For a second season running, Frank Reich is turning to a quarterback he knows well.

There has been no shortage of churn in the Indianapolis Colts QB room since Reich became head coach in 2018.

Andrew Luck retired before the start of Reich's second season, having won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award, Jacoby Brissett stepping into the breach only to miss out on the playoffs. That prompted a move for Philip Rivers, who worked with Reich when the pair were together at the Chargers.

But Rivers also retired after leading the Colts to an 11-5 record in 2020.

Having coaxed a relatively impressive final year out of Rivers, Reich backed himself to get a former star firing again. Indy will have Carson Wentz starting under center this year.

Wentz's performance level has badly tailed off in recent seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles, but his impressive early-career displays came when Reich was the team’s offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017.

He will now head to the Colts confident he can rediscover his best form and help a team that competed last season even without significant star power, as Stats Perform data shows.

Offense

Wentz has never been better than he was under Reich.

Boosted by the experience of starting from the outset in his rookie season, Wentz was flying by the time year two rolled around. He threw 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions for a passer rating of 101.9 in 2017, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro recognition, but a devastating knee injury kept him from playing a part in the Eagles' Super Bowl success, which came via an improbable run with backup Nick Foles.

There has been a steady decline since Reich departed following that triumph, though, and Wentz led the league in picks (15) and sacks (50) in 2020 despite playing just 12 games.

While the Colts will hope Wentz improves, they do not need the former second overall pick to be an elite QB to maintain last season's standard.

The Colts were unspectacular but comfortably in the top half of the NFL for yards per play (5.86, ranked ninth), yards per game (378.1, 10th) and net passing yards (253.3, 11th) last time out.

The Colts had the second-fewest sacks for negative yardage (19), losing only 133 yards, as the Eagles ranked worst in both regards (61 for 401 yards). Wentz will hope to prove he can perform much better when helped by a superior offensive line.

Rivers was asked only to be solid, though, as Reich preferred a run-heavy approach. Indianapolis kept 44.5 per cent of their plays on the ground last season, compared to Philadelphia's 37.8 per cent.

Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor – with 232 carries (ranking eighth) for 1,169 yards (third) and 11 rushing TDs (joint-seventh) – was relied on consistently in high-leverage situations. Malcolm Brown (28) and Dalvin Cook (27) were the only RBs in the NFL trusted more often on third down (24 carries).

Even the passing offense found a running back – in this case, Nyheim Hines (63 catches) – more often than any other individual receiver.

Defense

Where the 2020 recruitment of Rivers was a low-risk call that ultimately paid off, tiding the team over until the move for Wentz, the Colts went all-in on their big defensive signing.

Happily, that deal has so far been an even greater success.

DeForest Buckner signed a four-year, $84million contract after his trade from San Francisco, where he had been a second-team All-Pro selection and starred in the 49ers' run to the Super Bowl in 2019.

Those standards did not slip in Indianapolis as the defensive tackle led the Colts in sacks (9.5), QB hits (26) and tackles for loss (10).

Buckner's reward was a first-team All-Pro selection for the first time and he was joined in that regard by linebacker Darius Leonard (86 tackles), who is still on his rookie contract. The pair contributed to the Colts allowing the eighth-fewest total yards per game (332.1) and the second-fewest rushing yards (90.5), beaten only by champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the latter category.

They should be set to excel defending on the ground again this coming season, but the Colts might be a little more vulnerable through the air, even with Buckner's all-round talents.

Denico Autry, Justin Houston and Al-Quadin Muhammad - their leading three edge rushers, who combined for 17.5 sacks and 22 QB hits – all entered free agency, Autry signing with division rivals the Tennessee Titans.

Offseason

Free agency has been quiet thus far for Indianapolis, but for good reason.

While the Colts have more than $38m of cap space remaining, the team appear to be wisely saving money to pay Leonard, who will otherwise be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

On the offensive line, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith are also due a pay day.

The Colts have already looked after two of their own by bringing back cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who defensed 12 passes on his way to two interceptions and a defensive touchdown, and Marlon Mack, the running back who had eight TDs in 2019 but played only once last year before rupturing his Achilles.

If spending remains as modest as suggested, the Colts will have some gaps heading towards a draft where their first-round pick is at 21.

The potential free agency departures of wideout T.Y. Hilton and tight end Trey Burton mean Wentz's receiving corps needs reinforcements, although the second-round tender placed on Mo Alie-Cox helped in that department.

It remains to be seen what the team will do to replace their edge rushers in the wake of Autry's $21.5m deal in Tennessee.

Should the Colts fail to address that issue and leave the onus predominantly on Buckner to pressure opposing quarterbacks, Indianapolis might be back where they started and it will be down to Wentz to ensure they are competitive again.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz conceded "it wasn't fun" playing for the Philadelphia Eagles before his trade in the offseason.

The Eagles dealt NFL Super Bowl winner Wentz to the Colts in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 first-round selection.

Wentz – who signed a lucrative four-year, $128million contract extension in 2019 – was benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in Week 13.

It spelled the end of Wentz' time in Philadelphia, where the Pro Bowler was drafted by the Eagles with the second pick in 2016.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- it wasn't fun," Wentz told reporters on Thursday, in his first comments since leaving the Eagles.

"It's not fun when things were going well for years and all those things. ... As a man, you have to look yourself in the mirror and learn from it and become a better man, better player.

"It wasn't fun, it was difficult, but I did everything I could to be supportive of Jalen [Hurts] and my team-mates."

The 28-year-old Wentz ranked 23rd for completions (251), 34th for passing percentage (57.4), 25th for yards (2,620) and tied for 20th for touchdowns (16), while he was equal first for interceptions thrown this past season.

Philadelphia turned to rookie Nick Sirianni after Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson was fired following a 4-11-1 season.

