Wild-Card Weekend definitely lived up to its name, and now we’re down to the final eight teams. Of course, there’s also a lot going on for teams that are out of the playoffs. Let’s check out all of the important NFL news from the past week.
Stand by Your Man
As the Baltimore offense struggled to do anything for the first three quarters against the Chargers on Sunday, many speculated whether John Harbaugh would bench Lamar Jackson in favor of Joe Flacco. However, Harbaugh never wavered from the rookie and stated Monday that he made the “right decision” to stay with Jackson. Eventually, Jackson led a 4th quarter comeback, but it was too little, too late. Harbaugh reiterated after the game that Jackson is the team’s quarterback moving forward, adding that Flacco can still play in the NFL and that a lot of teams will want him.
Oh the Shame
Other than Jackson’s disappointing performance, the biggest blunder of the weekend had to have been Cody Parkey’s missed field goal that would have won Sunday’s game for the Bears over the Eagles. The NFL has since given credit to Treyvon Hester for a blocked field goal, taking some of the heat off Parkey. However, Parkey was crushed after the game despite getting plenty of understanding from his teammates. Despite the kick being blocked, the miss is likely to stay with the kicker for quite some time.
The First Domino
According to reports, the Packers will soon become the first team to fill their head coaching vacancy. Green Bay is reportedly set to hire Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. The 39-year old also served as the offensive coordinator for the Rams in 2017 and was quarterbacks coach for the Falcons in 2015 and 2016. Despite the Titans struggling offensively for large chunks of this season, the Packers believe LaFleur could be the next great offensive innovator and a coach who can help Aaron Rodgers get back on track.
Trouble in Steel Town
As if the saga involving Le’Veon Bell this season wasn’t enough, the Steelers may now have another disgruntled star on their hands. After a troubling end to the season that saw the Steelers miss the playoffs, wide receiver Antonio Brown now says he is exploring his options. Brown is signed through the 2021 season, but he also appears to be unhappy staying in Pittsburgh. He is yet to officially ask for a trade, although that is one option he could explore. In fact, recent reports indicate that a trade is increasingly likely.
One Good Soldier
While Brown and the Steelers are on the outs, Ben Roethlisberger is planning to stay in Pittsburgh a little longer. Roethlisberger is set to be a free agent after the 2019 season, but he and the team appear to have plans to restructure his deal, giving him an extension in the process. That would indicate that the 36-year-old intends to play beyond next season. Restructuring his deal would also help the Steelers cope with over $21 million in dead cap money if Brown ends up being traded.
Just to Confirm
Despite becoming the new GM of the Raiders last week, Mike Mayock has confirmed what many speculated, which is that coach Jon Gruden will have the final say when it comes to personnel moves. Mayock said that he has “zero problems with that,” adding that he likes “a little yelling, a little screaming, a little fighting for what players you believe in.”
Down But Not Out
When the Cowboys play the Rams this weekend, they’ll do so without wide receiver Allen Hurns, who suffered a gruesome ankle injury during Saturday’s win over the Seahawks. The injury was described by one source as an “open dislocation.” He underwent surgery soon after the injury, and there is optimism with the Cowboys that Hurns will be ready for training camp next season. In the meantime, the Cowboys are likely to call up Lance Lenoir from the practice squad, as Cole Beasley and Tavon Austin are both battling injuries, potentially leaving Dallas short-handed at wide receiver this week.
One More Hunter
Much like last week, there is speculation that the Chargers could have tight end Hunter Henry back in time to play in this week’s playoff game. Henry wasn’t activated in time for Sunday’s game in Baltimore, but he’s officially back on the 53-man roster as of Monday after tearing his ACL at the start of training camp. While he may not play a huge role, Hunter could have a role for Sunday’s game against the Patriots, providing some depth for Antonio Gates and Virgil Green.