The Daily Briefing Tuesday, February 6, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Kevin Clark in The Ringer with a personal summation of the NFL after Super Bowl 52:

 

Something happened on Sunday that before then I’d seen only in movies. Tom Brady’s Hail Mary pass sailed through the air and into a sea of jumping, diving players, and no one could tell exactly what was going on. So, in the middle of the biggest play in the biggest game, everyone in the stadium fell silent. Everything stopped. I have covered hundreds of games, and I have never seen this many people take a deep breath all at once. It was the worst sports movie cliché, and it was really happening.

 

Everything seems special inside the Super Bowl because no one — fans, media, coaches, and players — can totally believe that they’ve actually made it there, so it only makes sense that the nerves are more pronounced, too. The nearly 70,000 people inside U.S. Bank Stadium were too afraid to move. My colleague Robert Mays got a nosebleed on the final drive. But once it was clear that Brady’s pass fell to the turf, the tens of thousands of Philadelphians started to scream and jump and hug. Time started again, and you got the feeling that countless people in the stands would come to mark the rest of their lives as before this moment and after it. All of the frustrations — Andy Reid’s coaching brilliance being marred by his poor time management, the Chip Kelly era floundering, Rich Kotite in general, among others too numerous to list even on the internet — are over for Eagles fans. Parents hugged their children. Friends hugged friends. Strangers hugged strangers.

 

If you wanted to explain football to someone from another planet, you’d have brought them to this game. And if an alien wanted to learn about narrative arc, you would’ve brought them here, too. If you were to build the perfect game from scratch to create the most cinematic three hours possible, it wouldn’t just end with Tom Brady getting the ball with two minutes; that’d be trite. No, for dramatic effect, you’d have him get the ball again after the Eagles defense forced a dramatic turnover but couldn’t gain a first down and settled for a field goal with 1:05 left. You’d have Brady throw for 505 yards and three touchdowns and zero interceptions. You’d have a New England Patriots team better than anyone in the history of the game at understanding situational football playing in crunch time. They’d overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half because they always do. And then you’d have the Eagles and Nick Foles overcome all of it. You’d have Brady become the first player in NFL history — regular or postseason — with 500 passing yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions … and a loss. You’d have Foles — the guy who took over in December when an injury felled then-presumptive MVP Carson Wentz — be teary-eyed as he accepted the Super Bowl MVP award, and pause because of pure emotion between every few words as he talked about the city of Philadelphia and the “people who bleed green.”

 

This was a triumph for a city. It was a triumph for a player who everyone had assumed could not do it. It was a triumph for solid team-building, great play-calling, and prepared coaching. But above all else, it was a victory for football.

 

The old saying in boxing is that styles make fights, and this was one of the best fights I’ve seen. The defenses were bad, and though we all love the idea of good defense, no one actually wants to see it. There was more than 1,100 total offensive yards — the most in any game in NFL history. As I’ve written before: Five years ago, Andy Reid told me that since the college game is about five years ahead of the pro game, the offensive explosion already commonplace in college would come to the NFL in a half decade. He was right. We just watched the future.

– – –

Over the summer, my fiancée and I were standing on a sidewalk in Los Angeles when a car jumped the curb after clipping another car and walloped the two of us at near-full speed. We were thrown in the air, the car hit a pole — though the engine and wheels did not stop — and we landed on the sidewalk, not particularly close to where we had started. We ran a few dozen feet down the sidewalk to make sure the car didn’t hit us again, and then we stopped. If you’ve never had a moment in which your life is threatened, here’s what happens: Your only thought — if you have one — is an uninterrupted series of I’m alive I’m alive I’m alive because you’re trying to convince yourself that it’s true.

