to coaches criticizing officials," Rosburg said Sunday. "I thought that was a fine crew and there are a lot of good officials. This is a hard game to officiate.

"That does not mean I cannot have my disagreements. Unfortunate, perhaps. That is pretty harmless," Rosburg added. "There was an unfortunate no-call during that game that I disagree with."

And an arguably unnecessary flag that was thrown, too.

An offensive pass interference call on Courtland Sutton as he hauled in a 44-yard catch with the Broncos trying to extend a 17-13 lead ended up changing the tenor of the game.

"Unfortunate," Rosburg said. "The word of the day. Highly unfortunate."

Jeudy wasn't nearly as diplomatic.

"Yeah, that wasn't pass interference," Jeudy said. "They're going to hear from the league on that later on during the week. ... Everybody else knows that wasn't a pass interference call. How do you get called for pass interference with two guys on you?"

Safety Bryan Cook initiated the contact and Sutton was flagged even though it didn't appear he had anything to do with Cook tumbling on the play that would have been a key third-down conversion at the Kansas City 40-yard line.

Instead, the Broncos were backed up to their 8 and facing third-and-19. After gaining 10 yards, they punted and Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to their go-ahead touchdown. Kansas City didn't trail again.

On the injury front. ... Running back Marlon Mack (hamstring) left in the first quarter and LG Dalton Risner (elbow) in the third. CB Damarri Mathis went into the concussion protocol in the second.

Mack and Risner were placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.

Mack had 203 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in six games with the Broncos.

Receiver Kendall Hinton (chest, foot) did not practice Wednesday; I'll follow up on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

You can access complete stats for the Broncos Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Brandon Johnson, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

The Lions have gone from 1-6 to 8-8 this season and they've seen a number of young players make the kinds of contributions that create excitement about the future, but there's still much for the team to play for in the present. Sunday's 41-10 win over the Bears means they head into Week 18 with a chance of making it to the postseason for the first time since 2016.

By the time the Lions and Packers kick off on Sunday night, Detroit may be eliminated from postseason contention.

But head coach Dan Campbell is expecting to have his team ready to play regardless.

Campbell held his Monday press conference before the NFL announced the complete Week 18 schedule, which will feature the Lions and Packers on Sunday Night Football from Lambeau Field. But Campbell still addressed the possibility that his team's last regular-season contest could be game No. 272.

Campbell said he would treat the game as "a win-win either way."

"Either we're playing to get in or we're playing to be spoiler, and that's it," Campbell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "So either way, we win."

Campbell added he felt like the Lions have earned the right to play in primetime.

"I know we'll put up a hell of a fight, one way or another," Campbell said.

If the Seahawks beat the Rams in the 4:25 p.m. ET window, then the Lions won't be able to make the postseason. The Packers, however, would still be in if they win.

But there is a silver lining for Detroit if Seattle defeats Los Angeles.

The Lions have the Rams' first-round pick in 2023 from the Matthew Stafford trade. So that selection would be higher with another Rams loss.

But for now, the objectives are clear: Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn's job is to figure out how to slow Rodgers again after picking off three of his passes in the first meeting at Ford Field.

And the offense needs to keep rolling.

As Associated Press sports writer Larry Lage notes, the Lions are averaging 27 points, ranking among the NFL leaders and set a franchise record with an eighth game with 30-plus points their win over Chicago on Sunday.

Detroit has thrown for 4,000 yards and run for 2,000 for the first time in franchise history.

The Lions ran for 265 yards against the Bears, their highest total on the ground since 1991.

In the first half against the Bears, Jared Goff completed passes to 10 teammates.

"There isn't really like a featured guy," he said. "There isn't really like forcing it to one guy to get him the ball or anything. It's just kind of whoever's open gets the ball."

According to Tim Twentyman of the team's official website, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson deserves a lot of credit for the way Goff and the offense as a whole has performed all season long. The 433 points the Lions have scored so far are the third most in franchise history behind only 2011 (474) and 1995 (436).

Their 52 touchdowns are second most, and 6,137 net yards are the fourth most. Detroit has scored 30-plus points eight times this season, a new franchise record.

Johnson's name will undoubtedly come up in this year's head coaching interview cycle. ...

The Lions rushed for 265 yards and two scores in Sunday's win over Chicago. It's their first time rushing for at least 265 yards since 1991. They haven't done it at home since 1978. Jamaal Williams led the way with a career-high 144 yards. D'Andre Swift chipped in 78 yards on 11 carries and caught four of four targets for 59 yards.

Williams also had his 15th rushing touchdown to put him within one of Barry Sanders' franchise record set in 1991. In the previous four games, the former Packer had run for a total of just 116 yards.

Swift had a rushing and receiving touchdown.

His uneven usage has been a huge issue for fantasy managers this season and big games like this one only make it worse. ...

Second-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown logged four receptions for 62 yards Sunday against the Bears to give him an even 100 receptions on the season for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns.

Detroit isn't getting the ball to rookie receiver Jameson Williams much after patiently waiting for his return from knee surgery. He had a 40-yard reverse against the Bears and a 41-yard touchdown reception in a win over Minnesota last month in what were his only touches in five games.

What has been one of Detroit's bigger offensive surprises?

After the 1-6 start, many questioned the decision to trade Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson. But since he left, the tight end production has increased drastically as Goff has developed connections with Brock Wright -- who scored twice against Chicago -- as well as James Mitchell and Shane Zylstra.

As's Eric Woodyard notes, the Lions have 12 passing touchdowns to tight ends this season, which is their most this century, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. This was also Detroit's eighth 30-point game this season, passing the 2011 season for the most in franchise history, and a big part of that has been the production of the Lions' tight ends.

On the injury front. ... Justin Jackson, who missed last week's game with a hip injury, was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.

You can access complete stats for the Lions Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Marvin Jones, Antoine Green, Jameson Williams
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As's Rob Demovsky framed it: "To think, Aaron Rodgers at one point this season had to entertain the idea that backup quarterback Jordan Love might finish out the season if the Green Bay Packers were just playing out the string.

"And that was barely more than a month ago. ..."

Demovsky went on to remind readers the Packers had just fallen to 4-8 after a loss at the Philadelphia Eagles, and Rodgers left the game because of a rib injury. They were on the verge of playoff elimination.

No wonder Rodgers needed a second -- seven of them, actually -- to gather himself before he could explain how it all felt to be facing a win-and-get-in scenario next weekend.

Green Bay will host the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in their regular-season finale Sunday.

"It feels really special, it does," Rodgers said. "It's been an interesting year. It hasn't been my best football at times, but I've been asked to step up my leadership and be someone the guys can count on to keep it together, even when it doesn't seem like there's anything to play for or we don't have a chance to make a run. There's been a lot of special moments throughout the year."

The 41-17 home win Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings was one of them. It came 16 weeks after the Vikings blew out the Packers at Minnesota in the season opener.

It wasn't a spectacular performance by Rodgers. In fact, there haven't been many of them. He completed just 15 of 24 passes for 159 yards. He threw for one touchdown and ran for another. He has had exactly one touchdown pass in each of the Packers' four games in this winning streak. It's the first time in Rodgers' career that the Packers have won four straight with him throwing for one or fewer touchdowns in each.

At no point this season did Rodgers issue one of his signature proclamations such as "R-E-L-A-X" or say that he thought the Packers could "run the table" like he did in 2016, when they were 4-6 and won out to get all the way to the NFC Championship Game.

"It didn't look great for a while," Rodgers said. "And I was resigned to some of those realities being possible. And when I took my mind there, I had a peace about it. I had a peace about all of it. Whatever was supposed to happen, I was surrendered to that reality -- with also the resolute mindset that we could still get back in this thing. And I think that's what I'm most proud of, for myself and our team, is that there were a lot of different things that could happen, and we stuck together and we put ourselves in position to do something special."

Rodgers said something Sunday that he wouldn't admit when the Packers were 3-6, had lost five straight following the Nov. 6 game at Detroit and were looking at a stretch of matchups that went Dallas-Tennessee-Philadelphia. But now he can say that he told himself if they could just win one of those three games, they would have a chance to go 9-8 and sneak into the playoffs.

Sure enough, they beat the Cowboys to end the losing streak but then followed with losses to the Titans and Eagles.

"I had faith, much like at 4-6 I think in '16," Rodgers said. "Sometimes you've got to fool yourself a little bit into believing a little bit more."

A good portion of the rest of the squad followed.

A defense that was highly touted but fell flat for most of the season has turned things around to the tune of four takeaways in each of the past two games to go along with cornerback Jaire Alexander's near-shutdown performance of Vikings' star receiver Justin Jefferson (one catch for 15 yards).

And then there's the emergence of returner Keisean Nixon, who had a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter Sunday.

"You can sit there and preach whatever you want, but they've got to buy into it and that's a credit to the guys in our locker room," head coach Matt LaFleur said. "And I've always said it and I think [general manager Brian Gutekunst] and his staff do such a great job of bringing in high character people that in times of adversity you find out what you really have, not only from our coaches, our players, but really everybody in the building.

"And I think everybody stuck together. I never felt at one point that there was any finger-pointing. So that is a credit to everybody in our organization."

Meanwhile, the Packers got all the help they needed Sunday so that all they have to do is win their regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions to make the playoffs. On Monday, they might have gotten one more assist from the NFL.

The league announced that the Packers-Lions game at Lambeau Field will be the final game of the regular season on Sunday night at 8:20 ET.

Both the Packers and Lions are 8-8, but Green Bay needs no other help to clinch the NFL's final wild-card spot if it wins. However, Detroit needs the Seattle Seahawks (8-8) to lose to the Los Angeles Rams (5-11). Because that game will be played at 4:25 p.m. ET and will be over before the Packers-Lions kickoff, a Seahawks win would eliminate the Lions, who would then have nothing to play for against the Packers, who would knock out the Seahawks if they beat the Lions.

The league announced the final schedule just as LaFleur began his regularly scheduled Monday news conference.

"It really doesn't matter," LaFleur said when asked about playing in prime time. "But I do think the environment in Lambeau Field at nighttime is unlike any other place. So hopefully our fans show up and show out for us and support us. And don't sell your tickets to the Lions fans, please. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee noted, Christian Watson couldn't keep up that torrid midseason pace forever. After scoring eight touchdowns (seven receiving, one rushing) in a four-game stretch that ended Dec. 4 at Chicago, the rookie second-round pick has 11 catches for 106 yards and no touchdowns over his past three games. He had one reception for 11 yards Sunday while playing through a hip injury.

Watson was limited in Wednesday's practice due to that same issue.

Running back Aaron Jones has been playing through ankle and knee injuries, but still rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries.

With that total, Jones eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the third time in his career. He needs 32 rushing yards in the regular-season finale against Detroit to establish a new single-season career high.

"It means a lot. I feel like that's a milestone for a lot of backs," Jones said. "It's definitely a blessing but I want to thank the guys up front, the blocking unit and the coaching staff for trusting me and continue to feed me. One thousand yards is not easy. It's good to accomplish. I'm going to be smiling a little tonight. ..."

K Mason Crosby made a 56-yard field goal -- the longest ever by a Packer at Lambeau Field -- while playing his 257th consecutive game to overtake London Fletcher for the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. The only players with longer streaks of consecutive games played are Jeff Feagles (352), Brett Favre (299) and Jim Marshall (282).

K Ramiz Ahmed was activated from the practice squad to handle kickoffs Sunday, but suffered a groin injury in pregame warmups.

Safety Darnell Savage, who was benched earlier in the season, regained a featured role on defense last week and scored on a 75-yard interception return Sunday as he returned to the starting lineup. Nixon and Savage made the Packers the first team ever to score on a kickoff return of at least 105 yards and an interception return of at least 75 yards in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The previous team to score on a kickoff return of at least 100 yards and an interception return of at least 75 yards was Minnesota in 2016.

