Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has suffered a concussion, head coach Mike McDaniel has confirmed, with Teddy Bridgewater set to start against the New England Patriots on Sunday.

McDaniel told reporters on Wednesday that they reviewed film from last Saturday's defeat to the Green Bay Packers and questioned Tagovailoa on how he felt after a particular hit, sending him to see the doctors after some inconsistencies in the quarterback's behaviour caused concern.

The Dolphins are 8-7 for the season following the loss to the Packers, in which Tagovailoa threw three interceptions, and have now suffered four losses in a row, but have the head-to-head edge over the Patriots (7-8) in the race for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The Dolphins beat the Patriots at home in Week 1.

Despite the significance of the Dolphins' two remaining regular-season games, McDaniel made it clear that Tagovailoa's health holds more importance.

"This is a private time for him to focus on his health. This is a human being. His health is the first and only priority," he said.

The injury marks Tagovailoa's second diagnosed concussion this season and the third time he has been evaluated for a concussion this season.

Tagovailoa missed two games in October after a previous concussion, where he was hospitalised during a 27-15 Week 4 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals after being whipped around and flung to the ground by the Bengals' Josh Tupou, causing his head to snap back onto the turf.

The Dolphins were heavily criticised for having the quarterback on the field just four days after an incident in a 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills, where he was pushed to the ground by linebacker Matt Milano, causing Tagovailoa's helmet to slam into the turf. He managed to get back on his feet quickly, but after shaking his head and looking woozy, he appeared to lose his balance as he stumbled back to the ground.

After heading to the locker room, the Dolphins said he was questionable to return, but he missed just three snaps and returned for the start of the third quarter – which prompted the NFL and National Football League Players Association to conduct a joint review of how the decision was made to allow Tagovailoa to return.

McDaniel maintained the proper protocols were followed but the neurotrauma consultant who evaluated and cleared Tagovailoa was later fired by the NFLPA.

The NFLPA has initiated a joint review into the application of the concussion protocol for Tagovailoa surrounding this latest head injury.

The Washington Commanders are benching Taylor Heinicke and returning to Carson Wentz as their starting quarterback for the Week 17 game with the Cleveland Browns.

At 7-7-1, the Commanders still occupy the final Wild Card place in the NFC playoff race, with other results going in their favour in Week 16, which saw Washington brushed aside 37-20 by the San Francisco 49ers.

That was only Heinicke's third defeat in nine starts this season after a finger injury to Wentz saw him take the helm of the offense in Week 7. However, it followed disappointing outcomes in back-to-back games with the New York Giants in which they played to a tie on the road before losing in contentious fashion at home.

Heinicke lost a fumble and was intercepted as he was limited to 166 yards passing on 13 completions by San Francisco, though he did throw two touchdowns, before being replaced by Wentz in the fourth quarter.

Wentz went 12 of 16 for 123 yards and a touchdown after coming into the game and, according to multiple reports, will reassume the position of starter for a potentially decisive clash at FedEx Field.

Wentz, whom the Commanders acquired in an offseason trade with the Indianapolis Colts, is 2-4 as a starter this season.

The Commanders will clinch a playoff berth for the second time in three seasons if they beat the Browns and the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers all suffer defeats in Week 17.

Wentz has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 75.6 per cent of his pass attempts this season, below the NFL average of 81.1 per cent. However, Heinicke's pickable pass rate of 7.82 per cent is the worst among quarterbacks with at least 100 passes in 2022.

The Commanders will hope Wentz can take better care of the football than his team-mate and put a Commanders team with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball in position to reach the postseason.

J.J. Watt is still going out at the top of the game even if it is "bittersweet" that he will end his NFL career without a Super Bowl title.

That is the view of Carolina Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who believes Watt has been a long-time inspiration to many younger players.

Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher Watt announced his impending NFL retirement on Monday.

He posted on Twitter that Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first NFL game his son attended but also his final home game before retiring after the 2022 season.

Already eliminated from the playoffs, the Cardinals play their final two games on the road – at the Atlanta Falcons this week and at the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18.

"If it is the end, it is kind of bittersweet," Gross-Matos said to Stats Perform about Watt, whose 2021 move to Arizona did not produce the long postseason run he craved.

"For someone who has done so much for the sport, you kind of want them to go out with the championship, especially for all he has done. 

