The New England Patriots fell 10 spots to No. 11 in the rankings after their stunning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on opening night.

It’s probably just a bump on the road to the AFC championship game — and their true strength probably should be well inside the top 10 — but still, Week 1’s results mean something, and their defense could be a cause for concern heading into a matchup against the New Orleans Saints.

Strength: Where do we begin? You can point to the team’s star-studded offense, Minnesota’s ability to overcome key injuries or the franchise’s rock-solid, slump-proof and resourceful coaching staff, led by Mike Zimmer. It all starts with the defense, though, which has held teams to under 20 points in a whopping 12 games. If the pass rush hasn’t quite been itself over the past two weeks, the Vikings still have reliable, Pro Bowl-level talent at every level. Beyond the team’s nasty front seven, the back end of this unit — led by cover man Xavier Rhodes and sensational safety Harrison Smith — has the raw power to frustrate a high-flying team like the Rams in January.

Weakness: I don’t see an overt weakness on this roster. Don’t tell me this year’s Case Keenum isn’t a Super Bowl quarterback, either, because he’s done nothing but magnify the play of his skill-position players. When Keenum ran into trouble in a Week 14 loss to the Panthers, his six sacks charted back to a banged-up offensive line currently missing left guard Nick Easton, who went on injured reserve on Dec. 26.

And while most of the social media commentary from those in the NFL — whether that be posts from players across the last few days or statements from a large handful of NFL owners — have supported unity and demonstrations during the national anthem, it has not all came to that conclusion. In a statement released to ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Sunday morning, Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe said, in regards to kneeling during the anthem, “I just feel it’s disrespectful to the ones who sacrificed their lives and it’s maybe the wrong platform.”

Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots: Hogan returned from a four-week absence following a shoulder injury, only to have a quiet game in Week 14. Tom Brady and New England typically play well following a poor performance, so if you buy into the bounce-back performance theory, then Hogan is a candidate for Week 15 success. It’s the biggest game of the season for the Patriots; their opponent, the Steelers, just gave up a big outing to Joe Flacco. All that sounds like a recipe for success for Hogan; some pundits are optimistic and believe he’s worth starting given his early-season production. Hogan remained limited in Thursday’s practice, but nothing points to him having issues suiting up for this weekend’s game.

Over the past month or so, those apologies have rung hollow.

The Spurs initially disclosed Leonard’s injury on Sept. 30, announcing that he would miss the entire preseason because of right quadriceps tendinopathy. Popovich said at the time Leonard would “probably miss the beginning of the preseason or a good deal of preseason,” and indicated the quadriceps issue first developed sometime in the 2016-17 season.

After Leonard missed the Spurs’ first 10 regular-season games in October and November, Popovich said that he was “just coming along more slowly” than expected in his rehabilitation.

The most serious injury, to Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier, left him lying on the field with his hands over his eyes — and it was one of the more innocuous plays of a game between two rivals known for smash-mouth football that occasionally crosses a line. It was, Ben Roethlisberger said, “AFC North football.”

We’ve seen A.J. Green of the Bengals accept without appeal a $42,000 fine for putting Jalen Ramsey of the Jaguars in a chokehold, a move in a fight that followed an offensive play that involved neither player. Both were ejected and Green said all the right words afterward. “I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. Now I have to accept the consequences. That’s fine,” Green said. “I accept whatever punishment that was handed down to me because I put myself in position where I hurt my team and hurt myself. I apologized to the people I hurt. My family. That’s not who I am, I can’t go out there and black out like that. That was not professional. That’s not who I am. That’s no reflection on my family. That’s not who we are. I apologize for that.”

Blount was on pace to come up just shy of his second straight 1,000-yard season and likely earn himself an upgraded contract this offseason. Now he may not even make it through the rest of the season as the Eagles’ starter. The Eagles didn’t give up a fourth-rounder for Jay Ajayi to sit. In all likelihood the former Dolphin will receive the bulk of the carries and that’s not going to sit well with Blount.

Projected top pick Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett put on a Jadeveon Clowney-like show. He leapt 41 inches in the vertical jump, threw up 33 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and ran 4.64 in the 40-yard dash. Oh, lest I forget, he measured 6-foot-4, 272 pounds with over 35-inch arms.

