With the first round of the playoffs behind us, the NFL is set to kick off its Divisional Round on Saturday, where just four teams will remain by the time Monday morning rolls around.
In the NFC, the Giants upset the No. 3 Minnesota Vikings 31-24 last week behind strong games from Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley. They will now match up against their NFC East rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, Saturday night.
The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers will square off in the other NFC game. Dallas survived a rough day from their kicker to still beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14. The 49ers made easy work of the Seattle Seahawks 41-23 in their other NFC Wild Card game.
As for the AFC, the Jaguars’ dream run continues as they downed the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30. They will now take on the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs.
The other matchup will see the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals square off since their game was canceled in Week 17, after Damar Hamlin was taken off by ambulance after suffering a cardiac arrest.
One thing is for sure, it should be an exciting weekend of football as we move one step closer to the Super Bowl. While all eyes are on the playoffs, let’s take a look at some of the other stories from around the league this week.
Saints Want Big Return For Sean Payton
With teams like the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, and Carolina Panthers looking for a head coach, the New Orleans Saints may come out as one of the biggest winners this offseason.
Sean Payton has been one of the best coaches in football during his tenure, but when he stepped away from the game, the Saints still held onto his rights. Now, with other teams having interviewed him for their head coaching position, the Saints would have to be compensated to let him leave.
According to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com, it appears that the Saints’ general manager Mickey Loomis may want two first-round picks to give up Payton’s rights.
While whatever team signs Payton will be getting one of the top coaches in the league, they will certainly be paying a king’s ransom, not only in draft capital, but in money too. It appears that Payton is expected to command at least $20 million a year in any potential contract.
It still remains to be seen if Payton agrees to coach anywhere for this upcoming season, but if he does, the Saints may be the biggest benefactors.
Will Lamar Jackson Stay Or Go?
Lamar Jackson is set to hit free agency at the end of the season, but with the franchise tag in hand, the Ravens will most likely not let him go for nothing. With that said, it remains to be seen whether he comes back to the Ravens or is ultimately traded.
On Thursday, the Ravens’ general manager, Eric DeCosta, seemingly gave a vote of confidence to Jackson staying as he indicated that he would like the 26-year-old quarterback to have input in the team’s next offensive coordinator (the team just let go Greg Roman from the position).
There had been rumors that the team might move Jackson, but it appears that both head coach John Harbaugh and the general manger want him back.
As for Jackson, he struggled to stay healthy this season, only playing in 12 games. In that time, he threw for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 764 yards and another three scores.
The Ravens turned to backup Tyler Huntley last week in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and while he threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns, it still wasn’t enough for the Ravens to overcome Cincinnati, losing 24-17 to the Bengals.
Annual Question Of Whether Brady Will Return
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers knocked out of the playoffs, the question has resurfaced again about Tom Brady’s future. The future Hall-of-Famer is now 45 years old, and a return is no guarantee.
Despite his advanced age, Brady still had a fantastic season, throwing for 4,694 yards and 25 touchdowns.
If Brady does decide to return, there will be no shortage of suitors. In addition to Tampa Bay, teams like the Dolphins, Raiders, 49ers, Jets, and Patriots have already been linked to Brady.
Even at 46 next season, Brady would still be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and he certainly has the ability to hand choose the best spot for him if he decides to come back.