Finally. ... Has defensive coordinator Joe Barry saved his job?

Assuming Barry's job was in jeopardy a month ago, LaFleur might have to rethink that now.

On Sunday, Barry made his smartest move of the season when he let cornerback Alexander line up across from Jefferson on 20 of his 31 routes. Jefferson, who torched the Packers' soft coverage in the season opener for 184 yards and two touchdowns, had zero receptions and two targets when Alexander was the nearest defender Sunday. He finished with only one catch for 15 yards.

You can access complete stats for the Packers Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Emanuel Wilson
WRs: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Samori Toure, Dontayvion Wicks, Grant DuBose, Malik Heath
TEs: Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis, Ben Sims

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

Houston had one of their worst performances of the season a week after ending a nine-game skid. The Texans (2-13-1) were routed 31-3 by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, leaving them without a home win for the first time in franchise history.

As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken noted, Houston looked to have made progress in recent weeks, losing close games to Dallas and Kansas City before beating the Titans 19-14 last weekend.

But this weekend, Houston was thoroughly dominated by the Jaguars to snap a nine-game winning streak in the series.

"Our play, this was not good enough in any phase," coach Lovie Smith said. "And all that, of course, starts with me as the head football coach. We have to do a better job. We have one more chance to get this bad taste out of our mouths."

Quarterback Davis Mills lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and the Texans gave up a 62-yard TD to Travis Etienne Jr. en route to a 21-0 hole by halftime.

Smith was asked about the missed tackles that led to Etienne's big run.

"I would say mental mistakes. ... We've got to eliminate that," Smith said. "You talk about run defense, that's what run defense is about. Great running backs get to the second level. You've got to be able to get them down from there."

Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence played only the first drive of the second half and Etienne didn't carry the ball after halftime, but the Texans still couldn't get anything going. They failed to score a touchdown for the first time since a 16-9 loss to Denver in Week 2.

Smith lamented his team's inability to get in the end zone against the Jaguars after averaging 22 points in the last three games.

"There's a body of work now that we have to go with, and the body of work hasn't been good enough," he said. "It's as simple as that."

Of all the things the Texans did poorly Sunday, perhaps the worst thing was their inability to move the ball in key situations. The Texans were stopped on fourth-and-1 from their 45 on the first possession to set the tone for the day.

They went for it again on fourth down from the 10 in the second quarter, but a pass by Mills sailed out of bounds to leave Houston scoreless.

Sunday was just the second time this season when they haven't scored a touchdown.

The mistakes by Mills continue to cement that he is not Houston's long-term answer at quarterback. He appeared to have improved in the last couple of weeks but took a step back Sunday in failing to effectively move the offense.

His 13 interceptions this season are tied for second-most in the league and have come in just 14 games after he was benched for two.

He discussed the difficulties of this season.

"It's tough," he said. "You make it so far. You make it to the NFL, and you expect that you're going to have a chance to win every game. And it's just been a struggle."

The Texans wrap up this dreadful season Sunday at Indianapolis, where a loss will guarantee them the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.

But Smith is counting on his team to bounce back this week to finish the season on a positive note.

"We've gone through some tough times," he said. "If I'm a betting man, I'll say the guys are going to really show up and play well against the Colts. ..."

Was Sunday's loss Lovie Smith's last home game as coach?

According to's DJ Bien-Aime's sources, Smith's standing with the Texans to be retained as coach has been shaky. The team did him no favors with their horrible showing against Jacksonville. ...

On the injury front. ... OL Jimmy Morrissey (concussion) and TE Teagan Quitoriano (thigh) could return this weekend after missing the Jacksonville game.

You can access complete stats for the Texans Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, Case Keenum
RBs: Dameon Pierce, Devin Singletary, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Tank Dell, Xavier Hutchinson, Noah Brown
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Teagan Quitoriano, Brevin Jordan

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

The Indianapolis Colts' offense has sputtered all season. Now their defense has hit the skids, too.

As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot notes, despite losing three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard for all but 10 quarters because of injuries, the Colts' defense was the team's strength for much of the year. But additional absences to key playmakers coupled with the continual offensive woes have finally taken their toll.

"Losing sucks. I am not a fan of where we are," interim coach Jeff Saturday said Monday after losing his sixth straight game. "We have not done as well as I had hoped. I knew it was going to be hard. But the frustration doesn't change. These guys fight, and the results are not good."

Not even close.

The Colts (4-11-1) have lost their last three to teams clinching playoff berths with those wins. And, as Marot suggested, the last four losses have come in embarrassing fashion -- allowing 33 fourth-quarter points at Dallas, watching Minnesota rally from a 33-point halftime deficit to complete the largest comeback in NFL history, an inept prime-time loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and now a 38-10 loss to the New York Giants, which included Giants rookie linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux celebrating just a few feet away from Nick Foles as the injured quarterback writhed in pain.

The rib injury will keep Foles out of next weekend's season finale against Houston (2-13-1).

"Tasteless from the celebration afterward," Saturday said, acknowledging he would talk to his players about reacting differently if it happened again. "Just trash, not a fan of it all. Disappointed from the O-line perspective and from teammates in general. We protect our own."

Saturday said on Tuesday that Sam Ehlinger will start for the Colts on Sunday against the Texans and Matt Ryan will be active as his backup.

Plenty more has gone wrong for the Colts over the last few weeks.

Indy's offense has scored only two TDs since entering the fourth quarter at Dallas trailing 21-19 on Dec. 4. Opposing defenses, meanwhile, have matched that total during that same span. The Cowboys scored on a fumble return and the Giants scored on an interception return.

While Indy has scored 49 points in the last 13 quarters, opponents have scored 130 points during those same 13 quarters albeit partly thanks to turnovers and the defense spending too much time on the field.

But it hasn't all been horrible.

Running back Zack Moss, acquired at the trade deadline, has emerged as a consistent producer. Since replacing 2021 NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor (ankle), Moss has logged 51 carries for 220 yards and looks like he'll a strong complement to Taylor next fall.

He'll certainly be in a good spot this weekend.

The Texans, who rank last in the league in run defense, allowed 169 yards rushing to the Jaguars this past Sunday for their 10th game this season in which they gave up more than 150 yards rushing.

Beyond that, there's not much left for the Colts.

Their season fell apart with nine losses in 10 games, multiple quarterback changes, a coaching change and a change in play-callers. Indy has positioned itself for a top-five draft pick, possibly allowing the Colts to find a franchise quarterback. Saturday would like nothing more than to end this skid so he can make a stronger case to keep the coaching job next season.

"It frustrates the daylights out of me, the record is what it is," Saturday said. "We've played some close games but your record is what it is, right?"

You can access complete stats for the Colts Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Anthony Richardson, Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Zack Moss, Deon Jackson, Jonathan Taylor, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Josh Downs, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Long, Doug Pederson's message to his team following a fourth consecutive victory was simple: Keep being you.

The Jaguars have figured out who they are and how to win -- key steps for one of the NFL's youngest teams. The past month has been perhaps the most impressive stretch in franchise history, complete with a resounding victory at Tennessee, an overtime stunner against Dallas and then back-to-back road wins as favorites.

The streak has the Jaguars (8-8) in position for a winner-takes-the AFC South regular-season finale against the skidding Titans (7-9) on Saturday night. A primetime matchup at home against the two-time defending division champs?

It's the ideal setup for Jacksonville's potential -- maybe pending -- coronation.

The Jaguars are 6½-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and no one would be surprised to see the line increase. The Titans have lost six in a row and could be starting third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs against a team poised to end years of futility.

"It's time, it's time, it's time," Pederson emphasized to his team after a 31-3 romp at Houston that ended a nine-game skid in the series.
"This is what you play for. This is what you coach for. This is what you want for your football team," Pederson told reporters later. "You want to be in the conversation, and you want to be playing for, for us, the AFC South.

"Listen, we haven't done anything yet. They're still the champs until something happens. I felt like and really feel like our guys are in a good place. They're in a good place mentally, physically. I don't really have to worry too much about them getting excited for this one."

Although the pressure will be on the Jaguars, they insist it's been that way since a five-game losing streak in October dropped them to 2-6. If they beat Tennessee, they would be the fifth team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a five-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak in the same season.

"We've been expecting this, and we're ready for it," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "You can't freak out and make it bigger than it is. You have to stick to what you know and your process."

It certainly didn't look like the Jaguars would even be in this position after losing five games in a row in October to drop to 2-6.

Since then, though, the Jaguars have gone 6-2 with come-from-behind victories over the Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys. They've also soundly beaten the faltering New York Jets 19-3 and Texans 31-3 the last two weeks -- the first time they've had back-to-back games in which they didn't give up a touchdown since 2001 -- and can win the AFC South for just the second time in franchise history.

As's Michael DiRocco notes, a victory over the Titans would also give the Jaguars a five-game winning streak and make them just the fifth team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing and winning streak of five or more games, per ESPN Stats and Information.

A win would also give them a chance to break yet another streak this season: sweeping the Titans for the first time in 17 years. They've already snapped seven substantial losing streaks in 2022 -- including an eight-game road losing streak in Nashville -- but this one, with the playoffs on the line, would be the most significant.

"You look at the situation we put ourselves in," Lawrence said. 'Today was four in a row. If we didn't win these games, we wouldn't be in a position to do this next week. So for us that pressure or whatever you want to call it, it's been there and we've responded great to it.

"We talked a lot about this season's going to come down to Week 18. We knew we had to take care of business these prior weeks, but we had a feeling we're going to put ourselves in position to where Week 18 was going decide our playoff berth and where we, where we head after that. And so we've been expecting this and we're ready for it."

Adding to the positive vibes, Jacksonville's defense has been at its best the past two weeks. After allowing 227 yards and a field goal to the New York Jets, the Jaguars gave up 277 yards and a field goal to the Texans and stopped Houston four times on fourth down.

They also finished with a combined three takeaways in those games and allowed just 150 yards rushing.

Long added that Ball security remains a concern. Thanks to his eighth interception of the season, Lawrence has four turnovers in Jacksonville's past three games. The Jags are 3-1 this season when not committing a turnover, with the lone loss coming at Kansas City, so they know the importance of protecting the ball.

One other issue: Pederson and the Jaguars had hoped to avoid a short week for the finale, especially after a road game and with Tennessee coming off extra rest following a Thursday night game.

One less day means tweaking the schedule and cramming some things together, but it should help that they played the Titans a month ago.

On the injury front. ... Pederson pulled many starters in the second half at Houston and reported no injuries. LB Travon Walker (ankle) and DT Foley Fatukasi (ankle) returned after missing last week's game.

Lawrence, as he has been for the last month now, was limited in Wednesday's practice due to an ongoing toe injury; expect him to start and play as usual (though I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update). ...

You can access complete stats for the Jaguars Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, JaMycal Hasty, D'Ernest Johnson, Snoop Conner
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Jamal Agnew, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Kendric Pryor
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta reported, the Kansas City Chiefs keep winning and Patrick Mahomes keeps making history.

Both are doing so despite some difficult offseason decisions that have prolonged their ability to do so.

The biggest, of course, was the decision to trade Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins, rather than lavish on the game-breaking wide receiver a massive contract that would have made it difficult to maneuver financially for years to come.

The Chiefs not only gained salary cap flexibility with the move, but also five draft picks that helped to fortify other areas of the roster.

That includes the defense, which is vastly improved and has helped the Chiefs squeak out wins -- such as their 27-24 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday -- even when their high-octane offense starts to sputter.

