PFT’s Free Agent Top 100

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The following are PFT’s top 100 free agents for the start of the 2019 league year. The rankings include prospective unrestricted and restricted free agents, as well as released players. The list will be updated as events warrant, with signings, tags and re-signings denoted when announced and/or reported.

1. Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

2. Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

3. Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers.

4. Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.

5. Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark.

6. Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford.

7. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.

8. Giants safety Landon Collins.

9. Ravens inside linebacker C.J. Mosley.

10. Seahawks safety Earl Thomas.

11. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.

12. Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu.

13. Washington linebacker Preston Smith.

14. Bears safety Adrian Amos.

15. Rams guard Rodger Saffold.

16. Broncos center Matt Paradis.

17. Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner.

18. Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby.

19. Ravens linebacker Za’Darius Smith.

20. Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown.

21. Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr.

22. Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright.

23. Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

24. Dolphins offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James.

25. Bucs offensive tackle Donovan Smith.

26. Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan.

27. Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah.

28. Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks.

29. Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander.

30. Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham.

31. Eagles receiver Golden Tate.

32. Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

33. Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson.

34 Saints defensive end Alex Okafor.

35. Panthers offensive tackle Daryl Williams.

36. Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams.

37. Colts cornerback Pierre Desir.

38. Saints running back Mark Ingram.

39. Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty.

40. Packers defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson.

41. Raiders tight end Jared Cook.

42. Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett.

43. Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget.

44. Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson.

45. Chiefs center Mitch Morse.

46. Rams outside linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr.

47. Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.

48. Falcons defensive end Bruce Irvin.

49. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.

50. Falcons running back Tevin Coleman.

51. Bengals cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

52. Chargers inside linebacker Denzel Perryman.

53. Chargers defensive tackle Darius Philon.

54. Bucs receiver Adam Humphries.

55. Colts safety Clayton Geathers.

56. Jets defensive end Henry Anderson.

57. Giants center Jon Halapio.

58. Colts defensive lineman Margus Hunt.

59. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall.

60. Washington receiver Jamison Crowder.

61. Washington safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

62. Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake.

63. Falcons guard Andy Levitre.

64. Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

65. Texans defensive lineman Christian Covington.

66. Seahawks cornerback Justin Coleman.

67. Bears defensive end Aaron Lynch.

68. Ravens receiver John Brown.

69. Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan.

70. Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley.

71. Lions safety Glover Quin.

72. Jaguars receiver Donte Moncrief.

73. Ravens defensive end Brent Urban.

74. Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts.

75. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.

76. Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro.

77. Steelers tight end Jesse James.

78. Patriots defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

79. Saints offensive lineman Jermon Bushrod.

80. 49ers kicker Robbie Gould.

81. Rams running back CJ Anderson.

82. Vikings safety George Iloka.

83. Jaguars tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

84. Texans cornerback Kayvon Webster.

85. Packers linebacker Jake Ryan.

86. Steelers guard Ramon Foster.

87. Vikings running back Latavius Murray.

88. Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett.

89. Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

90. Cardinals linebacker Markus Golden.

91. Packers receiver Randall Cobb.

92. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

93. Titans guard Quinton Spain.

94. Cardinals safety Tre Boston.

95. Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy.

96. Washington offensive lineman Ty Nsekhe.

97. Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.

98. Patriots defensive tackle Malcom Brown.

99. Washington running back Adrian Peterson.

100. Patriots receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

FMIA: Kyler Murray and One Coach’s Argument For Why The Small QB Will Have a Massive Impact in the NFL

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Kyler Murray is short, and there was a time when that fact would have impeded his dream of becoming an NFL quarterback. Peter King kicks off his Football Morning in America column with a look at why that logic no longer applies, as explained by someone with firsthand knowledge of how good Murray can be. King also tackles:

• The Colin Kaepernick-NFL settlement and the three things that influence our opinion of the case.

• An appreciation of Joe Flacco, who despite recent results still deserves to be remembered for one of the great playoff runs by a quarterback in history.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Kareem Hunt, Greg Schiano, Adam Silver, Roger Goodell and my argument for why there is no such thing as too much coverage of the Patriots dynasty.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, beernerdness and a fun opportunity for football fans in Indy to have a beer with me, Frank Reich and sports media members. [more]

Team-by-team look at potential 2019 tag candidates

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It’s a tradition that truly is unlike any other. Whether it’s a good tradition or a bad tradition is in the eye of the tradition beholder.

Every year, we take a look at the players who may end up being tagged in advance of free agency. The two-week window for the franchise or transition tag (each team can do one or the other) opens Tuesday.

So here’s the 2019 version of our list. And it’s no list that any player should want to make, because it means that the player is being kept from maximizing his contract value on the open market.

Dolphins: Two years ago, the Dolphins had to decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option on former first-round tackle Ja'Wuan James. Last year, the Dolphins had to decide whether to cut James before the fifth-year option payment became fully guaranteed. This year, they have to decide whether to apply the franchise or transition tag to him. Tagging him won’t be cheap, but letting him leave will require the Dolphins to find a new right tackle. Which won’t be easy to do.

Bills: Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has signed a one-year extension, not that he would have been a candidate to be tagged. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, a former second-round pick of the Dolphins who arrived via waivers in October 2018, has said he’s in negotiations with the team; with Kyle Williams retiring, need may supersede whether Phillips is worth the eight-figure investment. Right tackle Jordan Mills has started 48 of 48 regular-season games, but that likely won’t be enough to get him tagged.

Jets: Plenty of Jets players are due to become unrestricted free agents, from quarterback Josh McCown to running back Bilal Powell to receiver Jermaine Kearse to cornerback Morris Claiborne. They’ve already re-signed receiver Quincy Enunwa, and none of the other names of potential free agents would justify spending cash that they’ve likely earmarked for guys who will be hitting the market in other cities.

Patriots: The kicker position in New England has been like the coaching position in Pittsburgh. While the Patriots won’t have only three kickers in 50 years, they’ve had only two in 23: Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. Gostkowski is due to become a free agent this year, and the franchise tag would seem to be a move that his current skill level doesn’t merit. He missed a field goal in the Super Bowl, and he nearly missed two others. Tackle Trent Brown, who thrived when thrust into the starting lineup in 2018, is due to hit the market. If the Pats didn’t use the tag on Nate Solder last year, they likely won’t use it on Brown. Ditto for defensive end Trey Flowers; if the Patriots wanted to keep him beyond 2018, they would have already signed him to a new deal.

Steelers: Multiple reports have indicated that the Steelers plan to use the transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell, apparently in the hopes of trading him. If so, things could get even uglier, with a fight over the amount of the tag and a determined lack of cooperation from Bell, who would need to go along with the plan in order for the plan to work the way the Steelers would like it to.

Bengals: The Bengals previously extended the likes of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Tight end Tyler Eifert and cornerback Darqueze Dennard are due to become free agents, but neither should prompt the Bengals to do something they haven’t done in six years — apply the franchise tag.

Browns: The Browns have a growing nucleus of great players. For now, none that are due to become free agents should compel the Browns to break out the tag.

Ravens: The first big personnel move for new G.M. Eric DeCosta was trading Joe Flacco. The second will be deciding whether to tag linebacker C.J. Mosley. If a long-term deal isn’t negotiated before the window for tagging Mosley closes, DeCosta could be forced to use the franchise tag in his first year on the job.

Texans: Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, is due to hit the market. The Texans will have to decide whether to sign him to a long-term deal, tag him, or let him walk away. Tagging Clowney could spark a Terrell Suggs-style fight as to whether Clowney is an outside linebacker or a defensive end, since the latter designation carries a bigger one-year tender. However it plays out, Clowney has every reason to be upset with the Texans for taking full advantage of the rookie wage scale in order to avoid paying him big money right out of the gates — and to resist giving him the long-term deal he has earned.

Colts: G.M. Chris Ballard faces no dilemmas when it comes to whether to tag any of Indy’s pending free agents; the real question is whether Ballard will carve off some of his gigantic cap stash to make a big splash in the early days of free agency. He’s inclined to resist, but that could be easier said than done — especially with no viable in-house candidates for the tag.

Titans: Linebacker Derrick Morgan headlines Tennessee’s free-agent class. A 30-year-old with 0.5 sacks in 13 games won’t have to worry about being tagged.

Jaguars: Kicker Josh Lambo has a new long-term deal. He’s the only guy who would have merited any consideration under the rules of the tag.