"But he has still had a great career. He is still getting double-digit sacks and he was able to get three in a game [against the Denver Broncos in Week 15].

"So I mean, he's still going out on top and I am hoping for the best for him.

"He did right by the shield and set a great example for a lot of great defenders coming after him

"He was definitely a huge inspiration for me, someone I looked up to a lot. He is someone I've watched over the years and continue to watch to this day.

"And, when I was in college he definitely convinced me to get in the weight room when he was throwing guys around [in the NFL]."

One of the NFL's most feared pass-rushers early in his career, Watt battled through some major injuries in the past few seasons and also revealed in October he was playing through a case of atrial fibrillation.

A first-round pick by the Houston Texans in 2011, the 33-year-old is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection.

The future Hall of Famer led the league in sacks in 2012 and 2015, and his 111.5 career sacks rank fourth among active players. His 9.5 sacks this season are his most since recording 16 in 2018.

"Koa's first ever NFL game," Watt wrote in his announcement. "My last ever NFL home game.

"My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It's been an absolute honour and a pleasure."

The Denver Broncos believe Russell Wilson is fixable as they head into an offseason looking to pick up the pieces from a debacle of a 2022 season.

Denver fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday after under a year at the helm of a team many expected to contend this campaign.

The Broncos' 51-14 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams on Christmas Day sealed Hackett's fate, the loss dropping Denver to 4-11 on the season.

Wilson was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason, the Broncos parting with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant to land his services.

But the nine-time Pro Bowler has endured the worst season of his career, completing 60.1 per cent of his passes for 3,019 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Wilson's well-thrown rate of 78.8 per cent is below the NFL average of 81.1 per cent and, heading into last weekend's games, he ranked 25th (for QBs with a minimum of 100 plays in expected passing situations) in yards over expected on downs where the defense would be anticipating a pass, according to Stats Perform data.

His level of performance after being handed a five-year, $245million extension by Denver arguably makes the Broncos job an unappealing one for potential Hackett successors, with the dead cap hits that would come with parting with Wilson meaning they are likely committed to keeping him until at least end of the 2024 season.

But general manager George Paton remains confident Wilson can be salvaged and return to the form that made him such a prized asset.

"We saw flashes of Russ this year. Russ even said he didn't play up to his standard," Paton said at a press conference. 

"He will be the first one to tell you he didn't play up to his standard, didn't play up to our standard. He needs to be better.

"I don't think we made a coaching move based on Russ. That wasn't what it's all about.

"That's not why we're getting a new coach, to turn around Russ; it's about the entire organisation. It's about the entire football team.

"It's just not one player. It's not whether Russ is fixable or not. We do believe he is. We do."

Broncos owner and CEO George Penner, who revealed the new head coach would report into him rather than Paton, echoed the general manager's apparent lack of panic surrounding Wilson.

"The decision to have Russell here was a long-term one," Penner said. "This season has not been up to his standards or expectations. We saw some glimpses of it in the last few weeks.

"He knows he can play better, we know he can play better, and we know he will do the right work in the offseason to be ready for next year.

"George and I have had a chance to get to know each other – we talk every day since we purchased the team a number of months ago – and he acknowledged right up front there were a couple of decisions that hadn't worked out as he had expected.

"But I understand his thought process. He understands the work that needs to be done in this offseason, and I'm going to rely on him heavily as we go through and make these changes."

Arizona Cardinals star defensive end JJ Watt has announced his football career is ending.

Watt posted to Twitter on Monday that Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first NFL game his son attended but also his final NFL home game.

"Koa's first ever NFL game," Watt wrote. "My last ever NFL home game."

Already eliminated from the playoffs, the Cardinals play their final two games on the road – at the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday and at the San Francisco 49ers in Week 18.

"My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude," Watt wrote. "It's been an absolute honour and a pleasure."

One of the NFL's most feared pass-rushers early in his career, the 33-year-old Watt battled through injuries in the past few seasons and revealed in October he was playing through a case of atrial fibrillation.

A first-round pick by the Houston Texans in 2011, Watt is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection.

The future Hall of Famer led the league in sacks in 2012 and 2015, and his 111.5 career sacks rank fourth among active players. His 9.5 sacks this season are his most since recording 16 in 2018.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has not thought about how the team will handle their quarterback situation in 2023 following rookie Brock Purdy's stunning emergence.

