After a Wild Card round that featured two equally excellent and two snooze-worthy games, we’re on to the Divisional Round. As always, we’ll break down the most important NFL news that you need to know in Thursday’s Dose — starting with a pair of RB injuries for the playoffs and recapping some coaching changes with significant 2018 implications.
Let’s get to it.
Divisional Round News and Notes
The Patriots backfield remains banged-up heading into their Divisional Round showdown with the Titans. Rex Burkhead (knee) apparently looked way less than 100 percent healthy in practice on Wednesday while Mike Gillislee (knee) remained out. At press-time, it appears New England’s backfield will remain thin in Week 19 — leaving Dion Lewis in a dominant, workhorse role. In the final two weeks of the regular season, Lewis handled 66% of Pats’ snaps, 74% of RB opportunities (attempts plus targets) and 84% of their red-zone RB touches. Lewis has morphed into the Pats’ foundation back and looks like a potential playoff X-factor as The Ringer’s Danny Kelly scribed.
With DeMarco Murray (knee) already ruled out for their road bout in New England, the Titans will continue roll Derrick Henry as their unquestioned lead back in the Divisional Round. We’ve finally gotten a look at workhorse Derrick Henry for fantasy. Unsurprisingly, Henry dominated in Week 17 without Murray — hitting 30 opportunities, a 98% snap rate, 117 yards from scrimmage and one receiving TD. In the Wild Card Round last week, we saw more of the same monstrous usage for Henry: 25 opportunities, 100% snap rate, 191 yards from scrimmage and one rushing TD. The Pats are projected to have favorable game-script — Tennessee is currently listed as 13.5 underdogs — but Henry’s locked-in usage will make him a chalk DFS play for the Divisional Round slate.
After being the Seahawks OC for seven of eight seasons under HC Pete Carroll, Seattle fired Darrell Bevell on Wednesday. Seattle also let go of DC Kris Richard, OL coach Tom Cable and QB coach Carl Smith as the ‘Hawks clean house moving into the 2018 season. Russell Wilson is a powerful deodorant for any franchise, but the ‘Hawks offensive line has been a constant issue, they had zero semblance of a run game in 2017, while Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas all battled injuries this past season. Seattle is in a state of transition as GM John Schneider and HC Pete Carroll try to rebuild their staff and reform the roster.
Unsurprisingly, the Chargers announced that they are retaining OC Ken Whisenhunt and DC Gus Bradley for the 2018 season on Wednesday. Once again, the Chargers were one of the hardest-luck teams in the league as they owned the league’s ninth-best point differential (+83) and were far better than both AFC Wild-Card teams (Titans: -22; Bills: -57). Both Whisenhunt and Bradley did phenomenal jobs with their respective units on a non-team wide basis, too, considering the ‘Bolts offense was fifth in yards per play, and the defense allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards per attempt. The Chargers are an attractive bet at 30-to-1 2019 Super Bowl odds.
Two former head coaches, Joe Philbin and Mike Pettine, are teaming up with Mike McCarthy in Green Bay. Philbin is resuming his old OC job that he held from 2007-11 while Pettine, who has been out of coaching since being fired as the Browns HC in 2015, is on the Packers’ staff as DC. Philbin and also recently-hired QB coach Frank Cignetti (formerly of the Giants) have the enviable task of coaching Aaron Rodgers, who may be the single-most influential player in the NFL. The Packers go as far as Rodgers takes them. However, Mike Pettine has a far tougher task ahead of him. Green Bay allowed the ninth-most yards per play last year, finished 20th in Football Outsiders’ Team Defense DVOA and have been top-five in yards per pass allowed in back-to-back seasons.
Kyle Rudolph (ankle) is practicing in full for Sunday’s Divisional Round game against the Saints. … Steelers CB Artie Burns left Wednesday’s practice after suffering an apparent right knee injury. … Saints LG Andrus Peat has been diagnosed with a broken fibula and high-ankle sprain. … Cowboys VP of player personnel Will McClay declined the Texans’ request to interview him for their general-manager vacancy. … The Browns hired ex-Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf as assistant GM. … Chargers signed K Roberto Aguayo to a reserve/future contract.
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