NFL News and Notes: December 25, 2018
Well, it all comes down to this. After a compelling Week 16, there is just one day left in the NFL regular season to decide everything. Here’s what you need to know about the playoff picture heading into Week 17 and all of the other import news around the league.
In a plot twist that seemed impossible a month ago, the Ravens and Steelers have swapped places in the AFC North. With Baltimore’s win over the Chargers on Saturday and the Steelers losing to New Orleans on Sunday, the Ravens have taken control of the AFC North. They will clinch the division with a win over the Browns this week. Meanwhile, the Steelers need a Baltimore loss or a minor miracle in Week 17 just to make the playoffs after losing four of their last five games.
One More Year
Even before the Ravens won Saturday’s game in Los Angeles, the team announced plans to give head coach John Harbaugh a contract extension. Earlier this year, there was speculation that Harbaugh could be finished after this season. But now the Ravens are hoping to lock up Harbaugh long-term. However, after reports of the extension broke, there is now speculation that Harbaugh may not sign an extension but rather finish out his deal that runs through the 2020 season and then explore his options elsewhere.
Winner Take All
Without question, the game of the week in Week 17 will be the Sunday night contest between the Colts and Titans. Barring an unlikely tie, the winner of this game will earn the final wild-card spot while the loser will be 9-7 and left out of the playoffs. However, if the Texans lose to the Jaguars this week, the Colts-Titans winner would also take the AFC South crown and host a playoff game the following week. When the two teams met in Week 11, the Colts dominated the Titans 38-10, although Sunday’s game will be at Tennessee.
Long Road Back
After starting the season 0-2, few gave the Seahawks a chance to reach the playoffs, but that’s exactly what they did after Sunday’s win over the Chiefs. Pete Carroll said of reaching the playoffs after so many counted them out: “There’s an emotion to it that’s deep.” With a win over Arizona in Week 17, the Seahawks will secure the top wild-card spot and face the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs. After Sunday night’s win, the Seahawks gave Carroll an extension that will keep him in Seattle through the 2021 season.
One Spot Left
Like the AFC, the NFC has just one playoff spot left. It will either belong to the Vikings or Eagles. The defending Super Bowl champions need a win over Washington as well as a loss by the Vikings against the Bears in order to make it back to the postseason to defend their title. Of course, the Eagles only have a chance because of a game-winning drive orchestrated by Nick Foles against the Texans on Sunday, as last year’s Super Bowl MVP saved the day for Philadelphia once again.
Two days after Washington safety D.J. Swearinger made headlines by ripping his defensive coordinator Greg Manusky for the play calling in Saturday’s loss to the Titans, the Redskins released him. Apparently, Swearinger was warned in the past about being critical of the team publicly, and this appears to be his third strike. Swearinger had one year left on his contract with Washington and releasing him will save the team $4.5 million next season.
Here are all the injuries you should know about coming out of Week 16 and look ahead to Week 17:
Frank Gore left Miami’s loss on Sunday with a sprained foot. He was promptly put on IR, ending his season a week early. However, Gore won’t require surgery and the 35-year old is hoping to play with the Dolphins again next season if the team wants him back.
The Texans will play Week 17 and the postseason without mid-season pickup Demaryius Thomas, who tore his Achilles during Sunday’s loss to the Eagles. The team traded for Thomas after Will Fuller was lost to a season-ending injury, so they’ll continue to need their younger receivers to step up.
On the bright side for Houston, running back Lamar Miller is reportedly “trending upwards” after missing Week 16 with an injury. Miller has become an important part of the Texas offense this year and is just 83 yards away from a 1,000-yard season.
Todd Gurley did not play in Week 16 because of a knee injury. However, he’s considered day-to-day and Rams coach Sean McVay says that Gurley will play in Week 17 if healthy. The Rams still need a win to secure a first-round bye, which could obviously give Gurley an extra week to rest.
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