Should The Panthers Tank For Trevor Lawrence?

The Carolina Panthers were seemingly having themselves a nice month of January. 

Doling out big bucks to former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule added another layer to that, as did hiring former LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady to be the team’s offensive coordinator

Unfortunately, Luke Kuechly’s shocking retirement immediately after the end of the regular season changed the landscape here. Without their team leader and with Cam Newton likely headed out of town, the Panthers are in the midst of dramatic change.

It leads us to this theory. Is it time for the Panthers to tank for Trevor Lawrence?

The idea: It might seem a bit ridiculous on the surface. Give up on an entire season to target a quarterback in the draft one year later. But there’s certainly something to this. We will lay it out below.

The Matt Rhule impact: Baylor’s former head coach signed a seven-year contract to replace Ron Rivera in Carolina. It’s a long-term strategy.

  • Carolina made sure that Rhule knew it was not expecting a quick fix when the team signed him to an absurd seven-year contract. Owner David Tepper is in it for the long haul.
  • The idea here is to build up a foundation that was missing under former owner Jerry Richardson. That started in the front office, and it is now going to continue on the field.
  • The expectation here is that Rhule will be given a mulligan for his first season or two, somewhat similar to what we saw with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco.
  • Does this mean a full-scale teardown to build back up? It’s more than likely, and it leads us to believe Tepper and Co. are in it for the long haul.

Cam Newton: Despite his injury issues, the Panthers could get something for Newton on the trade block.

  • It goes without saying that this former NFL MVP has played his final game in a Panthers uniform. Newton suited up for two games this past season before suffering a Lisfranc injury.
  • The Panthers have not come close to committing to the 30-year-old signal-caller. In fact, suggestions during the season were that former undrafted free agent Kyle Allen was the long-term solution.
  • Given Allen’s struggles, that’s unlikely to be the case. However, Newton will be dealt in March. At the very least, that’s what the most recent reports from Carolina suggest.
  • With quarterback-needy teams all up and down the NFL, the Panthers should be able to get a decent bounty for Newton in a trade. His smallish $21.1 million cap hit in 2020 adds more credence to this idea.

Luke Kuechly’s retirement: This shocking move has left a major leadership void throughout the Panthers’ roster.

  • Not only was Kuechly one of the best defensive players in the NFL, he was right up there with Newton as the face of the franchise. A true leader if there ever was one.
  • Sure the future Hall of Famer could return to the Panthers as a coach. In no way does that mean his on-field leadership won’t be missed. It will.
  • Without Kuechly in the mix to both call plays and act as an inspirational figure, the expectation here is that Carolina’s defense is going to take a step back.

Trevor Lawrence: Generational talent. There’s no other way to go about it, the 2020 Heisman favorite is one of the most truly talented college prospect in a generation.

  • Lawrence’s struggles in the National Championship Game didn’t seem to turn teams off. The Clemson product, who is only a sophomore, showed himself to be an elite talent.
  • Lawrence has the frame, accuracy and arm that makes scouts drool. He added tremendous running ability to the mix this past season, something that is needed in today’s NFL.
  • Barring a major injury or regression as a junior, Lawrence is the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Carolina won’t be the only team seriously considering tanking in 2020 for the Clemson star.

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Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Vincent Frank  |  Last updated 1/25/20

So Long, Eli Manning. Your Next Stop Is The Hall of Fame.

Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame debate will be one of the more complicated in pro football history. 

Responsible for two of the greatest quarterback runs in playoff history, Manning — who Wednesday announced his retirement — ranks seventh all time in touchdown passes (366) and passing yards (57,023). From 2004-17, he started 210 straight games, the third-best QB streak of all time.

But Manning, replaced by rookie Daniel Jones as Giants starter in 2019, trails 2004 classmates Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers in accolades (four Pro Bowls to Big Ben’s six and Rivers’ eight). A strong argument also can be made that Manning was never considered a top-five quarterback during his career. And, of course, his last four seasons were, ah, sub-optimal.

