The Daily Briefing Wednesday, January 3, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

HALL OF FAME FINALISTS

Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Steve Hutchinson and Brian Urlacher are the first-year nominees who made the Finalist list from which the Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be chosen.  This from ESPN.com:

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2018 will be chosen by the Hall’s board of selectors on Feb. 3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As many as five modern-era finalists can be chosen for the Hall’s 2018 class in addition to this year’s seniors nominees (Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer), to go with the contributors nominee Bobby Beathard.

The seniors and contributor nominees are voted on separately from the modern-era finalists and are considered on a yes-or-no basis.

At the meeting of the board of selectors the day before Super Bowl LII, the list of modern-era finalists will be trimmed to 10 and then to five.

The remaining five finalists will then be chosen on a yes-or-no basis.

The finalists for the class of 2018:

Steve Atwater

Safety, 1989-1998, Denver Broncos; 1999 New York Jets

A punishing tackler whose presence changed how offenses played. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who was named to the league’s all-decade team of the 1990s. Atwater and Leroy Butler are the only first-team selections from that 90s all-decade team defense who are not enshrined in Canton.

Tony Boselli

Tackle, 1995-2001, Jacksonville Jaguars

His career was cut short by shoulder injuries, but Boselli was a five-time Pro Bowl selection in his seven seasons and is the first HOF finalist who played his entire career with the Jaguars.

Isaac Bruce

Wide receiver, 1994-2007, Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams; 2008-2009, San Francisco 49ers

Bruce was a four-time Pro Bowl selection who had eight 1,000-yard seasons. Finished with 1,165 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” Super Bowl winner to close out the 1999 season. Had a 61-catch season in 2008 at age 36.

Brian Dawkins

Safety, 1996-2008, Philadelphia Eagles; 2009-2011, Denver Broncos

Dawkins was a heart-and-soul player for an Eagles team that advanced to the NFC Championship Game four consecutive times, and he played in Super Bowl XXXIX. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls and is on a short list of players who had at least 35 interceptions and 20 sacks.

Alan Faneca

Guard, 1998-2007, Pittsburgh Steelers; 2008-2009 New York Jets; 2010, Arizona Cardinals

This is the third time Faneca has been a HOF finalist. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and was named to the all-decade team of the 2000s. Faneca blocked for 1,000-yard rushers nine times, including Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis.

Steve Hutchinson

Guard, 2001-2005, Seattle Seahawks; 2006-2011, Minnesota Vikings; 2012 Tennessee Titans

Hutchinson was in his first year of eligibility and has been named a finalist. He started 16 games in a season eight times, was named to seven Pro Bowls and was a five-time All-Pro selection. Was named to the all-2000s team.

Joe Jacoby

Tackle, 1981-1993, Washington Redskins

Jacoby has been a finalist for three consecutive seasons. Part of the signature “Hogs,” the offensive line that fueled Joe Gibbs’ Redskins offenses, Jacoby was a four-time Pro Bowl selection. The Redskins finished among the league’s top nine offenses 10 times during Jacoby’s career.

Edgerrin James

Running back, 1999-2005, Indianapolis Colts; 2006-2008 Arizona Cardinals; 2009, Seattle Seahawks

He was the league’s rushing champion twice, and he reached 10,000 scrimmage yards faster than any player in history. In addition to his rushing totals, he had five seasons with at least 51 catches.

Ty Law

Cornerback, 1995-2004, New England Patriots; 2005, 2008, New York Jets; 2006-2007, Kansas City Chiefs; 2009, Denver Broncos

He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection who played for three Patriots teams that won the Super Bowl. A 14-year starter at cornerback, he finished with 53 interceptions — the same total as Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. Law was at his best in the postseason with six interceptions.

Ray Lewis

Linebacker, 1996-2012, Baltimore Ravens

The 13-time Pro Bowl selection is in his first year of eligibility. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens closed the 2000 season with the title — the first of two Super Bowl winners Lewis played on. He started 227 games and was credited with eight 100-tackle seasons.

