The Daily Briefing Friday, December 29, 2017

AROUND THE NFL 

Divergent motivation makes Week 17 a headache for NFL handicappers.  Doug Kezarian of ESPN.com:

The Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL’s best record at 13-2, yet they are home underdogs to an 8-7 Dallas Cowboys team eliminated from postseason contention. The Jimmy Garoppolo-led San Francisco 49ers are poised to be the first five-win team in the Super Bowl era to be a road favorite over an 11-win team (Los Angeles Rams). And the playoff-bound Kansas City Chiefs are 3.5-point underdogs to the 5-10 Denver Broncos.

It’s all part of the annual craziness that is Week 17 in the NFL for bettors and bookmakers, where in addition to handicapping the games and considering the usual variables like weather and injuries, there are many other factors to consider. The biggest one? Handicapping motivation for teams relegated to the NFL draft, ones on the wild-card bubble, ones starting a rookie QB and others that have solidified a playoff position.

“Basically it’s a cross between real football and preseason lines,” Westgate Las Vegas Superbook assistant manager Ed Salmons (who oversees football odds) told ESPN. “It’s essentially a guessing game.”

“Most strong handicappers build a model which incorporates year-long and trending data,” professional bettor and handicapper Bill Krackomberger told ESPN. “But it’s impossible to just take a model’s output, as you would earlier in the season, and expect to have success in Week 17. Even when teams are in must-win situations, that is already adjusted in the line and then some. You will need to pay a premium to back those teams.”

Incentivized teams like the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons, who need to win to get into the playoffs, are the easiest to forecast. However, playoff-bound teams with a solidified seed (think: Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars) pose more difficulty. History has shown some coaches rest stars, while others instead prioritize momentum.

“We have to monitor all the games in all sports,” CG Technology vice president of risk Jason Simbal said. “But as a bettor, you can focus on one game and get us.”

This vulnerability forces oddsmakers to change routine and protocol reserved for the season’s first 16 weeks. Many sportsbooks reduce the limits allowed for sides, totals and money lines. Plus, the house is monitoring sharp action more closely.

“You’re definitely going to see lines move more aggressively, based on who’s betting, compared to other weeks,” Salmons said. Simbal agreed that the numbers will be moved faster if respected bettors make plays, noting, “For these games, the inclination is they came across some special news. That’s why you have to be so careful.”

A prime example this week is the Rams. Head coach Sean McVay told the media on Tuesday night that he was planning to rest his starters. At that time, the line across Las Vegas was still Rams -4. As news came out on Wednesday that Todd Gurley and Jared Goff wouldn’t play, along with Aaron Donald, the line moved from Rams -4 all the way to 49ers -3.

Information is relevant for any game in any sport. But late-December weather updates, performance-based player bonuses and the status of a top-tier player all carry more weight in Week 17 for bettors. “They’re following nine Twitter accounts for a team,” Simbal said. “One guy may report that a QB is playing only one series. They will make a play and we may not find out that information for another five minutes because we’re tracking all the other sports.”

Additionally, oddsmakers and bettors must assess the wide-ranging variable of effort and commitment to winning.

ESPN NFL analyst Jeff Saturday reached 11 postseasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He also played for the 2011 squad that finished with the league’s worst record. “No one is talking about football,” Saturday said on ESPN Radio this week when describing the atmosphere surrounding the final practice. “It’s whatever UFC fight, whatever boxing match, whatever basketball event you can go to. You’re trying to get rid of football for a while.” But drawing simple conclusions from a win-loss record or playing status can be dangerous and presumptuous.

“Some teams like to be known as the one who stepped up to the plate and prevented a team from reaching the playoffs,” Krackomberger said. “Or sometimes the second string of a playoff team wants to show the starters they belong.”

Five-figure bets will hinge on increased trick plays, two-point conversion attempts and other unconventional situations.

“I don’t think anyone should wager a serious amount of money on Week 17,” Krackomberger said.

While more research is required for handicappers and bettors, there is still one certainty that both care about: Every ticket cashes the same.

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO

Mike Florio wonders if GM Ryan Pace can survive John Fox’s expected firing:

It’s becoming a given that Bears coach John Fox will be getting a pink slip after Sunday’s game against the Vikings. The bigger question is whether the terminations will extend above him on the organizational chart, and if so how high?