"I've learned you're not going to make everybody happy," Wentz said amid reports he was not a good team-mate Philadelphia. "As much as you want to, you can't. It's unfortunate people have those opinions.

"I'm going to learn from it and try to be the best team-mate I can be. If there are team-mates who I don't think I was the best team-mate, I apologise, I wish I could be better. Last year was tough for everybody."

Wentz, who reunites with Colts head coach Frank Reich – the former Eagles offensive co-ordinator – added: "A lot of things in life we can't predict. A lot of crazy circumstances where you expect things to unfold. When you're drafted in a place like Philly you have a lot of high expectations and everything, but obviously the year didn't go as planned.

"Excited for this opportunity in Indy and be a part of something special that has already been created here."

Wentz joins a Colts team who are ready to contend in the playoffs, having narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round in 2020 after going 11-5 in the regular season.

Colts owner Jim Irsay said: "I can't emphasise how strongly I feel that Carson is the man for the job for the Colts at this time. There's been a lot at the quarterback situation that has happened over the last three years.

"To get someone I really do believe, after looking at this game for 50 years, I really think that he can be that guy that's the centerpiece and the guy who will be around with these teams we put together for the next decade that gives the Colts a chance for greatness."

A month on from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' triumph in Super Bowl LV, teams across the NFL are preparing to make moves they hope will propel them towards glory.

This year's free agency period is unlikely to see a move as decisive as Tom Brady's decision to swap the New England Patriots for the Buccaneers.

However, with franchises dealing with a likely declining salary cap because of the impact of playing a season largely without fans, the chaos of the league's open market should still be fascinating to watch.

But which teams will be the most active when the NFL opens the window for teams to begin negotiating with free agents next Monday?

Here we look at those likeliest to be busy and the signings they could make.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Cap Space: $85.7million

From having the number one pick in the draft, which they will almost certainly use on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, to having the most salary cap space in the league, the Jaguars are the franchise that holds the keys to the offseason.

New general manager Trent Baalke and first-time NFL head coach Urban Meyer have no shortage of needs to address following a one-win 2020 season.

Lawrence will require much-improved pass protection if he is to thrive and lead Jacksonville to contention. With that in mind, they should be in on the sweepstakes for All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, who cannot be franchise-tagged by the San Francisco 49ers and is likely to command over $20m a year.

Given the money at their disposal, the Jags will be among the leading candidates to lure edge rusher Shaquil Barrett from the Buccaneers. He could form a formidable tandem with Jacksonville's 2019 first-round pick Josh Allen.

New York Jets

Cap Space: $72.4million

The Jets' offseason will be defined by whether they stick with Sam Darnold at quarterback or use their second overall pick to select one of the top four signal-callers in the draft class.

But beyond that pivotal decision, Jets GM Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh have an arduous task of turning one of the worst rosters in football into one primed to contend in the AFC.

Saleh may look to his old team, the 49ers, for whom he was defensive coordinator from 2017 to 2020, to build up his secondary in New York.

Richard Sherman could be tempted cross country to stay with Saleh, while slot cornerback K'Waun Williams is a New Jersey native who could offer the Jets a dependable presence familiar with the defense.

New England Patriots

Cap Space: $72.6million

Bill Belichick has rarely been one to spend big in his storied tenure as head coach and de-facto GM of the Patriots.

However, possessing a talent-poor roster and in danger of being left behind in the AFC East, this could be the year where he changes course, and Belichick has already made a significant move, bringing back offensive tackle Trent Brown in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders.

New England must make a decision at quarterback after an unconvincing season from Cam Newton as Tom Brady's successor.

Regardless of who is under center, the Patriots will not compete if their quarterback does not have dynamic weapons among their pass-catchers.

Belichick has typically had a blindspot for wide receivers in the draft, so more experienced options with playmaking upside like Corey Davis and Marvin Jones could find a home in New England. Hunter Henry may also be a target if the Los Angeles Chargers decide not to pay the tight end who was franchise-tagged last year.

Indianapolis Colts

Cap Space: $50.5million

The Colts have the man they hope will be the answer at quarterback following Philip Rivers' retirement, backing Carson Wentz to rehabilitate his career under Frank Reich and acquiring him from the Philadelphia Eagles.

In terms of a support system, Wentz is heading into a team with a strong one in place, yet it could still be improved and the Colts have the wiggle room to be aggressive.

They may be an attractive destination for the aforementioned Williams, who would be an upgrade on the retired Anthony Castonzo at left tackle.

Veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton could leave in free agency and it would not be wise for the Colts to rely too heavily on Michael Pittman Jr at wideout despite a strong end to his rookie season.

As they look to maximise Wentz's chances of being successful, a move for a high-profile receiver like Allen Robinson could make a great deal of sense for a team looking to challenge the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cap Space: $18.1million

The outlier here in terms of cap space but, having blown out the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, the Buccaneers will surely not be short of players wanting to join them on short-term deals to link up with Brady and make another push for a Lombardi Trophy.

Tampa will be busy enough trying to hold on to as many in-house free agents as possible, but the Bucs will find intriguing potential temporary options in areas of need on the open market.

Reinforcements may well be required on the defensive line given the possibility of Barrett going elsewhere.

The Bucs have seen one veteran, Jason Pierre-Paul, thrive on the edge. Perhaps Justin Houston, who has 19 sacks over his last two seasons with the Colts, could be tempted by the chance to chase a ring in Tampa.

On the interior, the Buccaneers have a monstrous presence in Vita Vea, and their strength in that area could allow them to take a swing on a former first-rounder in Sheldon Rankins, who has seen his career with the New Orleans Saints stall because of injuries but had eight sacks back in 2018.

When the Indianapolis Colts were eliminated by the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, they did not look like a team ready to take on a reclamation project.

The seventh-seeded Colts pushed a Bills team that reached the AFC Championship Game all the way before falling to a 27-24 defeat. 

