Super Bowl preview, Patrick Mahomes’ night, Tom Brady’s game and more
The Super Bowl LV matchup is set, and we give it an early look after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs won on Sunday evening.Legacies are a funny thing. They turn on tiny pivots, intertwined with myriad factors and turning points. We’re about to have one in two weeks.Yes, it’s Tom Brady and more

The Super Bowl LV matchup is set, and we give it an early look after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs won on Sunday evening.Legacies are a funny thing. They turn on tiny pivots, intertwined with myriad factors and turning points. We’re about to have one in two weeks.Yes, it’s Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. One is entering a mind-boggling 10th Super Bowl, this one coming at 43 years old. The other has been a starter for three years, and is playing in his second straight.One is the unquestioned greatest of all time. The other is the unquestioned heir to his throne.In two weeks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs will meet at Raymond James Stadium for Super Bowl LV. It will be the first time a team has partaken in Super Sunday as the host.The Buccaneers are a surprise after starting the year 7-5, but have won seven straight since their last defeat, which ironically came against the Chiefs. To suggest Brady has been fantastic in these playoffs would be a lazy folly, because that’s not true. He threw three interceptions on Sunday at Lambeau Field in a 31-26 win against the Green Bay Packers. He was lucky to escape.Yet, Brady also tossed three touchdown passes, converted a bevy of 3rd-and-longs and in the end, it’s hard to imagine Tampa Bay near this Super Bowl without him.Then there’s Mahomes. The Chiefs are 26-1 in his last 27 starts, dating back to last year and including the postseasons. He’s an MVP and Super Bowl MVP, and now one win away from becoming the first quarterback to win consecutive titles since Brady in the 2004 season.This week, Mahomes cleared concussion protocol and dealt with turf toe. There was concern about how he’d play against a tough 13-win Buffalo Bills team. The answer? Mahomes went 29-of-38 for 325 yards and three touchdowns, putting on a show-stopping clinic.Of course, this game is more than about the quarterbacks. The Buccaneers have a nasty front seven and dynamic playmakers sprinkled around the offense. The front wall is terrific and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is one of the more aggressive, intelligent men in the business.For Kansas City, it’s Andy Reid, Eric Bieniemy and Steve Spagnuolo on the sideline. It’s also Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, each coming off a pair of 100-yard games, along with perhaps the league’s most underrated defense. Forgetting about Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark, Chris Jones and rookie cornerback L’Jarius Sneed would be a disservice to breaking down this game.And still, one can’t avoid the obvious storyline. Brady is 18 years older than Mahomes. His first year at the University of Michigan was 1995, the same year Mahomes was born.Additionally, Mahomes is 6-1 in the postseason. His only loss? Brady and the New England Patriots in an overtime classic for the 2018 AFC Championship. Both have been unbearably brilliant in their careers, and now one looks to add the ultimate resumè-padder, while the youngster looks to launch an all-out assault on the other’s records and claim as GOAT in the coming years.In two weeks, it’s Brady and Mahomes. Legacies will be reshaped, enhanced and dinged.For one, it’s a chance to recapture glory many thought was gone. For the other, it’s a moment to be captured, a pelt to be placed on the wall, a road marker to where he’s going.Power rankingsTop 10 all-time Super Bowl endings 1. Scott Norwood misses wide right – Giants 20, Bills 19 (SB XXV)2. Malcolm Butler steals a title for New England – Patriots 28, Seahawks 24 (SB XLIX)3. Mike Jones makes The Tackle for Rams – Rams 23, Titans 16 (SB XXXIV)4. David Tyree brings down The Helmet Catch – Giants 17, Patriots 14 (SB XLII)5. Joe Montana finds John Taylor in the final minute – 49ers 20, Bengals 16 (SB XXIII)6. Adam Vinatieri stuns the Rams at the Superdome – Patriots 20, Rams 17 (SB XXXVI)7. The Patriots end the first overtime in Super Sunday history – Patriots 34, Falcons 28 (SB LI)8. Jim O’Brien ends the Blunder Bowl – Colts 16, Cowboys 13 (SB V)9. Adam Vinatieri does it again – Patriots 32, Panthers 29 (SB XXXVIII)10. Ben Roethlisberger finds Santonio Holmes – Steelers 27, Cardinals 23 (SB XLIII)Quotable“So, this team is going to be built on, we’re going to kick you in the teeth. And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up. And on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off. And we’re going to stand up and then it’s going to take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap. And we’re going to get up and then it’s going to take three shots to get us down. And when we do, we’re gonna take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing. That’s going to be the mentality.”– Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell on his philosophyOne of the more intriguing, bizarre and unique answers in a press conference. Campbell had a chance to lay out his vision for the Lions, and talked about biting kneecaps.This might end well, it remains to be seen. But listening to Campbell to a Macho Man impression on his first day didn’t exactly make for an impressive showing.Oh, and the Lions handed him a six-year contract.PodcastRandom statCleveland is the only NFL city to never be invested, in any capacity, in a Super Bowl.The Browns are one of four teams — the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Lions being the others — to never play on Super Sunday. However, Jacksonville, Houston and Detroit have all hosted Super Bowls. Cleveland has not.Info learned this week1. Packers undone by brutal coaching in three-minute spanThe Buccaneers led 14-10 with 2:10 remaining in the first half. Green Bay had the ball at its own 13-yard line. Two timeouts and the two-minute warning. They sat on the ball and eventually, after deciding to go for points, Aaron Rodgers threw into coverage and was intercepted by Sean Murphy-Bunting at midfield.Five plays later, the Buccaneers were at the Packers’ 39-yard line with six seconds left in the half.Now for the call heard round the world.Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine dialed up Cover 3, essentially putting maligned cornerback Kevin King on Scotty Miller with no deep help. The result was Brady being Brady, launching a perfect rainbow for a soul-crushing score.At 21-10 heading into halftime, the game had irreversibly swung. Green Bay was perfectly set up for consecutive scoring possessions and ended up with an interception and fumble (the ensuing result in the third quarter) with both followed up by Brady touchdown passes.It’s going to be a long winter in Green Bay, which wasted an MVP season from Rodgers.2. Keep an eye on these three teams for Matthew StaffordMany teams will inquire about Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is reportedly going to be traded in short order.There are three to closely monitor above all others.The Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers make the most sense in terms of cap space, draft picks and need. Indy has the second-most cap space in football, only behind the Jacksonville Jaguars, while the Patriots rank fourth. San Francisco is less flush, projected at $9.4 million, but can save $24 million by moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo.For the soon-to-be 33-year-old, Indianapolis and San Francisco would be ideal. Both are run by offensively-minded coaches with terrific lines in front of him. Additionally, each has young, dynamic weapons and excellent defenses. Going from Detroit to either situation would the the football equivalent of nirvana.New England would be a tougher challenge. The Patriots have cap room to add playmakers, but the offense is barren and the Patriots could lose their best lineman in Joe Thuney. Also, Bill Belichick is 69 years old, so is he around for the long haul?All intriguing options.3. Deshaun Watson is a great bet to land in the AFC East if dealtIf the Houston Texans are insane enough to trade Deshaun Watson — and check out Inside the league below — it appears the AFC East is in strong position to move for him.Watson, 25, is arguably a top-three quarterback already locked into a long-term extension. Houston would likely require multiple first-round picks among other draft capital in return, and both the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets have a pair of first-rounders at their disposal along with intriguing young quarterbacks to send back.Interestingly, the Jets and Dolphins, reportedly in that order, are where Watson wants to go. This matters, considering he has a no-trade clause.The Texans aren’t going to get equal value for Watson, but Miami and New York could both give two top-25 picks this year, plus either Tua Tagovailoa or Sam Darnold, and future selections.Again, it’s not worth dealing Watson for any return, but Houston appears to have torched relations with its star, so the possibility exists.4. Eagles hire Nick Sirianni in curious move for Carson WentzThe Philadelphia Eagles are rolling with Nick Sirianni as their head coach. Lots to discuss.Sirianni, 39, comes over from Indianapolis after spending three years as its offensive coordinator. The New York native didn’t call plays, but was largely seen in league circles as a crucial lieutenant to head coach Frank Reich, helping the Colts play quality ball despite having three different quarterbacks over the past three campaigns.Diving deeper, this is a hire which keeps continuity from a scheme standpoint for beleaguered quarterback Carson Wentz. Sirianni will almost certainly run the offense he mastered under Reich, who mastered it under now-former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. Wentz, who was benched in December, now doesn’t need to learn a new system in a year where his fate is likely determined.However, was keeping the scheme in which Wentz struggled the right move? Yes, there’s continuity, but is that a good thing?The argument could be made either way, but it feels curious. Wentz needs a reboot, and this doesn’t truly give him one.5. Aaron Rodgers sends message on way out before offseasonSometimes, players deliver mandates without directly taking shots. Rodgers did so in the aftermath of Green Bay’s 31-26 loss on Sunday. As Michael Silver expertly laid out in his column on NFL.com, Rodgers said plenty in his postgame presser.Rodgers talked about the decision to kick a field goal trailing 31-23 (much more on that below) wasn’t his call. He talked about uncertain futures, this despite being signed for three more years and certainly having had an MVP campaign. It was clearly a way of telling both the coaching staff and front office he’s pissed about how he didn’t get support when he needed it most.Realistically, it’s borderline impossible to see him playing elsewhere in 2021. The Packers are elite contenders, Rodgers is in a terrific spot (where would he go to enhance his chances of