NFL Week 18 early inactives: David Bakhtiari returns, Aaron Jones will sit

Jacksonville Jaguars v Green Bay Packers
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Every week we bring you all the inactives from the 1 p.m. ET games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information.

Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari last took the field in a regular season game in Week 16 of last season, but his long wait to get back on the field will finally come to an end on Sunday. Bakhtiari tore his ACL in practice days after that Week 16 game and his recovery process included arthroscopic knee surgery during the season. He returned to practice recently, however, and is in the lineup against the Lions on Sunday.

Bakhtiari will not be blocking for running back Aaron Jones. Jones is inactive after being listed as questionable with a knee injury. He and the rest of the Packers will have two weeks off before they return to action for the divisional round of the playoffs.

Packers at Lions

Packers: CB Jaire Alexander, S Shawn Davis, RB Aaron Jones, LB De'Vondre Campbell, OL Jake Hanson, DL Jack Heflin, DL Kingsley Keke

Lions: T Penei Sewell, FB Jason Cabinda, T Dan Skipper, RB Jermar Jefferson, QB David Blough, DE Jashon Cornell, WR Trinity Benson

Washington at Giants

Washington: DE Montez Sweat, OL Saahdiq Charles, WR Curtis Samuel, TE Sammis Reyes, K Brian Johnson, QB Garrett Gilbert, DE Nate Orchard

Giants: WR Kadarius Toney, QB Mike Glennon, WR John Ross

Titans at Texans

Titans: DL Teair Tart, DL Naquan Jones, LB Jayon Brown, LB Derick Roberson, WR Dez Fitzpatrick, DB Greg Mabin, T Kendall Lamm

Texans: WR Chris Conley, DL Ron'Dell Carter, DE Derek Rivers, DE Chris Smith, DL Jaleel Johnson, TE Jordan Akins, QB Deshaun Watson

Steelers at Ravens

Steelers: QB Dwayne Haskins, P Corliss Waitman, RB Anthony McFarland, LB Tegray Scales, T Dan Moore Jr., DT Carlos Davis

Ravens: QB Lamar Jackson, LB Odafe Oweh, CB Anthony Averett, WR James Proche, G Ben Powers, TE Tony Poljan, NT Isaiah Mack

Colts at Jaguars

Colts: CB Xavier Rhodes, RB Marlon Mack, WR Mike Strachan, DE Ben Banogu, OL Will Fries, WR Dezmon Patmon, T Julien Davenport

Jaguars: WR Tavon Austin, TE Kahale Warring, TE James O’Shaughnessy, DL Taven Bryan

Bengals at Browns

Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, K Evan McPherson, WR Tee Higgins, DT D.J. Reader, LB Logan Wilson, CB Jalen Davis, DE Cam Sample

Browns: CB Troy Hill, RB Kareem Hunt, S Ronnie Harrison Jr., S Richard LeCounte III, G Hjalte Froholdt,  DT Sheldon Day

Bears at Vikings

Bears: DB Duke Shelley, RB Ryan Nall, T Elijah Wilkinson, T Lachavious Simmons

Vikings: QB Kellen Mond, CB Mackensie Alexander, CB Kris Boyd, RB Wayne Gallman, TE Zach Davidson, G Wyatt Davis, DT Michael Pierce

Where could the next wave of coaching and G.M. changes happen?

Detroit Lions v Seattle Seahawks
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Every year, the NFL generates good teams and bad teams. The bad teams hope to become good teams. One way to attempt to make the change quickly comes from changing coaches.

We know there will be coaching changes after the regular season ends, beyond the two vacancies that already exist in Jacksonville and Las Vegas. So here’s a look at the places on which we’re currently keeping an eye, whether it’s the traditional “hot seat” candidates or the possible surprises (there seems to always be one) or coaches who may decide to move on voluntarily.

None of this is based (for now) on anything other than a reading of the tea leaves, given published reports and other chatter within the league and the industry covering it on a non-stop basis.

Let’s start with those who are generally regarded as being on the hot seat. None has received a public assurance that he’ll be back. It’s likely that none has gotten a private assurance, either.

Bears coach Matt Nagy: He’s widely expected to be fired. Reports of his demise first began to circulate weeks ago, in advance of the Thanksgiving Day win over Detroit. A coach of the year award in 2018 and two playoff appearances in his first three years on the job apparently won’t be enough to save him.

Bears G.M. Ryan Pace: Recent reports have indicated that he could stay, with a new title. It’s unclear what his title would be, or whether he’d have any real influence over anything. It could be similar to what happened with the Jets years ago, when Terry Bradway moved from G.M. to a scouting role.

Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips: While we’re in the Windy City, it makes sense to point out that the team president may finally get blown out of town. Phillips has captained the ship since 1999, bringing Bears fans the likes of Phil Emery and Marc Trestman along the way, with limited success — only two seasons capped by postseason wins, 2006 and 2010.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer: Will the Wilfs continue to settle for “just good enough”? The problem is that, this year, they didn’t even reach the level of just good enough. Too many lapses, too many blown leads, too many excuses, not enough wins. As I told Paul Allen of KFAN earlier this week, there will always be a string of what ifs that would potentially flip a few losses to wins. This franchise should be striving for a level of performance that doesn’t require luck or flukes or whatever to win just enough games to earn a playoff spot. Since the 1970s ended, the Vikings have been doing donuts on the top level of a parking lot in an effort to become the franchise that the Packers currently are. Zimmer has had eight years to get there. Frankly, he’s had enough.

Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman: This one’s a tougher call. As nice and good of a guy as he is, the Wilfs need to make an objective assessment of the situation and ask whether it’s time for a change. They also need to ask themselves whether their status as out-of-town owners requires a V.P. of football operations/surrogate owner who brings a constant presence and a higher level of accountability, like an owner who shows up every day does. If, of course, the Vikings let Spielman go, they’ll have to assume the risk that he’ll make a beeline for the Lion, where his brother, Chris, has a major position of influence and power — even if that’s not widely realized.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio: With one year left on his contract, it’s the perfect time for the team to move on. Especially with a G.M. in place who didn’t hire Fangio and the possibility of landing a veteran quarterback who could push the Broncos over the top. The only problem with firing Fangio and hiring a new coach is that the new owner (which is likely for 2022) may not be a fan of the coach who is hired.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule: He has been a major disappointment through two seasons, and owner David Tepper reportedly is “unhappy and embarrassed” about the team’s performance under the former Baylor coach. Rhule reportedly is safe, however; a massive buyout (he’s two years into a seven-year, $62 million deal) may have saved him.

Texans coach David Culley: By all appearances, he’s safe. And for good reason. He’s essentially G.M. Nick Caserio’s puppet. Together, they’ve done enough this year to do it again next year.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll: Russell Wilson has said he plans to pursue his goal of three Super Bowl wins as a member of the Seahawks. He hasn’t said that he plans to do it with Pete Carroll as the head coach. That’s the threshold question for owner Jody Allen. Is a coaching change necessary to keep Wilson from trying to force his way out? (Actually, the threshold question is whether she cares if Wilson wants to force his way out.) The Carroll buyout would be pricey, but multi-billionaires can afford it. And there’s no salary cap for coaches.

Seahawks G.M. John Schneider: Widely respected throughout the league, Schneider would be in trouble if Allen opts to push the reset button. Remember, Pete Carroll has final say. Maybe Schneider gets bumped up to top dog in a post-Carroll regime. Or maybe he ends up being asked to leave as part of a fresh start.

Giants G.M. Dave Gettleman: Several weeks ago, the media outlet that the Giants partially own reported that Gettleman will be gone after the season ends. The Giants never pushed back against that report. It’s become a foregone conclusion that Gettleman won’t be back.

Giants coach Joe Judge: Reportedly safe by ESPN, Judge wasn’t talking on Sunday or Monday like a guy who has been told he’ll be back. From his “not a clown show” rant to admitting (basically) that he has engaged in tampering by talking to guys who have left and who are under contract elsewhere and who want to come back, Judge sounds like someone who is trying to talk his way into staying. He could be talking his way into going.

Raiders G.M. Mike Mayock: He entered the season on one of the hottest of seats, with former coach Jon Gruden likely planning to make Mayock the scapegoat, if the season ended with another failure to make it to the playoffs. Mayock has handled a tumultuous season well, and even if the Raiders lose on Sunday night and miss the AFC field, he possibly has done enough to secure the trust, admiration, and respect of owner Mark Davis.

