It’s the final Sunday of the NFL regular season and two of the state NFL teams have games with playoff implications and the third tries to finish the season at the .500 mark.
First, in Foxboro, MA, the Dolphins travel to the wintry Northeast to battle the Patriots in a rematch of a week two disaster, where New England shutout Miami 43 – 0. New England needs to win this game to assure themselves of the number two seed and a bye in the AFC playoff picture.
Miami won dramatically over Cincinnati a week ago 38 – 35 in overtime in a game that they blew a 23 point lead in in the final 7 minutes. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense have been better in the second half of the season, including him finding chemistry with DeVante Parker with a lot of regularity and success. However, Parker will likely be guarded by Patriots outstanding corner Stephon Gilmore for much of this contest.
New England’s offense has struggled for much of the year, but they have dominated the series in Foxboro with Miami having won nine straight. The game also marks the New England return of Fins coach Brian Flores to face his mentor, Bill Belichick. Flores was the defensive coordinator for the Pats title team a year ago.
In Jacksonville, the Jaguars will finish the season playing the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have a very small chance of making the AFC wild card if they are victorious and several other things happen, including involving losses for the Steelers, the Titans and the Raiders.
The backdrop of this game also contains uncertainty about third-year Jacksonville Coach Doug Marrone. An ESPN report surfaced Saturday afternoon that Marrone has already been told he will be fired after this game. However, owner Shad Khan denied that any decision will not be made until he meets with Marrone next week.
The Jaguars have stumbled badly down the stretch of the season losing six of their last seven games and will likely be without star running back Leonard Fournette, who is battling the flu and was downgraded to doubtful on the injury list.
Meanwhile, Indy won a week ago at home over Carolina and QB Jacoby Brissett and the Colts handled the Jaguar defense easily in a big victory last month at home.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston continues to be a “passing contradiction,” as he leads the league in interceptions with 28, including incredibly throwing a pick on his first pass of the game in each of the last three games.
However, Winston needs only 92 yards to throw for 5,000 yards this season and the Buccaneers are third in the NFL in scoring at 29.7 points per game. So, that indicates that after he makes his early mistakes, Winston tends to shake them and have great success.
Now, the Falcons come in rejuvenated off of a 1 – 7 start, but having put things together to go 5-2 over the last seven games with Matt Ryan playing better and a switching the defensive coaching staff. Former Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris has been calling the defense in recent weeks instead of head coach Dan Quinn.
And, Friday Morris was promoted to the full-time defensive coordinator role for next year, as part of Falcons owner Arthur Blank announcing that Quinn will be back in 2020.
Altanta will also have a healthy Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones in this rematch, which was not the case when the Buccaneers beat the Atlanta in their November meeting.
In that game Tampa Bay sacked Ryan five times and Winston overcame two early INTS on their way to an easy way 33 – 22.
Bucs Edge Shaq Barrett can break the team single sack record if he gets at least half a sack in the finale.
Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa present to start NFL combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is getting underway in Indianapolis this week and on Monday morning, one of the prized quarterbacks that will be available early in the first round of the draft was there for official measurements and to meet with teams.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, whose season ended with a fractured hip last November, is on the road to recovery and he was officially measured and also, met with numerous teams that are looking at the possibility of drafting him:
Tua Tagovailoa measured at 6-0, 217 pounds at the NFL combine today. Left throwing hand at 10”
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) February 24, 2020
In addition to not only the injured hip, but also a history of high ankle sprain problems, Tagovailoa has got to answer critics on his size. At just 6 – 0 feet there will be concerns about his ability to clearly see downfield through the massive bodies on NFL Sundays.
However, this can be combated by moving him around out of the pocket and that’s something that Alabama was successful at doing over his three years as well.
As we wrote recently, Tagovailoa was injured in Alabama’s 10th game of the season suffering a fractured hip on a sack late in the first half at Mississippi State. He missed the Tide’s final two regular-season games and then, their Citrus Bowl win January 1st, over Michigan
He came to Alabama from Hawaii and the same high school as Marcus Mariota, having thrown for over 8,000 yards which at that time was a Hawaii High School record. And, he had a career of 84 passing and 27 rushing touchdowns in three seasons.
Tua burst onto the scene nationally, when he relieved Jalen Hurts in the second half and overtime of Alabama’s thrilling title game win over Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Tagovailoa threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the first overtime possession, as Alabama celebrated their fifth National Title in nine seasons under Saban.
In his second season at the helm in the 2018 regular season, Tagovailoa was named second-team AP All-American and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, as the Tide reached the National Title game, again, before being beaten soundly by Clemson 12 months ago.
As this junior season unfolded, Tagovailoa was named almost became synonymous with the Dolphins, who started the season horribly at 0 – 7 and the moniker “Tank for Tua” began to gain momentum in South Florida.
Tagovailoa is obviously on the Dolphins list to look at strongly to select in the top five in the draft and currently, Miami is slated to pick fifth.
It is expected that Tagovailoa will work out for teams probably later in March or maybe even, early April at the Tide’s facility in Tuscaloosa, prior to the NFL draft coming to Las Vegas.
Colorado announced hire of Dolphins assistant Dorrel Sunday
Former UCLA coach and recently promoted Dolphins assistant Karl Dorrell is headed back to college, as the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
The school confirmed Dorrell’s hire on Sunday evening with a five-year contract to take over their Big 12 program:
We'd like to officially introduce you to our new HC, Karl Dorrell.
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) February 23, 2020
The Buffaloes have been seeking a head coach since there coach Mel Tucker abruptly left to take the Michigan State job earlier this month.
Dorrell came to the dolphins with Brian Flores this past season, as wide receiver coach and earlier last week was promoted to assistant head coach for the upcoming season. Miami’s top receiver, DeVante Parker, blossomed under Dorrell’s tutelage as the year went on. He finished the season with 72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns becoming the favorite target of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Dorrel is the latest Dolphins assistant on the move. Flores fired the offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea he brought with him from New England. And, his defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left to take the same job with the Giants.
Dorrell had also been the Dolphins receivers coach, previously from 2008 – 10 and then, their quarterbacks coach in 2011 under the late Tony Sparano.
“I am excited that Karl Dorrell has agreed to become our head football coach,” George said. “Karl has had great success as a college coach, both as a head coach and an assistant, and he knows the Pac-12 Conference and West Coast well. It was important that our next coach have CU ties, and Karl has those ties having worked at CU twice previously. Karl shares my passion for Colorado and our vision for winning championships. He will be a tremendous mentor and role model for our student-athletes, and he will provide great leadership for our program going forward.”
The CU Board of Regents still have to approve Dorrell’s contract, which will be $18 million for five seasons.
Dorrell had previously been on Colorado staffs two other times in his career, including most recently as offensive coordinator under Rick Neuheisel from 1995- 98.
Dorrell was named head coach of his alma mater UCLA in 2003, where he lasted five seasons and went to a bowl game every year finishing with a career 35 – 27 record before being fired after the 2007 season.
Dorrell had previously been receivers coach for the New York Jets 2015 – 18 under Todd Bowles (above) and two of his receivers had made the Pro Bowl during his time there.
Colorado picked Dorrell from an interview process that also included former Buffaloes player and Kansas City Super Bowl offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, who interviewed and was under strong consideration.