John Lynch

Safety, 1993-2003, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 2004-2007, Denver Broncos

A feared tackler who was often celebrated and fined by the league for some of his hits. The San Francisco 49ers general manager was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. Four of those selections came during his four seasons with the Broncos after he had neck surgery following his final season with Tampa Bay. Hall of Famer Tony Dungy has called Lynch the prototype at the position in Dungy’s Tampa 2 defense.

Kevin Mawae

Center/guard, 1994-1997, Seattle Seahawks; 1998-2005, New York Jets; 2006-2009, Tennessee Titans

This is Mawae’s second time as a finalist. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, and in eight of his 16 seasons, his offenses finished in the top five in rushing. Bill Parcells has been one of Mawae’s biggest supporters having said Mawae could move, pull and make blocks other centers couldn’t make.

Randy Moss

Wide receiver, 1998-2004, 2010, Minnesota Vikings; 2005-2006, Oakland Raiders; 2007-2010, New England Patriots; 2010, Tennessee Titans; 2012, San Francisco 49ers

Moss is in his first year of eligibility and is second all time in touchdown receptions with 156. He finished with eight seasons with at least 1,200 yards receiving and seven with at least 70 catches. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection who averaged at least 15 yards per reception in eight of his 16 seasons.

Terrell Owens

Wide receiver, 1996-2003, San Francisco 49ers; 2004-2005, Philadelphia Eagles; 2006-2008, Dallas Cowboys; 2009, Buffalo Bills; 2010, Cincinnati Bengals

Owens had five 1,200-yard receiving seasons. Owens is currently second all time in receiving yards (15,934) and third all time in touchdown catches (153) behind only Moss and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.

Brian Urlacher

Linebacker, 2000-2012, Chicago Bears

Urlacher is in his first year of eligibility and finished his career with the Bears as an eight-time Pro Bowl selection. A former college safety and punt returner who evolved into one of the league’s most athletic defensive players, he was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and a member of the all-decade team of the 2000s.

Everson Walls

Cornerback, 1981-1989, Dallas Cowboys; 1990-1992, New York Giants; 1992-1993, Cleveland Browns

Walls is in the final year as a modern-era finalist, so if he is not enshrined this year, he will move into the seniors category, which is a far more difficult path to Canton. Walls somehow went undrafted and entered the league as a rookie free agent despite leading the nation in interceptions, with 11, in his last year at Grambling. Walls, who has never been a Hall finalist, finished with 57 interceptions, leading the league three times.

Seniors committee

Robert Brazile

Linebacker, 1975-1984, Houston Oilers

Brazile was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and was named first-team All Pro four times. He was also named to the all-decade team for the 1970s. Brazile was lauded for his combination of size, speed and strength at the position after he was the sixth pick of the 1975 draft.

Jerry Kramer

Guard, 1958-1968, Green Bay Packers

Kramer was the only guard selected for the NFL’s 50th anniversary team, yet his time as a modern-era finalist came and went without Kramer being enshrined in Canton. He was a first-team All-Pro five times and played on five NFL championship teams and two Super Bowl winners.

Contributor

Bobby Beathard

Personnel executive, Kansas City Chiefs, 1966-1967; Atlanta Falcons, 1968-1971; Miami Dolphins, 1972-1977; Washington Redskins, 1978-1988; San Diego Chargers, 1990-1999

Beathard’s teams won 10 division titles and four Super Bowls — two with the Washington Redskins and two with the Miami Dolphins. The 1972 Dolphins were the only team to finish a championship season undefeated.

This from Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

Roger Craig, Torry Holt, Hines Ward, Leslie O’Neal, Simeon Rice, Richard Seymour, Karl Mecklenburg, Steve Atwater, Ronde Barber, Leroy Butler, Don Coryell and Jimmy Johnson were the semifinalists failing to receive enough votes to advance.