That said, an Eli Manning bust will appear in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His performance during the 2007 and 2011 playoffs should seal his HOF case with voters.

We cannot live in an era when fans are flooded with shallow-dive “Tom Brady, six rings, GOAT” proclamations while Manning’s postseason success is treated as secondary to his lesser regular-season work. Brady does not quite boast the regular-season numbers of Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and, from an efficiency standpoint, Aaron Rodgers. His first three championships came when he was not yet a perennial Pro Bowler, but more the New England defense’s copilot. These topics are glossed over because of the Patriots’ playoff dominance.

It would then stand to reason the player most responsible for twice derailing Brady at his peak, in two of this century’s biggest games, should be appropriately credited for his high-end postseasons. (Note: Brady vs. the younger Manning is obviously not a debate; this is merely a perception point.)

Manning didn’t just toss in two Super Bowl flukes. Considering his underdog teams and quality of opposition, Manning conquered postseason gauntlets unlike those of almost any other championship-winning quarterback. He led the Giants to road victories over four NFC Nos. 1 or 2 seeds. 

In addition to ruining the 2007 Patriots’ “greatest team ever” coronation in Super Bowl XLII, Manning ended Brett Favre’s Packers career by throwing for 251 yards and no interceptions in that season’s NFC title game — the fifth-coldest game in NFL history. Four seasons later, he ended Rodgers’ first MVP season, passing for 330 yards and three touchdown passes in a divisional-round romp over 15-1 Green Bay. In the NFC Championship Game a week later, he threw for 316 yards and two TDs to beat the 49ers and their No. 2-ranked defense. 

Manning’s 296 yards passing in a 21-17 Super Bowl XLVI win against New England gave him the most (1,219) in one playoffs. The two-time Super Bowl MVP’s 87.4 playoff passer rating betters Roethlisberger’s and Rivers’. These are not all-encompassing measurement tools, with Mark Sanchez’s playoff rating (94.3) sitting higher than many Hall of Famers’, but Manning did not have as much help as you might think. 

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Originally posted on Yardbarker | By Sam Robinson  |  Last updated 9/17/19

Super Bowl Moments That Still Make Us Cringe

Wally McNamee/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is full of wonderful feats of athleticism, toughness and bravery. It’s the world’s top athletes competing on the biggest stage, which means when they make terrible mistakes, we remember them forever. 

In honor of the “Game of Games,” let’s look back at some moments from past Super Bowls that, years later, still make us cringe.

1 of 25

Leon Lett’s touchdown-turned-touchback

Leon Lett's touchdown-turned-touchback
Gin Ellis/Getty Images

The Cowboys were leading, 52-17, in Super Bowl XXVII when Leon Lett recovered a Buffalo fumble and headed for the end zone that was 65 yards away. Seeing no one in front of him, Lett stretched out the ball and began to celebrate as he crossed the 10-yard line. However, Bills receiver Don Beebe sprinted back and managed to knock the ball out of the back of the end zone before Lett could score. The touchdown-turned-touchback didn’t cost Dallas the game…only the record for most points in a Super Bowl. Still, it’s hard to watch Lett watching himself on the Jumbotron but still failing to see the tiny receiver charging from behind.

2 of 25

Seahawks inexplicably throw away the game

Seahawks inexplicably throw away the game
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Trailing 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX, Russell Wilson completed a miracle 33-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse. The ball was tipped multiple times and even went off Kearse’s leg, but he caught it. One play later, Seattle was on the 1-yard line, at which point coach Pete Carroll apparently forgot Marshawn Lynch was on his team. Lynch had taken the ball inches away from the goal line on the previous play, but Carroll inexplicably called a pass. Malcolm Butler picked it off, the Patriots won and Carroll had another improbable collapse to ponder. 