Broncos: At one point, cornerback Bradley Roby looked to be headed for a 2019 tag. But after Denver traded Aqib Talib and made Roby the top corner across from Chris Harris, Jr., Roby didn’t play well enough to force Denver’s hand during the period for applying tags.

Chiefs: Pass-rusher Dee Ford becomes the first in what could be a long line of young players to force the Chiefs to make tough decisions. If tagged this year, Ford could force the Chiefs to move on from the likes of linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry. If not signed to a long-term deal this year, Ford could force the Chiefs into a mess of a situation next year, when both receiver Tyreek Hill and defensive lineman Chris Jones are due to become free agents. Looming over every decision made by the Chief is the eventual mega-deal that will be given to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Back to Ford, tagging him could spark a squabble over whether Ford is a linebacker or a defensive end, the same kind of fight that’s looming between the Texans and Jadeveon Clowney.

Chargers: Cornerback Jason Verrett may have been headed for the tag, but a torn Achilles tendon wiped out his contract year. Receiver Tyrell Williams is due to hit the market; he’s simply not tag-worthy.

Raiders: Two years ago, tight end Jared Cook parlayed a catch for the ages in a playoff game between the Packers and Cowboys into a big contract with the Raiders. Coach Jon Gruden has repeatedly gushed about Cook, and hopes to keep him. Whether that happens via the franchise tag remains to be seen.

Cowboys: Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (pictured) is on track for a second straight tag. Last year, he pounced on $17.1 million. This year, the tender spikes to $20.52 million. Which would make a long-term deal ridiculously expensive, and which would guarantee that Lawrence will hit the market in 2020, since his tag for 2020 would shoot to  $29.52 million.

Washington: For the first time in a long time, Washington won’t be at the epicenter of franchise tag talk. The team sent a fourth-round pick to Green Bay for safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix; the franchise tag would seem to be a bit too much to spend to ensure keeping him around. Once-promising receiver Jamison Crowder has never fulfilled his potential, and he missed too many games last year.

Giants: Safety Landon Collins stands out as the one player on the roster worthy of tag consideration; barring an extension, it quite possibly will happen.

Eagles: The team reportedly is considering the use of the franchise tag on Nick Foles, with an eye toward trading him. Although this approach would violate the CBA, Foles seems to be OK with it — possibly because his agents already know that he wouldn’t get on the open market a long-term contract worth more per year than the franchise tag will pay.

Vikings: The team has locked up every key young player on the roster except linebacker Anthony Barr, who has completed his rookie deal. The Kirk Cousins contract could make it difficult to tag Barr; the best bet for keeping him could be to let him shop himself during the legal tampering period, at which time he may realize the grass won’t be greener with a new team. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who signed a one-year deal last March, is a long-shot candidate to be tagged.

Packers: Green Bay hasn’t used the franchise tag for eight years and counting. Not long ago, it would have been a no-brainer to tag linebacker Clay Matthews. That won’t happen. Ditto for receiver Randall Cobb, whose four-year, $40 million contract is expiring.

Lions: Last year, the Lions tagged defensive end Ziggy Ansah with the goal of giving new coach Matt Patricia a year to evaluate Ansah. Seven games and four sacks later, Ansah won’t be tagged again.

Bears: There’s no one due to become a free agent who would or should merit serious tag consideration.

Panthers: See the Bears.

Buccaneers: Absent an extension, tackle Donovan Smith is expected to be franchise tagged. And for good reason. The 2015 second-round pick has started all 64 games of his career.

Falcons: A breakout star in Super Bowl LI, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett finally is poised for the open market. The Falcons likely won’t let him get there.

Saints: Running back Mark Ingram is heading to the open market. Regardless of whether the Saints hope to keep him for a ninth season, it won’t happen via the franchise tag.

Seahawks: Defensive end Frank Clark is expected to be tagged if not extended. Next year, things will get very interesting, absent a contract extension for quarterback Russell Wilson.

49ers: After 11 seasons with the Bears and one with the Giants, Robbie Gould has found a home in San Francisco over the past two years. The 49ers could choose to keep Gould around via the franchise tag.

Cardinals: An emerging star in 2016, when he racked up 12.5 sacks, pass rusher Markus Golden surely won’t be tagged. The same applies to linebacker Deone Bucannon, who undoubtedly will hit the market.

Rams: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was a so-so performer in the regular season. He elevated his game in the playoffs, but likely not enough to be tagged. Pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. likewise say a spike in his performance in the playoffs, but also not enough to be tagged. Using the franchise tag for a second straight year on safety Lamarcus Joyner would cost $13.5 million.

FMIA: From His Hollywood Haven, Julian Edelman Reflects on LIII MVP, His Path and Being a Perfect Patriot

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Julian Edelman makes his offseason home in Hollywood, and on Saturday, the Patriots wide receiver welcomed a visitor: Peter King. He kicks off his Football Morning in America column with a long discussion with the Super Bowl LIII MVP about his NFL journey, and also tackles:

• Why the Patriots still might not be done winning Super Bowls. “We still got meat on the bone,” says Edelman, still not satisfied.

• The insanity of going from a crushing Super Bowl loss to your dream job in just a few hours. New Bengals coach Zac Taylor knows all about it.

• A can’t-miss documentary debuting this week, that dives deep into the football life of Nick Buoniconti.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on two teams in great position for the 2019 draft; the debut of the AAF; Antonio Brown trade buzz; early free agency fun.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, beernerdness and my geographically surprising vote for the best pizza in the world.
[more]

Final 2018 power rankings

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1. Patriots (14-5; final regular-season ranking No. 4): They’ll still be here, for maybe another year. Or two.

2. Saints (14-4; No. 1): They would have scored more than three points in the Super Bowl.

3. Rams (15-4; No. 2): Jared Goff holding the ball for too long when Brandin Cooks was wide-ass open could eventually prompt the Rams to find a new quarterback.

4. Chiefs (13-5; No. 5): They would have scored more than 13 points in the Super Bowl.

5. Eagles (10-8; No. 14): A healthy and maturing Carson Wentz could be the difference.

6. Chargers (13-5; No. 6): Anthony Lynn is the most underrated coach in football.

7. Cowboys (11-7; No. 12): Jerry Jones thinks five teams would have offered Jason Garrett their head-coaching jobs in January. It’s unclear whether the Cowboys would have been one of them.

8. Colts (11-7; No. 10): Many will peg them as a potential banner-raising AFC finalist for 2019.

9. Bears (12-5; No. 3): They’ll catch no one by surprise next season.

10. Ravens (10-7; No. 8): Can Lamar Jackson be healthy and effective for a full season?

11. Seahawks (10-7; No. 9): If 2018 was a return to 2012, will 2019 be a return to 2013?

12. Texans (11-6; No. 7): Forget about not being able to get past the Patriots; the Texans suddenly have a Colts problem.

13. Titans (9-7; No. 11): Is Marcus Mariota the long-term answer in Nashville?

14. Vikings (8-7-1; No. 13): Maybe they could send Kirk Cousins to Nashville.

15. Steelers (9-6-1; No. 15): Maybe they could send Antonio Brown to Nashville. Or anywhere.

16. Browns (7-8-1; No. 16): If the new coach can’t continue the trend that got him the job, he won’t have it for long.

17. Panthers (7-9; No. 21): A disastrous stretch turned a playoff team into an also-ran. Next year, much more will be expected.

18. Falcons (7-9; No. 22): The window is still open, but they’re getting farther away from hitting it.

19. Dolphins (7-9; No. 20): If they can get a quarterback who can play well and stay healthy, they could make things interesting in the AFC East.

20. Washington (7-9; No. 19): But for an unexpected run of success early in the year, they’d be a lot lower.

21. Packers (6-9-1; No. 17): How bad would they be if they didn’t have Aaron Rodgers?

22. Lions (6-10; No. 27): Sometimes you need to take more than one step back to move two steps forward.

23. Bills (6-10; No. 26): Josh Allen was a pleasant surprise; what can they get out of him in year two?

24. Broncos (6-10; No. 18): Another losing season, and the greatest player in franchise history (turned G.M.) could be losing his job.

25. Giants (5-11; No. 23): With or without Eli, the Giants have a long way to go to contend in the division.

26. Raiders (4-12; No. 24): If they draft a quarterback in round one, Derek Carr will have one more year, at most.

27. Jaguars (5-11; No. 25): With a little discipline and a lot of quarterback, the Jaguars can move back toward the top of the conference.