The Niners claimed their eighth straight win on Christmas Eve as they eased to a 37-20 victory over the Washington Commanders to improve to 11-4 on the season.

Purdy, the last pick in this year's draft, has been the starting quarterback for the last three games, having come in and replaced Jimmy Garoppolo following his injury in the first quarter of the Week 13 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Since quarterback starts were first tracked in 1950, Purdy is only the second player to begin his career 3-0 as a starter while throwing multiple touchdown passes in each game. The other is Kurt Warner, who did so in 1999 after stepping in for the injured Trent Green and went on to lead the St. Louis Rams to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.

The 49ers and Purdy have ambitions on lifting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of this campaign, and it is that goal Shanahan is entirely focused on, not a quarterback decision that figures to be one of the dominant storylines of the offseason.

Garoppolo will become a free agent at the start of the 2023 league year in March, leaving Purdy and Trey Lance — who was the 49ers’ starter before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 — as the two quarterbacks on the roster.

San Francisco traded three first-round picks for the right to acquire Lance with the third overall selection in 2021, but he has started only four games in two seasons and it may be difficult to demote Purdy from the starting role if he continues to thrive and the 49ers enjoy a deep playoff run.

But asked if he had thought about how he will approach the quarterback issue in the offseason, Shanahan told reporters on Monday: "No, I didn't even know what year it is after this season is over, so I'm trying to think about how to get him ready for Wednesday [practice].

"That's a great question, but honestly, I don't look ahead like that. We have a number of big games in front of us."

Purdy averaged 10.64 yards per pass attempt in throwing for 234 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against Washington despite still dealing with an oblique injury.

Assessing Purdy's display, Shanahan said: "I thought Brock played well, really well. He was smart with the ball.

"There were a couple situations that were tight, where there was an unblocked player and the play was almost there and I thought he just did a great job not doing anything stupid in some tough situations also.

"He's shown that he's willing to let a rip at all times and there were a couple times in the game that they got an unblocked guy right to him and he made a couple great decisions just to take the sack, so I was really impressed with how Brock played just talking to him here the last two days.

"He got out healthy again and I think that should continue healing up and I think he should be even a little better this week with more health."

Tom Brady will take his time when considering retirement, after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback's very brief exit prior to the 2022 season.

The 45-year-old announced his retirement from the NFL in February before a dramatic U-turn just forty days later.

With just two games remaining of the regular season – though the Buccaneers lead the NFC South and can clinch the division title with victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars – retirement questions are once again orientating around the seven-time Super Bowl champion.

Set to become a free agent at the end of this season, Brady's future remains up in the air but he has learned not to rush into a decision after this year's experience.

"Well, I think next time I decide to retire, that's it for me. So, whenever that day comes, we'll figure it out," he told the Let's Go! Podcast.

"You know, I think what I really realised last year was you gotta be really sure to do that [announce retirement].

"And for me, you know, a lot of people have kind of gone through this situation. I'm going to take my time whenever that time does come."

Should he continue, Brady could decide to remain with the Buccaneers or may choose a new team for the twilight years of his career, with an array of teams having been touted as potential destinations.

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley has hailed his side for clinching a playoff berth but made it clear it is "just the beginning" for the team.

A first playoff spot for the Chargers since 2018 was clinched with a 20-3 victory against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, marking only the second venture into the postseason since the franchise returned to Los Angeles from San Diego.

However, Staley has his sights set on more significant goals as he looks to steer the Chargers all the way to Super Bowl glory – something that has evaded the franchise in their history, having made only one appearance in 1994 when they suffered defeat against the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's just the beginning; this is not our final goal," he told reporters.

"I'm really proud of how this season has gone for our football team and what we've been able to demonstrate to make it into the postseason. That's what I'm most proud of, not that we did it but how we made it, what it took for us to get in, but this is just the beginning for us.

"The reason why we're here is because of the men on our football team. We've got the make-up to withstand the type of season that we've had. We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the toughness of our football team.

"For far too long, people have talked about the talent and organisation but that's ultimately not what gets you where you want to go. You have to prove your toughness, and that's what we've proven so far this year.

"Our season is not over. We have two more games against really good teams and we need to play our best football so we not only get into the playoffs but so that we can make a run to a Super Bowl championship, which is what we want."