Jaguars G.M. Trent Baalke: Reports that he’ll remain in place have triggered the team’s fan base, culminating in a planned “clown-out” on Sunday. Will that be enough to get owner Shad Khan to change his mind? The presence of Baalke definitely will limit the options at coach.

Jets G.M. Joe Douglas: With owner Woody Johnson back and with the Jets still among the worst teams in the league, Woody could decide to undo the biggest hire that his brother, Christopher, made while Woody was serving as the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. What has Douglas done to improve the roster? It’s a fair question to ask, and Woody may decide that the answer is, “Not nearly enough.”

Next, let’s look at the potential surprises.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury: He seemingly had a playoffs-or-bust mandate entering the season. Although they’ll make it, the prospect of ending the season with a five-game home losing streak and a one-and-done postseason after a 10-2 start could make ownership wonder whether someone else could get something more out of Kyler Murray. Especially since ownership typically has not kept any coach for a long time. In more than 100 years, no one has led the team for more than six seasons.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy: Could Jerry Jones dump a Super Bowl winner? If Dallas loses at home in the wild-card round, who knows? With offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s star shining, the Joneses may decide to play keep away by not just keeping Moore but promoting him.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians: Ownership has had no qualms about dumping coaches. With Byron Leftwich and/or Todd Bowles potentially gone after this season, the powers-that-be could decide to nudge Arians into retirement (like the Steelers did a decade ago), elevating one of his top lieutenants to the top job. Arians’s handling of Antonio Brown wasn’t a good look for the franchise or for Arians. If the Bucs don’t win another Super Bowl this year, could a change be made?

49ers G.M. John Lynch: The 2019 season continues to be the exception not the rule for Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. Could Shanahan, who calls the shots, opt for someone else to set the table? However it plays out, Shanahan should be thinking about no longer listening to whoever advised him to accept Jimmy Garoppolo instead of Kirk Cousins, and Trey Lance instead of Mac Jones. (Some think it’s assistant G.M. Adam Peters.)

Finally, a quick look at guys who possibly may be looking for greener pastures, either as it relates to the chances of winning or as it relates to great greenbacks.

Saints coach Sean Payton: No coach has won a Super Bowl with two different teams. Every coach who has won a Super Bowl and who is still coaching is keenly aware of that fact. Payton in past years has been regarded as a guy who possibly could roll the dice with a new NFL team. (Preorder Playmakers to find out just how close that once came to happening.) This year, with no long-term answer at quarterback and a cap mess looming for 2022, could he be tempted to look for a place where maybe he’d have a better chance to win a second Super Bowl? It’s impossible to completely rule out the possibility, if another team decides that it wants him — and if that team is willing to give up draft picks to get him.

Ram coach Sean McVay: Burnout has been a concern for McVay for awhile. If he wins a Super Bowl, could he do what Dick Vermeil did after he won a Super Bowl with the Rams in 1999 (and what Vermeil did years earlier after his first stint with the Eagles)? For McVay, here’s the reality — he could make as much or more in the broadcast booth, as the NFL’s new Jon Gruden (pre-Bruce Allen emails). If that happens, it would be wise for the football coach to finally get some coaching on the subject of vocal modulation.

WFT coach Ron Rivera: He’s the best thing the franchise has going for it, by far. And he possibly has seen enough in two years to tap out. With plenty of unvaccinated players having no regard for Rivera’s health issues, Rivera could decide that enough is enough and that he’d had enough of an organization that continues to ooze dysfunction, as evidenced most recently by last week’s collapsing rail debacle. (I wouldn’t bet on it happening, but I wouldn’t fall out of my chair if it did.)

NFL Week 18 injury report roundup: Who’s starting at QB for the 49ers?

Las Vegas Raiders v San Francisco 49ers
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We’ve reached the final weekend of the 2021 regular season.

The final 16 games will be played on Saturday and Sunday with the Raiders and Chargers taking the honors for the 272nd and final game of the NFL’s first 17-game season. The injury reports for all 32 teams taking part in those games are listed below:

49ers at Rams

QB Jimmy Garoppolo (right thumb) is questionable for the 49ers and head coach Kyle Shanahan says he already knows whether Garoppolo or Trey Lance will be starting on Sunday. LB Azeez Al-Shaair (knee), LB Dre Greenlaw (groin), LB Marcell Harris (Achilles), DT Maurice Hurst (calf), S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder), and T Trent Williams (elbow) are also listed as questionable.

No Rams players received injury designations.

Chiefs at Broncos (Saturday)

The Chiefs have ruled out RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) and T Lucas Niang (knee) for Saturday afternoon.

Broncos cornerbacks Ronald Darby (shoulder) and Patrick Surtain (calf) were ruled out and then placed on injured reserve Friday. CB Nate Hairston (illness) and DE Shelby Harris (ankle, illness) are listed as questionable.

Cowboys at Eagles (Saturday)

CB Trevon Diggs (illness), S Jayron Kearse (hamstring), and RB Tony Pollard (foot) will be getting the weekend off for the Cowboys.

Eagles G Landon Dickerson (thumb) and T Lane Johnson (not injury related – resting player, knee) are listed as questionable. RB Miles Sanders (hand) won’t play.

Washington at Giants

T Saahdiq Charles (knee), WR Curtis Samuel (hamstring), TE Ricky Seals-Jones (concussion), and DE Montez Sweat (not injury related – personal matter) won’t play for Washington. TE Sammis Reyes (hamstring) is their lone questionable player.

QB Mike Glennon (left wrist), WR John Ross (knee), and WR Kadarius Toney (shoulder) are ruled out of the Giants’ finale. FB Cullen Gillaspia (knee), G Will Hernandez (ankle), and WR Collin Johnson (hamstring) drew questionable tags.

Titans at Texans

DT Naquan Jones (knee) and DT Teair Tart (ankle) will be out of action for the Titans.

QB Deshaun Watson (not injury related – personal matter) has been ruled out of a 17th straight game by the Texans. TE Jordan Akins (illness), WR Chris Conley (knee), and WR Chris Moore (illness) are listed as questionable for Week 18.

Steelers at Ravens

DE Isaiah Buggs (illness) is out for the Steelers and T Dan Moore (ankle) is listed as questionable.

The Ravens ruled QB Lamar Jackson (ankle) out for the fourth straight game. CB Anthony Averett (ribs, chest) is also out LB Odafe Oweh (foot) is set to sit out after being listed as doubtful. G Ben Cleveland (head), WR Devin Duvernay (ankle, knee), and G Ben Powers (foot) are designated as questionable to play.

Packers at Lions

Packers T David Bakhtiari (knee) could make his regular season debut after being listed as questionable. LB De'Vondre Campbell (elbow) and RB Aaron Jones (knee) also drew questionable tags while CB Jaire Alexander (shoulder) and DE Kingsley Keke (illness) have been ruled out.

The Lions won’t have FB Jason Cabinda (knee) on Sunday. DE Michael Brockers (neck), QB Jared Goff (knee), G Jonah Jackson (elbow, knee), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder), WR Josh Reynolds (thigh), and TE Brock Wright (groin) are all listed as questionable, although Goff sounds likely to start.

Colts at Jaguars

CB Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) won’t play for the Colts and DT DeForest Buckner (knee) is listed as questionable.

Jaguars TE James O'Shaughnessy (hip) is out this weekend.

Bengals at Browns

The Bengals listed QB Joe Burrow (not injury related – resting player, knee) as questionable, but he’s already said he isn’t going to play this weekend. CB Jalen Davis (ankle) and DE Cameron Sample (hamstring) were both ruled out on Friday. DE Sam Hubbard (thigh), K Evan McPherson (right groin), DT D.J. Reader (not injury related – resting player), and TE C.J. Uzomah (knee, hip) give them a quartet of questionable players.

S Ronnie Harrison (ankle), CB Troy Hill (knee), RB Kareem Hunt (ankle), S John Johnson (hamstring), TE David Njoku (shoulder), CB Denzel Ward (groin), and CB Greedy Williams (shoulder) are all questionable to be in the Browns’ lineup.

Bears at Vikings

Bears DT Akiem Hicks (ankle) is out for the season finale. DT Eddie Goldman (finger), LB Robert Quinn (shoulder), and CB Duke Shelley (heel) make up Chicago’s questionable group.

