Wed Jan 19 1:41am ET
By MITCH STACY
AP Sports Writer
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
CINCINNATI (AP) The Bengals won a playoff game for the first time in three decades in the wild-card round, however it was difficult to tell by looking at Joe Burrow sitting at the podium afterward behind rose-colored Cartier shades.
''I mean it's exciting, but this was expected,'' the Cincinnati quarterback shrugged after the 26-19 win over the Las Vegas Raiders last week. ''This isn't like the icing on top of the cake or anything - this is the cake. So we're moving on.''
Swaggering on, is more like it.
''Joey Franchise'' will now try to get the Bengals (11-7) over another hump as they seek their first road playoff win in team history Saturday at Nashville against the Tennessee Titans (12-5).
Cincinnati is 0-7 on the road in the postseason going back to 1970.
Regardless of what happens, it's difficult to overstate Burrow's value to the organization. He's turned out to be the combination of confidence, work ethic, leadership and guts the downtrodden Bengals sought when they drafted him first overall in 2020.
''We trust in Joe,'' coach Zac Taylor said. ''The more I've been around, I've learned to just shut my mouth and let the magic occur.''
A single astounding play from Cincinnati's win over the Raiders showed Burrow's keen ability to see the field and calculate risk vs. reward in the blink of an eye.
Late in the first half, the Bengals had a third-and-4 from the Raiders 10. Burrow took a shotgun snap, stepped forward as the pocket collapsed and then scrambled right with defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson on his tail.
With no receivers open, he might have run out of bounds or thrown it away so Evan McPherson could come on for a chip-shot field goal.
But at the 11-yard line, Burrow pushed off with his right foot into the air and released the ball a split-second before his momentum carried him out of bounds. Tyler Boyd made the catch at the back of the end zone.
The Raiders argued that the official on the sideline thought Burrow went out of bounds and blew the play dead. After a replay, the touchdown was allowed to stand, and the Bengals were up by two scores.
In Joe we trust.
''Plays like that, you can't explain,'' Taylor said. ''It's making a play when there's no play to be made.''
Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel can see for himself.
''(He) just has a really good feel for making all of the throws,'' Vrabel said. ''He is very elusive in the pocket. He takes care of the football. They do a lot with him. He is operating from the line of scrimmage sometimes and getting them into the right call.''
Burrow won the 2019 Heisman Trophy and national championship at LSU. He flashed potential in 2020 before tearing up his left knee in the 10th game of Cincinnati's dismal 4-11-1 season. He had surgery and spent the spring and summer rehabbing.
He still wasn't back to 100 percent as the season began. But as his knee got better, Burrow got better. He shattered franchise records and re-established chemistry with former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase, the Bengals' first-round pick in 2021 who also broke team receiving records on the way to becoming a contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
''He's playing tremendous football,'' Chase said. ''I don't think he's playing any different from when he was playing in 2019 (at LSU). He's just getting smarter as he goes on.''
And staying cool.
''I think the fans were excited, but I try to downplay it and all that because this is how it's going to be from here on out,'' Burrow said Tuesday.
''It's a great win for us, but this is the standard, the bare minimum every year going forward.''