"When you win and you don't play your best ball -- you don't feel like you play your best ball -- that's always a good thing," Mahomes said afterward. "Fourth quarter, we played well. But at the end of the day we have to find a way that for four quarters we play our best football whenever we get to the playoffs, and I feel like we still haven't done that yet."

Yet they've played well enough to start the season 13-3, clinch the AFC West with plenty of time to spare, and head into their regular-season finale Saturday in Las Vegas knowing a win could give them the No. 1 seed and a postseason bye.

Not many thought the Chiefs would be in that situation when they traded Hill in the offseason.

Nor did many people think Mahomes would put up MVP-caliber numbers again.

He's thrown for 5,048 yards to join Drew Brees and Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks with multiple seasons of at least 5,000 yards. He has 40 touchdown tosses, joining Brees as the only QBs with two seasons of 5,000 yards and 40 TD passes. And he needs 186 yards running and passing to surpass Brees for the most combined in an NFL season.

"He ended up 28 for 41, still over 100.0 passer rating and 322 yards," head coach Andy Reid said after the win over the Broncos. "There were some plays that he definitely would like to have back, but that's how picky we are, right? You start nitpicking these things, as he does. But that's what great players do."

While Mahomes has been remarkable as always, it's fair to wonder where the Chiefs would be without Jerick McKinnon.

As's Adam Teicher suggested, in a lesser place offensively, to be sure.

The veteran running back was signed shortly before training camp started but is hardly a role player. He has become an essential part of their passing offense.

As fantasy managers rostering him will tell you, McKinnon has been incredibly productive in recent weeks, tallying eight total touchdowns in his last five games. In fact, McKinnon is the first running back since 1966 to record at least one touchdown reception in five-straight games.

With two more against the Broncos, McKinnon has seven receiving scores in that span and eight on the season, which leads all running backs and ranks seventh among all players. Only Davante Adams (14), Travis Kelce (12), A.J. Brown (11), Stefon Diggs (10), Amari Cooper (9) and George Kittle (9) have more touchdown catches than McKinnon this year.

He leads all players in receiving scores (7) since Week 13.

Yes, there are other weapons to be sure.

For example, tight end Travis Kelce recorded his 100th catch of the season.

Kelce now has 104 receptions this season, and with two grabs this weekend, he'll record a new career-best. The future Pro Football Hall of Famer now has 100-plus receptions and 1,300-plus receiving yards for the third time in his career, joining just 10 other players in league history to hit those marks in three or more seasons.

Only Marvin Harrison, Andre Johnson and Antonio Brown (who each did so four times) have more such seasons than Kelce.

Additionally, Kelce is the only player in franchise history to tally multiple seasons with 100-plus receptions. He's also the only tight end in NFL history to do so, and with 808 career catches now to his name, Kelce owns the league record for receptions by a tight end through 10 career seasons. That feat is impressive enough on its own, but keep in mind that Kelce played in just one game during his rookie campaign.

Also worth noting. ... Isiah Pacheco was back in the end zone.

Pacheco tallied his fourth touchdown of the season on Sunday with a 5-yard rushing score early in the game. He now ranks third among all first-year players in rushing scores and sixth in rushing yards (766). The term "first-year" is used in this case rather than "rookie" because the leader in first-year player rushing yards -- Jaguars' tailback Travis Etienne Jr. -- was drafted last year but didn't appear in any games.

The 22-year-old Pacheco also ranks seventh among all first-year players in scrimmage yards (896) this season. For further context, four of the players ahead of him on that list were first-round picks, and none were selected later than the sixth round. Pacheco, of course, was a seventh-round selection.

In addition, tight end Blake Bell tallied his first-career regular-season touchdown.

Bell hauled in the first regular-season touchdown of his career on Sunday, catching a 17-yard score early in the fourth quarter. It was his second-career score including the playoffs, as he also hauled in a touchdown during the Chiefs' victory over the Houston Texans during the 2019-20 postseason.

The score was a great sign for Bell, who was appearing in just his second game this season after missing significant time due to a hip injury suffered in August.

In addition, the team will get at least one more skill players off injured reserve this week. Mecole Hardman was activated from injured reserve on Wednesday.

It appeared Hardman's chances of returning took a hit when he suffered a setback in practice last week, but with his 21-day practice window expiring this week, he'll at least have a shot.

Regarding running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, while he is eligible to return from injured reserve, Reid confirmed last week that he's not ready to come back yet.

"He's not ready yet," Reid said of Edwards-Helaire. "He's close, but he's not ready. High ankle sprains, those are tough to deal with on a running back, so he's working through everything. He's busting his tail."

As for whether Edwards-Helaire could return for the playoffs, Reid didn't rule out the possibility.

"There's a chance," Reid said. "There's a chance that happens. Time will tell. We'll see how things go here."

Also. ... Skyy Moore (hand) did not practicing Tuesday; I'll have more on the rookie and Hardman via Late-Breaking Update as the weekend draws nearer. ...

In case you missed it, the Raiders-Chiefs game was one of two that the NFL moved to Saturday. That means Buffalo, which also is in the running for the No. 1 seed, will know its situation before taking the field against New England on Sunday.

You can access complete stats for the Chiefs Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Rashee Rice, Justyn Ross, Justin Watson, Richie James
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson noted, first-time starting quarterbacks often have big games, but as opposing defensive coordinators acquire more video, the QBs' weaknesses tend to be exposed.

That is Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jarrett Stidham's next challenge.

After passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns in his starting debut, Sunday's 37-34 overtime loss to San Francisco 49ers, Stidham will face a Kansas City Chiefs team Saturday that has video the 49ers' staff didn't have the luxury of studying.

Head coach Josh McDaniels acknowledged Monday that Stidham might have to make some adjustments, but said the 49ers threw pretty much everything they had at him.

"They blitzed him yesterday, they disguised yesterday, and then didn't blitz, they showed blitz and dropped it," McDaniels said. "They did all that stuff yesterday. So he saw a lot of different things yesterday and I think did a decent job of handling most of them the right way. But yeah, the more film you have, the more chances the defense and defensive coordinators and the defensive staff has to try to disrupt you."

Stidham threw two interceptions, but they weren't completely his fault. The first came off a batted pass at the line of scrimmage, and the second happened when 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa bull-rushed left tackle Kolton Miller into Stidham as he was delivering the ball.

Stidham received his first career start after nine-year veteran Derek Carr was benched last week. As the Raiders move on from Carr, Stidham gave the Las Vegas brass something to think about regarding his future at that position.

As's Paul Gutierrez noted, Stidham knows McDaniels' offensive system better than Carr did. Maybe he should. After all, it's the only system Stidham has known since being drafted by New England, where McDaniels was the offensive coordinator, in 2019.

Whatever the case, Stidham can help his bargaining power with another strong performance against the Chiefs, be it with the Raiders or another team on the open market. He is in the final season of a four-year deal.

McDaniels said Stidham became a locker room favorite quickly after being traded from New England in May.

"You're trying to compete to win a job and to play and all that, but you're willing to take time to help others," McDaniels said. "I think everybody has seen him do that from the minute he got here. He's a really good person, works hard, and has been very patient, too. Obviously, he sat and watched a lot a lot of football in the few years that he's been in the NFL. I think there are a lot of people yesterday that were happy that he had an opportunity and then made the most of his opportunity."

So the Stidham and the Raiders finish their season Saturday at home against the Chiefs, who are playing for the AFC's top seed, with the hope the young quarterback continues to demonstrate his greatest strength:

Realizing that if you get the ball to wide receiver Davante Adams and good things tend to happen.

Adams made two of the day's best catches, one in the end zone in which he barely kept both feet inbounds and a 45-yarder he snagged before hitting the ground that set up a TD. Adams also got behind the Niners defense for a 60-yard TD, finishing the day with seven receptions for 153 yards. He passed Tim Brown for the Raiders' single-season record with 1,443 receiving yards. ...

Stidham became the third quarterback to complete at least five passes for 20-plus yards in the six seasons Kyle Shanahan has been San Francisco's coach. The others were Buffalo's Josh Allen and Miami's Ryan Fitzpatrick, both in 2020. ...

Meanwhile, count 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa among those impressed by what they've seen from Raiders running back Josh Jacobs this season.

Jacobs has had bigger numbers than he posted against the 49ers on Sunday, but his 17 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 26 yards made quite an impression on the favorite to be named defensive player of the year at the end of the season. Bosa called Jacobs the best back he's faced when he spoke to reporters after the 37-34 overtime win.

"A lot to get better on, but I think we needed this as a defense," Bosa said, via Tristi Rodriguez of NBCSportsBayArea. "That's a really good team. Best running back I've played against in my career, no doubt about it. That dude's a beast. And they have a lot of really talented players. ... The NFL will humble you 100 percent of the time."

Jacobs is 160 rushing yards ahead of Nick Chubb heading into the final week of the season, so he will likely be the NFL's rushing champ in his fourth pro season. He may also be hitting the open market as the Raiders didn't pick up their option on his contract for 2023 and he'd be hitting that market with a lot of momentum based on his production over the last 16 games.

By the way, Jacobs (oblique) was injured on the first drive against the 49ers and went to the locker room, but returned to finish the game.

"There was a couple times he came out yesterday I thought they were going to tell me, 'See you on Monday,'" McDaniels said. "And the son of a gun keeps going back in the game. So I don't put anything past JJ."

Adams (illness), Stidham (right elbow) and Jacobs were all listed as limited on Tuesday; I'll have more on all three via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

You can access complete stats for the Raiders Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer, Aidan O'Connell
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Tre Tucker, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Austin Hooper, Michael Mayer, Jesper Horsted

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

According to's Lindsey Thiry, a postseason berth in hand for the first time in four seasons and coming off a 31-10 blowout victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Rams, the Los Angeles Chargers will go into their regular-season finale against the Denver Broncos with the intent to clinch the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs.

"Our approach is definitely going to be to try to win this ball game and play as well as we can play heading into the playoffs," head coach Brandon Staley said Monday. "I think that there's certainly an advantage to being the 5-seed, from where I stand."

The Chargers have won four straight games to improve to 10-6. They clinched a playoff spot in Week 16, then moved into the No. 5 seed on Sunday after defeating the Rams and watching the Baltimore Ravens fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Staley left open the possibility that some players might not be available on a case-by-case basis because of injuries but expressed no intent to rest players Sunday.

"Going into the playoffs, you've got to be playing football to get to where you want to go," Staley said. "So we're going to try and maximize our group heading into the playoffs, that's for sure."

Coming off his first game since undergoing groin surgery following Week 3, edge rusher Joey Bosa came out of Sunday feeling healthy and OK, according to Staley. Bosa played 29 snaps (49 percent) and recorded two tackles.

Safety Derwin James Jr. was inactive Sunday as he continued through concussion protocol,

"He's working through the protocol," Staley said. "You'll be able to know his practice status on Wednesday."

James practiced twice last week in a limited capacity, according to the Chargers' participation report, before he was ruled out of the matchup versus the Rams.

As the Bolts ready for the playoffs, they appear to be peaking at the perfect time on offense, defense and special teams.

Quarterback Justin Herbert broke a two-game streak of no passing touchdowns (the first such streak of his career) against the Rams, as he completed 21 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Austin Ekeler rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-long 72-yard score, and the Bolts' 192 rushing yards were their most since posting 238 in a Week 5 30-28 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy pointed out, those 192 yards means the Chargers have had over 100 yards on the ground in consecutive games for the first time this season. Again the Rams, the run game averaged 6.4 yards per carry, their second-highest average in a game this season.

"I do think that it was the hardest we have played, yesterday on offense," Staley said. "We finished our plays, run and pass, but particularly in the run game. I thought that our tight ends had, probably, their best game blocking. I think our receivers, probably, had their best game blocking."

