Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle has become a receptions machine.
On Sunday, Waddle took his production to historic levels.
With his third catch of the game against the New England Patriots, a 5-yard snag in the first quarter, Waddle collected his 102nd reception of the season and set a new standard for the most catches in a rookie season.
Waddle broke the record previously set by the Arizona Cardinals’ Anquan Boldin in 2003. Boldin (101) and Waddle are the only two rookie receivers in NFL history with 100 catches.
Waddle entered Sunday with 99 grabs and along the way to the record became just the second Dolphins receiver to hit 100 catches in a season. Jarvis Landry had 112 catches in 2017 and 110 in 2015. Waddle finished with 104.
The sixth-overall selection of the 2021 NFL Draft, Waddle has quickly emerged as the No. 1 target of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The two played together at Alabama.
Though often overshadowed by fellow wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, with the Cincinnati Bengals, and New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, Waddle has most assuredly had a rookie season to remember — and one for the record books.
Titans clinch home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs
It’s time for a little celebration in Nashville. The road to the AFC Championship will go through Tennessee.
The Tennessee Titans clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC and home-field advantage and its accompanying bye on the strength of their 28-25 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs will be the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. Both the Titans and Chiefs finished the regular season with 12-5 records, but Tennessee hold the tiebreaker thanks to its Week 7 win in Kansas City.
Tennessee, which has already won back-to-back AFC South crowns for the first time, is now the AFC’s top seed for the first time since 2008.
The Titans are headed to the playoffs for the third season in a row, which is a first since the franchise arrived in Tennessee in 1997 and a first for the club since a run of seven consecutive playoff appearances from 1987-1993.
With Derrick Henry on the road back from injury, the Titans are taking a three-game winning streak into the postseason with a bye week ahead. Tennessee is on a roll heading into the playoffs.
Jaguars secure No. 1 overall pick in 2022 NFL Draft
For the second straight year, the Jacksonville Jaguars have secured the first overall pick in the NFL draft.
The Jaguars improved to 3-14 with Sunday’s stunning upset of the Colts, while the team with the second-worst record in the league, the Lions (3-13-1), closed out the regular season by locking up the No. 2 overall pick with an upset of its own, knocking off the Packers 37-30. This would be the sixth time in the common draft era (since 1967) that a team has selected No. 1 overall in consecutive drafts. The Browns are the last team to do so (2017-2018, when they picked Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield).
Much like last season, there was a late-year switch at the top of the draft board. Detroit had been positioned at No. 1 until Dec. 19, but its improvement in the second half of the season, coupled with a Jaguars losing streak that stood at eight games prior to Sunday, put Jacksonville in the driver’s seat. A year ago, the Jets slipped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the order by winning two of their final three games.
There was little doubt about whom the Jaguars would choose once they clinched the first pick in the 2021 draft. The QB-needy team found its match in Trevor Lawrence, who struggled mightily in a chaotic and disappointing season for the franchise, which is currently in the process of interviewing candidates to replace former head coach Urban Meyer. With four months of prospect evaluations still ahead, the pick at No. 1 is less certain this time around, although Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson has emerged as a candidate with a sensational senior season for the Wolverines. Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is among the top underclassmen who have declared their intent to enter the 2022 draft ahead of the Jan. 17 deadline.
The 2022 NFL Draft is scheduled to held April 28-30 in Las Vegas.
Saints QB Taysom Hill injury update; plus, more NFL news from Week 18’s Sunday games
Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum (back) exited early versus Seattle. Running backs James Conner (ribs) and Jonathan Ward (knee) exited after suffering injuries in the fourth quarter.
Baltimore Ravens running back Devonta Freeman (rib) and receiver Tylan Wallace (thigh) did not return against Pittsburgh.
Cincinnati Bengals safety Ricardo Allen (concussion) and defensive tackle Josh Tupou (knee) were ruled out against Cleveland. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III suffered an ankle injury.
Cleveland Browns receiver Rashard Higgins (illness) and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (leg) were ruled out against Cincinnati.
Detroit Lions center Evan Brown injured his ankle against Green Bay.
Green Bay Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (back) and cornerback Chandon Sullivan (knee) exited early against Detroit.
Houston Texans receiver Brandin Cooks (knee) and cornerback A.J. Moore (shoulder) exited early against Tennessee.
Miami Dolphins defensive back Eric Rowe (back) exited early against the Patriots.
New England Patriots offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn exited early against the Dolphins due to an ankle injury. Cornerback Shaun Wade was added to the injury report prior to the game with an illness) and was later deemed inactive. Defensive tackle Christian Barmore, who was carted off the field today, will have an MRI on his knee tomorrow, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Barmore’s initial exams were promising and indicated no major injury, Rapoport added.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill suffered a Lisfranc injury in the second quarter against the Falcons, coach Sean Payton told FOX. Hill did not return after initially being listed as questionable.
