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  • AFC Wild Card Notes
    January 1, 2018


    Saturday, January 6, 2018

    AFC Tennessee at Kansas City 4:20 p.m. (ESPN)

    Opening Line (1/1/18): Kansas City -7, 44
    Current Line (1/1/18): Kansas City -7, 44

    Tennessee Road Record: 3-5 SU, 3-5 ATS
    Kansas City Home Record: 6-2 SU, 6-2 ATS

    Head-to-Head: These clubs did not meet during the 2017 regular season, but they did play in Kansas City last December. the chiefs were favored by six points, but it was the Titans coming away with a 19-17 victory as the 'under' cashed. The road team has cashed in seven of the past eight meetings in this series, while the Titans are 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings at Arrowhead Stadium.

    Playoff Notes: Tennessee snapped their playoff drought with a home win in Week 17, punching their ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2008. They're looking for their first win since a Wild-Card win in Baltimore during the 2003 NFL postseason. These teams haven't met in the playoffs since the Titans were the Oilers, with Kansas City coming away with a 28-20 victory on the road. The Chiefs had their 12-4 season ruined by a home loss to the Steelers last year in the Divisional Playoffs. Kansas City is 0-6 SU in their past six home playoff games dating back to a Wild-Card win in the 1993 playoffs against the Steelers.

    Total Notes: The 'under' is 4-0 in the past four playoff games for the Titans, while the 'under' is 4-1 in the past five playoff home games for the Chiefs. The 'under' is also 6-2 in the past eight overall for Kansas City, while going 44-19 in their past 63 at home. The 'over' has hit in five of the past seven meetings in this series.

    Sunday, January 7, 2018


    AFC Buffalo at Jacksonville 1:05 p.m. (CBS)

    Opening Line (1/1/18): Jacksonville -7 , 40
    Current Line (1/1/18): Jacksonville -7 (Even), 40

    Buffalo Road Record: 3-5 SU, 4-4 ATS
    Jacksonville Home Record: 6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS

    Head-to-Head:
    The Bills and Jaguars did not meet during the 2017 season. They last met in Buffalo on Nov. 27, 2016 with the Bills taking a 28-21 victory while the Jaguars covered as an 8 -point underdog. The teams met in Northeast Florida back on Oct. 25, 2015, with the Jags coming away with a 34-31 win as 3 -point underdogs as the 'over' hit. Before that, Buffalo won 27-20 in Week 15 of the 2013 season as a four-point favorite in another 'over' result.

    Playoff Notes: Buffalo snapped a 17-year playoff drought to qualify, and it almost didn't happen. They needed a touchdown from the Cincinnati Bengals in the final minute of regulation to bump off the Baltimore Ravens in the final week of the regular season. Their last appearance in the playoffs came in 1999 in the Music City Miracle, a 22-16 loss at Tennessee. They also met their demise against the Jaguars, 30-27, at home in the 1996 AFC Wild-Card Game. In fact, Buffalo's last playoff win was in 1995. They're 0-3 in their past three playoff games dating back to a 24-3 win in the Division Playoffs in 1992 at Pittsburgh. The Jags are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and they haven't hosted a playoff game since the 1999 AFC Championship Game. Their last win at home was a 62-7 win against the Miami Dolphins in Dan Marino's final game in the NFL in the 1999 Divisional Playoffs.

    Total Notes:
    The 'over' is 9-4 in Buffalo's past 13 games against a team with a winning overall record. The over is 10-4 in Jacksonville's past 14 games at home, and 5-2 in their past seven games against a team with a winning overall mark. The 'under' is 7-1 in the past eight for the Jags vs. AFC opponents, while the 'over' is 4-1-1 in their past six playoff games. The 'over' has hit in each of the past five meetings between the Bills and Jaguars.

    Comment


    • NFC Wild Card Notes
      January 1, 2018


      Saturday, January 6, 2018

      NFC Atlanta at L.A. Rams 8:15 p.m. (NBC)

      Opening Line (1/1/18): L.A. Rams -5 (-120), 49
      Current Line (1/1/18): L.A. Rams -5 (-120), 49

      Atlanta Road Record: 5-3 SU, 2-6 ATS
      L.A. Rams Home Record: 4-4 SU, 4-4 ATS


      Head-to-Head: The Falcons pounded the Rams by a 42-14 score on Dec. 11, 2016 in Los Angeles, covering a 4 1/2-point spread while the 'over' (44) cashed. The favorite has cashed in 13 of the past 16 meetings, with the Falcons going 5-2 ATS in the past seven in this series. The 'over' has cashed in 16 of the past 21 meetings, including 5-2 in the past seven meetings in St. Louis/Los Angeles.

      Playoff Notes: Atlanta is back in the postseason looking to atone for a late collapse in Super Bowl LI, as they blew a 25-point lead against the New England Patriots to fall 34-28 in overtime. The Rams clinched the NFC West title for the first time since 2003. The Rams are also back in the postseason for the first time since 2004, when they beat the Seahawks in the wild card before bowing against, yep, you guessed it, the Falcons in Atlanta by a 47-17 score.