The Vikings listed DT Michael Pierce (illness) as doubtful while CB Mackensie Alexander (ankle), CB Kris Boyd (ribs), and G Wyatt Davis (illness) are listed as questionable.

Seahawks at Cardinals

LB Bobby Wagner (knee) has been ruled out for the Seahawks along with CB John Reid (concussion) and T Brandon Shell (shoulder). TE Will Dissly (heel), LB Carlos Dunlap (ankle) and G Gabe Jackson (knee) are listed as questionable.

RB Chase Edmonds (ribs, toe), WR Rondale Moore (ankle), DE Jordan Phillips (knee), and CB Marco Wilson (shoulder) are all out for the Cardinals. DE Zach Allen (ankle), RB James Conner (heel), LB Dennis Gardeck (thumb), and TE Demetrius Harris (shoulder) have been listed as questionable.

Saints at Falcons

T Terron Armstead (knee), CB Bradley Roby (shoulder), and CB P.J. Williams (ankle) aren’t going to be in the Saints lineup. DE Marcus Davenport (ankle), RB Mark Ingram (knee), and T Ryan Ramczyk (knee) are listed as questionable.

WR Frank Darby (shoulder), G Jalen Mayfield (back), RB Qadree Ollison (quadricep), and TE Kyle Pitts (hamstring) are questionable to play for the Falcons.

Jets at Bills

Jets WR Braxton Berrios (quadricep) is listed as doubtful to be on the field Sunday.

Bills WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee) drew the same tag as Berrios while DL Efe Obada (knee) has been ruled out.

Patriots at Dolphins

S Kyle Dugger (hand) has been ruled out by the Patriots. C David Andrews (shoulder), DT Christian Barmore (knee), S Cody Davis (wrist), K Nick Folk (left knee), RB Damien Harris (hamstring), LB Dont'a Hightower (knee), WR Jakobi Meyers (thigh), S Adrian Phillips (knee), and T Isaiah Wynn (hip) make up their typically lengthy list of questionable players.

The Dolphins didn’t issue any injury designations.

Panthers at Buccaneers

The Panthers listed WR Robby Anderson (quadricep) and DT Derrick Brown (elbow) as questionable for Sunday. S Sean Chandler (groin) is considered doubtful.

LB Shaq Barrett (knee), RB Ronald Jones (ankle), LB Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder), CB Rashard Robinson (groin), and WR Justin Watson (quadricep) are all out for the Buccaneers. CB Richard Sherman (Achilles) is set to miss the game after drawing a doubtful tag and C Ryan Jensen (shoulder) is listed as questionable.

Chargers at Raiders

DE Joe Gaziano (ankle) is out for the Chargers and LB Drue Tranquill (ankle) got the team’s lone questionable designation.

DT Johnathan Hankins (back), CB Casey Hayward (ankle), RB Josh Jacobs (ribs), and TE Darren Waller (knee) are all listed as questionable to play for the Raiders in the final game of the 2021 regular season.

PFT’s Week 18 2021 NFL picks

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Chargers
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It could be a photo finish.

Tied a week ago, we disagreed on one game. MDS took the Browns, I took the Steelers, and Big Ben Night ended up pushing me to 13-3. MDS was 12-4.

I’m 165-90-1, and he’s 164-91-1. With 16 regular-season games to go, we disagree on five the week.

For all picks in Week 18, scroll away.

Cowboys (-7) at Eagles

MDS’s take: Neither of these teams has much to play for, but it sounds like the Cowboys think it’s worth risking injuries to try to improve their playoff seed, and I think they’ll get the win.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 30, Eagles 20.

Florio’s take: In the last week of the season, the team with more to gain has the edge.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Eagles 17.


Chiefs (-10) at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Chiefs need a win to stay in contention for the AFC No. 1 seed. They’ll get it against a Broncos team that’s already eliminated.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 34, Broncos 21.

Florio’s take: The Chiefs need to regain their confidence after a horrible second half in Cincinnati.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 35, Broncos 23.


Packers (-2.5) at Lions

MDS’s take: It’s hard to know how hard the Packers will be playing now that they’ve got the No. 1 seed locked up, but I expect them to beat the Lions even if Jordan Love is at quarterback.

MDS’s pick: Packers 28, Lions 21.

Florio’s take: The Packers need to learn from the example set by the Ravens in 2019 and not take a three-week break between meaningful games. Green Bay should keep the saw sharp, injury risks be damned.

Florio’s pick: Packers 31, Lions 24.


Bears (+2.5) at Vikings

MDS’s take: Both of these teams are out of contention, but the Bears look like they’re playing a little harder as they play out the string.

MDS’s pick: Bears 24, Vikings 21.

Florio’s take: Mike Zimmer gets a win in what could be his last game with the Vikings.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 24, Bears 21.


Patriots (-6.5) at Dolphins

MDS’s take: The Dolphins laid an egg in a big moment last week in their loss to the Titans, and now that they’re out of it I think they’ll fold up and lose big again.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 30, Dolphins 13.

Florio’s take: The Patriots have had issues in Miami, but New England needs to win and the Dolphins are headed to another non-playoff season after winning seven in a row.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Dolphins 17.


Colts (-15.5) at Jaguars

MDS’s take: A Jaguars win would be the biggest upset of the season — and would cost the Jaguars the first overall pick in the draft, and likely cost the Colts a playoff berth. It’s not happening.

MDS’s pick: Colts 27, Jaguars 12.

Florio’s take: The Jaguars started the 2020 season with a win over the Colts at home, before losing 15 in a row. This time around, the stakes are much higher for the road team, with a playoff berth on the line.

Florio’s pick: Colts 31, Jaguars 3.


Jets (+16.5) at Bills

MDS’s take: The Jets have been playing more competitive football of late, and I think they’ll keep it close against the Bills for about a half before the Bills pull away.

MDS’s pick: Bills 27, Jets 17.

Florio’s take: The Bills are finding more offensive balance, but Josh Allen needs to iron out the turnovers. This is a good pre-playoffs tuneup.

Florio’s pick: Bills 34, Jets 13.


Panthers (+8) at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: The Bucs don’t have much to play for on Sunday, but Bruce Arians says they’re playing to win, and I think they will.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 34, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take: This a great pre-postseason opportunity for the Bucs to get Tom Brady more comfortable with his available offensive players.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 41, Panthers 21.


Titans (-10.5) at Texans

MDS’s take: With the No. 1 seed on the line, I can’t see the Titans stumbling.

MDS’s pick: Titans 24, Texans 13.

Florio’s take: The top seed plus the potential return of Derrick Henry will make the Titans a potential Super Bowl contender.

Florio’s pick: Titans 30, Texans 17.


Washington (-6.5) at Giants

MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is going anywhere, but Ron Rivera will have his team playing hard and Joe Judge won’t.

MDS’s pick: Washington 28, Giants 10.

Florio’s take: It’s way more fun to watch Joe Judge press conferences than it is to watch his team play.

Florio’s pick: Washington 27, Giants 17.


Saints (-4) at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Saints are still in contention heading into the final game of the season, which is impressive given their injury and COVID-19 situations this season. I think they’ll take care of business on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Falcons 17.

Florio’s take: The Saints still have a chance to get to the playoffs. If they make it, they could make things interesting. Especially for the Buccaneers.

Florio’s pick: Saints 24, Falcons 17.


Steelers (+5.5) at Ravens

MDS’s take: T.J. Watt will break the sack record, and the Ravens will send Ben Roethlisberger out with a loss.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 20, Steelers 17.

Florio’s take: Sunday’s experience in Baltimore for Big Ben will be the exact opposite of Monday’s experience in Pittsburgh.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Steelers 14.


Bengals (+1.5) at Browns

MDS’s take: I don’t know if the Bengals are going to play to win or not, but I suspect they’re going to rest some key players, and yet I like them to win anyway against a Browns team that seems like it’s ready to pack it in this week.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Browns 20.

Florio’s take: This one is impossible to pick, given that Joe Burrow (and presumably other starters for Cincinnati) won’t be playing. Give the edge to the home team.

Florio’s pick: Browns 23, Bengals 21.


Seahawks (+6.5) at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals will win, forcing the Rams to win if they want to win the NFC West.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 24, Seahawks 20.