There has been little talk of G.M. Ryan Pace not surviving a purge of the coaching staff, presumably based on the notion that General Managers typically get to hire two head coaches. However,, Pace’s predecessor, Phil Emery, didn’t have that luxury; Emery hired Marc Trestman, and Emery was fired with Trestman.

Here’s something that could be a clue. Most of the non-playoff teams already have commenced the process of negotiating with practice-squad players the futures contracts that can be signed after the regular season ends.  As one league source explained it to PFT, the Bears haven’t.

If Pace also goes, the next question is whether ownership will take things another level higher, moving on from long-time team president and CEO Ted Phillips.

Very few expect that to even have a chance of happening. An accountant by education, Phillips has been a Bears employee since 1983. In 1999, he became only the fourth president in franchise history, and the only one not part of the Halas or McCaskey families. Those facts alone make it highly unlikely that the team would make a change so significant. At some point, however, the Bears need to ask whether the person hiring struggling General Managers and head coaches should be replaced.

In the 32 years since winning the Super Bowl in 1985, the Bears have been to the playoffs 10 total times. Since Phillips became CEO in 1999, the Bears have qualified for the postseason only four times.

Others will have to decide whether that’s good enough for Phillips to continue in a position that, for 18 years, has escaped the same degree of accountability that has applied to multiple General Managers and head coaches. But it’s fair to at least ask whether the team has done enough on Phillips’ watch to justify not hiring a fifth team president in franchise history.

GREEN BAY

The Packers are giving WR DAVANTE ADAMS a massive contract to prevent him from hitting the free agent market.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

Davante Adams isn’t playing this week, and the Packers aren’t playing for anything.

But they’re not playing around.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Packers are giving the young wide receiver a long-term contract extension which will be worth around $14 million a year.

The deal will reportedly be for four or five years, and represents a huge investment for the future for a team that has generally taken care of its own receivers.

They’ve also committed to Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson in recent years, though this might not be a good sign for Cobb’s future.

Adams is out this week with a concussion, but caught 74 passes for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns this year, impressive since that was partially without Aaron Rodgers.

The former second-round pick would have been a free agent, and would have been a sought-after target, if the Packers had let him get to the market.

NFC EAST

NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants welcome back crusty Dave Gettleman as their new G.M.  Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com:

The New York Giants hired a familiar face in Dave Gettleman as their new general manager.

 

Gettleman, 66, spent four seasons as the Carolina Panthers general manager after 15 years with the Giants. He served primarily as their director of pro personnel before joining the Panthers.

The Giants are bringing back a familiar face in the former Panthers GM, who will put an emphasis on the trenches and perhaps call on an old friend.

The Giants fired general manager Jerry Reese and coach Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4. They wanted a head start on their search process and came to a decision after interviewing four candidates. Interim general manager Kevin Abrams, vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross and ESPN’s Louis Riddick were the others to speak with Giants ownership about the opening.

“Given where we are as a team, we thought it was important to bring in someone with experience as a General Manager and a proven track record,” president John Mara and chairman Steve Tisch said in a statement. “Dave’s experience is unparalleled. He did an outstanding job as general manager in Carolina, and he was vital to our success during his tenure here. Dave is going to bring his own approach to our organization in how we draft and acquire players through free agency.”

In Gettleman’s four years with the Panthers they went 40-23-1 and won three consecutive NFL South titles. The Panthers went 15-1 in 2015 and reached Super Bowl 50.

He was surprisingly fired earlier this year by the Panthers, partly for his hard-line approach in contract negotiations.

Gettleman becomes the Giants’ fourth general manager since 1979, joining Reese, Ernie Accorsi and George Young. Accorsi was the general manager when Gettleman was originally hired and was part of the current search process.

Accorsi served as a consultant for co-owners Mara and Tisch.

There likely wasn’t a need for any introductions when Gettleman met with the Giants’ brass last Wednesday. He was hired eight days later.

Gettleman originally joined the Giants in 1998, when Accorsi was in his first year as general manager. He worked in pro personnel and was promoted to pro personnel director the following year. He stayed in that position for 12 seasons before serving as senior pro personnel analyst in his final season with the team in 2012.

Gettleman began his career in 1986 with the Buffalo Bills. He has also worked for the Broncos, and he has been a part of seven Super Bowl teams, including three winners.

The Giants (2-13) plan to introduce Gettleman during a news conference on Friday.

Further analysis from Raanan:

What can be expected upon Gettleman’s arrival is an emphasis on the offensive and defensive lines.

