The Vince Lombardi Trophy. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)
Good morning and Happy New Year! This is Playoff Watch 2017, the early buzz in NFL playoffs.
Seattle signed former Falcons returner Devin Hester to help re-start their return game on Wednesday.
Hester, 34, played for the Falcons in 2014 and spent most of 2015 on injured reserve before being released. In 2014, he lead the league with 45 kickoff returns for 1,128 yards and was named the Pro Bowl.
The Falcons will face No. 3 Seattle (10-5-1) if the Seahawks can defeat No. 6 seed Detroit (9-7) on Saturday. Atlanta’s divisional round game is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Georgia Dome.
If Detroit beats Seattle, they would play No. 1 seed Dallas (13-3) and the Falcons would face the No. 4 seed Green Bay (10-6) vs. No. 5 seed New York Giants (11-5) winner.
Hester spent most of the 2016 season with the Baltimore Ravens. He played in 12 games before Baltimore being released. He averaged 24.5 yards on kickoff returns and 7.2 yards on punt returns while with the Ravens and did not add to his NFL-record total of 20 return touchdowns.
Seahawks returner Tyler suffered a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg in the 34-31 loss to Arizona on Dec. 24. Defensive back Richard Sherman returned punts in the regular season finale, but was under orders to just catch the ball. Former Falcons wide receiver J.D. McKissic and receiver Paul Richardson returned kickoffs.
Devin Hester pays homage to Falcons Hall of Famer Deion Sander as he returns a punt 62-yards for a touchdown – marking his 20th return for a touchdown and breaking the all-time record set by Sanders back in 2014. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Sherman ran one for six yards and catch the other four as ordered by coach Pete Carroll.
Hester is the third-leading punt returner in NFL history with 3,695 yards and 11th all-time in kickoff return yards with 11,333 in a career that dates to 2006.
McKissic update. McKissic was a star of training camp and made the practice squad. He was elevated for one game (inactive) before being released. He had a kickoff return for 22 yards on his only kickoff return in what was the first game of his NFL career. “He did a good job,” Carroll told the Seattle Times. “He played a good football game for us. That’s the first time he played in a regular season, NFL game. He was very comfortable, competed really well, good decision making, handled the ball well. He did fine. We like that guy.”
Hebert supports Ryan’s MVP bid. NFL On TuneIn host and former Pro Bowl quarterback Kordell Stewart and his co-host Brian Webber spoke with former Pro Bowl quarterback and radio host Bobby Hebert about Matt Ryan winning the MVP this season.
Bobby Hebert Comments “Matt Ryan is the MVP”
Brian: “Where would you put Matt Ryan in the MVP Race?”
Bobby Hebert: “Matt Ryan is the MVP. I don’t know how you cannot give him the MVP with his consistency, what he’s been able to do, he’s deserving of the MVP. We all know Tom Brady only threw 2 interceptions, that’s ridiculous.
People being on the Aaron Rodgers bandwagon, how are you closing it out? But as far as from the beginning to the end, I think Matt Ryan should be the MVP. ”
Detroit announced that it plans to retain head coach Jim Caldwell. Not every one in the Motor City was happy about the move.
Giants rocked by Cruise Ship Gate. Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. defended his decision Tuesday to party into the early morning alongside his fellow receivers after the Giants’ victory over Washington. They have been criticized for partying until at least 6 a.m. with Justin Bieber and Trey Songz on Monday, six days before the team’s wild-card game with the Packers.
“We were going to (Florida) to get our minds right,” Beckham told ESPN. “That’s what we we’re doing. I handle my business. I’m a grown man.”
Playoff Watch 2017 will appears Monday through Friday mornings.
SI.com breaks down the NFC Wild Card playoff matchup between the #5 New York Giants and the #4 Green Bay Packers.