winning?) and, again, he’s locked up for years. Still, it’s a message after losing in the NFC Championship Game for a second consecutive season to a team with an inferior quarterback but far greater weapons and defenses.Green Bay banked on Rodgers all year to drive the car without much assistance. And then, when it mattered most, they took the keys away on 4th and Goal at the 8-yard line, trailing by eight points. It’s not going to sit well for quite some time.Gambler’s gameSuper Bowl LV opens with the Chiefs as a 3.5-point favorite over the Buccaneers in their own stadium. Since we’ve got another column between now and the game, I’ll eschew from making a pick.However, the O/U is 56. Kansas City’s defense is better than realized by most, and Tampa Bay will pressure Mahomes. Take the under, albeit maybe with a teaser.Two centsScared money doesn’t win. The Bills and Packers found that out the hard way.There’s an old adage of taking points and extending the game, but said theory is outdated. It’s 2020, the age of the passing game and limited defense. Playing against a super-charged offense requires a different set of adages, and both Buffalo and Green Bay played conservatively, and paid for it.The Bills trailed 21-9 with 11 seconds remaining in the first half, facing 4th and Goal from the Chiefs’ 2-yard line. They kicked a 20-yard field goal, turning a two-possession game into… a two-possession game. In the third quarter, Kansas City led 24-12 with the Bills looking at 4th and Goal from the Kansas City 8-yard line. They kicked again. Game over.Meanwhile, we went over the atrocity that is Mike Pettine above, but what of Matt LaFleur playing to run the clock out before the first half, down 14-10 and both with the ball then and coming out of the break? It turned into disaster, and yet that pales in comparison to the aforementioned scenario of kicking a field goal trailing 31-23 with 2:05 remaining in regulation from the Tampa Bay 8-yard line.Rodgers and the Packers never again saw the ball.Buffalo and Green Bay played scared. And scared money, in football and craps, never wins.Inside the leagueHow dysfunctional are the Houston Texans? Here’s a note I have from a league conversation had with a source this week.During their search for a general manager, I’m told the Texans offered the position to now-GM Nick Caserio, who had all but officially agreed to take the job. However, Houston still flew in another candidate and interviewed him for the position, not divulging the status of the search with regard to Caserio.In the immediate aftermath, the jilted candidate found out that before he showed up, he was essentially out of the running. A bush-league move by a franchise that has been at the center of one negative story after the next throughout January.All this leads back to Executive Vice President of Football Operations Jack Easterby, who opted not to use an expensive, hired search firm to find the general manager, instead going rogue to lure Caserio away from the New England Patriots.“The guys I trust, including a guy big in Houston, he wants to kill him,” a well-connected league source told FanSided. “He goes ‘this guy is a f***ing idiot. He’s got the owner’s ear and he’s going to ruin the whole organization.'”Between all this, the failure to land a head coach already and the Deshaun Watson situation, the Texans are a complete mess.History lessonJoe Gibbs might be the most underrated coach in NFL history.Gibbs is the only coach to win three Super Bowls with a trio of different quarterbacks. Incredibly, none are worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, with Joe Theismann being the best as the 1983 NFL MVP. Otherwise,  it was Doug Williams and Mark Rypien, who combined for a record of 85-73-1 in the regular season.Gibbs reached four Super Bowls between 1982-91, despite being in a conference with the loaded New York Giants, Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers.Parting shotPhilip Rivers retired last week. His exit is only the first of many for aging, future Hall of Fame quarterbacks over the next 12 months.It’s likely the New Orleans Saints lose Drew Brees to his next career in broadcasting this winter. After next season, both Tom Brady and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger see their contracts expire. Brady still looks great, but he’ll be 45 years old before the 2022 season. Is there any more juice to squeeze?On Rivers for a moment, though, what a fascinating career. Drafting No. 1 overall and then traded seconds later to the San Diego Chargers at the 2004 Draft, Rivers played 16 seasons in Southern California before finishing up with the Indianapolis Colts. He finishes fifth all-time in passing yards (63,440) and touchdowns (421).Will Rivers be a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Probably not, considering the current logjam and likely sharing a ballot with Brees, who is certain to be enshrined immediately. He might wait a few years, but eventually Rivers will get his bust in Canton.The bigger, lasting question remains Rivers’ legacy. He was entertaining and a gunslinger, but he reached a single AFC Championship Game, lost it on a torn ACL in 2007, and never returned. Rivers threw for a lot of yards, a lot of touchdowns and a lot of interceptions. He only went to the playoffs seven times as a starter and while he notched eight Pro Bowls, was never an All-Pro.None of that is to bash Rivers. Again, he belongs in the Hall of Fame for a terrific career. But it’s an odd one considering the lack of elite moments, despite years of consistent excellence.
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