Dallas takes over the top spot in the rankings and went 4-0 against AFC teams in 2016, but second-year pros Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott haven’t faced a defense like the Broncos.
Opposing quarterbacks had a league-low 69.7 passer rating against Denver in 2016 and it finished the season as the No. 1 rated defense per Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent. Prescott and Elliott also saw their production suffer when facing a Top 10 DVOA defense last season compared to their production against everyone else.
Not unlike Patriots teams past and present, this season’s Rams have the ability to score in bunches. There’s scant playoff experience on this roster, but that simply doesn’t matter with McVay at the wheel. This squad is ready to fly.
Weakness: One of the league’s sauciest special-teams units has lost its ultra-reliable kicker. Greg Zuerlein was shipped to injured reserve with a back injury in late December, and his absence generated immediate on-field consequences — and looms as a genuine concern. Signed-off-the-street booter Sam Ficken hails from a brokerage firm in Connecticut. No lie. While he nailed a pair of field goals in Sunday’s loss to the Niners, Ficken also botched an extra point and missed a 36-yard attempt in a tight win over the Titans in Week 16. Color me concerned.
The Packers are re-signing third-string quarterback Joe Callahan, Rob Demovsky reports. It seems like a trivial move, but it could signal the Packers’ intention to shut down Aaron Rodgers for the season. The Packers’ playoff hopes have evaporated, and so it would make no sense to risk his health in the final two games of the season. Rodgers underwent surgery to repair a broken collarbone. He returned this week in a 31-24 loss in Carolina after missing eight weeks.
Hernandez is not the first high-profile CTE case, but it could be one that resonates with both fans of the NFL and parents of youth players. Recent studies have shown that playing football before age 12 could result in long-term mood and behavioral issues. Some of the most high-profile CTE cases involved players who committed suicide, such as Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Andre Waters, but Hernandez marks the first former NFL player who was diagnosed after being convicted of a heinous crime.