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NFL: Week 16 talking points

The Denver Broncos are beginning their search for a fifth head coach in the last eight years while there were contrasting fortunes for two young QBs in Week 16.

Broncos fire Hackett before year one is out

The Broncos fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday with the new owners at Mile High Stadium feeling a change was needed after a dismal season that has spiralled out of control.

The Broncos' statement upon announcing the move referenced it being "necessary to restore this franchise's winning tradition", recognition that "we have not met that standard" and "our fans deserve much better".

All of which is true, except most people watching the football the team has produced this season would probably say that the biggest problem has been quarterback Russell Wilson.

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Ordinarily, when the offense was as bad as the Broncos' and the QB was holding them back, he would be benched.

But, having mortgaged their future by trading a package of top draft picks and players to the Seattle Seahawks to acquire Wilson this offseason, that was never going to happen.

Hackett was certainly found wanting in many aspects of the head coaching role he undertook for the first time after rising through the offensive ranks at Green Bay.

In an inauspicious debut against the Seahawks, he mismanaged the clock in the game's final minutes and ended up settling for a doomed field goal attempt from 64 yards out with two timeouts still in his back pocket.

And for an offensive guru to preside over a team that currently ranks dead last in points and 25th for both yards and passing touchdowns speaks volumes.

Throughout the season, Denver's top-five defense kept things close enough for eight of the Broncos' 11 losses to be by one-score margins, but the locker room was becoming fractured and players were losing discipline and faith in the staff to sort it out.

The final straw appears to have been the Christmas Day debacle against the Los Angeles Rams.

Players' effort levels were noticeably sub-par during the 51-14 defeat, marred by dust-ups between backup quarterback Brett Rypien and left guard Dalton Risner on the Broncos sideline and a post-game exchange of punches between Randy Gregory and Rams offensive lineman Oday Aboushi.

Herbert headed to postseason as Chargers clinch playoff berth

Justin Herbert was all smiles after his Los Angeles Chargers clinched a playoff berth with two games to go by beating the Indianapolis Colts 20-3 on Monday night.

The Bolts' third straight win was largely expected, but the sequence of results in Week 16 that took them there was surprising.

Losses by the New York Jets, New England Patriots and the Las Vegas Raiders - the team that denied them a postseason berth in overtime last January - put the Chargers in place to clinch their first playoff appearance under second-year head coach Brandon Staley.

Herbert, who was drafted with the No. 6 overall pick in 2020, is looking forward to his first postseason experience too and there is now a chance that pass rusher Joey Bosa (groin) and left tackle Rashawn Slater (biceps) could return from injury in time to feature in the mid-January road game.

The Chargers, who are +1100 to Win Their First Conference Title since 1994, could make things slightly easier for themselves by continuing to win as the No.5 seed and a likely road game in Jacksonville rather than Cincinnati or Kansas City is within their grasp.

Dolphins hold their breath with QB back in concussion protocol

The Miami Dolphins’ season could be unravelling at the most crucial moment as the AFC East team are facing the prospect of playing two virtual playoff elimination games over the next two weeks without their starting quarterback.

Head coach Mike McDaniel announced Tua Tagovailoa is in the NFL's concussion protocol during his Monday media briefing, which puts the QB's status for a pivotal Week 17 matchup against the New England Patriots, for which the Fins are +125 on the Money Line, in doubt.

The former No.5 overall pick missed two games earlier this season due to concussion amid quite a furore that eventually led the NFL and NFL Players Association to make an amendment to the league's concussion protocol to enhance player safety going forward - specifically adding the term 'ataxia' to the mandatory 'no-go' symptoms.

Tagovailoa didn't show any outward signs of ataxia or come out of Sunday's 26-20 home loss to the Green Bay Packers, although his performance levels were wobbly following a first-half play in which he was spun to the turf in a tackle leading to the back of his head hitting the ground.

The 24-year-old went nine of 12 for 229 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in the first half, but threw three picks and zero TDs in the second half when the Packers mounted their game-winning comeback.

McDaniel could not confirm if Tagovailoa had indeed suffered a concussion, but admitted the Dolphins QB has shown the symptoms.

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