      Total Notes: Atlanta wrapped up the season with five consecutive 'under' results, while hitting the under in 10 of their final 13 outings. On the flip side, Los Angeles hit the 'over' in each of their final five outings. At home, the over was 4-4, including 2-0 in the final two outings. The 'under' is 4-0 in Atlanta's past four against teams with a winning overall record, while going 3-1-1 in their past five playoff road games. The 'over' is 5-2 in the past seven against winning teams for Los Angeles, and 19-9 in their past 28 home games against a team with a winning road mark.


      Sunday, January 7, 2018

      NFC Carolina at New Orleans - 4:40 p.m. (FOX)

      Opening Line (1/1/18): New Orleans -5 , 48
      Current Line (1/1/18): New Orleans -6, 48

      Carolina Road Record: 5-3 SU, 5-3 ATS
      New Orleans Home Record: 7-1 SU, 5-3 ATS


      Head-to-Head:
      The Saints topped the Panthers in Charlotte by a 34-13 score in Week 3, winning as a 5 -point favorite as the 'over' cashed. The teams met again on Dec. 3 in the Big Easy, and the Saints won 31-21 as a six-point favorite, again hitting the 'over'. The Panthers are just 1-4 ATS in their past five trips to New Orleans and 0-6 ATS in the past six meetings in this series. The underdog is 6-1 ATS in the past seven in this series, while the orad team has cashed in 23 of the past 33 meetings overall.

      Playoff Notes:
      Carolina is back in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. It's also their eighth foray into the postseason since joining the NFL in 1995. They have never faced the Saints in the postseason. The Panthers have won four times in seven road outings in the playoffs all-time. This will be the 11th trip to the postseason for the Saints, and their first time since 2013. New Orleans has won five straight home playoff games since losing in the 1992 NFC Wild Card Game against the Eagles.

      Total Notes:
      The 'over' is 4-1 in the past five playoff games for Carolina, and 5-2 in the past seven games overall. The over has also hit in 21 of the past 26 games for Carolina on a fieldturf surface. The 'under' has hit in four of the past five divisional matchups, however. The 'over' is a perfect 5-0 in the past five playoff home games for the Saints, while going 8-3-1 in their past 12 playoff games overall. The over is also 15-6-1 in the past 22 home games for New Orleans. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings in this series in NOLA, while going 6-1 in the past seven meetings between these NFC South rivals.

      Comment


      • NFL notebook: Arians' retirement among coaching moves
        January 1, 2018


        Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians announced his retirement during an emotional press conference on Monday.

        Arians spent Monday morning bidding farewell to colleagues prior to the press conference.

        The 65-year-old just completed his fifth season with the Cardinals, who finished with an 8-8 mark. He owns a 49-30-1 mark with Arizona and also posted a 9-3 record as an interim head coach for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 while Chuck Pagano was undergoing treatment for cancer.

        Arians is a two-time NFL Coach of the Year recipient, capturing the honor in 2012 with the Colts and in 2014 with the Cardinals. He also has two Super Bowl rings during his eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers as wide receivers coach and offensive coordinator.

        --The Detroit Lions fired coach Jim Caldwell after four seasons at the helm. The move comes less than one year after he signed an extension.

        Caldwell posted winning seasons in three of his four years as coach of the Lions, however, the team missed the playoffs twice in the last three seasons -- including this year following a 9-7 mark.

        --The Chicago Bears fired coach John Fox. The Bears finished in the cellar of the NFC North for the third consecutive season under Fox, who was hired by the team in January 2015 after a four-year stint as the Denver Broncos' coach.

        Fox coached the Broncos to a 46-18 record, four consecutive division titles and a Super Bowl appearance, but that level of success did not travel with him to the Windy City.

        --Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson is being re-assigned to a new role with the team, according to reports.

        The 65-year-old Thompson has been the team's GM since 2005.

        The Packers will begin a search for a new general manager as Thompson shifts to a new role within the organization.

        --The Giants submitted requests to interview New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for the team's head-coaching position, multiple outlets reported.

        The team also submitted a request for Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who has a connection to Dave Gettleman. Gettleman, who was the Panthers general manager from 2013-16, was hired to the same post for the Giants on Thursday.

        With the Patriots on a bye before their playoff game, the Giants are expected to travel to Foxborough, Mass., to interview McDaniels and Patricia.

        --After parting ways with head coach Pagano, the Indianapolis Colts were granted permission to speak with Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, according to a report by Sports Illustrated on Monday.

        ESPN also reported the Colts requested to meet with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

        Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who is a first-year coordinator, also was requested by the team for an interview.

        Colts GM Chris Ballard said that previous head-coaching experience is not a requirement for the job. Pagano also did not possess any experience as a head coach when the Colts hired him on Jan. 25, 2012.

        --Linebacker James Harrison
        made his New England debut with 27 defensive snaps in the season finale against the Jets less than a week after he signed with the Patriots.

        Harrison notched five tackles, including a pair of sacks -- one a forced fumble -- on the final two snaps of the 26-6 win.

        --General manager Ryan Pace
        received a two-year contract extension through the 2021 season from the Chicago Bears.

        Pace's extension comes on the heels of the Bears firing coach John Fox at the end of a 5-11 season. The GM's previous contract was set to expire after the 2019 season.