 

Our physical injuries are not nearly as bad as they could’ve been, and I have a cool scar on my arm from shrapnel that came off the car. An accident like this, and the time spent recovering, gives you a lot of time to think about everything. I spent a big chunk of time thinking about football and whether I’d cover it again this year and why I even loved covering it so much to begin with. That’s less an indictment of football and more a byproduct of the copious amount of free time you have when you’re recovering from an injury. But the thing I kept thinking about — and what brought me back — was the previous year’s Super Bowl, New England’s 25-point second-half comeback, yelping with Mays in the press box as it happened, and how football, at its best, is just about the most exciting thing on the planet. It can be a remarkably dumb sport. It can be gruesome, poorly run, poorly officiated, and frustrating. We saw it all this year: The quality of play was down. The injury rate was up. The league cannot get out of its own way politically. And yet everyone keeps coming back because of games like this. Because of Brady’s pass flying 55 yards and falling down. Because of 53 Eagles piling on each other in victory and an entire city doing the same thing a thousand miles away. Because of the guy who wanted to quit beating Tom Brady. Because it’s the same game we’ve been watching forever, and it never stops finding new ways to shock us. Football is king because of these nights. I was glad I was there.

– – –

Also at the Ringer, Danny Kelly posits what he feels are the 10 biggest questions going into the offseason.  We have his questions below, but have edited some answers.  For the whole thing go here:

 

The new NFL league year doesn’t kick off officially until March 14, but with Super Bowl LII now in the books, it’s time to start looking forward to the 2018 season. Change is already in the air, and front-office overhauls, coaching upheavals, free agency, trades, the draft, and a few inevitable rule tweaks have the potential to drastically alter the makeup of a handful of teams—and reshape the league at large. Here are the 10 biggest questions for the NFL offseason.

 

1. How will the quarterback carousel shake up the league?

Alex Smith became the first quarterback domino to fall last week, and Jimmy Garoppolo may be next, with a recent report noting he and the 49ers could come to an agreement on a long-term extension as early as next week. Based on the way that Garoppolo played down the stretch, that move has the potential to transform the 49ers into a playoff-caliber team, creating a ripple effect felt throughout the NFC West while altering the complexion of the NFC overall.

 

But those two moves are only the beginning of what looks like a chaotic period of player movement at the most important position in sports. With the Redskins grabbing Smith, where will Kirk Cousins sign? What will the Vikings do at the quarterback position with all three incumbents—Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater—set to hit free agency? Will the Jaguars double down on Blake Bortles? Where will former Jets signal-caller Josh McCown end up? Is Tyrod Taylor done in Buffalo? Will the Giants stick with Eli Manning? Will the Saints shock the world and move on from free agent Drew Brees? (OK, spoiler: No, they won’t.)

 

There’s plenty of quarterback-needy teams out there, including the Browns, Broncos, Jets, and Cardinals, and big changes could be in store for the Dolphins and Bills at that spot, too. How the game of musical chairs at the quarterback spot plays out will be the most important thing to keep an eye on in the coming months.

 

2. How will coaching and front-office moves shake up rosters around the league?

The front-office and head-coach carousels have the potential to create major upheavals at every other position around the league, too. Seven teams (the Titans, Cardinals, Giants, Bears, Raiders, Lions, and Colts) will head into 2018 with new head coaches and/or front-office personnel, and a handful more have made changes at the general manager position (Browns, Texans, and Packers).

 

For some of those squads, the offseason may only involve a few minor moves meant to refine already-talented rosters, but for others, major rebuilds may be afoot. Take a look at what the duo of GM Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott did when they arrived in Buffalo last year: The Bills quickly traded away receiver Sammy Watkins, cornerback Ronald Darby, and linebacker Reggie Ragland, and, for a while there, it looked like a fire sale was on. Then Buffalo made the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades in part because of that major turnover during the offseason.

 

Scheme changes, locker-room culture shifts, and salary cap purges are common among regime changes as new coaches and GMs look to bring in “their guys,” ditch the players that are not, and create a competitive team. Paired with a league that appears increasingly comfortable making trades, and we could see some fireworks this offseason.

 

3. Will pending superstar contract negotiations stall?

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is looking for a long-term contract and has already indicated he’s willing to sit out or retire if the team tries to franchise-tag him for a second straight year. Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is another holdout candidate, and if Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald doesn’t get his much-deserved mega-deal, Los Angeles could open the year without the league’s best defensive player for a second straight season.

