Welcome to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs! Fans and fantasy players can look forward to this weekend’s action, which includes Saturday’s Falcons/Eagles game, along with the surprising Titans and RB Derrick Henry heading into Foxboro to face the Pats. Sunday’s slate brings us the Jags and Steelers, capped off by the Saints and Vikings, who are hoping to be the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Here’s the latest news on these teams and other action around the league in Friday’s Dose.
Divisional Round News and Notes
The Patriots’ backfield is still a bit of a mess, but got some good news on Thursday as RBs James White (ankle), Rex Burkhead (knee) and Mike Gillislee (knee) were each able to practice, at least on a limited basis. RB Dion Lewis is healthy and locked in as the team’s main ball carrier, but HC Bill Belichick always likes to employ his depth at the position. Burkhead and White both missed the final two games of the regular season, but are now expected to play. Gillislee, who was a healthy scratch for much of the season, is in danger of missing the game.
The Titans have given up major production to the wide receiver position all season, giving up the eighth most passing yards. This is excellent timing for the Patriots and WR Chris Hogan, who has been fully cleared and removed from the injury report, ready to be a full go for this weekend. Hogan missed seven of the team’s final eight regular season games, which coincided with a slight downtick in QB Tom Brady’s production. Without Hogan this season, Brady’s fantasy points were down by nearly two per game, while his attempts and completions also decreased. Brady’s interceptions and his passing touchdowns both saw a slight increase with Hogan out of the lineup. Potentially most noticeable is Brady’s passing yardage, which dropped to 257 per game without Hogan after averaging over 308 yards when the receiver was in the lineup.
Steelers CB Artie Burns gave his team and Pittsburgh fans a scare on Wednesday when he went down with a non-contact leg injury. Burns expressed confidence that he would be able to practice on Thursday, and although that didn’t happen, he remains confident that he can play through the hyperextended knee. Should Burns miss the game, DB Cameron Sutton will see an increased role.
Falcons HC Dan Quinn has no injury concerns about his team, which is excellent news for WR Julio Jones (ankle), RB Devonta Freeman (knee) and WR Mohamed Sanu (knee). Each player had been limited in earlier practices but will be ready to play as the Falcons travel to Philadelphia.
The Panthers made it official, announcing the addition of Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator, replacing the previously fired Mike Shula. It’s becoming a family affair in Charlotte, where the Panthers already employ Turner’s brother and nephew and also announced the addition of Turner’s son as the new QB coach. Turner was out of the league in 2017 and has little experience with dual threat QBs like Cam Newton. There are many reasons to question this hire from the start.
While the Panthers have added Turner, they are still bracing to lose DC Steve Wilks, who is considered one of the favorites to land the Giants head coaching job. Wilks is also a contender in Arizona, but has withdrawn his name from consideration in Indianapolis. Current Baylor HC Matt Rhule also took himself out of the running for the Colts, though he was considered a longshot anyway.
The Bears also added to their staff, hiring former Oregon HC Mark Helfrich as their offensive coordinator. While new HC Mark Nagy is still expected to call the plays, Helfrich should work closely with QB Mitchell Trubisky.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports the Seahawks are interested in Colts QBs coach Brian Shottenheimer to fill their offensive coordinator position. Seattle cleaned house earlier in the week, parting ways with OC Darrell Bevell, OL coach Tom Cable, QBs coach Carl Smith along with DC Kris Richard.
Local reports out of Arizona suggest Vikings OC Pat Shurmur is the favorite to land the Cardinals HC job. Shurmur will wait until the Vikings’ season is over before taking his next job and has also been rumored to bring veteran QB Case Keenum with him wherever he might land.
Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell said he would consider sitting out the 2018 season or even retiring if he is slapped with the franchise tag again this season. Bell made similar threats in the past and eventually showed up…Jets beat writer Rich Cimini suggested that veteran RB Matt Forte’s “days are numbered” in New York…Rams GM Les Snead suggested there is no timetable to sign DL Aaron Donald to a contract extension. Donald held out prior to this past season, but won’t repeat that with his free agency status on the line…Free agent WR Brice Butler suggested he would not return to Dallas unless he’s considered a starter. Butler had impressive production (317 yards) in limited opportunity, including 15 receptions. This might finally be the time we get to Free Brice Butler.
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