Back in the saddle again this Monday, eh? Happy MLK Day to you, friend, and I hope you're ready to spend the morning with me even if you're still in weekend mode. We're coming off a huge weekend of football so I'm here in your inbox and ready to break it all down.
On a personal note, I had a big weekend myself. I wish I was exaggerating or joking when I said that I left the house for the first time in two weeks on Saturday. Like, I literally had not stepped outside in two weeks. Big stuff (I also followed that up by briefly going outside on Sunday, not to brag or anything.) Just living the dream.
Anyway, who needs the outside when you've got sports? Let's kick off another beautiful week indoors with the sports goodies you need to know.
📰 What you need to know
1. NFL Conference Championship matchups are set ... kind of 🏈
It's only Monday and we're fresh off another round of playoff football, but I already cannot wait for this upcoming weekend's NFL conference championship games. We've got Josh Allen vs. Patrick Mahomes (maybe) in KC and Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau? Oh hell yes. Now THAT is the good stuff.
But before we get into any sort of conference championship preview, we should slow our role and make sure that we recap the weekend that was. Understanding how we got here is just as important as understanding where we're going.
- Jared Goff put up a gutsy effort but Aaron Rodgers had three total touchdowns -- including a game-clinching 58-yard heave to Allen Lazard -- in the Packers' 32-18 win over the Rams
- The Bills shut down the Ravens in a 17-3 win. Buffalo's game-breaking play came on a 101-yard pick-six by Taron Johnson in the second half. Lamar Jackson left the game after suffering a concussion on the final play of the third quarter
- Chad Henne (!) played the role of hero for the Chiefs after Patrick Mahomes suffered a concussion in the third quarter of KC's 22-17 win over the Browns. Henne had a clutch 13-yard scramble before then completing a pass on fourth down to ice the game
- The Buccaneers' defense feasted on Drew Brees and the Saints, forcing four turnovers (three that turned into TB touchdowns) during the Bucs' 30-20 victory
It was a really unfortunate end to the season for Jackson, but it was an especially bitter one for Brees, who has most likely played his last NFL game.
Still, the obviously pressing question here (and the reason for the "... kind of" in the headline above) is: What about Mahomes? Andy Reid said the quarterback is "doing great," but Mahomes looked awful in the immediate aftermath of yesterday's incident. While his status remains up in the air, our Cody Benhamin broke down what needs to happen for the Chiefs to get him back under center next week.
Forgive me for this scorching hot take, but I'm going to go ahead and say that the Chiefs are a much different (and much worse) team without Mahomes. It was cool to see Henne get his shine after a gutsy performance yesterday but, uh, he's no Mahomes and, to be fair, no one is.
Fingers crossed Mahomes makes a clear recovery and we get our full money's worth this weekend.
2. Why the Texans should act quickly on a Deshaun Watson trade 🏈
Listen, the Texans definitely don't want to trade Deshaun Watson. He's one of the league's best young quarterbacks -- the kind of player that franchises wait a long time to get their hands on. But the organizational dysfunction in Houston has alienated the star QB, and now the Texans are in a spot where they might need to trade him ... and they may be better off if they do it as soon as possible.
There have been rumors swirling around Watson's growing unhappiness with the Texans and, although it's not known if he has officially requested a trade, there seems to be a growing sense that he's played his last game with the team. If that's the case, our Chris Trapasso lays out the reasons why Houston can't afford to wait to move on.
- Draft situation: The Texans are attempting to rebuild but their first selection in this year's draft comes in the third round (No. 67 overall) ... thanks Bill O'Brien!
- Cap situation: They are $17.8M over the projected 2021 cap of $176 million and are projected to have the fewest amount of cap space in 2022 at just $43.7M. They're going to have a number of cap casualties (likely including JJ Watt) over the next few years
- Team logistics: Even if the Texans don't completely blow it up this offseason, they're still probably going to be one of the worst teams in the league next year. Watson, 26, is coming off a great season and his trade value is almost assured to never be higher
- Suitors and replacements: Not only are there several teams that could desperately use a franchise quarterback (and will likely compete against one another to land Watson), but there are also several promising incoming quarterbacks. If Houston parts ways with Watson, they'll likely land a big haul and be able to seek a long-term replacement they can build around
It really sucks that the Texans find themselves in this spot considering how talented Watson is and how bright the future once looked for that team, but repeated organizational missteps can snowball and lead to situations like this one. It's a bummer for the team, but can anyone blame Watson for wanting to go elsewhere?