28. Bengals (6-10; No. 28): This team makes Super Bowl LIII look like a funhouse wrapped in a rollercoaster.

29. 49ers (4-12; No. 29): The heat will begin to intensify in Santa Clara.

30. Buccaneers (5-11; No. 30): The Bucs will go boom or bust in 2019.

31. Jets (4-12; No. 31): Sam Darnold and Adam Gase working together will push this team in the right direction.

32. Cardinals (3-13; No. 32): If the Cardinals were an actual laboratory experiment, they’d clear the building and have a fire truck on standby.

Super Bowl MVP voting starts before the game ends

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Julian Edelman had a big game on Sunday and was named the Super Bowl LIII Most Valuable Player, but some have raised questions about why an offensive player got the award after the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever. Those voices included Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell, who wrote on Twitter that awarding the MVP to an offensive player showed “no respect” for the Patriots’ defense.

But before blaming the voters for any lack of respect for defense, it’s important to understand that the NFL makes it hard on Super Bowl MVP voters by not giving them time to reflect on the game and look at their notes before submitting their votes. In fact, the voting starts before the game is even over.

Super Bowl MVP voting is determined by 16 members of the media who are at the game, and by fans voting on SuperBowl.com. The fan voting, which counts for 20 percent of the vote total, begins at the start of the fourth quarter and ends just as the game is ending, which means many, possibly most, of the votes were cast while Sunday’s game was still a 3-3 tie. Allowing votes that early in the game is a great way to get fans to just vote for the most recognizable name who’s putting up good stats, and for most of Sunday’s game, that was Edelman.

The media voting, which counts for 80 percent of the total, also begins before the game is over: NFL employees go around the press box asking the voters who they’re going to pick while the game is still going on. The voters are allowed to change their minds if something significant happens in the final minutes, but the reality is those media voters are busily working on their primary jobs, which is covering the game for the outlets they work for, and if a game-changing play happens in the final minutes, they’re more focused on writing their game stories than reconsidering their MVP votes.

PFT reached out to the league office to ask why the NFL doesn’t wait until a few minutes after the game to collect the votes. We were told that the reason the fan vote opens early in the fourth quarter is so that voting can be promoted on the TV broadcast, informing fans that they can vote and providing time to consider who they would like to vote for. The league also said that while media voters are asked to vote with about five minutes left in the fourth quarter, they can wait until the game ends to turn in their votes, and some voters who vote late in close games give two names, one from each team, with instructions that the MVP vote should go to the player on the winning team.

What would make more sense is to open the voting after the game. Fans could be given 15 minutes to vote online as soon as the game ends, with votes counted instantly, and the media voters could turn in their ballots after having a few minutes to check their notes. It only takes a minute or two to count 16 ballots, and on Sunday night Jim Nantz didn’t call Edelman up to the stage to be recognized as the MVP until 26 minutes after the game ended, so there’s really no reason to rush the voters.

Perhaps with some more time to reflect, voters would have chosen an MVP from the Patriots’ defense, like Stephon Gilmore or Dont'a Hightower. At the very least, the Super Bowl MVP — one of the signature awards in the sport of football — would be awarded based on a more thoughtful process.

FMIA: Ego-less Patriots Figure It Out In Time Vs. Rams in ‘throwback’ Super Bowl

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After a boring punt-fest for much of Super Bowl 53, the Patriots’ sixth title is now in the books. Peter King kicks off his Football Morning in America column from Atlanta with an inside look at how New England finally figured out the Rams and what it means for the Brady-Belichick dynasty, and also tackles:

• The Pro Football Hall of Fame … takeaways from inside the voting room, where defensive backs finally got their just due.

• The Super Bowl commercial that had everyone talking … the NFL, ironically, stole the advertising show with a two-minute ad featuring the game’s all-time and current greats, and we have the story of how it all happened.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on Gil Brandt’s lifetime of football; the next steps in changing NFL officiating; handicapping the NFL 2019 opening game; players of the week; and more.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, tweets, the adieu haiku and a nice gesture from the NFL that didn’t go unnoticed in the press box. [more]

PFT’s Super Bowl picks

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I’ve already won the regular-season picks contest, and victory was clinched in the postseason version when the Patriots proved everyone in the entire world wrong (except the many who believed they’d advance to the Super Bowl) by beating the Chiefs.

But there’s still something special about nailing the Super Bowl pick, and on that MDS and I disagree. Our selections and our reasoning appear below.

MDS’s take: The Patriots have so many advantages. Experience is the obvious one: Bill Belichick has coached in more Super Bowls (including when he was an assistant) than Sean McVay has spent seasons in the NFL. Tom Brady has played in more Super Bowls than the Rams’ entire roster combined. If experience matters in big games, that’s an enormous advantage for the Patriots.

It’s also worth noting that the Patriots seemed to play their best football as the season went on, while the Rams struggled a bit down the stretch. That’s an advantage for the Patriots as well.

However, I believe the Rams have a better team, top to bottom, than the Patriots do. The Rams have an offensive line that should control the game against the Patriots’ defense, while the Rams’ defensive line, led by Aaron Donald, has the ability to take New England out of its offense. With the men upfront leading the way, Los Angeles has the stronger roster.

It was a roster that was built to win this year, with some key offseason moves. After watching everything the Rams did in the offseason, I said before the season that the Rams would beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and I’m not going to change that pick now.

MDS’s pick: Rams 30, Patriots 27.

Florio’s take: After the Patriots lost to the Dolphins and Steelers on consecutive Sundays in December, sliding out of one of the top two spots in the AFC, I looked at the remaining schedules for the contenders in the conference and thought, “They have us right where they want us.”

Indeed they did. Seizing on the trumped-up notion that no one believes in them, the Patriots handled their final two regular-season opponents, manhandled the Chargers in the divisional round, and then somehow stickhandled their way past best team in the conference on its own field for a ninth Super Bowl appearance in 18 years.

I (and many others) believed in the team no one believed in because of experience. Eight consecutive trips to the AFC Championship means something when it comes to finding a way to advance. Four Super Bowls in five years means something when it comes to finding a way to win it. And losing the Super Bowl last year definitely helps provide a kick in the pants, too.

The Patriots’ 5-3 record in the Super Bowl since 2001 is downright unpatriotic. They could be 8-0 or 0-8 or anything in between, because every game has been excruciatingly close. They’re due for something different. They’re due for an old-school, boring-ass Super Bowl blowout. And they’re not due to be the team on the wrong side of it.

Many thought the Chargers, who were 9-0 outside of L.A., would go to Gillette Stadium and win. By halftime, it was clear they wouldn’t.

It was clear they wouldn’t because the Patriots methodically scored over and over and over and the Chargers couldn’t match. While the outcome is far easier said than done, the Patriots will strive to duplicate the approach, moving the ball consistently when they have it, scoring touchdowns not field goals, and getting off the field quickly on defense by taking away tailback Todd Gurley and daring quarterback Jared Goff to beat them over the top. Barring another inexplicable decision to leave one of the team’s starting cornerbacks on the sideline for the full game, the Patriots’ defense should be able to handle Brandin Cooks (whom the Pats know very well) and Robert Woods (whom they also know well from his time in Buffalo, where he was a teammate of Patriots All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore).

The Pats will do it offensively by keeping the Rams’ defense guessing, on every play. And that inability to know with a high degree of certainty whether a pass or a run is coming will keep an aggressive group of defenders on their heels, fearful to commit to chasing the quarterback due to the possibility that, on third and five, a running back will run right by them.

Then there are the comments Belichick made last week about Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ system. When Belichick praised Wade for having success with the same defense for more than 30 years, some saw that not as praise but as a clue that Belichick will find a way based on years of tape and tendencies and tells to pick it apart, with running back James White potentially emerging as a key contributor through an underneath passing game that could blow open, given the attention that will be devoted to corralling receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Last year in the Super Bowl, the Patriots didn’t have Edelman. The year before that, they didn’t have Gronk. For the first time since Super Bowl XLIX, they have both. That’s a huge plus for the Patriots.

They also have Tom Brady, perhaps the greatest player at any position in league history. After the epic 28-3 comeback in Super Bowl LI, Brady said he’s at the point where nothing a defense shows him can fool him. Two years later, his legs and arm still youthful enough to do what his brain tells them to do quickly and decisively, the former sixth-rounder’s internal supercomputer has even more data for seeing seven steps ahead of a defense, based on what they’re doing before the ball is snapped, where they finally align, and how they move once the play starts.