NFC NORTH

GREEN BAY

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com on Ted Thompson being kicked upstairs:

Ted Thompson, the man who drafted Aaron Rodgers, hired coach Mike McCarthy and built a Super Bowl champion, will no longer be in charge of the Green Bay Packers’ personnel department, the team announced Tuesday.

The Packers said that Thompson will remain as senior adviser to football operations, and they will begin an “immediate search” for their next general manager.

The Packers have four strong internal candidates in Russ Ball, Brian Gutekunst, Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf, but the search also is expected to include outside candidates. That could include former Packers scouts Reggie McKenzie and John Schneider. McKenzie and Schneider, however, are general managers with the Raiders and Seahawks, respectively, and the Packers likely would have to make a trade if they wanted one of those candidates.

Highsmith, meanwhile, has been given permission by the Packers to interview with at least one other team, a source said. He will interview with Browns GM John Dorsey for a position as a top adviser, as the Green Bay Press-Gazette first reported. Dorsey, a former personnel executive with the Packers, was hired by the Browns last month.

After Schneider, a native of nearby De Pere, Wisconsin, signed an extension last year with the Seahawks that runs through 2021, he told reporters that his new deal with Seattle does not include an out clause that would allow him to leave for the Packers’ front office. (He didn’t confirm or deny a report that his previous contract with Seattle included such a clause.)

“I want to thank Ted for his tireless efforts as the general manager of the Green Bay Packers for these past 13 seasons. Under his guidance, the Packers enjoyed a remarkable run of success, one that included our 13th world championship, four NFC Championship appearances and eight consecutive postseason berths,” Packers president Mark Murphy said in a statement Tuesday.

“On a personal note, Ted’s work ethic, humility and loyalty are nearly unparalleled, and it has been one of the great honors of my life to work beside him,” Murphy said.

“It’s been a great honor to serve as the Green Bay Packers’ general manager for the past 13 years,” Thompson said in the statement. “I look forward to supporting this team in my new role as we strive to win another championship.”

Thompson, 64, has been in charge of the Packers’ football operations since 2005. His first draft pick was Rodgers. Thompson then fired Mike Sherman as head coach after the 2005 season and hired McCarthy. Together, they won Super Bowl XLV, the Packers’ first title since Super Bowl XXXI.

Thompson curtailed his scouting schedule in recent years after hip replacement surgery and delegated more authority to his deputies. Ball, the Packers’ chief contract negotiator, took on many of Thompson’s administrative duties. Ball is viewed as one of the leading candidates to take over for Thompson despite having a background in finance and not player evaluation. If Ball gets the job, the Packers could pair one of their top scouts — Gutekunst, Wolf or Highsmith — with Ball. However, the Packers could lose any or all of those scouts if they’re bypassed for the GM job.

This will be the first football hire for Murphy, who became president in 2008. Because the publicly owned Packers don’t have a traditional owner, Murphy is head of the team’s seven-member executive committee. Murphy informed the committee Monday that the team would conduct a search for a new GM.

The Packers avoid Coach Mike McCarthy entering a lame duck year, but his one-year extension through 2019 indicates he could be on borrowed time.  NFL.com:

The Green Bay Packers and coach Mike McCarthy agreed to a one-year contract extension earlier this season, a team source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Tuesday.

ESPN first reported the development, which comes on the same day the Packers announced that general manager Ted Thompson is transitioning to a senior advisor role for Green Bay’s football operations department.

“Mike (McCarthy) is our man,” Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy told reporters Tuesday. “He is our coach.”

MINNESOTA

QB SAM BRADFORD has returned to practice, but his return to active duty and/or the starting lineup is uncertain.  Tim Yotter of Scout.com:

After not playing a full game since a season-opening win on Sept. 11, QB Sam Bradford will return to Minnesota Vikings practice this week.

The Vikings have a first-round playoff bye, so they are only practicing on Tuesday and Wednesday before giving players an extended weekend off, but it will be Bradford’s first practice opportunity since going on injured reserve on Nov. 8. He played less than a half after making a start on Oct. 9, but his surgically repaired knee caused him to be pulled from that attempted comeback.

