Report: Teams not permitted in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl LV until Feb. 5

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 1/24/21

There have been many changes to the NFL season due to COVID-19. We’ll now be seeing those changes affect this year’s Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. 

For the first time in Super Bowl history, the week before the game will be conducted virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, teams aren’t allowed to arrive in the host city any earlier than Feb. 5 — with the exception of the Buccaneers. 

In normal circumstances, the Super Bowl teams would settle in one week prior to the big game. 

Schefter says that if the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers win their conference championships, they’ll arrive in Tampa Bay on Feb. 5. If the Chiefs win, they won’t arrive until Feb. 6, one day before the Super Bowl. 

The league will continue to use the same preventative measures it has for a majority of the season, and it’s unclear if locker room celebrations will be allowed to take place because of the pandemic. Teams will be allowed to fly home immediately after the Super Bowl. 

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Winners, losers from the Chiefs’ AFC Championship Game win over the Bills

Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Vincent Frank | Last updated 1/24/21

The Kansas City Chiefs are headed back to the Super Bowl following a brilliant 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Patrick Mahomes had it going big time, finding connections with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill throughout the game. Meanwhile, Kansas City’s defense put a ton of pressure on Josh Allen throughout the evening.

In the end, the Chiefs overcame an early 9-0 deficit to win this game going away. Here are the biggest winners and losers from the AFC Championship Game as the Chiefs prepare for Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Read More: Winners, losers from Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ wild 31-26 NFC Championship Game victory over Green Bay Packers

Winner: Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce show out for Kansas City Chiefs

This five-time Pro Bowl performer entered Sunday’s AFC Championship Game on an absolute roll, having recorded 64 receptions for 947 yards with 11 total touchdowns in his previous nine outings. Already seen as one of the most-electric players in the game, Hill was back up to his old tricks on Sunday.

That’s just your ho-hum 71-yard catch-and-run. It also set up a Chiefs touchdown late in the third quarter for a 31-15 lead over Buffalo. All said, Hill recorded nine catches for 172 yards in yet another brilliant all-around performance from Cheetah. The dude is just too good.

As for Kelce, he broke the single-game playoff record for catches from a tight end. The All-Pro performer hauled in a whopping 13 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Much like Hill, this tight end has been on a roll recently. Including Sunday’s game, he’s caught 86 passes for 1,142 yards in his past 10 outings. That’s just insane.

Loser: Buffalo Bills red-zone offense

After opening up a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, things were looking good for Sean McDermott’s squad. Unfortunately, the team just couldn’t get out of its own way in the red zone after scoring a first-quarter touchdown. Buffalo’s next two drives inside the Chiefs’ 20 resulted in field goals. The drives went for 73 and 67 yards, respectively, and ended on chip-shot field goals inside the Chiefs’ 10.

That just can’t happen against Kansas City’s high-powered offense. Trading field goals for touchdowns is never a recipe for success. Add in Patrick Mahomes’ presence, and this is magnified even further. It’s also important to note that the blame can be placed in several directions. From Josh Allen’s struggles to McDermott failing to go for it on fourth down multiple times, this is what cost the Bills Sunday evening at Arrowhead.

Winner: Patrick Mahomes’ brilliance

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Greg Olsen announces retirement from NFL after 14 seasons

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 1/24/21

At 35 years old, Greg Olsen is hanging up the cleats. 

The three-time Pro Bowl tight end announced his retirement from the NFL on Fox’s pregame show ahead of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers. 

Olsen ends his career ranked fifth in NFL history for receiving yards (8,683) and receptions (742) among tight ends. He also ranks eighth among tight ends with 60 career touchdowns. 

The Chicago Bears drafted the New Jersey native in 2007. He spent four seasons with the franchise before being traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2011. Olsen spent nine seasons with the Panthers before playing the 2020 season with the Seattle Seahawks. 

Olsen is Carolina’s all-time leader in receiving yards (6,463) and receptions (524) by a tight end. He is set to join Fox full-time in retirement.

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Five best player matchups to watch on NFL Championship Sunday Five best player matchups to watch on NFL Championship Sunday

Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Matt Johnson | Last updated 1/23/20

Championship Sunday is almost here with trips to Super Bowl LV on the line in the AFC and NFC Championship Games. While plenty of the spotlight falls on the quarterbacks squaring off, these games will be decided by specific head-to-head matchups that could determine the course of NFL history.

Everyone is excited about Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady kicking off Sunday’s action with their first playoff matchup. As both quarterbacks have said, though, they aren’t actually facing one another. Instead, the likely NFL MVP will face a Buccaneers defense that forced four takeaways in the divisional round. Meanwhile, the greatest quarterback in NFL history faces an opponent that has gotten a lot better as of late.