3 of 25

Tim Krumrie suffers gruesome injury

Tim Krumrie suffers gruesome injury
Gin Ellis/Getty Images

Early in Super Bowl XXIII, Bengals nose tackle Tim Krumrie went to tackle Roger Craig and suffered the most gruesome injury in Super Bowl history. He planted his foot awkwardly, and his lower leg simply snapped. Horrified viewers saw his left foot spin around. (Don’t click if you’re squeamish!) Krumrie broke his ankle, tibia and fibula, and after being carted off the field, he got a 15-inch titanium rod implanted in his leg. Somehow he came back and played six more seasons after that.

4 of 25

Charles Woodson‘s broken collarbone

Charles Woodson's broken collarbone
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

By 2010, Charles Woodson had a college national championship, a Heisman Trophy, a Defensive Player of the Year Award and seven Pro Bowl appearances. However, in his career, Woodson had never won a Super Bowl. When he finally had his shot, he was anguished when he dove to defend a pass in Super Bowl XLV and broke his collarbone. Woodson left the game, but the remaining Green Bay defenders managed to hold off the Steelers enough to preserve a 31-25 win. After the game, Woodson had one arm in a sling — and the Lombardi Trophy in the other.

5 of 25

Miami’s imperfect field goal attempt

Miami's imperfect field goal attempt
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins are the only 17-0 team in NFL history, and they nearly finished the season with a 17-0 Super Bowl VII win. With just over two minutes left, leading 14-0, coach Don Shula sent in Garo Yepremian to kick a field goal. The kick was blocked, but instead of falling on the loose ball, Yepremian tried to pass. The ball slipped out of his hands, and the kicker batted the ball in the air — right into the hands of a Redskins cornerback. He ran it in for a touchdown, and suddenly the Dolphins had to sweat out a one-possession lead. They held on, so Garo didn’t have to face his teammates’ wrath for long.

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

Originally post on Yardbarker | Posted 2 days ago  |  By Sean Keane

First-round NFL mock draft: With the No. 2 pick, the Redskins select …

The entire 2020 NFL draft order is nearly set, and Cincinnati’s pick is due in just over three months. Here’s a look at our latest 2020 NFL mock (Jan. 20, 2020).

1 of 32

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Brett Davis / USA Today Sports Images

2019 has been the year of Joe Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy and national championship and is the overwhelming favorite to be Cincinnati’s choice for the No. 1 overall pick. He’s shown drastic improvement in his senior season at LSU, completing nearly 76 percent of his passes and also showing above-average scrambling ability. The only major knock on Burrow is that he’s old for a first-round prospect, set to turn 24 in December. That said, 2019 fourth-round pick Ryan Finley hasn’t shown anything that should make the Bengals bypass this opportunity.

2 of 32

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

Washington Redskins: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
Rick Osentoski / USA Today Sports Images

Young is the best defensive lineman prospect of his generation, which is saying a lot given rookie Nick Bosa’s success in San Francisco this season. Incredibly, Young recorded 16.5 sacks through his first 12 games this season and has a chance to make a huge impact on a Washington defensive line that already has a lot of talent.

3 of 32

3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Joseph Maiorana / USA Today Sports Images

Cornerback is already one of Detroit’s strengths, but the addition of Okudah could potentially allow the Lions to shop star Darius Slay after the cornerback seemed disgruntled earlier this season. Okudah is the consensus top cornerback in the 2020 class. He is a shutdown corner with three picks in 13 games this season.

4 of 32

4. New York Giants: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

New York Giants: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Jasen Vinlove / USA Today Sports Images

The Giants need a playmaker at wideout after trading Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason. Jeudy had 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns this season and ranks right alongside Julio Jones and Amari Cooper as among the most talented wideouts to come out of Alabama in recent memory.