 

Add in players like Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack and Cowboys edge defender Demarcus Lawrence, both of whom will be looking for long-term deals, and this offseason holds the potential for plenty of contract drama. Should any of these contract negotiations go awry, it could create distractions and, in some cases, force teams to scramble to add fill-in players to account for holdouts.

 

4. Will there be any surprise retirements?

Last year, Jay Cutler retired only to put back on his clothes and suit up for the Dolphins at the last minute. Anquan Boldin signed with the Bills then decided to call it quits just before the season began. And, of course, Tony Romo headed for the broadcast booth.

 

This year, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Larry Fitzgerald hang up his cleats, but it’d represent a major setback for a Cardinals offense already down its starting quarterback. There’s a long list of potential retirees behind Fitz, and Rob Gronkowski got speculation flowing with his wishy-washy comments over his future following the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss. Tom Brady and Brees have both indicated they plan on playing next year, but there’s still time for either of them to change their minds, and the same goes for Steelers signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, and Manning. Add in tight end Antonio Gates, defensive end Julius Peppers, running backs Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore, safety Kam Chancellor, pass rusher Cliff Avril, and a slew of other aging vets that could decide to call it a career and a few teams could look a whole lot different in 2018.

 

5. Will the Seahawks rebuild … or just reload?

Speaking of Avril and Chancellor, the Seahawks could look a whole lot different in 2018. The overhaul’s already started, of course, and following the Seahawks’ 9-7 finish, head coach Pete Carroll fired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Kris Richard, offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable, and a few other position coaches—all moves that signaled a desire to return to the type of football Carroll wants his team to play.

– – –

6. Who will buy the Panthers?

Amid accusations of workplace misconduct, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced in December that he would sell the team. That brought forth plenty of speculation as to who will step in and take over. Will P. Diddy really make a run at NFL ownership? Will Warriors star Steph Curry join the fray? The list of potential investors is long and varied, and the winning bidder could end up being one of many types of owners, perhaps the meddling, in-on-the-action type (read: Jerry Jones), the hands-off-type (like Paul Allen), or somewhere in between. This sale has the potential to change the direction of the team in the short term and the long, stylistically and beyond.

 

7. Which rule changes will the NFL implement?

The NFL desperately needs to revamp its catch rules; that much is clear. But what constitutes a catch will be just one item on the docket for the league’s rules committee this spring and summer, and don’t be surprised if there are additional alterations meant to correct for a big dip in scoring in 2017.

 

8. Which teams will adopt college-style schemes?

The Eagles just won the Super Bowl with a futuristic hybrid offense that mixes the college game and the pro. And not only did Philly head coach Doug Pederson’s system make Carson Wentz an early favorite for the MVP award, but that quarterback-friendly scheme helped Nick Foles lead the team to a championship after the team lost Wentz for the year with a torn ACL.

– – –

9. Which backups are poised to shock the world?

Foles and Keenum came out of nowhere this year to lead their respective teams to success and playoff glory (to varying degrees, obviously). Prior to the season, both were nothing more than afterthought backups to which no one really paid much attention. I know that this offseason—through minicamps, OTAs, and preseason action—I’m going to be paying closer attention to the backup-quarterback landscape. Will A.J. McCarron be the next surprisingly effective starter? Landry Jones, Cardale Jones, or Davis Webb?

– – –

10. Will Andrew Luck return to the field?

– – –

Ouch.  This from Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The NFL saw 51 torn ACLs this season, according to ACL Recovery Club.

 

It is the most since 2013 when the NFL had 63 players tear an ACL. It is three more than last season.

 

Of course, like every year, the ACL club includes some big names.

 

Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Jack Conklin, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Peters, Malik Hooker, Dalvin Cook, Julian Edelman and Ryan Tannehill are among those who are in various stages of rehab.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

More from Kevin Clark of The Ringer:

 

Despite the shocking nature of this playoff run, this Eagles team seems built for long-term success. This was the Howie Roseman season and the Doug Pederson game. Roseman built the deepest roster in football. He understood the salary cap better than the vast majority of the league, signed all his biggest homegrown contributors to deals before they hit the open market, and understood that bringing in outsiders like Timmy Jernigan via trade would add cost-controlled bargains to the roster as they play out their rookie contracts before their extensions kick in. Jeffery was an inspired free-agency addition at $9.5 million guaranteed for one year before his extension in December. Committing $7 million guaranteed to Foles made him expensive for a backup quarterback. But the salary cap rises $10 million a year, and Foles just won the damn Super Bowl.

