New England Patriots: Could offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels be headed to Green Bay? A Yahoo! Sports report on Monday said McDaniels is interested in replacing fired head coach Mike McCarthy with the Packers. The report also indicated that some NFL assistant coaches want to work for McDaniels in Green Bay, with even one pulling out of contention for another position to see what happens with McDaniels. But will Green Bay have an interest in McDaniels after he spurned the Indianapolis Colts after accepting their head coaching job 10 months ago? That remains to be seen.
Buffalo Bills: The Dolphins saw rookie quarterback Josh Allen for the first time on Sunday — they’ll see him again in the final game of the season — and coaches and players didn’t sound as if they’re eager to see him twice a year for the coming the seasons. “I mean, Josh Allen, I feel like he’s going to be a good little quarterback in this division for a long time. He’s not sneaky athletic. He’s just athletic. He makes plays with his feet,” Dolphins cornerback Kenyan Drake said. Safety Reshad Jones said Allen has “a little Ben Roethlisberger (in him). He has a similar game, a big guy. He can run. Probably one of the strongest arms in the NFL. I think that guy is going to be good.” On the day, Allen had 231 yards on 18-of-33 passing and added 135 yards rushing on nine carries.
Miami Dolphins: A win Sunday against Buffalo kept the Dolphins (6-6) one game out of the final AFC wild-card spot, and they’ll host the division-leading New England Patriots this weekend, who go to Florida looking to clinch another AFC East division title. Coach Adam Gase said Monday it doesn’t matter who his Dolphins are playing Sunday. Every win is crucial. “Just prepare for that week’s game,” Gase said. “That’s all we can do. Every game at this point in the season is going to be meaningful no matter who you’re playing. We have to just focus on preparing, correcting the things we need to correct and just focus on our guys doing their jobs.” He added about his team: “We have a long ways to go. I know that.”
New York Jets: Head coach Todd Bowles has taken his lumps this season, blaming many of the defeats in this 3-9 season on himself. But after the Jets squandered a 16-point lead and lost to the Tennessee Titans 26-22 on Sunday, he placed the loss on his players — starting with the 11 penalties for 96 yards. “I don’t know how many (penalties) we had, but it felt like we had one every play. It cost us, and it’s disgusting.” On Monday, he told reporters he never will forget this game. “This game will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’ve been in about three of them. This will go right up there with those games.” In their game-winning drive, the Titans went six plays in 86 yards, helped by three penalties: face mask on Trumaine Johnson, holding on Morris Claiborne and illegal use of hands on Jordan Jenkins.
Baltimore Ravens: Quarterback Lamar Jackson is growing with each situation, which coach John Harbaugh pointed to as a benefit to having the rookie on the field. “He’s getting better. Football is like that. Especially at that position. There’s a lot of things that can happen in football, crazy scenarios, impossible to predict. You learn by experiencing them. … These are things he continues to experience and learn from.”
Cincinnati Bengals: Wide receiver A.J. Green will have season-ending surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right big toe, ESPN reported Monday. Green was in the locker room Monday wearing a walking boot, a day after he was in tears in the tunnel following a cart ride from the field. Green was returning Sunday after missing three games. He has 46 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns in nine games this year, with all but the touchdown total marking career lows. Cincinnati has four games left in the regular season (Chargers, Raiders, Brown, Steelers).
Cleveland Browns: Center J.C. Tretter said it is beyond evident rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield has earned the respect of the locker room and the title of team leader. “His leadership — especially as a rookie coming in — it’s so genuine,” Tretter said. “People want to be around him; people gravitate toward him. And that’s big because you gotta take a big step being a rookie in the locker room as well as leading older, veteran players. It’s one of those things if you push too hard, if you are deemed fake, then people are gonna push back on you. But Baker’s such a natural leader, such a genuine good person, it’s made it easy to have older guys kinda gravitate toward him, work with and be excited to play with him.”
Pittsburgh Steelers: When running back James Conner was helped off the field and had his left ankle examined, his season seemed to be in peril on Sunday night. However, coach Mike Tomlin said the second-year back has a leg contusion, and NFL Network reported the team was treating Conner’s injury as a bruise. Swelling could dictate the plan for Conner the rest of the week. Jaylen Samuels replaced Conner on Sunday night and would be in line for a bigger workload if Conner is held out for the Week 14 game at Oakland.
