As bittersweet as it is, now is the time of year when the NFL news cycle begins to slow down a bit in terms of fantasy-relevant news. Luckily, we still have two more weeks of four-game football slates in the Wild-card and Divisional rounds.
First, we’ll delve into Wednesday’s news with an eye towards the Wildcard games and follow it up with items and notes from around the league.
Wildcard Round News and Notes
DeAngelo Williams (ankle) was seen again in a walking boot on Wednesday. He did not practice. The Steelers are calling Williams “day-to-day” – but at this point there is no reason to expect Williams to play against the Bengals in the Wildcard round. Keep in mind Pittsburgh plays on Saturday, giving Williams one less day to recuperate than he usually would have. The Steelers haven’t signed a back off of the street like they did in the 2014-15 playoffs with Ben Tate after Le’Veon Bell went down injured the prior week.
So in all likelihood, Pittsburgh will roll with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman at running back against Cincinnati to begin the playoffs. An undrafted free agent out of Michigan, Toussaint owns an 82nd percentile SPARQx score per Player Profiler and handled all of the Steelers’ running back snaps (34) and touches (12) after Williams’ injury. Jordan Todman was not active in Week 17 and has just four carries to his name in the 2015 regular season. Todman spent time with Minnesota, San Diego and Jacksonville before joining Pittsburgh in 2015.
Per Seahawks’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, there is “no reason” Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) can’t have 20-25 carries against the Vikings on Sunday in the Wildcard round. Take this statement with a massive grain of salt. Lynch hasn’t played in nearly two months. We should expect Lynch to have a semi-normal workload of 12-18 touches, but a huge carry load coming off of a lengthy absence after surgery wouldn’t necessarily be conventional. Lynch handled 20-plus carries just twice during his seven active regular season games this season.
After missing Weeks 16 and 17 with a hip pointer, Matt Jones returned to a limited practice on Wednesday. Head coach Jay Gruden hinted that unless Jones gets healthy quickly, he’ll be the “odd man out” on Sunday against the Packers. That statement can mean a number of things, but we shouldn’t necessarily expect Jones to be inactive in the Wildcard round. This is a situation worth monitoring because when both Jones and Alfred Morris were healthy during Weeks 12-15, carries were split right down the middle (13.5 per game each). Morris handled 66.6% of Washington’s running back carries during the final two weeks of the regular season without Matt Jones, turning them into 17-49 (2.88 YPC) and 19-100 (5.26 YPC) during those two starts.
Around The League
Shockingly, the Bucs’ fired Lovie Smith late-Wednesday evening after he spent two seasons with the club. Smith went 8-24 in those two seasons. Relatively speaking, getting six wins with a rookie quarterback that was selected No. 1 overall is a feat in and of itself. Who knows if there is more news to this firing, but the Bucs clearly feel their organization was not headed in the correct direction under Lovie Smith.
Calvin Johnson is reportedly mulling over retirement after nine pro seasons. Johnson said, "Like many players at this stage of their career, I am currently evaluating options for my future”. Johnson has played three straight seasons without seemingly ever being 100 percent healthy and is approaching his age-31 season in 2016. Detroit can save $11 million in cap space by releasing Johnson outright and could recoup up to $9.7 million in bonus money if Johnson retires.
Dez Bryant underwent foot and ankle surgeries on Wednesday and is expected to be ready for Dallas’ offseason program. … Jeremy Maclin (hip) returned to practice on Wednesday. … Andy Dalton (thumb) did not practice on Wednesday. A.J. McCarron will start in his fourth straight game. … Nate Washington (hip) did not practice on Wednesday and Cecil Shorts (hamstring) has “a shot at playing” against the Chiefs in the Wildcard round. … After missing the NFC North title game, Packers’ LT David Bakhtiari (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. … Finally, Linval Joseph (foot) returned to practice on Wednesday. He missed Weeks 13-15 and 17 with the foot ailment.