T.Y. Hilton Expected to Play Against Texans, More NFL Wild-Card News and Notes
The playoffs are here, which means this weekend’s rundown will be split into two. Here are five pieces of intel we picked up going into wild-card Saturday …
1. The Colts’ expectation is for TY Hilton to play, and play well. Yes, he tweaked his ankle against the Titans, but his situation this week was similar to the past few weeks. And his presence for this one is huge, based on Hilton’s performances against the Texans this season—he tallied four receptions for 115 yards in Indianapolis’s Week 4 game against Houston, and nine catches for 199 in their Week 14 game, playing through a shoulder issue in the latter game.
2. As for combatting Hilton, the value of strong philosophical alignment between coaching and scouting will be on display there. Yes, the Texans’ corner situation still needs a lot of rehab. But one trait that GM Brian Gaine and coach Bill O’Brien mutually prize in their players—versatility—helped the team see through a tenuous situation at the position that only got worse when former first-rounder Kevin Johnson went down in the opener. Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin were acquired, in part, because they have it, and Kareem Jackson was cross-trained to build more of it, and that’s been enormous to seeing things through to an 11-win season.
3. In the late game, the Cowboys have two spots that bear watching. One is along the offensive line: I’m told left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin will play, but Xavier Su’a-Filo is out, which means rookie Connor Williams (who lost the job earlier in the year) will get the nod at right guard. And on defense, third-year man Jaylon Smith and rookie Leighton Vander Esch will start at the Mike and Will spots, respectively. My understanding is Dallas will try to rotate veteran Sean Lee in a bit, both at his accustomed Will position and at the Mike. That’s a new role for the former All-Pro, of course, but he’s been huge in the development of the two young guys.
4. The Seahawks are fairly healthy, and there is some good news on the injury front—No. 1 corner Shaquill Griffin, battling a little bit of an ankle sprain, is good to go. Things are more touch-and-go with guard J.R. Sweezy, who dealing with a foot injury. Seattle doesn’t expect definitive word on his status until they get to AT&T Stadium.
5. And finally, on the coaching-search front, the carousel will spin in New Orleans on Saturday, which is a byproduct of the Saints being the best team in football for most of this year. Assistant head coach Dan Campbell interviewed Friday with the Browns, and he has an interview with the Packers Saturday morning and Cardinals Saturday afternoon. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will meet with the Dolphins about their job Saturday morning, and the Packers will interview offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael after they are done with Campbell. And then it’ll be on to the divisional round for all those guys.
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