Houston Texans: Safety Andre Hal intercepted Cleveland rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield during Sunday’s win over the Browns and it was a play that brought great joy to the defensive unit as well as coach Bill O’Brien. It was Hal’s first pick since returning from his recent battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “It was great. Here’s a guy that has meant a lot to me, personally,” O’Brien said in a press conference. “I just speak from a personal standpoint. We drafted him late in my first year here. He was a cornerback and we moved him to safety when he got here, started out on special teams, just a special guy, very hardworking guy, excellent pro. To see him make that play and the week before he made a real big tackle on the kickoff coverage, he’s just made some solid plays for us since he’s been back.”
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck’s streak of throwing at least three touchdown passes in eight straight games came to a halt Sunday when the Colts were blanked by the Jaguars. It was the first time Luck has been shut out during his NFL career and his long gain was just 20 yards out of 33 completions. “I didn’t quite hold up my end of the bargain as this sort of orchestrator of the offense out there on the field,” Luck told reporters. “I didn’t get the ball to the open guy enough. I didn’t do the simple things enough, but as far as the shots go, you can’t force it. You can’t force shots in this league. It doesn’t work like that. But when (opportunities) presented themselves, we were just a little off.”
Jacksonville Jaguars: Quarterback Cody Kessler got rid of the zero in his win-loss column despite passing for just 150 yards and not leading a single touchdown drive during a 6-0 win over the Colts on Sunday. But that OK with Kessler, who was 0-8 as a starter for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 prior to winning his first start the Jaguars. “Obviously it wasn’t pretty and there’s a lot I left out there, but at the end of the day it feels good,” Kessler told reporters. “Especially for me to get the first one. … It’s something as a quarterback and as a kid you dream of winning an NFL game.” Kessler became the starter when ineffective Blake Bortles was demoted. Kessler will make his second start for the team on Thursday against the Tennessee Titans.
Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Marcus Mariota recorded his 12th career game-winning drive after leading the Titans 86 yards on six plays for the winning score in Sunday’s 26-22 comeback win over the New York Jets. Tennessee trailed 16-0 before rallying and Mariota completed the charge with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis with 36 seconds remaining. “I’d rather him not have to do it, but if we have to, that has really been fun to watch,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said during a press conference. “It is exciting to have him be able to do that and keep his composure, find the guys, make plays.” Mariota said the credit goes to his teammates. “It’s the guys around me,” Mariota told reporters. “These guys find ways to make plays. I am just the guy that is distributing and allows the guys to do their thing.”
Denver Broncos: With Von Miller (12.5, second in NFL) and Bradley Chubb (10, tied for ninth) racking up the sacks this season, the Broncos have seen more and more teams commit to extra protection to slow the edge rush. Head coach Vance Joseph doesn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. “I’ve seen Bradley and Von get double chipped — which is rare — but we kind of like that, especially when we’re rushing four and playing zone coverage because now we’ve got six guys over three receivers. That’s always a good deal when they’re double chipping those guys. … It works both ways for us.” Even with the extra attention, Chubb is 4.5 sacks shy of Jevon Kearse’s rookie sack record with four games to play, and Miller is six shy of his career high.
Kansas City Chiefs: Three days after the sudden release of running back Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs have quickly moved on, bringing back former back Charcandrick West, who was with Kansas City from 2014 until getting cut during training camp in August. Some of West’s contribution will come on special teams, but he’ll also have a chance to boost a running game that quietly struggled on Sunday. While the Chiefs totaled 174 yards on 30 carries against the Raiders, 89 of those yards came from quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wideout Tyreek Hill. Starting running back Spencer Ware averaged just 3.4 yards per carry on 14 touches, though Damien Williams was more effective (five carries, 38 yards).
Los Angeles Chargers: The most telling statistic to head coach Anthony Lynn from Sunday night’s comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers was the Chargers’ success on third down after halftime, as L.A. went 4 for 4 while holding Pittsburgh to 0 for 4. “Converting the ball on third downs helped our running game get in a rhythm a bit,” Lynn said. “And when our running game can get in rhythm with the passing game, we can move the ball on anybody.” He added that the offense’s conversions gave the defense critical rest. The Chargers’ 39.2 percent third-down success rate ranks 16th this season, but they’ve gone 18 of 31 (58.1 percent) over the last three games (excluding a cameo by Geno Smith in Week 12).