Which makes the thought of the Pats losing a second straight Super Bowl not compute. Yes, the end of a generation-plus of football excellence is coming, eventually. But not yet. Not on Sunday.

On Sunday, the Patriots could do to the Rams what so many Super Bowl winners did in the years before we became spoiled by the game being a consistently good one. Here’s hoping it’s not a blowout. Here’s one man’s guess that, unfortunately for the Rams, it will be.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 39, Rams 20.

FMIA—Driving The 101 With Sean McVay: On Texting Belichick, Trusting Goff and the Plan for Super Bowl 53

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Sean McVay walked out of his house at 4:10 a.m. on Saturday and someone was there waiting for him in the dark. Now, before you alert the cops, know that the visitor was Peter King, and he kicks off his Football Morning in America column with a ride to work with the youngest Super Bowl coach ever. Also in the column:

• Bill Belichick and McVay are texting buddies … that’s among the things we learn during a pre-dawn drive down the 101 ahead of Super Bowl 53.

• Roger Goodell is still silent … the disappearing commissioner has not said anything regarding the officiating debacle in the NFC title game, and we look at a number of the ways the league is mishandling things.

• Progress on head trauma … lost in a week of news was the announcement that player concussions were way down in 2018. Was it an outlier or sign of better things to come?

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on Benjamin Watson’s retirement; an independent official’s look at controversial calls; Tony Dungy’s playing career; Senior Bowl activity; Hall of Fame voting buzz; and more.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, beernerdness and a dumb conspiracy theory regarding the Rams-Saints pass interference non-call.
[more]

Patriots’ Super Bowl records

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These are the Super Bowl records featuring the Patriots dynasty, as listed by the 2018 NFL Record & Fact Book. Patriots franchise records, and records owned by active Patriots players, in bold..

Most Games
8 Tom Brady, New England, XXXVI, XXXVIII-XXXIX, XLII, XLVI, XLIX, LI-LII
6 Mike Lodish, Buffalo, XXV-XXVIII; Denver, XXXII-XXXIII

Most Games, Winning Team
5 Tom Brady, New England, XXXVI, XXXVIII-XXXIX, XLIX, LI
Charles Haley, San Francisco, XXIII-XXIV; Dallas, XXVII-XXVIII, XXX
4 By many players

Most Games, Coach
8 Bill Belichick, New England, XXXVI, XXXVIII-XXXIX, XLII, XLVI, XLIX, LI-LII
6 Don Shula, Baltimore, III; Miami, VI-VIII, XVII, XIX

Most Games, Winning Team, Coach
5 Bill Belichick, New England, XXXVI, XXXVIII-XXXIX, XLIX, LI
4 Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh, IX-X, XIII-XIV

Most Games, Losing Team, Coach
4 Bud Grant, Minnesota, IV, VIII-IX, XI
Don Shula, Baltimore, III; Miami, VI, XVII, XIX
Marv Levy, Buffalo, XXV-XXVIII
Dan Reeves, Denver, XXI-XXII, XXIV; Atlanta, XXXIII
3 Tom Landry, Dallas, V, X, XIII
Bill Belichick, New England, XLII, XLVI, LII

Most Points, Game
20 James White, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (3-td, 2-pt) (OT)
18 Roger Craig, San Francisco vs. Miami, XIX (3-td)
Jerry Rice, San Francisco vs. Denver, XXIV (3-td); vs. San Diego, XXIX (3-td)
Ricky Watters, San Francisco vs. San Diego, XXIX (3-td)
Terrell Davis, Denver vs. Green Bay, XXXII (3-td)

Most Touchdowns, Career
8 Jerry Rice, San Francisco-Oakland, 4 games (8-p)
5 Emmitt Smith, Dallas, 3 games (5-r)
4 James White, New England, 2 games (3-r, 1-p)
Franco Harris, Pittsburgh, 4 games (4-r)
Roger Craig, San Francisco, 3 games (2-r, 2-p)
Thurman Thomas, Buffalo, 4 games (4-r)
John Elway, Denver, 5 games (4-r)

Most Touchdowns, Game
3 James White, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT) (2-r, 1-p)
Roger Craig, San Francisco vs. Miami, XIX (1-r, 2-p)
Jerry Rice, San Francisco. vs. Denver, XXIV (3-p); vs. San Diego, XXIX (3-p)
Ricky Watters, San Francisco vs. San Diego, XXIX (1-r, 2-p)
Terrell Davis, Denver vs. Green Bay, XXXII (3-r)

Most Two-Point Conversions, Game
1 James White, New England vs. Atlanta, LI
Mark Seay, San Diego vs. San Francisco, XXIX
Alfred Pupunu, San Diego vs. San Francisco, XXIX
Mark Chmura, Green Bay vs. New England, XXXI
Kevin Faulk, New England vs. Carolina, XXXVIII
Lance Moore, New Orleans vs. Indianapolis, XLIV
Antwaan Randle El, Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay, XLV
Wes Welker, Denver vs. Seattle, XLVIII
Bennie Fowler, Denver vs. Carolina, 50
Danny Amendola, New England vs. Atlanta, LI

Most (One-Point) Points After Touchdown, Career
13 Adam Vinatieri, New England-Indianapolis, 5 games (13 att)
11 Stephen Gostkowski, New England, 5 games (13 att)

Most Field Goals Attempted, Career
10 Adam Vinatieri, New England-Indianapolis, 5 games
6 Stephen Gostkowski, New England, 5 games
Jim Turner, N.Y. Jets-Denver, 2 games
Roy Gerela, Pittsburgh, 3 games
Rich Karlis, Denver, 2 games
Jeff Wilkins, St. Louis, 2 games

Most Field Goals, Career
7 Adam Vinatieri, New England-Indianapolis, 5 games(10 att)
5 Stephen Gostkowski, New England, 5 games (6 att)

Most Rushing Touchdowns, Career
5 Emmitt Smith, Dallas, 3 games
4 Franco Harris, Pittsburgh, 4 games
Thurman Thomas, Buffalo, 4 games
John Elway, Denver, 5 games
3 James White, New England, 2 games
Terrell Davis, Denver, 2 games

Most Rushing Touchdowns, Game
3 Terrell Davis, Denver vs. Green Bay, XXXII
2 James White, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
Elijah Pitts, Green Bay vs. Kansas City, I
Larry Csonka, Miami vs. Minnesota, VIII
Pete Banaszak, Oakland vs. Minnesota, XI
Franco Harris, Pittsburgh vs. Los Angeles, XIV
Marcus Allen, L.A. Raiders vs. Washington, XVIII
Jim McMahon, Chicago vs. New England, XX
Timmy Smith, Washington vs. Denver, XXII
Tom Rathman, San Francisco vs. Denver, XXIV
Gerald Riggs, Washington vs. Buffalo, XXVI
Emmitt Smith, Dallas vs. Buffalo, XXVIII
Emmitt Smith, Dallas vs. Pittsburgh, XXX
Howard Griffith, Denver vs. Atlanta, XXXIII
Eddie George, Tennessee vs. St. Louis, XXXIV

Most Passes Attempted, Career
357 Tom Brady, New England, 8 games
155 Peyton Manning, Indianapolis-Denver, 4 games

Most Passes Attempted, Game
62 Tom Brady, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
58 Jim Kelly, Buffalo vs. Washington, XXVI

Most Passes Completed, Career
235 Tom Brady, New England, 8 games
103 Peyton Manning, Indianapolis-Denver, 4 games

Most Passes Completed, Game
43 Tom Brady, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
37 Tom Brady, New England vs. Seattle, XLIX

34 Peyton Manning, Denver vs. Seattle, XLVIII

Most Consecutive Completions, Game
16 Tom Brady, New England vs. N.Y. Giants, XLVI
13 Joe Montana, San Francisco vs. Denver, XXIV
10 Tom Brady, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
Phil Simms, N.Y. Giants vs. Denver, XXI
Troy Aikman, Dallas vs. Pittsburgh, XXX
Kurt Warner, Arizona vs. Pittsburgh, XLIII
Drew Brees, New Orleans vs. Indianapolis, XLIV

Most Passing Yards Gained, Career
2,576 Tom Brady, New England, 8 games
1,156 Kurt Warner, St. Louis-Arizona, 3 games

Most Yards Gained, Game
505 Tom Brady, New England vs. Philadelphia, LII
466 Tom Brady, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)