“Tom Coughlin taught me a great thing,” Gettleman said for a 2016 story. “Big men allow you to compete. If you don’t have big men, you can’t compete.”

His first two draft picks were defensive tackles. He landed two offensive line starters the following year.

With the Giants, expect Gettleman to focus immediately on the offensive line, which doesn’t have a single prominent piece that should be part of their future under contract for next season. Guards Justin Pugh and D.J. Fluker and centers Weston Richburg and Brett Jones (restricted) are all free agents at the end of the season. Gettleman should be busy in the draft and free agency reshaping an offensive line that all of a sudden seems more likely to be blocking once again for quarterback Eli Manning.

Manning, who was part of two Super Bowl teams with Gettleman as an executive, has two years remaining on his current contract.

The new coach could have a significant say in that decision. Many in league circles believe, with Gettleman as general manager, the road leads to Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks.

Wilks, 48, was the Panthers’ secondary coach and assistant head coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator earlier this year. His blitz-happy ways have helped the Panthers field a top-10 defense.

Wilks and Gettleman are known to have a strong relationship. In the NFL, these connections and relationships matter more than most. Gettleman had a strong relationship with the Giants organization and his former boss Ernie Accorsi, who served as a consultant in the GM search. It led to him landing the job before candidates from other teams were even brought into the mix.

And it looks like ELI MANNING’s consecutive games started streak ended for naught.  Austin Knoblach of NFL.com:

“We’re going to work our fannies off and get it fixed.”

That’s how New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman ended his introductory news conference Friday after talking for more than a half an hour about plans “to come in here every day and kick ass” for the 2-13 team.

Part of those kick-ass plans will involve Eli Manning’s future with the team. Gettleman, for his part, wasn’t quite ready on his first day back in New York to make clear predictions regarding the two-time Super Bowl winner’s future.

“I haven’t had access to tape and I’m not avoiding the question, but, obviously, you got to look at the film, see what’s cooking,” Gettleman said about Manning. “Eli’s won a lot of games, he’s a great competitor, he’s very intelligent and he and I are going to talk, and if what I saw in Philadelphia was not a mirage — which I don’t believe it was — then we’ll just keep moving.”

It sounds like Gettleman is planning, for now, to keep Manning his starter, and why wouldn’t he? At the moment, the team has Geno Smith and Davis Webb on its roster. Unless Gettleman gets a new passer in free agency or nabs one in the draft, Manning’s the man in New York. There’s no need to further inflame the Giants’ fan base by talking about a premature QB change — benching Manning didn’t go well for the team’s previous brain trust.

As for the other elephant in the room, Gettleman knows locking in Odell Beckham to a long-term deal will be a top priority. And he understands exactly what the Giants’ star wideout wants before his contract expires in 2019.

“No. 1, who doesn’t want a lot of money? Everybody wants a lot of money, guys,” Gettleman said. “Obviously, I don’t know Odell [Beckham], never met him. I’m looking forward to it. Obviously he’s an extremely talented kid and makes stuff happen.

“We’ll have that — what’s that song? ‘Getting To Know You’ — we’ll do that. We’ll get to know each other and we’ll go from there. He’s rehabbing an injury. I haven’t had an opportunity to talk to Ronnie about how far along he is so we’ll see.”

WASHINGTON

The word is out that Coach Jay Gruden is safe for 2018.  Austin Knoblauch of NFL.com:

It appears the injury-riddled season that played a big role in the Washington Redskins missing the playoffs won’t cost coach Jay Gruden his job.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that Gruden isn’t in danger of losing his job. A source informed of the situation told Rapoport that the Redskins aren’t planning to make major changes this offseason after seeing how Gruden and his staff battled through the rash of injuries which damaged the team’s playoff hopes.

The Redskins’ injuries woes have been almost biblical in scope. The team has 20 players on injured reserve, including standouts like Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson, Terrelle Pryor, Rob Kelley, Jonathan Allen and Trent Williams. The Redskins also played a portion of the season without star cornerback Josh Norman.

With that list of names, it shouldn’t surprise anyone Washington sits at 7-8 heading into Sunday’s season finale against the New York Giants. Although Kirk Cousins’ production has dipped in the wake of a strong 2016 campaign, it’s hard to imagine Gruden getting the boot after such a cataclysmic hit to the roster.

Still, back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs can’t be sitting well with the Redskins’ brass. At 28-34-1, Gruden has missed the postseason in three of his four seasons in Landover. While it looks like he’ll get another chance to prove himself, no excuse might be good enough to explain a missed playoff berth next year.