        The Bears' record with Pace in charge is 14-34. They've finished last in the NFC North each of the past four years.

        Pace's next task will be to hire a new coach, who figures to have an offensive background. He said Monday the final hiring decision will be his and that he also will retain control of roster decisions.

        --The Atlanta Falcons
        are the only team in the NFC that made the playoffs in 2016 and returned to the playoffs this season.

        Seattle, Green Bay, Dallas, Detroit and the New York Giants did not repeat.

        --After an 11-loss season, the Denver Broncos fired offensive line coach Jeff Davidson after one year.

        Long-time receivers coach Tyke Tolbert and special teams coordinator Brock Olivo also were let go. Assistant defensive backs Johnnie Lynn, outside linebackers coach Fred Pagac and assistant head coach/running backs coach Eric Studesville also were let go.

        Davidson, 50, joined the Broncos after the team ranked 23rd with 40 sacks allowed in 2016 and 19th with 39 sacks allowed in 2015.

        --In the wake of head coach Arians announcing his retirement, Arizona requested interviews with New England defensive coordinator Patricia and Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, according to a report by NFL.com.

        The Cardinals are seeking a new coach for the first time since the conclusion of the 2012 season.

        Patricia, 43, is in his sixth year as New England's defensive coordinator. He has been on the coaching staff under Bill Belichick since starting as an offensive assistant in 2004.

        Patricia was New England's assistant offensive line coach in 2005, spent the next five seasons as the team's linebackers coach and was the Patriots' safeties coach in 2011 before moving into his current role.

        --Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott
        kept the door open for running back LeSean McCoy to play in Sunday's wild-card game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

        "He's gonna have a chance, we'll see," McDermott said. "We're continuing to go through the medical evaluation on that. We got some good news this morning, so we'll just continue to monitor that."

        The good news was X-rays were negative for McCoy, who was carted off the field with a right ankle injury in the third quarter of the Bills' 22-16 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

        --Restricted free-agent cornerback Quinton Dunbar
        signed a multi-year contract extension with the Washington Redskins.

        Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the franchise, but it was reported to be for three years and $10.5 million with $5.25 million guaranteed.

        The 6-foot-2, 197-pound Dunbar started four games this past season and had 28 tackles, eight passes defensed and an interception, which came against Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in Week 7.

        In 40 career regular-season games, Dunbar has 65 tackles, 18 passes defensed, three interceptions, one sack and one fumble recovery.

        --Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees informed the team he is retiring.

        Linebacker C.J. Mosley posted the news on Twitter while NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that Pees will retire effective March 1.

        The 68-year-old Pees has served on coach John Harbaugh's staff since 2010, working as linebackers coach before being elevated to defensive coordinator after Chuck Pagano departed to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012.

        Pees helped guide the Ravens to a victory in Super Bowl XLVII and won two rings while working with New England Patriots from 2004-09. Pees spent most of the early part of his career in college, including as head coach at Kent State from 1998-2003.

        Comment


        • NFL Overreactions: Eagles will be one-and-done in playoffs
          January 2, 2018


          PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Eagles will be one-and-done in the playoffs.

          Nick Foles has struggled in two of his starts filling in for Carson Wentz and the offense has only scored 13 points in the last two games. Despite being the No. 1 seed, Philadelphia (13-3) might even be an underdog against the Saints, Panthers or Falcons in the divisional round.

          Foles can't possibly outplay Drew Brees, Cam Newton or Matt Ryan in a shootout. The Eagles would be better off with Nate Sudfeld.

          That's a double dose of overreactions to dissect.

          Starting Sudfeld over Foles isn't happening. Sudfeld just made his NFL debut. Foles tossed four touchdown passes against the Giants only two weeks ago. The offense is in a funk but the starters played just one quarter in a 6-0 loss against the Cowboys. Perhaps they could've fixed their problems if they stayed in.

          Foles isn't Wentz. That's obvious. But coach Doug Pederson isn't benching him for a guy who hadn't thrown a pass until Sunday.

          The Eagles have the league's third-ranked rushing attack and a strong defense. They also have home-field advantage. Don't count them out just yet.

          Here are other overreactions from Week 17:

          OVERREACTION: Hue Jackson has what it takes to turn the Browns around after surviving an 0-16 season.

          REALISTIC REACTION: His 1-31 record says otherwise.

          ---

          OVERREACTION: The Rams are the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

          REALISTIC REACTION: They're inexperienced and might not get past Atlanta in the wild-card round.

          ---

          OVERREACTION: Jon Gruden will return to the Raiders and win that Super Bowl he failed to deliver his first time in Oakland.

          REALISTIC REACTION: He has to accept the job first.

          ---

          OVERREACTION: Josh McDaniels will win wherever he goes if he decides to leave New England.

          REALISTIC REACTION: It's easier to win with Tom Brady than without him.

          ---

          OVERREACTION: Kansas City got the best draw of wild-card weekend against Tennessee (9-7).

          REALISTIC REACTION: The Chiefs went 5-6 after a 5-0 start. No opponent will be easy for them.

          ---

          OVERREACTION: Nobody outside Buffalo and Jacksonville cares about the Bills-Jaguars wild-card game.

