Sep 4, 2021; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Akron Zips quarterback DJ Irons (0) avoids Auburn Tigers edge Romello Height (37) during the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn LB Romello Height transferring to Southern California

Former Auburn linebacker Romello Height announced Sunday he is transferring to Southern California.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound rising junior posted his commitment on social media after an official visit with the Trojans.

“Fight on!” Height wrote on Twitter along with a photo of himself in a USC uniform.

Height, from Dublin, Ga., had 18 tackles (three for losses) in nine games with the Tigers in 2021. He appeared in one game the previous season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (78) talks to running back Ronald Jones (27) on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs OT Tristan Wirfs out, C Ryan Jensen in vs. Rams

All-Pro offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs will miss the first game of his two-year NFL career on Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC divisional-round clash.

While Wirfs was ruled inactive, Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen has been cleared to play. Both sustained ankle injuries during the Buccaneers’ 31-15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in last weekend’s wild-card game.

Running back Leonard Fournette returns from a four-game absence due to a hamstring strain for the Bucs. He was activated from injured reserve on Saturday.

Fournette rushed for team-high 812 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games this season. He also caught 69 passes for 454 yards and two scores.

Fournette was a force in the postseason last year. He ran for 300 yards and three TDs and caught 18 passes for 148 yards and one score as the Buccaneers won four straight games to win the Super Bowl.

In addition to Wirfs, Tampa Bay’s inactives include running back Ronald Jones II, cornerback Pierre Desir, quarterbacks Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin, and wide receivers Cyril Grayson Jr. and Breshad Perriman.

The Rams listed offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Tremayne Anchrum Jr., safety Taylor Rapp, running back Buddy Howell, quarterback Bryce Perkins and linebackers Chris Garrett and Terrell Lewis as inactive.

–Field Level Media

Jan 16, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Tom Brady weighing retirement

Retirement watch begins in Tampa Bay if Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are eliminated from the NFC playoffs on Sunday.

Brady, 44, is planning to take “a month or longer” to decide whether to play in 2022, ESPN reported before the Buccaneers hosted the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional playoffs.

Brady led the Bucs to the Super Bowl last season and signed a restructured contract that includes next season.

The report indicates Brady and the Bucs are pleased with their partnership and mental and physical health are the forefront of the conversation with Brady and his family.

He said in the past he would like to play until age 45 and perhaps beyond, and performance has not been an issue.

Brady led the NFL in passing yards with a career-high 5,316 yards and tossed 43 touchdown passes despite a revolving door at the wide receiver and tight end positions.

The offseason could bring drama to the quarterback position for more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams, led by prominent passers like Brady, Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers), Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) and others.

Rodgers said he has a “tough decision” to make before the start of free agency about his future after Green Bay was eliminated from the postseason. Wilson first indicated 12 months ago that he wasn’t happy in Seattle and wanted the franchise to address the offensive line.

After missing the playoffs this season, Wilson said he would explore his options, but is under contract with the team.

Should Brady retire, the Buccaneers would most likely be in the market for a quarterback, too. Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask, a second-round pick in 2021, are the team’s backup quarterbacks.

–Field Level Media

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) leaves the field after a 13-10 loss against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL divisional round football playoff game Saturday January 22, 2022, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

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Aaron Rodgers, Packers tiptoe into uncertain offseason

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers could part ways in what sets up as a challenging offseason in Green Bay.

Rodgers said he will take time to have conversations with “people around here” and make a determination about his future before the start of free agency. Following a loss in the divisional playoffs Saturday night at Lambeau Field, Rodgers’ next move has never been more uncertain as he wrapped his 17th season with the Packers.

“I’m going to take some time and have conversations with the folks around here and then take some time away and make a decision – obviously before free agency,” Rodgers said Saturday postgame. “But it’s fresh right now. It’s a little shocking for sure. Definitely was hoping to have a nice week after the NFC Championship to enjoy the lead up and then start contemplating some things. I haven’t even let the moment really sink in yet.”

The Packers are projected to be $44.8 million over the 2022 salary cap and other major decisions share the front burner with the Rodgers outcome. Wide receiver Davante Adams wants to be the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver and said last year there will be no hometown discount to stay in Green Bay.

To keep Rodgers, the Packers would need to sign him to a long-term extension. His cap charge in 2022 is $46 million, negotiated intentionally by Rodgers last offseason when his disdain for the front office came to light.

But Rodgers wants more than that. He was open Saturday about not standing for a rebuilding situation, and has previously stated he wants to have input on personnel around him.

“I think this thing, it’s definitely going to look different moving forward in Green Bay,” Rodgers said. “There’s a lot of decisions, a lot of guys with opportunities, so it’ll be interesting to see what things look like moving forward. But I’m thankful for this time, this team. Super disappointed, bummed out, frustrated with how I played tonight, frustrated with how it ended, but still deeply grateful for this season and these guys.”

Rodgers said the looming questions and subsequent changes have caused him to think about whether a Super Bowl is still possible with the franchise.

“There are a lot of decisions to be made and key players, a lot of guys who played tonight,” he said. “Obviously Davante is the best receiver in the league, and he’s a free agent, knowing they can obviously tag him. Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, so many guys’ contracts are up or on the brink or salary cap stuff, so lot of decisions to be made. I don’t want to be part of a rebuild if I’m going to keep playing, so a lot of decisions in the next couple months.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Laramie, Wyoming, USA; A general view of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors football helmet during a game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Hawaii turns to former QB Timmy Chang as new head coach

Timmy Chang, the former record-setting quarterback for Hawaii, was named the school’s new football coach Saturday.

Chang enjoyed a legendary career for the Rainbow Warriors from 2000-04, setting the NCAA’s all-time record for passing yards (17,072) and total offense (16,910). He currently ranks second behind former Houston star Case Keenum in both categories. Chang also set the NCAA record for completions (1,388), although he has since been passed by Keenum and two others.

“I’m back. I’m home. In my heart, I’ve never left,” Chang said in a statement. “Like I’ve always done, I’m ready to give my all for Hawai’i. The highest privilege in coaching is the right to represent an institution as a head coach. This is beyond indescribable. I get to do it here in Hawai’i, where I am from. I am so proud to represent MY school and state. I’m honored to lead the BRADDAHHOOD.”

The news comes one day after June Jones, the coach that Chang played for at Hawaii, emphatically rejected what he considered an insulting offer to return to coaching the Rainbow Warriors.

“No coach in their right mind would accept!” Jones tweeted Friday after turning down the job with the Rainbow Warriors, where he won a school-record 76 games from 1999-2007. Jones went on describe his issues with the school’s contract offer in subsequent tweets.

The details of Chang’s contract, meanwhile, are still in the works. He will be formerly introduced this coming week.

Jones, 68, has not coached in the collegiate ranks since 2014 but had expressed an interest in returning to Hawaii following the resignation of Todd Graham earlier this month.

Instead the job will go to the 40-year-old Chang, who spent the last five seasons as the wide receivers/tight ends coach at Nevada. He recently followed former Wolf Pack coach Jay Norvell to Colorado State.

This will be Chang’s first head coaching position at any level.

–Field Level Media

Jan 22, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) carries the ball in the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers during a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Niners stun Packers on last-second FG, 13-10

Robbie Gould booted a 45-yard field goal into the snow as time expired to give the San Francisco 49ers a 13-10 victory over the host Green Bay Packers in an NFC divisional round playoff game on Saturday night.

Talanoa Hufanga scored the lone San Francisco touchdown on a blocked punt return nearly five minutes earlier as the sixth-seeded 49ers stunned the top-seeded Packers in frigid conditions. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead registered two sacks each for San Francisco.

The 49ers will face either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Los Angeles Rams in next week’s NFC title game.

Aaron Jones compiled 170 scrimmage yards (129 receiving, 41 rushing) and AJ Dillon rushed for a touchdown for Green Bay.

The Packers led 10-3 late in the game before Jordan Willis blocked Corey Bojorquez’s punt with his left hand. The ball caromed high in the air and when it came down, Hufanga scooped it up and ran 6 yards for the touchdown with 4:41 left.

San Francisco’s defense held and the 49ers got the ball back. The key play on the decisive drive was when Deebo Samuel picked up nine yards on a third-and-7 run to get the 49ers into field-goal position at the Green Bay 29 with just under a minute left.

Three plays later, Gould split the uprights to improve to 20 of 20 lifetime in the postseason.

Jimmy Garoppolo was just 11-of-19 passing for 131 yards and an interception for the 49ers, who were outgained 263-212.

Aaron Rodgers completed 20 of 29 passes for 225 yards for the Packers. Davante Adams caught nine passes for 90 yards, Rashan Gary had two sacks and Adrian Amos had an interception.

The temperature was 13 degrees (felt like 2) at kickoff and field conditions worsened considerably in the fourth quarter.

San Francisco finally got on the scoreboard on Gould’s 29-yard field goal with 8:13 left in the third quarter.

Mason Crosby kicked a 33-yard field goal with 11:27 left in the game to give the Packers a 10-3 lead.

The Packers navigated 69 yards on 10 plays to open the game with Dillon scoring on a 6-yard run.

San Francisco didn’t notch its initial first down until George Kittle made a stellar 15-yard reception with 6:29 left in the half.

The Packers failed to pad their lead as Crosby’s 39-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Jimmie Ward as time expired in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Dec 30, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler reacts on the sidelines againstthe Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter  at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 16-13. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers DC Keith Butler announces retirement

The Pittsburgh Steelers apparently will be headed toward major changes on both sides of the ball.

Not only will quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s anticipated retirement usher in a new era for the Steelers offense, but Keith Butler, the team’s defensive coordinator for the last seven seasons, announced his retirement Saturday.

Butler spent 19 seasons on Pittsburgh’s coaching staff, helping the team win a pair of Super Bowls as the Steelers’ linebackers coach before becoming defensive coordinator in January 2015.

“It is an emotional day as I announce I am retiring from my football coaching career,” said Butler. “I have spent every year since 1990 as a coach in the NFL and the NCAA, but the time is right for me to walk away after a successful career both playing and coaching the game I love. … I wish nothing but the best to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I will be cheering them on during my retirement.”

Butler’s NFL coaching career began with the Cleveland Browns from 1999 to 2002. He also coached in the college ranks from 1990-98 following a 10-year playing career as a linebacker with the Seattle Seahawks.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs slight home favorites ahead of Bills rematch

The debate about who is the better AFC quarterback, Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, plays out Sunday with another duel in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Buffalo Bills claimed a convincing 38-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5 and return to the scene Sunday at Kansas City, Mo., where the Chiefs have won five straight postseason games.

The Chiefs opened as 2.5-point favorites at PointsBet, but the line has moved to 1.5 with Kansas City backed by 56 percent of the bets and 64 percent of the money. The line is also 1.5 at DraftKings, where it’s the Bills who have been backed by 51 percent of the bets and 56 percent of the money.

Mahomes ascended quickly to elite status by leading the Chiefs into the AFC championship game each of his first three seasons as a starter and split two Super Bowl outcomes the last two years.

His motivation surfaced in the wild-card round last week when Mahomes directed Kansas City on six straight touchdown drives, including five scoring strikes, in toppling Pittsburgh 42-21.

“I really like winning,” Mahomes said when asked if he can summon a special gear. “That’s the end of it.”

His 404-yard passing performance was tops for any NFL quarterback in the wild-card round but now he faces a talented Buffalo back end that features Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer.

“They’ve done everything that we’ve asked and they’ve gone above and beyond, really,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said of his talented safeties.

Allen also fired five scoring strikes and drove Buffalo to touchdowns on all seven of its non-kneeling possessions as it walloped New England 47-17. Yet Allen, despite the victory in Kansas City in Week 5, knows what’s at stake in another showdown against Mahomes and the Chiefs.

“They’re what we aspire to be,” Allen said, mindful the Bills fell to the Chiefs, 38-24, in last year’s AFC championship game at Kansas City.

The Kansas City defense Allen opposes has improved dramatically since the Week 5 mismatch, when the Chiefs played without starters Chris Jones and Charvarius Ward and had not nabbed key midseason acquisition Melvin Ingram. Since then, the defense has sparkled.

“I wouldn’t say we owe them one,” Ingram said. “We’re just going to try to win a playoff game and I’m only trying to be a piece to the puzzle.”

After an abysmal start that found the Chiefs ranked 30th or worse against the run and pass during a 3-4 start, they transformed to win 10 of their last 11. They have not been as careless with the ball, though they did allow the Steelers a touchdown return last week by fumbling a sloppy handoff.

Allen poses a complete threat whether throwing the football or taking on tacklers, either by design or improvisation. He completed 21 of 25 passes in the rout of the Patriots while adding 66 yards on just six carries. Yet he understands the Chiefs will offer wrinkles different from Week 5.

“They’re throwing so many looks at quarterbacks right now and bringing pressure from everywhere imaginable,” Allen said.

Allen noted the difficulty in playing on the road before a Kansas City fan base accustomed to postseason success, but the taste of falling short of a Super Bowl bid a year ago remains bitter.

“We don’t want to have that feeling that we had there last year,” Allen said. “We know our season ended there last year and now we have to do everything in our power to put our foot forward and make sure it doesn’t end there this year.”

Buffalo finished as the NFL’s top-rated pass defense while also securing 30 takeaways. Yet the Bills are without Tre’Davious White, who has been out since Week 12. Mario Addison is dealing with a shoulder strain suffered against the Patriots.

Kansas City continues to assess Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder), though he is practicing. Jerick McKinnon stepped up against Pittsburgh and provided 142 yards on 18 touches. McKinnon’s impact could be critical again with Darrel Williams nursing a sore toe.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) runs past Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard Alex Cappa (65) to pressure quarterback Tom Brady (not pictured) during the second quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Rams underdogs as they seek second win vs. Bucs

Contrasts between Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford couldn’t be more striking when it comes to postseason football.

Tampa Bay’s 31-15 win last week over the Philadelphia Eagles upped Brady’s playoff record to 34-11. Seven of those wins, including one last February on the Bucs’ home field over Kansas City, have put Super Bowl rings on Brady’s fingers.

Stafford piloted his first career playoff win Monday night when Los Angeles routed the Arizona Cardinals 34-11. It was only his fourth career postseason game. He appeared in just three over 12 mostly fruitless years with the Detroit Lions.

The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites but the betting action has been tight at most sportsbooks. The Rams are being backed by 54 percent of the bets and 57 percent of the spread-line handle at DraftKings, while the Bucs have been supported by 56 percent of the bets at PointsBet but Los Angeles has drawn 73 percent of the money.

Stafford can double his playoff win total on Sunday in Tampa if the Rams topple Brady and the defending champs in an NFC divisional playoff meeting.

“I thought he did a great job leading the way,” said Los Angeles coach Sean McVay. “He’s still the same great player to me and he always was before this game as well. I think it’s good so you guys don’t have to talk about that any more so he can get that one out of the way. Just so lucky to be able to do this with him. He’s our leader. We wouldn’t be here without him.”

Stafford played the type of efficient, mistake-free game that hasn’t always been a staple of his career. He was 13 of 17 for 202 yards and two touchdowns, while adding a third score via his legs. His passer rating of 154.5 set a franchise record for a playoff game, according to NFL Research.

For his part, Stafford said the result was more about helping the team advance in the postseason than it was getting the bagel out of his playoff win column.

“I think it means a lot more to you guys and all that,” he said. “I just want to be a part of this team and help us win. I trust in myself, trust in my abilities, trust in my teammates.”

Stafford threw for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns this season, including 343 and four scores in a 34-24 Week 3 win over the Buccaneers in Inglewood.

The Buccaneers figure to have Leonard Fournette on the field after he was activated off injured reserve on Saturday. Fournette was sidelined with a hamstring injury and he missed the final three regular-season games as well as last weekend’s 31-15 playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

And Tampa Bay is hoping to have the services of a couple of Pro Bowl offensive linemen — right tackle Tristan Wirfs and center Ryan Jensen. Both left last week’s win with ankle injuries. Both returned to practice on Friday but will be game-time decisions on Sunday.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is concerned about the health of his offensive line and how it could affect Brady’s performance against a pass rush that’s added Von Miller since the teams’ October meeting.

“I’d be worried if they were healthy,” Arians said. “If they’re not healthy, I’m hellaciously worried.”

Brady did absorb four sacks against Philadelphia, but still found time to hit 29 of 37 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Evans caught nine passes for 117 yards and a score, and Rob Gronkowski bagged the 15th playoff touchdown catch of his career, trailing only Jerry Rice in NFL postseason history.

Most importantly, Tampa Bay’s defense blanked the Eagles for three-plus quarters, shutting down their running game and forcing quarterback Jalen Hurts to beat them with his arm instead of his feet. Philadelphia’s two fourth quarter scores only made the final margin look more respectable.

“Just the level of intensity that the defense came out with, it was just exceptional,” Gronkowski said. “We just had to match them on the offensive end, and we did at times for sure. We played some complimentary football.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 22, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson (91) during the first half of an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals defeat Titans on FG as time expires, 19-16

Rookie Evan McPherson kicked a 52-yard field goal as time expired to propel the visiting Cincinnati Bengals to a berth in the AFC Championship Game, courtesy of a 19-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

Ryan Tannehill tossed his third interception after Logan Wilson reeled in a deflected ball at Cincinnati’s 47-yard line with 20 seconds to play. Joe Burrow connected with rookie Ja’Marr Chase on a 19-yard strike, and McPherson came on three plays later to drill his fourth field goal of the game.

Burrow overcame nine sacks to complete 28 of 37 passes for 348 yards. Chase had five catches for 109 yards for the fourth-seeded Bengals, who won their first road playoff game in franchise history to advance to the AFC title game for the first time since the 1988 season.

Cincinnati will visit the winner of Sunday’s divisional-round game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan. 30. The Bengals posted a 34-31 win over visiting Kansas City on Jan. 2. They did not face Buffalo this season.

Tennessee’s Derrick Henry rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown while playing in his first game since breaking his foot on Oct. 31. Tannehill threw for 220 yards and A.J. Brown had five catches for 142 yards and a touchdown for the top-seeded Titans.

After being held to three field goals in the first half, Cincinnati drove 65 yards for a touchdown on its first drive in the third quarter. Joe Mixon capped the nine-play stretch by bolting 16 yards for a score to give the Bengals a 16-6 lead.

Former Cincinnati kicker Randy Bullock made a 34-yard field goal to cut into the Titans’ deficit and Amani Hooker intercepted a deflected ball on the next possession. Brown promptly made a one-handed catch for a 33-yard touchdown on a back-shoulder throw from Tannehill to tie the game.

McPherson drilled 38- and 45-yard field goals in the first quarter before Henry took a direct snap and rumbled off left tackle for a 3-yard touchdown with 6:12 remaining in the second. Henry was denied on a two-point conversion attempt, and McPherson regained the lead for Cincinnati with a 54-yard field goal on the ensuing possession.

–Field Level Media