New York Giants guard Will Hernandez was ruled out against Washington with an ankle injury.
The New York Jets ruled receiver Jamison Crowder (calf) out against Buffalo.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Tyree Jackson suffered a torn ACL against Dallas, an MRI revealed, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported.
San Francisco 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt suffered a groin injury late against the Rams. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky did not return due to a concussion.
Seattle Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula late in Sunday’s win over Arizona, per coach Pete Carroll. Diggs will stay in Arizona overnight to undergo further evaluation. Diggs is believed to have suffered a closed fracture with no ligament damage, is projected to return to the field in four months, according to Rapoport. Carroll also said the team is considering whether receiver DK Metcalf will need surgery in the offseason for a bone spur in his foot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean (hamstring) exited early against Carolina.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank has COVID-19, won’t attend season finale vs. Saints
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has contracted COVID-19 and will not be in attendance at his team’s Week 18 game against the New Orleans Saints, the team announced.
The Falcons said that Blank, 79, is “doing well and is in great spirits, experiencing only mild symptoms at this time.” Blank is fully vaccinated and has received his booster shot.
The club added that this is the first game that Blank won’t see in-person since becoming Falcons owner in 2002.
Atlanta (7-9) and New Orleans (8-8) kick off at 4:25 p.m. ET from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The Saints need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, while Atlanta has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Notable NFL, team records set in Week 18 of 2021 season
Records are meant to be broken, and several were in Week 18 of the 2021 season. Below is a list of new marks that were set in the final week of the regular season.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews surpassed Derrick Mason for the franchise’s single-season receptions record (103).
Cincinnati Bengals rookie wideout Ja’Marr Chase broke Chad Johnson’s franchise mark for receiving yards in a single season (1,440).
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott tossed five touchdowns in a win over the Eagles to finish with 37 for the season, eclipsing Tony Romo’s team record.
Detroit Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown passed Roy Williams’ franchise record for receiving yards by a rookie (817).
Green Bay Packers wideout Davante Adams set the franchise record for receiving yards in a single season, breaking Jordy Nelson’s mark from 2014 (1,519).
Miami Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle broke Anquan Boldin’s single-season record for receptions by a rookie (101).
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt tied Michael Strahan’s NFL record for sacks in a single season (22.5).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady broke Drew Brees’ NFL record for completions in a season (471). Brady also became the oldest player (age 44) in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season. Wideout Mike Evans caught his 14th touchdown of the season, setting the franchise record. He also reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the eighth consecutive season, extending his record for the most consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to begin a career in NFL history.
Steelers’ T.J. Watt ties Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record
Across 20 seasons, Michael Strahan’s single-season sack standard has stood upon shaky ground.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt capped a stellar 2021 campaign by tying Strahan’s sack record to join him as the NFL’s single-season sack king.
Watt tracked down Baltimore Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley near the end of the first half for his first sack of the game and a record-tying 22.5 on the season to join the history books. The Steelers, clinging to their playoff lives, rallied to win 16-13 in overtime.
While Watt tied the record against the Ravens, it was a sensational four-sack performance on Monday night against the Cleveland Browns that thrust the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate into the record-breaking realm. Against Cleveland, perhaps fittingly, one of Watt’s sacks came on a Baker Mayfield slide.
For over two decades, many have passionately argued about the legitimacy of Strahan’s crown as single-season sack kick. The New York Giants legend and Hall of Famer famously — or infamously, depending on your vantage point — established a new sack record in a 2001 Week 17 game against the Green Bay Packers, when quarterback Brett Favre rolled into Strahan’s pass-rushing path and slid down at his feet.
Strahan passed the New York Jets’ Mark Gastineau’s mark of 22 sacks set in 1984.
Now, perhaps, Watt will fend off qualms about him tying a new record in his team’s 17th game of the season. Perhaps fittingly it will be an asterisk versus asterisk argument. However, Watt established his total tally in only 15 games as he’s missed two during this season and Strahan played in all 16 in 2001.
Sacks were first recorded in 1982 as official NFL statistics, so Watt has tied the official record.
However, Detroit Lions standout Al Baker was seen as the unofficial record holder after Pro Football Reference, in 2021, counted up sacks from seasons prior to 1982 and found Baker had tallied 23 in 1978.
Broncos fire HC Vic Fangio after three seasons
After more than 30 years coaching in the NFL, Vic Fangio got the long-awaited opportunity in 2019 to be an NFL head coach.
However, after three seasons in which his Denver Broncos failed to make the postseason, Fangio’s opportunity has been lost.
Fangio was fired Sunday morning, one day after a season-ending 28-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported. The team later confirmed the move.