          REALISTIC REACTION: This could be the best game of the weekend.

          ---

          OVERREACTION: The Saints will struggle against the Panthers because it's hard to beat the same team three times in one season.

          REALISTIC REACTION: Teams who've swept the regular-season series are 11-5 in those situations in the playoffs since 1990.

          Comment


          • Out of playoffs strange place for Seahawks
            January 1, 2018


            RENTON, Wash. -- For the first time since 2011, the Seattle Seahawks are having to watch the playoffs after being eliminated on the final Sunday of the regular season.

            The reasons for Seattle's slide are numerous.

            The Seahawks' running game was woefully ineffective all season. They managed just one rushing touchdown from a running back all season and quarterback Russell Wilson finished as the team's leading rusher. The 240 rushing yards by Mike Davis was the second-least by a leading running back in franchise history, behind only Sherman Smith's 202 yards in 1982.

            Wilson led the league with 34 touchdown passes this season. However, it was a necessity, as Seattle couldn't run the ball near an opponent's end zone.

            Running backs gained only 17 yards on 34 carries inside an opponent's 20-yard line with no touchdowns and just one first down converted.

            Seattle's defense was diminished due to the losses of cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Cliff Avril to season-ending injuries.

            While the group could manage to keep playing at a high level at times, further injuries to linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright and defensive end Michael Bennett took their toll even as those players continued to play.

            Blair Walsh missing critical kicks and Seattle leading the league in penalties also proved problematic.

            An offseason of uncertainty awaits for the Seahawks as several key pieces of their two Super Bowl teams may not return in 2018. Some changes could come to the coaching staff as well as the Seahawks look to correct their course.

            WHAT WENT RIGHT: When healthy, Seattle's defense played at a level consistent with their dominance of recent seasons. Russell Wilson in the second half of games was lethal at times and carried Seattle's offensive scoring burden.

            WHAT WENT WRONG: Injuries to key defenders, accuracy issues from kicker Blair Walsh and the complete lack of an effective rushing attack limited the team's season and took away any margin for error for Russell Wilson.

            MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Defensive tackle Malik McDowell was badly injured in an ATV accident before the start of training camp and didn't play a snap all season.

            MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Chris Carson played in just four games this season, but the seventh-round pick was Seattle's most productive rusher all season after supplanting Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise for the team's starting job.

            ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Defensive coordinator Kris Richard managed to keep Seattle's defense playing at a reasonably high level despite the loss of three starters to season-ending injuries and an offense that rarely gave them large leads to work with.


            --Wide receiver Doug Baldwin could have said much more regarding his thoughts on a season gone awry for the Seahawks.

            Even though Baldwin couched his comments on Monday, he said plenty to express his frustration about the season and the issues the team had this year.

            "When we go into a game or coming out of halftime, down 20-7, we have to take some responsibility for that," Baldwin said. "We can't put it all on the defense. We have to play better, simply put. We've been in those situations all year long. It's been the case for multiple years now, but we have always been able to lean on our defense to keep the opponent down, in terms of points.

            "This year, like you said, we sustained a lot of injuries. Offenses got better. When you have that paired with not playing well offensively in the first half of games, we are always fighting against ourselves. We are always trying to dig ourselves out of a hole. Plus, we were terrible at penalties this year. That plays a big role as well."

            Baldwin said he expects "several" changes this offseason, but he went out of his way to address criticism toward offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

            "I can't say it," he said trying to be diplomatic. "My job is to protect the team right now and I'm doing a poor job of that right now. How can I say this? How can I say this? It's not play-calling. It's not play-calling. We go into a game knowing what the defense is going to give us, the situations that we're going to be in. We don't execute as a team. Offensively, that's what we've seen time and time again is that we do not execute the way that we should. And that's on us as players. You guys can blame Bev all you want to, but the truth of the matter is Bev is not the problem. Probably already said too much."

            NOTES: RG Ethan Pocic sustained a knee injury in Sunday's season finale. He said the injury would not require surgery and he would be fine in the near future. ... LB Terence Garvin sustained a concussion in the final game of the season.

            Comment


            • Jaguars look to revive running game
              January 1, 2018


              JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars just cannot get their running game to where it was the first half of the season.

              The Jaguars still finished the regular season as the NFL's top rushing team, averaging 141.4 yards per game, nearly 100 yards more than runner-up Dallas.

              But it's a far cry from the 166.5 yards a game Jacksonville averaged the first eight games. The Jaguars averaged just 116.5 rushing yards over the final eight games, and ran for less than 100 yards in four of the final six games.

              Rookie Leonard Fournette became the third Jaguars back to top the 1,000-yard mark, finishing with 1,040. The Jaguars were 4-1 when he rushed for more than 100 yards, and were 3-5 when he didn't.

              In his last regular-season game, Fournette rushed for 69 yards on 19 carries, a 3.6 average per attempt. His longest run was just 9 yards.

              "It's about winning," he said. "I don't care too much about no run game or whatever. It's about winning."

              Quarterback Blake Bortles knows the importance of the running game.

              "We've got to keep working on finding ways to run the ball, working on creating holes for our backs and giving them an opportunity to go get some yards," Bortles said. "I thought Leonard ran hard today for what he had. We've got to stay with it and continue to try and find it and come up with different ways to create some lanes for him to go."

