It's my final late-week NFL update story of the 2015 season as Doc's will have you covered with in-depth playoff game previews the rest of the way.
By my count, the only games that don't matter on Sunday from a playoff perspective are: Saints-Falcons, Redskins-Cowboys, Eagles-Giants, Lions-Bears and Rams-49ers. That's not to say they aren't important. You have draft position involved in those, for one thing. The loser of the Eagles-Giants game also will finish third in the NFC East and thus be forced to play the Rams in London next year.
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Philly made big news this week with the firing of Coach Chip Kelly. Pretty rare you see a coach dumped with one game left in the season. Bovada has a prop on where Kelly will be coaching Week 1 of next season. He has said he wants to stay in the NFL and no longer wants personnel control. Bovada lists the Tennessee Titans as the even-money favorites for Kelly's services for 2016. And that obviously makes sense with Kelly's connection to Marcus Mariota. I'm sure if Mariota wants Kelly, he'll be there. The other NFL options are the Browns (+500) and Colts (+700). Any NCAA team is +200 and not a coach is +700. I don't think those two are in play.
The site also offered an "over/under" on coaches fired between the end of the season and the Super Bowl, with the total at five. There are already reports the Colts will not bring Chuck Pagano back, but that's not really a firing as he doesn't have a contract for next season. The Dolphins and Titans for sure will have new coaches as they are currently led by interim guys. The Browns might fire Mike Pettine. Ditto the Chargers Mike McCoy. Pretty sure the Giants will pay Tom Coughlin to go away. The Lions' decision on Jim Caldwell depends on the new GM. The Rams say they are keeping Jeff Fisher for some reason. The 49ers probably give Jim Tomsula one more year unless Mike Holmgren really does want to coach there. Or Kelly. The Saints won't fire Sean Payton but could trade him to Miami or Indy. Should be an interesting "Black Monday."
Here are some line moves or potential game-changing injury notes for Week 17.
Ravens at Bengals (-10, 41.5): Cincinnati opened at -7.5. Presumably it jumped with the news that Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron will be able to play after hurting his wrist on the final play of Monday night's loss in Denver. Early in the week, that wasn't clear and Keith Wenning making his first career start was a possibility. McCarron actually has been pretty decent, to the point that it has raised the stature of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson so much that he's likely to get an NFL head coaching job this offseason. Cincinnati still has something to play for here as with a win and Broncos loss later Sunday in San Diego, the Bengals would be the AFC's No. 2 seed. Otherwise they host the No. 6 seed next week and probably without Andy Dalton. Cincinnati will get back star tight end Tyler Eifert from injury Sunday. The Ravens would be better off by losing and improving their draft stock. They will be back as a Super Bowl contender next season. Baltimore has put a franchise-record 20 players on injured reserve this season. Key trend: Cincinnati is 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 as a home double-digit favorite. The pick: This is one of those where I'd go find either 10.5 or 9.5 points depending on whom you want to back. I'd give 9.5 points but take 10.5.
Titans at Colts (-6, 41.5): Colts owner Bob Irsay has disputed a report that Pagano's fate has already been sealed, but it has. He and GM Ryan Grigson basically hate each other. Pagano essentially canned himself when he turned down a one-year extension from Irsay heading into this season. He'll have no trouble finding another job. The Colts actually can still win the AFC South, but you also can still win the Lotto. Basically, Indy has to win, have Houston lose to Jacksonville and then have seven other games go the Colts' way. Not happening. Pagano has no clue who his QB will be Sunday yet. It's one of three guys: recently-signed Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley as well as undrafted free-agent Stephen Morris. Never seen a potential playoff team in that type of situation before. Freeman last played in something called the Fall Experimental Football League for the Brooklyn Bolts. Tennessee, again without Marcus Mariota, should tank here as it gets the No. 1 overall pick with a loss. Makes it quite a challenge to handicap this one. Key trend: Indianapolis 7-3 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series. The pick: Colts I guess.
Seahawks at Cardinals (-6.5, 47): This line has jumped from an open of 3.5. Both head coaches say they will play all their healthy starters as usual. For Bruce Arians, that makes sense because Arizona is guaranteed to have next week off and takes the NFC's top seed with a win and Carolina upset loss at home to Tampa Bay (doubtful). Plus, the Cardinals have a ton of momentum right now on a nine-game winning streak and Carson Palmer still has an outside shot at the NFL MVP Award as well as leading the NFL in passing yards and TD passes. Palmer is +500 to win the MVP at Bovada with Cam Newton at -1000. Palmer has thrown for 4,542 yards and 34 TDs. He is +700 to win the TD crown. Tom Brady leads both with 4,636 yards and 36 TDs. Brady is -200 to win the TD title. The Cardinals are the only team in the league to have more touchdowns (57) than punts (55) this season. I'm not sure why Pete Carroll would play all his guys. Seattle is a wild-card team no matter what and thus has to play next week. The Hawks could be without injured offensive linemen Russell Okung (left tackle) and J.R. Sweezy (right guard). Running back Marshawn Lynch also isn't ready to return yet. Key trend: Arizona 5-3 ATS as a favorite vs. Seattle (not since 2012). The pick: Cardinals.
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