GAME 16: Falcons 38, Saints 32
5 things we learned from the Falcons win over the Saints
Falcons defense sags late but hangs on vs. Brees
Julio Jones says bye week will be ‘great for me’ with sore toe
GAME 15: Falcons 33, Panthers 16
5 things we learned from the Falcons win over the Panthers
NFL playoffs: Falcons clinch NFC South title
Third-and-21, no problem for Coleman
What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Panthers
GAME 14: Falcons 41, 49ers 13
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the 49ers
What Matt Ryan had to say about the win over the 49ers
PHOTOS: Falcons win over the 49ers
GAME 13: Falcons 42, Rams 14
REPORT CARD: Falcons handled their business against woeful Rams
GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Chiefs
Falcons still control their playoff destiny
PHOTOS: Falcons have a bad day at the office
Matt Ryan tormented by Berry’s big interceptions
Beasley becomes a double-digit sacker
GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the Cardinals
MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons keep getting better as they go
Julio Jones gets calls this time
Taylor Gabriel continues scoring streak in win over Cardinals
Coleman scores TD in return from injury
Falcons’ offensive line ‘stepped up to the task’
GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Eagles
Ryan, offense slowed down to a crawl
Perkins stalls key drive with costly penalty
Defense gets blown of the line of scrimmage
Keanu Neal can expect fine but Falcons’ biggest issue is injuries (Trufant and Tamme)
Falcons go into bye week wrong way — beat up by Eagles
What Dan Quinn had to say after the loss to the Eagles
What Matt Ryan had to say after the loss to the Eagles
What the Falcons had to say after the loss to the Eagles
PHOTOS: Falcons fall to the Eagles
GAME NINE: Falcons 43, Buccaneers 28
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ rout of the Bucs
GAME EIGHT: Falcons 33, Packers 32
GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT
5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Chargers
Dan Quinn’s gamble with house-money backfires
6 penalties ‘unacceptable’ for Falcons offensive line
Philip Rivers confounds Falcons with short passes: ‘He picked us apart’
Matt Ryan’s late-game interception leads to overtime loss
PHOTOS: Chargers rally to beat Falcons
GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Seahawks
MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons didn’t win, but they made one guy believe (me)
MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons got jobbed but did themselves proud
Matt Ryan’s turnovers were costly
What Dan Quinn had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle
Seattle slows down Falcons’ running backs Freeman, Coleman
Ryan Schraeder, offensive line rebounds in second half
Julio Jones: ‘It was just a missed call’
What the Falcons had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle
What Matt Ryan had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle
Richard Sherman non-commital on pass interference non-call
PHOTOS: Falcons at Seahawks in Seattle
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
5 things we learned from the Falcons upset of Super Bowl champs
MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons rock a rookie in the Rockies
What Dan Quinn have to say after the win over Denver
Coleman amassed 163 yards to power the offense
Vic Beasley has breakout game with 3.5 sacks
Kemal Ishmael moved to linebacker, led team in tackles
What the Falcons had to say after the win over the Broncos
Photos: Falcons battle the Broncos
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 48-33 win over the Panthers
Tweetcap: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
Old pro Freeney shows new trick with Falcons
Falcons’ rookie Neal holds on vs. Olsen
What Julio Jones had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers
What Dan Quinn had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers
What Matt Ryan had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers
Alford battled; Collins to return
Early view in NFC South isn’t what most expected; Falcons on top
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 45-32 win over the Saints
Falcons, Saints protest with unity circle before game
REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints
What Dan Quinn had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints
What Matt Ryan had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints
What the Falcons had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints
Keanu Neal makes strong debut for Falcons
Falcons’ Deion Jones runs for glory, not survival, in return home
AJC POWER RANKINGS: Falcons best in NFC South?
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the Raiders
Trufant’s heads-up play saves the day
Tight ends help to power offense
Weatherspoon plays strong in first start since 2013
Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less
JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win
What Matt Ryan had to say after beating the Raiders
What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Raiders
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Bucs
No sacks for new-look Falcons pass rush
Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury
Falcons have a case of the “no-huddle” blues
REPORT CARD: Falcons can’t ‘gift’ opponents 17 points
FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action
AJC’S NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where are the Falcons?
Hageman charged is domestic violence case