Individual matchups are going to be even more crucial in the AFC Championship Game. We’ll see one of the NFL’s best receivers matched up with a shutdown cornerback. At the same time, an All-Pro tight end should see a lot of attention from one of the most unique linebackers in the NFL.

Let’s dive into the key matchups to focus on throughout Championship Sunday.

Tyreek Hill vs. Tre’Davious White

Hill’s worst game of the season came against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

If a cornerback makes even the slightest mistake against Tyreek Hill in coverage, he is off to the races. The moment the NFL’s fastest player is given even an inch of separation, he puts his 4.29 40-yard time on display and creates separation like few others can. We saw it constantly this season, with eight games of 70-plus receiving yards and a brilliant three-game stretch that saw him rack up 494 receiving yards.

However, Hill’s worst game of the season came against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6. In that entire game, per Pro Football Focus, Tre’Davious White didn’t see a single pass thrown in his direction on 34 coverage snaps. Unsurprisingly, Hill finished with a season-low 20 receiving yards on three targets.

Patrick Mahomes will certainly try to give his Pro Bowl receiver more opportunities on Sunday. But White is playing stellar football right now, the same level of play we saw in 2019 when he earned All-Pro honors. If we see that same kind of performance in the AFC Championship Game, the Bills might punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.

Packers edge-rushers vs. Buccaneers offensive tackles

Bucs rookie Tristan Wirfs has been one of the best pass-protecting tackles in the NFL this season. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to contain Tom Brady, make him feel the intensity of pass-rushers breathing down his neck and leave him seeing ghosts. He ranked 21st among starting quarterbacks this season with a 54.5 passer rating under pressure and completed just 43.8% of his attempts when under duress. Of course, getting to the future Hall of Famer isn’t easy.

Tristan Wirfs, the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, has been one of the best pass-protecting tackles in the NFL this season. While left tackle Donovan Smith is inconsistent, he thrived the past two weeks against some outstanding competition. Now, they’ll both be put to the test on Championship Sunday.

Za’Darius Smith earned second-team All-Pro honors for his phenomenal play in the regular season. He recorded 51 total pressures and 13 sacks, his second consecutive year with 50-plus pressure and double-digit sacks. On the other side, Preston Smith could also make an impact. He looked slow to begin the year, but is playing his best football as of late.

If the Smiths get to Brady early, that could be a wrap for the Buccaneers. We’ve seen TB12 be impacted by pressure, with it influencing his play later in the game. But, if Wirfs and Donovan Smith keep playing at a high level, Brady can move the ball with ease and earn his first trip to the Super Bowl with an NFC team.

Patrick Mahomes vs. Buffalo Bills defense

Will the Bills defense be able to stop Mahomes? Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

When healthy, there isn’t a better NFL player on the planet better than Patrick Mahomes. Unfortunately, he will come into Championship Sunday dealing with a toe injury. It occurred in the divisional round, limiting his ability to throw to his left throughout the game. While he will play in the AFC Championship Game, that toe clearly isn’t at 100% right now.

Buffalo’s defense is also playing much better than we saw earlier in the season. Opposing quarterbacks completed 67.7% of their passes and posted a 97.7 passer rating with a 12/4 TD/INT ratio in the first eight games. Since then, the Bills have allowed just an 80.9 average quarterback rating, generated eight interceptions and limited passers to a 61.8% completion rate.

Sean McDermott has a brilliant defensive mind, and he’ll likely have a solid plan to try to contain Kansas City’s offense. If Mahomes can sit back in a clean pocket and a few deep shots open, either down the sideline or over the middle, he won’t miss. Buffalo certainly has a chance in this one, but will take at least one takeaway to pull this off.

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Patrick Mahomes clears concussion protocol, will play in AFC Championship Game

By Erin Walsh  |  Last updated 1/22/21

After Patrick Mahomes suffered a concussion during Kansas City’s divisional-round matchup against the Cleveland Browns last weekend, Chiefs fans began to worry. They don’t have to worry any longer.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the former MVP signal-caller told reporters on Friday that he has cleared concussion protocol and is good to go for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. 

Mahomes was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday but still took most snaps during Thursday’s practice. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid even revealed Thursday that Mahomes felt good, indicating that he’d be game-ready. 

Bills head coach Sean McDermott said Friday that his team was preparing to face either Mahomes or Chad Henne. However, he admitted that he was expecting to face the former Texas Tech quarterback despite him still being in the NFL’s concussion protocol at the time. 