 

As for Pederson, the second-year coach called a magnificent game. The Eagles converted 63 percent of their third downs, completed 29 of their 44 pass attempts, and went 2-of-2 on fourth down. Foles masterfully ran RPOs and play-action. The 21 play-action passes Foles threw were the most in Super Bowl history. He was awesome on them; he was awesome at everything. “He’s amazing,” tight end Zach Ertz said. The 27-year-old tight end caught the winning touchdown with an athletic leap toward the goal line and hauled in seven of the nine passes thrown his way. The Eagles decided to surround Wentz with offensive talent; that’s why they signed Jeffery and prioritized their skill guys like Ertz. They did such a good job of it that it worked for a quarterback with less talent, too.

– – –

Magically, the Eagles are giving a Super Bowl ring to LS JON DORENBOS.  Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate:

 

A Philadelphia fan favorite who didn’t even suit up for Super Bowl LII was in the locker room euphoria on Sunday night, wearing an Eagles towel around his shoulders and a broad smile across his face.

 

Jon Dorenbos got to celebrate this Super Bowl victory after all.

 

Dorenbos, a long snapper who spent 11 years in Philadelphia before a trade to New Orleans and the subsequent physical revealed an aortic aneurysm that required immediate surgery, arrived in the Twin Cities on Friday afternoon at the invite of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.

 

“Had I played, I’d die. If you can’t play in it, this is the next best way to enjoy it,” Dorenbos said. “Mr. Lurie called me and said he wants me to be a part of it, said I was here a long time, and he said ‘We’re going to win this, and you’re going to get a ring.'”

 

Dorenbos had stayed away for most of the season.

 

For months, he was under the influence of the medication he was given after surgery, and the recovery made it hard to pay attention to any NFL team.

 

Once he emerged, he saw the Eagles on a roll, but Dorenbos wanted to let this Philadelphia group have its own moment, and he declined any chances to speak.

 

Lurie wasn’t about to let him get out of the Super Bowl. Dorenbos wasn’t in the locker room, but Lurie made sure he still got a Super Bowl-worthy experience out of his trip to Minnesota.

 

“I got to experience it from a fan perspective,” Dorenbos said. “Jeff’s like, hey, we’ve got this event, it’s like 100, 150 people, just trust me, come, so we went. Next thing I know, there’s Sheryl Crow.”

 

Then Dorenbos got to celebrate with longtime teammates like former LSU punter Donnie Jones, a close friend for more than a decade who was happy to see his friend get a chance to enjoy the spoils of all his work.

 

Dorenbos and Jones had already talked about the long snapper’s bad luck last week. He hooked on with the Eagles a year after their last Super Bowl and was traded at the start of this one.

 

“He’s been through so much,” Jones said. “To have him here to celebrate with us, it’s special.”

 

Dorenbos obviously would have liked to have played in Super Bowl 52, an exhilarating 41-33 win over the New England Patriots for Philly’s first NFL title since 1960.

 

But he has no regrets about the trade. The deal, thanks to a Saints doctor, saved his life, and he’s plenty excited about the way things worked out in the end.

 

“My fate was what it was,” Dorenbos said. “I’m just happy to be around guys I played with for so long.”

 

We should mention that Dorenbos is quite the accomplished magician and hopefully will have a long career in that art.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

First it was owner Jerry Richardson, now GM Marty Hurney has a harassment problem.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Panthers have suspended interim General Manager Marty Hurney with pay after his ex-wife’s allegations of harassment, the Charlotte Observer reports.

 

The NFL is investigating Hurney under the league’s personal conduct policy, a team spokesman told the newspaper. The Panthers notified the league after Jeanne Hurney filed for a protective order Friday.

 

Hurney had no comment to the newspaper.

