FORMER GREY CUP CHAMP READY TO ROLL FOR CARDS
Backup Streveler gets the call if injury sidelines Murray
The Arizona Cardinals might hold a slight advantage over the Los Angeles Rams when the two go head to head for a wild card playoff spot on Sunday, the final day of the most unique regular season in NFL history.
The quarterback they might have to use has touched the ball one more time in a game than the backup the Rams are counting on.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury is “hopeful” Kyler Murray can overcome a leg injury he suffered in Week 16, and given the magnitude of the moment, his star QB is expected to play.
But if he can't, or if he's forced out early, Arizona will rely on Chris Streveler, who was the CFL rushing touchdowns co-leader in 2019. That year Streveler set a league record by taking 23 snaps without throwing a pass in the West semifinal, and then helped the Winnipeg Blue Bombers win the Grey Cup.
Streveler has been on an NFL field for a grand total of four snaps, including two on special teams. The ball has been in his hands just once, a three-yard run in Week 1.
Yet that makes him a seasoned veteran compared to John Wolford, who will be the Rams' starter with Jared Goff having surgery to repair a broken thumb.
An undrafted 25-year-old out of Wake Forest, Wolford has never played an NFL snap, but hey, he did occupy a spot on the practice squad for the last two years.
He could be on a short leash, however, as the Rams have signed former Jacksonville starter Blake Bortles.
Another quarterback situation to monitor this week is the status of Alex Smith. If he can return from a calf injury, Washington has a good shot at beating Philadelphia and taking the NFC East division crown.
If not, Washington could be in trouble. Having just released former first rounder Dwayne Haskins, they're left with Taylor Heinicke, who started the season as Washington's fourth stringer.
If Heinicke can't win the first game of his career, the division will go to the winner of the Dallas Cowboys-new York Giants game.
Meanwhile, there are no “ifs” in Pittsburgh, where Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has decided that giving Ben Roethlisberger a rest against the Cleveland Browns is more important than going all-out for a shot at the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
Using backup Mason Rudolph isn't a bad idea, since the Steelers didn't really get a true bye week this season because of scheduling changes due to COVID-19.
In the five games before Sunday's second-half comeback to hand the Indianapolis Colts a devastating loss, they have looked tired. Particularly Big Ben.
“It does not change our intentions, in terms of going to Cleveland this weekend,” said Tomlin. “Football is our game. Our job is winning. We intend to do our job.
“The game is on the schedule, and so the guys that will be on the field will represent us in the standard that is the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
The Browns, who put themselves in a pickle by losing to the Jets last Sunday, won't object to the Steelers sitting some starters. It will also be the first time for Rudolph facing Cleveland since he was smashed on the head by his own helmet, courtesy of Myles Garrett. He'll surely relish the opportunity to squash the Browns' playoff hopes after they've had their best season in 12 years.
The Rams have placed WR Cooper Kupp on COVID-19 reserve … For the period of Dec. 20-26, there were 21 new positive tests among players and 37 positives among other personnel … Released by Washington, Haskins has cleared waivers … Bill Belichick isn't yet saying whether Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham will start against the Jets … With their 38-9 shellacking of the Patriots on Monday, the Bills have swept the season series with New England for the first time since 1999. Pete Carroll was the Patriots' coach at the time … Damon (Snacks) Harrison has asked for and received his release from the Seahawks.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“T.J.'S visiting from another planet, to be quite honest with you. He has freakishly unique talent coupled with freakishly unique work habits and mindset and it produces what you guys witness every week, which in my opinion, is defensive player of the year quality.”
— Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on rush end T.J. Watt