414 Kurt Warner, St. Louis vs. Tennessee, XXXIV

Most Touchdown Passes, Career
18 Tom Brady, New England, 8 games
11 Joe Montana, San Francisco, 4 games

Most Touchdown Passes, Game
6 Steve Young, San Francisco vs. San Diego, XXIX
5 Joe Montana, San Francisco vs. Denver, XXIV
4 Tom Brady, New England vs. Seattle, XLIX
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh vs. Dallas, XIII
Doug Williams, Washington vs. Denver, XXII
Troy Aikman, Dallas vs. Buffalo, XXVII

Most Attempts, Without Interception, Game
48 Tom Brady, New England vs. N.Y. Giants, XLII
Tom Brady, New England vs. Philadelphia, LII

45 Kurt Warner, St. Louis vs. Tennessee, XXXIV

Most Receptions, Game
14 James White, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
13 Demaryius Thomas, Denver vs. Seattle, XLVIII
11 Dan Ross, Cincinnati vs. San Francisco, XVI
Jerry Rice, San Francisco vs. Cincinnati, XXIII
Deion Branch, New England vs. Philadelphia, XXXIX
Wes Welker, New England vs. N.Y. Giants, XLII
Shane Vereen, New England vs. Seattle, XLIX

Most Touchdown Receptions, Career
8 Jerry Rice, San Francisco-Oakland, 4 games
3 Rob Gronkowski, New England, 3 games
John Stallworth, Pittsburgh, 4 games
Lynn Swann, Pittsburgh, 4 games
Cliff Branch, Oakland-L.A. Raiders, 3 games
Antonio Freeman, Green Bay, 2 games

Most Touchdown Receptions, Game
3 Jerry Rice, San Francisco vs. Denver, XXIV; vs. San Diego, XXIX
2 Rob Gronkowski, New England vs. Philadelphia, LII
Max McGee, Green Bay vs. Kansas City, I
Bill Miller, Oakland vs. Green Bay, II
John Stallworth, Pittsburgh vs. Dallas, XIII
Cliff Branch, Oakland vs. Philadelphia, XV
Dan Ross, Cincinnati vs. San Francisco, XVI
Roger Craig, San Francisco vs. Miami, XIX
Ricky Sanders, Washington vs. Denver, XXII
Michael Irvin, Dallas vs. Buffalo, XXVII
Ricky Watters, San Francisco vs. San Diego, XXIX
Antonio Freeman, Green Bay vs. Denver, XXXII
Keenan McCardell, Tampa Bay vs. Oakland, XXXVII
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona vs. Pittsburgh, XLIII
Greg Jennings, Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh, XLV

Longest Punt
64 Ryan Allen, New England vs. Seattle, XLIX
63 Lee Johnson, Cincinnati vs. San Francisco, XXIII

Highest Average, Punting, Game (4 punts)
50.2 Tom Rouen, Seattle vs. Pittsburgh, XL (6-301)
49.0 Ryan Allen, New England vs. Seattle, XLIX (4-196)

Most Punt Returns, Career
8 Troy Brown, New England, 3 games
6 Julian Edelman, New England, 3 games
Willie Wood, Green Bay, 2 games
Jake Scott, Miami, 3 games
Theo Bell, Pittsburgh, 2 games
Mike Nelms, Washington, 1 game
John Taylor, San Francisco, 3 games
Desmond Howard, Green Bay, 1 game
David Meggett, N.Y. Giants-New England, 2 games
Darrien Gordon, San Diego-Denver-Oakland, 4 games

Most Punt Return Yards Gained, Career
94 John Taylor, San Francisco, 3 games
90 Desmond Howard, Green Bay, 1 game
67 Julian Edelman, New England, 3 games
David Meggett, N.Y. Giants-New England, 2 games

Highest Punt Return Average, Career (4 returns)
15.7 John Taylor, San Francisco, 3 games (6-94)
15.0 Desmond Howard, Green Bay, 1 game (6-90)
11.2 Julian Edelman, New England, 3 games (6-67)
David Meggett, N.Y. Giants-New England, 2 games (6-67)

Most Fumbles, Career
5 Roger Staubach, Dallas, 4 games
4 Jim Kelly, Buffalo, 4 games
Kurt Warner, St. Louis-Arizona, 3 games
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis-Denver, 4 games
3 Tom Brady, New England, 8 games
Franco Harris, Pittsburgh, 4 games
Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh, 4 games
John Elway, Denver, 5 games
Frank Reich, Buffalo, 4 games
Thurman Thomas, Buffalo, 4 games

Most Sacks, Game
3.0 Reggie White, Green Bay vs. New England, XXXI
Darnell Dockett, Arizona vs. Pittsburgh, XLIII
Kony Ealy, Carolina vs. Denver 50
Grady Jarrett, Atlanta vs. New England, LI (OT)
2.5 Trey Flowers, New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
Von Miller, Denver vs. Carolina, 50

TEAM RECORDS
Most Games
11 New England, XX, XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII-XXXIX, XLII, XLVI, XLIX, LI-LII
8 Dallas, V-VI, X, XII-XIII, XXVII-XXVIII, XXX
Pittsburgh, IX-X, XIII-XIV, XXX, XL, XLIII, XLV
Denver, XII, XXI-XXII, XXIV, XXXII-XXXIII, XLVIII, 50

Most Consecutive Games
4 Buffalo, XXV-XXVIII
3 New England, LI-LIII
Miami, VI-VIII
2 New England, XXXVIII-XXXIX
Green Bay, I-II; XXXI-XXXII
Dallas, V-VI; XII-XIII; XXVII-XXVIII
Minnesota, VIII-IX
Pittsburgh, IX-X; XIII-XIV
Washington, XVII-XVIII
Denver, XXI-XXII; XXXII-XXXIII
San Francisco, XXIII-XXIV
Seattle, XLIVIII-XLIX

Most Games Won
6 Pittsburgh, IX-X, XIII-XIV, XL, XLIII
5 New England, XXXVI, XXXVIII-XXXIX, XLIX, LI
San Francisco, XVI, XIX, XXIII-XXIV, XXIX
Dallas, VI, XII, XXVII-XXVIII, XXX

Most Consecutive Games Won
2 New England, XXXVIII-XXXIX
Green Bay, I-II
Miami, VII-VIII
Pittsburgh, IX-X, XIII-XIV
San Francisco, XXIII-XXIV
Dallas, XXVII-XXVIII
Denver, XXXII-XXXIII

Most Games Lost
5 New England, XX, XXXI, XLII, XLVI, LII
Denver, XII, XXI-XXII, XXIV, XLVIII

Most Points, Both Teams, Game
75 San Francisco (49) vs. San Diego (26), XXIX
74 Philadelphia (41) vs. New England (33), LII

Most Points, Both Teams, Quarter
37 Carolina (19) vs. New England (18), XXXVIII (4th quarter)

Most Touchdowns, Both Teams, Game
10 San Francisco (7) vs. San Diego (3), XXIX
9 Philadelphia (5) vs. New England (4), LII
Pittsburgh (5) vs. Dallas (4), XIII
San Francisco (8) vs. Denver (1), XXIV
Dallas (7) vs. Buffalo (2), XXVII
Tampa Bay (6) vs. Oakland (3), XXXVII
8 Carolina (4) vs. New England (4), XXXVIII
Atlanta (4) vs. New England (4), LI (OT)

Most Two-Point Conversions, Game
2 New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
San Diego vs. San Francisco, XXIX

Most First Downs, Game
37 New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
31 San Francisco vs. Miami, XIX
29 New England vs. Carolina, XXXVIII
New England vs. Philadelphia, LII

Most First Downs, Both Teams, Game
54 New England (37) vs. Atlanta (17), LI (OT)
New England (29) vs. Philadelphia (25), LII

50 San Francisco (31) vs. Miami (19), XIX
Tennessee (27) vs. St. Louis (23), XXXIV

Fewest First Downs, Rushing, Game
1 New England vs. Seattle, XLIX
New England vs. Chicago, XX
St. Louis vs. Tennessee, XXXIV
Oakland vs. Tampa Bay, XXXVII
2 Minnesota vs. Kansas City, IV; vs. Pittsburgh, IX; vs. Oakland, XI
Pittsburgh vs. Dallas, XIII
Miami vs. San Francisco, XIX
N.Y. Giants vs. Baltimore, XXXV
Arizona vs. Pittsburgh, XLIII
Denver vs. Seattle, XLVIII
3 New England vs. Green Bay, XXXI
Carolina vs. New England, XXXVIII
New England vs. N.Y. Giants, XLII
Atlanta vs. New England, LI (OT)