 

The judge in the case said evidence does not show Hurney committed acts of violence against his ex-wife. District Judge Ronald Chapman did not issue an immediate restraining order against Marty Hurney and set a February 16 hearing.

 

Jeanne Hurney told the Observer that she withdrew her complaint.

 

Marty Hurney, 62, interviewed for the full-time G.M. job last week. The Panthers also talked to Lake Dawson, Jimmy Raye III and Martin Mayhew.

 

The team also is seeking a new owner after Jerry Richardson announced he was selling the team two months ago in the wake of allegations of sexual and racial misconduct as detailed in a Sports Illustrated story.

 

Are the Panthers really going to hire a new GM before they have a new owner?

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

Could KIRK COUSINS and RB Le’VEON BELL be re-united somewhere in the 32-team firmament?  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins and Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell were teammates at Michigan State, and they would have been teammates in the NFL if Cousins got his way.

 

Cousins told The Postgame that before the 2013 draft, Cousins (who had been drafted in Washington the year before) urged his team to add Bell.

 

“Le’Veon is so talented and he was our best running back the minute he stepped on campus at Michigan State,” Cousins said. “And I remember scouts from the Redskins asking me about him going into the draft. They said, ‘Tell us about Le’Veon.’ I said, ‘I haven’t seen a lot of NFL backs. I’ve only been in the league one year. But I don’t know what he can’t do. He can pass protect, he can catch the ball, he can run routes, he can run downhill, he’s fast, he has a spin move, he can jump over people. I don’t know where the weakness is, so that’s all I can tell you.’ He’s still showing there’s not many things he can’t do.”

 

So, Cousins was asked, why didn’t they draft Bell in 2013?

 

“You’d have to go ask them. I’m not an evaluator. I’m not a scout. I just play quarterback,” Cousins said.

 

The actual answer is, Washington didn’t have the opportunity: After trading their first-round pick in 2013 to move up and draft Robert Griffin III in 2012, Washington’s first pick in the 2013 draft was No. 51 overall. Pittsburgh took Bell No. 48 overall.

 

So Cousins never really had a chance of being a professional teammate. Until now: Both Cousins and Bell are scheduled to become free agents next month. Perhaps some team with a whole lot of cap space can make them teammates again.

 

Is it ridiculous to think that place could be Cleveland with a ton of cap space and plenty of other reinforcements coming in the draft?

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle has a favorable report on QB DESHAUN WATSON.

 

In the latest batch of progress in his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson posted a video of himself running for the first time since injuring his knee.

 

Watson posted it on his official Twitter account along with a caption:

 

@deshaunwatson

Officially day 1 of the 2018 NFL season today.. and today is officially my first day back running! Crazy how God works! Gotta have it ALL! ♠️ memo™ 815 #Godspeed

 

Watson has said he’s ahead of schedule in his recovery from an injury sustained in practice.

 

The Texans and Watson are hopeful that he will be able to participate in organized team activities on at least a limited basis.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com did some posts on Sunday that indicated he had heard that Josh McDaniels may have been wavering in his commitment to the Colts, but on Tuesday, he was indeed announced as head coach.  Mike Wells of ESPN.com:

 

The Colts had to wait for more than five weeks, but they finally named New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as their new head coach — landing the man they plan to pair with quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come.

 

McDaniels, 41, replaces Chuck Pagano, who was fired on Dec. 31 after six seasons. The Colts interviewed McDaniels in the first week of January and had a second interview with him during the bye week preceding Super Bowl LII.

 

Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus is expected to join McDaniels’ staff in Indianapolis as the defensive coordinator, while Patriots assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski and Dolphins offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmois also are expected to join the Colts, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

A news conference has been scheduled for Wednesday.

 

McDaniels is the second significant change made by the Colts in as many years. Chris Ballard replaced Ryan Grigson as general manager in January 2017.

 

Indianapolis will be the second head-coaching stop for McDaniels, who was 11-17 with the Denver Broncos before he was fired midway through the 2010 season. After a stop with the Rams as their offensive coordinator in 2011, McDaniels returned to the Patriots for his second stint as their offensive coordinator in 2012. Over the past six years, the Patriots have reached at least the conference championship game each season and won two Super Bowls.