              --The best news for the Jaguars coming out of Sunday's loss was that they did not suffer any significant injuries.

              The only player who missed any time in the game was safety Barry Church, who went out with a hamstring issue, but later returned.

              Three injured starters sat out the game, but there is a good chance all three -- defensive tackle Abry Jones, left tackle Cam Robinson and wide receiver Marqise Lee -- will play Sunday.

              "I think there's a good opportunity for that," head coach Doug Marrone said.

              Lee missed the past two games, but still leads the Jaguars in receptions (56) and is second in receiving yards (702).

              "That will help," Marrone said of Lee's possible return.

              --The Jaguars' defense could not be blamed for Sunday's loss.

              Three times Tennessee started drives inside Jaguars territory, but only managed a pair of field goals in those drives.

              The defense also came through with Jacksonville's only touchdown of the game when defensive end Yannick Ngakoue grabbed a Titans fumble and returned it 67 yards for his first NFL touchdown and the Jaguars' NFL-high seventh defensive touchdown this year.

              Ngakoue's fumble recovery was the Jaguars' 33rd takeaway of the season, the most in franchise history.

              Even though the Jaguars held the Titans to just 232 total yards, the Jacksonville players weren't satisfied with their total effort after forcing just one turnover.

              "We've got to get those takeaways," safety Barry Church said. "In order for us to get wins and put our offense in better position, we have to be able to take the ball away. We got the one, but we need to be able to force more."

              The Jaguars committed four turnovers and produced just one Sunday, one week after committing three and forcing one in a loss to the 49ers.

              --After Sunday's game ended, punches flew between Titans Pro-Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and backup Jaguars linebackers Blair Brown and Donald Payne. Casey had made some comments during the week about which team was actually "King of the South."

              "We didn't want their offense to score at all. And it looks like that's what happened. It looks like that's what happened. Sorry. At the beginning of the week, I was talking about that," Casey said. "King of the South? King of the South? Sounds great, but gotta be able to beat us. Jacksonville didn't play great today. Appreciate the turnovers. Helped us out a lot."

              NOTES: WR Allen Hurns returned to action on Sunday after missing six consecutive games due to an ankle injury suffered in Week 10 against the L.A. Chargers. Hurns caught three passes for 38 yards. ... WR Keelan Cole had his back-to-back streak of 100 yards in receptions end on Sunday when he was held to 33 yards on four catches. He led the team in receiving yards this year with 748. ... LT Josh Wells started his fourth game of the season when he filled in for the injured Cam Robinson at left tackle.... DT Marcell Dareus got his first start of the season, and he was strong in clogging the middle and keeping the Titans' Derrick Henry at bay. ... DT Eli Ankou was active for the first time since Week 9 against Cincinnati. Ankou had two tackles including a sack. ... --K Josh Lambo converted from 41 yards out and has made 19 of 20 field goal attempts this season. His .950 percentage is a team record (minimum 10 attempts). ... CB Aaron Colvin scooped up the Titans' blocked extra point, the second week in a row Colvin has grabbed a blocked PAT. Last week against San Francisco he took the errant kick all the way back for two points. This time Colvin was caught by Tennessee kicker Ryan Succop. ... RB Chris Ivory was one of the Jaguars' seven designated inactive players for Sunday's game even though Ivory was healthy. A week ago, Ivory played in the game against San Francisco, but did not have any carries. A week before that, he carried a team-high 17 times (for 42 yards) against Houston.

              Comment


              • Jaguars must forget two-game losing streak
                January 1, 2018


                JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For the second straight week, a Jacksonville Jaguars loss was accompanied by what could be perceived as good news.

                A week ago, the loss to San Francisco was softened by the news that Tennessee had lost to the Rams, thus giving the Jaguars the AFC South title.

                On Sunday, the Jaguars lost to the Titans for the second time this season. However, Jacksonville was spared a third game against the Titans in the opening round of the playoffs when Cincinnati beat Baltimore on Sunday, knocking the Ravens out of the playoffs and giving the No. 6 AFC seed to Buffalo. As a result, the Jaguars will host the Bills on Sunday instead of a Tennessee team that has given the Jaguars problems.

                By winning the AFC South, the Jaguars will host a playoff game for the first time since January 23, 2000 when they fell to the Titans in the AFC Championship game.

                The Jaguars are returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2007, snapping a nine-season playoff drought that was tied for the fourth-longest in the NFL entering 2017.

                The Jaguars are 5-6 in their playoff history.

                The Jaguars' immediate problem is trying to put their season-ending two-game losing streak behind them.

                Last week, Jaguars players and coaches talked about how important it was to beat the Titans. Now they have to deal with the inability to do so.

                "Every game matters, but once we get out of 48 hours -- Monday or Tuesday -- this game doesn't matter," linebacker Myles Jack said. "We've got the playoffs, and that's the most important thing. This will only make guys madder and more excited to play. I think this will bring the hunger out of us. It's good timing."

                Added quarterback Blake Bortles, "I think we'll be fine."

                Even head coach Doug Marrone put a positive spin on the Jaguars' plight.