Garrett is an old soul who has never been in trouble or displayed any character red flags. He played much of the 2016 season with a high ankle sprain after an Arkansas lineman cut-blocked him late in A&M’s win over the Hogs. Garrett had nowhere to go but down, given his lofty status heading into the combine, but he solidified his number one pick status. That’s a win.

The Bengals took a 34-7 loss to the Vikings on the Sunday that the rumors surfaced.

“There’s a direction the owner wants to have. … And if his direction is different than my direction, then that’s probably not good,” Lewis said, via ESPN’s Katherine Terrell. “We just have to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

They did manage to spoil the Ravens’ postseason hopes with a thrilling Week 17 win, sending the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

With little fuel or fluids that January night – essential for elite athletic performance, especially at the end of a and grueling – Cobb still turned impressive performance against the Seahawks the next day, leading all receivers with seven catches, for 62 yards and one touchdown.Led Bellarmine to three consecutive state playoff berths and one state final …Both Eifert and Bodine struggled mightily Cincinnati’s thrilling win that probably shouldn’t have been thrilling.The first time Richardson touched the ball the second half, he attacked the rim and drew a foul on London Perrantes.Personally, if you ask us, we feel like we can be the best tandem this league.

Oakland Raiders 2013nd-round pick Menelik Watson grew up rough Manchester, England., who was able to return against the Chargers with a cast on his arm, had surgery on the wrist earlier this week.Look for this to be the first of a few veteran fliers Seattle takes before the begins.Johnsville 2 .But that has not really been the case.

Instead, handpicked a quarterback that has far more common with Colt than any of the previous quarterbacks mentioned.Guys who throw the same speed are only pitching two dimensions.It’s even easier to see how this versatility lends itself to Odrick’s imposing ability to get after the RB and the passer.Trying to find coats I could put on.I’ve been bowling again the last three years.

Let’s be honest. Most of the talk on the Falcons since Super Bowl LI has focused on one of two things—the collapse in that game and blown leads early this season, and the loss of Kyle Shanahan and the offense’s struggles. That’s fair since both have colored how the 2017 team got here.

And yet, by “here”, we mean the divisional playoffs. This Falcons team picked apart all year is one of eight left standing, and one win over a Nick Foles-led Eagles group from returning to the NFC Championship Game.

How’d they do it? Plan D is a big part of it. And Schweitzer qualifies as Exhibit A.

But the last two times the Ravens have missed out on the postseason haven’t just been because of boring regular season losses — they were in contention. Both times they missed out in dramatic fashion, and both came against AFC North rivals.

The Steelers played bad most of the game, and trailed 20-10 in the fourth quarter. After taking a 24-20 lead, the Ravens scored a touchdown to regain the lead with 1:25 to go.

The 49ers didn’t lose a game the rest of the season.

Jimmy Garoppolo had the San Francisco 49ers feeling as good as any team and fan base could at the end of a 6-10 season in recent memory.

The team traded for Garoppolo on Halloween, but he didn’t immediately see action. After falling to 1-10 and an injury to C.J. Beathard, Kyle Shanahan let the inevitable happen, starting Garoppolo in Week 13.

Below is an updated look at the playoff landscape after Wild Card Weekend.

In fact, one team executive looked at the numbers, and actually didn’t see them as all bad. He said, “I took away that compared to TV, the NFL is actually stronger year over year, compared to other programming. But the league does need to better understand how change in habits will affect ratings long-term.”

That said, this is an NFL that has grown used to having everything it touches land on a permanent upward trajectory in both profitability and popularity, so seeing any sort of decline is jarring to some of the guys in that room. And one of those people is Jones, who is nothing if not a master at understanding how to monetize anything you could possibly put in front of him.

That’s why when Jones spoke to his own players eight days ago, in the wake of what he said Oct. 8, his message was clear. We’re partners, and over 90 percent of our audience will never set foot in the stadiums you play, and we have to be cognizant of how easy it is for any of them to tune you out, and work to address your causes without burning the business.