Wide receiver Mike Williams provided one of the highlight reel plays of the 2022 season during Sunday's win.

Williams leaped while reaching back with his right hand to snag a pass from Herbert while rotating toward the sideline and then got both feet down before going out of bounds. It was an 18-yard gain, but it garnered a big reaction from Herbert.

"I don't know how anyone else does anything with that," Herbert said, via Jim Alexander of the Los Angeles Daily News. "He's about as special as it gets."

As's Josh Alper reminded readers, Williams has missed four games this season and Keenan Allen has missed seven, but they combined for 12 catches and 154 yards in Sunday's win.

Herbert likes having both players healthy at the same time.

"I think it's huge knowing that you got those guys out there," Herbert said. "They're two of the best receivers in the game and to have those guys out there on the field, it opens up so much more for our offense. And we know that, hey, on third down, we've got to find those guys. They're gonna beat man coverage, they're going to understand where to sit in zone coverage. And they're really smart, they're athletic, talented. Having those guys on the field really helps us."

The Chargers have won four straight games and having both wideouts available certainly improves their odds going forward. ...

Ekeler, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, leads the NFL with 18 touchdowns (13 rushing, five receiving) this season. This is the first Offensive Player of the Week award for Ekeler and he becomes the first Chargers running back to earn the honor since Melvin Gordon (Week 5, 2017). ...

On defense, the Chargers overcame a largely uneven season through Week 13, when they ranked among the NFL's worst defenses, to catapult to the top of the standings. After allowing an average of 25.8 points per game through Week 13 (ranked 30th), the Bolts have held opponents to an average of 11 points per game during their current four-game win streak, which ranks atop the NFL.

Still, the Chargers have allowed nine 100-yard rushers this season, which is a franchise record. They are giving up 5.4 yards per carry, the worst average by a team since the merger.

One last note here. ... The Chargers have lost in seven of their last eight trips to Denver. The only victory in that span was in 2018.

You can access complete stats for the Chargers Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Quentin Johnston, Josh Palmer, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Tre' McKitty, Stone Smartt

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

Although Sean McVay is not often at a loss for words, the Los Angeles Rams boss can be momentarily silenced by contemplation when asked to identify the biggest lessons from the toughest year of his head coaching career.

"I think what I used to refer to as adversity is a very different thing now," McVay said Monday.

The Rams (5-11) have one week left in the worst Super Bowl title defense in NFL history. They've lost eight of 10 as they head to Seattle on Sunday to wrap up McVay's first losing season in six years as a head coach.

As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham, McVay hasn't definitively said what his future holds, but he's speaking about 2023 as a chance to rebound and build on the experience of being battered by the rest of the league for fourth months. He hasn't been through a losing season since 2014, when Washington went 4-12 in his first season as a 28-year-old offensive coordinator.

"You're always trying to grow, and there's certainly lessons I'll take moving forward from every day of this year," McVay said. "You have to be able to adjust and adapt. It's never been something that's quite so drastic from a week-to-week perspective, but over the past few weeks, there's been some good things if you want to pull out regarding positivity."

McVay's players say the coach has remained positive and kept control of the locker room throughout their struggles. He doesn't hesitate to identify the positive angles on this overwhelmingly negative season.

For instance, Cam Akers is all the way off the trade block and into possible offseason discussions of a contract extension after his impressive second half, including 306 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams' last three games.

Akers had his second straight 100-yard game with 19 carries for 123 yards against the Chargers.

His revival remains remarkable not only for his production, but for his improved style of running. The third-year pro is breaking tackles and making people miss in a way he simply hadn't done since the second half of his rookie year. Akers' 42-yard run in the first quarter is the Rams' longest rush of the season.

He looks transformed, and the Rams are running the ball well despite their patchwork offensive line.

"I just think it's the way he's creating when there isn't anything there," McVay said of Akers after the game. "The explosiveness. I think you're seeing a complete back. He's making plays in the pass game. There'll be some things we can continue to clean up because of the standards that we have for him, whether that be playing without the ball, but I think Cam deserves a ton of credit for the way he's hitting his stride right now the way he's playing and hopefully we finish off the regular season the right way and he can use this to be able to build some momentum into the offseason because I've been really pleased with Cam."

Akers is playing with a lot more confidence now and the way he's finishing runs is impressive, showing the ability to break tackles and make defenders miss.

"When his shoulders are square to the line of scrimmage, he's a pretty special back," McVay added. "Confidence is a really powerful thing. He's playing with a lot of confidence. He's getting more opportunities."

Akers is dragging more than a few fantasy managers over the finish line with his production over the last month.

Van Jefferson finally looks like the playmaker who started all 21 games for the Rams last season after making three catches for a season-high 77 yards against the Chargers. Unless he signs an offseason extension, Jefferson will head into his contract year this summer with ample motivation to cement a top-three role.

Baker Mayfield made several solid throws and ran the offense well, but didn't have any flashy accomplishments in a 132-yard, no-TD performance.

On the bright side, if the Rams are hoping to have any chance to retain Mayfield next year as a backup, a quiet game down the stretch only helps their cause.

Meanwhile, the Rams have no reason to tank since they don't own their first-round pick in April, so they'll try mightily to play spoiler on the Seahawks' postseason hopes. If they fall short, they'll match the 2016 team for the most losses since returning home to Los Angeles.

You can access complete stats for the Rams Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Matthew Stafford, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Van Jefferson, Demarcus Robinson, Ben Skowronek, Cooper Kupp
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Long, Davis Allen

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

The Dolphins quarterback situation as it relates to who's starting in Week 18 remains up in the air, head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters on Monday.

McDaniel said he's preparing for rookie third-stringer Skylar Thompson or veteran backup Teddy Bridgewater to start Sunday against the New York Jets as Tua Tagovailoa remains in the league's concussion protocol.

The Dolphins need to beat the Jets and have the New England Patriots lose to the Bills to earn a playoff berth for the first time since the 2016 season.

Bridgewater suffered a dislocated pinkie finger during Sunday's Week 17 loss to the Patriots, but McDaniel said it's too early to know about his availability and that more clarity on the situation would likely come Wednesday. Thompson also dealt with a bloodied fingernail against the Pats.

With Bridgewater in the game on Sunday, the Dolphins built a 14-7 lead, but without him, the offense scuttled and the Patriots prevailed. Per McDaniel, the veteran signal-caller was pining to return to the game, but it would have been a precarious situation for Bridgewater.

For now, the Dolphins are preparing for the possibility that they will be without both Tagovailoa and Bridgewater when they face the Jets.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Dolphins will sign veteran Mike Glennon to their practice squad. The move would give them a backup to Thompson if the rookie winds up starting the regular season finale. ...

Meanwhile, McDaniel reiterated Monday that there is no timeline for Tagovailoa to return.

Tagovailoa was placed into protocol last week after sustaining his second documented concussion of the season in the Dolphins' loss to the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 25.

"I haven't even thought about [Tagovailoa's] playing status. It's about him getting healthy each and every day," McDaniel said. "And so I can't really even factor him into any sort of equation until we're ready to broach that. It's just really a situation of, at this point in the week -- Monday and Tuesday game prep -- I'll be preparing for both Skylar and Teddy, and then proceed as the week progresses."

As's Marcel Louis-Jacques reminded readers, McDaniel said last week that medical professionals advised him "it's critical that Tua worries only about the day that he's currently in and nothing else," and that he has adhered to that advice.

He told reporters Monday that not only is there no established timeline for Tagovailoa's return, but he hasn't even begun to discuss one with the third-year quarterback.

"Specifically as mandated, I haven't had a discussion with Tua about when he's playing," he said. "Because again, the picture was painted very ... from his head coach to the player, no timeline has been discussed with intent.

"It is a day-to-day process really that, that is most important that we adhere to. And that's just getting him better each and every day and getting him healthy as a person. So I don't really have a timeline, unfortunately."

McDaniel added that Tagovailoa told him he feels "good" when they spoke and that he has felt "compelled" to remind Tagovailoa that football is not the most prevalent concern at hand when they speak. ...

Beyond all that, as Associated Press sports writer Alanis Thames noted, they might not have their starting quarterback. They might not have their backup quarterback. They've lost five consecutive games and haven't beaten a team that currently has a winning record since September.

Somehow, the Miami Dolphins still have life.

No team in NFL history has had losing streaks of both three and five games in the same season and made the playoffs. But the Dolphins -- with a win over the New York Jets on Sunday and some help from the Buffalo Bills -- can do exactly that.

Otherwise, an offseason of great fanfare, followed by an 8-3 start to this season and sitting atop the AFC East in late November will be all for naught.

The only way Miami gets into the playoffs is by beating the Jets and if Buffalo beats New England. Otherwise, the Dolphins will either finish 9-8 and not make the playoffs -- just like last year -- or even worse, finish 8-9 and not make the playoffs.

"We still have games to play," McDaniel said, perhaps trying to talk the reference to multiple games into existence. "We have one in particular against the New York Jets that we have to respond to, and that's what I'll be focused on getting the team channeled toward.

"Because you go through tough stretches in seasons, you go through tough stretches in games, and we have to learn how to get ourselves out of that at some point in time."

He didn't say this part, but he could have: Or else. ...

Stay tuned. I'll have more on the QB situation and Jaylen Waddle (shoulder), who was limited in Wednesday's practice, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Also worth noting. ... The Dolphins were the first team in NFL history to have a seven-game losing streak and seven-game winning streak in the same season last year. This year has been just as zany -- 3-0 start, followed by a 0-3 stretch, followed by a 5-0 stretch, followed by a 0-5 stretch.

There have been some other roller-coaster rides to the playoffs. The 2014 Carolina Panthers went 1-8-1 over a 10-game stretch under Ron Rivera but made the playoffs by winning the NFC South that season. In 2020, the Washington Football Team (also coached by Rivera) lost seven out of eight, while the Chicago Bears dropped seven out of nine, and they both got in with losing records.

The 1970 Cincinnati Bengals lost six straight to fall to 1-6, then didn't lose again until the postseason. Kansas City, in 2015, lost five straight to fall to 1-5, and also didn't lose again until the postseason. The 1986 Jets started 10-1, finished the season on a five-game slide, then won a wild-card game anyway.

The closest parallel to these Dolphins -- if they win this weekend -- might be the 1997 Minnesota Vikings. They started 8-2, lost five straight down the stretch, then won their finale to salvage a wild-card spot.

"I know that this is kind of my niche in the world -- for me to help get a group of guys out of this is totally my speed and something that's very important to me," McDaniel said. "And I'm definitely up for the challenge. ..."

The backfield split remained unpredictable. ... Jeff Wilson Jr. recorded 15 carries for 45 yards against the Patriots. He also caught three of his seven targets for 31 yards.

While Wilson led the way with 15 carries, his running mate Raheem Mostert saw one more target.

The big number of targets to the running backs can mainly be attributed to the Dolphins having to turn to their backup quarterbacks with Tagovailoa inactive. Without Tua, the Dolphins offense is not as explosive and the running backs may continue to see more targets.

However, it is still a committee backfield that has been hard to assess as of late. ...

One last note here. ... Jason Sanders missed a 51-yard field-goal try wide right, and is 1 for 5 from 50 or more yards this season.

You can access complete stats for the Dolphins Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Devon Achane, Salvon Ahmed, Chris Brooks, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson, Braxton Berrios, Erik Ezukanma
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell pointed out, the Minnesota Vikings have outscored their opponents this season during the fourth quarter and overtime by 78 points, the best total in the league.

But, as Campbell added, "Those first 45 minutes of the game matter, too."

This problem the Vikings have of falling behind -- by a lot, sometimes -- can't be dismissed as they prepare for the playoffs.

