With the regular season behind us, it is win or go home for those getting ready to battle in the playoffs. The Wild Card weekend is set to start on Saturday, with the first game featuring the Seattle Seahawks battling the San Francisco 49ers.
While several teams battle it out for a Super Bowl championship, others are already getting their offseason underway. With so much news circulating, let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories of the week.
Quarterbacks To Miss Wild Card Round
Both the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens have their work cut out for them. Not only do they face the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively, but they will have to do so short-handed.
For the Dolphins, starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been ruled out as he has still not cleared concussion protocols. Tagovailoa has already missed the last two games as he has suffered two concussions already this season.
In 13 games this year, he had thrown for 3,548 yards, 25 touchdowns, and just eight interceptions. Tagovailoa had helped lead the Dolphins to having the 11th-best offense, averaging 23.4 points per game.
The Dolphins will square off with the Buffalo Bills and will be significant underdogs. With either Skylar Thompson or Teddy Bridgewater (who is also returning from injury) under center, Miami is +640 to win this one and sit as 13.5-point underdogs.
For the Baltimore Ravens, it appears that quarterback Lamar Jackson will also have to miss this weekend’s action. According to Jackson, he suffered a grade 2 PCL sprain, which will likely push him out of action for at least another week.
Prior to the injury, Jackson had thrown for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 12 games. He had also rushed for 764 yards and another three scores.
In his absence, either Tyler Huntley or Anthony Brown would get the call. Like the Dolphins, the Ravens face long odds to bring down their division rivals, the Bengals. They are +380 to win this one and sit as 9.5-point underdogs.
Ravens Sign Linebacker Long-Term
There was some positive news that came out of the Ravens’ camp as they have signed linebacker Roquan Smith to a five-year, $100 million deal, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
Smith was acquired from the Chicago Bears this season for a couple of draft picks, including the Ravens’ second-round pick. In nine games with the Ravens, he amassed 86 tackles, two sacks, and an interception.
The 25-year-old helped a defense that ranks third in the NFL, allowing opponents an average of just 18.5 points per game.
Bears Get No. 1 Pick, Texans Fire Lovie
The Chicago Bears were the benefactors of a Houston Texans’ win in Week 18 of the regular season, and they have their former coach to thank for it. In an absolutely wild game, the Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts 32-31 last weekend, thanks in part to Texans’ coach Lovie Smith choosing to go for two to win the game.
That victory allowed the Bears to leapfrog the Texans for the top pick in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Already having Justin Fields under center, many assume that the Bears will try to trade out of the spot for a king’s ransom.
For Houston, after a miserable season, the loss of the top pick just added insult to injury. They no longer control their own fate if they decide to pursue a franchise-level quarterback.
Between the rough season and the disastrous end to it, the Texans have decided to part ways with head coach Lovie Smith after just one season. With the firing of David Culley the previous year, that makes back-to-back one-and-done head coaches for the Houston Texans.
Houston isn’t the only team in need of a new head coach, though. In addition to Houston, the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, and Indianapolis Colts will all be looking for new coaches.