With the Divisional Round upon us, NFL.com's network of reporters gets you up to speed with the hottest news and notes from across the league, including:
But first, a look at Bill O'Brien's murky situation heading into Saturday night's Divisional Round game ...
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"I got home the other night and my wife (Colleen) asks me, 'Where are we living next year?' " O'Brien told me Monday during an interview that will air Saturday on NFL Network's "GameDay Morning". "Look, things are out there, and you can't control everything that's out there. I signed a five-year contract when I came here. I've enjoyed coaching here. We like living here. So at the end of the day, the Houston Texans are a place that we enjoy working.
"Whatever the future holds, it holds, but like I said, I have two years left on my contract, so we'll see what happens."
According tovarious reports -- and based on my conversations with numerous sources -- a breakup between O'Brien and the Texans remains possible, even with Houston in position to reach its first-ever AFC Championship Game with an upset of the heavily-favored Pats. If the Texans succumb Saturday night, McNair will have to decide whether to fire O'Brien (which would be somewhat surprising); to try to trade him to another team (only the San Francisco 49ers have yet to fill their head-coaching vacancy); or to retain him and hope that the working relationship between his coach and GM does not further deteriorate in 2017.
Were O'Brien to be available, 49ers owner Jed York likely would be interested; trading a draft pick to acquire him would be far less palatable. Barring a mystery team suddenly swooping in, the smart money is still on O'Brien remaining in Houston, where he has guided the Texans to a trio of 9-7 seasons (and consecutive AFC South championships) despite less-than-optimal circumstances.
Exhibit A: Having to start eight quarterbacks over the course of his three-year tenure, including Brock Osweiler, acquired last March via a four-year, $72 million free-agent deal. A major disappointment, The Brock Star was finally benched by O'Brien after throwing two interceptions in a mid-December game against the Jaguars, with replacement Tom Savage leading the team to a one-point victory. However, Savage suffered a concussion early in the team's season-ending defeat to the Titans, and Osweiler was reinserted into the lineup for last Saturday's first-round playoff victory over the Raiders.
Now, even with Savage cleared to return, Osweiler (who performed efficiently against Oakland) will get the start against the Patriots -- and O'Brien told me he won't have a quick hook.
"We're going to stick with Brock," O'Brien said. "Maybe (after being benched) he was able to take a step back and observe some things, and it's a league to me that's all about adversity. I think Brock's done a nice job handling it like a pro.
"I thought he did a nice job in the second half of the Tennessee game, and then he did a very nice job last week. He helped us win a playoff game. He was efficient, he had control of the game and he understood our game plan. We're confident that he'll go up there and execute and play well."
In September, the Texans traveled to Foxborough and played possibly their worst game of O'Brien's tenure, suffering a 27-0 defeat to the Patriots on "Thursday Night Football." Tom Brady, the future Hall of Fame quarterback with whom O'Brien is still close, didn't play in that game; hell, neither did Jimmy Garoppolo. Throw in the fact that Houston's best player, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, was sidelined for the season following the back injury he suffered in that game at Gillette, and the Texans (who nonetheless finished the regular season with the league's No. 1 defense) seem highly unlikely to extend their season beyond Saturday night.
It's an eventuality the perpetually blunt O'Brien isn't afraid to address, even as he wonders about the ramifications that such a defeat might have on his career.
"If we can take care of the ball, and we get into the fourth quarter and it's a close game, anything can happen in the playoffs," he said. "But if we go in there and we kind of dip our toe in the water, they come out fast and we're behind 10-nothing, 17-nothing, obviously it's going to be a long night."
If that happens, O'Brien will quickly find out whether he's moving forward as the Texans' coach -- or whether he and his wife are moving to a new city.
And now, the rest of this week's notes from NFL.com's reporters:
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"This is what I see: I see a guy who needs to think about some of the things that he does," Reese said. "Everybody knows that he is a gifted player, but there are some things that he has done that he needs to look at himself in the mirror and be honest with himself about, and I think he will do that. We will help him with that, but he has to help himself, and we believe he will do that. He is a smart guy, but sometimes he doesn't do smart things."
As Beckham enters his fourth year in the NFL, the Giants will insist he balance his passionate approach to the game with the emotional wherewithal to avoid, say, punching a hole in the wall in a visiting locker room.
Eli Manning, as is often the case, had a logical take: "I don't have concerns. I think Odell is passionate. He's passionate and he wants to win. This was important for him. He wanted to go out there and have the best game of his career (in the Wild Card Round). Maybe he put too much pressure on himself."
"The playoffs are different," Manning said. "I hate to say that when I'm in my 13th year, but sometimes guys just have to go through it and see what it's like. Understand that they can't make it bigger than what it is. You have to have a calm mindset and just go out there and play football. Be relaxed and bring out your best. Don't try to play your best -- you just have to trust the training and just go do it. I think Odell is going to be fine. He's learning every year and this is another learning experience for him."
Beckham is bright and, obviously, valued highly by the Giants. There is optimism within the organization that he realizes some changes would benefit him and his team.