                "I just think we have been on the road," Marrone said after Sunday's loss in Nashville. "This is the first time that we had this adversity, we've lost two games in a row. But, I think, just like I told the team, the good part about this is we're going home. Whenever you have adversity in life, in what you do, there is always that comfort in going home."

                The atmosphere for the Jaguars' first postseason game in 10 years should be different from the two away-game defeats.

                "This is the playoffs," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "This is what we work hard for. We're AFC South champs. The opportunity is in front of us. A home playoff game? I can't wait."

                Buffalo might be without its leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, who suffered an injured ankle on Sunday in the win over Miami. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor may be asked to carry the offense.

                The Jaguars will also have the benefit of a sellout crowd of nearly 70,000 people.

                REPORT CARD VS. TITANS

                --PASSING OFFENSE: D --
                Blake Bortles went from a career-high 382 passing yards a week ago, to a career-low 33.7 passer rating against the Titans. He was 15-of-34 passing (44.1 percent) and the 158 passing yards marked the sixth time this season he was limited to 160 or fewer yards. Bortles also threw two more interceptions, giving him five in the last two games after throwing just eight picks in the first 14 games. Jaguars' receivers dropped several passes, including what would have been a touchdown catch by Dede Westbrook.

                --RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- It was another sub 100-yard effort by the Jaguars, and it's becoming a trend. The Jaguars finished with just 83 yards on the ground with running backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon combining for 74 yards in 27 attempts, 2.7 yards per try. Once again, the offensive line couldn't move defenders to open holes. No running play gained more than 9 yards.

                --PASS DEFENSE: A --
                Take away the screen pass to Derrick Henry that went for 66 yards, and the pass defense was exceptional. The Titans managed only another 50 passing yards. Holding Tennessee to 116 yards through the air cemented the Jaguars' No. 1 ranking as the league's best against the pass.

                --RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus --
                The Jaguars knew they had to stop Derrick Henry to have any chance. In the first meeting, Henry bashed the Jags' defense for 91 rushing yards in 14 carries. In Henry's first 14 carries in Sunday's game, he had a total of 17 yards. He finished with just 51 yards on a career-high 28 attempts, less than 2 yards a carry. However, the Jaguars allowed Mariota to gain 60 yards in 10 scrambles.

                --SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus --
                The good news is that the Jaguars blocked an extra point for the second game in a row. Josh Lambo also came through with another field goal. There was plenty of bad news, however. Punt returner Jaydon Mickens fumbled two punts, one of which was recovered by the Titans and led to a field goal. Mickens was also called for a 15-yard penalty, and the Jaguars were penalized for having 12 men on the field on a punt.

                --COACHING: C -- The coaches weren't responsible for Dede Westbrook dropping a touchdown pass in the end zone, or for the pair of miscues on punt returns by first-year player Jaydon Mickens, or for Keelan Cole's fumble that led to another Tennessee field goal. Head coach Doug Marrone made the right call in playing his regulars. But he mistakenly challenged a Titans 7-yard pass completion in the first quarter. The biggest coaching blunder was having 12 players on the field on a Jaguars punt that was downed at the 3-yard line. The re-punt rolled into the end zone.


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                • Jags' Marrone happy for Bills, but won't delve into odd exit
                  January 1, 2018


                  JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Doug Marrone's past and present are colliding in the playoffs.

                  Marrone understands it's one of the main story lines heading into Jacksonville's AFC wild-card game against Buffalo (9-7), where he spent two seasons (2013-14) before walking away with $4 million thanks to an uncommon opt-out clause in his contract.

                  He knows he can't elude the topic. He just doesn't want to entertain it.

                  ''What's past is past,'' Marrone said Monday. ''I'll tell you guys the truth. My goal and my function - and I'm going to shoot everyone straight - this stuff happened so long ago, OK? There's obviously been a lot of stuff out there. That stuff is done. It's over. I can't put it any simpler than that.

                  ''So I'm not going to take away my primary responsibility to look back on a situation that occurred, what, three years ago.''

                  Marrone led Buffalo to its first winning record (9-7) in a decade in 2014 and then abruptly quit a few days after the end of the regular season. His contract gave him a small window to walk away with the significant payout.

                  His decision stunned players, assistant coaches, management, owners and fans.

                  There were reports Marrone was unsure about the direction of the franchise under new ownership and believed he would land an open job with Atlanta, Chicago, the New York Jets or San Francisco. He was considered the front-runner for the Jets job until the New York Daily News ran a column citing unnamed people saying Marrone was a control freak and a phony who belittled his staff.

                  At the NFL Combine last year, Marrone acknowledged he made a mistake by leaving Buffalo and said he had relayed that to Bills co-owner Terry Pegula.

                  ''He knows how I feel about it,'' Marrone said then. ''Obviously, I'll keep that conversation private, but yes, I would say absolutely you learn from that and that's one of the mistakes you wish you can go back and do over and you just wish you had more time.

                  ''I think when I look at it, I look at myself, is that I wish I could've communicated things better at that time.''

                  Marrone went 15-17 in Buffalo and presumably quit because of uncertainty over potential organizational changes. His decision didn't sit well with Bills fans, who felt betrayed because Marrone seemingly had the franchise on the verge of ending its lengthy playoff drought.

