The final week of the regular season is upon us and there is still much to be decided before we are down to 14 teams on the road to Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles. And there is much to be discussed around the league, featuring those still in contention and those who are already looking ahead to 2022. Let's get into the mailbag!
If the Indianapolis Colts do lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars (which I certainly hope they don't) is there any way the Chargers and Raiders would play for a tie to both make the playoffs? – Sebastian Bench.
Not intentionally. I think the pretty clear message coming out of both camps ahead of Sunday Night Football is that they are playing for a win. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley made a point of belittling such talk ahead of this win-and-in showdown.
To obviously play for a tie with, let's say, 60 minutes of kneel-downs would require the kind of collusion that would not only damage the integrity of the sport, it would likely lead to both clubs being asked some probing questions by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
But let's say the game gets down to the final two minutes and into overtime. If both teams were to then play things closer to the chest to avoid losing, I don't think we could blame the Raiders or the Chargers for that. It's not going to happen, though… this massive game is going to provide a winner.
I would like your thoughts on Baker Mayfield's long-term future with the Browns. Do you think he'll get a longer-term deal after the fifth year? If not, do you think franchise tag, release or trade? If the latter, who would be the likely trade candidates? – Chris Langley.
That's a lot of questions, Chris, but this is the major issue in Cleveland this offseason. The Browns have picked up the fifth-year option on Mayfield so they can kick this down the road a little bit, have him play under that final season in 2022 and see how he does.
But it does feel like a potential storm is brewing. And not just from the team's lack of commitment towards the player. Mayfield could, if reports coming out of Cleveland are to be believed, ask for a trade in the coming months. That might get the Browns out from under any big contract they feel compelled to give to a quarterback who needs help around him to succeed.
If he does stay in Cleveland, I don't see Mayfield earning top dollar when it comes to NFL quarterbacks. He should be middle of the pack salary-wise, in my opinion. The likeliest scenario is that he plays for the Browns in 2022 and then we'll see. But if he did land on the trade market, I think teams like Carolina, Denver and New Orleans would be interested.
Do you believe the Denver Broncos are good quarterback play and good coaching away from being an AFC contender? – Martin McDade.
This is a conversation I am keen to have in the Sky Sports NFL studios when we see the Broncos in action against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday night. I'm inclined to agree with what you are suggesting and it's why Denver has been mooted as a potential destination for the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson.
Think about it. They have a pair of 800-yard rushers in Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon who have done really well behind a banged-up offensive line. And the receiving trio of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick is intriguing when all are healthy at the same time.
Add in a top 10 defense and things are looking good outside of the quarterback position. But you also have to wonder about the future of defensive-minded head coach Vic Fangio. He has been accused of overseeing a vanilla offense that doesn't help. Would Denver be as attractive a destination with him still at the helm?
Can I expect the New York Jets to be good next year? – Sean Nolan.
I think you can expect them to be better, Sean. The Jets have shown great spirit in recent weeks and a more care-free attitude has led to some fun-to-watch creativity on offense. New York has four wins on the year, should have beaten Tampa Bay last Sunday and have suffered four other defeats by one score.
Robert Saleh should continue to grow as a head coach and there's no doubt his players are fighting hard for him in the face of adversity. Zach Wilson has plenty of room to improve but you would hope to see that happen in Year 2.
And then, hopefully, the Jets can avoid some of the injuries that devastated them this season. We never saw Carl Lawson rushing the passer as he went down in the preseason, giant offensive tackle Mekhi Becton has been lost for much of the campaign and offensive spark Elijah Moore also got hurt. I'm not predicting the Super Bowl or anything like that, but let's see what New York can do when playing with a full deck.
What do you make of Antonio Brown's statement? – Paul Brace.
I'm not buying it. It's the same old story with Antonio Brown. It's always somebody else's fault. He is toxic and should have a 'Buyer Beware' label slapped on him if another team considers signing him in the future.
No one could have been more welcoming or encouraging to Brown than Tom Brady in recent years, often to his own public detriment. And yet AB has gone after Brady and his trainer, Alex Guerrero, in spectacular fashion. Oh, and he's attacked Bruce Arians and the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization.
I know a lot of people in that building personally and it is a classy organization. And I also would like to think I know Arians better than I know most head coaches in the league. I tend to believe them in this situation and they are the latest reminder that when Brown has his meltdown and falls out with a team, he goes nuclear in blowing it up and trying to blame everyone but himself. Brown will never get the help many think he needs if he constantly blames other people for his embarrassing displays of petulance.