Fri Dec 14 11:00am ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018 file photo, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass. Chicago first-year coach Matt Nagy has been picked by a panel of AP football writers as having done the best coaching job in 2018. Nagy has helped develop Mitchell Trubisky and has the Bears poised for their first playoff berth since 2010. Nagy beat out Seattles Pete Carroll and Kansas Citys Andy Reid in the voting.(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
In this Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018 file photo, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy speaks at a news conference after an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings in Chicago. Chicago first-year coach Matt Nagy has been picked by a panel of AP football writers as having done the best coaching job in 2018. Nagy has helped develop Mitchell Trubisky and has the Bears poised for their first playoff berth since 2010. Nagy beat out Seattles Pete Carroll and Kansas Citys Andy Reid in the voting. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
In this Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 file photo, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll watches during an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. Chicago first-year coach Matt Nagy has been picked by a panel of AP football writers as having done the best coaching job in 2018. Nagy has helped develop Mitchell Trubisky and has the Bears poised for their first playoff berth since 2010. Nagy beat out Seattles Pete Carroll and Kansas Citys Andy Reid in the voting. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
Matt Nagy is making an impressive first impression as an NFL head coach.
Nagy has helped develop second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky into a solid NFL starter, convinced Vic Fangio to stay on as defensive coordinator, and has the Chicago Bears in position to earn their first playoff berth since 2010 in his first year on the job.
For doing all that, Nagy was picked as having done the NFL's best coaching job in 2018 in voting released Friday by a panel of 10 football writers for The Associated Press.
Nagy received seven of the 10 first-place votes for his work leading the Bears (9-4) to the top of the NFC North behind an improved offense led by Trubisky and a fierce defense spearheaded by preseason acquisition Khalil Mack.
''(Nagy's) overseen a total turnaround of the Bears in just his first year as an NFL head coach, taking a team that hadn't finished above .500 since 2012 and turning them into the best of the NFC North,'' said Washington-based Howard Fendrich, who voted Nagy first. ''He's an offensive guru who learned from former boss Andy Reid, and Chicago's play calling has been creative and fun - and overcome limitations at the QB spot to be good enough to let a superb defense lead the way.''
Seattle's Pete Carroll finished second in the voting for rebuilding the Seahawks on the fly following the departure of most key members from the Super Bowl-winning Legion of Boom defense.
The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win this week despite losing key players Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril in the past year. Star safety Earl Thomas has also been sidelined most of the season, but it hasn't slowed down the Seahawks.
''For the second time, Carroll is retooling Seattle's roster,'' said New York-based Barry Wilner, who voted Carroll second behind Nagy. ''Yet he's somehow improved the team in the first year of that rebuild. This is a textbook case of a coaches' heavy influence on a club's success.''
Carroll finished second despite not getting a first-place vote. The other coaches named No. 1 on ballots were Indianapolis first-year coach Frank Reich, who got one vote, and New England's Bill Belichick, who got two.
Reich, who has helped a healthy Andrew Luck regain his top form, finished eighth overall. He wasn't even the top choice for the Colts, only getting the job after Josh McDaniels backed out shortly after Reich won the Super Bowl as offensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
''He took a team that went 4-12 last year, worked through a rough 1-5 start that could've easily turned into another losing season, and has them in playoff contention,'' said Philadelphia-based Rob Maaddi, who voted Reich first. ''Reich's success in Indy coupled with Philadelphia's offensive misery since his departure after the Super Bowl prove his value.''
Belichick, who has a record five Super Bowl titles, finished in ninth place despite getting two first-place votes. Some voters believed this year wasn't his best coaching job, but he still had strong support from others.
''Despite the ''Miami Miracle'', he has the Patriots on the verge of a 10th consecutive division title,'' New York-based Simmi Buttar said. ''Aside from quarterback of course, this is hardly the most talented roster in Foxborough, yet it would surprise no one if they once again reached the Super Bowl.''
Belichick was one of seven coaches named as a top 10 coach on all 10 ballots, joining Nagy, Carroll, third-place Andy Reid of Kansas City, fifth-place Sean McVay of the Rams, sixth-place Bill O'Brien of Houston, and seventh-place Sean Payton of New Orleans.
