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NFL News and Notes: December 27, 2018

Plenty Of Intrigue For Some Teams, While Others Could Rest Players

This should be a very exciting weekend of football. W-ile some of have clinched their spots in the playoffs (or for some clinched not making the playoffs), many teams remain in limbo. In the NFC, the Saints sit firmly as the number one seed, but after that it is anyone’s guess. The Bears and Rams are in, but who will get the 2nd seed, and the coveted first-round bye, remains to be seen. If the Rams win, they have it. If the Rams lose, though, and the Bears win, it goes to Chicago. Speaking of the Bears game, their opponents, the Minnesota Vikings, have a ton to play for. If they win, they are in. If they lose and Philadelphia wins, then the Vikings are out of the playoffs and it would go to the Eagles.

On the AFC, there is more playoff intrigue. Kansas City can clinch the number one seed with a win. If they don’t win, there are a plethora of different scenarios that can play out to determine who would get the one seed. The Patriots, Texans, Ravens, and Chargers could all potentially receive first round byes depending on how things play out. Indianapolis is playing for a division title and playoff berth. So are Tennessee and Pittsburgh. Regardless of how you look at it, a lot of teams have a lot to play for.

Unfortunately, some do not. You could also see many stars not playing this week. Cam Newton is out (and frankly the Panthers are running out of quarterbacks after Taylor Heinicke was also put on IR). Carson Wentz is for sure out as the entire NFL looks to see if Nick Foles can relive his magic from last year. It remains to be seen whether Todd Gurley will play. Even though they haven’t secured a bye, the Rams have secured a playoff berth and may choose to rest their star running back for another week against the 49ers. DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller, JJ Watt, Aaron Rodgers, Davonte Adams, Matt Breida, Dante Pettis, Kenny Golladay, Matthew Stafford, Leonard Fournette, Eddie Jackson, Allen Robinson Denzel Ward, Eric Ebron, Marcus Mariota, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jason Peters are just a handful of the other names to watch for this weekend.

James Conner Back At Practice

After having missed the last 3 games, James Conner was back at practice on Wednesday for the Pittsburgh Steelers and it appears he could be all systems go for the must win game against the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend. After having sprained his ankle on December 2 against the Chargers, Conner has been unable to go since then. In that time, the Steelers have only won one game.

At 8-6-1, the Steelers need some help. Not only do they have to win but they also have to see the Ravens lose to win the division. For the Steelers, though, the return of Conner would be a huge boost. Jaylen Samuels has been filling in his absence, but has hardly had the same effectiveness as Conner this year.

It has been an odd year for the Steelers when it comes to running backs. Going into the season, the Steelers anticipated having Le’Veon Bell as their workhorse, but as the holdout never ended for Bell, Conner filled in admirably. On the season, Conner has rushed for 909 yards, 467 receiving yards and has 12 touchdowns. Again, it is not definitive that he will play Sunday, but being a full participant on Wednesday and knowing the ramifications of this game, I would guess it is probably a pretty good bet he suits up.

Phillip Lindsay To Be Shut Down

Unfortunately for Broncos rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, it appears that his season is over. In the game against the Oakland Raiders, Lindsay suffered some ligament damage and will require surgery. For Lindsay this season, he has rushed for 1,037 yards and 9 touchdowns on 192 carries. He has also caught 35 passes for 241 yards and an additional score. In Lindsay’s place, fellow rookie running back Royce Freeman will get the start.

Could The Raiders Be Playing Overseas Next Season?

Speaking of the Oakland Raiders, reports have come out indicating that they may no longer be residing in Oakland next season. For that matter, they may no longer be residing in the United States. Needing an option for a home before they move to Las Vegas in 2020, the Raiders discussed playing in London, according to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer. While nothing is definitive, it appears that their time in Oakland is over and if the league needs to get creative, London may be a great spot for a year. It is believed that Roger Goodell would love to move a franchise there permanently and this would give the league a great test to see how the market would play out.

Coaching News

The search for Green Bay’s next head coach has begun. The first two names that have been interviewed have been revealed and they both come with experience. Former Colts’ head coach Chuck Pagano and former Lions and Colts head coach Jim Caldwell have interviewed for the position. While it is not known to what extent the Packers have serious interest in either of these two, it certainly is noteworthy that they have started the process. Interim head coach Joe Philbin, someone that Aaron Rodgers has endorsed, currently holds the position, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out. One thing is for certain, it appears Green Bay is hoping to make a decision sooner than later.

While the Packers are looking for a new coach, the Seahawks have made sure that theirs sticks around. The Seahawks announced that they have signed Pete Carroll to an extension that runs through 2021. The extension is believed to be worth more than $11 million per year. The extension was probably well deserved as he turned a team that many did not have high hopes for this year into a playoff contender.

Blake Bortles Back As Starter

Blake Bortles might be playing for his Jacksonville career on Sunday. With a release presumed likely this offseason, Bortles is trying to show that he is worth keeping around. It has been a rocky season for the quarterback, having been removed from the starter spot twice, but he did finish a comeback win last week against the Miami Dolphins and in a “what have you done for me lately” type league, a strong showing Sunday could help his cause. It is a long shot he is with the Jaguars next season regardless, but a solid effort in the season finale would make the decision a little more interesting.

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