"When we lose, we lose bad," wide receiver Justin Jefferson said after the 41-17 loss at Green Bay on Sunday. "We have to find a way to fix that."

The Vikings (12-4) clinched the NFC North with four games to go thanks to their crunch-time performances, setting a single-season NFL record with 11 wins by eight or fewer points.

They've more than made up for sloppy, sluggish or substandard starts with strong finishes.

Over the past four games, though, the Vikings have outscored their opponents in one first quarter, no second quarters and one third quarter.

Head coach Kevin O'Connell pointed first to the lack of sustained drives by his team's potent offense, but broadened the blame to implore the defense, special teams and coaching staff to step up as well and help stop the "avalanche" that has happened to these Vikings too often.

They've fallen behind by 33 or more points in three of their past seven games, a rare occurrence for the worst of teams -- let alone a division winner.

The Vikings are only the second NFL club in the past 10 years and the ninth since the salary cap was installed in 1994 to face a 33-plus-point deficit three times in the same season, according to Sportradar data.

Arizona in 2018 was the only team to do so in four different games. The other three-timers were Buffalo in 2012, Tampa Bay in 2011, St. Louis in 2009, San Francisco in 2005, Arizona in 2003, Cleveland in 2000 and Philadelphia in 1998. The cumulative record of those clubs was 28-100. Only one (Buffalo: 6-10) won more than four games.

That explains why the Vikings, according to the latest FanDuel Sportsbook odds, are favored by just 2½ points on Sunday at Chicago (3-12) against a team with the second-worst record in the league.

Another reason for that narrow anticipated margin is the this: The offensive line is reeling.

Backup center Austin Schlottman broke his lower leg on a second-and-goal run from the 1 that went for no gain. Right tackle Brian O'Neill also left in the first quarter after hurting his calf during an interception return by the Packers for a touchdown.

"We felt their loss," O'Connell said.

With starting center Garrett Bradbury (back) sidelined for a fourth straight game and primary backup tackle Blake Brandel (knee) on injured reserve, the Vikings had to turn to Chris Reed at center and Oli Udoh at right tackle.

Reed, who played tackle in college and has been a guard his whole NFL career, was out of sync with quarterback Kirk Cousins on multiple snaps. The Vikings had five penalties up front: two delay of games, two false starts and one holding.

The injuries to O'Neill and Schlottman were "pretty significant," O'Connell said Monday, and will keep them out this week. Their status for the playoffs has yet to be determined. Bradbury has been progressing, O'Connell said, but his return for the playoffs remains more hopeful than certain.

Meanwhile, the Vikings can't finish ahead of the NFC East champion, whether it's Philadelphia or Dallas. San Francisco has control of the No. 2 seed with a game against Arizona remaining. Unless the Cardinals -- who by losing would secure the No. 3 overall pick in the draft -- can help by stunning the 49ers, the Vikings will have the No. 3 seed and only one guaranteed home game for the playoffs.

Despite the decreased drama around their NFC standing and the importance of physical health for the playoffs, a complete performance -- or better yet, a convincing victory -- over the Bears would serve the Vikings well on the heels of the clunker against the Packers.

"That's really what I want to see out of our team: Correct some of the things that we can control just across the board," O'Connell said.

Worth noting. ... Cousins finished 18-of-31 passing with 205 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions for a passer rating of 49.2. He also lost a fumble during a sack.

Dalvin Cook totaled 27 yards on nine rushes and added 17 yards on two catches.

Jefferson was limited to one reception for 15 yards on five targets and Adam Thielen finished with one catch for 16 yards on four targets.

The Packers held Jefferson to zero receptions in the first half of Sunday's game. It was Jefferson's first game with zero receptions in a first half since his first career game in Week 1, 2020 also against the Packers. ...

You can access complete stats for the Vikings Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, Myles Gaskin, Cam Akers, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Jalen Nailor, Brandon Powell, N'Keal Harry
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower reported, "Control what we can control" is a mantra often regurgitated by New England players soon after they are indoctrinated into Bill Belichick's conformist culture.

The Patriots (8-8) somehow have control of their playoff fate entering the final week of the season -- even after a year marred by poor offensive play and some befuddling moments in recent losses.

Not surprisingly, the defensive-minded Belichick has that side of ball to thank for the opportunity his team will have on Sunday.

When the Patriots have needed a game-changing play this season, often it's been their defense that has answered the call. The latest example -- Kyle Dugger's third-quarter, go-ahead interception return for a touchdown in New England's 23-21 win over Miami -- has set the Patriots up for a one-game showdown with the Buffalo Bills.

Win and they are back in the playoffs. Lose and their season is almost certainly over.

"Right now, the only thing that matters is Buffalo. So, it doesn't matter what did or didn't happen some other week or series of weeks or anything else. We'll see what happens against Buffalo," Belichick said Monday. "We're in a one-game season and need to play well against one of the most explosive offenses and certainly one of the top players in the league."

That player is, of course, Josh Allen, who threw for a pair of touchdowns in the Bills' 24-10 win in Foxboro last month.

Including the playoffs last season, the Bills have won their last three meetings with New England.

But none of that will be on the Patriots' minds this week.

"We're going to go out there and play together, give it our best shot for 60 minutes. I think that's something we can live with," safety Devin McCourty said. "Anything else I think will crush us as individuals. I think that's why you see this team coming out here next week, practice our butts off, go out there in Buffalo and try to get in the playoffs."

New England's defense was impressive on Sunday even without key members of the secondary.

The Patriots were tasked with slowing down Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle despite missing defensive backs Jalen Mills (groin), Jack Jones (placed on injured reserve with a knee injury) and Marcus Jones (concussion).

Jonathan Jones and Myles Bryant started at cornerback, along with practice squad call-up Tae Hayes providing support in certain alignments. To help them out, the coaching staff stuck mostly to zone schemes. Hill and Waddle were targeted 12 times but were limited to a combined seven catches for 107 yards and no touchdowns. Tight end Mike Gesicki had two catches for 18 yards and a TD.

As good a job as the defense did against the Dolphins -- who had to use both their backup and third-string quarterbacks -- the Patriots will be in a much better position against the Bills if they get back some of their missing defensive backs. If not, Allen could have a field day.

As for the other side of the ball?

According to's Evan Lazar, the offense still had long stretches where it doesn't resemble a well-oiled machine, and they'll need to be far more consistent to make some magic happen over the next, hopefully, few weeks.

Still, New England began the game with their second opening drive touchdown of the season and the 89-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter was exactly what the doctor ordered.

On the opening drive, the Pats beat the Dolphins in man coverage with big plays to Tyquan Thornton and Jakobi Meyers. They also beat man coverage on third down with actually good spacing.

Miami's mid-game adjustment to zone coverage took time for the Pats to shift their approach in the chess match. New England likely game-planned for the Dolphins man and man-blitz schemes, so the zone uptick was a change-up.

Ideally, the coaching staff would adjust faster in the middle quarters.

New England needs to string scoring drives together more consistently, but two touchdown drives were enough this week to win.

Like the entire offense, Mac Jones had his good moments, too. He finished 20 of 33 for 203 yards with the touchdown passes to Meyers and Thornton.

It hasn't always been smooth for Thornton. There have been route-running issues, usage problems in terms of getting his speed in the open field, and a lack of production.

However, Thornton made an impact with three catches for 60 yards and the aforementioned touchdown on Sunday. The Pats got Thornton into vertical foot races, with a fade from a condensed split hitting on the opening drive. Those alignments give Thornton optimal space to run into the sideline instead of pinning him to the boundary. New England must continue finding ways to get Thornton into space to use his game-breaking speed.

Meyers injured his shoulder on TD catch in the fourth quarter. He said afterward he expected to be fine for this week. In addition to the injuries to Mills, Jack and Marcus Jones, wide receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Jonnu Smith sat out with concussions.

I'll have more on Parker and Smith via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant. ...

One last note here. ... The Patriots were treated to an unseasonably warm game-time temperature of 51 degrees against the Dolphins. But the early forecast for their Sunday's road showdown with the Bills calls for a temperature of 32 degrees.

You can access complete stats for the Patriots Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Mac Jones, Matt Corral
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Kayshon Boutte, Demario Douglas, Matt Slater, Tyquan Thornton
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel explained, the Saints seem to have recaptured the ability to not only string together victories, but also to do so in difficult circumstances -- be it in freezing weather in Cleveland or against one of the NFL's top teams in Philadelphia.

Unfortunately for New Orleans, it happened a little too late. The Saints were eliminated from the playoffs not long after winning their third straight game and fourth in their last six.

But for Saints first-year coach Dennis Allen and his staff, better late than never.

"There was a lot of change," Allen said Monday. "I'm in a new role. I've got some assistant coaches in a new role. We brought in some new players. We've had a lot of injuries in a lot of different positions.

"It's taken a little bit of time, but that's why you have something you believe in and you stick with it and you keep grinding and you keep working," Allen continued. "We're seeing some of the fruits of that labor now."

The Saints entered Week 17 without a victory over a team that currently has a winning record. But on Sunday, they went on the road and beat a Philadelphia team that entered the contest with a 13-2 record. The Eagles played without starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, but the Hurts-less Eagles also scored 34 points in a 6-point loss at playoff bound Dallas on Dec. 24.

Back home against New Orleans, that same Eagles' offense was largely stifled -- held to 10 points in a 10-point loss.

The Saints' offense possessed the ball for 37 minutes of the game. And while that unit was shut out in the second half, it put together three scoring drives in the first, which might have been enough even without Lattimore's pick-6.

The Saints now have a chance to finish out their second-straight non-playoff season on a four-game winning streak. And while that's not meaningful in the context of the postseason, it could mean a lot in terms of how the organization approaches the offseason.

After all, the Saints looked ripe for an emotional letdown after blowing a 13-point lead -- not to mention their last, best chance to climb back into the playoff race -- in the last four minutes of a crucial loss at Tampa Bay one month ago. Instead, all New Orleans has done since is win.

"I wish we'd have taken advantage of a couple opportunities that we had" earlier this season, Allen said. "There's nothing that can be done about that now. So, how do we learn that lesson, so that as we progress and go in the future, we don't put ourselves in those situations again?

"You can learn a lot from your failures -- as much as you can from successes."

The Saints' defense has held seven straight opponents to 20 or fewer points. None of the Saints' previous five opponents have scored more than 18 points and three have been held below 14 -- including playoff-bound San Francisco, which scored only one TD while defeating New Orleans 13-0 at home.

"The resume speaks for itself in terms of what Saints defenses have been able to do going all the way back to '17 and through now," said Allen, who was Sean Payton's defensive coordinator for six-plus seasons before his promotion after Payton's retirement. "We felt like we were going to be one of the better defenses in our league and we got one more game to go out and try to prove it."

The Saints ranked ninth in the NFL in yards allowed per game entering Monday and have finished each of the past two seasons ranked in the top 10.

The real question now is which Saints team will show up in Week 18 with the playoffs no longer possible?

As's Katherine Terrell notes, the Saints can't finish with a winning record but they can end the season on a high note after struggling through Allen's first season as head coach. Whether or not they show up and play well against the Panthers will say a lot about Allen's ability to motivate the team. So far, the Saints have showed no signs of quitting on Allen.

On the injury front. ... Juwan Johnson (quad) did not practice Wednesday. Taysom Hill (back) was limited.

I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.

You can access complete stats for the Saints Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller, Alvin Kamara
WRs: Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Tre'Quan Smith
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham, Taysom Hill

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

According to's Jordan Raanan, the Giants wouldn't disclose on Monday how they're going to handle the regular-season finale with the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

It's an important game for the Eagles.

The Giants (9-6-1) are locked in as the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs after clinching their postseason spot with a rout of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The Eagles will be playing for much more than pride: The No. 1 seed and a bye in the first round of the playoffs are on the line. Philadelphia would clinch the top seed in the NFC with a win.