3. NFL coaching vacancies filling up 🏈
We had some major coaching vacancies get filled last week -- Urban Meyer to the Jaguars, Robert Saleh to the Jets, and Arthur Smith to the Falcons-- and now we've got a few more positions off the board following the weekend. As the open coaching spots continue to disappear, we're starting to see some semi-surprising hires.
- The Chargers agreed to hire Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their new head coach on Sunday night
- Staley, 38, was reportedly the Chargers' first choice. He was with the Rams for one season and previously served as a linebackers coach for the Bears and Broncos
- With the Saints now eliminated, the Lions are expected to hire New Orleans assistant Dan Campbell as their next head coach
- Campbell served as interim head coach of the Dolphins in 2015 and has been a tight ends coach and assistant under Sean Payton since 2016
- Campbell, 44, played his final three seasons with the Lions (2006-2008)
While you can argue that both of these guys have earned a shot to take over a team of their own, what's surprising is that they've been chosen ahead of the guy we all assumed would be at the top of the list of potential coaching candidates. And that brings us to today's final item...
4. Why isn't Eric Bieniemy getting hired? 🏈
At the start of this offseason's coaching carousel, we figured that teams would be in hot pursuit of Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. After all, Kansas City's offense has shredded defenses for the last few years and Bieniemy is drawing interest. He's interviewed with five teams (and has a request from the Texans) but, according to Jason La Canfora, it's growing unlikely that Bieniemy will get a job offer this offseason.
Several teams that were hot on Bieniemy have already made their hires, and others are nearing a decision soon while Bieniemy is still coaching in the postseason (he can't interview again until the Super Bowl bye week or when the Chiefs' season ends.) It's strange considering how much experience and success he's had recently, and it's bringing up questions about the NFL's hiring practices once again.
- JLC: "Bieniemy's situation has not gone unnoticed within the coach, agent and player community, with many dumbfounded as to why Andy Reid's top assistant cannot get the opportunity to be a head coach as so many with less experience as a coach and a player continue to be hired. League sources said the NFLPA is considering approaching the NFL about issues with diversity in the head coaching ranks -- should this cycle end up with very few coaches of color getting hired -- and the push to further reform the Rooney Rule will not subside, either."
It's incredibly strange that the Texans didn't even bother to reach out to Bieniemy even after Deshaun Watson made it clear that EB was the guy he wanted to replace Bill O'Brien. Houston only sent over an interview request after it became public that Watson was upset, and JLC says the interview still may not happen. If you're Bieniemy, would you even want to accept the request under those circumstances? Maybe I'm just bitter and petty and take things too personally ... but no thanks.
📝 Odds & Ends
- What's next for the Yankees after they signed DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber?
- Luka Doncic jumped Michael Jordan on the NBA's all-time triple-doubles list
- Bills fans donated a bunch of money to Lamar Jackson's favorite charity after the Ravens QB was injured
📺 What to watch today
🏒 Bruins vs. Islanders, 5 p.m. | NYI +110 | TV: NBCSN
🏀 Bucks vs. Nets, 7:30 p.m. | BKN +2.5 | TV: TNT
🏀 Warriors vs. Lakers, 10 p.m. | LAL -9 | TV: TNT
📝 Top scores from last night
The Saints fell apart late and Drew Brees threw three interceptions in what might be the final game of his career.
💵 Winning wagers: TB +121, Under (53)
A strong defensive effort and relief from 35-year-old Chad Henne helped KC hang on to reach a third straight AFC Championship.
💵 Winning wagers: CLE +8, Under (56.5)
Boston got Kemba Walker back but had a five-game winning streak snapped by Julius Randle (20 points, 12 rebounds) and the Knicks.
💵 Winning wagers: NYK +245