Miami vs. Dallas, VI
Philadelphia vs. Oakland, XV
Chicago vs. Indianapolis, XLII
New Orleans vs. Indianapolis, XLIV

Fewest First Downs, Rushing, Both Teams, Game
6 Arizona (2) vs. Pittsburgh (4), XLIII
7 New England (3) vs. N.Y. Giants (4), XLII
Oakland (1) vs. Tampa Bay (6), XXXVIII

Most First Downs, Passing, Game
26 New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
23 New England vs. Philadelphia, LII
21 New England vs. Seattle, XLIX

Most First Downs, Passing, Both Teams, Game
42 New England (23) vs. Philadelphia (19), LII
39 New England (26) vs. Atlanta (13), LI (OT)
33 N.Y. Giants (18) vs. New England (15), XLVI

Most First Downs, Penalty, Game
4 New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
Baltimore vs. Dallas, V
Miami vs. Minnesota, VIII
Cincinnati vs. San Francisco, XVI
Buffalo vs. Dallas, XXVII
St. Louis vs. Tennessee, XXXIV
Pittsburgh vs. Arizona, XLIII
3 St. Louis vs. New England, XXXVI
New England vs. Carolina, XXXVIII
New England vs. Seattle, XLIX

Kansas City vs. Minnesota, IV
Minnesota vs. Oakland, XI
Buffalo vs. Washington, XXVI
Green Bay vs. Denver, XXXII
N.Y. Giants vs. Baltimore, XXXV
Tampa Bay vs. Oakland, XXXVII
Denver vs. Seattle, XLVIII
Carolina vs. Denver, 50

Most First Downs, Penalty, Both Teams, Game
6 Cincinnati (4) vs. San Francisco (2), XVI
St. Louis (4) vs. Tennessee (2), XXXIV
5 New England (3) vs. Carolina (2), XXXVIII
New England (3) vs. Seattle (2), XLIX
New England (4) vs. Atlanta (1), LI (OT)

Baltimore (4) vs. Dallas (1), V
Miami (4) vs. Minnesota (1), VIII
Buffalo (3) vs. Washington (2), XXVI
Green Bay (3) vs. Denver (2), XXXII
Pittsburgh (4) vs. Arizona (1), XLIII
Carolina (3) vs. Denver (2), 50

Most Yards Gained, Game
613 New England vs. Philadelphia, LII
602 Washington vs. Denver, XXII
546 New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)

Most Yards Gained, Both Teams, Game
1,151 New England (613) vs. Philadelphia (538), LII
929 Washington (602) vs. Denver (327), XXII
890 New England (546) vs. Atlanta (344), LI (OT)

Fewest Rushing Yards Gained, Both Teams, Game
91 Arizona (33) vs. Pittsburgh (58), XLIII
136 New England (45) vs. N.Y. Giants (91), XLII

Most Passes Attempted, Both Teams, Game
93 New England (49) vs. Philadelphia (44), LII
San Diego (55) vs. San Francisco (38), XXIX
92 Buffalo (59) vs. Washington (33), XXVI
86 New England (63) vs. Atlanta (23), LI (OT)

Most Passes Completed, Both Teams, Game
63 New Orleans (32) vs. Indianapolis (31), XLIV
60 New England (43) vs. Atlanta (17), LI (OT)
57 N.Y. Giants (30) vs. New England (27), XLVI
Philadelphia (29) vs. New England (28), LII

Most Passing Yards Gained, Both Teams, Game
874 New England (500) vs. Philadelphia (374), LII
682 New England (442) vs. Atlanta (240), LI (OT)
649 New England (354) vs. Carolina (295), XXXVIII

Fewest Times Sacked, Game
0 New England vs. Carolina, XXXVIII
Philadelphia vs. New England, LII

Baltimore vs. N.Y. Jets, III; vs. Dallas, V
Minnesota vs. Pittsburgh, IX
Pittsburgh vs. Los Angeles, XIV
Philadelphia vs. Oakland, XV
Washington vs. Buffalo, XXVI
Denver vs. Green Bay, XXXII; vs. Atlanta, XXXIII
Tampa Bay vs. Oakland, XXXVII
Indianapolis vs. New Orleans, XLIV
Seattle vs. Denver, XLVIII

Most Times Sacked, Both Teams, Game
12 Carolina (7) vs. Denver (5), 50
10 Green Bay (5) vs. New England (5), XXXI
New England (7) vs. Chicago (3), XX

Fewest Times Sacked, Both Teams, Game
1 Philadelphia (0) vs. New England (1), LII
Philadelphia (0) vs. Oakland (1), XV
Denver (0) vs. Green Bay (1), XXXII
Indianapolis (0) vs. New Orleans (1), XLIV
Seattle (0) vs. Denver (1), XLVIII

Most Passing Touchdowns, Both Teams, Game
7 Philadelphia (4) vs. New England (3), LII
Pittsburgh (4) vs. Dallas (3), XIII
San Francisco (6) vs. San Diego (1), XXIX
6 Carolina (3) vs. New England (3), XXXVIII
New England (4) vs. Seattle (2), XLIX

5 Philadelphia (3) vs. New England (2), XXXIX
Washington (4) vs. Denver (1), XXII
San Francisco (5) vs. Denver (0), XXIV
Dallas (4) vs. Buffalo (1), XXVII
Green Bay (3) vs. Pittsburgh (2), XLV

Fewest Interceptions By, Both Teams, Game
0 Buffalo vs. N.Y. Giants, XXV
St. Louis vs. Tennessee, XXXIV
1 New England (0) vs. Carolina (1), XXXVIII
New England (0) vs. N.Y. Giants (1), XLVI
New England (0) vs. Atlanta (1), LI (OT)
Philadelphia (0) vs. New England (1), LII

Oakland (0) vs. Green Bay (1), II
Miami (0) vs. Dallas (1), VI
Minnesota (0) vs. Miami (1), VIII
N.Y. Giants (0) vs. Denver (1), XXI
Cincinnati (0) vs. San Francisco (1), XXIII
N.Y. Giants (0) vs. New England (1), XLII
Indianapolis (0) vs. New Orleans (1), XLIV
San Francisco (0) vs. Baltimore (1), XLVII

Fewest Punts, Game
0 New England vs. Philadelphia, LII
1 Philadelphia vs. New England, LII

Atlanta vs. Denver, XXXIII
Denver vs. Atlanta, XXXIII
Seattle vs. Denver, XLVIII

Fewest Punts, Both Teams, Game
1 New England (0) vs. Philadelphia (1), LII

Fewest Kickoff Returns, Game
0 Seattle vs. New England, XLIX
1 New England vs. Atlanta, LI (OT)
N.Y. Jets vs. Baltimore, III
L.A. Raiders vs. Washington, XVIII
Washington vs. Buffalo, XXVI

Fewest Kickoff Returns, Both Teams, Game
3 Seattle (0) vs. New England (3), XLIX

Fewest Kickoff Return Yards Gained, Game
0 Seattle vs. New England, XLIX

Fewest Kickoff Return Yards Gained, Both Teams, Game
49 Seattle (0) vs. New England (49), XLIX
62 New England (20) vs. Atlanta (42), LI (OT)

Most Penalties, Game
12 Carolina vs. New England, XXXVIII
Dallas vs. Denver, XII
Carolina vs. Denver, 50

Fewest Penalties, Game
0 Miami vs. Dallas, VI
Pittsburgh vs. Dallas, X
Denver vs. San Francisco, XXIV
Atlanta vs. Denver, XXXIII
1 Green Bay vs. Oakland, II
Miami vs. Minnesota, VIII; vs. San Francisco, XIX
Buffalo vs. Dallas, XXVIII
New England vs. Philadelphia, LII

Most Penalties, Both Teams, Game
20 Carolina (12) vs. New England (8), XXXVIII
Dallas (12) vs. Denver (8), XII

Fewest Yards Penalized, Game
0 Miami vs. Dallas, VI
Pittsburgh vs. Dallas, X
Denver vs. San Francisco, XXIV
Atlanta vs. Denver, XXXIII
4 Miami vs. Minnesota, VIII
5 New England vs. Philadelphia, LII

