5 Key Stories: 12/18/16 – 12/25/16

Quarterbacks — and postseason chances — go down. A week after the Dolphins lost QB Ryan Tannehill for an indefinite amount of time, both the Raiders and Titans saw their starting signal-callers fall victim to injury. Derek Carr suffered a broken fibula and is unlikely to return for a playoff run, meaning Oakland will head into the tournament with Matt McGloin under center. Marcus Mariota went down with the same injury, and Tennessee subsequently fell to Jacksonville — eliminating the Titans from the postseason — with Matt Cassel leading the way. The quarterbacks Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots are likely to face in what now looks like an easy run through the AFC playoffs? Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Matt Moore, McGloin, and Tom Savage.Gus Bradley

Jaguars fire Gus Bradley. After a three-plus year run with Jacksonville, head coach Gus Bradley was handed his walking papers after posting a 14-48 record (which translates to a .226 winning percentage, the second-lowest mark in league history). the Jaguars promoted offensive line coach Doug Marrone to interim head coach, and have seemingly already begun their search for a permanent solution. Both Tom Coughlin (link) and Kyle Shanahan (link) are thought to be candidates, while the club could also be interested in placing Coughlin in a front office role. Meanwhile, the next Jaguars head coach won’t be tied to quarterback Blake Bortles.

The search gets underway in LA. The Jaguars aren’t the only team on the hunt for a new coach, as the Rams are also looking for a new leader after firing Jeff Fisher. Los Angeles is reportedly focusing its efforts on ESPN commentator Jon Gruden, although Gruden said he has “no intention of coaching.” Kyle Shanahan is also possibly on the Rams’ list, while Saints coach Sean Payton reportedly has “sincere” interest in the position.Earl Thomas

Legion of Boom to stay intact. All Pro safety Earl Thomas will return in 2017, dispelling any notion that he might instead opt for retirement after suffering a major injury a few weeks ago. Considered by many observers to be the key to Seattle’s defense, Thomas is among the best defensive players in the league, and his loss would have represented a significant blow to the Seahawks.

No Jamaal Charles for playoffs. The Chiefs opted to bring linebacker Justin March-Lillard off injured reserve last week, meaning that running back Jamaal Charles won’t be rejoining the club for a postseason run. Charles landed on IR in early November, but he likely would have been cleared for the playoffs had Kansas City decided to wait. But given the club’s lack of depth at linebacker, the Chiefs decided to go with March-Lillard instead.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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