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5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
John David Mercer / USA Today Sports Images

Tagovailoa was the consensus No. 1 overall draft choice entering the year, but ankle and hip injuries have given him the “injury-prone” label. Before his season-ending injury earlier this season, Tagovailoa completed more than 71 percent of his passes with 33 touchdowns in nine games, albeit with elite receiving weapons in Alabama. He would be entering an optimal situation in Miami with the ability to play when he’s ready and learn from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

Originally Posted by Yardbarker | Posted 21 hours ago  |  By Seth Trachtman

10 Bold Moves That Put 49ers, Chiefs On Road To Super Bowl

The Chiefs-49ers Super Bowl LIV matchup came to be because of several seminal decisions by each conference champion. Kansas City’s ascension came after years on the precipice, and the 49ers completed one of the more remarkable rebuilds in NFL history.

Going into this era-defining matchup, here are five bold moves that shaped each franchise:

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan hoists the George Halas Trophy after defeating the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports 


1. Forming an unusual partnership

In 2017, San Francisco became the first team in nearly 40 years to have back-to-back one-and-done head coaches (Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly). Then the team hired Kyle Shanahan as head coach and shocked the football world by pairing him with stealth GM candidate John Lynch, a Fox TV analyst without personnel experience. Each received a six-year contract. The 49ers went 10-22 from 2017-18 but only started QB Jimmy Garoppolo in eight of those games. (He missed 13 games last season because of a knee injury.) After the lengthy grace period, Shanahan and Lynch have the franchise in its seventh Super Bowl. The 49ers are the first team since the merger to follow four straight double-digit-loss seasons with a Super Bowl berth.

2. Adding foundational piece

The leadup to the 49ers’ Garoppolo acquisition remains a mystery. A trade candidate for much of 2017, the Patriots’ contract-year quarterback may or may not have beenjettisoned against Bill Belichick’s will. Despite the Browns reportedly willing to offer an early-first-round pick for the passer, Belichick instead contacted Shanahan in October 2017 and agreed to take a second-rounder for Tom Brady’s seldom-seen backup. Shanahan was planning a 2018 Kirk Cousins pursuit, as the parties worked together in Washington. Garoppolo’s 5-0 record in 2017 as San Francisco’s starter convinced the 49ers to give him a then-NFL-high $27.5 million-per-year deal – albeit a front-loaded, team-friendly pact. Buoyed by a strong run game and resurgent defense, Garoppolo went 15-3 this season and posted a 102.0 passer rating, well above the league average. 

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

Originally posted on Yardbarker | By Sam Robinson  |  Last updated 1/19/20

Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis Get Into Twitter Beef After NFC Title Game

Richard Sherman was absolutely roasted by Davante Adams during the NFC Championship Game, prompting former NFL star Darrelle Revis to take a swipe at him on Twitter. After the  San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers, Sherman hit back. 

Here’s the play that caused Revis to take to social media and call out Sherman:

After watching this play, Revis sent the following message out on his Twitter account, ripping Sherman for being a zone cornerback, unlike himself:

For what it’s worth, Sherman would later make the game-sealing interception against Aaron Rodgers.

Well, after Sherman and the 49ers celebrated in the locker room, Sherman of course went onto social media and saw what Revis had posted.

Here’s how he responded:

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Jesse Reed  |  Last updated 1/20/20

‘Jaw-dropping’: An Oral History of Derrick Henry’s Epic High School Career

Long before Derrick Henry became a star for the Tennessee Titans, one win from a Super Bowl, he was a stud running back at a small high school outside Jacksonville, Florida.

As a freshman at Yulee High, he already was 6-foot-3 and more than 200 pounds.

And fast.

And really, really good.

“My perfect run,” high schooler Henry said in a 2012 TV interview, “is probably getting through the hole trying to run over somebody, [use] three or four stiff arms, bounce off probably one of my linemen, and just beat someone to the outside and score.”

As a senior in 2012, Henry shattered the longstanding high school record for rushing yards. Three years later, he won the Heisman Trophy at Alabama.

“The entire time Derrick was playing high school ball,” his high school quarterback said, “he was preparing himself for the next step.”