Fewest Fumbles, Both Teams, Game
0 Seattle vs. New England, XLIX
Los Angeles vs. Pittsburgh, XIV
Green Bay vs. New England, XXXI
Pittsburgh vs. Seattle, XL
Indianapolis vs. New Orleans, XLIV

Fewest Turnovers, Game
0 New England vs. St. Louis, XXXVI
N.Y. Giants vs. New England, XLVI

Green Bay vs. Oakland, II
Miami vs. Minnesota, VIII
Pittsburgh vs. Dallas, X
Oakland vs. Minnesota, XI; vs. Philadelphia, XV
N.Y. Giants vs. Denver, XXI; vs. Buffalo, XXV
San Francisco vs. Denver, XXIV; vs. San Diego, XXIX
Buffalo vs. N.Y. Giants, XXV
Dallas vs. Pittsburgh, XXX
Green Bay vs. New England, XXXI
St. Louis vs. Tennessee, XXXIV
Tennessee vs. St. Louis, XXXIV
Baltimore vs. N.Y. Giants, XXXV
New Orleans vs. Indianapolis, XLIV
Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh, XLV
Seattle vs. Denver, XLVIII

Fewest Turnovers, Both Teams, Game
0 Buffalo vs. N.Y. Giants, XXV
St. Louis vs. Tennessee, XXXIV
1 N.Y. Giants (0) vs. New England (1), XLVI
N.Y. Giants (0) vs. Denver (1), XXI
New Orleans (0) vs. Indianapolis (1), XLIV
2 New England (1) vs. N.Y. Giants (1), XLII
New England (1) vs. Philadelphia (1), LII

Green Bay (1) vs. Kansas City (1), I
Miami (0) vs. Minnesota (2), VIII
Cincinnati (1) vs. San Francisco (1), XXIII
Carolina (1) vs. New England (1), XXXVIII

FMIA: Amazing, crazy games lead to Rams-Patriots Super Bowl; Tom Brady: ‘We’ll Remember This Forever’

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A zebra-made heartbreak for the Saints. A Brady-made heartbreak for the Chiefs. From Kansas City, Peter King kicks off his latest Football Morning in America column by pulling up a stool next to Tom Brady’s locker and chatting with the nine-time Super Bowl participant, and also tackles:

• The call booed ’round New Orleans … the Rams are Super Bowl bound, thanks in part to a missed pass interference.

• The tale of the missing plays … a handful of New England’s play calls Sunday—including one crucial throw in overtime—were not in the game plan.

• The coaching hires … Freddie Kitchens and Adam Game talk about the challenges ahead in Cleveland and New York, respectively.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on Byron Leftwich’s newfound pressure; the secret stars of the Patriots win; how Saints fans really felt about the officiating; the weekly awards; and more.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, beernerdness and a look back at that Super Bowl 53 prediction from back in September. [more]

NFL announces 135 early entries for the 2019 NFL Draft

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The deadline for players to forego their remaining NCAA eligibility and enter the 2019 NFL Draft was on Monday and the league formally announced is on that list on Friday.

There are 103 players who have been in college for at least three years and have decided to move on to the professional ranks by renouncing “their college football eligibility by submitting written notification to the league office.” The most of any year was the 106 players who declared for the 2018 draft.

A list of those players appears here:

Ed Alexander NT Louisiana State
Jeff Allison LB Fresno State
JJ Arcega-Whiteside WR Stanford
Mike Bell DB Fresno State
Amani Bledsoe DE Oklahoma
Nick Bosa DE Ohio State
Miles Boykin WR Notre Dame
A.J. Brown WR Mississippi
Marquise Brown WR Oklahoma
Sean Bunting DB Central Michigan
Brian Burns DE Florida State
Devin Bush LB Michigan
Hamp Cheevers DB Boston College
Damarea Crockett RB Missouri
Maxx Crosby DE Eastern Michigan
Tyrel Dodson LB Texas A&M
Greg Dortch WR Wake Forest
Clifton Duck DB Appalachian State
Jovon Durante WR Florida Atlantic
David Edwards T Wisconsin
Bobby Evans T Oklahoma
Datryan Evans TE Friends
Noah Fant TE Iowa
Jazz Ferguson WR Northwestern State, La.
Malik Gant DB Marshall
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson DB Florida
Rashan Gary DE Michigan
Zach Gentry TE Michigan
Kevin Givens DT Penn State
Jalen Guyton WR North Texas
Mecole Hardman WR Georgia
Kelvin Harmon WR North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry WR Arizona State
Dwayne Haskins QB Ohio State
Darrell Henderson RB Memphis
Nate Herbig G Stanford
Justice Hill RB Oklahoma State
Trysten Hill DT Central Florida
T.J. Hockenson TE Iowa
Joshuwa Holloman RB Eastern Michigan
Elijah Holyfield RB Georgia
Travis Homer RB Miami
Amani Hooker DB Iowa
Lil’Jordan Humphrey WR Texas
Joe Jackson DE Miami
Josh Jacobs RB Alabama
Andre James T UCLA
Darryl Johnson DE North Carolina A&T
Diontae Johnson WR Toledo
Tyron Johnson WR Oklahoma State
Michael Jordan G Ohio State
Vosean Joseph LB Florida
Tre Lamar LB Clemson
Dexter Lawrence DT Clemson
Justin Layne DB Michigan State
Greg Little T Mississippi
David Long DB Michigan
Julian Love DB Notre Dame
Alize Mack TE Notre Dame
Alexander Mattison RB Boise State
Connor McGovern G Penn State
D.K. Metcalf WR Mississippi
Shareef Miller DE Penn State
Dillon Mitchell WR Oregon
David Montgomery RB Iowa State
Trayvon Mullen DB Clemson
Byron Murphy DB Washington
Kyler Murray QB Oklahoma
Isaac Nauta TE Georgia
Chidi Okeke T Tennessee State
Ed Oliver DT Houston
Jachai Polite DE Florida
Ryan Pulley DB Arkansas
Taylor Rapp DB Washington
Riley Ridley WR Georgia
Tyler Roemer T San Diego State
Miles Sanders RB Penn State
Jordan Scarlett RB Florida
Kendall Sheffield DB Ohio State
Jeffery Simmons DT Mississippi State
Devin Singletary RB Florida Atlantic
Darius Slayton WR Auburn
Irv Smith TE Alabama
Kaden Smith TE Stanford
Saivion Smith DB Alabama
Benny Snell RB Kentucky
Dredrick Snelson WR Central Florida
Jace Sternberger TE Texas A&M
Jawaan Taylor T Florida
Darwin Thompson RB Utah State
John Ursua WR Hawaii
Kahale Warring TE San Diego State
Mike Weber RB Ohio State
Antoine Wesley WR Texas Tech
Devin White LB Louisiana State
Kerrith Whyte RB Florida Atlantic
Greedy Williams DB Louisiana State
James Williams RB Washington State
Joejuan Williams DB Vanderbilt
Preston Williams WR Colorado State
Quinnen Williams NT Alabama
Trayveon Williams RB Texas A&M
Mack Wilson LB Alabama

The NFL also announced the names of 32 players who have graduated from school and decided to give up their remaining eligibility at the collegiate level. The 135 total players is a new league high.

Rodney Anderson RB Oklahoma
Alex Barnes RB Kansas State
Ryan Bates T Penn State
Venzell Boulware G Miami
Hakeem Butler WR Iowa State
Xavier Crawford DB Central Michigan
Jamel Dean DB Auburn
Clelin Ferrell DE Clemson
Cody Ford T Oklahoma
Youhanna Ghaifan DT Wyoming
Joe Giles-Harris LB Duke
Penny Hart WR Georgia State
Tyree Jackson QB Buffalo
Daniel Jones QB Duke
Dre’Mont Jones DT Ohio State
Dawson Knox TE Mississippi
David Long LB West Virginia
Erik McCoy C Texas A&M
Jakobi Meyers WR North Carolina State
Anthony Nelson DE Iowa
Tony Pollard RB Memphis
Anthony Ratliff-Williams WR North Carolina
Dax Raymond TE Utah State
Quart’e Sapp LB Tennessee
Cortrelle Simpson WR Richmond
Sutton Smith DE Northern Illinois
Jarrett Stidham QB Auburn
William Sweet T North Carolina
Josiah Tauaefa LB Texas-San Antonio
Deionte Thompson DB Alabama
Jonah Williams T Alabama
Caleb Wilson TE UCLA

PFT’s conference championship picks

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It’s getting pretty good in the postseason.