Reid had the Chiefs tied for the most wins in the league through Week 14 after targeting quarterback Pat Mahomes in the 2017 draft and then cutting ties with longtime starter Alex Smith in the offseason to give Mahomes a chance.
Mahomes has thrown a league-high 45 TD passes and is the latest quarterback to thrive under Reid's tutelage.
''Sure, the Chiefs were expected to be good this year, but Reid went all in with Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback - and this year's squad could be the veteran coach's best chance at a Super Bowl since his days in Philadelphia,'' New York-based Dennis Wazsak Jr. said.
The Chargers' Anthony Lynn was on nine of 10 ballots and finished fourth overall, while John Harbaugh of Baltimore came in 10th place.
Atlanta Falcons TE Austin Hooper's 71 receptions in 2018 were the fourth most among tight ends, and he also ranked seventh in receiving yards (660) and tied for ninth in touchdowns (4) at the position.
Fantasy Spin: Hooper doesn't have the athleticism to make big plays like the elite fantasy tight ends, but he was still a dependable option at a thin position. He's a safe, low-end TE1 heading into 2019.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard (foot, ankle) was limited to 10 games in 2018, but his 11 receptions of 20-plus yards were the fifth most among tight ends.
Fantasy Spin: Howard was well on his way to a TE1 campaign before an injury cut his season short. His athleticism allows him to make big plays after the catch and down the field, and he should pick up where he left off when when 2019 rolls around.
Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon finished fourth in the NFL with 1,168 rushing yards in 2018, running for at least 50 yards in 13 of his 14 games and topping 80 rushing yards nine times.
Fantasy Spin: Mixon proved he was capable of headlining the Cincinnati backfield, and the promise of a heavy workload should safely keep him in RB1 territory in 2019.
Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler Boyd's 21 receptions of 20-plus yards in 2018 were the seventh most in the NFL.
Fantasy Spin: Despite missing a couple of games, Boyd topped 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, emerging as a credible No. 2 option across from A.J. Green. Assuming Boyd, Green and Andy Dalton can all stay healthy in 2019, Boyd should at least deliver WR3 production for fantasy owners.
Dallas Cowboys TE Blake Jarwin had at least four catches and 40 yards in three of his final four regular season games, and he had 20 of his 27 catches and 228 of his 307 receiving yards during that stretch.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees has averaged 307 passing yards and thrown 16 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven career postseason home games.
Fantasy Spin: Time has proven that Brees simply plays better at home. The Saints beat the Los Angeles Rams 45-35 earlier this season in a game that saw Brees throw for 346 yards and four touchdowns. All signs are pointing upward for Brees to succeed tomorrow.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady has averaged 251.7 passing yards and thrown eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven career postseason road contests.
Fantasy Spin: Those numbers don't take into account weather, but tomorrow night's game is supposed to be brutally cold. The Patriots could be focused on running the ball in order to limit mistakes and keep Patrick Mahomes and company off the field. Either way, the weather and the road playoff history don't bode well for Brady.
Pittsburgh Steelers FS Morgan Burnett said he hopes to be released before the start of free agency.
Carolina Panthers impending free-agent WR Devin Funchess likely will not re-sign with the Panthers this offseason because of WR D.J. Moore's performance during the second half of the season.
Fantasy Spin: Funchess probably will receive interest from some teams if he hits the free-agent market, but it is not known if he can find a starting job. He can be a No. 3 fantasy receiver depending on his role.
Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco and Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles could receive interest from the Denver Broncos this offseason, in the opinion of 9News.com's Mike Klis.