The Chargers' playoff berth is the first of Justin Herbert's career and, while he was proud of the achievement, he backed the defense for their performance and believes there is more to come from his side of the team.

"We've dealt with our fair share of adversity. The story of the day was the defense, stepping up and getting those stops in. There's plenty of room for improvement with our offense but it's a good sign of things to come," he said after the game.

"Some games that didn't go our way last year, but we were able to learn from that and fix it. I think the guys in the locker room deserve that. They've worked so hard and earned it. I think the Chargers operation have done a great job in the past few years."

The Los Angeles Chargers' defense dominated Indianapolis Colts quarterback Nick Foles in his first start of the season to collect a 20-3 victory and book the first playoff berth of the Justin Herbert era.

Herbert, the sixth overall pick from the 2020 NFL Draft, has already been anointed as part of the next great wave of quarterbacks, but is yet to taste postseason action after going 7-9 as a rookie and 9-8 last year.

With a playoff spot on the line with a win on Monday, the Chargers' defense played inspired football, sacking former Super Bowl champion Foles seven times while also intercepting three passes.

The Colts' only points came from a field goal in the second quarter, but they remained in the game at half-time as Austin Ekeler scored the Chargers' only first-half touchdown to lead 10-3.

After Cameron Dicker's second field goal made things a two-score game in the third period, Ekeler rumbled in for his second one-yard touchdown of the contest early in the fourth quarter to blow out the lead.

With his two touchdowns, Ekeler now owns the outright league-lead with 16 combined trips to the endzone – 11 rushing and five receiving. He handled 16 carries for 67 yards with his two scores, while adding four catches for 12 yards.

It was not Herbert's best game, completing 24 of his 31 passes for 235 yards and an interception, but he had a strong connection with receiver Keenan Allen, who had 11 catches for 104 yards.

Defensively, superstar pass-rusher Khalil Mack was one of six Chargers to register at least one sack, while Michael Davis, Asante Samuel Jr and Derwin James Jr collected the interceptions.

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones made it clear his intention was not to hurt anybody, but defended his low hit on Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple that resulted in an $11,139 fine.

The play occurred as the Bengals' defense scooped up an incomplete pass and began to run it back for a touchdown, but unaware that the whistle had been blown and the play was dead, both teams acted as if the ball was live.

During the return, Jones positioned himself in Apple's path and dropped at the knees to take him out of the play, with numerous pundits and Apple himself calling it a "dirty play".

"I thought it was a dirty play," Apple said. "He's done that before – I've seen it."

When asked about it by radio station WEEI on Monday, Jones explained the situation as simply being part of the game, saying he did not know the play had been stopped.

"I went down in front of him to kind of get in the way to stop him from slowing down Tyquan [Thornton], who obviously could make the tackle there," he said. 

"So just kind of went down in front of him, trying to stop a fast guy from getting to another fast guy. It's a split-second decision and there's a lot that goes into it. 

"You're out there trying to compete, it's a physical game, so I was just trying to help the team win.

"I have all the respect for Eli and the Bengals. They played a great game. So, there's no hard feelings and definitely no intention to hurt anybody on that play.

"I get hit a lot, too. We're all out there playing hard – it's just part of the game."

For years, the New England Patriots have been the model NFL franchise. They have represented consistency, discipline and, above all else, good coaching.

As they head into the final two weeks of the 2022 season, it is hard to think of three qualities that are less representative of this version of Bill Belichick's team.

The Patriots are still in the mix to reach the playoffs this season and may yet sneak is in as a Wild Card for the second successive season.

But their 2021 campaign ended with the Patriots being blown out by the Buffalo Bills, and all the signs point to this season coming to a conclusion in similar circumstances.

Indeed, any veneer of the Patriots as a postseason contender who could cause problems for the AFC's elite has been emphatically removed by a pair of dramatic finishes that both produced agonising defeats for New England.

The Patriots followed up their last-gasp defeat to the Las Vegas Raiders on Jakobi Meyers' inexplicable failed lateral with another heartbreaking finale that saw Rhamondre Stevenson fumble the ball into the arms of the Cincinnati Bengals safety Vonn Bell.

