New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has been the favorite to succeed Jim Caldwell as Detroit Lions coach since long before Caldwell was fired.

Now, the Lions could be even closer to making it happen.

ESPN reported Sunday that Patricia likely will become the Lions’ next head coach once the Patriots’ season is finished.

This has been the widely held belief in NFL circles for some time, though reports last week suggesting that Patricia would favor the vacant New York Giants’ job clouded matters.

Still, all signs continue to point to the Lions hiring Patricia, and this is the strongest indication yet that it will indeed happen.

The Lions haven’t interviewed anyone since Jan. 5, when they flew to New England to sit down with Patricia. They haven’t made any moves on their No. 2 choice, Mike Vrabel, even though he’s eligible to be hired at any moment. They haven’t even brought any of their other candidates in for a second interview.

Patricia cannot be hired and the Lions cannot agree to execute a contract with him until after the Patriots are finished with the playoffs. If New England advances to the Super Bowl, the Lions could interview Patricia for a second time during the bye week before the game, but the soonest they could hire him would be Feb. 5.

ESPN reported Sunday that “eventually the deal (with the Lions and Patricia) is likely to get done.” And once the Giants fill their vacancy – they have reportedly whittled their list down Patricia, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur – the only thing in the way will be finalizing a contract.

Patricia has a long-standing relationship with Lions General Manager Bob Quinn. The two worked together for 12 seasons in New England, have a mutual respect for one another, and people around the league have pegged Patricia as Caldwell’s likely replacement since Quinn was hired in January of 2016.

Beyond that, Patricia is well respected for his work with New England’s defense and the way he’s gone about building relationships inside the Patriots’ locker room.

In six seasons with Patricia as their defensive coordinator, the Patriots have finished in the top 10 in scoring defense six times, and in the top five each of the last two years.

Patricia, who interviewed for jobs with the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams in previous seasons, and with the Arizona Cardinals in addition to the Lions and Giants this year, checks off many of the boxes Quinn said he was looking for when stared his coaching search 13 days ago.

At the time, Quinn said he wanted a strong leader who excelled at situational football and was capable of bringing the Lions a championship.

BILLS: Buffalo hired Alabama assistant coach Brian Daboll as its offensive coordinator.

Daboll, 42, was most recently the offensive coordinator for national champion Alabama. It was the sixth time he was part of a national title-winning team’s coaching staff.

Before joining the Crimson Tide last season, Daboll was the tight ends coach for Super Bowl champion New England. He has 17 seasons of NFL coaching experience, including stints as the offensive coordinator for Cleveland (2009-10), Miami (2011) and Kansas City (2012).

TITANS: Coach Mike Mularkey said right tackle Jack Conklin tore his left anterior cruciate ligament Saturday night against the Patriots and likely will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Conklin will have surgery to repair the ACL within the next two weeks.

Conklin, the eighth pick overall out of Michigan State in 2016, was hurt with 3:14 left in the first quarter of the 35-14 loss to New England. Patriots lineman Malcolm Brown appeared to roll up on Conklin’s leg on a running play.