 

So he was 32 when the Broncos hired him. 

– – –

The NFL finds itself part of the national conversation on sanctuary cities after the tragic death of LB EDWIN JACKSON.  This from Mike Wells at ESPN.com:

 

The suspected drunken driver accused of hitting and killing Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson has been living in the country illegally and did not have a driver’s license, the Indiana State Police announced Monday.

 

The driver of the truck that killed Jackson and ride-sharing operator Jeffrey Monroe had been using the alias Alex Cabrera Gonsales, the police said in a release. Gonsales’ given name is Manuel Orrego-Savala, and he is a citizen of Guatemala. Orrego-Savala had been deported in 2007 and 2009.

 

Orrego-Savala, 37, was arrested after trying to flee the scene on foot, according to the Indiana State Police. Orrego-Savala was intoxicated, according to police. He is being held in the Marion County (Indiana) jail while the police work with U.S. federal immigration officials. Investigators are also working with the prosecutor’s office to file criminal charges.

 

A probable cause affidavit filed Sunday in Marion Superior Court states that a breath test administered at the scene found Orrego-Savala’s blood-alcohol content was 0.239 percent. Indiana’s legal limit is 0.08 percent. Two vials of blood were later drawn from Orrego-Savala for testing.

 

Jackson and Monroe, of Avon, Indiana, were on the side of the interstate when Monroe got out of the car to help Jackson, who was sick. Orrego-Savala, who was driving a Ford F-150 truck, drove onto the emergency shoulder and hit the rear of the car, striking both Jackson and Monroe, with one of the bodies landing in the center lane of I-70, according to the police.

 

State trooper Ty Mays, who was in the area, reported to the scene after seeing the accident on the side of the road. In the process of slowing down, he hit the body of the victim who was in the center lane.

 

Monroe and Jackson were pronounced dead at the scene by the Marion County Coroner’s Office. Monroe was 54; Jackson was 26.

 

“We were heartbroken to hear the news of Edwin Jackson’s passing,” the Colts said in a statement. “Edwin was loved by all in the Colts organization. We admired his outgoing personality, competitive spirit and hard-working mentality. He was well-respected among all with whom he crossed paths, and he will be greatly missed in our locker room and throughout our entire organization.

 

“We also understand that another person lost his life in the accident, only adding to our sorrow on this day. We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of both men during this difficult time.”

 

The tragedy caught the eye of Donald Trump who sent out this Tweet on Tuesday.

 

@realDonaldTrump

So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!

 

We would say that one of the big issues is how sanctuary cities won’t assist in deportations.  This drunk was deported twice from California, snuck back in and hid in the shadows until tragedy struck in Indiana.  So it wasn’t a case of a sanctuary city defying federal enforcement, it was a case of porous borders.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

There were reports Monday that Greg Schiano was the choice to replace Matt Patricia as the Patriots DC, but Bruce Feldman is tweeting he is not a go just yet.

 

@BruceFeldmanCFB

Saw the report that Greg Schiano is leaving #OhioState for the #Patriots DC job. Am told Schiano hasn’t decided whether he’s leaving OSU yet. Brian Flores may get promoted to DC in New England. Schiano could have a job on the Pats staff w/ Belichick but still hasn’t decided.

– – –

More from Ian Rapoport on the benching of MALCOLM BUTLER:

 

Among those (myriad of issues), he showed up a day later than teammates because he was sick. Remember, he was not at Opening Night. That was a factor. I’m also told that during practice this week he really struggled. Had a rough week of practice, perhaps because of illness, but maybe because of other things. That was one thing they had to consider in putting Eric Rowe out there instead of him.

 

“But I’m also told there were some other issues, disciplinary issues. There was a small or minor violation of team rules that happened earlier in the week that is one thing. And then there are some attitudes, frustrations as well. All of this combined to put Malcolm Butler not on the field with his teammates trying to win the Super Bowl, but on the sideline watching.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2018 RATINGS

ESPN’s panel of experts has a poll, taken now of how teams rank for 2018.  It really looks a lot like the current state of the NFL.  Before we look at it, we found the poll they took last year with these same “experts” who retain their jobs despite posting these results last year. Teams that actually made the playoffs in boldface and the actual final four in red.

