The catch was ruled incomplete, but Ron Rivera wisely challenged.

Last year, the Panthers missed Kuechly desperately when he was sidelined for six games with a concussion. He’s arguably the best linebacker in the league and you can see why on this play, which saved the Panthers from an upset loss to the New York Jets in Week 12.

The Panthers were trailing the Jets, 20-18, when Josh McCown was sacked by defensive end Wes Horton and fumbled in the process. Kuechly scooped it up and scored, averting a Panthers defeat.

The ruling was overturned on review, because Byrd’s left butt cheek hits in bounds before the rest of his body lands. Now we know that one butt cheek = two feet.

Byrd had the best name for his catch: “butt drag swag.”

The Panthers couldn’t avoid Sunday’s loss to the Saints despite a solid late-game effort. But fans will be able to look back at this season fondly — especially the butt-related parts.

But the fact is, Goff’s in a much better spot than he was even a few months ago. McVay’s proud of Goff for completing 70 percent of his passes last week, and even prouder that he stayed out of the turnover column. On the other hand, Cousins’ presence on Sunday will serve as a reminder on how far they have to go.

“Hopefully, you’re an extension of one another where they can anticipate what’s going on because you’re so in tune with the game plan,” said McVay. “That evolves over time. With my relationship with Kirk and really Colt McCoy over the last couple years, they had a really good feel for what we were trying to get done offensively as a coaching staff and that allowed them to anticipate the play calls coming in.

“Things take time. (Goff) is in a really good place, it’s not one or the other. It’s the fact that we just haven’t worked together long enough. We’re trying to figure it out.”

You can read my write-up on what the Eagles need to do with Foles, but the key for them is Doug Pederson. The conventional wisdom is when you have a backup quarterback with a strong run game and a good defense, you play it safe with the route concepts. However, I think Pederson needs to scheme up some shots for Foles.bears_025-223x223

Marcus Mariota scored a touchdown in the Titans’ Wild Card Game with the Chiefs by throwing the ball to himself. Really.

Mariota escaped pressure and couldn’t find an open receiver. He rolled to his left, and the Chiefs’ defense collapsed in to stop him short of the goal. Mariota targeted a receiver in the end zone, but the ball was deflected by the Chiefs and bounced right back to him. So Mariota ran and dove over the pylon for the score.

He may look the part of a complete baseball player more than, say, fellow free-agent first baseman Lucas Duda, but for his career Duda has 20 points of slugging on Hosmer with an essentially identical OBP. How much do those singles get you, really, relative to walks? Hosmer also hits too many ground balls—53.4 percent of the balls he has put in play for his career, according to Fangraphs. A return to Kansas City is rational if the smartest teams stay away.?

Jon Tayler: The wave that was the Royals crested with the 2015 World Series and broke slowly but surely over the last two years as they flopped out of contention. And with Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain all hitting free agency at once, it’s hard to imagine the Royals coming anywhere near those heights any time soon unless they can keep at least one of that trio.

Despite starting last season’s MVP, the Falcons may not have the edge at quarterback Saturday. Matt Ryan saw his completion rate, touchdown rate, and efficiency drop down in his team’s 10-6 campaign. Jared Goff, on the other hand, took a major step forward in his second season as a pro, posting a top-five passer rating and a stellar 28:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He threw for 301 yards and four touchdowns to hold off the Titans in his last start of the season.

A renewed defensive effort has been paramount to the team’s late-season revival. Since Week 8, only two opponents have scored more than 21 points against Atlanta’s swarming D. Young contributors like Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, and Takk McKinley have set a high standard not just for 2017, but for years to come. Through 15 games, the club ranks in the top 10 in total defense, red zone defense, and they’re 14th in total sacks.bears_005-223x223

The Saints have the better quarterback, but he’s facing one of his toughest challenges yet with a Vikings defense that has almost no flaws.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians announced Monday he would be retiring as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, but told his team Sunday night.