It could depend on whether head coach Brian Daboll rests some of his starters in Philadelphia.

"We'll talk about it and do what is best for the team," he said. "It's early Monday. Go out there and try to have a good week of practice and prepare as we normally do. Decide what we want to do relative to who is playing, who is not playing. Whatever we think is best for our team, that is what we will end up doing."

Daboll said he will talk with general manager Joe Schoen and his coaching staff throughout the week and formulate a plan. He seems to be setting the table to rest some or most of his top players for part or all of Sunday's NFC East matchup.

At the top of that list is running back Saquon Barkley, who could benefit from a limited or nonexistent workload. No running back in the NFL has played more than the 821 snaps he's logged this season while playing all 16 games. That's 80.2 percent of the Giants' offensive snaps.

Daboll won't let public opinion affect his decision.

"You make the decision that you think is right for your team," he said. "You go out there and lay an egg, it's the wrong decision. You win, it's the right decision. So, that doesn't affect it either way."

It was only a few years ago that former Giants coach Joe Judge and many in the organization publicly expressed their disgust with the way the Eagles handled the regular-season finale against Washington. The Giants needed Philadelphia to win the Sunday night finale in 2020 in order to win the division and reach the playoffs.

Philadelphia, with Doug Pederson as the coach, inserted third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld for Jalen Hurts in the fourth quarter and lost. The Commanders won the division ahead of New York.

The Giants' complaint at the time centered on the Eagles' lack of integrity in trying to win that game. Daboll isn't concerned about that several years later.

"No, I just try to consider what is best for our team," he said. "That is what we'll always consider."

Daboll also stressed it's a much different situation than in 2007, when Tom Coughlin and the Giants played everyone in the regular-season finale against the undefeated Patriots. That prompted Coughlin to receive a famous call from the legendary John Madden thanking him for doing the right thing.

The Giants lost that regular-season finale but credited the experience of keeping that game close as a key factor to them beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl later that season.

"I think every situation is different," said Daboll, who has served as an assistant in New England. "That is a pretty unique circumstance that year, the record the Patriots had. And every year is different. So what happened in 2007 doesn't really have any effect on what is happening in 2023 for the decisions we have to make. We'll do what is best for the team.

"Again, every situation, every season ... would they have done that if a team was 10-6? Who knows? I don't really have the answer to that. We have to focus on what we need to do here in 2023."

Could momentum be a factor?

The Giants had their biggest offensive output in three years. It was the first time they had scored at least 30 points in a game since a 37-34 loss to Dallas on Oct. 11, 2020, a run of 43 games. Quarterback Daniel Jones was the key, throwing two touchdown passes and running for two TDs. Jones once again did not commit a turnover. He has only eight over 16 games this season. He also had 91 yards rushing against the Colts, giving him 697 on the season.

The 28-point margin of victory was the Giants' largest since Dec. 7, 2014, when they defeated the Titans 36-7.

In a related note, as Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan noted, the 25-year old Jones went into the season knowing he had to perform better after the Giants didn't pick up the fifth year on his rookie contract. He doesn't have to worry about a contract any more. With the season he has had, he holds all the cards.

If not the Giants, someone else will pay him.

You can access complete stats for the Giants Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Eric Gray, Gary Brightwell
WRs: Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, Darius Slayton, Jalin Hyatt, Sterling Shepard, Wan'Dale Robinson
TEs: Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

According to's Rich Cimini, even though the Jets' playoff hopes were undermined, in large part, by a struggling offense, head coach Robert Saleh insisted Monday he won't let outside noise influence his decision on the future of offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.

Saleh said he still has full confidence in LaFleur even though the Jets have scored only four touchdowns during their current five-game losing streak. The Jets (7-9) were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday with a 23-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, extending their futility streak to eight straight quarters without a touchdown.

Preferring to look at the big picture instead of recent results, Saleh said the Jets are in the second year of "a commitment to go young everywhere -- coaches, players, staff, everybody. It's so important to take a deep breath. ... And make sure we're telling ourselves the truth rather than allowing narrative and panic to set in."

Last season, the Jets had a rookie coach in Saleh, a rookie coordinator in LaFleur and a rookie quarterback in Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick. The plan was to have them grow together, but there hasn't been much improvement.

Under LaFleur, 36, the Jets were 28th in scoring last season and they're 27th this year, as they've dealt with Wilson's acute growing pains and injuries to rookie running back Breece Hall and the offensive line.

Saleh is close friends with LaFleur's older brother, Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur, and has known Mike LaFleur since he was a teenager.

When Saleh landed the Jets' job in 2021, his first significant hire was Mike, also a former 49ers assistant.

"I've been in (Mike) LaFleur's shoes," said Saleh, recalling how he was on the hot seat as the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator after the 2018 season. "It would've been very easy for Kyle (Shanahan) to fire me, very easy to say, 'You know what? We went 4-12, you're the scapegoat, get the heck out of the building.'

"But to his credit, we sat down. ... He committed to me, and the rest is history."

The 49ers won the NFC championship in 2019, elevating Saleh's profile as a head-coaching candidate. He said it takes discipline to make objective evaluations and "not come away with knee-jerk reactions that would derail what could be a pretty damn good football coach -- or a good player, for that matter. That's where Zach comes into play."

LaFleur and Wilson, replaced in the lineup by Mike White, have been the lightning rods during the team's late-season collapse.

With regard to LaFleur, Saleh acknowledged the results haven't been good enough, but he believes there has been some growth on offense, mainly by individual players. On Sunday, rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson became the first Jets player since 2015 to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

"There were stretches where we had one of the more prolific offenses in the league for a couple of games in a row, here and there," center Connor McGovern said. "It's just a consistency thing. It's not just on LaFleur, it's not just on the players. It's the entire New York Jets not being consistent."

Commenting on Wilson's future, which appears uncertain after two benchings, Saleh reiterated there's no desire to move on from him. While he wouldn't commit to Wilson as the 2023 starter, he said it's premature to cut bait after only two seasons. He doesn't want to repeat past mistakes by the organization, noting there are "so many" former Jets enjoying success.

One of them, Seattle's Geno Smith, beat them Sunday.

"If there's a franchise that should recognize, 'Maybe we should give these young men a little bit of time,' it's this organization," Saleh said.

Of course, as Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. noted, little was expected of the Jets this season outside the facility, especially with New York coming off a combined 6-27 record the past two years. This season was also going to be all about the continued development and growth of Wilson.

But the Jets pulled off some early wins and despite Wilson's struggles, played themselves into playoff contention. Saleh and his players believed they could pull it off, even after Wilson was benched and White took over at quarterback.

This final stretch proved too much to overcome, though. Bad quarterback play, injuries and inconsistency on the offensive line and a lack of big plays -- just four touchdowns in the past five games -- were all culprits. Even the defense, which ranks in the league's top five overall, had slipups in big spots.

White clearly isn't 100 percent and that was to be expected from a player still healing from broken ribs that sidelined him for two games. But in the biggest game of the season -- and his career -- White was ineffective.

He's 81 of 147 -- 55 percent completion rate -- for 877 yards and no TDs with four INTs in his past three starts, all losses.

Saleh said White was sore, but he was set to practice fully Wednesday and play in the season finale at Miami on Sunday with Joe Flacco backing him up. ...

A few final items. ... Garrett Wilson became the Jets' first 1,000-yard receiver since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker accomplished the feat in 2015. Wilson, the No. 10 overall pick, has the franchise rookie records for yards receiving (1,014) and receptions (74).

In addition, tight end Tyler Conklin had his best game in several weeks, finishing with six catches for 80 yards, including a 30-yard gain on third down in the third quarter. Conklin, second on the team with 56 receptions, could be a key piece of the passing game next season.

You can access complete stats for the Jets Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Zach Wilson, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Randall Cobb, Jason Brownlee, Xavier Gipson, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert, Kenny Yeboah

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston framed it: "The Eagles are in a world of hurt without Jalen Hurts. ..."

Gelston went on to point out that for all the coachspeak from Nick Sirianni about how the Eagles win together and lose together, it's been jarring for fans and the franchise to watch just how poorly the offense has played in consecutive losses without Hurts.

Gardner Minshew was not expected to play like Hurts -- the quarterback was, after all, a leading MVP candidate -- but according to Gelston, "With each overthrown pass, each sack taken, each three-and-out, each failed rally, Minshew instead has evoked memories of some of the worst backup play in team history. Think Jeff Kemp or Mike McMahon bad."

Minshew couldn't even be trusted to defeat a Saints team with a losing record while playing at home as a seven-point favorite.

The Eagles will not go anywhere except an early vacation should Minshew have to make a playoff start.

"Obviously, it wasn't Gardner's best game and it wasn't our best game as an offense," Sirianni said. "Not even close, right?"

No doubt.

The Eagles were shut out in the first half for the first time all season and their 10 points were their fewest all season.

Now the good news.

Hurts could come back Sunday in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants. Sirianni was blunt after the Eagles lost their second straight game without Hurts: "If he's ready to go, he'll play."

The Eagles need to beat the Giants next week to clinch the NFC East and secure the top seed in the playoffs. A loss by Philadelphia and a win by Dallas would give the Cowboys the NFC East title.

Yes, in Philly, somehow a 13-3 campaign isn't a reason to celebrate headed into the last game of the regular season.

"There's still no pressure," wide receiver A.J. Brown said. "We've got to go out and play ball. We've got to go out and execute."

Easier said -- and done -- with Hurts behind center.

Whenever it is, Sirianni insisted Monday there was no way the Eagles would risk Hurts' long-term health for one game. Sirianni said Hurts "should be able to throw is the expectation, yes."

"Everything is taken into play as far as when he's ready to come back. We are always going to want him to be healthy enough to not put himself at danger," he said. "But then also so he can perform at a high level, as well. When you're talking about throwing the football with an injured shoulder, it's a little different than some other injuries. He has to be able to throw the ball down the field. He has to be able to throw it accurately. He has to be able to throw it with velocity so he can be effective as a quarterback."

The Giants clinched a playoff spot and are locked into the No. 6 seed. Will they rest their starters and treat it as nothing more than a tune up for the postseason? The Eagles thumped the Giants 48-22 just a month ago. But they lost to Washington and Dallas in the second meetings after winning the first ones.

For the Eagles? Win, and they have the No. 1 seed in the NFC. ...

It is fair to wonder how effective Hurts will be coming off the injury.

As's Tim McManus reminded readers, Hurts practiced for the first time since injuring his shoulder last week, throwing a number of short to intermediate passes with decent velocity in the portion of practice open to the media. The Eagles have viewed this as a relatively minor injury and believe Hurts is in a good spot physically.

His return will be all the buzz as Philly gets ready for its biggest game of the year. I'll have more on his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

One last note here. ... It wasn't just the beleaguered Minshew who couldn't convert a sneak on a late fourth down, or threw a devastating pick-6 late in the fourth quarter with the outcome still in the balance, or whose idea of a scramble was to run backward and get sacked that crushed the Eagles.

Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen gave 1,000-yard rusher Miles Sanders only two carries in the first half. He finished with 12 carries for 61 yards.

You can access complete stats for the Eagles Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

According to's Brooke Pryor, Kenny Pickett clutched a football after orchestrating his second consecutive game-winning drive, this one to beat the Baltimore Ravens 16-13 and keep the Pittsburgh Steelers' slim playoff hopes alive.

Not only did he stave off postseason elimination and Mike Tomlin's first losing season as a head coach, but Pickett also got a game ball -- his first -- gifted to him by the "Sunday Night Football" crew.