Here’s a look at Henry’s epic prep football career, in the words of his high school coach, teammates and others:

“He seeks out people who have his best interest in mind,” says Bobby Ramsay, Derrick Henry’s high school football coach. Courtesy of Michael Kelly, WJXT-TV

Jake Green, Yulee High School linebacker and defensive team captain, Class of 2011: “Everyone from this county to the next county and all the way to Jacksonville knew who he was before his freshman year.”

Bobby Ramsay, Yulee High School head coach, 2008-2016: “I was hired in 2008, the year before he got there, and I was 28. My first head job. I thought I had all the answers. I knew [the team was] bad, but I saw us practice and I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ I hired my running backs coach, Pat Dunlap, the middle school offensive coordinator, and we were talking, and he says, ‘We’ll be all right next year when Derrick gets here.’ I think, ‘…Cool, some 7th grader?’ After spring football one day, I’m leaving practice discouraged and our middle school was right across a ditch from the high school, and I see the kids. Maybe 5-foot-6, 5-7, 5-5, then 6-2. I say, ‘Oh. That’s Derrick. Maybe we’ll be alright after all.’ ”

Green: “In Pop Warner, we knew it. I definitely watched the man grow up. He was a close friend of mine. Everyone here, we called him his nickname, ‘Shocka.’ In Pop Warner, he was the first person ever to give me a stinger in my shoulder. We were doing Oklahoma drills, 1-on-1 tackling drills, and this kid in Pop Warner, he was already almost 6-foot-1 but real skinny and fast. We had to pop up, tackle the guy in front of you, and unfortunately for me, it was always him on the other side. He gave me my first stinger, and I thought I broke my arm. The feeling started down in my toes.”

Justin Barney, sports editor of WJXT4 and, former Florida Times-Union sportswriter: “Talking to his family often, I remember his aunt saying he was so big as a kid. When he was 2, he looked 5. When he was 5, he looked 10. It was staggering to see how big he was. He was dunking when other kids couldn’t touch the rim. But I don’t know anything extreme. I don’t know that he lifted a burning car off a kid.”

Green: “I believe he got offered to go to Bolles [a private school in Jacksonville] — and if you go to Bolles, you get offers and rings — but he was loyal to his home. Instead of being our rival, he chose to fight them and stay with us and be the underdog. That right there was where I gained my respect for him. I know other people, if they were to get the same offer, they wouldn’t have stayed. It says something about his character.”

In four seasons at Yulee (Fla.) High School, Derrick Henry rushed for 12,124 yards, a national high school record.  Courtesy of Michael Kelly, WJXT-TV

Even with Henry’s prodigious talent, he was still just a freshman for Yulee, and the Jaguars already had a returning starting running back. Henry’s hold on the starting position seemed tenuous at best.

Conner Petty, Yulee High School quarterback, Class of 2011: “I remember going into the season, there was a question, ‘Who is our running back going to be?’ It seemed like there might be some speculation. He got thrown into varsity, and his first game, he has 190 yards and six touchdowns. In the first half.”

Ramsay: “I took him out at halftime, and I really don’t know why I did that. Maybe the only time I ever did that.”

Petty: “I remember coach Pat [Dunlap], who passed away from lung cancer recently and was very close with Derrick … being on the sideline [that day] saying we needed to pull him. He was saying this is going to be a Boobie Miles situation.”

By Week 2 of his freshman year, the Yulee coaching staff fully understood the kind of talent it had in Henry. At that point, the coaches didn’t just hand the keys to the car to Henry. They rebuilt the car to take advantage of Henry’s talent.

Barney: “I’ve done this since 1998; my first game was Week 2 of the ’98 season, and at that time, there was a guy name Ciatrick Fason. I think he beat the area record of 6,912 yards set by Willie McClendon. He was a four-year player, big back, ran hard. Having covered him, we’ve seen a pretty darn good running back, and I don’t know if we’ll see someone comparable. Then a guy named Maurice Wells came in — later signed with Ohio State — and he was the only guy to hit 3,000 yards in one year. After that, Tim Tebow came along, and he started a spread phase here, and I thought, ‘We’re never going to see a four-year back again.’ Then Derrick came in, and he was otherworldly.”

