Super Bowl LI is just six days away and with the Pro Bowl in the books, attention will now move strictly to the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons as Sunday approaches. The weekend was light on news from both Super Bowl teams, but the media fire will heat up to a roaring blaze on Monday night when both teams participate in “Opening Night,” otherwise known as Media Day. The festivities kick off at 8pm ET and will undoubtedly provide the football world with plenty to chew on in preparation for the big game. Before you spend the next six days debating the point spread for Sunday’s matchup, let’s take a quick spin around the NFL and check out the latest news and notes from the weekend.
AFC Captures Pro Bowl Victory
The Pro Bowl saw a few tweaks this season, as the game moved from tropical Honolulu, Hawaii to Orlando, Florida and the league returned to matching up the AFC and NFC against each other for the first time since 2012. The result was a low-scoring, yet entertaining game that saw the AFC top the NFC 20-13. Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, the game’s defensive MVP, intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass late in the fourth quarter to seal the AFC’s win as the NFC attempted to come back from a 20-7 deficit. Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce caught three passes for 36 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown from Andy Dalton, and was named the Pro Bowl’s offensive MVP. The scoreboard didn’t move as frequently as in past Pro Bowls, but the game was decent enough and thankfully no players suffered major injury. The football world is now left with one game until September.
Coaching Carousel Continues to Spin
NFL front offices were busy over the weekend with new general managers landing in San Francisco and Indianapolis. The 49ers handed a six-year deal to former NFL safety John Lynch to fill their general manager spot, while the Indianapolis Colts chose Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard to lead their organization. One new coordinator was crowned over the weekend as well, with the New York Jets selecting Saints WRs coach John Morton as their offensive coordinator. Our own Raymond Summerlin covers all the offseason coaching changes in the AFC and NFC Coaching Carousels, so be sure to check those out for excellent detailed recaps of every change across the league.
Carson Palmer’s Future Undecided
Kent Somers of Arizona Central Sports reported that Arizona quarterback was noncommittal about his future in a recent text to AZ Central’s Dan Bickley. "I guess nothing is ever official until it is, but I'd like to play if my body responds the way I hope,” Palmer said. The Arizona Cardinals had a disappointing 2016 campaign, and Palmer began to show his age as he tossed 14 interceptions and completed just 61 percent of his passes, his lowest rate since 2011 in Oakland. Arizona boasts a solid defense and an All-World playmaker at running back, but could suddenly be in the quarterback market if Palmer decides not to return. There will be a few notable signal callers available through various avenues in coming months, but heading into the offseason without a set plan at quarterback is a scary proposition for a team that is just one year removed from playing in the NFC Championship game.
Steelers In The News
The Pittsburgh Steelers have an interesting offseason ahead of them as they attempt to squeeze new contracts for Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown under the NFL salary cap, but other notable offensive weapons in Pittsburgh also warrant attention as the 2017 season speeds closer.
Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported that suspended Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant has officially applied for reinstatement to the NFL, as the young wide out is hoping to see the field again for the first time since 2015. The return of Bryant would be huge for the Pittsburgh offense, as the Steelers struggled to find production on the outside this season opposite Antonio Brown. The emergence of slot man Eli Rogers should continue in 2017, which would create a formidable receiving group if the NFL reinstates the dynamic Bryant, who has averaged 17.3 yards per catch in two seasons.
Pittsburgh tight end Ladarius Green is no sure bet to return to the Steel City in 2017, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette stated that it’s “possible” that the Steelers move on from Green over the offseason. While battling ankle and concussion issues, Green saw the field in just six games this season and lingering concussion problems could lead to the Steelers letting the athletic tight end go before the 2017 season begins. Fellow Pittsburgh tight end Jesse James was fourth on the team with 39 receptions in 2016 and caught 11 passes for 134 yards in Pittsburgh’s three playoff games. James figures to handle the starting tight end role if Green is actually released.
The Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette also believes that Antonio Brown’s “antics are wearing thin on some of his teammates and certainly his coaches,” thanks in part to his Facebook stunt in the Pittsburgh locker room after the Steelers topped the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Brown is under contract for the 2017 season, but will likely be in serious negotiations for a contract extension over the offseason. Brown can be a handful at times, but it’s awfully hard to imagine Pittsburgh letting a wide receiver of Brown’s caliber walk out the door after next season.