How big of a motivating factor is getting the top seed in the AFC

Gronkowski: He’s a great player and a great player to have on the team. I’m not sure, that’s up to our defensive coordinator to scheme up. I’m on the offensive side of the ball, so I’m just worried about what’s going on on the offense and what I can do to help out.

Gronkowski: It’s a big game. To get that, we have to put a lot of work in. So we know it’s going to be a good game come Sunday, we have to put the work in, we have to keep preparing hard, and we have to be ready.

After UCF’s win over Auburn, outgoing coach Scott Frost said his team deserved a shot at the top four and said it took a conscious effort from the 13-member selection committee to keep the undefeated Knights out of its final top 10, which was released on Dec. 3.

It wasn’t right, said Frost, who is leaving UCF to be the coach at Nebraska, his alma mater. I was watching [the selection show] every week, the committee sitting in a room and deciding that this two-loss team must be better than UCF because UCF is in the American, or this three-loss team must be better than UCF.

It looked like a conscious effort to me to make sure that they didn’t have a problem if they put us too high and a couple teams ahead of us lost. And oh no, now we have to put them in a playoff? But we just beat [Auburn], that beat two playoff teams and lost to another one by six points, and we beat them by seven.

The Ravens clinch one of the AFC’s wild cards with a win or a tie against Cincinnati. They’re also in the playoffs if either Bills (at Miami) or Titans (vs. Jacksonville) lose or tie. The Chargers’ game (vs. Oakland), too, has a domino effect in the AFC, and since that game is on the West Coast, it has to be played in the later window. The NFL wants games like this played at the same time and that makes perfect sense.

Harbaugh, though, is concerned the new game time may result in less fans showing up at M&T Bank Stadium, largely because it may conflict with their plans to ring in the New Year.

And Gruden still has an affinity for coaching. As successful as he has been as an ESPN analyst, providing color commentary for Monday Night Football and helping create Gruden’s QB Camp annual specials, many around the league believed it was only a matter of time before he returned to coaching. More and more, it looks as if this is it.

Gruden recently has been calling assistant coaches around the league, trying to piece together a staff, though he has made calls in other years and never acted upon any of the opportunities that have come his way.

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