Clayton Freeman, Florida Times-Union sportswriter: “Through his first month, he had 730 yards and 10 touchdowns. I’m pulling up an article from 2009 now: ‘Henry is a freshman but certainly doesn’t look or play like one for the Hornets. The 6-4 bulldozer at 215 pounds is punishing opposing defenders. … He’s in that Brandon Jacobs mold. [Jacobs played for the New York Giants.] He also has deceptive speed for as big as he is. It gets late in games, and I can tell opposing defenses are tired of tackling him.’ The size, the speed on top of the power and the way he kind of sledgehammered defenses to death — that really hasn’t changed very much.”

Ramsay: “He understood the game really well for a ninth-grader. One game late in the year, I called timeout. We’re trying to score to win it, talking about plays, and the offensive coordinator suggested something. Derrick said, ‘Coach, we did that two weeks ago and they got us.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, how’d you remember that?’ Players who are that good, they see the game a little differently.”

Petty: “Our offense was built to do anything. We could line up in spread, empty if we wanted to. That was in the playbook. But when you have a running back like that, it makes play-calling pretty easy. I jokingly tell people it’d be 3rd-and-15, and instead of running play action or a pass, it was a toss [to Henry]. Only I’m not joking.”

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

By Jon Gold  |  Last updated 1/17/20

With National Title, LSU’s Joe Burrow Caps Storybook Season

Congrats, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, you’ve just capped the best season ever for a college quarterback with the best title game performance in history. What are you going to do next?

“I’m going to … CincyWorld?”

Turns out the biggest winner of Monday night’s CFP showdown between the Tigers of LSU and Clemson might be the NFL’s Bengals, who own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Cincinnati could snatch the biggest draft prize in years, a home state Heisman hero who added to his hardware with an all-time performance against the terrific Clemson defense.

In New Orleans, Burrow rose to the occasion, as he has against stiff competition all season, torching Clemson for 463 yards on 31 of 49 passing in a 42-25 win. He threw for five touchdowns and rushed for another. The Ohio State transfer overcame an early deficit, and perhaps a first-half rib injury, to set a slew of records.

Sixty passing touchdowns for the season? Check.

Sixty-five total touchdowns for the year? Check

BCS/CFP title game-record six scores?  BCS/CFP title game-record 463 passing yards?  BCS/CFP title game-record 521 total yards?

Check. Check. Check.

First contract with the Cincinnati Bengals? Big, big check.

After the game, ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi asked LSU head coach Ed Orgeron what Burrow meant to his 15-0 Tigers, and he summed it up in two words. “The world.”

“He’s one of the greatest players in LSU history,” Coach O added. “He’s done much for the state of Louisiana and LSU. We are so grateful for Joe Burrow.”

Tiger faithful ought to be just as grateful for Ed O.

Somehow LSU felt like underdogs against the big, bad Tigers of Clemson. Forget LSU wins over Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma –- top-10 teams at the time, each of them. Dabo Swinney’s crew came into the game having won two of the past three national titles. Heck, QB Trevor Lawrence was 25-0 and a starter.

And when Clemson went up 17-7, it felt like two of the past three years all over again, Swinney’s savvy squad erasing the “they-didn’t-play-anyone” stigma.

Only Joe Cool didn’t break. He barely bent. LSU went on a 35-8 run, and the final margin wasn’t nearly indicative of the domination of Burrow’s team.

“There was no rah-rah speech on the sideline, there was no, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get going,’” the QB told ESPN’s Rece Davis on the postgame podium, after having been handed the title game trophy by Orgeron. “We knew what we had to do. We have a bunch of mature guys who understand the moment.”