San Francisco 49ers rookie running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) was limited in the team's first practice of the week on Tuesday. Mitchell has been on the team's injury report since he missed three games with a knee injury in Weeks 14 through 16, but he should be fine to work as the team's lead back in the Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday. Since returning from the knee injury, the 23-year-old rookie has carried the ball 69 times for 300 rushing yards and one touchdown against the Texans, Rams and Cowboys. He also has one receiving touchdown in that span. Green Bay's defense allowed 109.1 rushing yards per game during the regular season (tied for 10th in the league) and weren't that friendly of a matchup for the position in fantasy, but Mitchell's volume alone makes him a solid DFS play at his $5,800 DraftKings price tag this weekend.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (concussion) was unable to practice on Tuesday after suffering a concussion in Sunday's wild-card win over the Dallas Cowboys. The good news for the 49ers defense is that linebacker Fred Warner (ankle) received good MRI results and is confident that he will be able to play on Saturday against the Green Bay Packers. He is scheduled for a limited practice Tuesday night. If Bosa, a two-time Pro Bowler, is unable to clear the league's concussion protocol and play this weekend, it's going to make things difficult on a 49ers trying to spring a big upset on the road in Green Bay. Bosa had 52 tackles (40 solo), a league-high 21 tackles for loss, 32 QB hits, four forced fumbles and a career-high 15.5 sacks in 17 regular season games.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder, thumb) will be limited in the team's practice on Tuesday night, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Garoppolo suffered a sprained right shoulder in the wild-card win over the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, but the injury isn't believed to be serious enough to keep him from playing in this Saturday's Divisional Round game against the Green Bay Packers. The 30-year-old has also been playing through a torn ligament in his right thumb that he suffered in Week 16. Garoppolo is as tough as they come, but he'll remain a low-upside, low-cost DFS play as the Niners look to spring a big upset over the Packers this weekend. Jimmy G is the cheapest of the starting QBs in the Divisional Round at a DraftKings salary of $5,200.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said the offense had plenty of shortcomings in 2021, but he didn't place all the blame on offensive coordinator Matt Canada, suggesting that he will return in 2022. The Steelers finished 29th in rushing offense (93.1 yards per game) and averaged nine more yards per game than in 2020, when they finished last in the NFL. However, in at least 10 other offensive categories, the team was worse in 2021 than last year, including points per game (20.2), yards per game (315.4), third-down percentage (38.9) and time of possession (29:17). The Steelers had 16 fewer touchdowns than a season ago with one extra regular season game. While Canada may return for another year, the Pittsburgh offense could be in trouble with quarterback Mason Rudolph in line to start in 2022 with Ben Roethlisberger set to retire.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (concussion) was able to get in a limited practice on Tuesday after he suffered a concussion in the wild-card win over the Las Vegas Raiders last Saturday. Barring a setback this week, Hendrickson could pass through the league's concussion protocol and be able to play this Saturday in the Divisional Round against the top-seeded Tennessee Titans. The 27-year-old has been vital to Cincy's pass rush, earning his first Pro Bowl nod with 34 tackles (21 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 27 QB hits, three forced fumbles and a career-high 14 sacks in 16 regular season games. Hendrickson recorded a sacks against the Raiders last week as well. The Bengals D will have the tall task of trying to stop running back Derrick Henry (foot) if he returns from Injured Reserve.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said that wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (knee) should be healthy in the next month. Hopkins missed three games with a hamstring injury and the team's final five games of the season, including Monday night's wild-card loss to the division-rival Los Angeles Rams. The Cardinals offense limped to the finish line and wasn't the same without the 29-year-old five-time Pro Bowl receiver. Hopkins was the clear No. 1 target for quarterback Kyler Murray when he was healthy, though, catching 42 of his 64 targets for 572 yards (13.6 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns in 10 games. That should again be the case in 2022, but it will be interesting to see what the rest of the receiving corps behind Hopkins looks like, as both A.J. Green and Christian Kirk will be unrestricted free agents this March.
Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker (concussion), who was taken off the field on a stretcher after a scary collision with running back Cam Akers late in the third quarter of Monday night's wild-card loss to the Los Angeles Rams, was released from a local hospital on Tuesday after being cleared by doctors. Baker said that he is "going to make a full recovery." The 26-year-old earned his fourth Pro Bowl nomination this year and recorded 98 tackles and three interceptions during the regular season. Baker will have plenty of time to recover from his head injury during the offseason and will return in 2022 as a key member of Arizona's secondary.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (back), who didn't practice during last week's bye, was limited in practice on Tuesday. Valdes-Scantling injured his back in the Week 18 regular season finale against the Detroit Lions and was rested last week. But the 27-year-old is back on the practice field to begin the week ahead of Saturday's Divisional Round clash against the San Francisco 49ers. MVS will be a boom-or-bust DFS sleeper this week against San Francisco. He had just one game with over 100 receiving yards in 2021 and scored only three times in 11 games, but one of those scores came in Week 3 against the 49ers, when he went for 59 yards on three catches. Valdes-Scantling can disappear for large stretches, though, and he averaged only 2.4 receptions and 39.1 receiving yards per game this season.