Mahomes has a rare opportunity to lead the Chiefs back to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season. If he and the Chiefs manage to win the championship, they would become the first team since the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005 — Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX — to win back-to-back titles. 

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Carson Wentz prime candidate for Colts’ QB job, but Frank Reich might not want him?

By Erin Walsh  |  Last updated 1/20/21

Philip Rivers announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee , leaving many questions about what the Indianapolis Colts plan to do at quarterback. 

Speculation has begun that the Colts may target Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who could end up requesting a trade from the franchise if they plan to use Jalen Hurts as their starter in 2021. 

However, it appears Colts head coach Frank Reich might not be interested in a reunion with Wentz, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

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Philip Rivers retiring from NFL after 17 seasons: ‘It’s just time’

By Erin Walsh  |  Last updated 1/20/21

After 17 seasons, Philip Rivers is calling it a career. 

The former Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis Colts quarterback has announced his retirement from the NFL, telling The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee, “It’s just time.”

Rivers led the Colts to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth this season. The 39-year-old completed 68% of his passes for 4,169 yards and 24 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. His final game in the NFL was a 27-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the AFC wild-card round. 

2020 marked the seventh time in River’s career that he made it to the postseason. However, he never made it to a Super Bowl.

The eight-time Pro Bowler finishes fifth all-time with 63,440 passing yards and 421 touchdowns. 

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Watch: Tom Brady shares special postgame moment with Drew Brees and his family

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 1/18/21

Long after Sunday’s playoff game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints, Tom Brady and Drew Brees were spotted sharing a special moment on the Superdome field for what could be the final time in their Hall of Fame careers.

Before exiting the field, Brady had a short conversation with Brees, embracing him and even throwing a touchdown pass to one of his children.

NFL Network’s James Palmer caught the special moment on video after the Bucs’ 30-20 win over the Saints. Tampa Bay is now set to take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. 

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Patrick Mahomes out for game with concussion

Originally posted on Pro Football Rumors By Andrew Ortenberg | Last updated 1/17/21

Bad news to pass along, as Patrick Mahomes has been ruled out for the rest of the Chiefs’ divisional round game against the Browns with a concussion.

Mahomes got hit hard on an option play late in the third quarter, and appeared to be woozy while getting up. He was quickly whisked back to the locker room, and now has been ruled out after not too long. That means Kansas City will be riding Chad Henne, who had never thrown a playoff pass entering today, for the rest of the game. It’s an incredibly unfortunate turn, as obviously Mahomes’ importance can’t be overstated.

It’s not like Henne will be able to cruise either, since as of this publishing the Browns had just scored a touchdown to cut the Chiefs’ lead to just five. If Kansas City is able to hold on, hopefully Mahomes will be able to get cleared in time for next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

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Winners, losers from Buccaneers’ win over Saints

Originally posted on Sportsnaut | By Vincent Frank | Last updated 1/17/21

It was billed as GOAT going up against an all-time great . The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were squaring off with the New Orleans Saints with a spot in the NFC Championship Game on the line.

Could Tom Brady and Drew Brees turn back the clock at a combined age of 85? Would youngsters step up in hopes of sending their teams to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers next week?

These questions were answered big-time as the Buccaneers went into the Bayou and handed New Orleans a 30-20 loss in what could very well be Brees’ final NFL game. Here, we take a look at the biggest winners and losers from the Buccaneers’ 10-point victory over New Orleans.

Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers running backs do their thing

After missing last week’s win over the Washington Football Team with a quad injury, Ronald Jones toughed it out Sunday against the Saints. He was obviously nowhere near 100%. That did not stop Jones from putting up 62 yards on 13 carries in the Buccaneers’ win. That was much needed with Brady struggling early in the game.

Meanwhile, embattled running back Leonard Fournette gained 107 total yards on 22 touches. That included a game-tying touchdown pass from Brady. All said, these two backs provided big-time balance by combining for 169 total yards on 35 touches.

Loser: Michael Thomas goes AWOL for the New Orleans Saints

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

One year after breaking multiple single-season reception marks, Thomas has dealt with myriad injuries and some major internal drama in New Orleans. Despite putting up five catches for 73 yards and a score in the Saints’ wild-card victory over the Chicago Bears, Thomas struggled against a youthful Buccaneers defense.

Primarily taking on Sean Murphy-Bunting, Thomas was held without a single catch on four targets. Drew Brees was also intercepted two times when throwing in his direction throughout the game. Sure Brees struggled a bunch (more on that later), but Thomas did not help his quarterback out at all. One now has to wonder what this might mean for Thomas’ future in New Orleans.

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