Yet that exit, combined with Philip Rivers' retirement after one season, left the Colts in the empty void of quarterback purgatory, without a solution on the roster and not in a position in either free agency or the draft to find a long-term solution.

The Colts' answer to their quarterback problem was to take a chance on a player most in the NFL appeared reluctant to consider, putting faith in their head coach Frank Reich to return Carson Wentz to his MVP-calibre form of 2017.

Indianapolis sent a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second, which can become a first if Wentz plays 75 per cent of the offensive snaps or if he plays 70 per cent of the snaps and the Colts make the playoffs, to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire the former second overall pick.

They may not have given up too much in terms of premium draft capital, yet the gamble on a quarterback who was one of the worst in football last year was one few would have advised them taking.

Is their belief in the ability of Reich, who was Wentz's offensive coordinator with the Eagles in 2017, to turn the much-maligned signal-caller's career around justified? We looked at the Stats Perform data in an attempt to answer that question.

The scale of the challenge

Eventually benched for Jalen Hurts as his relationship with then-head coach Doug Pederson reportedly deteriorated, Wentz endured the worst season of his career in 2020.

His completion percentage of 57.4 was the second-worst in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks, Wentz drastically underperforming an expected completion percentage of 61.5.

Only Sam Darnold had a lower passer rating than Wentz's 72.8, while his adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) average of 3.98 was last in the league.

The disparity between Wentz's numbers in that regard and those of Rivers, who was 10th with an ANY/A of 7.18, helps underline the scale of the challenge facing Reich and his staff in rehabilitating a quarterback who once looked like the future of the league.

Further illustrating the difference between Wentz and Rivers last season was their performances against the blitz. Wentz ranked 34th of 36 quarterbacks to have 50 passes against the blitz in passer rating, with Rivers in ninth.

Sacked a league-high 50 times in 2020, Wentz had 27 completions of 20 yards or more compared to 56 for Rivers, whose significant edge in big plays came despite Wentz boasting a slightly superior passer rating on throws of 21 air yards or more (70.8 to Rivers' 67.1), pointing to the large gap in explosive passes being a product of Indianapolis having superior protection, receiver performances and play-calling.

Reich's record

Before tearing his ACL in Week 13, Wentz thrived under Reich to the extent that he still finished the year second in passing touchdowns (33) and touchdown to interception ratio (4.71).

Reich's success in getting the best out of his quarterbacks has largely continued in Indianapolis since he stepped in after Josh McDaniels went back on his agreement to take over as coach.

Andrew Luck's sole season with Reich at the helm in 2018 saw him throw 39 touchdowns, second only to Patrick Mahomes, while he was fifth in red zone passer rating among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts inside the 20 and 11th in ANY/A.

Though Jacoby Brissett did not come close to replicating that kind of production after Luck's shock retirement in the 2019 preseason, the combination of Rivers and Reich produced a bounce-back year in 2020.

Rivers was ninth in red zone passer rating, throwing 17 touchdowns to just one interception, and outperformed his expected completion percentage of 66.3 by connecting on 68 per cent of his passes.

In short, when Reich has been paired with a quarterback with the skill set to challenge the league's upper echelon, success has followed.

And, though Rivers was a substantially better quarterback than Wentz in 2020, the ceiling of the Colts' offense will be higher if the partnership that produced such remarkable results in 2017 delivers the desired impact for the Colts.

The possible pay-off

While Wentz has never recaptured the magic of 2017, he has consistently been more aggressive with the football than any of the quarterbacks Reich has worked with during his time with the Colts. 

Since 2017, Wentz's air yards per attempt average has only once dipped below eight yards. That was in a 2018 campaign defined by injury issues and Wentz still had a narrow edge over Luck. Wentz (7.75) was 19th in the NFL with Luck (7.63) ending the year 20th.

Even in the low point that was last season, Wentz was fifth in air yards per attempt, Rivers was 26th.

His willingness to push the ball further downfield and the play-calling acumen of Reich resulted in Wentz finishing 2017 sixth in ANY/A, providing a clear indication of how that mix could elevate Indianapolis' attack.

Wentz also provides greater rushing upside than any of the quarterbacks Reich has had at his disposal as a head coach. Indeed, since entering the league in 2016, Wentz's 1,061 rushing yards have him sitting 11th among quarterbacks with a minimum of 500 attempts, a total that surely would have been higher had he played more than two full 16-game seasons during that span.

Of course, for Wentz's reunion with Reich to pay dividends, his accuracy must improve. In two of his three seasons in charge, Reich has had two quarterbacks who had a well-thrown percentage above 80, meaning fewer than 20 per cent of their passes were poorly thrown.

Luck had a well-thrown percentage of 82.1 in 2018 and Rivers finished 2020 on 84.2 per cent.

Wentz has only surpassed 80 per cent once in his career, marginally outdoing Luck in 2018, when he ended the year on 82.5.

However, poor throws were a common feature of Wentz's game in 2020, as evidenced by his well-thrown percentage of 68.8.

Yet the fact he delivered slightly fewer poor throws than Luck in the former number one overall pick's Comeback Player of the Year season is testament to the talent Wentz possesses and the level of play of which he is capable.

Reich has had the most success at harnessing Wentz's best. If he can do so again in 2020, it would give the Colts a more dynamic downfield attack and potentially a more diverse offense that emphasises what Wentz can do with his legs.

For a Colts team that was on the cusp of knocking off an AFC heavyweight, the price they paid for a quarterback who represented extremely damaged goods will prove a bargain should Reich's repair job whip Wentz back into 2017 shape.

Carson Wentz is heading to the Indianapolis Colts after the team struck a deal to trade for him from the Philadelphia Eagles.

The quarterback, who was benched for Jalen Hurts towards the end of a miserable 4-11-1 season for the Eagles, is poised to join the Colts, according to widespread reports.