Fantasy Spin: Flacco and Foles likely will receive interest from multiple teams, so it is not known if the Broncos will be able to add one of them. The Broncos probably will bring in another quarterback to compete with Case Keenum for the starting job next season. Owners should consider the Broncos starting quarterback as a No. 2 fantasy option next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson probably will not return to the Buccaneers next season even though head coach Bruce Arians hopes he stays on the roster, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
Fantasy Spin: Jackson asked for a trade during the 2018 season and has not shown great chemistry with Jameis Winston. Owners should monitor the situation during the offseason to see where he will play in 2019. Jackson can still be a solid receiver for a team and can be a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy receiver.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said running back C.J. Prosise (abdomen) will be ready for the start of the team's offseason program on April 15. Going into next year, Prosise has to be considered outside looking in for a roster spot after playing in just 16 of a possible 48 games to begin his career. C.J., he really needed the surgery that he had, it was a little more extensive than we thought," Carroll said. But he will be back from that, thats about an eight-week recovery or something like that, so he will be fine." Prosise will be entering the final year of his four-year rookie deal, but the Seahawks already have Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, J.D. McKissic and Bo Scarbrough ahead of Prosise on the roster. There remains talent here, but he's well off the fantasy radar until he can prove his health.
New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson (appendix) will not play in the NFC Championship game on Sunday against the Rams after missing several practices this week while dealing with appendicitis, according to a source. He has been able to avoid surgery, but he won't be able to play in the big game. The veteran tight end has just two touchdowns on the year and hasn't been a very big part of the offense in what is expected to be his final season. With him out, Josh Hill should have a bigger role against a Rams team that has been vulnerable to tight ends this year. Hill will have some sleeper DFS appeal.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) was taken off the final injury report for the AFC Championship on Sunday against the Patriots after practicing in full on Thursday and Friday. Ware hasn't played since the first week of December and will return to a backup role behind Damien Williams, limiting his DFS upside for fantasy owners.
Oakland Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch, who will be a free agent in two months, said on HBO's 'Real Time with Bill Maher' that he is open to playing in 2019 under the right circumstances.
Fantasy Spin: Lynch continues to recover from a strained groin and will turn 33 years old before the start of next season. In six games during the 2018 season, he rushed for 376 yards and had three touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Assuming he decides to come back for another year, he could be viewed as a low-end RB2 or flex option depending on where he lands.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston threw 11 interceptions in his first five games in 2018 and three interceptions over his final six games.
Fantasy Spin: Winston has QB1 potential, but he has struggled with consistency throughout his career. Fantasy owners can hope that the solid finish to 2018 was a sign of things to come next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Cameron Brate (hip) had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, according to a source, and Brate is hoping to return for minicamp in June.
Fantasy Spin: The emergence of O.J. Howard has capped Brate's upside, but Jameis Winston has shown a habit of looking Brate's way in the red zone. He will be a touchdown-dependent TE2 in 2019.
Cleveland Browns impending free-agent QB Tyrod Taylor could consider the Baltimore Ravens a potential landing spot in free agency this offseason, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley. Taylor made his only Pro Bowl in 2015 when new Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman called the plays with the Buffalo Bills, and Taylor spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with Baltimore before leaving for Buffalo in 2015.
Fantasy Spin: With Joe Flacco almost guaranteed to be elsewhere in 2019, the Ravens are going to have to decide if Robert Griffin III is the man they want backing up Lamar Jackson. Taylor didn't play particularly well with the Browns last season, but his game is similar to Jackson's and would allow Baltimore to stick with its game plan if Jackson were to miss time. Taylor will certainly seek out potential starting opportunities elsewhere first, but a reunion with the Ravens makes sense if he doesn't like what the market has to offer.
Los Angeles Chargers TE Antonio Gates may only come back as the team's third tight end behind starter Hunter Henry and blocker Virgil Green, but general manager Tom Telesco indicated in the recent interview that he believes he will welcome back Gates for another season.
Fantasy Spin: Gates was barely relevant in fantasy in 2018 even with Henry missing the entire regular season, so it's hard to imagine he will be able to top the 28 catches and 333 receiving yards he posted. Turning 39 in June, Gates no longer needs to be considered by fantasy owners - outside of DFS players occasionally trying to be contrarian with their lineups and/or punting the position.
Updating a previous report, New Orleans Saints TE Benjamin Watson (illness) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 18, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Watson is not expected to play in the game, but owners should check the inactive list for his official status. He will not be a big factor in the passing game if he plays and can be avoided in all leagues.