“I just want to see where he’s at, how he’s moving, things like that,” head coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday. “I hear he’s moving good. I hear he’s throwing the ball good, but that’s all I do is hear. We’ll just go about it and see how it goes.”

The Vikings will have a three-week window to decide if they want to take Bradford off injured reserve and place him on the 53-man roster, but how he looks in the next two weeks and the team’s advancement in the playoffs likely will determine their course of action.

“That’s way too early to say,” Zimmer said when asked about his expectations for Bradford during the playoffs. “We’ll see how it goes and where he’s at. I’m not committed to saying he’s going to play. We’ll just see how things go. Things could happen, we win a game and somebody gets hurt. You never know what could happen.”

With Bradford out, Case Keenum has gone 11-3 as a starter and posted a passer rating of 98.3.

NFC WEST

ARIZONA

QB CARSON PALMER has joined Bruce Arians in retirement.  Kent Somers in the Arizona Republic:

Carson Palmer never fully bought into the vision Bruce Arians shared in 2013 when he compared himself and Palmer with old cowboys looking for one last rodeo.

But that’s how they ended up.

Palmer, the Cardinals’ starting quarterback the past five years, announced his retirement on Tuesday afternoon, joining Arians, his former coach, who stepped down on Monday.

Palmer, 38, ended his last season on injured reserve after suffering a broken left arm against the Rams in London in Week 7.

The Cardinals traded for Palmer a few months after Arians arrived in 2013, sending a sixth-round pick to the Raiders for Palmer and a seventh-round pick.

It was a steal for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals were 38-21-1 with Palmer as the starter, and made it as far as the NFC Championship Game in the 2015 season.

Palmer announced his retirement via an open letter distributed by the Cardinals.

“Over the years, I’ve had teammates who decided to hang it up and I would ask them how they knew when it was time to walk away. The answer was almost always the same: You just know.

“For me that time is now. Why. Quite simply, I just know.”

Palmer was under contract for 2018, and the Cardinals save at least $14 million under the cap with his retirement. Palmer will still count about $6.6 million against the cap.

But it will be difficult replacing Palmer.

“He’s been an unbelievable teammate,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said last Thursday. “I still think he has a lot of great football in him. Whatever he does decide to do, I will always respect that and love him regardless.”

With Palmer retired, the Cardinals don’t have a quarterback under contract for 2018. Finding his replacement is as important as hiring Arians’ successor.

“Having your next franchise quarterback is no different from finding the next head coach,” General Manager Steve Keim said after Arians’ retirement announcement on Monday, “and that’s going through the process. At the end of the day, you usually know in your heart who the guy is.”

The first overall pick in the 2003 draft by the Bengals, Palmer played 15 seasons and is the only NFL quarterback to pass for at least 4,000 yards in a season for three different teams.

Palmer peaked during his five seasons with the Cardinals. He had one of the better seasons in franchise history in 2015, completing 63.7 percent of his passes for 4,671 yards, 35 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.

He also was the quintessential leader in that time, possessing the ability to make teammates laugh at one moment and to hold them accountable for mistakes at another.

Palmer was one of the creators of the weekly “bucket challenge” that involved the team’s quarterbacks and cornerback Patrick Peterson. The loser each week either had to wear an outlandish costume on the team plane or wear it during a pregame appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Other quarterbacks bemoaned Palmer’s penchant for changing, or creating, rules of the challenge, but in the end, what Palmer said went. In the Cardinals’ last home game, Palmer was the loser and he appeared in a bird costume prior to the game.

Over the past five seasons, Drew Stanton backed up Palmer and the two became close friends.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for him, probably as much as anybody that I’ve ever played with, and genuinely look up to him on and off the football field,” Stanton said last week. “He taught me a lot about being a father and what the balance is like, being able to put your family first, but when you step in here in these walls, everything is football-oriented. So, finding all of those things, I’m so thankful for the time we’ve had together and being able to learn from him and take a lot away from him.”