NFC SOUTH

NEW ORLEANS

The NFL says bah humbug to Saints RB ALVIN KAMARA’s attempt to bring Christmas cheer to Saints fans.  Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:

Alvin Kamara showed off his letter from “the Grinch” on Thursday — a fine from the NFL for wearing his red, Christmas-themed cleats during last Sunday’s 23-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

Kamara said the fine was for $6,079.

“Yeah, they were worth it,” the New Orleans Saints rookie running back said before digging around in his locker to find the envelope he received from the league.

“I told everybody what I was gonna do after the game. I’m gonna make a GoFundMe [fundraising page]. I’m gonna find like a charity, maybe something that gets shoes for underprivileged kids or maybe something like a little league team out here that needs some cleats and donate the rest of the money to a team or something like that. I mean, the Grinch stole Christmas.”

@A_kamara6

Here we go!!!! Donations will be made to Willie Hall playgrounds Recreational Department right here in New Orleans to buy cleats for their youth teams.https://www.gofundme.com/alvin-kamara-christmas-cleat-fine

Kamara’s cleats were designed to look like red Christmas stockings. But players know that they’ll be fined if they wear cleats that don’t match their team colors. Kamara said he was warned at halftime, but said he wasn’t going to take them off at that point.

TAMPA BAY

The Glazers, collectively, sat down with Dirk Koetter on Friday and told him he would be back for the 2018 season.  Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times had it first:

Dirk Koetter will return as the Bucs head coach in 2018.

The Glazer family, which owns the team, made the decision Friday afternoon and general manager Jason Licht informed Koetter that he would be back next season despite a 4-11 record which includes a pair of five-game losing streaks.

Koetter is 13-18 in his two seasons as head coach but has been instrumental in the progress of third year quarterback Jameis Winston.

In coaching a third season, Koetter is getting an opportunity not afforded to to former Bucs Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith before him.

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com believes Jon Gruden wiggled off the hook:

The headline is that Dirk Koetter will return for the Buccaneers in 2018. The clear implication is that Jon Gruden won’t be returning to the Buccaneers in 2018.

Between the lines, there’s a lot more intrigue than that.

The news, as leaked by the Buccaneers to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times late Friday afternoon, is that ownership decided — on Friday afternoon — to stick with Koetter. They didn’t decide it yesterday or last week or last month; it wasn’t a no brainer. The Glazer family specifically and affirmatively came together and decided — on Friday afternoon — to stay the course.

So what happened to cause the Buccaneers to decide on Friday afternoon to keep Koetter? Based on the fact that they often know who they’ll hire before they fire their current coach, it’s very fair to speculate that they were talking to someone else (Gruden) and that, for whatever reason, the talks fell apart.

The next question is whether the talks can un-fall apart. The fact that the Buccaneers  gave Koetter a private assurance means not all that much. If whatever it was that caused Plan A to crater puts Plan A back on the front burner, the Buccaneers can still move on from Koetter, if they so choose.

What’s that, you say? That’s no way to treat a coach? Frankly, the Bucs haven’t shed many tears over potential bad looks in the past. They lined up Raheem Morris before firing Gruden in 2009, and many still believe that the Koetter-for-Lovie Smith maneuver from early 2016 was calculated, too.

If, in the end, they tell Koetter he’s returning and then out of the blue they fire him and interview a few candidates and hire Gruden, what will be the consequence? The end result will be Gruden as the head coach of the team, and that will go a long way toward getting any unhappy fans to get over the fact that Koetter was lied to.

If, in the end, Koetter stays, the fact that his status for 2018 wasn’t decided until two days before the last game of the season puts him firmly on the hot seat for next year.

NFC WEST

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers are disappointed they won’t get to beat the Rams at their best.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

Here’s how quickly things change in the NFL.

The Rams are good enough that they’re parking starters this week in anticipation of the playoffs. And the 49ers are disappointed to hear that because they suddenly feel like they have a chance.

With the Rams locked into a home game as NFC West division champs but unable to reach the No. 2 seed, they’ve announced their intention to rest players including quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, and left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

That’s a bummer for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, whose team has won four straight with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm.

“It is a little bit,” Shanahan said, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “I’d like them to have everyone out there. I think our guys would, too. But it is what it is. We have to make sure that doesn’t affect us. You got to line up and play whoever you play. If you lose your edge at all in this league, you’ll get humbled very fast.”