Indianapolis will give the Eagles a 2021 third-round draft pick and a conditional 2022 selection in exchange.

The pick in 2022 is provisionally a second-rounder, but can increase to a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75 per cent of the snaps next season.

It could also convert to a first if Wentz leads the Colts to the playoffs while playing in 70 per cent of snaps.

Wentz will be reunited with Colts head coach Frank Reich, who spent the QB's first two years in the NFL as the Eagles' Offensive Coordinator, with impressive results.

The 2017 season, Wentz's second in the NFL, saw him produce MVP-calibre form and throw for a franchise record 33 TDs before going down with injury and famously being replaced by Nick Foles, who took the team to Super Bowl glory.

Wentz signed a four-year, $128 million contract ahead of the 2019 season.

But he has struggled to replicate his early career form, culminating in the Eagles drafting Hurts in the second-round last year and benching Wentz after Week 13.

The 28-year-old averaged 218.3 yards per game last season, the lowest mark of his career, and threw a career-high 15 interceptions in 12 games.

Philip Rivers' retirement had left the Colts seeking a new QB to lead a roster that appears ready to contend in the postseason.

They narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card round in 2020 after going 11-5.

Wentz is the latest domino to fall in what is proving to be another dramatic offseason on the QB market.

Jared Goff was the number one overall pick in 2016 - one spot ahead of Wentz - but was recently traded by the Los Angeles Rams to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford and draft picks.

Question marks remain over the future of Deshaun Watson with the Houston Texans and Dak Prescott is still unsigned by the Dallas Cowboys. 

Meanwhile, Trevor Lawrence – billed as a generational talent – leads a star-studded crop of QBs in the draft.

There are suggestions Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields could go 1-2-3 in the draft.

Wentz had also been connected with the Chicago Bears, who now continue their search for a 2021 starter.

The Philadelphia Eagles will appoint Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their head coach, team executive vice-president Howie Roseman said.

Roseman told ESPN on Thursday that the Eagles are turning to Sirianni after NFL Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson was fired following a tumultuous 2020 campaign.

Sirianni has spent the past three seasons working in Indianapolis – the 39-year-old also previously spending time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers in various roles.

After moving to Indianapolis in 2018, Sirianni and the Colts twice reached the playoffs – beaten by the Buffalo Bills in this season's Wild Card clash.

But Sirianni will step into his first head-coaching job, tasked with restoring a struggling franchise, who ended the season 4-11-1 having won their first Super Bowl in 2017.

Sirianni – a former quarterback coach with the Chiefs and Chargers – will also have to deal with a tricky quarterback situation in Philadelphia, where star quarterback Carson Wentz struggled for form in 2020.

Wentz – who signed a lucrative four-year, $128million contract extension in 2019 – was benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in Week 13, raising serious questions over his future in Philadelphia.

Eagles QB Wentz ranked 23rd for completions (251), 34th for passing percentage (57.4), 25th for yards (2,620) and tied for 20th for touchdowns (16), while he was equal first for interceptions thrown this past season.

Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have led the tributes to Philip Rivers after the Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced his NFL retirement.

Rivers, 39, spent the first 16 years of his career with the Chargers, initially in San Diego and later in Los Angeles, before joining the Colts for the 2020 season.

He led the Colts back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record and the team narrowly lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wildcard Round in what proved to be his final game.

Rivers finishes his 17-year career ranked fifth all-time for both passing yards (63,440) and touchdown passes (421).

While Manning and Roethlisberger – the two other prominent quarterbacks drafted in 2004 – won two Super Bowls apiece, Rivers never made it to the big game.

But they insist it does not detract from his magnificent accomplishments.

Former New York Giants QB Manning wrote on Twitter: "Congrats to Philip on an outstanding career. 

"It was fun to watch my fellow Qb from 2004 draft class compete these past 17 years. Enjoy the next phase."

Pittsburgh Steelers QB Roethlisberger, whose own future is uncertain, added: "Philip, what a career! 

"An amazing competitor, winner and family man. It has been fun to compete against you and watch you do your thing for so many years. 

"I know countless kids have been inspired by you and will benefit from your coaching and football knowledge in the future. God bless!"

Colts head coach Frank Reich had previously said he believed Rivers had more left in the tank.

"Philip is one of the fiercest competitors and most loyal teammates that our game has ever seen," he said after Rivers' announcement. 

"His unwavering conviction as a leader and elite intelligence contributed to his Hall of Fame football career. 

"Philip made our game better and the National Football League was fortunate to have him.

"I wish Philip, Tiffany and the entire Rivers family the best and thank them for their contributions to our organization and community. 

"I am anxious to see Philip trade his helmet for the headset and do what he's always done best – bring his passion to the game of football and make others better."

Two of Rivers' prominent former Chargers pass catchers, Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry, were also quick to send him their gratitude on social media.

Allen wrote: "Husband, Father, Friend, Role Model, Professional, Warrior, Leader!

"Glad that I was blessed to be apart of your career. Showed up everyday like it was your last and never took any moment for granted!"

While Henry added: "Congrats stud. Insane career. 

"Thankful for everything you have done for me in my career. You were a true inspiration. Enjoy retirement stud!"

Houston Texans icon JJ Watt called Rivers "one of the smartest I’ve ever played against and a hell of a competitor".

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, said Rivers' career was worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame, labelling him "an example to follow as a QB, a team leader, a Dad, and a man of faith".

Veteran Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers has announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the NFL.

Rivers spent the first 16 years with the Chargers, initially in San Diego and later in Los Angeles, before joining the Colts for the 2021 season.

During his solitary campaign in Indianapolis, Rivers led the team back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record, throwing for 4,169 yards and 24 touchdown passes.

He finishes his career ranked fifth overall for completed yards at 63,440 and touchdown passes with 421.