Palmer’s time in Arizona was not without struggles. In 2014, he missed three games with a shoulder injury and then suffered a torn ligament in his left knee in Week 10.

It was the second major knee injury of his career, but Palmer was maniacal in rehabilitation and in 2015 returned to set franchise single-season records in passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating.

Palmer and the Cardinals started slowly this season, but the veteran quarterback seemed to be finding a groove before the hit in London caused the fractured left arm.

There was a belief Palmer might be able to return at some point this season, but he didn’t. The game in London was his last.

Arians often said that Palmer worked as hard as any quarterback he coached, including Peyton Manning. The time required to prepare to play is what drives some quarterbacks out of the game, but Palmer loved it.

“I’ll especially miss the grind,” he wrote in the open letter. “It’s the part I don’t think people fully appreciate, maybe because so many NFL players make the game look so easy and effortless.”

Palmer will have no trouble staying busy. He and his wife, Shaelyn, have four children, and Palmer has other interests, including hunting. He said recently they will remain in the Valley after retirement.

AFC WEST

DENVER

Ben McAdoo could resuscitate his career if he can make a viable QB out of PAXTON LYNCH.  Or at least that could be the case if he becomes Denver’s QB coach.  Darrin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

The Broncos are retooling coach Vance Joseph’s staff before his second season, and they may be looking to add someone with head coaching experience.

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, the Broncos are considering former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo along with former Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese for their quarterback coach job.

McAdoo and Joseph worked together in San Francisco.

While McAdoo might prefer a coordinator job — if only to remind people he was good at something before head coaching, wearing suits and haircare seemed to flummox him in New York — but the Broncos are keeping Bill Musgrave in that position. Musgrave began the year as quarterbacks coach but was promoted when they fired Mike McCoy, who just happened to be the first deck chair thrown overboard.

Once upon a time, McAdoo built a reputation for being good, but that was when he coaching some guy named Aaron Rodgers. There are no Aaron Rodgerses on the Broncos roster.

AFC NORTH

CINCINNATI

Lo and behold, Marvin Lewis gets at least two more years.  Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Not so fast.

Despite rampant speculation – and even some expectation – that Marvin Lewis had tired of coaching the Cincinnati Bengals and was ready to move on, the organization and the 59-year-old head coach agreed to continue their partnership through the 2019 season.

Next year will be his 16th on the sidelines at Paul Brown Stadium, and he remains the second-longest tenured head coach in the league behind New England’s Bill Belichick.

In a statement released by the club, Bengals owner and president Mike Brown said “Marvin Lewis has been an important member of the Cincinnati community and the Bengals family for the past 15 years, and we are happy to have reached this agreement. Marvin has made significant contributions during his time here. While recently we have fallen short of our expectations, we have full confidence in Marvin to re-establish winning football in 2018.”

Assistant coaches and some players were in the building Tuesday and no word about a decision had filtered out by the time the building seemed to clear out just before 5 p.m.

“My family and I are very grateful for the opportunity to stay in Cincinnati and continue my career with the Bengals,” Lewis said in a statement. “My job is to win a world championship. We have a talented roster full of veteran leaders and emerging young stars, and I am committed to making the necessary improvements to put this team in the best position to win.”

Marvin Lewis became the Cincinnati Bengals head coach in 2003. Lewis’s tenure with the Bengals was the second longest in the NFL in 2017. Here is a look at where Lewis ranks in Bengals history.

The front office, coaches and players were rocked by an ESPN report just before kickoff on Dec. 17 that Lewis had made up his mind to leave, but Lewis has consistently denied that information came from him.

Lewis’ agent, Phil de Picciotto told The Enquirer in December “that came from Adam Schefter, not from us.”

Despite the denials, Schefter and ESPN never backtracked from the report that cited anonymous league sources. By Dec. 31, however, ESPN softened by saying Lewis was “leaning” towards an exit.