Nick Saban’s got the biggest college contract, raking in upwards of $11 million a year. It’s hard to argue with that when you look at his resume: 131 wins and just 20 losses, three BCS Championships, an appearance in every single College Football Playoff, two National Championship appearances in the playoff era, and two more championship wins in 2016 and 2018.

Texas A&M gave Jimbo Fisher the biggest overall contract in NCAA history when they signed him to a 10-year, $75 million deal. His per-year average doesn’t touch Saban’s, but the total dollar amount will factor into contract negotiations between programs and future head coaches.

This was most evident on the Rams’ possession right before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.

The Rams had a first-and-goal from the Falcons’ 8-yard line. After a 3-yard completion on first down and an incomplete pass on second, Goff hit Tyler Higbee in the end zone, but he was blanketed and didn’t actually catch it. The touchdown was overturned on review.

Los Angeles was trailing 26-13 and had one more chance to pull within a touchdown of the Falcons. Deion Jones got away with a hold when he knocked down Goff’s pass that was intended for Sammy Watkins on fourth down. But that pretty much locked it up for the Falcons.

If this version of the Falcons shows up for the rest of the postseason, they’ll be contenders.

There was some off-field drama in Foxborough in recent weeks, implying that not all is copacetic among the key members of the franchise, with owner Robert Kraft and quarterback Tom Brady on one side and head coach Bill Belichick on the other. All three are consummate professionals, though, and won’t likely let what’s happening behind the scenes affect their play come game day.

The Titans will, however, hope to capitalize on the waves made. Coming off one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history, Tennessee was able to pull off an incredibly impressive offensive second-half performance during the Wild Card Round against the Chiefs to clinch a 22-21 win in the last moments of the game. Not only was there a touchdown pass by Mariota to Mariota, but the QB also had a hell of a block that opened a lane for a 22-yard run by Derrick Henry.

This talk, of course, is certainly warranted: a healthy Luck completely changes the dynamic of the entire Colts’ franchise, while the men who protect him have a new leader Philbin and 18th-overall pick expected to start at center .The crowd and the press loved the entire Mantle – Pepitone drama, and most versions of it over the years have been pretty accurate.39 overall pick, that decision would have proven interesting.We’ll have to .Ninety percent of the salary cap this year is about $84 million.There are about 183 calendar days a league ; anyone who spends 172 or more of those days on the active roster or league disabled list is credited with a full year of service time, while players who spend less than that are credited with the fraction of the they spent the big leagues.

I’ve been playing this game since I was a little kid.

Other candidates with reputations for building sustainable offenses include Broncos interim offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and Eagles QB coach John DeFilippo. You can check out our rundown of 2017’s hottest coaching names here.

On the personnel front, Chicago will almost certainly cut living scarecrow Mike Glennon rather than pay him an eight-figure salary to back up Trubisky. That should give the club more than $60 million in cap space that can be used to surround the young passer with talent. While the Bears are stocked at tailback between Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the team needs serious help at the receiver positions.

”You hear all types of stuff. Stuff’s not going to bother you, but somebody says something about your ethnicity, that’s really kind of taking it a little bit too far.”

Jon Tayler: Dave Dombrowski is still in charge in Boston, right? Then Martinez will soon be holding up a pristine white Red Sox jersey next to a beaming Dombrowski and new manager Alex Cora in front of the assembled media as the promised fix to a lineup that struggled mightily in the post-David Ortiz era. Martinez’s prodigious power makes him a needed piece in an offense that was unexpectedly light last year.

Since MVP candidate Carson Wentz went down in Week 14, the Eagles’ offense has been somewhat stagnant under Nick Foles. Despite a different cadence, and newer chemistry with receivers, Foles has been gradually getting his footing — although limited snaps in the Week 17 loss to the Cowboys certainly didn’t do him any favors. Now, with extra time to prepare, Foles seems ready to trust his receivers, namely Alshon Jeffery, who saw only two targets from Foles in Week 16 against the Raiders.

The Eagles have incredible depth with dominant running backs, including players like LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement. But despite how successful the trio has been at barreling through defenders, the Eagles’ passing game will have to get going early to create some opportunities on the ground. Foles had a penchant for big passing plays during his first go-around with the Eagles in 2013 and will look to return to form to give the offensive play callers a bit more to work with.