"I'll probably send that back home to my parents and they can put that one up in our house," he said, adding that running back Najee Harris got one, too, after his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

For the second week in a row, Pickett's calm demeanor and precision passing helped the Steelers (8-8) drive the field and score the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining to complete the comeback. Pickett completed 5 of 6 attempts for 64 yards and converted two short-yardage third downs on sneaks to drive the Steelers 80 yards in 3 minutes and 20 seconds, capped with the 10-yard TD to Harris.

Pickett was 3-of-4 -- including the touchdown -- on throws traveling at least 10 yards downfield on that final drive. He was 3-of-7 on such throws prior to that drive, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.

"I can't say enough about our young quarterback," Tomlin said Sunday night. "He smiled in the face of it. He's always ready to be that guy in the moments that we need him. And it's just good to see the young guy. We marched forward."

Before Sunday, the Steelers were 0-7 when trailing by double digits -- one of only seven teams without a double-digit comeback this season.

With a complementary run game that racked up 198 rushing yards, Pickett finished the night having completed 15 of 27 attempts for 168 yards with one touchdown. He's only the third rookie quarterback to win in Baltimore, joining Mitch Trubisky (2017) and Jake Plummer (1997).

A week after finding George Pickens for the go-ahead touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders with 46 seconds left, Pickett connected with Harris on third down with 56 seconds remaining, keeping his eyes downfield as he rolled out of the pocket and eluded Baltimore's pressure. Pickett rifled a pass to a scrambling Harris.

"He did a great job of extending and slipping past the linebacker," Pickett said. "I just wanted to extend long enough to where those guys could free themselves up a little bit."

Pickett became the first rookie since at least the 1970 merger to throw a go-ahead TD in the final minute of regulation in back-to-back games, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.

"We see the moxie in our quarterback," outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. "We've seen our guys go out and ball out and practice all season long. So we weren't surprised."

After being part of a late game-winning drive a week earlier, the Steelers' offense was confident in its young quarterback when it took the field trailing by four with 4:16 remaining -- even though it hadn't scored a touchdown all night. Kicker Chris Boswell converted three field goal attempts earlier in the game to keep the Steelers within striking distance, but he missed a 48-yarder in the second quarter that would've given them an early 6-3 lead.

Still, the Steelers had no doubt they were going to score when they took the field for their final drive.

"There was energy -- it was almost like we had the confidence -- like we knew we were going to go down there and score," left tackle Dan Moore Jr. said of the huddle on the final drive.

The Steelers' offense believed in Pickett from the minute he took over as quarterback, even when the team was 2-6 at the bye. Another come-from-behind, fourth-quarter win only reinforced that belief.

"We can win with him, and he's going to show up in big moments," tight end Pat Freiermuth said. "We never questioned that, but seeing him delivering those big moments, and the guys stepping up and especially the line ... and receivers making plays and stuff. You have all the confidence in the world."

The belief the offense has in its quarterback is reciprocal -- and one that will be key as the Steelers enter Week 18, when a win against the Cleveland Browns, coupled with losses by the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, would get them into the playoffs. ...

Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves notes, Pittsburgh's push has come in lockstep with an offensive line that is starting to dominate the line of scrimmage. The Steelers have run for 106 yards or more in eight of their past nine games, including 193 against the Ravens just three weeks after Baltimore held them to 65 yards rushing at Acrisure Stadium.

Steven Sims Jr. began the season buried on the depth chart. He's ending it as a fixture on the field in passing situations. He's played at least 35 percent of the offensive snaps over the past eight weeks and his leaping grab on the winning drive showcased the confidence Pickett has in him.

Kicker Chris Boswell's erratic season continued when a 48-yard field-goal attempt clanged off the right upright. Boswell has missed eight field goals this season even though injuries have forced him to miss four games. For a team with a microscopic margin for error, Boswell can't afford to be shaky.

On the injury front. ... Diontae Johnson (hip) did not practice Wednesday.

Johnson was limited in practice last week because of the same issue. He was removed from the injury report on Friday and played without any limitations in Week 17.

I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but expecting a similar outcome this week seems reasonable.

You can access complete stats for the Steelers Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Allen Robinson, Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski, Calvin Austin III, Diontae Johnson
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

Since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo, rookie Brock Purdy has faced and passed a number of tests for the San Francisco 49ers.

But as's Nick Wagoner reported, the one he got from the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday was, perhaps, the most difficult yet.

The Niners faced a fourth-quarter deficit for the first time with Purdy as the starter, and nobody quite knew how he'd handle it. But as he's done with all the other tests, Purdy earned more high marks as the 49ers won a wild 37-34 shootout against the Raiders.

It was San Francisco's ninth straight win, its longest such streak since an 11-game surge in 1997.

Purdy became the first rookie quarterback to win four straight starts since Ben Roethlisberger went 13-0 in 2004. That he did it in a game in which the Niners got just their second win when trailing by double digits in the second half since Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017, left his coach and many of his teammates ready to say this is more than a flash in the pan.

"What Brock's doing is real," Shanahan said. "He's a talented guy who is very tough, and when he does make mistakes he understands why and then he tries to learn from them. He doesn't have a ton of experience in this league. So, every time he goes out there, whether it is good or bad, I feel like when you've got the skill set and play the game the right way, he's only going to get better from it. So, there was a number of situations that happened today that he didn't get in his other four games, and yes, I do think that helps."

Purdy finished 22-of-35 passing for 284 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for a 68.5 QBR. It was his fifth straight game with multiple touchdown passes, tied for the second-longest streak by a rookie since the 1970 merger (the Chargers' Justin Herbert did it seven straight games in 2020). And Purdy has thrown multiple touchdowns in each of the past five games, tying Dak Prescott circa 2016 as the only rookies to do that and win all five of those games in NFL history.

Perhaps most impressive was what Purdy was able to do in the fourth quarter. Entering Sunday, he had played a total of nine snaps with the 49ers trailing at any point in the five games he has been the primary starter. All nine of those came when he entered for Garoppolo with 9:30 left in the first quarter of the Dec. 4 win against the Miami Dolphins.

But Purdy was, according to teammates, unfazed by the scoreboard.

"I think just the type of player he is, the type of dude he is, how good he really, actually is and how calm he is and plays this game at the quarterback position, I feel like he's even kind of sped me up a little bit," receiver Brandon Aiyuk said. "Today just really showed us that I think this dude is on a different level and he can play for sure."

After falling behind 24-14, Purdy led four Niners scoring drives in regulation. On the final two, he was 6-of-10 passing for 113 yards, with one drive ending in Jordan Mason's rushing touchdown and another in a missed field goal.

Purdy, who said he hadn't played in a close-and-late situation since his time at Iowa State, credited Shanahan for his playcalling and his talented teammates for helping along the way. But he also didn't mind finally facing some game pressure.

"I don't have to go in feeling like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I have to perform or else," Purdy said. "I've just got to go do my job. So, to have that kind of game, it was great to feel like that in the fourth quarter, the game is on the line and now we've got to go and put up points. It was great for me to go through that and feel it again."

Of course, as Associated press sports writer Josh Dubow suggests, Purdy has some advantages.

Getting the ball to Christian McCaffrey is one of them.

The Niners running back had 19 carriers for 121 yards and six catches for 72 yards and scored a TD for the fifth straight game. McCaffrey also generated nine first downs in the game, giving him a team-best 60 on the season despite only playing 10 games with San Francisco.

In addition, the Offensive line allowed no sacks for the fifth time this season with right tackle Mike McGlinchey doing a good job neutralizing Raiders star edge rusher Maxx Crosby. The line also helped San Francisco rush for 170 yards, marking the fourth time in six seasons under Shanahan that the Niners rushed for that many yards in a game without allowing a sack.

With Sunday's win, the Niners leapfrogged the Minnesota Vikings for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Although the teams have the same record, the Niners hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their better record in NFC games (9-2). San Francisco would wrap up the second spot with a win next Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals or a Vikings loss to the Chicago Bears.

San Francisco even has a shot at the No. 1 seed (and the bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs) if it beats the Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles lose to the New York Giants in Week 18. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Robbie Gould missed a potential winning field goal when his try from 41 yards on the final play of regulation went wide right. Gould has missed five field goals this season, with all of the misses coming on kicks from less than 50 yards. The last Niners kicker to miss that many from inside 50 yards in a season was David Akers with nine in 2012.

On the injury front. ... McCaffrey has a minor ankle issue and is considered day to day but he did not practice Wednesday. ... Receiver Deebo Samuel (knee, ankle) and running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) will practice this week and could return Sunday. Samuel returned to practice last Thursday; Mitchell was officially designated to return on Wednesday.

I'll have more on their progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Also. ... G Aaron Backs (knee, ankle) will likely miss the game this week, but could be back for the playoffs. ... The Niners are awaiting more information on LB Dre Greenlaw's back injury but he could play this week. ...

You can access complete stats for the 49ers Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As's Brady Henderson reported, the Seahawks haven't had much to celebrate of late, losing five of six games to drop from first place in the NFC West to one spot out of the wild-card standings. But on Sunday, they finally did. With Tariq Woolen's defense and the Kenneth Walker III-led running game shouldering the load, they kept their playoff hopes alive with a resounding 23-6 win over the New York Jets.

To secure the NFC's third wild-card spot and a playoff appearance that few would have expected after the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks have to beat the Los Angeles Rams at home Sunday and get a Detroit Lions win or tie versus the Green Bay Packers.

With Detroit and Green Bay both winning Sunday, a Seahawks loss would have eliminated them from playoff contention.

Instead, they put together their best performance in two months, if not the entire season. It included nearly 200 yards rushing, no turnovers, three takeaways and a whole lot of pressure on Jets quarterback Mike White.

"We played a complete football game," said Geno Smith, who threw a pair of touchdown passes. "We played balanced football, passing the ball, running the ball, defense playing well, special teams playing well. That's our formula. That's what Coach Carroll talks about, just complete team ball. And I think that's what we got back to today. We've just got to carry that on moving forward."

Woolen had an easier time catching Walker in the locker room than the Jets' defense did on the opening play of the game, when he ripped off a 60-yard gain to set up Smith's touchdown pass to Colby Parkinson. It was his best run since he hurt his ankle on Dec. 4.

Between Walker playing through that injury and some poor performances from their offensive line, the Seahawks' run game hit a wall in November and December, which made life harder on Smith. Walker got going in the second half last week against the Kansas City Chiefs -- after Carroll challenged the entire offense to run the ball better -- and continued that momentum Sunday with 133 yards on 23 carries.

Smith (18 of 29 for 183 yards) didn't have the most prolific performance of his Pro Bowl season on Sunday, but with everything else clicking, the Seahawks needed him to be more safe than spectacular. He'd thrown five interceptions over the previous five games, at one point admitting that he was playing too aggressively and saying he needed to get back to taking what defenses were giving him.

That meant leaning more on his tight ends, who got plenty of open looks with the Jets taking away Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. The trio of Parkinson, Noah Fant and Tyler Mabry combined to catch eight of 11 targets for 83 yards and both of Smith's touchdown passes.

Smith downplayed the significance of beating the team that drafted him.

"Honestly, it doesn't mean anything outside of the fact that we gave ourselves another chance to go to the playoffs," said Smith, who earned a $1 million incentive for topping 4,000 passing yards on the season. "I'm actually grateful for being drafted to the NFL by the Jets. Although things weren't perfect there, there were some good times and there are some people still there I hold dear to my heart. I have a lot of good relationships in New York. So it was just another game for me."

The Seahawks could have skated into the playoffs had they not lost winnable games at home to the Las Vegas Raiders and Carolina Panthers.

As a result, they're in the precarious position of needing to win their finale and get some help from Detroit. The Lions are 4½-point underdogs and have gone just 3-19 at Lambeau Field since 2000. That result won't matter unless the Seahawks take care of business against the Rams as 6½-point favorites.