Florio’s take: In what could be the final game of the Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson relationship, they’ll send Arizona into the postseason with their fifth straight home loss.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Cardinals 20.


49ers (+4) at Rams

MDS’s take: The Rams will win, clinching the NFC West and sending the 49ers home.

MDS’s pick: Rams 23, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take: The 49ers continue their mastery of the Rams, and they set themselves up to become a disrupting force in the postseason.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 23, Rams 20.


Chargers (-3) at Raiders

MDS’s take: In the final game of the regular season, a big game from Justin Herbert will give the Chargers a big win.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 34, Raiders 24.

Florio’s take: With everything the Raiders have endured the year, a win-and-in opportunity won’t be squandered against a Chargers team that has been way too inconsistent.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 24, Chargers 21.

NFL playoff clinching scenarios for Week 18

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers
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Related: AFC playoff picture | NFC playoff picture

The NFL released the following playoff clinching scenarios for Week 18 of the 2021 season:

AFC

CLINCHED (5 of 7):

Cincinnati Bengals – AFC North division title
Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West division title
Tennessee Titans – AFC South division title
Buffalo Bills – playoff berth
New England Patriots – playoff berth

BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8) (vs. Pittsburgh (8-7-1), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Baltimore clinches playoff berth with:

BAL win + LAC loss + IND loss + MIA loss or tie


BUFFALO BILLS (10-6) (vs. New York Jets (4-12), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

Buffalo clinches AFC East division title with:

BUF win OR
NE loss OR
BUF tie + NE tie


CINCINNATI BENGALS (10-6) (at Cleveland (7-9), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Cincinnati clinches AFC’s No. 1 seed, only first-round bye and home-field advantage with:

CIN win + TEN loss + KC loss + NE loss or tie OR
CIN win + TEN loss + KC loss + BUF win


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-7) (at Jacksonville (2-14), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Indianapolis clinches playoff berth with:

IND win or tie OR
LAC loss + BAL-PIT tie OR
LAC loss + PIT loss + MIA win


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5) (at Denver (7-9), Saturday, 4:30 PM ET, ESPN/ABC)

Kansas City clinches AFC’s No. 1 seed, only first-round bye and home-field advantage with:

KC win + TEN loss or tie OR
KC tie + TEN loss


LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (9-7) (vs. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7), Sunday night, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

Las Vegas clinches playoff berth with:

LV win OR
LV tie + IND loss OR
IND loss + PIT loss or tie


LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-7) (at Las Vegas (9-7), Sunday night, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

Los Angeles Chargers clinch playoff berth with:

LAC win or tie


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-6) (at Miami (8-8), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

New England clinches AFC’s No. 1 seed, only first-round bye and home-field advantage with:

NE win + BUF loss or tie + KC loss + TEN loss

New England clinches AFC East division title with:

NE win + BUF loss or tie OR
NE tie + BUF loss


PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-7-1) (at Baltimore (8-8), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Pittsburgh clinches playoff berth with:

PIT win + IND loss + LV-LAC game does not end in a tie


TENNESSEE TITANS (11-5) (at Houston (4-12), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Tennessee clinches AFC’s No. 1 seed, only first-round bye and home-field advantage with:

TEN win OR
TEN tie + KC loss or tie OR
KC loss + CIN loss or tie + NE loss or tie OR
KC loss + CIN loss or tie + BUF win


NFC

CLINCHED (6 of 7):

Green Bay Packers – NFC North division title, No. 1 seed, only first-round bye and home-field advantage
Dallas Cowboys – NFC East division title
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – NFC South division title
Arizona Cardinals – playoff berth
Los Angeles Rams – playoff berth
Philadelphia Eagles – playoff berth


ARIZONA CARDINALS (11-5) (vs. Seattle (6-10), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

Arizona clinches NFC West division title with:

ARI win + LAR loss


LOS ANGELES RAMS (12-4) (vs. San Francisco (9-7), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

Los Angeles Rams clinch NFC West division title with:

LAR win or tie OR
ARI loss or tie


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (8-8) (at Atlanta (7-9), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

New Orleans clinches playoff berth with:

NO win + SF loss


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (9-7) (at Los Angeles Rams (12-4), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)

San Francisco clinches playoff berth with:

SF win or tie OR
NO loss or tie

Week 18 NFL playoff picture: The AFC is set to go through Nashville

Miami Dolphins v Tennessee Titans
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The AFC playoffs have gone through Kansas City the last two seasons, but we’re on track for a new No. 1 seed this time around.

With the Titans beating the Dolphins and the Chiefs losing to the Bengals, Week 18 opens up with the Titans holding the top spot in the conference and they’ll stay there into the postseason as long as they beat the Texans this Sunday. A look at the standings makes it clear that they’ll be heavy favorites, but the Texans did get a win the first time the two teams played this season so the crown won’t be rewarded until they actually play the game.

The other intrigue in the conference comes with the final two Wild Card spots. The Colts have the inside track on one and they’ll need to win in Jacksonville for the first time since 2014 to sew it up. The Chargers and Raiders will be meeting on Sunday night with another playoff spot on the line while the Steelers and Ravens hope for chaos to reign in a way that allows them to sneak into the dance.

Here’s how the entire picture shapes up with one game left to play:

CLINCHED

1. Titans (11-5) Motivation to get the top seed includes extra time to get running back Derrick Henry back in the lineup.

2. Chiefs (11-5) Their winning streak came to an end in Cincinnati, but they still look like they’ll be a handful in the postseason.

3. Bengals (10-6) With their first division title since 2015 in the bag, they’ll move on to trying for their first playoff win since 1990.

4. Bills (10-6) Holding serve against the Jets will give them a second straight division title and a good chance at round three against the Patriots.

5. Patriots (10-6) There’s nothing like playing the Jaguars when it comes to getting right on the scoreboard.

IN THE HUNT

6. Colts (9-7) The Colts stumbled against the Raiders, but, as noted with the Patriots, the Jaguars make it easy to get right.

7. Chargers (9-7) A win in Las Vegas on Sunday night would likely lead to another AFC West matchup in the Wild Card round.

8. Raiders (9-7) Plenty of people counted the Raiders out in early December, but they’ve proven to be a tougher team to eliminate than anyone expected.

9. Steelers (8-7-1) Monday night’s emotional sendoff to Ben Roethlisberger will be the lasting memory of an inconsistent season in Pittsburgh.

11. Ravens (8-8) Another close loss extended their losing streak to five games, but it didn’t quite erase their playoff chances.

ELIMINATED

10. Dolphins (8-8) While they technically rank above the Ravens in the standings, their path to the postseason ended with Sunday’s loss to the Titans.

12. Browns (7-9) A disappointing season will end against the Bengals and questions about their quarterback will be front and center this offseason.

13. Broncos (7-9) With the playoffs off the table, the Broncos can start asking their own quarterback questions while also determining Vic Fangio’s future.

14. Jets (4-12) They had the Buccaneers right where they wanted them, but a botched fourth down call left them lamenting another loss.

15. Texans (4-12) Playing spoiler against the Titans would be a happy way to end a rough season in Houston.

16. Jaguars (2-14) The Jaguars could also play spoiler this weekend, but there aren’t many signs of life in Jacksonville.

PFT’s Week 18 2021 NFL power rankings

NFL: JAN 02 Vikings at Packers
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1. Packers (13-3, last week No. 1): Why would Aaron Rodgers ever want to leave a division he can continue to dominate, indefinitely?

2. Rams (12-4, No. 3): If they can win when they’re not playing well, they’ll blow opponents out when they finally do.

3. Buccaneers (12-4, No. 5): Without Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown, can the Bucs repeat?

4. Titans (11-5, No. 6): If they earn the bye and get Derrick Henry back, the Titans could be Super Bowl bound.

5. Chiefs (11-5, No. 2): They failed to adjust on either side of the ball in Cincinnati.

6. Bengals (10-6, No. 9): Get used to the Bengals in the playoffs, for years to come. Get ready for them to win a playoff game, for the first time in more than 30 years.

7. Cardinals (11-5, No. 11): The Cardinals desperately needed to prove to themselves and everyone else that they remember how to win.

8. Bills (10-6, No. 8): They need Devin Singletary to keep doing what he did on Sunday.

9. Cowboys (11-5, No. 4): Do they have a true signature win this year? Will they have one?

10. Patriots (10-6, No. 10): They’re being overlooked again, just in time to make everyone regret it.

11. Colts (9-7, No. 7): If the Colts can’t win in Jacksonville, they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.

12. 49ers (9-7, No. 12): Trey Lance will need to play better on Sunday if the 49ers are going to beat L.A. again.

13. Eagles (9-7, No. 14): The Eagles can run the ball and play defense, which gives them a chance to beat anyone.

14. Chargers (9-7, No. 16): It shouldn’t be coming down to win and in for the Chargers.

15. Raiders (9-7, No. 19): It’s amazing that it’s coming down to win and in for the Raiders.

16. Dolphins (8-8, No. 13): Reignite the Deshaun Watson talk.

17. Ravens (8-8, No. 15): Could Tyler Huntley become an affordable alternative to Lamar Jackson?

18. Steelers (8-7-1, No. 20): They need to do everything they can to get Aaron Rodgers to want to come to Pittsburgh next season.

19. Saints (8-8, No. 21): But for the Week 16 COVID fiasco, they’d have a clear shot to the playoffs.

20. Browns (7-9, No. 17): A fresh start would be good for the Browns and for Baker Mayfield.

21. Vikings (7-9, No. 18): We’ll find out soon whether almost good enough is good enough for ownership.

22. Falcons (7-9, No. 22): They had a surprisingly strong season. Can they take the next step next year?

23. Broncos (7-9, No. 23): If they add a high-end veteran quarterback, they’ll be a force in 2022.

24. Seahawks (6-10, No. 26): What took them so long to figure out how to score 50 points?

25. Bears (6-10, No. 25): A dominant performance comes too little, too late.

26. Washington (6-10, No. 24): The FedEx Field collapsible railing is the perfect metaphor for everything about this team.

27. Panthers (5-11, No. 27): Fans should start referring to him as “Matt Rule,” since they want him to get the “h” out of here.

28. Texans (4-12, No. 28): Could Davis Mills be the best quarterback of the 2021 rookie class?

29. Jets (4-12, No. 29): Best-case scenario for Week 17 = play the Bucs tough, but ultimately don’t blow the shot at the No. 3 pick.

30. Giants (4-12, No. 30): If you have to say you’re not a clown show, you might be a clown show.

31. Lions (2-13-1, No. 31): They’ve got two more wins than many thought they’d have.

32. Jaguars (2-14, No. 32): Darrell Bevell didn’t do much to enhance his prospects of becoming the team’s next full-time head coach.

Week 18 NFL playoff picture: One spot at the table left in the NFC

Houston Texans v San Francisco 49ers
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Sunday night’s win by the Packers clinched the No. 1 seed for Green Bay and it also ensured the Eagles of a ticket to the dance, which means there’s not a whole lot of suspense left for the final week of the season in the NFC.

One spot remains available in the postseason tournament and it will belong to the 49ers if they are able to beat the Rams for the sixth straight time in Week 18. If they don’t, the Saints will be in with a win over the Falcons. Should the 49ers prevail, the Cardinals can leapfrog the Rams for the NFC West title with a win over the Seahawks so that 49ers-Rams game is easily the most consequential matchup in the conference in the final week.

Here’s how everything stacks up in the NFC with one game left to play:

CLINCHED

1. Packers (13-3) Clinching the top seed in the conference by blowing out the Vikings makes for a lot of smiles in Green Bay.

2. Rams (12-4) Their comeback in Baltimore meant more once the Cardinals won in Dallas.

3. Buccaneers (12-4) Antonio Brown made them look foolish, but they have a chance to make sure his absence an afterthought in the postseason.

4. Cowboys (11-5) They may have prevailed on Sunday with better timeout management and they may get another shot at facing the Cardinals.

5. Cardinals (11-5) Snapping their losing streak may not get them the division title, but it was still a welcome development for Arizona.

7. Eagles (9-7) Nick Sirianni got the Eagles in the playoffs in his first season on the job.

IN THE HUNT

6. 49ers (9-7) They rank above the Eagles in the standings, but the vagaries of making the playoffs mean there’s still work to do in Week 18.

8. Saints (8-8) If you’re looking for the biggest Rams fans in the world, check New Orleans.

ELIMINATED

9. Vikings (7-9) Now that the playoffs are off the table, will the Vikings make a coaching change?

10. Falcons (7-9) Matt Ryan got a taunting penalty on a play that turned out not to be a touchdown on Sunday, which feels fitting for this Falcons season.

11. Washington (6-10) A losing record got them in the playoffs last year, but the NFC wasn’t quite so forgiving this time around.

12. Bears (6-10) Beating the Giants means the first-round pick they’re sending to the NFC East laughingstock won’t be quite as good.

13. Seahawks (6-10) If Sunday’s game was Russell Wilson‘s last home contest with the Seahawks, he went out with a bang.

14. Panthers (5-11) Sam Darnold returned to the starting lineup to remind the Panthers that they still need a quarterback.

15. Giants (4-12) Joe Judge is doing his best to convince the world that results don’t matter in the NFL.

16. Lions (2-13-1) They can still get the top pick in the draft if things break their way in Week 18.

FMIA Week 17: The Unfortunate Irrationality Of Antonio Brown And The Improbable Revival Of The Rams

Los Angeles Rams v Baltimore Ravens
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In the locker room when one of the most dramatic games of this or any NFL season had ended, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians told his players—all except the most famous former one, Antonio Brown—how proud he was of them.“You’re either with us or against us,” Arians said after the Bucs outscored the Jets 18-0 [more]

NFL Week 17 early inactives: Lamar Jackson officially out, Marquise Brown active

Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens
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Every week we bring you all the inactives from the 1 p.m. ET games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information.

All signs pointed toward Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missing his third straight game this week, but the team insisted that he had a chance to play heading into the weekend. That chance has been erased.

Jackson is on the team’s inactive list for Sunday’s home game against the Rams. So is rookie linebacker Odafe Oweh, who was listed as doubtful with a foot injury on Friday.

Tyler Huntley will start at quarterback and he will have wide receiver Marquise Brown as a target. Brown was listed as questionable with an illness, but is active on Sunday.

Rams at Ravens

Rams: QB Bryce Perkins, RB Cam Akers, DB Juju Hughes, LB Chris Garrett, LB Terrell Lewis, OL Alaric Jackson, OL Tremayne Anchrum

Ravens: CB Anthony Averett, G Ben Powers, QB Lamar Jackson, WR James Proche, WR Miles Boykin, LB Odafe Oweh, LB Pernell McPhee

Falcons at Bills

Falcons: QB Feleipe Franks, QB Matt Barkley, CB Fabian Moreau, OL Josh Andrews, DL Tyeler Davison

Bills: WR Emmanuel Sanders, OL Bobby Hart, RB Matt Breida, TE Tommy Sweeney, DE Boogie Basham, DT Vernon Butler

Giants at Bears

Giants: WR Kadarius Toney, WR John Ross, WR Collin Johnson, LB Oshane Ximines C Billy Price

Bears: QB Justin Fields, DB Duke Shelley, T Elijah Wilkinson, OL Lachavious Simmons, TE J.P. Holtz

Chiefs at Bengals

Chiefs: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, G Kyle Long, T Prince Tega Wanogho, CB Deandre Baker, QB Shane Buechele

Bengals: DE Cameron Sample, CB Jalen Davis, LB Germaine Pratt, DT Tyler Shelvin, OL D'Ante Smith, RB Trayveon Williams, QB Jake Browning

Dolphins at Titans

Dolphins: DB Trill Williams, LB Vince Biegel, RB Salvon Ahmed, OL Cameron Tom, LB Darius Hodge, TE Hunter Long

Titans: DL Larrell Murchison, LB Derick Roberson, DB Chris Jones, DB Greg Mabin

Buccaneers at Jets

Buccaneers: LB Jason Pierre-Paul, LB Shaq Barrett, CB Richard Sherman, QB Kyle Trask, WR Justin Watson, LB Elijah Ponder,  CB Dee Delaney

Jets: WR Jamison Crowder, QB Mike White, RB La'Mical Perine, DL Shaq Lawson, LB Javin White, CB Isaiah Dunn

Raiders at Colts

Raiders: DT Johnathan Hankins, CB Amik Robertson, S Jordan Brown, LB Justin March-Lillard, OT Jackson Barton

Colts: S Andrew Sendejo, DE Ben Banogu, OL Will Fries, T Eric Fisher, QB Brent Hundley, RB Marlon Mack, WR Mike Strachan

Jaguars at Patriots

Jaguars: TE James O'Shaughnessy, CB Nevin Lawson; RB Mekhi Sargent; LB Dakota Allen

Patriots: WR Nelson Agholor, CB Joejuan Williams, QB Jarrett Stidham, WR N'Keal Harry, RB J.J. Taylor, CB Shaun Wade, TE Devin Asiasi

Eagles at Washington

Eagles: RB Miles Sanders, LB Shaun Bradley, QB Reid Sinnett, CB Tay Gowan, T Le’Raven Clark, OL Jack Anderson, DT Marlon Tuipulotu

Washington: CB William Jackson III,WR Curtis Samuel, DE Montez Sweat, QB Garrett Gilbert, DE James Smith-Williams, LB Milo Eifler, K Brian Johnson

NFL Week 17 injury report roundup: Lamar Jackson questionable again this week

NFL: DEC 12 Ravens at Browns
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Thursday Night Football is over, which means that Week 17 kicks off on Sunday afternoon and that there will be 15 games being played over the course of the day. All 30 of the teams playing in those games have handed in their final injury reports of the week and we have all of them listed below.

The teams playing on Monday night won’t release their final injury reports until Saturday and are not listed here.

Rams at Ravens

The Rams listed RB Cam Akers (Achilles) as questionable, but head coach Sean McVay said he’s likelier to play next week or in the playoffs. LB Leonard Floyd (ankle), T Greg Gaines (hand), and S Taylor Rapp (shoulder) are also questionable for Sunday.

QB Lamar Jackson didn’t practice all week and he’s missed the last two games, but the Ravens are listing him as questionable rather than ruling him out. WR Marquise Brown (illness), WR Devin Duvernay (ankle), LB Daelin Hayes (knee), and FB Patrick Ricard (knee) join Jackson in that group. CB Anthony Averett (ribs, chest) and G Ben Powers (foot) have been ruled out while LB Odafe Oweh (foot) is likely to miss the game after being listed as doubtful.

Falcons at Bills

Falcons CB Fabian Moreau (ribs) is considered doubtful, but no other players got injury designations.

DT Ed Oliver (ankle) and WR Emmanuel Sanders (knee) were listed as questionable for the Bills.

Giants at Bears

WR Collin Johnson (hamstring), WR John Ross (knee, not injury related – resting player), and WR Kadarius Toney (shoulder) are all out for the Giants. C Billy Price (not injury related) is listed as doubtful. CB Adoree' Jackson (quadricep, not injury related – resting player), DT Austin Johnson (foot), TE Chris Myarick (hip), and T Nate Solder (, not injury related – resting player) are considered questionable.

QB Justin Fields (ankle) is listed as questionable, but the Bears will be starting Andy Dalton. DT Eddie Goldman (finger), DT Akiem Hicks (, not injury related – resting player), T Jason Peters (ankle), and CB Duke Shelley (heel) are also questionable while TE J.P. Holtz (not injury related) is tagged as doubtful.

Chiefs at Bengals

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) is the only Chiefs player with an injury designation. He’s listed as questionable.

Bengals CB Jalen Davis (ankle) and DE Cameron Sample (hamstring) have been ruled out.

Dolphins at Titans

The Dolphins have no players with injury designations.

DT Larrell Murchison (knee) and LB Derick Roberson (illness) are listed as questionable for the Titans.

Buccaneers at Jets

The Buccaneers won’t have edge rushers Shaquil Barrett (knee) and Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) on Sunday. WR Mike Evans (hamstring) returned to practice Friday and drew a questionable tag. WR Antonio Brown (ankle), WR Justin Watson (quadricep), and S Antoine Winfield (foot) are also in that group while CB Richard Sherman (Achilles) is doubtful.

WR Jamison Crowder (calf) is doubtful to play for the Jets.

Raiders at Colts

Raiders DT Johnathan Hankins (back) is listed as questionable.

The Colts ruled S Andrew Sendejo (concussion) out and listed TE Jack Doyle (knee, ankle), T Eric Fisher (knee, shoulder, toe), and G Mark Glowinski (illness) as questionable.

Jaguars at Patriots

TE James O'Shaughnessy (hip) is out for the Jaguars and LB Dakota Allen (shoulder) is listed as questionable, but COVID-19 absences will affect the Jags more than injuries.

The Patriots ruled WR Nelson Agholor (concussion) out for the second straight week. DT Christian Barmore (knee), S Kyle Dugger (hamstring), K Nick Folk (left knee), RB Damien Harris (hamstring), LB Dont'a Hightower (knee), CB J.C. Jackson (elbow), WR Jakobi Meyers (thigh), and S Adrian Phillips (knee, illness) are listed as questionable.

Eagles at Washington

Two running backs earned the only injury designations for the Eagles. Miles Sanders (hand) is out and Jordan Howard (stinger) is questionable.

Washington ruled out CB William Jackson III (calf). WR Curtis Samuel (hamstring), DE James Smith-Williams (illness), and DE Montez Sweat (not injury related – personal matter) are listed as questionable.

Texans at 49ers

Texans QB Deshaun Watson (not injury related – personal matter) is 16-for-16 when it comes to being ruled out of games. WR Chris Conley (knee), S A.J. Moore (illness), and CB Jimmy Moreland (illness) are listed as questionable.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo (right thumb) missed practice all week and the 49ers listed him as doubtful for Sunday. S Talanoa Hufanga (knee) is also doubtful while LB Azeez Al-Shaair (knee), LB Dre Greenlaw (groin), and DT Maurice Hurst (calf) will not play. RB Elijah Mitchell (knee) drew the only questionable designation.

Broncos at Chargers

Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) will miss his second straight game. CB Ronald Darby (shoulder), RB Melvin Gordon (thumb, hip), DE Shelby Harris (ankle), S Kareem Jackson (back, shoulder), DE Dre'Mont Jones (foot), DE Shamar Stephen (knee), WR Courtland Sutton (illness), RB Javonte Williams (knee), and LB Kenny Young (concussion) are all questionable and the Broncos have also been dealing with COVID issues this week.

LB Drue Tranquill (ankle) is out for the Chargers, but everyone else on the active roster is good to go.

Cardinals at Cowboys

DE Jordan Phillips (knee) and CB Marco Wilson (shoulder) are out for the Cardinals. DE Zach Allen (ankle), S Budda Baker (ribs), RB James Conner (heel), G Sean Harlow (illness), TE Demetrius Harris (shoulder), and WR Rondale Moore (ankle) are all listed as questionable.

The Cowboys did not issue any injury designations for Sunday’s home game.

Panthers at Saints

CB Stephon Gilmore (groin) won’t be in the Panthers lineup. S Sean Chandler (groin) and T Cameron Erving (calf, not injury related – personal matter) are also set to sit out after being listed as doubtful. S Juston Burris (groin), LB Jermaine Carter (groin), and CB C.J. Henderson (shoulder, knee) make up the team’s questionable contingent.

WR Tre'Quan Smith (chest) is out for the Saints. DE Carl Granderson (not injury related – resting player, illness), WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey (illness), RB Mark Ingram (knee), and WR Ty Montgomery (back) drew questionable tags.

Lions at Seahawks

Lions QB Jared Goff (knee) is listed as doubtful and set to miss a second straight game. FB Jason Cabinda (knee) is out and LB Curtis Bolton (back) is listed as questionable.

LB Jon Rhattigan (knee) is out for the Seahawks while T Brandon Shell (shoulder) is doubtful and RB Alex Collins (abdomen) is listed as questionable.

Vikings at Packers

CB Cameron Dantzler (calf) is the only player out with an injury for the Vikings, but QB Kirk Cousins is set to miss the game after testing positive for COVID-19. TE Tyler Conklin (hamstring), DT Michael Pierce (illness), and LB Chazz Surratt (illness) drew questionable tags.

The Packers activated CB Jaire Alexander (shoulder) from injured reserve this week, but he won’t play Sunday. Tackles David Bakhtiari (knee) and Billy Turner (knee) are out as well. DT Tyler Lancaster (back) drew the lone questionable designation.

What would be the best permanent tribute to John Madden?

AFC Championship Game - Oakland Raiders v Denver Colorado
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We’ve spent plenty of time this week thinking and talking about the best way for the NFL to create a permanent tribute to John Madden. Yes, his name will appear on the official NFL video game for as long as the NFL exists. But that’s something he earned. It’s incumbent on the league to bestow on John Madden an honor that properly reflects his unparalleled influence on the game and those who love it.

So here’s a list of possibilities, as inspired by various discussions with PFT contributors and, in some cases, reader input.

The All-Madden Team.

Many have made the obvious possibility of renaming the All-Pro team the All-Madden team. On the surface, it makes sense. At a deeper level, it doesn’t.

John Madden had an All-Madden team, one that was based on a different viewpoint and appreciation of player talents. Would that be the guiding light for the crafting of an official All-Madden team? If not, it’s not the answer. If so, the challenge then becomes finding the right people to vote on the prize, people with the same sensibility and perspective as Madden. There simply aren’t many who fall into that category.

Even if that’s what happens, calling the All-Pro team the All-Madden team doesn’t feel big enough. There would need to be something more.

The John Madden Coach of the Year.

This has become another common suggestion. But it doesn’t fit Madden’s overall career, which swept so much more broadly. He coached for only 10 years, winning only one Super Bowl. Frankly, if the coach of the year award is going to be named after anyone, it needs to be named after Bill Belichick.

The John Madden MVP Award.

If any award will be named after John Madden, it’s this one. The NFL MVP award. The biggest individual prize that reflects on-field excellence and performance.

The John Madden Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The powers-that-be have been looking for a way to generate more interest in what basically is a museum. Changing the name of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the John Madden Pro Football Hall of Fame would do it, immediately. And then the challenge would be to reimagine everything about the Hall of Fame based on the things John Madden said and believed about the game.

The John Madden Super Bowl.

This was the first thing that popped into my brain when trying to think of a proper tribute for John Madden. Name the sport’s biggest and best game after it’s biggest and best personality. It probably won’t ever happen. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.

John Madden in the NFL logo.

Some readers have suggested a reshaping of The Shield to include John Madden, in some way. Whether reshaping The Shield based on his silhouette or working his likeness into it. Whatever it may be, there has to be a way to weave the man who has been such an important part of the fabric of the game directly into the fabric of The Shield.

“John Madden 345.”

This is an easy one, even if it’s not nearly big enough. Change the name of the league office, widely known as 345 Park Avenue, to Madden 345.

The Oakland All-Maddens.

Here’s my favorite idea, one that a reader recently suggested. With expansion possibly on the horizon as the NFL looks to increase inventory for gambling purposes, why not put a team back in Oakland and name it after John Madden?

The obvious name would be the Oakland Maddens. The better name, in my view, would be the Oakland All-Maddens.

Yes, the NFL would have to find a buyer and a stadium. Then again, there’s already an NFL-ready stadium located closer to Oakland than San Francisco. The Raiders didn’t move their because the 49ers and Raiders don’t get along. Maybe putting a new team named for Madden in that stadium would avoid such issues.

There may be other ideas. Many may be better than the ideas listed above. Regardless, the NFL eventually needs to find a way — a big way and the right way — to honor the man who has meant more to the game of football since the first time someone pumped air into an oblong ball and started running around with it.

PFT’s Week 17 2021 NFL picks

NFL: DEC 26 Steelers at Chiefs
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With two weeks to go, we’re all tied up.

A 12-4 mark for me in Week 16 combined with MDS going 11-5 has resulted in an exact match of 153-87-1 for both of us, through 16 weeks.

So the stretch run begins in a dead heat. Sixteen games this week, sixteen games next week.

This week, we disagree on one game. To see what it is, and to see what we think of all other games, keep scrolling.

Raiders (+6.5) at Colts

MDS’s take: This is a hard game to pick without knowing whether Colts quarterback Carson Wentz will clear COVID-19 protocols, but for now I’m going to say the Colts win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Colts 24, Raiders 21.

Florio’s take: With or without Carson Wentz, the Colts will find a way to get their tenth win, after starting 0-3.

Florio’s pick: Colts 20, Raiders 16.


Giants (+6) at Bears

MDS’s take: Both of these teams are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but the Bears looked last week like they’re still trying, while the Giants look like they’ve given up on the season.

MDS’s pick: Bears 28, Giants 20.

Florio’s take: Holders of Chicago’s first-round pick in 2022, the Giants win by winning. Or by losing.

Florio’s pick: Bears 24, Giants 14.


Buccaneers (-13) at Jets

MDS’s take: It’s hard to imagine the Jets even being competitive with the Bucs.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 35, Jets 14.

Florio’s take: The white towel will be flying early in this one.

Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 31, Jets 13.


Falcons (+14.5) at Bills

MDS’s take: It’s amazing that the Falcons are still in playoff contention this late in the season, but they won’t be after Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Bills 34, Falcons 14.

Florio’s take: When the Falcons lose, they lose convincingly.

Florio’s pick: Bills 35, Falcons 20.


Cardinals (+4.5) at Cowboys

MDS’s take: This is Sunday’s biggest game, between two teams right in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt. I think the Cowboys are playing their best football, while the Cardinals are reeling.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, Cardinals 20.

Florio’s take: This game has landed at a horrible time for the Cardinals, who have lost their edge at the same time the Cowboys have rediscovered theirs.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 31, Cardinals 23.


Panthers (+7) at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints’ playoff hopes took a hit when they were forced to start Ian Book at quarterback on Monday night, but they’ll remain in contention with Taysom Hill back on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Saints 24, Panthers 14.

Florio’s take: The Carolina quarterback carousel spins back to Sam Darnold. Good luck.

Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Panthers 17.


Eagles (-3.5) at Washington

MDS’s take: Washington coach Ron Rivera held his team together for most of a challenging season full of injuries and COVID concerns, but the Football Team appears to be just about done.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 30, Washington 17.

Florio’s take: Four straight losses, four straight wins, three straight losses. About to be four.

Florio’s pick: Eagles 24, Washington 20.


Chiefs (-5) at Bengals

MDS’s take: After a rough start to the season, the Chiefs look like the best team in the league right now.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 33, Bengals 21.

Florio’s take: It took a while, but the Chiefs have rediscovered their magic — just in time to make some real noise in the postseason.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 31, Bengals 24.


Jaguars (+15.5) at Patriots

MDS’s take: In a matchup of rookie quarterbacks, the advantage goes to Mac Jones because he gets to play the Jaguars’ terrible defense, while Trevor Lawrence has to face the Patriots’ excellent defense.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 21, Jaguars 0.

Florio’s take: Darrell Bevell won’t lose this one to Bill Belichick by calling a pass play with the game on the line. Hooray?

Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Jaguars 13.


Dolphins (+3.5) at Titans

MDS’s take: The Dolphins followed a seven-game losing streak with a seven-game winning streak, but I think the winning streak comes to an end when they face their toughest opponent in months.

MDS’s pick: Titans 27, Dolphins 17.

Florio’s take: Miami will be a problem if they get to the playoffs. The Titans will make that an even bigger if.

Florio’s pick: Titans 24, Dolphins 20.


Broncos (+5.5) at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chargers’ stunning loss to the Texans didn’t knock them out of the playoffs, but it did turn both of their remaining games into must-wins. I think they’ll take care of business on Sunday.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 30, Broncos 17.

Florio’s take: It’s hard to trust the Chargers. It’s even harder to trust the Broncos.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 24, Broncos 20.


Texans (+12.5) at 49ers

MDS’s take: I give the Texans credit for playing hard down the stretch, and I question whether Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be able to pass effectively with his injured thumb. So while I’m picking the 49ers, I think this will be a nail-biter.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 20, Texans 17.

Florio’s take: The gang that couldn’t tank straight will get some help against a far superior foe.

Florio’s pick: 49ers 31, Texans 17.


Lions (+7) at Seahawks

MDS’s take: Neither of these teams is in playoff contention, but I think both Dan Campbell and Pete Carroll will have their teams playing hard in a competitive game.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 24, Lions 21.

Florio’s take: It’s unclear whether Pete Carroll’s job is in jeopardy. Lose to the Lions, and things could become more clear.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 30, Lions 17.


Rams (-3.5) at Ravens

MDS’s take: This Ravens’ season that once looked so promising is now coming to a highly disappointing end.

MDS’s pick: Rams 28, Ravens 20.

Florio’s take: Two years after the Ravens dismantled the Rams in L.A., the road team gets a little taste of revenge.

Florio’s pick: Rams 30, Ravens 21.


Vikings (+6.5) at Packers

MDS’s take: The Packers are cruising toward the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and the Vikings are just about out of it.

MDS’s pick: Packers 30, Vikings 17.

Florio’s take: For the second straight week, the Vikings won’t have to worry about blowing a lead.

Florio’s pick: Packers 30, Vikings 17.


Browns (-3) at Steelers

MDS’s take: A frustrating Steelers season will end with them being eliminated from playoff contention on Monday Night Football.

MDS’s pick: Browns 27, Steelers 13.

Florio’s take: In Ben Roethlisberger‘s final game in Pittsburgh, the home team finds a way.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 21, Browns 17.

NFL playoff clinching scenarios for Week 17

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals
Getty Images

Related: AFC playoff picture | NFC playoff picture

The NFL released the following playoff clinching scenarios for Week 17 of the 2021 season:

AFC

CLINCHED:

Kansas City Chiefs – AFC West division title

BUFFALO BILLS (9-6) (vs. Atlanta (7-8), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Buffalo clinches playoff berth with:

BUF win + BAL loss or tie OR
BUF win + LAC loss or tie + LV loss or tie OR
BUF tie + MIA loss or tie + LAC loss + LV loss OR
BUF tie + MIA loss or tie + LAC loss or tie + BAL loss + PIT loss or tie OR
BUF tie + MIA loss or tie + LV loss or tie + BAL loss + PIT loss or tie OR
BUF tie + NE loss or tie + LAC Loss + LV loss OR
BUF tie + NE loss or tie + LAC loss or tie + BAL loss + PIT loss or tie OR
BUF tie + NE loss or tie + LV loss or tie + BAL loss + PIT loss or tie OR
BUF tie + LAC loss + LV loss + BAL loss + PIT loss or tie


CINCINNATI BENGALS (9-6) (vs. Kansas City (11-4), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Cincinnati clinches AFC North division title with:

CIN win OR
CIN tie + BAL loss or tie OR
BAL loss + CLE-PIT tie

Cincinnati clinches playoff berth with:

CIN tie + LAC loss + LV loss + MIA loss or tie OR
CIN tie + LAC loss + LV loss + NE loss OR
CIN tie + LAC loss + LV tie + MIA loss or tie + NE win OR
CIN tie + LAC loss + LV tie + NE tie + MIA tie + BUF win or tie OR
CIN tie + LAC loss + LV tie + NE loss + MIA win + BUF win or tie

NOTE: There are other clinching scenarios for Cincinnati that involve multiple tie games.


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-6) (vs. Las Vegas (8-7), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Indianapolis clinches playoff berth with:

IND win OR
IND tie + BAL loss + NE loss or tie OR
IND tie + BAL loss + MIA loss or tie


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4) (at Cincinnati (9-6), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Kansas City clinches AFC’s No. 1 seed, only first-round bye and homefield advantage with:

KC win + TEN loss or tie OR
KC tie + TEN loss


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-6) (vs. Jacksonville (2-13), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

New England clinches playoff berth with:

NE win + MIA loss or tie OR
NE win + LV loss or tie OR
NE tie + MIA loss + LV loss + LAC loss or tie OR
NE tie + MIA loss + BAL loss or tie OR
NE tie + LV loss + LAC loss + BAL loss + PIT loss or tie OR
NE tie + LV loss + LAC loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + MIA win + BUF win

NOTE: There are other clinching scenarios for New England that involve multiple tie games.


TENNESSEE TITANS (10-5) (vs. Miami (8-7), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)

Tennessee clinches AFC South division title with:

TEN win OR
IND loss OR
TEN tie + IND tie

Tennessee clinches playoff berth with:

TEN tie OR
LAC loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
LAC loss or tie + NE loss or tie OR
BAL loss or tie + NE loss or tie


NFC

CLINCHED:

Dallas Cowboys – NFC East division title
Green Bay Packers – NFC North division title
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – NFC South division title
Arizona Cardinals – playoff berth
Los Angeles Rams – playoff berth

GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-3) (vs. Minnesota (7-8), Sunday night, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

Green Bay clinches NFC’s No. 1 seed, only first-round bye and homefield advantage with:

GB win + DAL loss or tie OR
GB tie + DAL loss + LAR loss + TB loss or tie OR
GB tie + DAL loss + LAR tie + TB loss


LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-4) (at Baltimore (8-7), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Los Angeles Rams clinch NFC West division title with:

LAR win + ARI loss or tie OR
LAR tie + ARI loss


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-7) (at Washington (6-9), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

Philadelphia clinches playoff berth with:

PHI win + MIN loss or tie + NO loss or tie OR
PHI win + MIN loss or tie + SF win or tie OR
PHI tie + MIN loss + NO loss + ATL loss or tie OR
PHI tie + MIN loss + NO tie + ATL loss or tie + SF win or tie


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (8-7) (vs. Houston (4-11), Sunday, 4:05 PM ET, CBS)

San Francisco clinches playoff berth with:

SF win + NO loss or tie OR
SF tie + MIN loss or tie + NO loss + ATL loss or tie

After retiring from broadcasting, John Madden became a fierce advocate for player safety

USA TODAY Sports

We all know about John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach. John Madden, the legendary broadcaster. John Madden, the video-game icon.

Here’s one thing that isn’t as widely known about Coach Madden. After retiring from NBC after Super Bowl XLIII, he became a fierce advocate for player safety.

As an unpaid adviser to the Commissioner, Madden’s input led to the creation of the Coaches Subcommittee to the NFL’s Competition Committee. Through that body, which currently is co-chaired by Chiefs coach Andy Reid and Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Madden’s group helped push for plenty of changes aimed at making the game safer.

When the NFL recognized the importance of keeping players who have suffered concussions out of action until fully healed, John Madden became a driving force in efforts to identify whether a player has suffered a concussion during a given game. He coined the phrase, “When in doubt, leave them out” in order to ensure that no player will be at risk of suffering a second concussion not long after sustaining an initial brain injury. Working with Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, John Madden came up with the idea for empowering medical officials to stop the action in order to identify players potentially in distress and to remove them from the game.

At times, Madden became upset by the practical implementation of these safety measures, which often is impeded by propaganda aimed at ensuring that a player who isn’t actually concussed isn’t kept from playing when he is otherwise healthy. When then-Rams quarterback Case Keenum wasn’t removed from a game in 2015 after he clearly had suffered brain trauma, Madden became incensed.  He specifically was infuriated a year earlier, after former Chargers safety Jahleel Addae remained in a game after suffering an apparent concussion.

As explained at the time, based on information from a source with knowledge of the dynamics: “Coach Madden has a high degree of motivation on this topic, and he strongly believes that the professionals charged with safeguarding player health must be expected to do their jobs — and that if they can’t, someone else needs to be hired to do those jobs.”

Coach Madden continued to push and push and push for greater sensitivity to potential head injuries. To ensure that no player would be put at potential risk of further trauma after suffering a concussion. To protect the game and those who play it from a disastrous outcome.

He constantly studied plays, requesting film from the league office so that certain aspects of the play could be reviewed, from a safety standpoint.

At one point, John Madden suggested that the three-point stance should eventually be removed from the game, in order to limit the repetitive blows to the head suffered by offensive and defensive linemen. Hits that aren’t concussions by that, over time, can create neurological problems.

Coach Madden also had significant influence over efforts to push for improved helmet technology, along with better helmet fitting in order to prevent helmets from spontaneously coming off during games. He also hated the overbuilt/non-standard facemasks, which at one point became so large and bulky that it made players fearless about getting their heads in the fray.

As we search for a way to properly honor and remember Coach Madden, one way to do so would be to embrace and to admire his efforts to make the game as safe as it can be, for everyone who plays it. Too many fans, media, and even players long for the bloodsport days of the game, when the brutality was commonplace and devastating hits were celebrated. Given what we now know, efforts must continue to strike the right balance between the best interests of the game of football and the best interests of those who play it.

If Coach Madden, who loved the game as much if not more than anyone, recognized and respected the importance of ongoing efforts to make football as safe as it can be, maybe everyone else should, too.