Fangio leaves Denver with a 19-30 record as Broncos coach from 2019-2021.
“The foundation is in place for this team to accomplish great things,” Fangio said in a statement. “The future is bright for the Denver Broncos, and I wish the organization nothing but the best.”
In the lead-up to Denver’s final game of the season, Fangio met with Broncos first-year general manager George Paton to lay out a case for remaining as the team’s head coach. Though no decision was made at the time, it was thought by many that Paton would move on, and he has.
“I have tremendous respect for Vic and all he’s accomplished in the NFL,” Paton said in a statement. “Over the past year, I appreciate his partnership, friendship and the tireless work ethic he demonstrated as our head coach. …
“With the foundation in place, the progress that’s been made and the resources we have to get better, I’m excited about the future of our team. We will find an outstanding leader and head coach for the Broncos and our fans.”
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Fangio again made his case to Paton following Saturday night’s loss, noting the team’s disparity at quarterback compared to the rest of the AFC West. But Paton wants to bring in his own coach, Garafolo added.
“George will have full authority to select the next head coach of the Broncos,” Broncos CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. “This is his decision and his program.”
It signals another sizable shift for the franchise, which traded away the face of the franchise, Von Miller, earlier in the season, is in the market for yet another starting quarterback and will now be looking for a new head coach, as well.
As for Fangio, 63, it’s likely he’ll have little problem finding a role as a defensive coordinator if he desires one. He was previously a DC for the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers.
Though promise and talented rosters accompanied each of Fangio’s seasons in Denver, he posted three straight losing seasons as the club continued to flounder after its Super Bowl 50 win in the 2015 season.
Denver has failed to return to the playoffs in each of the last six seasons since its Super Bowl win and has run up five consecutive losing campaigns in the process.
Fangio was ultimately unable to alter the Broncos’ course, and another fresh start beckons for him and the franchise.
The 2018 AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year after helming a stellar Bears defense, Fangio was plucked by the Broncos ahead of the 2019 campaign.
Heading into Saturday’s game against the Chiefs, Fangio’s Broncos defense was No. 9 overall in the NFL and No. 3 in scoring. It was rarely defense that was the problem under Fangio’s umbrella, though.
Issues on offense, and particularly at the quarterback position, have plagued the Broncos prior to Fangio’s arrival and continue upon his departure.
In Fangio’s three years in Denver, seven players played at quarterback, from Joe Flacco to Teddy Bridgewater, with plenty of Drew Lock and even a Kendall Hinton cameo in between.
None of the QBs called to action provided a long-term answer — or much of a short-term one, at that. Bridgewater, who missed the final stretch of the 2021 season with a concussion, is set for free agency, and Lock, though he has one season left on his rookie contract, might not be long for the team, either.
Fangio had good relationships with players and the front office alike, and was respected for his work ethic and defensive mind. But he was unable to rescue the Broncos from their postseason drought.
So, Denver has parted ways with Fangio and is looking for a new direction, yet again.
Lions, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn parting ways after one season
Anthony Lynn is out in Detroit after just one season with the club.
The Lions and the offensive coordinator are expected to part ways following Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per sources.
Lynn was hired by first-year coach Dan Campbell in January 2021 after a four-year spell as a head coach.
A former NFL running back of eight seasons and assistant coach of 17 campaigns, Lynn was hired as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017. He spent four seasons in L.A., shepherding the Bolts to a 33-31 record and one postseason appearance in their new locale. Lynn was fired after a second straight sub-.500 season in 2020.
In Detroit, Lynn was among a slew of former players hired as coaches under Campbell, a former NFL tight end and first-time head coach himself. He was joined by Duce Staley (assistant HC), Aaron Glenn (defensive coordinator), Mark Brunell (quarterbacks) and Antwaan Randle El (wide receivers), among others.
The Lions offense, led by Lynn, quarterback Jared Goff, running back D’Andre Swift and tight end T.J. Hockenson, struggled to propel Detroit to many victories and broke 20 points just once in its first 11 games. The Lions enter Week 18 ranked 22nd in total offense and 28th in scoring offense; Detroit’s third-down and red-zone attacks have also been among the league’s worst.
Things got so dire for Lynn and the Lions that the OC was stripped of play-calling duties in November after Detroit’s 0-8-1 start. Campbell took over the offensive reins, a move that Lynn, at the time, did not see as a “demotion.”
“I’ve been in Dan’s shoes, and if I was 0-8 and I need to spark my team, then as an offensive guy, I probably would’ve done the same thing, to be honest with you, and I have,” Lynn said. “I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t agree with what he did.”
Now Lynn will have the opportunity to find a spark with a new team, either as an offensive coordinator, a running backs coach or even a head coach.