“I can’t thank you enough, that’s the greatest f***ing effort I’ve ever seen,” a tearful Arians said of the team’s final game against the Seahawks:

“It’s been my f***ing pleasure to be your coach,” Arians said. “I was gonna wait to tell you tomorrow — that’s my last game. I love all of you, every single one. Man I’m gonna miss the hell out of [you guys], I promise.”

Since the Vikings’ bye week, Murray has averaged 4.3 yards per carry, slowly becoming the workhorse back, while McKinnon has been more balanced between running and receiving. Combined, they’ve averaged 110 yards rushing per game, adding an average of 35 receiving yards per game, or 145 total yards per game.

If New Orleans can’t get Kamara and Ingram going, it could be a long day for Sean Payton. The Vikings play to their style and grind out a close win.

I stopped watching when Kaepernick opted out of his contract from the 49ers. When that relationship ended, it was evident that he wasn’t going to work anymore, so that’s when I bowed out. I stopped watching games or attending games, and purchasing any merchandise. I just took a very reflective look at my own life. I am Mexican-American, I’m a second generation American; with that personal background and upbringing, I have experienced some of what is happening to people of color, so not supporting Kaepernick was not an option for me.

But despite having only one more win than Buffalo in 2017, this Jaguars team looks the part of a substantial favorite, ranking sixth in the league in total offense averaging 365.9 points per game and second in total defense allowing only 286.1 yards per game. Jacksonville was a perfect 3-0 SU and ATS in three games as a favorite of seven points or more this season.

Offensive line issues persist. You guys want hear me go on about the problems with offensive line play in the NFL again? It didn’t take much to see it coming, after all. Middling linemen were breaking the bank in March (Riley Reiff, Matt Kalil, and Russell Okung all got more than $11 million per year), because teams knew there wasn’t much help coming in the draft; the 2017 draft wound being the first one ever to go without a lineman in the Top 15 picks. Then, high-end linemen (Donald Penn, Duane Brown) saw their value rising and held out. And here we are.nationals_033

Colin Kaepernick, Michael Bennett appear on latest cover of ‘The New Yorker’ with Martin Luther King Jr.

The Jan. 15 cover issue of The New Yorker will feature a kneeling Martin Luther King Jr., with Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett beside him.

The cover’s artist, Mark Ulriksen, wrote about the inspiration for the cover for The New Yorker. “I asked myself, What would King be doing if he were around today?” he wrote.

“I hope that I can activate everybody to get off their hands and feet and go out into the communities and push helping each other,” Bennett said, via NFL Network’s Steve Wyche, on why he was sitting for the anthem. “Sit down with somebody that’s the opposite sex, sit down with somebody that’s the opposite race, different religion and understand that people are different and go out and join the community and try to change the society, change what you’re a part of. If you don’t like it, keep changing it.”

Since starting his protest, Kaepernick has yet to be signed by an NFL team after the conclusion of the 2017 season. But he has continued his activism, and inspired others to create change in the world.

The Eagles’ fortunes changed this season when they lost quarterback Carson Wentz to a knee injury a month ago, leaving Nick Foles to try to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

It’s rare enough for No. 1 seeds to be less than 3-point favorites. Since 1990, only four of them have been so, with the 2010 Falcons being the most recent as 1-point favorites against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round. Aaron Rodgers proceeded to complete 26 of his 31 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns in his torching of Atlanta.

“The early action, it’s pretty much all on Atlanta,” Westgate Superbook oddsmaker Ed Salmons told ESPN on Sunday. “The public is going to bet Atlanta.”

As Shazier lay on the turf, defensive end Cam Heyward didn’t know what to do. “Get up, get up, get up,” he said, gripping Shazier’s left hand tightly, trying to calm him. The rest of the game unfolded in a haze, with Heyward trying to rally shaken teammates. “We have to win for Ryan,” he told them. “Ryan’s going to be O.K.,” he said, not knowing if that was actually true.giants_095