Those successive losses leave the Patriots at 7-8 and, while they are still only a game behind the 8-7 Miami Dolphins, their consecutive failures over the course of the past two weeks in situations where New England would normally thrive are significant enough to raise significant questions about the direction of a team whose success saw them established as the NFL's modern dynasty.

Most of those questions surround the offensive side of the ball. Last year, the Patriots let the draft board come to them and selected quarterback Mac Jones 15th overall, and looked to have themselves a steal as the former Alabama signal-caller impressed in helping New England to the playoffs.

But a failure to adequately replace offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has been succeeded by the bizarre combination of Joe Judge and Matt Patricia, has seen Jones fail to take the next step and the New England attack fail to deliver the explosive production needed to truly compete in a very competitive AFC.

According to Stats Perform's advanced data, Jones has actually been more accurate than his rookie season. He delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 80.1 per cent of his pass attempts in 2021, and that rate has increased to 82.1 per cent in 2022.

Yet Jones has thrown just nine touchdowns after tossing 22 last season, his struggles in that regard reflective of the Patriots' overall problems in punching the ball into the endzone, which they have done on only 15.4 per cent of their offensive drives, scoring six points on 26 of their 169 offensive series.

Their inability to turn possessions into touchdowns is in part a product of their lack of investment in the offensive skill positions. The Patriots rank 21st in win rate in pass coverage matchups, the starting wide receiver triumvirate of Meyers, Nelson Agholor and DeVante Parker unsurprisingly failing to consistently create the separation required for Jones to build a productive rapport with his receivers.

The Patriots' offensive issues are as much a failure of scheme as they are of personnel. Theirs is an offensive system that does not play to the strengths of Jones, who came from an offense built around the run-pass option at Alabama.

In 2022, the Patriots have used RPOs on just 1.3 per cent of their pass game snaps, below the average of 2.8. On top of that, they have eschewed the opportunity to capitalise on the influence of a run game defenses have committed at least eight men into the box to guard against 50.1 per cent of the time by leaning on the play-action pass.

The Patriots have used play-action on 9.87 per cent of pass plays, well shy of the league average of 13.3 per cent, limiting the easy buttons for Jones in an attack that is too reliant on the pure dropback game.

New England's offense has run a dropback concept 42 per cent of the time in 2022, nearly 11 percentage points above the average of 31.4 per cent, with the Patriots' primary reply to defensive aggression being a screen game that is overused and predictable. Screen passes have made up 16.3 per cent of New England's passing plays, with the league average being 9.9 per cent.

This static and ineffective offense is not only wasting the second year of Jones' development, but also an excellent season from the Patriots' defense, which ranks sixth with a Success Rate of 36.8 per cent.

The Patriots have two extremely productive pass rushers in Matthew Judon (15.5 sacks) and Josh Uche (11.5) and have pieced things together effectively in the back seven with a mix of rookies, veterans and emerging playmakers such as third-year safety Kyle Dugger, who serves as a tribute to Belichick's ability to develop talent on that side of the ball.

Belichick's defensive genius remains and it is undoubted, but in 2022 it is being cancelled out by the lack of offensive talent and a scheme that does little to elevate its young quarterback.

Jones is obviously a long way from being Tom Brady, and the talent on this Patriots roster is nowhere close to that of the New England teams he helped steer to six Super Bowl titles, yet Belichick has a quarterback and a group that can at be a threat to do damage in the postseason. Belichick excels at making teams into more than the sum of their parts, but it's hard to argue against the fact that, through negligence on the offensive side of the ball, he has missed an opportunity to do that this season.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was placed in the NFL concussion protocol on Monday and his status for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots is in question.

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel announced the injury on Monday a day after Tagovailoa played all of Miami’s 26-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"It was something he met with doctors today and discussed some symptoms," McDaniel said.

It's uncertain if Tagovailoa suffered a concussion, but McDaniel said he had the symptoms to justify being placed in the league's protocol.

If Tagovailoa is not cleared, Teddy Bridgewater will get the start in the Dolphins' extremely important game at New England.

The Dolphins are 8-7 after Tagovailoa threw three interceptions in Sunday's setback at the hands of the Packers and have lost four in a row and own the tiebreaker over the 7-8 Patriots for the final playoff spot in the AFC.