The 49ers have played with plenty of edge lately, and just gave the playoff-bound Jaguars a punch in the mouth last week, scoring 44 on the league’s best defense.

So while they might be playing the Rams JVs Sunday, it sets the stage for next year, and could represent a significant torch-passing in the NFC West, where the Cardinals might end up with a new coach (despite Bruce Arians’ non-denial denial) and the Seahawks are on the verge of a significant personnel makeover.

– – –

S ERIC REID has been a compadre of Colin Kaepernick in the pursuit of Social Justice in the face of Systemic Oppression.  And now he too will be a free agent.  Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com:

San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid has never hesitated to express his disappointment that friend and former teammate Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned by an NFL team.

Now, as Reid closes in on becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason, he has prepared himself for the possibility that teams will not sign him because of his participation in protests of racial inequality.

Asked Friday if he is concerned that his decision to kneel alongside Kaepernick during the national anthem last year — and to continue the protest this season — could hurt his free-agent prospects, Reid gave an alternate view.

“I wouldn’t use the word concerned,” Reid said. “I would say I understand that’s a possibility. And I’m completely fine with it. The things that I’ve done, I stand by, and I’ve done that for my own personal beliefs. Like I said, I’m fine with whatever outcome happens because of that.”

Asked if he thinks teams will ignore him for protest-related reasons, Reid acknowledged that he has considered that outcome.

“It’s a possibility,” Reid said. “There are probably teams that won’t want to talk to me because of it. I’m hopeful that I will be on a team next year, but if not, again, that’s OK with me.”

In 2016, Reid was the first player in the league to kneel alongside Kaepernick, first joining him before a preseason game in San Diego after meeting with Nate Boyer, the former Green Beret and NFL long-snapper, to discuss potential protests that might be more respectful than sitting down during the national anthem.

From there, Reid knelt alongside Kaepernick and linebacker Eli Harold for the entire season. Before this season, Reid decided he would go back to standing during the anthem, but racially charged unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August made him reconsider.

Reid began kneeling again before the team’s third preseason game Aug. 27 in Minnesota. He has continued to kneel throughout this season and has spoken out passionately against systemic oppression on multiple occasions.

AFC WEST

KANSAS CITY

It surprised the DB to learn that the NFL leader in TD passes of 20+ yards is ALEX SMITH with 13.

He also the leader at most of the stops along the way up including 9 of 40 yards, 8 of 50 yards, 6 of 60 yards and 3 of 70 yards.

AFC NORTH

CLEVELAND

Will T JOE THOMAS be back in 2018?  Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com:

Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas has yet to make a decision on whether he intends to return for a 12th season next year.

According to Tom Withers of the Associated Press, Thomas plans on making his decision sometime after the season is over. He’s missing games for the first time in his career after tearing his triceps in a game in October.

“I’m going to sit down with my family and kind of discuss where I am about continuing to play,” Thomas said.

He reiterated that his health and how he feels will be a substantial part of the decision making process. Thomas played in 167 straight games and had been on the field for every single one of Cleveland’s 10,363 offensive snaps over that span before being injured against the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 22.

Thomas is said to be a surefire Hall of Famer despite his lifetime career record of 48-119.  Imagine how few games the Browns would have won without one of the greatest offensive linemen ever playing every snap.

AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON

It looks like WR DeANDRE HOPKINS won’t be available for Chuck Pagano’s Last Rodeo.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

DeAndre Hopkins‘ acrobatic touchdown catch against the Steelers — one of the NFL’s signature plays this season — was his 94th reception of the year. He had two catches after that Monday.

After 96 catches, 1,378 yards and an NFL-best 13 receiving touchdowns, the Texans wideout’s season likely has come to an end.

He is expected to miss the first game of his five-year career with a calf injury, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Hopkins has not practiced this week.

Hopkins has started and played in 79 consecutive games.

The former first-round draft pick has caught 413 passes for 5,865 yards and 36 touchdowns in his career.

Hopkins, who was second-team All-Pro in 2015, has a chance to earn first-team All-Pro honors for the first time.

The Texans’ second-leading receiver is running back Lamar Miller with 36 catches. Wideout Bruce Ellington has 29 catches.

INDIANAPOLIS

QB ANDREW LUCK speaks.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

Andrew Luck believes he’ll be ready for work in 2018.

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback spoke to the media Friday for the first time since traveling to the Netherlands to work with a therapist on his injured throwing shoulder. Luck said he did not undergo a new procedure overseas and doesn’t think he’ll need another surgery.