 

1. New England Patriots

2. Atlanta Falcons

3. Dallas Cowboys

4. Green Bay Packers

5. Seattle Seahawks

6. Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Oakland Raiders

8. Kansas City Chiefs

9. New York Giants

10. Denver Broncos

11. Carolina Panthers

12. Washington Redskins

13. Baltimore Ravens

14. Detroit Lions

15. Houston Texans

16. Arizona Cardinals

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

18. Minnesota Vikings

19. Indianapolis Colts

20. Tennessee Titans

21. Miami Dolphins

22. Cincinnati Bengals

23. Philadelphia Eagles

24. New Orleans Saints

25. Los Angeles Chargers

26. Buffalo Bills

27. Jacksonville Jaguars

28. Los Angeles Rams

29. Chicago Bears

30. New York Jets

31. San Francisco 49ers

32. Cleveland Browns

 

So, here is how they have them lined up now, and just for fun we’ve bolded the same numbers and redded the most similar team that would give us a Final Four with two teams in each conference:

 

The ESPN power panel — a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities — is already looking ahead to next season with a way-too-early edition of NFL Power Rankings. Here’s how we think the league will stack up in 2018.

 

Note: These rankings are based on which teams voters think would win head-to-head matchups. Higher-ranked teams would be favored against lower-ranked teams. ESPN Stats & Information’s John McTigue contributed the following information.

 

1. New England Patriots 

2. Philadelphia Eagles

3. Pittsburgh Steelers 

4. Minnesota Vikings

5. Jacksonville Jaguars

6. New Orleans Saints

7. Atlanta Falcons

8. Green Bay Packers

9. Los Angeles Rams

10. Carolina Panthers

11. Seattle Seahawks

12. Kansas City Chiefs

13. Dallas Cowboys

14. San Francisco 49ers

15. Houston Texans

16. Los Angeles Chargers

17. Tennessee Titans

18. Oakland Raiders

19. Baltimore Ravens

20. Detroit Lions

21. Buffalo Bills

22. Washington Redskins

23. Denver Broncos

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

25. Indianapolis Colts

26. Arizona Cardinals

27. Miami Dolphins

28. Cincinnati Bengals

29. New York Jets

30. New York Giants

31. Chicago Bears

32. Cleveland Browns

 

Yes, that’s now seven NFC teams and five in the AFC.  But the bottom seven teams give you an idea of how far some of the 2017 playoff teams jumped.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

The Super Bowl ratings were okay, especially by the standard set previously this season.  Liz Roscher at YahooSports.com:

 

Sunday night’s Super Bowl LII was thrilling from start to finish. The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles played exceptional football, and thanks to a flawless performance from Nick Foles and a late strip sack from Brandon Graham, the Eagles won their first Super Bowl, and their first championship since 1960.

 

Super Bowl ratings are always big, but just how big were the ratings for this year’s installment? The Hollywood Reporter has the early numbers: Super Bowl LII pulled a 47.4 overnight rating. That’s a 3 percent drop from 2017’s Super Bowl 51, which pulled a 48.8 in early numbers. That 3 percent decline from 2017 isn’t a huge slide, but it represents an eight-year low in household viewership for the Super Bowl. It is, however, a 9 percent increase over the last Eagles-Pats Super Bowl in 2005.

 

The overall numbers tell a similar story.

 

@SportsTVRatings

106 million across all platforms. Down around 6 million viewers or around 5% vs. last year. https://twitter.com/NBCSportsPR/status/960620193486647296

 

So the individual viewership numbers were down a bit — slightly more than the early household metered market numbers — but it’s still a good showing. In fact, the TV numbers alone (which came in at 103.4 million viewers — were good enough to earn the broadcast a place in the top ten most-watched TV programs in history. It’s sitting at No. 10, right behind the MASH finale, which garnered 106 million viewers in 1983.