Tagovailoa missed two October games after suffering a concussion in Miami's 27-15 Week 4 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He was hospitalised after being whipped around and flung to the ground by the Bengals' Josh Tupou, causing his head to snap back onto the turf.

He then laid flat on his back with his hands in front of his face while his fingers bent at awkward angles in a 'fencing response' caused by a traumatic blow to the brain.

The Dolphins were heavily criticised for having Tagovailoa on the field for that game four days after what transpired in a 21-19 win over the Buffalo Bills.

After being pushed to the ground by linebacker Matt Milano, Tagovailoa's helmet slammed into the turf. He managed to get back on his feet quickly, but after shaking his head and looking woozy, he appeared to lose his balance as he stumbled back to the ground.

He went to the locker room to be assessed by the team's medical staff, with the Dolphins announcing a head injury that made him questionable to return.

He only missed three snaps, however, returning for the start of the third quarter – a decision that prompted the NFL and National Football League Players Association to conduct a joint review of how the decision was made to allow Tagovailoa to return.

McDaniel maintained, however, the proper protocols were followed and that Tagovailoa was cleared by the team and the independent neurologist.

The neurotrauma consultant who evaluated and cleared Tagovailoa was later fired by the NFLPA.

Mike White will return as starting quarterback for the New York Jets in the Week 17 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

White has been sidelined for the past two games due to a rib injury suffered during the defeat to the Buffalo Bills in Week 14, with the Jets losing the two games since as part of a four-game losing streak that has hindered their playoff push.

However, first reported by the New York Post, White has been cleared by doctors and will be back to lead the offense in Sunday's road trip against the Seahawks – in which both teams will essentially be in must-win mode as they seek to clinch a Wild Card berth.

His return provides a welcome boost for the Jets, who saw last year's second overall pick Zach Wilson continue to struggle when placed back in as starter in last Thursday's defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Wilson was benched for practice squad quarterback Chris Streveler in the second half of that loss.

In order to clinch a spot in the postseason, the Jets must win against the Seahawks and in their following trip to face the Miami Dolphins, but they also require at least one defeat from the New England Patriots from their two remaining games.

The Jets sit at 7-8 for the year and have not had a winning season since 2015 (10-6), while their last playoff appearance came 12 years ago.

The Denver Broncos have fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett after under a year in charge.

A 51-14 Christmas Day defeat to the Los Angeles Rams left the Broncos 4-11 on the season, the joint-third worst record across the NFL, with Denver set for their seventh consecutive losing season.

Former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Hackett was hired in January for his first head coach position and was expected to produce improvements to a struggling offense, which saw quarterback Russell Wilson added to its ranks in March in a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks.

However, performances have been disappointing, with the Broncos' points-per-game average of 15.5 standing as the lowest in the NFL.

The Broncos were thrashed 51-14 by the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, a result that proved the final straw.

In a statement, owner and CEO Gregg Penner said: "Following extensive conversations with George Paton and our ownership group, we determined a new direction would ultimately be in the best interest of the Broncos.

"This change was made out of respect for everyone involved and allows us to immediately begin the search for a new head coach.

"We recognise and appreciate this organisation's championship history and we understand we have not met that standard.

"Our fans deserve much better and I can't say enough about their loyalty during such a challenging stretch for our team.

"Moving forward, we will carefully evaluate every aspect of our football operations and make whatever changes are necessary to restore this franchise's winning tradition."

The Broncos finish the season with a road trip to face the Kansas City Chiefs and a home game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Philadelphia Eagles are reportedly hopeful right tackle Lane Johnson will be fit for the playoffs after being ruled out for the remainder of the regular season with an abdominal injury.

Johnson was replaced by Jack Driscoll after suffering the injury in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 40-32 defeat against the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia's second loss of the campaign.

A report from ESPN's Adam Schefter said Johnson had undergone an MRI scan that revealed a torn tendon in the abdominal area, and he is not expected to play any further part in the Eagles' final two regular season games.

However, with Philadelphia having clinched a playoff spot, the NFC East leaders hope to have the four-time Pro Bowl OT available for a postseason run.

With Johnson starting all 15 of the Eagles' games this season, his setback represents another concern for a side already nursing an injury to starting quarterback and MVP candidate Jalen Hurts.

The Eagles boast the NFL's best record at 13-2, and another victory would be enough for them to clinch the NFC East, the conference's top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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