For his part, Lewis’ message has been consistent to owner and president Mike Brown, executive vice president Katie Blackburn and vice president Troy Blackburn and on through the organization. The Enquirer reported many in the organization didn’t necessarily believe those denials – but some veterans and coaches hoped Lewis would return.

“I think he’s the right coach for this team,” wide receiver Brandon LaFell said. “Everybody’s trying to blame stuff on coach Lewis but us as players, we should have made more plays this year and we didn’t do that. It has nothing to do with coach Lewis. He put is in a great situation to win every game. Us, as players, we didn’t make enough plays.”

The 2017 season marked the second straight losing campaign after five straight playoff appearances, but Lewis has always maintained he wanted to coach in 2018. Clearly, the front office determined there was enough progress from the young talent that Lewis should lead a third reboot of the franchise under his watch.

“We’re starting to play. He got us playing. He got us playing good,” Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “But at the end of the day, that’s our responsibility to win games. That’s not his responsibility. It’s our responsibility to win games. He’s my dog. I’m emotionally attached to him. I can’t see myself, right now, with another coach.”

Lewis does have the most regular-season victories and playoff appearances in franchise history. With two straight victories to end 2017 Lewis has 125 regular season wins, which is tied for most in NFL history without a playoff victory. Former Indianapolis and New Orleans head coach Jim Mora retired with 125 victories and an 0-6 mark in the postseason.

Ownership had a list of candidates to interview should the two sides parted ways, including coordinators Paul Guenther, Bill Lazor and Darrin Simmons. With Lewis back, it is expected that Guenther will move elsewhere and the Bengals will need to find a new defensive coordinator.

Simmons has been with Lewis his entire time in Cincinnati and Lazor just finished 14 games as offensive coordinator after being hired as the quarterbacks coach in 2016.

The Enquirer learned from multiple team sources that in their discussions about a return, Lewis and ownership had serious talks about the makeup of his staff. With every assistant’s contract up, Lewis may now have an opportunity to reshape his staff entirely.

Since 2015, the team has lost Hue Jackson, Vance Joseph, Matt Burke, Mark Carrier and Jay Hayes. Lazor, Jim Haslett, Jacob Burney and Kevin Coyle joined the team in the 2016 offseason.

PITTSBURGH

The Steelers begin their bye week with a curious injury to their coaching staff.  Todd Schad of USA Today on the injury to another Todd:

The Pittsburgh Steelers said in a statement Tuesday that offensive coordinator Todd Haley was injured in a fall Sunday night but is expected to be able to coach when the Steelers return to action in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

A spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Police Department, however, said the incident in question actually involved Haley’s wife, Christine, and that Haley was not injured.

Police spokesperson Alicia George told USA TODAY Sports in a written statement that the incident in question took place at a restaurant called Tequila Cowboy. There was a “minor scuffle” involving Haley’s wife, according to the statement, but “the scuffle was quickly ended.”

“Todd Haley was not involved nor injured,” George wrote in the statement, adding that no charges were filed as a result of the scuffle. “Todd and Christine Haley were escorted out.”

NFL Network reported earlier Tuesday that Todd Haley was “shoved down” outside a bar near Heinz Field, resulting in a hip injury. Team spokesperson Burt Lauten confirmed in a statement that Haley was injured Sunday but did not offer specifics.

“Offensive coordinator Todd Haley was injured in a fall Sunday evening following our Week 17 game,” Lauten said in a statement. “We expect he will return to the office this week to participate in preparations for our upcoming playoff game.”

Haley, who previously spent three seasons as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, is in his sixth season as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator.

AFC SOUTH

TENNESSEE

FYI, the last time an AFC South team was a Wild Card was in 2012, when Houston joined champion Indianapolis in the postseason.  The other three AFC divisions had provided all eight Wild Cards since.  Before then, it was 2008.  So the Titans are the 2nd AFC South Wild Card (out of 18 total) in the last 9 seasons.

AFC EAST

BUFFALO

Bengals QB ANDY DALTON is more popular in Western New York than he is in Cincinnati.