The 39-year-old played in 244 NFL games in total including 240 straight starts, which remains the second-longest streak for a quarterback behind the legendary Brett Favre (297).

Announcing his decision to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Rivers said: "It's just time. It's just right.

"It [his career] was awesome. A young kid from northern Alabama who grew up wanting to play pro ball. I got to do it.

"This is the first year I felt like the ending was real. We talked about it other years, but we knew we weren't doing it. This year felt different. It just seemed right."

Rivers is now set to embark on a new chapter in his life in Alabama, where he is to become the head football coach at St. Michael High in Fairhope.

"I can sit here and say, 'I can still throw it. I love to play.' But that's always going to be there. I'm excited to go coach high school football," he added.

"What has helped me come to this [decision] is the growing desire to coach high school football. That's what I've always wanted to do. It's been growing. I can't wait."

Veteran Indianapolis Colts tackle Anthony Castonzo has announced his retirement from the NFL.

Castonzo has called it a career after 10 years with the Colts, having been selected in the first round of the 2011 draft.

He started all of his 144 regular-season games and eight postseason appearances.

"As a kid, it was my dream to play in the NFL. I played my first full season of tackle football in second grade. Now I have played my last," Castonzo said in a statement.

"As I sit here now, after a 10-year NFL career, I am extremely proud of all the hard work and sacrifice that allowed me to evolve that dream into a goal, and ultimately into a reality unlike anything I could have even imagined.

"I was fortunate to have been drafted by the Colts 10 years ago. I was even more fortunate to spend my entire career here in Indianapolis.

"The Indianapolis Colts is a special organisation with special ownership who fill the organisation with special people at every level. I truly believe this is the best organisation in all of sports. I am lucky to have been able to call myself a Colt for the past 10 years and will consider myself a Colt for the rest of my life.

"I have given much to the game of football, but it has given me so much more. I close the book on the football chapter of my life gifted with memories and moments I wouldn't trade for anything. So thank you, last but far from least, to football."

Castonzo's retirement at the age of 32 gives the Colts another need to address in the offseason, with finding his successor at left tackle likely now a priority for general manager Chris Ballard.

It is not clear whether quarterback Philip Rivers, who led the Colts to the playoffs in his first season with the team, only to be beaten in Saturday's Wild Card clash with the Buffalo Bills, will play on for another year or join Castonzo in retirement.

The Buffalo Bills survived a fourth-quarter comeback attempt to claim their first playoff win in 25 years as they saw off the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 in a dramatic Wild Card clash.

Indianapolis, the seventh seed in the AFC playoffs, controlled proceedings in the first half but paid for a failure to take opportunities and the Bills led 14-10 at half-time thanks to a classic piece of improvisation from Josh Allen on a three-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Knox and a five-yard run from the Bills quarterback, Jonathan Taylor having found the endzone for the Colts on a one-yard plunge.

It was another game in which Allen demonstrated unerring accuracy both from the pocket and on the move, and he was on the money early in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard strike to Stefon Diggs that gave them a 24-10 lead.

The Colts produced an excellent response as veteran quarterback Philip Rivers capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a nine-yard scoring connection with Zach Pascal, a subsequent two-point conversion attempt coming up short.

Tyler Bass' 54-yard field goal, his second three-pointer of the day, turned an eight-point lead into an 11-point advantage, though that was soon trimmed to three.

The Bills made the mistake of leaving tight end Jack Doyle wide open for a 27-yard touchdown catch from Rivers, who went back to the same player for a successful two-point conversion.

Indianapolis, with help from a nearly calamitous fumble from Allen, got the ball back for a final drive and were given a reprieve on a 17-yard fourth-down throw from Rivers to Pascal, the officials inexplicably ruling the latter had been down by contact before losing the ball, with that call upheld on review.

But it mattered not as Rivers could not guide the Colts into position for a game-tying field goal and a Hail Mary throw in the waning seconds was batted down as the Bills clinched a first playoff win since their Wild Card triumph over the Miami Dolphins in the 1995 season.

Turning point - Rivers misses Pittman

The Colts looked set to take command of the contest in the second quarter when they drove down to the Bills' four-yard line with a 10-7 lead.

However, they failed on four attempts to find the endzone from there, a backfoot throw from Rivers going beyond the grasp of rookie Michael Pittman Jr, who otherwise impressed with 90 yards on five catches.

Buffalo subsequently went 96 yards on 10 plays on a drive capped by Allen's touchdown run. Though there were plenty of twists and turns thereafter, the Bills never surrendered the lead from that point.

Allen enters Bills record books

The Bills ended the third-longest active run without a playoff win by defeating the Colts, having gone 24 seasons without success in the postseason. Only the Detroit Lions (29 seasons) and Cincinnati Bengals (30 seasons) have longer streaks.

Buffalo's victory makes Allen, who threw for 324 yards, the first Bills quarterback to win a playoff game since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. His first of two touchdown throws made him the first Bills quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in a postseason matchup since Doug Flutie in the 1998 Wild Card round - a gap of 8,043 days.

What's next?

The Bills can look forward to a Divisional Round matchup with either the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans or Baltimore Ravens.

It is an important offseason for the Colts, with the biggest decision surrounding whether they bring Rivers back for another year or turn to a new face at quarterback.

Despite getting under way in the middle of a pandemic, the NFL was able to complete its full regular season schedule. 

The drama is set to step up a gear as the postseason arrives this weekend, with only the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers securing a first-round bye. 

Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski will be absent when the Browns make their first playoff appearance since 2002 having tested positive for COVID-19. The Pittsburgh Steelers are their opponents. 

The Los Angeles Rams have concerns over the fitness of Jared Goff – one of the many injury worries affecting those teams still left standing – ahead of their encounter with the Seattle Seahawks, while the Buffalo Bills will be aiming for a first postseason win since 1995 when they go up against the Indianapolis Colts.