Oakland Raiders: Despite a late rally, the Raiders lost again on Sunday to fall to 2-10 and officially be eliminated from the playoffs, but there have been a few positives in recent weeks. One is 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph, who has started the last four games after getting just 14 defensive snaps through the season’s first seven weeks. “He’s been a really good open-field tackler,” Gruden said of Joseph. “I think he’s showing really good range. He’s recognizing plays and he’s making plays. That’s exciting. He’s getting better and better in this defense.” Meanwhile, seventh-round rookie wideout Marcell Ateman caught his first NFL touchdown in his third game. “It’s kind of neat seeing these young guys gaining confidence,” Gruden said.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys spent their day off on Monday making their annual visits to local children’s hospitals in Dallas and Fort Worth. They spread out among the facilities to share their holiday good wishes with youngsters, but players said they got as much in return. Said linebacker Jaylon Smith: “It means a lot whenever you get a chance to go out in the community with this platform that we are on. We get so caught up in this world of football when in reality there are a lot of people going through some real life stuff. So to be able to spread some holiday cheer and put smiles on people’s faces is amazing. Just getting a chance to go into the rooms and see the joy on their face. We are called America’s team for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is the impact we have on children. It’s a wonderful opportunity and privilege to be a Cowboy.”
New York Giants: Head coach Pat Shurmur was happy to get the overtime win against the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears on Sunday, and he was even happier with the resolve his team showed, he told reporters. “The takeaway is, and I told the team this — I’ll keep the swear words out of it — some people are fond of talented people, some people are fond of smart people, I’m fond of tough, resilient people,” Shurmur said. “When you’re trying to flip culture, when you’re trying to build something, you’ve got to really dig in on that. There was some toughness and some resiliency. It would have been easy to cave when they came back, an 8-3 team, came back and tied us up, they had a little bit of juice, a little bit of mojo, but our guys found a way to put points on the board and then stop them at the end. I’m fond of toughness and resiliency, and our team showed that.”
Philadelphia Eagles: Defeated Washington Redskins on Monday night.
Washington Redskins: Lost to Philadephia Eagles on Monday night.
Chicago Bears: Hired after a year as offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, Matt Nagy was questioned Monday about the team’s potential interest in former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. Nagy said only he wasn’t “going to get into that” scenario. Chicago is hoping after two games without Mitchell Trubisky, that the quarterback is ready to return for Sunday night’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. “I hope he is, but I can’t say that for sure,” Nagy said.
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford said the Lions are not being hampered by inexperience at skill positions but must show the ability to make plays in the red zone. “We’ve got to be more consistent down there and make the plays,” Stafford said, adding that any conversation on personnel should “wait for another date. … “We had some chances on offense. I was proud of our guys fighting,” Stafford said.
Green Bay Packers: Team president Mark Murphy said the Packers decided to make the first in-season coaching change in franchise history based largely on the dud from Green Bay on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. “I really think if we’d gotten a key win or two there things would have been different. Quite honestly, the performance Sunday made it clear to me the coaching change was needed,” Murphy said. Murphy stressed that “Aaron Rodgers had nothing to do with the decision,” to fire McCarthy, but a divide between QB and coach was widely reported and Rodgers didn’t outwardly support retaining McCarthy.
Minnesota Vikings: Even with a trip to Seattle for ‘Monday Night Football’ on deck, a loss to the Patriots didn’t dissuade quarterback Kirk Cousins’ belief that the Vikings will be a playoff team. He’s still thinking about spending his first postseason with the franchise with a dome-field advantage. “I’d love a home playoff game, but if we can get in, anything can happen,” Cousins said. “That’s really where my focus is.”
Atlanta Falcons: The season has bottomed out badly with four consecutive setbacks, leading to owner Arthur Blank receiving questions about the job performance of coach Dan Quinn. Turns out Blank is disappointed by the season, but Quinn has nothing to worry about when it comes to his status. “This is a difficult period for the coach,” Blank told reporters about the team’s fourth-year coach. “I think back on the years that we’ve had together and the incredible job he’s done.” Quinn, who needs a 4-0 finish to avoid his first losing season, appreciates the words from Blank. “During this time of year, especially, there’s 32 teams and 32 buildings and I’m aware that not everyone has that type of support,” Quinn said. “So I appreciate having a boss like that. I know what he stands for, and I love having that connection. It’s very important to me.”