 

NBC provided local numbers, and of course the game demolished in the ratings. It was the top-rated Super Bowl of all time in Philadelphia, pulling a 56.2 metered market rating. The numbers for Boston were slightly less at 55.9, and it was just the fourth-highest rated Super Bowl out of the Patriots’ 10 appearances. Oddly, Buffalo pulled the highest local ratings of the night, at 56.4. Go figure.

 

The NFL has been plagued by viewership problems over the last few years. A lot of theories have been bandied about, from the style/pace of play, concussion and injury worries, anthem protests, cord cutting, oversaturation, and more. The Super Bowl is a whole different animal, though. People tune in not just for the football, but for the commercials and halftime show. It’s such a cultural event that even people who don’t care about any of those things might flip it on just so they know what everyone’s talking about at the office the next day.

 

Even though the early ratings numbers represent an eight-year low in households, a 3 percent drop in the Super Bowl is far from catastrophic. Considering that the NFL is dealing with a double-digit viewership decline over the regular season, a mere 3 percent drop can almost be considered a win.

 

This from Vegas shows that gambling interest remains high in the NFL.  The AP:

 

Lady Luck was most certainly not the side of Las Vegas sports books during the Super Bowl as some reported six- and seven-figure losses in part due to a seemingly deep-pocketed mystery bettor and the many records set during the game, which allowed gamblers to cash in on proposition bets.

 

Gamblers wagered a record $158.6 million on the big game at Nevada’s 198 sports books, over $20.1 million more than in 2017. But the unaudited tallies released Monday by the Nevada Gaming Control Board showed sports books made a profit of only about $1.2 million on the action, around $9.8 million less than in 2017 and not even close to the $19.7 they cleared in 2014.

 

Sports books around Las Vegas had selected the New England Patriots over the Philadelphia Eagles to win their second straight Super Bowl. Bookmakers initially posted lines ranging between 5 and 6 1/2 points and the over/under for total points scored in the game at 48.

 

”The game didn’t quite go exactly the way he had hoped for, but we kind of grinded out a small win on this particular event when you consider all things,” said Jay Rood, who heads sports betting operations for MGM Resorts International, where the Patriots were a 4.5 favorite. ”When you consider us as an overall hotel-casino company, I think at the end of the day, we are going to be all right. We had thousands of people here enjoying themselves watching the game.”

 

The sports book at the Mirage, owned by MGM Resorts, took a bet for more than $2 million on the Eagles.

 

The same bettor who took this city’s legal sports books for millions of dollars on the World Series also placed a $500,000 wager on the Eagles at the South Point sports book. The man also placed two bets of $1 million with William Hill, which runs more than 100 sports books in Nevada and has a mobile app.

 

William Hill on Sunday reported ending the night with a multimillion-dollar loss, with $3.2 million alone to the mystery bettor. The operator said that based on the number of tickets, 54 percent of bettors were correct in choosing the Eagles on the point spread and 75 percent on the money line. Fifty-six percent of tickets were correct on choosing the over for the total points scored in the game, which the operator had at 49.

 

The casino industry’s largest lobbying group in the U.S., the American Gaming Association, estimated that Americans would wager about $4.76 billion on the big game, but only 3 percent or $138.5 million would be done legally at sports books in Nevada.

 

Across Las Vegas, proposition bets – wagers offered on unique and various cases – left gamblers rejoicing as the game set all kinds of records.

 

”Well, we are a little disappointed with the bottom line,” said Jay Kornegay, the sports book director of the Westgate Las Vegas. ”This event is dominated by the general betting public and they always like to bet on things to happen. So, they like to bet the yeses more than the nos. They like to bet the overs more than the unders, and a lot of those come through for them. We had our worst Super Bowl prop results ever.”

 

The sports book paused cashing tickets after midnight and resumed later in the morning. It still had around 100 people in line Monday afternoon waiting to get paid.

 

One of the proposition bets that hurt the Westgate was whether the game’s MVP Nick Foles would score a touchdown. He did. That bet paid 8-1.

 

Kornegay said every single one of the players who scored a touchdown had a proposition bet on him.

 

”Not only did they score a touchdown, but we also had props on whether they would score in the first half,” Kornegay said. It was a double whammy for us. ”