Andy Dalton might never end up being the hero Bengals fans need, but the NFL’s Glowing Ginger Man has become figure of legend in the greater Buffalo area.

Dalton’s stunning touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd on Sunday served as a late Christmas miracle for the Bills, who punched their ticket to the playoffs thanks to the Bengals’ unlikely conquest over the Ravens. Buffalo will play its first postseason contest since Jan. 8, 2000, on Sunday against the Jaguars.

As you might imagine, the denizens of Western New York are pumped right now. That had to have been a hell of a New Year’s Eve — it could still be going on as you read this. Aware of the direct role Dalton has played in their joy, Bills fans are showing their appreciation by donating to the quarterback’s official charity, which serves children who are ill or have special needs. By Tuesday, over $100,000 had been donated since the Bills’ clinched a playoff berth. Many donations have been for $17, a reference to Buffalo’s 17-year playoff drought that was snapped Sunday.

“We have over 4,500 donors right now. We’ve raised over $100,000 and it continues to go up,” Dalton said Tuesday morning. “We cannot thank you enough. This has been unbelievable. Let’s keep it going.”

THIS AND THAT

FINAL 2017 AIKMAN RATINGS

As the Eagles and Jaguars stumbled to the finish, the Vikings surged to claim their first season title in the Aikman Combined Ratings Compiled by STATS.  Minnesota only led the Combined after Week 17, finishing 1.7 points ahead of the Jaguars who had led the previous two weeks.  The Eagles, who had a seven-week run in first place from Weeks 8 to 14, finished third.

The Vikings nearly stole the Aikman Defense title from the Jaguars, finishing just 0.4 points shy.  Jacksonville held the lead for the final 11 weeks of the season and had an advantage of 7.6 points over the Vikings with three weeks remaining.

The Patriots pulled away to claim the Aikman Offense title by 4.9 points over the second-place Saints.  The Eagles, who finished 3rd were in 1st place as recently as Week 15.  The Vikings finished in 4th in Aikman Offense, although only 11th in the NFL’s yards only method of ranking.

– – –

The Aikman Combined Ratings often mirror the playoff qualifiers, but there were some exceptions this year.  Three 9-7 non-playoff teams – the Chargers, Ravens and Seahawks – finished in the 2017 top 12.  The Panthers (13th), Titans (15th) and Bills (18th) made the playoffs while out of the top dozen.

– – –

The NFL had substantially less offense in 2017 as measured by the Aikman Ratings.  The NFL average of 79.3 was substantially less than last year’s 81.9.  In fact, the Aikman Offense number fell back to the lowest number since the 78.9 of 2011.  Aikman Offense had risen in each of the five years since then, but lost nearly all of those increases in one season in ’17.  Last year there were six teams above 90.0, this year only the Patriots at 93.1.

Aikman Combined Ratings Through Week 17, 2017 

                                ——— Aikman ——–       ——- NFL ——–

 Rank  Record   Team             Combined     Off      Def       Off    Def Combined

   1    13-3    Vikings            169.7     87.0     82.7        11      1     12 

   2    10-6    Jaguars            168.0     84.9     83.1         6      2      8 

   3    13-3    Eagles             166.7     87.8     78.8         7      4     11 

   4    13-3    Patriots           165.3     93.1     72.2         1     29     30 

   5    11-5    Saints             160.2     88.2     71.9         2     17     19 

   6     9-7    Chargers           159.8     81.3     78.5         4     15     19 

   7     9-7    Ravens             157.6     80.2     77.4        27     12     39 

   8    11-5    Rams               156.9     86.0     70.9        10     19     29 

   9    13-3    Steelers           156.8     85.2     71.6         3      5      8 

  10    10-6    Falcons            155.7     83.4     72.3         8      9     17 

  11    10-6    Chiefs             154.4     86.1     68.3         5     28     33 

  12     9-7    Seahawks           153.8     80.2     73.5        15     11     26 

  13    11-5    Panthers           153.7     81.1     72.6        19      7     26 

  14     9-7    Cowboys            153.6     82.3     71.2        14      8     22 

  15     9-7    Titans             151.0     78.3     72.7        23     13     36 

  16     9-7    Lions              149.3     80.4     68.9        13     27     40 

  17     5-11   Bears              147.8     74.2     73.6        30     10     40 

  18     9-7    Bills              146.5     78.0     68.5        29     26     55 

  19     7-9    Redskins           144.8     75.6     69.2        16     21     37 

  20     5-11   Buccaneers         144.8     78.8     66.0         9     32     41 

  21     6-10   Raiders            144.7     77.0     67.8        17.5   23     40.5