SATURDAY'S GAMES

Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills – Saturday, 1.05pm (all times Eastern)

- The Colts claimed the third AFC Wild Card spot with an 11-5 record, the most wins for the franchise since 2014. Indianapolis have held opponents under 100 rush yards in each of their past five games – including playoffs, they have not done so in six straight since a seven-game run from October 27 to December 7, 1968. 

- The Bills claimed their first division title since 1995 and won 13 games this season, their best record since 1991. However, Buffalo are still seeking their first playoff win since the 1995 Wild Card round – their 24-season drought is the third-longest active streak in the NFL, behind the Cincinnati Bengals (30 seasons, including 2020) and Detroit Lions (29 seasons, including 2020).

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks – Saturday, 4.40pm

- Making his NFL debut against the Arizona Cardinals last week, backup quarterback John Wolford finished with 231 passing yards and 56 rushing yards, both game-highs. The 56 rushing yards were the most by a Rams QB since Roman Gabriel had 57 in Week 6, 1967.

- In the first eight games of the season, Russell Wilson averaged 317.6 passing yards and threw 28 touchdown passes, but in the last eight games, those numbers were just 208.9 and 12. However, Seattle went 6-2 in both sections of the season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team – Saturday, 8.15pm

- After starting the year 2-7, Washington finished on a 5-2 run to clinch their first division title since 2015. Washington's last playoff win came in the 2005 Wild Card Round against Tampa Bay - they are 0-4 since then. This season, they reached 30 points just once. 

- The Bucs have attempted 22 pass plays of at least 40 air yards this season, three more than any other team in the league, and its eight completions also lead the league. Washington have attempted just two such passes, tied with the New Orleans Saints for the fewest, and is one of two teams (also Cincinnati) without a completion.

SUNDAY'S GAMES

Baltimore Ravens at Tennessee Titans – Sunday, 1.05pm

- The Titans have won three of the past four meetings with the Ravens, including a 30-24 overtime victory in Week 11 this season and a 28-12 win in last season's Divisional playoff. This will mark the fifth postseason meeting between the teams – they have split the previous four 2-2 with the visiting team winning each game.

- Tennessee won the AFC South for the first time since 2008, when they fell to the Ravens 13-10 in the Divisional playoff. The Titans scored at least 40 points five times this season, including in Week 17 against the Houston Texans, the most in the NFL this season and one shy of the all-time record (last set by the 2018 Saints).

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints – Sunday, 4.40pm

- In his past six games, David Montgomery has averaged 99.7 rushing yards per game, and has seven rushing touchdowns. In his first nine games, he averaged just 52.4 yards per game and had one touchdown. His highest yardage total in that span came against New Orleans in Week 8 (89 yards).

- The Saints have lost each of their past two playoff games in overtime (against the Minnesota Vikings last season, and the Rams in 2018). No team has ever played three straight overtime playoff games – the Saints beat the Bears in overtime in Chicago in Week 8 this season.

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers – Sunday, 8.15pm

- The Browns and Steelers will meet in consecutive weeks after Cleveland pulled out a 24-22 victory at home in Week 17. This will be the teams' third meeting in the postseason and the third straight postseason game the Browns will face the Steelers – Pittsburgh won both of the previous two, most recently a 36-33 win in the 2002 Wild Card game.

- Ben Roethlisberger is expected to make his 22nd career postseason start, which would break a tie with John Elway for fifth most all-time. His 30 postseason passing touchdowns are tied for ninth most in NFL history, while his 24 career playoff interceptions are tied with Dan Marino for sixth most all-time.

The Green Bay Packers secured the NFC's top seed on Sunday, while Derrick Henry led the Tennessee Titans to the AFC South title.

Aaron Rodgers again powered the Packers, throwing four touchdown passes in a win over the Chicago Bears.

Despite their loss, the Bears clinched a playoff spot, as did the Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams.

Meanwhile, Henry made history as the Titans won the AFC South, while the Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East.

 

RODGERS DOMINATES AGAIN AS PACKERS CLINCH TOP SEED

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards and four TDs in the Packers' 35-16 victory over the Bears.

The Packers quarterback connected for TDs with Robert Tonyan, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Dominique Dafney and Davante Adams.

Rodgers finished the regular season with 48 TD passes. Alongside Peyton Manning, they are the only players in NFL history with 45-plus TD passes in multiple seasons, according to NFL Research. They won the NFL MVP in each of the previous three instances.

While Green Bay finished with a 13-3 record, the 8-8 Bears also reached the playoffs.

 

HISTORY FOR HENRY AS TITANS WIN AFC SOUTH

The Titans claimed the AFC South for the first time since 2008 after a thrilling 41-38 win over the Houston Texans.

Henry became the eighth player in history to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a single season.

He had 250 rushing yards and two TDs against the Texans. Of the eight players to achieve the feat, Henry was the only one who needed 200-plus yards in his last game to get there, according to Stats Perform.

A.J. Brown had 151 receiving yards, but the Titans needed Sam Sloman's 37-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Texans.

The Titans became the first team in NFL history to have a 250-yard rusher and 150-yard receiver in the same game.

 

WASHINGTON WIN NFC EAST AS COLTS, RAMS REACH PLAYOFFS

The Washington Football Team claimed the NFC East thanks to a 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Alex Smith threw two touchdown passes and two interceptions as Washington (7-9) claimed the division.

The Colts (11-5) reached the playoffs thanks to a 28-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Los Angeles Rams (10-6) are also into the postseason after beating the Arizona Cardinals 18-7.