                  Marrone reportedly had concerns about working with then-general manager Doug Whaley. They appeared to clash over personnel decisions, particularly at quarterback. Marrone benched first-round draft pick EJ Manuel late in 2014 and replaced him with veteran Kyle Orton.

                  Orton retired a day after Buffalo's season finale in 2014, and Marrone said he never saw it coming.

                  Marrone politely declined to look back Monday.

                  ''If I do that, then I shouldn't be the coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars,'' he said. ''My job is to make sure that I do the best job for this team. ... I'm happy for their fans and I'm happy for the organization, as well as I am for the other 11 teams, or 10 teams that are in it.

                  ''But my focus is on our fans, our team, and where we want to go. It's going to be a week of people trying to pull that apart, and I'm not going to let that happen because of what my job is.''

                  Marrone landed in Jacksonville as the team's offensive line coach. He spent two years under Gus Bradley and was named interim coach for the final two games of the 2016 season. Marrone got the job full time last January and meshed seamlessly with decision-maker Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell.

                  He has the Jaguars (10-6) in the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season. They are hosting a postseason game for the first time since 1999, which is also the last time Buffalo made the playoffs.

                  ''You go back and it's always people make stuff bigger than it is,'' Marrone said. ''My job is to coach this team; it's plain and simple.''

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                  • Reid knows Titans will be formidable foe
                    January 1, 2018


                    KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A familiar foe returns to Kansas City next weekend with the Tennessee Titans coming to Arrowhead Stadium to take on head coach Andy Reid's AFC West-champion Chiefs in the wild-card playoff round kicking off Saturday afternoon.

                    "We had a chance to play them last year and they've got a couple of new people there," Reid said. "It's an active defense. Their offense is explosive, they've got good runners, good receivers and a good quarterback. Offensive line is tough. They've got a good football team worthy of being in that position."

                    The Titans brought a 7-6 record to Kansas City in Week 15 of the 2016 season to take on the Chiefs (10-3). Wide receiver Tyreek Hill ran 68 yards out of the backfield for a touchdown and quarterback Alex Smith scrambled for another score, putting the Chiefs up 14-0 in the first quarter.

                    The Chiefs carried a 17-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota led three scoring drives in the final 12 minutes, with kicker Ryan Succop booting a 53-yard field goal to send Tennessee to a stunning 19-17 upset victory.

                    Smith finished the game with a pedestrian 15-of-28 passing line for 163 yards. He threw an end-zone interception from the Tennessee 7-yard line midway through the third quarter. That ended a potential scoring drive that likely would have given Kansas City the win.

                    The Titans have stifled Smith in three matchups during his five seasons in Kansas City. The Chiefs won only one of those three games, with Smith completing just 53 percent of his passes with one touchdown and five interceptions for a passer rating of just 54.0.

                    Reid doesn't believe Smith's struggles against the Titans mean much heading into this postseason matchup.

                    "I know last time he started off like gangbusters with a big shot to (former wide receiver) Jeremy (Maclin) and so on, had a big run with Tyreek," Reid said.

                    "Then things were just kind of average after that. I think it's just by coincidence."

                    Reid maintains confidence this year's edition of the Chiefs can score when needed, including against a talented Titans defense.

                    "I'm confident in them," Reid said of his offense. "There's good chemistry there. But every week's important that you get yourself prepared and ready to go. That's where we're at and what we need to do."

                    REPORT CARD VS. BRONCOS

                    --PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -
                    The Chiefs designed a solid passing game plan against the Broncos and rookie Patrick Mahomes executed it well. Mahomes came out hot early, sailing a throw for an interception on his second drive. The rookie showed the ability to make the spectacular play with his rifle arm, but also showed a decision-making process that must improve. This game justifies head coach Andy Reid's faith in Mahomes for the future, but it also underscores why the Chiefs belong to Alex Smith for now.

                    --RUSHING OFFENSE: A -
                    How the Chiefs mustered 110 yards on the ground with a makeshift offensive line and a fullback leading the charge might be one of the more unsung stories of the 2017 season. Rookie Kareem Hunt received just one carry, but that 35-yard touchdown romp gave him the league's rushing title. The team planned to lean on backups to rest Hunt, but with Charcandrick West out with the flu and Akeem Hunt twisting an ankle, that left the job to fullback Anthony Sherman. Sherman rushed 14 times for 40 yards - he entered the day with six carries for 14 yards in the first 108 games of his career. A yeoman's effort in a win.

                    --PASS DEFENSE: A-minus - The Chiefs have struggled at times mounting a pass rush, but their youth movement had no trouble putting heat on Broncos QB Paxton Lynch all afternoon. The Chiefs collected five sacks, including three total from rookie linebackers Tanoh Kpassagnon and Ukeme Eligwe. Kansas City might need to find a way to work its young speed rushers into the pass rush during the postseason. The Chiefs win when they force turnovers, and two interceptions and a strip-sack of Lynch proved key to the win.