Playing in front of an overwhelmingly purple-and-gold fan base 80 miles from its home stadium, LSU stepped on the gas.  Never was that more apparent than during a 9-minute, 17-second, second-quarter stretch, when it scored three times.

To continue reading this article, click HERE.

By Jon Gold  |  Last updated 1/14/20

AFC, NFC Title Game Intriguing Matchups, QB Intel Reports, Winners

No. 6 Tennessee (11-7) at No. 2 Kansas City (13-4), Sun., 3:05 p.m. ET (CBS) 

Most intriguing matchup: In a John Riggins– or John Wick-level zone going into the Titans’ first AFC championship game in 17 years, Derrick Henry encounters a Chiefs team yet to stop him. For all their improvements, the Chiefs’ defense is not on the level of the Titans’ playoff opponents, the Patriots or Ravens. After finishing last in run-defense DVOA in 2017 and ’18, the Chiefs ranked 29th this season. Henry has delivered ruthless consistency against the Chiefs, gaining 191 scrimmage yards on 25 touches in each of his past two opportunities –- in November 2019 and in the Titans’ 2017 wild-card-round upset win. Henry scored twice in a 2016 upset win in Kansas City and has five touchdowns against the Chiefs. Tennessee’s Taylor Lewan- and Rodger Saffold-led offensive line has helped Henry to four of the NFL’s top six rushing performances this season. The Titans’ only victory path is not a secret.

QB intelligence report: Becoming the ninth player to throw five touchdown passes in a playoff game, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes now has eight TD tosses, 894 yards and no interceptions in three postseason contests. Only Mahomes and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger have quarterbacked teams to AFC championship games in their first two seasons as starters. Mahomes piloted an NFL-playoff-record seven straight touchdown drives Sunday, with the Texans becoming the first team since 1940 to lose a playoff game in which it held a 17-plus-point first-quarter lead. Kansas City’s comeback-turned-blowout showed the margin for error Mahomes creates. This is the optimal modern quarterback. Tennessee QB Ryan Tannehill, whose yards per passing attempt (9.6) total was the fourth most since 1960, faces the NFL’s eighth-ranked pass defense. It slammed the door on a Houston rally. Tannehill, however, did orchestrate a four-play, 61-yard, game-winning drive to beat the Chiefs in November and just navigated two superior defenses to reach this round.

New blueprints coming soon: These franchises’ respective roster constructions raise the stakes. The Chiefs are 2-for-2 in AFC championship game appearances behind Mahomes, but he’s now extension-eligible and will command a market-reshaping contract this offseason. The Chiefs also will have Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones on either a franchise tag or near-Aaron Donald-level extension next season. The forthcoming calculus change will require new Chiefs road maps to championship-caliber rosters. The Titans are ready to pay up to see if Tannehill’s late bloom is legitimate. They also have one of the more unusual extensions to negotiate with Henry -– an old-school back whose skill set differs from the position’s top wage earners –- and also have right tackle Jack Conklin as an impending free agent. These costs amplify the importance of maximizing opportunity when the math is easier.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (left) and tight end Travis Kelce  Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

And the winner is… Kansas City

The Chiefs are 0-3 against the Titans during Henry’s career, and this is the most consistent version of the bludgeoning back. Kansas City is 2-7 in home playoff games since 1995, and  Andy Reid teams are not known for big-stage reliability. But the Mahomes advantage will be too much. The Chiefs’ Legion of Zoom receiving corps, coupled with potential Hall of Fame tight end Travis Kelcerepresents a significantly more difficult matchup for the Titans’ No. 20-ranked DVOA pass defense than the Patriots or Ravens did. More victory avenues exist for the favorite, Henry’s brutal brilliance notwithstanding. The Chiefs will survive another Henry onslaught and book their first Super Bowl berth in 50 years.