 

Week 17 scores:

Minnesota Vikings 37-35 Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44-27 Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots 28-14 New York Jets
Buffalo Bills 56-26 Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns 24-22 Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants 23-19 Dallas Cowboys
Baltimore Ravens 38-3 Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts 28-14 Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans 41-38 Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams 18-7 Arizona Cardinals
New Orleans Saints 33-7 Carolina Panthers
Green Bay Packers 35-16 Chicago Bears
Los Angeles Chargers 38-21 Kansas City Chiefs
Seattle Seahawks 26-23 San Francisco 49ers
Las Vegas Raiders 32-31 Denver Broncos
Washington Football Team 20-14 Philadelphia Eagles

The Green Bay Packers will hope to seal the top seed in the NFC when they face rivals the Chicago Bears, but the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks will be ready to pounce on any slip-up.

A tie on Sunday would be enough for the Packers to secure a first-round bye in the postseason, though they would also receive it regardless of their own result if the Seahawks fail to beat the San Francisco 49ers.

If the Seahawks are to head straight into the Divisional Round, they need to beat the 49ers and hope the Packers lose and the Saints fail to win against the Carolina Panthers.

New Orleans, meanwhile, need a victory over the Panthers to coincide with the Packers losing to the Bears and Seattle beating San Francisco.

Division titles are up for grabs in the AFC South and NFC East, with the Tennessee Titans and Washington Football Team looking to hold on and top their sections, while the Cleveland Browns will be aiming to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002 when they face a Pittsburgh Steelers side without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

 

FEATURED GAME

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears – Sunday, 4.25pm

- This will be the third Week 17 meeting since 2010 for the long-time rivals, and the previous two were critical games. In the 2010 campaign, the Packers needed to beat the Bears at Lambeau Field to make the postseason; they won 10-3 and went on to win Super Bowl XLV. The teams met in Week 17 three years later in Chicago; the Packers' 33-28 success earned them the NFC North crown and eliminated the Bears. 

- A win over Chicago would secure the NFC's top seed for Green Bay – as well as a second consecutive 13-3 season. The Packers have posted back-to-back seasons of 13 or more wins only once, in 1996 and 1997 with Brett Favre at quarterback. In the Super Bowl era, only one team has had consecutive seasons with at least 13 victories and no Super Bowl appearance: the Saints of 2018 and 2019.

- Aaron Rodgers has 51 touchdown passes against the Bears in his regular-season career, second only to Favre's 60. Including the 2010 NFC Championship Game, Rodgers is 20-5 versus Chicago for an .800 winning percentage, the fourth highest by any QB versus a single opponent since 1950 (minimum 25 starts; postseason included).

OTHER KEY GAMES

New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers – Sunday, 4.25pm

- Alvin Kamara rushed for six touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Day, tying the NFL record set by Ernie Nevers in 1929. Kamara's 58 scrimmage TDs rank as the third most by a player through his first four seasons all-time (Terrell Davis – 61, LaDainian Tomlinson – 60).

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers – Sunday, 4.25pm

- After hurting the Arizona Cardinals' postseason chances with a 20-12 win at State Farm Stadium on Saturday, the 49ers will hope to play spoiler for a second straight week. A win over Seattle on Sunday would give San Francisco a 4-2 record within the NFC West, which would be a division-best – even as they finish in last place.

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans – Sunday, 4.25pm

Tennessee will clinch its first AFC South title since 2008 with a win, or an Indianapolis Colts loss versus the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. A win over Houston would also tie the Titans franchise record for road wins in a season (currently 5-2: 6-2 in 1996, 2000, 2008).

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts – Sunday, 4.25pm

Indianapolis and Jacksonville both have eight players with over 250 receiving yards this season, the only two teams in the NFL with as many. The Jaguars had never had eight players with 250 receiving yards in the same season before, while the Colts had it happen once before (2016, eight players). If they are to snatch the AFC South division title, Indianapolis need to win and hope Tennessee fail to match them, or tie and see the Titans lose.

Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles - Sunday, 8.20pm

Washington have lost six of their past seven games against the Eagles, including three straight on the road. Their lone success came in Week 1 this year after they scored the final 27 points of the game and won 27-17. A tie would be enough for Washington to clinch the NFC East division title, as long as the Dallas Cowboys fail to beat the New York Giants.

ELSEWHERE…

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants – Sunday, 1.00pm

Daniel Jones has not thrown an interception in 162 consecutive pass attempts, the longest active streak in the NFL and the third-longest streak by a Giant in the past 30 seasons (Eli Manning – 176 in 2014, Phil Simms – 173 in 1993). To reach the playoffs, Dallas needs a win and for Washington not to match them, or a tie and a Washington loss. New York need a win and a Washington loss.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns – Sunday, 1.00pm

Nick Chubb is averaging 5.45 yards per carry this season and has run for 11 touchdowns. He is set to will become the second player in NFL history with 5.0+ yards per carry and 8+ rush TDs in three straight seasons, joining another Browns player in Leroy Kelly (1966-68). With a win or a Colts loss on Sunday, the Browns would snap their 17-season playoff drought, which is tied for the longest in the NFL since the merger (1970-86 Saints, 2000-16 Buffalo Bills).

The Seattle Seahawks claimed their first NFC West championship since 2016 after topping the Los Angeles Rams.

Seattle sealed a four-year first in the NFL thanks to Sunday's 20-9 victory at Lumen Field, where the Seahawks kept alive their hopes of finishing with one of the NFC's top two seeds.

Aaron Rodgers flexed his muscles and team-mate Davante Adams starred in the Green Bay Packers' rout of the Tennessee Titans.

There were also wins for the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers.

 

SEAHAWKS IN NFC WEST-CLINCHING WIN

For the fifth time under head coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks got their hands on the NFC West crown.

The Seahawks (11-4) used a resurgent defense to see off the Rams (9-6), holding Los Angeles to just six points in the second half, while sacking quarterback Jared Goff – who reportedly suffered a broken thumb – three times.