                    --RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus - Tackling loomed as an issue at times among the Chiefs' reserve defenders, but they cracked down in the red zone, keeping the Broncos from running effectively near the goal line. The Broncos stopped Kansas City's streak of three straight games holding opponents under 100 yards rushing, but the effort of the team's backups still shows a marked improvement from earlier in the season when the Chiefs couldn't stop anyone on the ground.

                    --SPECIAL TEAMS: A - Harrison Butker's game-winning field goal capped off a Cinderella season for the rookie kicker. He finishes with an NFL rookie-record 38 field goals for the season. Dustin Colquitt netted 46 yards per punt on five kicks, including a booming 77-yard punt as the first half drew to a close that prevented the Broncos from a potential scoring opportunity. The Chiefs still haven't broken a big play in the kick-return game this season, but teams should be wary of special teams coordinator Dave Toub's squad going into the playoffs.

                    --COACHING: A -
                    Andy Reid admitted to just one mistake, taking Mahomes out of the game and putting in third-string quarterback Tyler Bray in the fourth quarter. But Reid quickly corrected course, bringing Mahomes back in for the game-winning 2-minute drive. Reid and his staff built a winning game plan for his reserve squad, and the Chiefs take a four-game winning streak into the postseason. Reid assigned himself the blame for the team's 1-6 midseason slump, but now he deserves the credit for sending the Chiefs heading in the right direction into the postseason.


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                    • Bills reverse tank talk by ending 17-year playoff drought
                      January 1, 2018


                      ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) It took four months and a dramatic turn of events on one of the final plays of the NFL's regular season for coach Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills to finally - and succinctly - put to rest any suggestion the team had any intention of tanking last summer.

                      ''I'll let you guys handle that,'' McDermott said, referring to reporters on Monday. ''We're moving on after today to the first round of the playoffs.''

                      And that's all that matters to the first-year coach, who took the high road rather than an ''I told you so'' approach some 18 hours after the Bills clinched the AFC's sixth and final playoff berth and ended a 17-year postseason drought - the longest in North America's four major professional sports.

                      McDermott never gave into the doubters and instead preached a simple ''Trust The Process'' message that resonated with his players.

                      ''Every season's a little bit different. Every season you go through tests and challenges,'' McDermott said.

                      ''It's going to try to pull you apart. It's going to test you, and it's going to test your mental toughness,'' he added. ''And our players hung in there.''

                      Rather than packing up, as 17 of Buffalo's preceding teams did on the day after the regular-season finale, these Bills returned home to a jubilant reception early Monday.

                      They were greeted at Buffalo Niagara International Airport by some 400 chanting fans , who braved 2-degree temperatures after Buffalo beat Miami 22-16 and clinched its playoff berth once Baltimore gave up a last-minute touchdown in a 31-27 loss to Cincinnati.

                      McDermott is even considering sending the Bengals a gift - chicken wings, perhaps - as a thank you for Andy Dalton hitting Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-12 with 44 seconds left.

                      And now, Buffalo (9-7) is moving on in preparing to play at AFC South champion Jacksonville (10-6) on Sunday.

                      McDermott rewarded his players by giving them the next two days off, before the team returns to practice Wednesday.

                      They earned it.

                      Buffalo overcame exceedingly low expectations following a major yearlong roster overhaul which led to the departures of numerous high-priced stars.

                      Among the players traded were receiver Sammy Watkins (to the Los Angeles Rams) and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (Jacksonville).

                      The Bills' secondary was retooled as was their group of receivers, leaving the team to open the season with 24 holdovers from 2016.

                      On the field, the Bills overcame the elements by beating Indianapolis 13-7 in overtime amid white-out conditions on Dec. 10.

                      And the team failed to unravel when McDermott's decision to start Nathan Peterman backfired after the rookie quarterback threw five interceptions in the first half of a 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 19.

                      Buffalo could face even more adversity with running back LeSean McCoy's status uncertain after hurting his right ankle against Miami.

                      What stood out to McDermott was how the Bills responded to the loss to the Chargers the following week by snapping a three-game skid with a 16-10 win at Kansas City.

                      ''If you're going to put a landmark moment for this first year, that was probably one of them,'' he said of a win that improved Buffalo's record to 6-5.

                      ''That goes back to the resiliency of this football team and really what this city is all about ... that no matter what people say about us, we're going to compete like crazy.''

                      McDermott needed no more validation of how his team has captured the imagination of its supporters than witnessing the scene at the airport. Fans waved Bills flags and placards, sang the team's ''Shout!'' song and chanted ''Let's Go Buffalo.''

                      ''I've been around a couple of playoffs or two in my 20 years around the NFL, and that was unmatched,'' he said. ''This type of welcome home just speaks volumes about our city and our fans.''

                      Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said the staff and players couldn't initially see the fans while de-boarding the plane, but could hear them.

                      ''We were like, `This is incredible.' It just kind of brings home what this means to Buffalo, to western New York,'' Frazier said. ''It just pushes you on to want to keep it going and just show them how much we appreciate their support.''

                      Rookie tackle Dion Dawkins was stunned by the reception,

                      ''It's 2 degrees out here and they're screaming their tails off,'' Dawkins said. ''This is just flat-out unbelievable.''

                      Funny, some were saying the same about the Bills' playoff chances four months ago, too.

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