  22     6-10   49ers              144.0     78.6     65.4        12     24     36 

  23     5-11   Jets               143.8     75.9     67.8        28     25     53 

  24     8-8    Cardinals          143.0     71.4     71.6        22      6     28 

  25     7-9    Packers            142.3     79.3     63.1        26     22     48 

  26     5-11   Broncos            141.8     68.8     73.0        17.5    3     20.5

  27     7-9    Bengals            141.6     73.5     68.0        32     18     50 

  28     4-12   Colts              139.5     72.5     67.0        31     30     61 

  29     4-12   Texans             139.2     75.2     64.0        20     20     40 

  30     3-13   Giants             136.7     70.7     66.0        21     31     52 

  31     6-10   Dolphins           136.5     71.8     64.8        25     16     41 

  32     0-16   Browns             130.6     66.2     64.3        24     14     38  

 

Aikman Offense Ratings Through Week 17, 2017

 

  Aik     NFL     Team                 AER

   1       1      Patriots            93.1

   2       2      Saints              88.2

   3       7      Eagles              87.8

   4      11      Vikings             87.0

   5       5      Chiefs              86.1

   6      10      Rams                86.0

   7       3      Steelers            85.2

   8       6      Jaguars             84.9

   9       8      Falcons             83.4

  10      14      Cowboys             82.3

  11       4      Chargers            81.3

  12      19      Panthers            81.1

  13      13      Lions               80.4

  14      15      Seahawks            80.2

  15      27      Ravens              80.2

  16      26      Packers             79.3

  17       9      Buccaneers          78.8

  18      12      49ers               78.6

  19      23      Titans              78.3

  20      29      Bills               78.0

  21      17.5    Raiders             77.0

  22      28      Jets                75.9

  23      16      Redskins            75.6

  24      20      Texans              75.2

  25      30      Bears               74.2

  26      32      Bengals             73.5

  27      31      Colts               72.5

  28      25      Dolphins            71.8

  29      22      Cardinals           71.4

  30      21      Giants              70.7

  31      17.5    Broncos             68.8

  32      24      Browns              66.2

NFL Average                           79.3

 

Aikman Defense Ratings Through Week 17, 2017

 

  Aik     NFL     Team                 AER

   1       2      Jaguars             83.1

   2       1      Vikings             82.7

   3       4      Eagles              78.8

   4      15      Chargers            78.5

   5      12      Ravens              77.4

   6      10      Bears               73.6

   7      11      Seahawks            73.5

   8       3      Broncos             73.0

   9      13      Titans              72.7

  10       7      Panthers            72.6

  11       9      Falcons             72.3

  12      29      Patriots            72.2

  13      17      Saints              71.9

  14       5      Steelers            71.6

  15       6      Cardinals           71.6

  16       8      Cowboys             71.2

  17      19      Rams                70.9

  18      21      Redskins            69.2

  19      27      Lions               68.9

  20      26      Bills               68.5

  21      28      Chiefs              68.3

  22      18      Bengals             68.0

  23      25      Jets                67.8

  24      23      Raiders             67.8

  25      30      Colts               67.0

  26      31      Giants              66.0

  27      32      Buccaneers          66.0

  28      24      49ers               65.4

  29      16      Dolphins            64.8

  30      14      Browns              64.3

  31      20      Texans              64.0

  32      22      Packers             63.1

 NFL Average                           70.7

Ratings Courtesy of STATS