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (toe) was a full participant in practice on Tuesday. Rodgers fractured his left pinkie toe in mid-November, but he was practicing in full during last week's playoff bye and said his toe won't be an issue during the postseason. To be completely honest, his toe really has never been much of an issue for the future Hall of Famer, at least performance-wise, as he went 170-for-236 for 1,929 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and no interceptions in the final seven games of the regular season. He also ran the ball 13 times for 46 yards and one touchdown. Rodgers is the third-most expensive QB at DraftKings ($7,100) for the Divisional Round against the San Francisco 49ers. He went 23-for-33 for 261 yards, two TDs and no picks against them in a two-point win back in Week 3.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (knee) was listed as a full participant at Tuesday's practice. Jones has mostly been limited on the team's practice reports since he injured his knee back in Week 10, but he's only missed one game due to the injury. It appears that the team's bye in the wild-card round did his knee some good. The 27-year-old will be available for the Divisional Round game against the San Francisco 49ers this Saturday. Jones will continue to operate as the 1A to A.J. Dillon's 1B in Green Bay's backfield, which makes him a little pricey at his $6,800 DraftKings salary (second-highest among RBs). Jones went for 82 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against the Niners back in Week 3, but the 49ers run D has been strong all year and has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to RBs in the last three weeks of the regular season.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (foot) was in pads and was taking contact during practice on Tuesday. Henry didn't look to be limited at all, but the Titans want to see a full week of practice from him before they activate him from Injured Reserve. The 28-year-old should be active for the Divisional Round game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, though, barring some sort of setback. It's fair to wonder if he'll be the same dominating King Henry if he plays, since he hasn't played in a game since Week 8 after undergoing foot surgery. Henry has been the most explosive and productive RB in the NFL when he's healthy, however, and his $7,500 DraftKings salary (highest among RBs) for the week is indicative of just how good he is despite a long layoff.
Updating previous reports, Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker (concussion) was cleared by physicians at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and is on his way back home to Arizona on Tuesday, Jan. 18, according to a team source.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds failed to create much noise against the Los Angeles Rams. He rushed eight times for 28 yards in Monday's Wild Card round loss. Edmonds entered the season as the main option, but that quickly changed. James Conner took advantage of his chances and finished with a career-high 15 touchdowns. It doesn't help that Edmonds missed a majority of the second half of the season due to injuries. He rushed a career-high 116 times for 592 yards in 2021. Also, Edmonds hauled in 43-of-53 targets for 311 scoreless yards through the air. He is set to become a free agent this offseason, but doesn't exactly have the stats to back him up. Edmonds certainly has potential, but always seems to end up falling behind someone on the depth chart. Hopefully, he can find the right fit for himself this offseason.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected to move on from the Steelers as head coach Mike Tomlin said they're proceeding with the assumption he's done in Pittsburgh.
Fantasy Spin: Big Ben is expected to retire, and the team may pivot to Mason Rudolph. Rudolph would be a QB2 in fantasy if he were to land the starting gig.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk saw an increased role with the team over the final month of the season. The Cardinals were without DeAndre Hopkins (knee) which meant Kirk became the No. 1 option for this team. Kirk did what he could versus the Los Angeles Rams during their Wild Card matchup on Sunday. He hauled in six of his 10 targets for 51 yards in the loss. Kirk has set himself up nicely for free agency with a strong campaign during his fourth season. He posted 77 receptions and 982 yards which are both career highs for Kirk. It seems likely that some organization is going to give Kirk a nice payday this offseason. He has shown that he's not quite a No. 1 option, but he certainly can do damage on the field.
Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has been requested for an interview for the Minnesota Vikings' head coaching position.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has likely taken his last snap in the NFL. The organization is under the assumption that the 40-year-old quarterback won't return in 2022. That being said, Mason Rudolph would be the next option in line. He is currently signed through the 2022 season. It appears Rudolph is in line to start next season unless the Steelers make a move in free agency or the NFL Draft. It's uncertain what direction the Steelers plan to go next year. Although, it seems possible that they let Rudolph play quarterback for one season and attempt to secure a high draft pick for a QB in 2023. There are plenty of options on the table for Pittsburgh, but it appears Big Ben will not be one of them.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is unlikely to suit up for the organization again, according to general manager Nick Caserio. Watson sat out the entire 2021 season due to the fact he faces more than 20 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct. That being said, the price for Watson is uncertain due to this ongoing legal situation. The Miami Dolphins were reportedly interested in Watson, but have dropped out of the sweepstakes after firing head coach Brian Flores. At this point, there doesn't seem to be any other organizations seeking Watson. The Texans seem set with giving Davis Mills another shot under center. He showed flashes of potential during his rookie campaign in 2021. The Watson trade rumors are likely going to heat up this offseason, but it appears Houston is officially done with Watson.