There are reports swirling about the New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and superstar quarterback Tom Brady possibly joining them in the near future. ESPN is preparing to publish a piece extensively covering a rift brewing between the Patriots’ Big 3 of Kraft, Belichick, and Brady. According to Bruce Allen of Boston Sports Media Watch and the Pro Football Writers Association, it even escalated to the point where Brady demanded that the Patriots trade backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. While the claims may seem a bit far-fetched at the moment, there have been rumors swirling at points throughout the season suggesting there may be some tension between these three men. Regardless, the thought of Brady having to go over Belichick’s head in order to secure the franchise’s belief in him is close to unbelievable. Both Belichick and Brady are regarded as arguably greatest to ever assume their positions in NFL history. However, there is plenty of speculation as to who deserves the majority of the credit for New England’s success in the last millennium. If the report is true, Brady ultimately got what he wanted with Garoppolo shipped out to become the franchise quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers. It will be interesting to get a better grasp on the entirety of the situation when ESPN’s detailed report publishes in the morning.
As a gesture of appreciation, fans of the Buffalo Bills have been donating en masse to the Andy and Jordan Dalton Foundation to thank the Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback for his contributions in ending the Bills’ 17-year playoff drought. The Bills are now showing their appreciation as well to the Bengals for their victory over the Baltimore Ravens last week that earned Buffalo the No. 6 seed in the AFC and their first playoff appearance since 1999. The team sending nearly 1,500 wings and more from Duff’s Famous Wings in Buffalo to Bengals headquarters in Cincinnati as thanks for their assistance last weekend. Dalton’s 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds remaining gave the Bengals a 31-27 victory over Baltimore that knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs and gave Buffalo the elusive playoff berth they desired. The Bills had owned the longest streak in the NFL between playoff appearances before sneaking in the back door with Cincinnati’s win last week.
Neither the Saints nor the Panthers were at full strength in their two meetings this season. New Orleans played both games without cornerback Marshon Lattimore and left tackle Terron Armstead. Carolina played both games without tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil. Panthers coach Ron Rivera, whose team was swept by the Saints this season, had a two-word answer when asked what it meant to have Olsen back: “A lot”. In his past three games at New Orleans, Olsen has 25 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Olsen, who played in only seven games this season, made four catches for 37 yards the past two games combined. Quarterback Cam Newton targeted him nine times in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, but Olsen caught only one pass for 10 yards. Olsen said: “I don’t make too much of one game. The reality is, over the last couple of years Cam and I have been more productive than any quarterback-tight end combo in the whole league. We know what we’re doing. We have a great feel for what each other wants. Sometimes you just have one of those days. We’ve got a lot of confidence in what we’ve been able to do, what we still can do. We haven’t forgotten how to play. We feel good moving forward”. The Panthers feel good having Olsen in the lineup against the Saints.
The New York Jets didn’t tank the 2017 season, winning five games and earning the No. 6 overall pick. Theoretically the victories could put Gang Green in a spot where they miss out on the franchise quarterback of their dreams — Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, etc. If the Jets fall in love with one of the quarterbacks could GM Mike Maccagnan break with his tendency and trade up to snag him? The GM during an interview replied “yes” when asked if he’d be willing to move up for a QB: “The simple answer to that question is yes. If that was a player we felt strong about, we would have no qualms of potentially trying to go up and get him”. Maccagnan has yet to trade up in the first round in three drafts. In all three the GM selected a defensive player in the opening round (DL Leonard Williams, LB Darron Lee, S Jamal Adams). It’s possible the Jets could have their desired QB land in their laps at No. 6. With the Browns (twice), Giants, Colts, and Broncos sitting ahead of them, however, there is a chance three or four QBs could come off the board before the 6th spot. Finding a franchise quarterback has eluded the Jets for a generation. If Maccagnan and the team evaluators see one player as a must-have, moving up is worth whatever cost. Of course, with his last QB pick, Christian Hackenberg, being an unmitigated disaster, unable to see the field in two years, there are some who will question the GM’s ability to evaluate the position.
The consternation about the Tennessee Titans’ offense hasn’t subsided heading into Saturday’s playoff tilt versus the Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans limped into their first postseason berth since the 2008 season, averaging 20.9 points per game, second-worst among 2017 playoff teams. The play of quarterback Marcus Mariota has been the subject of concern all season. Mariota’s 79.3 passer rating is the lowest among any qualified passer on a playoff team this season. The third-year pro earned career worsts in passing yards per game (215.5), passing TD (13), interceptions (15) and passer rating. Those struggles put Mike Mularkey on the hot seat before the Titanssqueaked into the playoffs, and could keep the coach in limbo depending on what happens Saturday. Titans tight end Delanie Walker noted this week that Mariota needs to make more plays outside the offensive design for Tennessee to beat K.C. Walker said: “Sometimes you’ve got to play backyard football. Sometimes you’ve got to overcome coaching. And I think that’s what makes some players great, when they know how to do that. Sometimes coaching is like, they draw it on the paper, you run a straight line and you break out,” Walker said. “Sometimes you’ve got to overcome coaching. That defender is never going to let you run a straight line, so figure out how to make that line straight without running it straight, you know what I’m saying? That’s overcoming coaching. If Coach tells you it’s a nine-technique, but then in the game you’ve got a six-technique, OK, figure it out and block it. That’s what you’ve got to do. Marcus, basically, a play was broken. He made a play on his own. He didn’t find nobody else, so he took off running, and that’s basically what he did”. If Tennessee’s offense remains stuck in the mud against Kansas City, a coaching change could follow to help jumpstart a franchise quarterback that has regressed under the current staff.