These Atlanta Falcons are one step closer to Super Bowl emancipation.

Mike Mularkey for nearly three seasons has been crafting the Tennessee Titans in his image. It’s a rough-and-tumble football identity that he absorbed as a Pittsburgh Steelers tight end from 1989 through 1991.

He went 2-7 as Titans interim head coach in 2015 and followed that with 9-7 as head coach last season. His Titans are 9-7 again this year. But there is a fresh gruffness about them. There is more scrap.

Cord-cutting isn’t the only reason for the ratings slide. There’s the mediocre product on the field (average margin of victory in Sunday Night Football through week 15? 12.7 points); the unusually high number of injuries to star players this season; the general sense of football fatigue due to oversaturation; the divisiveness of player demonstrations during the national anthem; and the fact that RedZone might be ruining viewers’ appetites for three-hour games (though with only approximately 900,000 weekly viewers, the league isn’t concerned about that, yet). All of them have played a small role in this season’s decline.

The NFL remains the most-watched product on television, and though ratings are down, it hasn’t affected the league’s bottom line. Ad sales are up 3% from last season. And to the networks, live sports are more important than ever for attracting viewers. In 2016, every program rated in the top 50 was live sports, a live awards show, or one of the four presidential debates.

Sunday night’s total is set at 47.5 points. The OVER is 8-0 in New Orleans’ last eight playoff home games.

I’m looking for NFL owners to discuss regularly about changing behavior and about changing the attitude. I think this is just rich, white guys throwing money at a problem and hoping it will go away quietly.

I know I am in the minority. Even though viewership might be down, stadiums are still packed and tickets are selling like crazy online. None of this is going to hurt the bottom line of the NFL. I don’t think me sitting out or any viewer boycott really impacts the NFL.

They kept picking and prodding with their own offense until they nailed it.

They took flight on special teams and flaunted it.

NFL draft order 2018: Pick selections take shape as regular season ends

The top of the 2018 NFL draft order is set. The Cleveland Browns are picking first for the second consecutive season.

The last team to pick No. 1 overall in back-to-back drafts was who else but the Browns. They selected Tim Couch and Courtney Brown with the top picks in the 1999 and 2000 drafts, respectively.

But then the two friends were doing it, the 2017 season unfolding exactly as they had planned. Shazier took the team lead with three interceptions in the first nine games; Williams racked up five of his eight sacks. Everything went so well, in fact, that Williams, a creative writing major at Tallahassee who counts David Sedaris as his favorite author, had stopped composing. “I’m too happy to write,” he said before Shazier’s injury. “A lot of my writing came out of life experiences. I’m a cake eater now. My life is great: I start for the Steelers, I get sacks, and I’m a millionaire. Nobody wants to read that s—.”

In the week before Shazier’s injury, Williams told his defensive teammates they weren’t the “little brothers [to the offense] no more.” They’d matured beyond that; O and D were equals. Two days after the injury, he spied Shazier’s number 50 practice jersey and tugged it on. He thought about winning a Super Bowl without his linebacking partner and decided “that would suck.” But it beat the alternative. Not winning anything for Shazier would be worse.

The Falcons’ offense — up to that point — struggled the entire game. Matt Ryan had completed just 16 of his 26 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. Had the Eagles gone for it and missed, the Falcons would have had to go the majority of the field while also going against the wind.

Instead, the Eagles took nearly eight minutes of clock to get a field goal on a 14-play, 83-yard drive and allow the Falcons to start from their own 24-yard line.

Even ESPN’s win probability model thought Pederson was too conservative, per Seth Walder:

It’s close, but our win probability model thought Doug Pederson was probably too conservative on fourth down there. The decision to attempt a field goal, instead of going for it, lowered the Eagles’ chance to win by 1%. Needed to think they had at least a 52.9% chance of success to justify going for it, and league average is 56.6%.

It didn’t matter for the Eagles, but they certainly got a scare. The Falcons faced a fourth-and-6 after a Mohamed Sanu catch was overturned, but Ryan and Julio Jones kept the drive alive, connecting over the middle of the field to get them inside the Eagles 40-yard line.