In Week 12, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers fumbles as he is sacked by 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54). Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Green Bay (14-3) at No. 1 San Francisco (14-3), Sun., 6:40 p.m. ET (FOX) 

Most intriguing matchup: San Francisco’s defensive line hounded Aaron Rodgers in Week 12, sacking him five times and holding him to a career-worst 3.15 yards per attempt. Rookie Nick Bosa (1 sack) and the once-underwhelming Arik Armstead  (2 sacks) ignited the 49ers’ 37-8 rout. Dee Ford (7.5 sacks in an injury-prone season) did not play that night; he will Sunday. Green Bay’s offensive line rated 10th in pass protection, per Football Outsiders, and has veteran tackles in David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. The latter missed most of the Packers’ loss to the 49ers, and Armstead and Bosa dominated backup Alex Light. Even with Bulaga, who will presumably be back from an illness that sidelined him against the Seahawks, the Packers are up against a special defense -– one that will have high-priced linebacker Kwon Alexander back as well.

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By Sam Robinson  |  Last updated 1/12/20

Seven NFL Stars Who Could Be Traded This Offseason

As the NFL playoffs roll on, eliminated teams focus on the  offseason and potential moves they can make to contend for a Super Bowl  next season. While the 2020 NFL Draft and free agency will offer plenty  of help, the trade market could be especially attractive this offseason.

Rumors from the NFL’s midseason trade deadline offered a glimpse into potential names that could be available. New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton are among the stars that teams will inquire on, but they aren’t alone.

Whether your team needs a great quarterback, an offensive weapon, or a disruptive force on the defensive side, that talent could be acquired this offseason. 

Here are the seven NFL stars who could move this offseason.

Odell Beckham Jr., receiver, Browns

While Beckham has denied wanting out of Cleveland, the numerous reports contradicting this claim bring his future into question. Of course, trade speculation could intensify once the Browns’ new brass settles in.

While it’s unlikely that the Browns will recoup what they gave up for OBJ, landing something could still be worth it. Other NFL teams recognize he played through a painful sports hernia injury this season and Beckham’s willingness to compete in a meaningless Week 17 game with food poisoning speaks volumes about his competitiveness. Everyone would benefit from a change of scenery before the 2020 season.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Jamal Adams, safety, Jets

The Jets surprised many during the season by shopping Adams,  but a deal never came to fruition before the deadline. While the front office has made efforts to repair the relationship between Adams and  general manager Joe Douglas, the damage might already be done.

New  York will enter the offseason with numerous needs on both sides of the  ball, so this isn’t a team that is one piece away from contention. The  Jets could benefit from trading Adams for a package of picks, perhaps exploring if the Dallas Cowboys would expand on their original offer.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Trent Williams, offensive tackle, Redskins

New head coach Ron Rivera is making an effort to keep Williams in Washington and convince him this organization has changed. Given all of the drama that unfolded between Williams and the Redskins, including the organization’s decision to withhold his pay, a separation appears likely.

The  31-year-old tackle already took a season off of his career. He can’t afford to waste his remaining years on a team in transition. Williams would greatly benefit from a trade and there are plenty of contenders around the NFL that need a Pro Bowl left tackle. Ultimately, the Redskins should accommodate Williams’ wishes this offseason.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton, quarterback, Panthers

Newton’s recovery from Lisfranc surgery and his future in Carolina will be one of the biggest story lines this offseason. While new head coach Matt Rhule is seemingly the perfect coach for Newton and Rhule hinted the star quarterback will remain in Carolina, the fit seems shaky.

Rhule  is building an entirely new culture, which could easily mean finding a long-term quarterback. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Las Vegas Raiders and Chicago Bears enter this offseason with glaring needs at quarterback and Newton, 30, could be the perfect player to put each of them over the top. 

If  the right offer comes, Rhule could easily trade Newton and take advantage of a loaded 2020 draft class to start building a new foundation for this team.

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Originally posted on Sportsnaut  |  By Matt Johnson  |  Last updated 1/14/20