My three-game gap has fallen to one, thanks to MDS going 4-0 in the divisional round by taking the four favorites in every game. (Chicken.) I foolishly trusted the Cowboys and Eagles, and now I need a New England win to clinch the playoff competition. Otherwise, it all comes down to the Super Bowl.

I fared better against the spread, going 2-1 to the 1-2 mark from MDS. This week, we disagree on both picks, when the points are applied.

Rams at Saints

MDS’s take: The Rams’ offensive line had an outstanding season, and last week’s win over the Cowboys may have been its best game yet. Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Rodger Saffold, Austin Blythe and John Sullivan block so well that it really doesn’t matter which running back is behind them. There are going to be big holes for the Rams to run through. I expect the Rams to run the ball well against the Saints. At the same time, Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in football at recognizing the pass rush and getting rid of the ball quickly and accurately, which neutralizes the strength of the Rams’ defense. I see this as a high-scoring game, with both offenses able to do what they want. This feels like a close game that could come down to a fourth-quarter field goal. If that’s how it plays out, I think home-field advantage is the difference.

MDS’s pick: Saints 34, Rams 31.

Florio’s take: The one-two punch of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson could create problems for the home team’s front seven, especially with Sheldon Rankins out for the year. But the Saints earned home-field advantage, they’ve already beaten the Rams in the Superdome, and the noise that will be generated by a raucous New Orleans crowd creates a real benefit. Throw in the edge in playoff experience, a lingering sense of unfinished business from last year, and a lesson learned about starting slowly from last week and the Saints should be able to ride Drew Brees, Sean Payton, and company to a berth in the Super Bowl.

Florio’s pick: Saints 38, Rams 31.


Patriots at Chiefs

MDS’s take: This has the makings of a classic. A brutally cold night in Kansas City, with the legendary Tom Brady taking on perhaps the most talented quarterback ever to play the position, Patrick Mahomes. The stars are aligning for this to be an all-time great game. Or at least the sun, earth and moon are aligning, as the game will be played under a lunar eclipse. The Patriots’ defense is a lot better this year than it was last year, which is why I give them a chance: I think they’ll force a couple of turnovers, and maybe take an early lead. But I also think this is Mahomes’ year, and in the end no one is stopping him. The NFL’s brightest young star is heading for the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 42, Patriots 35.

Florio’s take: The forecast has improved throughout the week, which is good news for the home team. The opponent continues to be the Patriots, which is bad news for the home team. The home team has Patrick Mahomes, which is the best news possible. But there isn’t enough around him, yet. Losses to the Patriots, Rams, Chargers, and Seahawks resulted not from Mahomes but from the lack of high-end talent around him. The Patriots, between talent and coaching and the resiliency of Tom Brady, can do to the Chiefs what won’t be easy to do: Score at least one more point in a single-elimination setting. Look for Patriots coach Bill Belichick to confound Mahomes, contain Tyreek Hill, control the clock, and ultimately prevail in the only stat that ever matters. Points scored vs. points allowed.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Chiefs 27.

FMIA Divisional Weekend: Doobie Pump and a Big Piece of Cheese—How the Saints Saved Their Season

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And then there were four. Divisional weekend is done and the stage is set for an epic Championship Sunday. From New Orleans, Peter King kicks off his latest Football Morning in America column with a look at how it all went down, plus…

• How the Saints saved their season … with a big piece of cheese? Let Drew Brees and Michael Thomas explain.

• A preview of the conference title games … a quick breakdown for each of the matchups—Rams-Saints and Patriots-Chiefs—and a look at the storylines that will dominate the week.

• John Elway looks back … and shares what he’s learned after eight (?!) seasons as the Broncos president and general manager.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the All-Pro team and season awards; C.J. Anderson’s out-of-nowhere run; the nobility of the Eagles; Kyler Murray’s big decision; the Doug Pederson effect; and more.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, beernerdness, the NFL’s most under-appreciated receiver and the increasingly odd connection between Atlanta and Tampa Bay. [more]

PFT’s divisional round picks

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Wild-card weekend was great for me, not so great for MDS.

I went 3-1 for the first four games of the postseason, nailing upset selections in both Houston and Chicago. (A prediction of a 17-15 Eagles win missed by a single point.) MDS, on the other hand, ate a donut in the straight-up picks game, guessing wrong on all four contests.

This week, he has a chance to gain some ground, because we disagree on two of the games. For all of the divisional round selections, keep scrolling.

And check out the “best bets” video accompanying this post, for our picks against the spread. With points factored in, we’re on the opposite side of three of the four games.

Last week, we picked the opposite side of one game, fueling my 3-0 performance and keeping MDS at 2-1.

Colts at Chiefs

MDS’s take: These may be the two hottest teams in the NFL right now. The Colts had a dominant all-around performance against the Texans, and that’s the way they’ve been playing for three months. The Chiefs have been the best offense in the league and one of the best offenses in NFL history all season. If this were in Indianapolis I’d take the Colts to win this game with their stout defense and balanced offense, but I just can’t pick against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 28, Colts 21.

Florio’s take: The Chiefs haven’t won a home playoff game since 1993. In fact, they’ve won as many playoff games at Arrowhead Stadium as the Colts have: Two. The problem, as evidenced by various big games lost by the Chiefs this year, is the defense. Can they keep Indy’s offense from not outscoring Patrick Mahomes? That’s where the game will be won or lost. This one could go either way, but I’ll say it will be won by the Chiefs, barely.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 30, Colts 27.


Cowboys at Rams

MDS’s take: The Rams’ biggest weakness is their run defense, so I see Ezekiel Elliott having a big game. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, that’s the only area where I anticipate them having an advantage over the Rams. Elliott probably gets off to a hot start, but after the Rams put some points on the board and the Cowboys are playing from behind, Dallas will be forced to pass, and Aaron Donald will make it a long night for Dak Prescott.

MDS’s pick: Rams 31, Cowboys 21.

Florio’s take: In most Dallas games, it becomes obvious whether the Cowboys will win within the first half of the first quarter. This week, it quickly will become evident that their approach is working against a Rams defense that will have its hands full with one of the best offensive lines in football, and against a Rams offense that isn’t as good as it was before Jared Goff‘s skills regressed and Todd Gurley‘s knee became swollen. In their home away from home, Dallas gets its first road playoff win in 26 years.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 17, Rams 13.


Chargers at Patriots

MDS’s take: I actually think the Chargers are a better top-to-bottom team than the Patriots right now. But the Chargers’ disadvantages are having to play against the Ravens while the Patriots were resting, two long cross-country flights, and an early kickoff. The Patriots’ playoff experience can’t hurt, and the Chargers are going to have to radically change their defensive approach this week against Tom Brady from the way they played last week against Lamar Jackson. The Patriots will pull out a close win.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Chargers 23.

Florio’s take: Something’s got to give. The Chargers are 9-0 away from L.A., the Patriots are unbeaten at home, and Tom Brady has never lost to Philip Rivers. Playoff experience becomes the difference for a New England team that was left for dead not long ago.

Florio’s take: Patriots 24, Chargers 17.


Eagles at Saints

MDS’s take: When these teams met in the regular season, the Saints won in a 48-7 beatdown. That was the second-biggest margin of victory in the NFL during the 2018 season, second only to the Ravens destroying the Nathan Peterman-led Bills in Week One. If Nick Foles can lead the Eagles to a win over the Saints after the same opponent dominated Carson Wentz in the regular season, it’s going to lead to increased calls to make Foles, not Wentz, the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. Fortunately for the Saints (and for Wentz), I don’t see that happening. Drew Brees should have a big day against the Eagles’ defense, and although the Saints aren’t going to win by 41 again, they should win by a healthy margin.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Eagles 17.

Florio’s take: Few believed the Eagles could beat the Bears in Chicago. (I did.) Fewer believe the Eagles can beat the Saints in New Orleans. I do. Coupling the bye week with a lackluster Week 17 game against the Panthers, and it will have been a long time since the Saints played a meaningful game. The Eagles have been playing meaningful games week after week after week. The road team has improved greatly since losing 48-7 in the Superdome, and the Saints peaked during round one. So push the chips into the middle of the table, hope the Eagles keep it close, count on a little magic late in the game, and prepare for the biggest debate of the offseason regarding whether the Eagles should keep Nick Foles or Carson Wentz.

Florio’s pick: Eagles 20, Saints 17.