There are eight teams still alive in this NFL season and just 27 days until Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
Despite Johnny Manziel news circulating, we’ll focus the Huddle on American football on this frigid (at least for our Northeastern readers) Monday. Here was my immediate reaction from all four of wild-card games, setting the table for this year’s divisional round.
Titans 22, Chiefs 21: An interesting point brought up by Smart Football’s Chris Brown: A day after the Titans squeezed by Kansas City, partially on the heels of a once and a lifetime circus play by Marcus Mariota, team ownership confirmed that head coach Mike Mularkey would be back for another season. Brown wondered: “How impactful on Mariota’s career—and in which direction—was his second half performance?” Tennessee ownership let Mularkey twist in the wind leading up to Black Monday and paid the price. Now, for better or worse, they’ll sit out another coaching carousel while some bright offensive minds get jobs elsewhere.
Falcons 26, Rams 13: The Falcons now ride into Philadelphia with their defense in top form. The Eagles don’t have Carson Wentz and Dan Quinn’s unit just held Sean McVay’s prolific offense to just one touchdown. Seeing them make it back to the NFC championship game would be fascinating, and only strengthen Quinn’s case for coach of the year given the horrific scenario his team endured in the Super Bowl last year.
Jaguars 10, Bills 3: Todd Wash’s defense is that good. While it was sad to see the freewheeling, table-smashing Bills fan base go home, the Jaguars are one of the most enticing clubs remaining in the playoffs for fans looking to latch onto a temporary storyline. It will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh handles this unit a second time around. On Oct. 8, Jacksonville pounded the Steelers, 30-9. Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions. Despite taking New England to the 12th round a few weeks ago, the Steelers are nowhere near as automatic on offense as they should be (especially with Antonio Brown a question mark). That game will be fascinating.
Saints 31, Panthers 26: Alvin Kamara put up fewer than 40 total yards, but that Drew Brees guy isn’t bad. Outside of New England, the Saints are the most explosive offense left in the postseason. While they lose the comfort of the SuperDome, they come into next weekend’s matchup against the Vikings a far different team than the one that was upended by Sam Bradford in the season opener.
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NOW ON THE MMQB: Have the Panthers squandered Cam Newton's prime? . . . Jonathan Jones on Blake Bortles doing just enough to get by . . . A good question from Richard Deitsch: Will ESPN go at Jon Gruden when he's a head coach?
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WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Kalyn Kahler on the Solder family's heartbreaking, yet inspiring battle with cancer . . . Sports Illustrated True Crime: Jenny Vrentas and Klemko track down the Tom Brady jersey thief.
3. Teryl Austin is long overdue for a head coaching gig, but at least he's landed on his feet. The former Lions defensive coordinator will accept the same role under Marvin Lewis with the Bengals.
4. Antonio Brown spent the weekend training with . . . former Bengals wideout Chad Johnson?
5. Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone continues the blunt assessments of his offense.
6. The Titans' one hope heading into the playoffs? Derrick Henry is a monster after contact.
7. An interesting question from Danny Kelly at The Ringer: What do we make of Andy Reid's coaching legacy?
8. More information is coming on this, but there are hard questions being asked as to whether the Panthers followed concussion protocol with Cam Newton after the quarterback absorbed a head shot in the second half.
9. For the dog lovers out there: Ravens tackle Ronnie Stanley is your new hero. A piece on his drive to adopt a pup no one wanted.
10. Elias Sports Bureau strikes again: This weekend's Tom Brady-Marcus Mariota tilt will be the largest age gap between playoff QBs in NFL history (16 years).
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A song for the Jaguars, who may be down and confused about their quarterback situation. In reality, the solution is simple.
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