And even that came with a level of scrutiny after the league announced the Week 18 schedule on Monday and has Seattle in the afternoon and Detroit and Green Bay as the Sunday night game. If Seattle wins, Detroit would be eliminated from playoff contention.

Carroll did his part in downplaying any concern about the games not being played simultaneously.

"I know that there's been maybe some question about the order of the games being played on Sunday or whatever and that doesn't mean anything to me," Carroll said. "We don't care about that one bit. It's not going to change anything that we're doing. We're going for it. And then maybe there would be a pretty good party afterward to watch the next game."

Whatever the case, there will be a level of regret for the Seahawks finding themselves in the position of needing help in Week 18. Especially troubling will be the home losses in Week 3 to Atlanta and Week 12 to Las Vegas. A win in either and the Seahawks would have their postseason chances in their control. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Mabry has spent big chunks of the past three seasons on Seattle's practice squad. He got a brief run on the active roster during the 2021 season, but had a grand total of 22 offensive snaps and never had a pass thrown his direction.

After spending all of this season on the practice squad, Mabry was thrust into an important role on Sunday with Will Dissly out because of a knee injury. Mabry played just three offensive snaps, but his biggest came in the second quarter on a second-and-goal. Mabry slipped between a couple of defenders, turned and hauled in Smith's pass for his first career catch and a 7-yard TD reception.

It was Mabry's first TD since his final season of college at Maryland.

Linebacker Jordyn Brooks put up some major numbers this season, but his season came to an end with a torn ACL in his right knee. Brooks is third in the league with 161 combined tackles. He was placed on IR on Wednesday and Mabry was signed to fill his roster spot.

The concern for Seattle is the length of the recovery could eat into a big chunk of next season and overall uncertainty at the position. Brooks will be entering his fourth season and Seattle will need to make an offseason decision on whether to pick up his fifth-year option.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is Cody Barton, who will take over at middle linebacker this week, will be a free agent after the season.

Some defensive changes were expected for Seattle this offseason, but major changes at linebacker likely weren't on the list.

Along with Brooks it appears guard Phil Haynes will not play in Week 18 because of a high ankle sprain. Carroll said right tackle Abraham Lucas (knee) and Travis Homer (ankle) have a chance to play after being inactive against the Jets. Ryan Neal (knee) won't be known until later in the week.

Carroll also said Lockett seemed better Monday after sitting part of the game after getting a contusion on his lower leg. Lockett was hit in the area where he suffered a fracture several years ago.

He caught 2-of-2 targets for 15 yards.

I'll be following up on Lockett, who did not practice Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

You can access complete stats for the Seahawks Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young, Jake Bobo
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

Josh Dobbs will be Titans' starting quarterback in Saturday's clash with the Jaguars for the AFC South division title, coach Mike Vrabel announced Monday.

Dobbs, a six-year veteran, signed with the Titans less than two weeks ago and made his first NFL start Thursday night against the Cowboys. He completed 20 of 39 passes for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the 27-13 loss.

"There was some good decision-making and he was decisive," Vrabel said of Dobbs' performance against Dallas. "He did a good job progressing through when we gave him some time. He tried to take the opportunity to run with and lead. He gives us the best chance to win right now."

According to's Turron Davenport, Vrabel said he met with both Dobbs and rookie Malik Willis, who served as the backup quarterback for most of the season. Willis, a 2022 third-round pick by the Titans, started three games in place of Ryan Tannehill this season but was ineffective as a passer.

Willis failed to pass for 100 yards or complete a touchdown pass in any of his three starts and finished with a 50.8 completion percentage. But he rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown.

The Titans were 1-2 in Willis' starts. Vrabel challenged Willis to continue to prepare like a starter and expressed belief that the rookie can still contribute to the Titans' success.

"I'm fairly confident that Malik is going to do something to help us in this football game," Vrabel said.

Tennessee has lost six consecutive games, causing them to tumble out of first place in the AFC South. A win on Saturday night at Jacksonville would give the Titans their third consecutive AFC South Division title, which would be a first in franchise history.

The Jaguars (8-8), who currently are in first place, have won four straight games entering Saturday's game.

The Jaguars (8-8) won the first game between these teams Dec. 11 thanks to four turnovers leading to 20 points in a 36-22 victory in Nashville with Tannehill starting. The Titans rested Derrick Henry along with six other starters against Dallas. Vrabel said that will only help depending on how the Titans play.

"Hopefully we've taken advantage of the time," Vrabel said.

Henry (hip) has been a full participant in practice this week. He ran for 121 yards and a touchdown but had two fumbles in the loss in Nashville.

The ongoing saga for the Titans has been finding a way to make opponents pay for focusing on stopping running back Henry.

As Davenport suggested, a passing game with Dobbs at the helm should add much-needed balance.

Dobbs has the ability to be utilized in play-action, RPOs and designed quarterback runs. He has the arm strength and the anticipation to get the ball to most areas of the field with accuracy. That's a plus for the Titans as they travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars for a chance to win their third consecutive AFC South title.

You can access complete stats for the Titans Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Sean Tucker, Chase Edmonds, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

Josh Dobbs will be Titans' starting quarterback in Saturday's clash with the Jaguars for the AFC South division title, coach Mike Vrabel announced Monday.

Dobbs, a six-year veteran, signed with the Titans less than two weeks ago and made his first NFL start Thursday night against the Cowboys. He completed 20 of 39 passes for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the 27-13 loss.

"There was some good decision-making and he was decisive," Vrabel said of Dobbs' performance against Dallas. "He did a good job progressing through when we gave him some time. He tried to take the opportunity to run with and lead. He gives us the best chance to win right now."

According to's Turron Davenport, Vrabel said he met with both Dobbs and rookie Malik Willis, who served as the backup quarterback for most of the season. Willis, a 2022 third-round pick by the Titans, started three games in place of Ryan Tannehill this season but was ineffective as a passer.

Willis failed to pass for 100 yards or complete a touchdown pass in any of his three starts and finished with a 50.8 completion percentage. But he rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown.

The Titans were 1-2 in Willis' starts. Vrabel challenged Willis to continue to prepare like a starter and expressed belief that the rookie can still contribute to the Titans' success.

"I'm fairly confident that Malik is going to do something to help us in this football game," Vrabel said.

Tennessee has lost six consecutive games, causing them to tumble out of first place in the AFC South. A win on Saturday night at Jacksonville would give the Titans their third consecutive AFC South Division title, which would be a first in franchise history.

The Jaguars (8-8), who currently are in first place, have won four straight games entering Saturday's game.

The Jaguars (8-8) won the first game between these teams Dec. 11 thanks to four turnovers leading to 20 points in a 36-22 victory in Nashville with Tannehill starting. The Titans rested Derrick Henry along with six other starters against Dallas. Vrabel said that will only help depending on how the Titans play.

"Hopefully we've taken advantage of the time," Vrabel said.

Henry (hip) has been a full participant in practice this week. He ran for 121 yards and a touchdown but had two fumbles in the loss in Nashville.

The ongoing saga for the Titans has been finding a way to make opponents pay for focusing on stopping running back Henry.

As Davenport suggested, a passing game with Dobbs at the helm should add much-needed balance.

Dobbs has the ability to be utilized in play-action, RPOs and designed quarterback runs. He has the arm strength and the anticipation to get the ball to most areas of the field with accuracy. That's a plus for the Titans as they travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars for a chance to win their third consecutive AFC South title.

On the injury front. ... Treylon Burks (groin) was limited in Wednesday's practice; I'll have more on the rookie wideout and Henry as developments warrant via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

You can access complete stats for the Titans Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis, Will Levis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore, Kyle Philips
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco

Washington Commanders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 January 2023

As's Michael Baca notes, Ron Rivera's decision to start Carson Wentz over Taylor Heinicke ultimately backfired as Washington put up just 10 points and turned the ball over three times in Sunday's loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Faced with questions behind the reasoning for his decision one day later, the head coach said he has no regrets starting Wentz.

"No, because to me it was always about winning and that it was in our hands," Rivera told reporters Monday, via team transcript. "I mean, we controlled our destiny basically and that's the truth of the matter. Being 0-2-1 in the last three games was probably a thing that really pushed me more than anything else. And that's what I looked at. And as I said, coming off of the last quarter of the 49er game, I was relatively optimistic in terms of dealing with what Carson could do.

"I thought we could run the ball. I think we could have run the ball a little bit better even though we did run it well. And I think that could have helped us a little bit more. But again, it's the decision that was made because I felt we needed a little something, after going that stretch of 0-2-1."

While Rivera didn't regret his decision on Monday, he did make a different decision on Wednesday.

The Commanders will start rookie quarterback Sam Howell in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, Rivera said Wednesday.

Until late Wednesday morning, the Commanders were strongly leaning toward starting Heinicke and having Howell play in relief, multiple sources told's John Keim.

Washington wants to see more of Howell, the only quarterback on the active roster who is signed for the 2023 season. Rivera said that after speaking with other coaches and team leaders he opted to go with Howell.

"The most important thing is we're really intrigued in seeing what Sam can do in this league," Rivera said. "The opportunity is going to be a good one for him to go out and play and show us. We won't judge everything on Sam based on one game. We get an opportunity to see how he prepares."

Rivera said Howell told him, "I'm ready to roll" when he informed the rookie of the decision.

The Commanders (7-8-1) were eliminated from playoff contention last week. Dallas (12-4) can still win the NFC East with a victory and a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Howell becomes the 33rd quarterback to start for Washington since it last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season. He's the eighth different starter in coach Ron Rivera's three seasons, highlighting a key reason the Commanders will once more finish with a non-winning season.

Wentz will be inactive in what almost assuredly will be his last game with Washington. He has two years left on his contract, but with no guaranteed money. However, he does have $4 million guaranteed for injury, which is another reason he will be inactive Sunday.

As it stands, the Commanders could cut him without any money counting toward their salary cap.

Washington traded two third-round picks to Indianapolis and swapped second-round picks with the Colts last spring to acquire Wentz. The Commanders also absorbed a $28 million cap hit.

Wentz threw a combined seven touchdown passes in Washington's first two games but struggled thereafter, with only four scoring tosses in his next five starts. The Commanders scored a combined 55 points in those first two games but only 57 in the ensuing five.

Washington also wants to see Howell, a fifth-round pick last spring who has yet to play. He was Heinicke's backup for seven games before Wentz returned from his injury. Howell threw for 10,283 yards, 92 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in three seasons as a starter at North Carolina.

Rivera said they saw progress from Howell when he was the primary backup and could get more work as the scout team quarterback.

"A couple guys I talked with today said they felt he was ready for this opportunity," Rivera said. "That was a big part of the reason, too, how people felt based on what we saw during that stretch."

Avoiding a sixth consecutive losing season by getting to 8-8-1 in Rivera's third season is one motivating factor, but figuring out what Howell might be able to do in the pros is arguably the most important part of Week 18 for Washington.

According to Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno, evaluating for next year goes beyond Howell. The Commanders might also want to see more of what they have in a few other 2022 draft picks: cornerback Christian Holmes, safety Percy Butler and guard Chris Paul. No better time than now.

One thing seems certain: The Commanders have found their running back of the present and future in rookie Brian Robinson Jr., who rushed for 87 yards on 24 carries in the absence of injured Antonio Gibson.

Robinson took a few games get up to speed after missing time while recovering from gunshot wounds suffered in an attempted robbery, but he showed he can handle a big workload and pick up tough yards running up the middle.

I'll have more on Gibson (knee, ankle) via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

You can access complete stats for the Commanders Week 17 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.

QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Jonathan Williams, Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Dax Milne, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates