As the Wild Card round of the playoffs came to a close on Sunday, we are left with a little more clarity on who will be competing for the Super Bowl this year. On the NFC side, the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Los Angeles Rams all remain alive. In the AFC, it is the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, and Cleveland Browns that will battle it out.
While most attention was on the field, there is plenty of news around the league. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable stories from the last week.
Watson May Want Out
There is no denying that Deshaun Watson is frustrated with the Texans’ organization, but it appears to have hit a new level. According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, there is some belief around the league that Watson may ultimately seek a trade from the Houston franchise.
There are a couple of issues at play after a frustrating 4-12 season, but one of the most pressing is Watson’s frustration over the general manager search. After being told that he would be included in the conversation for both the general manager and head coach search, owner Cal McNair went his own direction, hiring the Patriots’ Nick Caserio.
This season, Watson threw for 4,823 yards, 33 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 444 and another three touchdowns.
At 25, Watson is the type of quarterback talent that would be hard to trade. However, after former head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien mortgaged much of the Texans’ draft capital with different trades, trading Watson may be hard to pass up if the Texans decide to rebuild.
Watson is the type of player that would surely bring in multiple high draft picks. Still, the trouble is that you possibly risk ostracizing your fan base and veteran players like J.J. Watt. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see which direction the Texans go and whether cooler heads will prevail.
Rams Win Despite Injuries
The Rams were ecstatic to make it into the playoffs with a win over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17. However, with starting quarterback Jared Goff injured with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, which required surgery, not many people gave them a chance against the Seahawks.
It seemed even more dire for the Rams after backup quarterback John Wolford took a hit that left him with a neck injury, requiring a trip to the hospital in the first quarter of their game Saturday.
Enter Goff, less than two weeks after getting surgery on his thumb, to lead the Rams to victory. Goff finished having thrown for 155 yards and a touchdown. The Rams relied a lot on their defense and a heavy dose of running back Cam Akers, who rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown.
Still, the Rams prevailed and now face the No. 1 seed in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers. While it certainly won’t be an easy road for the Rams, they have also proven you should never count them out.
The Battle Of 40-Somethings
Looking ahead to next week’s NFL playoff matchups, one of the most intriguing games will feature a pair of future Hall-of-Famers as Tom Brady, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
These are arguably two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, and they have the stats to back it up. Coming into this game, Brady holds the NFL record for most touchdown passes, while Brees holds the record for most passing yards.
The 43-year-old Brady has thrown for 4,633 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions this season. Meanwhile, the 41-year-old Brees has thrown for 2,924 yards, 24 touchdowns, and six interceptions, although he was knocked out of a few games this season with a rib injury.
Sadly, it is coming to an end of an era with a wave of great quarterbacks set to retire soon. Brees is likely to end after this season, and Brady is expected to hang them up within the next couple of seasons. Others, like Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, may also be done sooner than later.
The opening line features the Saints as the slight favorites at -172 to win playing at home while Tampa Bay’s moneyline is +144. The spread features the Buccaneers at +3.
With such accomplished careers between the two and excellent teams behind them, their game should be one of the best of the weekend.