"There were times during the season where everybody had enough statistics to go ahead and blow us out, and like we weren't worth anything on defense," Carroll said.

"But this defense is good, and they've shown it and they've declared it. This is the kind of defense that we've played in years past when we really had good teams down ... the stretch."

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was 20-of-32 passing for 225 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions, while he also rushed for a TD on three carries.

 

RODGERS' PACKERS DOMINATE

Huge performances from MVP hopeful Rodgers and wide receiver Adams fuelled Green Bay's 40-14 demolition of the Titans at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers showcased his MVP credentials by going 21 of 25 for 231 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for a 128.1 passer rating.

The Packers quarterback had his 13th game with a 100-plus passer rating this season, tying himself in 2011 and Patrick Mahomes in 2018 for the most such games in a single season in league history, per NFL Research. Both Rodgers (2011) and Mahomes (2018) finished as that season's NFL MVP.

Adams caught 11 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the third player in NFL history to have 100-plus receptions and 16-plus receiving TDs in a season.

He also recorded his ninth successive Sunday Night Football appearance with a touchdown – breaking a tie with Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski for the longest such streak in NFL history.

The Packers improved to 12-3 but still need to beat the Chicago Bears in their final regular-season game to clinch the NFC's number one seed.

Titans QB Ryan Tannehill completed just 11 of 24 passes for 121 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, while Tennessee star Derrick Henry was restricted to 23 carries, 98 yards and no TDs.

 

COWBOYS STAY ALIVE

The Cowboys remain in the hunt in a wide-open NFC East after defeating rivals the Philadelphia Eagles 37-17.

Coupled with the Washington Football Team's (6-9) 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys (6-9) still have a chance to win the division.

The Cowboys need to beat the New York Giants in Week 17, while the Eagles must take down Washington in order for Dallas to top the NFC East.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert set a new single-season rookie record for touchdown passes in the 19-16 victory against the Denver Broncos.

Herbert broke the record when he threw his 28th TD of the season in the second quarter, while he joined Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes as the only players to record 4,000 passing yards through their first 14 starts.

 

Week 16 scores:

New York Jets 23-16 Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Ravens 27-13 New York Giants
Cincinnati Bengals 37-31 Houston Texans
Chicago Bears 41-17 Jacksonville Jaguars
Kansas City Chiefs 17-14 Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers 28-24 Indianapolis Colts
Seattle Seahawks 20-9 Los Angeles Rams
Dallas Cowboys 37-17 Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers 40-14 Tennessee Titans
Carolina Panthers 20-13 Washington Football Team
Los Angeles Chargers 19-16 Denver Broncos

The Kansas City Chiefs are certain to be top seeds in the AFC as the Pittsburgh Steelers produced an impressive comeback in Week 16 of the NFL season.

Despite stuttering of late, Pittsburgh will now win the AFC North after a come-from-behind victory during Sunday's six-game early schedule.

Wins for the Baltimore Ravens and the Chicago Bears leave both franchises at the front of the queue to reach the postseason, and while the Cleveland Browns remain in the hunt, too, they blew a big opportunity as they went down to the New York Jets.

The Jacksonville Jaguars' playoff hopes had long since ended, but the franchise can now plan for their long-term future after a 14th straight loss means they will have the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

There was a record-breaking outing for Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, while the evergreen Frank Gore reached a major milestone.

 

RECORD-BREAKING KELCE STARS FOR CHIEFS

So now it is official: Kansas City are number one in the AFC, the defending champions securing a bye with a 14th victory in the regular season.

It was far from straightforward, however, as they scrapped to a 17-14 triumph over the Atlanta Falcons, who saw Younghoe Koo miss a late field-goal attempt that would have forced overtime. 

Atlanta had led 14-10 until the Chiefs claimed the lead just prior to the two-minute warning, Patrick Mahomes hitting Demarcus Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown. The score was enough to make sure of Kansas City's 10th comeback win of the campaign.

Kelce also caught a touchdown pass as he made NFL history, surpassing George Kittle's single-season receiving yardage record for a tight end. It was his 11th TD reception on the year, matching the franchise record for the position, set by Tony Gonzalez back in 1999. 

BIG BEN CHIMES IN DURING COMEBACK

It seemed the Steelers were in danger of a fourth successive loss when they trailed the Colts 24-7 in the third quarter, only to sensationally respond with 21 unanswered points. 

An offense that had failed to reach 20 points in their four previous outings suddenly came to life, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster to complete a remarkable comeback. 

As for the Browns, they are still yet to officially end their long playoff drought after a shock loss on the road.  

Running back Gore became just the third player to reach 16,000 rushing yards in NFL history - a feat only previously achieved by Emmitt Smith (18,355) and Walter Payton (16,726) -  as the Jets held firm in a dramatic finish, a Baker Mayfield fumble on a fourth-down scramble ending a potential game-tying drive for Cleveland. 

RAVENS SOAR, BEARS ROAR

The Ravens appear to be rolling into the postseason after stretching their winning streak to four games - another against Cincinnati next week and they will seal a wildcard berth. 

Lamar Jackson threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-13 victory against the fading New York Giants. The NFL's reigning MVP also ran for 80 yards, helping Baltimore reach 100 yards rushing on the ground for the 38th consecutive game. 

The Bears are also now in control of their own destiny. After the Arizona Cardinals lost on Saturday, Chicago thrashed the Jaguars 41-17 to improve to 8-7.

All they need do to make the playoffs is defeat divisional rivals Green Bay in Week 17. Jacksonville, meanwhile, can start planning for that first-round choice next April.


Week 16 scores

New York Jets 23-16 Cleveland Browns
Baltimore Ravens 27-13 New York Giants
Cincinnati Bengals 37-31 Houston Texans
Chicago Bears 41-17 Jacksonville Jaguars
Kansas City Chiefs 17-14 Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers 28-24 Indianapolis Colts

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