Carolina Panthers: Four consecutive losses have hurt Carolina’s playoff chances but coach Ron Rivera made big changes on the defensive side of the ball on Monday by firing defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura. Rivera kept first-year defensive coordinator Eric Washington but said he will handle the defensive playcalling the rest of the season after also handling them in Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I have a bit of experience at playcalling and putting defenses together,” Rivera told reporters. “It’s an opportunity for me to work even closer with him to help him out as we go forward. Y’all got to remember your first time doing something. You weren’t perfect and somebody had to help you. That’s really what I’m here for.” There are rumblings Rivera’s job is on the line under new owner David Tepper and he bristled at questions pertaining to his future. “I am not going to address that question,” Rivera said. “Do not ask that question again, please.”
New Orleans Saints: The defense has allowed an average of 12.8 points over the last four games with the high allowed being 17. That rates as quite an improvement from earlier in the season when New Orleans allowed 35 or more three times, including 48 against Tampa Bay. The Saints play the Buccaneers again this Sunday and the unit feels like it is vastly different from when it lost to Tampa Bay in Week 1. “I feel like we’re getting to that level where we have to be recognized as one of those top defenses, but we got to keep pushing,” cornerback Marshon Lattimore told reporters. “We got to earn that. We can’t just have it come to us, so we got to earn it and keep going out there balling.” The Saints rank 12th in scoring defense at 22.4 points per game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown two touchdown passes in three straight games while enjoying his best stretch of the season. He also tossed his 81st career touchdown pass in last Sunday’s win over the Panthers to become the franchise’s all-time leader in that category, surpassing Josh Freeman (2009-13). More impressive to coach Dirk Koetter is Winston avoiding interceptions in 68 pass attempts over the past two games. “Jameis’ production when we don’t turn the ball over — when he doesn’t turn the ball over — is always going to be there,” Koetter told reporters. “Jameis is a fantastic player, and sometimes that gets negated by turnovers. You could see the last two weeks when we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a lot harder to beat.” Winston has 12 touchdowns against 11 interceptions this season.
Arizona Cardinals: Steve Wilks’ team got a rare chance to celebrate on Sunday, topping the Green Bay Packers in the snow at Lambeau Field, but they lost two more starters to injury, guard Mike Iupati (knee) and wide receiver Christian Kirk. However, Kirk’s season-ending broken foot shouldn’t put a damper on his rookie season, which he capped with 54 yards on three catches and a 23-yard rush on Sunday. “His playmaking ability, I thought we saw that throughout the year, whether it was vertical down the field, on the perimeter, the screen game, the reverse,” Wilks said Monday. “And the things you don’t see, like his preparation. This guy is a pro’s pro. The future is very bright with him.” The second-round pick saved 60 of his total yards for what proved to be the Cardinals’ game-winning drive in Green Bay.
Los Angeles Rams: Forget back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards — Aaron Donald’s latest gem of a game against the Detroit Lions has many suggesting he should be considered in the NFL MVP race. Donald notched multiple sacks for the fifth time in his past six games and now leads the NFL in sacks (16.5) by four and QB hits (32) by seven. His second takedown of Matthew Stafford came after Donald beat a double team, and he jarred the ball free to set up a critical touchdown for a 10-point lead. The last defensive player to get serious consideration for MVP was J.J. Watt, who finished second, 13 votes behind Aaron Rodgers (31), after totaling 20.5 sacks in 2015. Alan Page (1971) and Lawrence Taylor (1986) are the only defensive players ever to win the award.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers fell to 2-10 and were officially eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to the Seahawks, but Kyle Shanahan was impressed by running back Jeff Wilson Jr., an undrafted rookie from North Texas who had 15 carries for 61 yards and eight catches for 73 yards in his second NFL game. “Jeff played very well,” Shanahan said. “He earned that last week, how he played, but it got stronger, especially having (starter Matt) Breida (hurt) in pregame warmups. We were going to give Jeff a lot anyways.” Wilson performed despite battling through a foot injury on Sunday and could get another big opportunity this week with Breida (ankle) already ruled out against the Denver Broncos.
Seattle Seahawks: There were several standout performances for the Seahawks on Sunday, but one came from a particularly unheralded player: undrafted rookie nose tackle Poona Ford. “Poona did a really good job, he played really, really well,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday, adding the team credited Ford with six tackles compared to the four in the official box score. “That’s a lot of production for the nose tackle, but it was because he was running and chasing the football so well. And he’s a really instinctive football player. … We’re really encouraged about that. Love to see that he has that much mobility and can go sideline to sideline.”
–Field Level Media