The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs begin tomorrow and there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the health and availability of three key offensive stars.
Current Super Bowl favorite Baltimore set the NFL record for rushing yards by a team, averaging over 200 per game, but the status of their veteran starting RB Mark Ingram is in doubt. Ingram left the Ravens' Week 16 game with a calf injury that some feared could end his season. After resting during Week 17 and last week’s bye, Ingram returned to a limited practice on Thursday. Although he gave it a go on Tuesday, Ingram was forced to leave the field early and then did not practice on Wednesday. Officially, Ingram has been listed as questionable for the Saturday evening game against the Titans. While ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Ingram will play, Baltimore beat writers aren’t as sure, calling Ingram a “question mark” for the game. If Ingram can’t go, expect RB Gus Edwards to see the bulk of the action. Oh, and that Lamar Jackson guy.
It’s just been a season to forget for Vikings WR Adam Thielen. At least that was the case until he made the play of the game in overtime, hauling in a 43-yarder to set up the game-winning score against the Saints. Thielen has missed much of the season with injuries and he is again in doubt for the team’s tilt against the 49ers this weekend after suffering an ankle injury. Thielen hurt the ankle in Wednesday’s practice, requiring stitches and was then unable to practice yesterday. Despite not practicing, Thielen is expected to give it a go on Saturday, though the team listed him as questionable.
The Houston Texans Offense just isn’t quite the same without WR Will Fuller. In Fuller’s five missed games this year, Houston averaged 19.6 points, while scoring 25.4 when he was on the field. Also this season, QB Deshaun Watson averaged nearly 30 more passing yards per game, up from 235 to 264, with Fuller in the game. Fuller was a late scratch in last week’s opening round, a game the Texans came back to win after trailing by two scores. After multiple limited practices this week, Fuller is expected to give it a go despite his groin injury that has cost him the past two games. The Texans will need him against the Chiefs' high-powered offense.
On Wednesday, Eagles HC Doug Pederson fielded questions about his coaching staff and told the media that OC Mike Groh and WR Coach Carson Welch would return. Just one day later, the duo was sent packing. Pederson released a statement attempting to explain the backtrack, but likely only left fans more confused. What is not confusing is the difficult year endured by the Philadelphia offense, namely at the receiver position. WRs DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor each missed extended time and there were few options behind them. Rookie WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was perhaps the most disappointing, failing to make a mark despite his extended opportunity.
Following the announcement, ESPN reported that Dolphins QB Coach Jim Caldwell and former Redskins OC Kevin O’Connell have already emerged as candidates for the Eagles offensive coordinator position.
New Panthers HC Matt Rhule is expected to bring his long-time DC Phil Snow to Carolina with him, possibly to serve in that same position. ... The Redskins continued their front office overhaul, naming former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams the senior vice president of player development…Falcons TE coach Mike Mularkey announced his retirement. He formerly served as the head coach for the Bills, Jaguars, and Titans. …The Browns, who reportedly want to make an official hire this weekend, interviewed Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski for their head coaching position. Stefanski, who was rumored to be an option for the Browns last year, is at least the seventh candidate the team has met with as part of their extended search. … A Giants beat writer suggested new HC Joe Judge could reach out to former Browns HC Freddie Kitchens about a potential role in New York. While Kitchens flopped as a head man, he did enjoy some success as an assistant.
The 49ers will reportedly activate LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) from the injured reserve list in time for this weekend’s game against the Vikings. Alexander has been out since suffering the injury in Week Nine. … Vikings WR Stefon Diggs returned to practice after dealing with an illness earlier in the week. … Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) remained limited in practice, though the injury is not expected to affect his status this weekend against the Texans. … Titans WR Adam Humphries (ankle) has been ruled out for the Divisional Round game against the Ravens. Humphries hasn’t played in over a month. … Ravens TE Mark Andrews is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Titans with the ankle injury he suffered in Week 16. Andrews was limited in each practice this week, but is expected to suit up this week. … Titans DB Adoree’ Jackson (foot) wasn’t listed on the final injury report after returning to a full report…49ers DE Dee Ford (hamstring) is questionable for Saturday’s game against the Vikings. … Texans WR Kenny Stills (knee) was again limited at practice, though he is expected to play this weekend…Chiefs DL Chris Jones (calf) was a late addition to the injury report after being limited on Thursday. It is still unclear if Jones will be on the field Sunday against the Texans.