“I feel stronger, more stable, more confident in it. It’s better,” Luck said.

The 28-year-old underwent surgery last January for an injury he initially suffered in 2015. He attempted to come back during the season but was shut down when his shoulder didn’t respond after light throwing.

Luck said he hopes to throw the ball again soon.

“I’m preparing to throw the football, if that makes sense,” he said. “It’s a progression to get back to that point. A lot of it has to do with me. Getting my strength back to a high level — I still have a ways to go there. I don’t want to skip any steps along the way.”

Added Luck: “And I do not think I need another surgery. I’m on the right path, I think I’m on the right progression, trusting in that. So we’re in the process of preparing to throw the football.”

Luck said he believes he will be able to participate in all football activities heading into the 2018 campaign.

“I plan on being ready for everything,” he said referring to the offseason schedule.

“I don’t see [the 2018 season] being in jeopardy at all,” Luck added.

JACKSONVILLE

Demand has caused the Jaguars to expand Ever Bank Field for the big playoff game.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

After previously saying they would not remove the tarps for next weekend’s playoff game, the Jacksonville Jaguars are changing course: The tarps are being pulled up and thousands more seats are opening up.

A total of 3,501 additional seats will be made available at EverBank Field, the result of overwhelming demand after the Jaguars’ wild-card round playoff game sold out within hours on Wednesday. The Jaguars initially didn’t think they’d be able to do that, both because of league seating policies and because sponsors have paid for the rights to have their logos on the tarps. But the team confirmed today that the tarps will be pulled.

“Following yesterday’s rapid sellout, this morning the Jaguars sought and received permission from the League and our sponsors,” a Jaguars spokesman said in a statement sent to PFT.

After the additional 3,501 seats are sold, a limited number of standing-room only seats will be sold as well. The Jaguars have their biggest home game in years coming and they’re going to have their biggest crowd in years as well.

– – –

DL YANNICK NGAKOUE is lighter in the wallet for contacting an official.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

The NFL fined Jaguars defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue $30,387 for contact with an official during Sunday’s loss to the 49ers.

Officials penalized Ngakoue late in the third quarter, and the 49ers ended up cashing in with a touchdown on the drive.

49ers defensive lineman Cassius Marsh also earned a fine for an illegal hit during the game. The NFL docked him $18,231 for roughing the passer.

Officials penalized Marsh for the hit on Blake Bortles in the second quarter. Bortles ended up throwing a pick-six on the drive.

AFC EAST

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets have extended their GM and head coach.

The New York Jets ended speculation about the futures of head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan.

The team announced extensions for both men on Friday, before the final game of the 2017 season.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the contract extensions are for two years each, keeping the duo signed through 2020, per a source informed of the deals.

“We are very happy to have extended both Mike and Todd. During their time here, they have worked together to help the organization build a foundation on which to grow,” Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement. “They are identifying, developing, and getting productivity out of our players. I believe we are headed in the right direction. This provides us continuity and stability as we continue to move this team towards sustained success. We still have a lot of work to do and I am excited to work closely with both of them as we move forward.”

Johnson noted before the season that Bowles and Maccagnan would be judged on the progress of the players rather than the win-loss record. The extensions back up that sentiment.

Despite a three-game losing streak that dropped New York to 5-10 ahead of a Week 17 tilt versus the New England Patriots, players have not quit on Bowles. In a season most expected Gang Green to tank, the Jets continue to be a feisty group.

Bowles has building blocks on defense with talented rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. The offense unearthed big-play receiver Robby Anderson. With the addition of Jermaine Kearse and the return of Quincy Enunwa next season, the Jets have a foundation for the passing game in 2018.

Maccagnan made the heady move of adding quarterback Josh McCown this season, whose stellar play kept the team afloat until he suffered a season-ending injury. The GM also deftly flipped free-agent-to-be Sheldon Richardson for Kearse and a high draft pick.

The question heading into the offseason will be what the Jets do at quarterback. McCown could return to tutor a rookie. Bryce Petty proved he’s not a long-term answer, and Christian Hackenberg has yet to take a snap. Maccagnan’s extension shows ownership gave the GM a pass on using a second-round pick on Hackenberg two years ago.

Pretty good deal for Maccagnan who escapes for drafting Hackenberg while his predecessor John Idzik was pilloried for selecting GINO SMITH who actually is a far better QB, even if not good enough.