Big Blue's confounding offensive struggles. The Giants' season ended the way it began -- with the offense stuck in neutral. New York scored fewer than 20 points in six straight games to close out the season, managing just 13 in the playoff loss at Lambeau Field, tying the Browns for the longest such streak by any NFL team this season. (Think about that.)
The 2015 Giants, with Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator/play caller, scored more than a touchdown per game more than the 2016 edition, with head coach McAdoo calling the plays. Big Blue will look seriously at play calling -- and who should do it -- this offseason.
A former No. 9 overall pick's uncertain future. For two years, the Giants hoped Ereck Flowers would find his footing at left tackle, trust his technique and respond to coaching. According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers ranked 59th out of 81 tackles in 2016 -- and over the past two seasons, he has allowed 128 pressures, 16 more than anyone else in the league.
Reese called Flowers, who will turn 23 in April, "still a young player." But the GM also said: "It is time for him to show us the fruits of being a first-round draft pick, and I still think he has a chance to do that. ... Is he the left tackle? Should he be in a different position? We will evaluate that."
The Giants need help at both tackle positions, and Flowers could be moved to the right side. At least some in the organization do not view Flowers as a viable candidate to play guard.
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NEW YORK JETS: Curious reporting around Hackenberg. In the wake of the New York Jets' 5-11 season, the whisperers and anonymous voices in Florham Park have found a curious target: Christian Hackenberg, who did not play a snap in his rookie season.
There have been implications that the Jets already have given up on Hackenberg, which makes little sense. General manager Mike Maccagnan used the 51st overall pick to draft him, and his early on-field development was stunted by having three quarterbacks ahead of him.
There also have been suggestions that Hackenberg's mental aptitude for the game and his toughness now are doubted by the Jets. Hackenberg's understanding of the game was considered one of his strengths heading into the draft, and his toughness was proven somewhere along the way at Penn State when he was sacked 103 times in three seasons and never missed a start.
"I'm not going to necessarily (respond to) an unnamed source on that," Maccagnan said recently. "From our standpoint, we like Christian as a prospect. He is a young player. He's only 21 years old. He has made progress.
"He does have potential that we're focused on trying to make him develop. From that standpoint, as the season progressed, he did improve and made progress."
Look at it this way, Jets fans: After Fitzpatrick put up a 69.6 passer rating (30th in the league) to go with 17 interceptions (third-most), it can't get any worse, can it?
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PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Todd Haley's big effect on Big Ben. One of the most magical things about Ben Roethlisberger's style (to fans) is his refusal to ever believe a play is dead. One of the most maddening things about Roethlisberger's style (to Steelers brass) is his refusal to ever believe a play is dead.
When offensive coordinator Todd Haley was hired five years ago, one of his charges was to better protect Roethlisberger. The QB's sack total immediately dropped in 2012, and in the last two years, he's been taken down a combined 37 times. Consider this: In five of the six years before Haley's arrival, he exceeded that total in a single season. Haley certainly has worked with Roethlisberger to cut his release time, but he gave credit to the 34-year-old quarterback for becoming more selective in when to make, as he termed it, "a Ben-like play."
"I think he is just making really good pre-snap decisions and post-snap decisions," Haley said. "When you are seeing pressures and blitzes, it takes great understanding by everybody, including Ben, of knowing when the ball has to come out early and when it doesn't have to."
DC Butler pressed back into LB roots. It's familiar ground for Steelers' defensive coordinator Keith Butler, working with linebackers. He was a linebacker for 10 years in the NFL, he coached the position from 1990 (when he entered the business, at Memphis) to 2015 (when he was promoted to his current job in Pittsburgh), and in the last two years, it's the position group that probably comes under the most scrutiny. So this week, when the Steelers placed outside linebackers coach Joey Porter on leave after an alleged Sunday night dustup outside a Pittsburgh bar (more on that in a minute), Butler took over his one-time charge's duties.
In the past, outside linebacker was the position that made this defense go. The Steelers are more multiple now, bringing pressure from anywhere and dropping back just about anyone (a point Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith highlighted this week). But at the same time, they have used two of their last four first-round picks on outside linebackers (Jones and Bud Dupree). Butler refused to say the extra workload of breaking down one position group in addition to his coordinating duties was taxing -- although he did joke that he could've let 38-year-old linebacker James Harrison coach the unit.
Undesirable weather in K.C. won't faze the Steelers. The weather outlook for Sunday's AFC Divisional Round matchup between the Steelers and Chiefs is not particularly pleasant. Meteorologists are predicting heavy and consistent precipitation, as part of an ice storm, and temperatures hovering right around freezing in Kansas City. None of which fazes the visiting Steelers.
"We played in minus-7 degrees last week," running back DeAngelo Williams said, citing the wind chill in the Steelers' 30-12 wild-card win over the Dolphins. "That was cold, and that wind in your face -- it hurt. That was weather. This is fine."
UPDATE: The start time for Sunday's Steelers-Chiefs game in Kansas City has been moved back from 1:05 p.m. ET to 8:20 p.m. ET due to weather.